What's a good way to design and layout an Apocalypse World playbook?

I'm writing an AW playbook, and I would not like to start from scratch with regards to the layout and such.


4 Answers 4


I laid out the Heralds of Hell playbooks using Scribus, which is a cantankerous piece of software* but does the trick and is free. (Other layout options are described here at RPG.SE in the question "What free software can I use for laying out my own RPG?".) I did them in the original booklet format, not the new tri-fold, so I can only speak to that form factor.

The main body font is Consolas (at 7pt with a 7pt line height), which is a font distributed by Microsoft with one of their versions of Windows (Vista, I think) for a cleaner command line terminal font. Verdana is used for the footer and page numbers, and its bold variant used for constructing the "Rated R" box on the cover page. The largest title font is Vtks good luck for you, which is used just on the cover page for the playbook title and the Apocalypse World word-logo. The main titling font is a combination of Crust Clean and Dirty Ego—since Crust Clean lacks any glyphs for punctuation, Dirty Ego is used where the text needs punctuation in section titles.

Vincent has already written a short but complete-enough tutorial on how to reproduce the Apocalypse World art style. My only amendment to his tutorial is to really, really not sweat the details of the contours: I spent a lot of time zoomed in trying to faithfully replicate each curved contour in the original photo, only to notice later that Vincent's images have a lot of straight edges and shortcuts, and they don't visually suffer for it. There's a thread at Story Games discussing DIY AW Art as well.

The hardest part of the playbook was re-creating the character sheet in the middle. For that I ended up exporting an image from the official playbooks PDF, importing it into Scribus as a faded-out guide, and creating vector elements and text boxes in a layer over top of it. Once I had one version of the sheet I could adapt it as needed for the character archetype. Mostly that meant altering the big box or splitting it in two for stats/countdowns for gear, gangs, or other weird stuff. I used a similar process to approximate the layout for the cover page.

After all that work I pretty much loathed Scribus*, so I wanted something cleaner and easier to work with. I have a mostly-finished ConTeXt template (which is way easier to adapt to new playbooks), but it's stuck using the old XeConTeXt processor due to the fonts and I haven't manage to get a ConTeXt Mk IV version quite working properly. I also have the AW playbook Scribus template available on my site. Anyone is welcome to wrestle with either of those to try to bend them to their will.

* Now it's 2015, and Scribus has much improved in the years since. It was not maddening at all when I used it recently to create a graphical handout.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Very thorough response, thanks! What would it take to convince you to release the nearlyfinished ConTeXt template? Even unfinished, a LaTeX-family thing sounds a lot easier to work with — and not having to wrestle Scribus into porting the template into the trifold format is just a bonus. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sohum
    Jun 25, 2011 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh yeah, I wouldn't even try wrestling that Scribus template into a trifold—I'd just start a fresh document with the lessons I learned. That said, writing this answer got me looking at that ConTeXt template again, and I've been plugging away at last few holes left before I could call it complete. That should be much nicer to alter into a trifold. I'll edit this answer and comment when I've got it done! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25, 2011 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sweet, that sounds awesome. Looking forward to it! \$\endgroup\$
    – Sohum
    Jun 25, 2011 at 23:03
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for posting real information like fonts and design issues, and not just saying, "use Scribus," which I, like every other indie game designer it seems, have grown to despise. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Jun 27, 2011 at 15:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Anaphory Added! It's a bit of a pain because it's using the old XeConTeXt processor, but I haven't got the Mk IV version working properly yet. It should give the basics for reworking into a trifold though. I've been sitting on the various version I have because of processing bugs and image layering issues I haven't solved to my aesthetic satisfaction yet, but that one should do the job. \$\endgroup\$ May 15, 2013 at 23:43

For anybody willing to wrestle with scribus to generate playbooks in trifold format, Patrick Downs (nerdwerds) does not only host a list of the available playbooks, he also has a link to a trifold scribus template. I'm currently trying to use it, and it seems to do the job. (The template, that is. Apart from the part where it's a scribus template: I just started using scribus and already I can see why that program is detested.)


I've created a legal-sized WORD template for trifold AW playbooks. To get the best use out of this template, first install the fonts listed by SevenSidedDie:

Vtks good luck for you / Crust Clean / Dirty Ego

Then download the DOCX file here:
http://asifproductions.com/sites/default/files/PC CLASS TEMPLATE_0.docx


I use LibreOffice Draw for laying out my RPG sheets, and it is very helpful for Apocalypse World playbooks.

At the LibreOffice template center is a template for a three-panel brochure on US Letter paper; you can easily adapt that to US Legal or A4 international standard for the roomier Apocalypse World playbooks.

You will need the fonts mentioned at the “Play Aids Index” thread of the Apocalypse World forums, at least the distressed ones:

For the plain styles, I use the Liberation fonts:

  • Liberation Sans Narrow for the tightly-packed text on the character creation page.
  • Liberation Mono for the short pieces of monospaced text.
  • Liberation Serif for all the other text.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .