Adventurous, Horrific Graphic Design

So a game needs to look like an adventure. A spooky adventure. Maybe even horror-themed. What should it look like? Let’s take a look at a few examples, including Betrayal Legacy (above).

Inspiration for DMD

That’s DMD, as in Dungeon Maker Deluxe. Interesting designs don’t pop out of nowhere. Sure, it’s possible to follow basic graphic design principles, but having examples helps. Some of the inspirations for Dungeon Maker Deluxe came from Fading Reign and Dungeon Of. To take a few examples:

Examples from D&D

The venerable Dungeons and Dragons character sheet is of particular interest to me right now because I’m designing a game that requires providing the player with a character sheet. D&D’s character sheet prints extremely clearly in black and white.

Each page includes a decorative banner image — and, thematically, a banner popout for the character’s name, class, and other basic information.
Each statistic has a popout, set against a gray field. The popouts have simple wandering lines, vaguely reminiscent of vines, clasps, or metalwork. All labels use a font optimized for readability rather than theme, likely due to the small font size (8-9 pt).

Examples from Legacy Betrayal

Another source is the Betrayal Legacy series. (Hmmm, also owned by Hasbro these days? Like D&D? Like Waterdeep?) This game includes several booklets, of which my favorite is the Bleak Journal.

Ultra-clean cover. Textured background. Extremely subtle pillow embossing on the title. “Age 12+” in lower right corner.
Matching textured paper, with faux stains. Each episode’s number is 3 lines high. Horizontal bars to separate episodes. Recurring motif corresponding to a key legacy component.
Larger episode numbers have a more thematic font. Flavor text in slightly different, less thematic font. Rule text is in black (i.e., darkest value, though only slightly darker than the flavor). Both smaller fonts optimized for readability. Horizontal bars have lightest value of all.
Still quite readable in black-and-white. Background texture turns out to consist primarily of simulated grains.
Rulebook has an entirely different style.
Lots of color in the rulebook, needed to represent the tokens and other components.

Two-column layout similar to Bleak Journal. These are 6″x9″ booklets.

Headings in large display font matching episode numbers in the Bleak Journal. Thematic.

Different font used for subheadings, but also thematic. Good contrast to the top-level font.

Small font matches the smallest sans-serif body text of the Bleak Journal.

Popouts are simple grey boxes (in case of legacy stickers) or yellow boxes. None of the cool line art of D&D.

Page numbers are a simple “RULES | #” in the top corner. Nothing thematic there.

The third booklet (see image at top of this article) leans into more colorful and thematic popouts. Not much consistency with the other booklets, but very useful for differentiating what information each player needs to read.

Arkham Horror

I don’t have many photos of Arkham handy, and none of the rulebook.

Background popouts are flat eroded color. Foreground popouts are styled as ancient tablets, also eroded. Primary heading is a monospace font? Is there a connection somehow to typewriters in the theme that I don’t remember? Flavor text in italicized font.

Notes to self

The examples above have strong points. And they have areas where the theme really doesn’t come through. Some of the best here that I’d like to replicate elsewhere:

  • Simple grain texture background that prints well in black-and-white
  • Popouts filled with white and edged with simple lines that again print well in black-and-white
  • Large font sizes for episode numbers (3x body text line height) – can the same left float be achieved?
  • Use a different, somewhat hand-written or italicized font for flavor text, in a lighter value than the rule text.