That’s a tough one. Define “best”…best delivery of information, how to play the game; best writing for setting tone? The problem with RPG writing is that it is part technical manual (the rules) and part creative writing — two sharply different styles of writing with divergent purpose. To balance both is very difficult.

I think the writing team for Firefly did an excellent job with the latter type of writing — getting the tone right, as did the guys over at Evil Hat with their Atomic Robo RPG for Fate. Generally, the Fate games have done a good job with the first type of writing, although they have also been moving toward comic book panel style explanations of things. It works, but it’s probably not qualifying as good writing, but effective design.

Design is an issue I’ve carped on before. There’s a lot of focus on art design and fancy layout on high-gloss paper. These $60 a book tomes are often very pretty, and utter f***ing useless to try and understand the rules. Red typeface on purple backgrounds (dumb!), 8 point type (Have you ever seen a gamer? Most wear glasses.), pages of gorgeous artwork that distract from learning how to play.

Now combine that with the problem of writing clearly the rules so they are understandable and can be played out of the gate without having to flip through a book with a magnifying glass and a Ouija board to figure out what you do in scenario X, with making the verbiage interesting enough you don’t think you’re thumbing though an army field manual. It’s tough! I don’t even think i do it well, and I’ve been at this a while. It’s worse when you can’t stop typing…

One of the my issues with the current state of big production game writing like you find at Cubicle 7, or Wizards of the Coast, etc. is the need to prat on far too long. 300+ page corebooks that could be shaved down to half that with some decent editing and a bit less indulgence. But that is less of function of bad writing than bad editing and the presumption by the producers and consumers that a bigger, prettier book is “better.” (Just look at any of the interminable fantasy series of 1000 page books.  (Hey, the 16th book in the Shadows of Not Tolkein series by Pretentious Cat Lady is out!)

Did I answer the question? Not really…