Deliberate RPG Book “Sass”

At Monsters and Manuals, there’s a post that talks about “deliberate RPG book sass” that strikes a bit of a chord with me as not only a player, but a designer and publisher as well. As presented sass is defined as a”term for a certain stylistic choice made by writers of RPG rulebooks to, for want of a better way of putting it, take a sassy, slightly hectoring, almost tough guy tone in their writing and the way in which they present the information.”

While the games mentioned in the post (Mythender [AL], Houses of the Blooded [AL], and Apocalypse World [AL] ) are not strictly OSR games, this sort of writing has made its appearance in a few OSR games. In particular Lamentations of the Flame Princess [AL] titles such as the most recent module that was released for Free RPG Day as PWYW, and Machinations of the Space Princess [AL].

For the most part, RPG books tend to operate as introductions to settings as well as instruction manuals for play, and the most effective tend to be those that are written cleanly and concisely and in a manner that allows you to get to the information you need to be able to utilize the information. But writing in this style is often jarring for the reader, and can often take them out of the frame of mind of using the book for its intended purpose. At the same time, it changes the text’s usage into something that entertains in a particular fashion on top of providing information. For many this can be either a selling point, or something that turns people off from the text, much as the choice in artwork and layout in a product can do as well. And this may be the difference between selling to a niche market for one or more products, or making your products universally available to those who have certain expectations about what that they want in a product.


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