Errata is Change is Good

Maybe its just me.  Maybe I have a near-superhuman level of perception.  Maybe I'm just obsessively anal retentive.  Maybe it's both.

I can't read an RPG and *not* find errors everywhere.  Not just spelling, gramatical, and formatting errors.  Rules inconsistencies, grey areas, obvious numberical errors, broken mechanics, etc.  I will find them.  (This sometimes drives people around me insane, as I try to convince them what the rules really are.  Between games, of course.)

It amazes me how these things can make it into production.  I'm a writer, and I know that the first draft always comes out looking nothing like you expected it to.  (Case in point:  my own Council of Magisters a 2006 Game Chef entry.  But CoM isn't being published for money.  I haven't run it past an editor, and it's only in its second draft.  It's got a long journey ahead of it before I start trying to get money for it.

Of course, lots of editors are there for the spelling and grammar, not the rules.  So I can forgive them for letting a product with some conceptual errors ship.

What I can't forgive is a company not mantaining an errata page.

I am insane about errata.  I pencil it into my books.  For books with extensive errata, I have printed out significant paragraphs and physically taped them into my book over the erroneous sections.  (Epic Level Handbook, updated using the 3.5 SRD information, and Shadowrun 4th Edition, 1st Printing)

WotC and FASA (and now Wizkids for SR) have been great about errata pages.  They're the gold standard.  (The D&D line is plagued with errata, which is unfortunate, but at least WotC does something about it.)

For a long time, I thought White Wolf was one of the worst contenders.  Sure, they have some errata posted, but not for any books that have come out in the last few years.  (I still have my homespun Exalted Mortal Thaumaturgy Clarifications file around somewhere.  They did finally say what the xp costs for it were, but theres a new edition so its water under the bridge.)  Some of the stuff they've done is sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.  They correct it some of the time.

But I recently picked up L5R 3rd edition, and have found numerous things I had issues with.  I went online to see if there was an official errata page, and AEG's official L5R website has none.(  That's even worse than White Wolf.

So here's what to do for success:

*Your product is going to have errors in it.  Correcting them improves your game.

*Have people on your staff who look for this sort of thing.  (Why yes, I am willing to do freelance editing work.)

*People who read your product will find errors.  Solicit feedback from your fans.  Compile it.  Find the problem, and solve it.  Regularly update errata pages.  Once a month is not too much to ask.  If you do not have someone in charge of errata and clarifications, get one.  (Why yes, I am willing to do freelance Errata and Clarification Management.)

*As economically feasible, publish new printings (not editions), with the improved rules in place.


2 thoughts on “Errata is Change is Good

  1. Alex says:

    Tell me about it. RPG editing usually makes me ball up in the corner weeping openly and mutterring something about encounter tables. L5r’s inconsistencies are so glaring because of how high the standards are for the rest of the book. The problem is WotC and Whitewolf have significantly greater funds for editing while Alderac is aware that the few customers they’ll lose through a reputation for bad editing don’t offset the costs of a more complete editing team. A lot of companies are like this. Go ahead, ask me how bad it is.

    Within a week of starting my internship at Fast Forward I was their only editor.

    But the good news, at least about l5r, is that there is an errata compilation. One of the strength’s and weaknesses of the l5r community is the role the message boards play. While this tends to render much of the main page out of date it does make the designers significantly more accessible. And that’s where the chose to do errata.

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