My copy of Whitehack has arrived

So now I’m going to write about it, more or less in the style of an unboxing. Speaking of boxes, Lulu mailed it in a very nice box with proper tabbed flaps which I can’t bear to throw away. I’m already impressed!

If you are unfamiliar with Whitehack, I talked about my admiration for its design choices a few days ago; and you can find out all about it at Christian Mehrstam’s own site. (In fact, that site is the main reason I chose to start my weblog on wordpress.) In brief, Whitehack is a roleplaying game ‘in the oldest rules tradition of the hobby’, which means some people would say it is part of the Old School Renaissance. It has only 60-odd pages of rules (including setting information and two adventures), and has received wide acclaim. I like all these things about it. I also like that the author is Swedish, I love what little I’ve seen of the book and game design so far, and I absolutely adore the fact that it is only available as a physical artifact. Because I think books are beautiful objects.

Now I have a copy, and unlike with Symbaroum, I’ve actually taken it out of the box. It is well protected – thanks, Lulu! – by plastic wrapped over a board. The book itself is also wrapped in a foam sheet within that cocoon. You could fling it off a skyscraper, and it would be undamaged after stunning an unwitting pedestrian on the sidewalk below.

Freed from the packaging, the book is a slim hardback (I didn’t opt for the version bound with a substantial blank notebook, because I could never bring myself to write in it) with a dust jacket; dimensions are the same 6 x 9 as a hardback novel. The jacket is glossy stock, the presentation very simply designed around a character sheet motif. I would not have opted for the aged look: the speckling and creasing, which appears quite attractive from six feet away, is blurry and unrealistic at normal reading range. Stripping the jacket reveals tan linen on the boards; the title and author are neatly printed in black on the spine. Honestly, it would probably look better on my shelf without the jacket (but that is very much owner’s choice, and I appreciate that I have that choice).

Looking inside, it seems that the front- and endpapers are neatly glued, and the binding is also glued. There’s none of the silly fake sewing, stuck in the top and bottom of the binding, found on many modern hardbacks. Fanning the book suggests the binding is solid; the pages are individually cut, like a paperback, rather than folded in the traditional fashion; the paper is good stock of better-than-average weight, slightly creamy, with a soft texture. The print is all dark and strong, and the Celestia Antiqua font works nicely at the smallish size (9 or 8.5 pt?) chosen: the slight wear to the characters’ outlines and the off-white paper cooperate well to take the edge off the contrast between text and page. Given that the layout is justified text in double-columns, the pages are quite crowded and this slight roughening is a valuable aid to readability. Very nice work.

Is this the dullest review ever written? I haven’t said anything which can’t be learned or inferred from the author’s site. Oh well, consider this to be independent verification that the physical properties of the book match Mehrstam’s description. Lulu’s production and shipping standards are also good: it took ten days or so to get printed and make its way to me, but it was worth the wait.

Once I’ve actually read it, I will return with my impressions of Whitehack’s content. I can’t promise that will be more interesting, but it probably couldn’t be less so.