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Adventures in creating a good index

Do you need a good index for your game? What makes a good index anyway? I’ve come to the conclusion that you do, and explain below the process I used to develop an index for Starguild.

So at first I wondered whether I needed a good index in my RPG. It seemed to be a lot of effort to do it, and I was about ready to give up, or rely on generating something automatically by using level 4 headings or something.

But crucially I decided to do a straw poll of other small press game designers – people had some experience of, y’know, delivering something and the response was almost unanimous. You need a good index. Don’t skimp on the index. People are going to need to be able to find things, and the table of contents Alone isn’t going to be good enough.
I got the message.

Step 2 was to look and see how other games had done it. Other games of a comparable size at any rate. I went through my bookshelf and took down a good sample and started looking. What kind of headings did they use (if any)? How extensively did they use cross references? How much logical grouping was there? How big was it and how small a typeface did they use.

Along the way I developed a feel for what I wanted. Fairly comprehensive, listing terms both on their own and grouped under their logical owner. Cross references used for synonyms of a main term. One typeface for the index text but clear alphabetic separators so it is quick to zero in on the right text. And I avoided a micro font, because my eyes are not what they used to be!

Probably to nobody’s surprise, I found the indexing features in InDesign to be streets ahead of the ones which Microsoft Word possesses, and which I’ve used in the past. It made the process of marking entries easy, as well as nesting some entries within others, or giving page ranges (hint – if you mark just after a heading and give the page range until that heading level next appears, it will sort out the number of pages very neatly. But not if you put the index marker actually on the heading you are starting with – it has to be just after the heading for this to work).

So in summary:

  1. Get advice from people who have already trod the path
  2. See what published work of a similar size to you have done
  3. Do it!

How well did I do? Difficult to measure on my own, but I’m going to attach the pdf index pages to this entry so you can take a look.

Download six page index to Starguild (73k pdf)
I’d love to receive feedback below.


One thought on “Adventures in creating a good index

  1. I’m totally taking inspiration from your index on Dragon Heresy. I love how readable it is. I might go a bit smaller in font and shoot for a 3-4 column layout if it’ll fit, but the TOC-like index is very readable. Which, of course, is the whole point.

    Liked by 1 person

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