DriveThruRPG today announced a whole new category of digital RPG for the store with the launch of smartphone optimised PDFs.
It’s quite usual for PDFs on sale at DriveThruRPG, and other digital stores, to have been designed with printed book layouts in mind. The result is pages following an 8.5-inch by 11-inch format, which works well for laptops, but can be frustrating on smartphones.
The new category from DriveThruRPG will highlight those downloads that have layouts with smartphones in mind. Phone PDFs will typically have functional footers, for example, the ability to click back just one page, access the contents page or the start of the chapter.
Additionally, phone PDFs favour quick links and text links over bookmarks. The idea here is that it’s not always easy to access a list of bookmarks on the phone and it’s more convenient simply to click on a hyperlink in the index or a reference in the rules themselves and jump straight to the right section.
The responsibility to format PDFs for smartphones, though, lies on the publishers rather than DriveThruRPG. The retailer has not invented new technology that automatically transforms RPGs from a printed book layout to one optimised for phones.
Despite the extra work involved, launch partners for the initiative include big names like Onyx Path Publishing, Andrews McMeel and Troll Lord Games.
Geek Native asked Troll Lord had made the decision to invest time into the Phone PDF project.
Troll Lord Games is investing time in the PDF phone initiative because it makes sense. More and more of our products are sold digitally and OBS is a leader in that field for RPG PDFs. Couple that with the fact that the world is ever more mobile; it is important to stay with the times and make sure that our products are available not only in print and on computers, but also one mobile phones. With technology getting more and more advanced, we love the idea that you can now take our books to your gaming table wholly contained within something you already have in your back pocket.”
Andrews McMeel, the publisher who brought on game designer Daniel D. Fox to work full time on Zweihänder Grim & Perilous, is even giving away Phone PDF copies of Zweihänder for free for three days in support of the project.
Fox told me;
DriveThruRPG is the biggest digital marketplace devoted solely to role-playing games, trusted by audiences worldwide where they can purchase and store digital versions of their game. While Digital PDFs traditionally work well for laptops, they make for a poor experience on phones and tablets due to layout constraints. Pinch, pan and zoom is next to impossible, particularly because most RPGs rely on tables in their content. Simply put, Digital PDFs don’t address common UX or accessibility challenges some gamers face. With our new line of Phone PDFs, we will revolutionize the way gamers use digital versions of our RPGs at the game table and on the go. We are incredibly pleased to be working with DriveThruRPG to change the way role-playing gamers use RPGs around the game table with this new format, leading first with Zweihänder Grim & Perilous RPG.
Are Phone PDFs worth it?
Are Phone PDFs any good? Do they make a difference? Geek Native has had the chance to test Pugmire and Zweihänder Grim & Perilous RPG both and noticed the difference.
Geek Native’s Phone PDF test made use of the Xodo PDF reader for Android and ability to read pages without having to pinch, zoom and reposition was immediately satisfying.
The hyperlink interlinking between the pages is also beneficial. It takes just a short while to learn the rules for each book. For example, whether a hyperlink is likely to take you to the bookmarks, straight to the appearance of a word or somewhere else.
This article uses Zweihänder Grim & Perilous RPG as an example.
On the right-hand side, the alphabet takes you to that section of the index. On the bottom, you can flip backwards, go to the chapter beginning or access the contents section directly.
Roleplayers use phones
Geek Native ran a poll on a popular D&D Facebook group and asked players whether or not they used smartphones at the table.
The most popular response from the list which allowed multiple answers was “We use our phones to check rules”. The answer was six times more likely the response “We don’t use phones to facilitate the game at all, and people are encouraged not to check them too often during the game”.
If you’re an early adopter of Phone PDFs from DriveThruRPG and have any initial views on how the new format is working out, then let us know in the comments below.