Nordic Weasel Games

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Upgrade your design: Cross referencing rules

Just a quick post today since I am pretty busy. 

Cross referencing rules throughout the rulebook: Yay or nay?

By cross referencing I mean that each rule will list any applicable conditions and modifiers found elsewhere in the system. For example if you have a rule for smoke grenades that adds a -2 hit penalty, then you might add a note of that in your chapter on ranged combat or in the table of hit modifiers. 

As another example if you have a rule that figures that get hit might be pinned down, but androids and zombies are immune to this, you might add that to the section on pinning.

The advantage of doing this is that each rule becomes effectively standalone and comprehensive. If I check the rules for pinning, I can see all possible conditions and effects. This reduces the chance of me forgetting about it during the game, especially in cases where I might not otherwise be aware the secondary rule exists at all.

As such cross referencing can be tremendously helpful and is likely to improve the usability of your game rules (and remember game rules are utilitarian: They are intended to be used actively at a table). 

There are a couple of drawbacks however:

If your game has a lot of special rules and exceptions (such as is the case for many sci-fi and fantasy games) things can get out of hand pretty quickly. If your book has 20 different functions that can all modify the hit roll due to particular bits of equipment, rules, conditions or abilities, do you really want to list everyone? A common answer here is to limit yourself to either certain categories (so tabletop conditions and status effects might be in, equipment modifiers are out) or try to only pick out the most common occurrences (fog and night time modifiers are in, left-handed shooting of a medium sized firearm while balancing on a hoverboard is out)

There is also a significant amount of upkeep involved in establishing cross referencing and maintaining it afterwards, because the same rule is now referenced in multiple locations. I recently flipped through a rulebook that gave retreat distances as one distance in the main rules for morale, but in the movement phase summary of how units move when they have failed morale, the distance was different. The more items you try to cross reference the more you will run into this problem. 

You can alleviate this somewhat by using consistent terminology, so you can use cmd+f / ctrl+f to find all instances where a particular rule or term is mentioned.

A final concern happens when material is across multiple books such as expansions or army books. It can be helpful to have these elements referenced, but for players who are not using that expansion it can add to the clutter (not to mention irritating people who are not ready to purchase more content yet)

The upshot of it all is that at least some cross referencing is helpful to make your rulebook more accessible in play, but it does bear some thinking about how to do it.

That is all for today folks. If you like these types of posts, please consider supporting my Patreon at