The elder Futhark, oldest Germanic writing system.
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever noticed that advertising people are totally in love with fonts to express their messages? Have you ever wondered why? Ok, me either. I typically tune out commercials and skim past ads in magazines and on web pages… But I recently saw a couple of posts about typography that made me do some thinking…

Where do fonts come in handy in gaming? It’s a simple thing in most modern word processors or drawing packages to select one of the typically hundreds of installed fonts on a system. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably collected even more over the years. Then again, maybe not – I’m kind of weird.

Just off the top of my head, I came up with a few ideas for where to use fonts:

  • Though developing entire languages is often impractical, sometimes a font can be a cheap substitute… and if you’re consistent, you can use the same font for any pages/notes/letters your PCs find in a particular language so they KNOW – “oh! this is in Draconic and I don’t read it, so I’ll have to give it to Bob, our scholar…”
  • Wingdings is a simple enough way to encode a message so it takes some enterprising player a while to decrypt a particular encryption, but not so difficult that it becomes tedious. A little homework for your players is sometimes a good thing.
  • I’ve seen runes (Viking, Gothic, Celtic, hieroglyphs, cuneiform, etc.) that can make VERY cool ancient scripts if you’re in a hurry.
  • And if you combine the font/language idea with the runic idea, you can end up with a Rosetta Stone of your own that allows a scribe among the party to know how to translate from a particular long dead language of runes to one of the languages they know and then translate from that to common…

Really the ideas are endless. And of course fonts make printed documents look better too. [grin]

So back to those web articles that prompted this… they’re on the Smashing Magazine website in a couple of parts – “The Beauty of Typography: Writing Systems and Calligraphy of the World” and “The Beauty of Typography: Writing Systems and Calligraphy, Part 2“. Though Smashing Magazine deals with the art and technique of website design, these two articles provide amazing insight into the art behind a particular typography system that transcends the web.

If you’re interested in fonts, typography, or want to tackle the daunting task of creating your own writing system for a game – I’d encourage you to take a look at those two articles for inspiration. They have amazing details on Asian, European, Hebrew, and other forms of writing. Definitely worth taking a look anyway.

How do YOU use fonts or typography in your games? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

–Fitz

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This article has 2 comments

  1. Swordgleam Reply

    I’m interested in fonts, though I don’t print out a whole lot of stuff for my game. I had a lot of fun finding fonts to use on the coins for the treasure hoard generator pack.

    • Fitz

      @Swordgleam – I’m curious – where do you find your fonts and how tough is it to find the right one that’s both decorative and expressive at the same time? I find with some web fonts that it’s impossible to get a good balance of both.

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