In early 2012 Goodman Games first released The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Since then, the core book has been through six printings, four of them in hardcover and two in softcover. At Gen Con 2016, Jen Brinkman showed us her copy of the very first printing of the DCC RPG hardcover. After five years of hard wear-and-tear during actual tabletop play, the binding on her copy is still intact and solid.
Seeing Jen’s worn-and-torn first printing, five years later, was a testament to the binding techniques we use. Although it shows a lot of use, the binding is strong as ever. At Goodman Games we pay extra for what is called Smythe-sewn binding. And seeing the condition of our DCC RPG core books five years later re-affirms that binding decision.
Like many gaming books, DCC RPG is not just read one time. We expect that each copy will be referenced repeatedly at the tabletop, and re-read and thumbed-through many, many times. For a book like this, a durable binding is a requirement.
Smythe-sewn binding is a process where the signatures of the book are folded and stitched through the fold. The signatures are then sewn and glued together at the spine to form a text block. With particularly large books, we also pay extra to have a cloth-reinforced spine. This is much more durable than the more common, cheaper form of binding where the text is simply glued to the spine. For an oft-referenced RPG book, adhesive binding almost always disappoints over time. When you see an RPG book with individual pages that have started to come loose, that is probably an adhesive binding. We avoid those.
No book lasts forever, especially when you use it at the table every week. But it looks like the first printing of DCC RPG is still going strong, five years later. Thank goodness for that Smythe-sewn binding. Here are some photos of Jen’s copy. As you can see, it’s been used a lot, and there’s one small tear on the spine. But after five years, the binding’s still tight. Here’s to five more years – and thank goodness for Smythe-sewn!
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about bookbinding techniques as they relate to RPGs, you can watch the Book Making 101 seminar that Joseph Goodman gave at Gen Con 2016.