black box movement
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Revisiting the Black Box Movement

Dancing Lights Press is proud to be part of the Black Box Movement. The name is taken from black box theater, which uses minimalist performance spaces to shift the emphasis away from spectacle and back to where it belongs: on the actors and their performances. The simple aesthetic also makes staging performances accessible to small theater companies, including non-profit and low-income organizations. This in turn keeps costs down, helping to make theater more accessible to a wider audience.

Applied to tabletop roleplaying games, the Black Box Movement questions the necessity of expensive rules manuals with full-color illustrations that are hundreds of pages long. No one’s saying you can’t enjoy those things, or that there isn’t a market for them. What we challenge is the notion that those design choices should be the default for every project.

The expense and complexity of production is a barrier to entry for a large number of creators. High cost is a barrier to entry for a many players and gamemasters. All of the art and production value detracts from one fundamental truth: the book is not the game. Tabletop roleplaying is the creativity and conversation that happens between the players. That’s where the magic happens. That’s where the focus ought to be. Not on the product, which is merely a tool, but on the people that are playing the game.

To this end, Dancing Lights Press embraces a minimalist presentation. Books are capped at 96 pages, requiring the writing to be concise. Art is included only when it is the necessary to communicate concepts and ideas, and to make more space for essential text. Production costs are kept low in order to keep the price low, with a current ceiling of $10. We succeed or fail on the strength of our ideas.

The Black Box Movement

  • You can read the entire Black Box Manifesto here.
  • Read other posts about the Black Box Movement and how Dancing Lights Press interprets and applies its ideas here.