I'm working on translating a very old TSR (D&D) adventure (In Search of Adventure) and I'd like to have a similar (if not nearly identical) layout as the original, in order to print a PDF. I have been testing both Scribus and VivaDesigner as alternatives to the more costly InDesign and others, but I'm not happy. Not because they are not powerful, but because I don’t think that I need a full-fledged page maker. I would also like to trigger a full PDF build every time someone commits a change in the git repo, and I realized that there could be something out there that may work.

I don't work professionally in the publishing industry, and I have a programming-oriented background. I don't think anything like Markdown alone could work, but are you aware of any system, even when I needed to customize it with a stylesheet, would do what I need? LaTEX is not an option, as I don't need most of the whistles that brings (and it looks to me incredibly complex). My inspiration came from looking at The HomeBrewery this morning, which displays enriched Markdown like a 5th Ed. D&D manual.

If that helps, the bulk of the work is in three-column text in Garamond with boxes around some chunks for the players' text, with headers and footers in the page as usual, with images that are most of the times full-page ones. I don't need a WYSIWYG interface necessarily, or very esoteric use of fonts and other effects.

Edit: tweaked the language around my expectations.

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    Hi and welcome to GDSE! I'm looking forward to seeing if anyone can answer this. You seem to have conflicting wishes: must be better than Scribus, cheaper than InDesign and less complicated than LaTEX, must make a layout similar to a book from the 1980s but must also be totally dynamic and update automatically as contributors edit the manuscript. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's far from the way I work with graphic design. One thing that isn't clear in your question is what kind of end product you want to achieve. You talk about a PDF, but do you mean for print?
    – Wolff
    Feb 4, 2021 at 22:14
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    The programming world is quite different from the GD world. You have a level of systematic sense that enables you to collaborate through git and similar and you think of a product as something that is generated from data and is in eternal versioning. In GD we tend to see a product as something that is designed. Every page is touched by human hand and if the system fails you need to make changes to make everything fit the physical format. So I'm thinking: "What if someone adds a paragraph which forces an image or a single line to move to the next page?" etc.
    – Wolff
    Feb 4, 2021 at 22:17
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    You can try a XSL-FOP or TeX based toolset
    – joojaa
    Feb 5, 2021 at 6:27
  • @Wolff: Thank you for the welcome! I edited my question to make it a little more clear. You make it sound like a chimera! I have access to an InDesign license, but I wanted to allow others to reuse my work as much as possible. I mentioned the simple format of the book because it looked to me something that could simply have a general format for the layout. You nailed it when you said that my approach is different as I want to apply a format rather than generate a unique work of art.
    – Ender
    Feb 6, 2021 at 18:42
  • 😀 I guess the amount of words made my comments sound like I wanted to shoot down your dream. Sorry about that, I just wanted to take your request seriously. I'm sure it's possible somehow. Auto-styled text from xml or markdown is obviously real on websites and when I design for example a novel, a lot of the styling is "programming" in InDesign. But designing for print means to take into account that the text flows from page to page. That is the real challenge in making something that has the look of a "real" D&D rulebook.
    – Wolff
    Feb 6, 2021 at 19:04


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