Category Archives: Corporia

RPG Design: Less is More, Bold is Better

As a long-time writer but an amateur graphic designer, I’ve really enjoyed updating the Corporia RPG layout (in preparation for the 7″ x 10″ Print-on-Demand edition and accompanying PDF update). My skills have improved quite a bit since the original was published, after all.

One early review comment I received on the original book was that there were too many pages with ‘walls of text’ (i.e., pages with a big block of body text and not enough white space, art, or headers to provide some relief for the eyes). This was one particular comment I kept in mind throughout the (nearly finished, as I type now) revision process. Although there are still some ‘walls’ here and there, I really tried to break these up a bit. For instance, I overhauled the character archetype pages by swapping the art and text placement, making the color elements and quote bigger and bolder, and replacing paragraphs of text with a simple inset text block. Now instead of a ‘wall of text’, the archetype page includes text, the statistics block, and the color inset block. There’s still a lot of text, but the wall now has some paint and missing bricks.

The color elements add some boldness to these page spreads, and the inset block summarizes paragraphs of text, making it easier to read and comprehend (thus, less is more). It’s something I’ll definitely have to bear in mind during future projects.

Check out the Hacker archetype below to see the ‘before’ and ‘after’. I really like the revision, and it maintains the ‘look and feel’ of the original and so won’t be shockingly different to the existing reader base. What do you think?


Original Version ("Before")

Original Version (“Before”)


Revised Version ("After")

Revised Version (“After”)



CSI: Cryptid Scene Investigation

I’m going to add an ‘official’ Knightwatch guide to the Print on Demand edition. Here’s the first draft, provided for your review. Any thoughts?

  1. Arrive at Scene. Obtain a situation summary from Watch officer in charge. If Watchmen have not already secured the scene, perform reconnaissance to clear and secure the scene. If possible, wait until Watchmen have secured the scene from unauthorized persons before entering. Use the route least likely to disturb any evidence.
  2. Notify Command. Send any requests for assistance (e.g., Watchmen, medical examiner, criminalistics) to M.E.R.L.I.N. to be processed on your behalf.cover_Page_192_cropped
  3. Jurisdiction. When you need to operate within a district, neighborhood, or property not under Watchman jurisdiction (subscription services), be aware that search and seizure problems exist. Where possible, notify command to obtain a temporary inter-corporate contract or warrant before entering the scene. Without this permission, and if confronted by an official representative from another PMSC, notify command of the rep’s name and contact information; a Valyant legal representative will reach out directly to resolve jurisdiction.
  4. Living Cryptid. Attempt to contain. Flex-cuffs and paracord should be able to restrain most mutated humans. If the cryptid is active and hostile, combat is authorized. Wound the cryptid until it cannot retaliate and can be restrained. Liquidate cryptids only after containment fails. A Watch officer will transfer the cryptid to the Keep observation facilities.
  5. Living Victim. Perform or summon medical aid. Attempt to obtain the name of the assailant; otherwise, commence to obtain ID from description (sex, race, height, hair/eye color, clothing, etc.). Also attempt to determine the victim’s PMSC provider. If the victim is unconscious, ensure that a Watchman remains with the victim to note any declarations made during periods of consciousness.
  6. Removal of Cryptid or Victim from Scene. First, use HUD to photograph and record the individual’s position. Record the collection of any physical evidence from the individual.
  7. Witnesses. Canvass the area. Obtain names and contact information, plus a brief statement. Hold witnesses until the arrival of Watchman investigators, keeping them separate to prevent collusion. Be vigilant – witnesses may be involved.
  8. Process Scene. Call trained Watch investigators to process the scene. When not possible, photograph and record the scene and adjoining/adjacent areas from all angles. Examine the scene for physical evidence, marking and visually recording the location of objects found such as footprints, ectoplasm, fragments of cloth, bloodstains, magical residue, tool marks, etc. Preserve each item of evidence in separate correct containers.
  9. Evidence Processing. Contact morgue or lab to request tests on persons and objects (cause of death, presence of Flux, etc.). Watch detectives and investigators will process reports (initial, follow-up, evidence), witness statements, cryptid statements, and background on cryptid and involved individuals (name, home, relatives, friends, employment, finances, possible criminal activities, possible romantic involvements, possible use of narcotics, gang involvement). M.E.R.L.I.N. will deliver to your HUD as they become available.
  10. Investigation. Act on information provided by evidence. Determine actions of cryptid (day, weeks, or months; depending on circumstances) before the initial scene, including motive. Consider motives such as: sex, theft, narcotics, mental and/or Flux derangement. Question everyone thoroughly. Do not disclose valuable information to unauthorized persons. Give constant attention to the presence of any other PMSCs involved.
  11. Assault/Infiltration. Some investigations may lead to a greater threat. Return to Step 1 and repeat until mission is closed.
  12. Disinformation Report (Journo). Provide a brief, concise summary of the operative case facts, without verbatim recital of witnesses statements. Fictionalize accounts of Flux-based incidents, replacing magic with science and mundanity, and submit to media.


RPG Design: converting Corporia to Print-On-Demand

Because I only have a couple dozen copies of the limited edition Corporia hardcover on hand, and there’s a demand for bundled print+PDF copies on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, I’ve decided to add a Print-On-Demand edition to those store pages and update the PDF.


The new POD title page

However, this isn’t as easy as clicking a few boxes and turning a ‘print’ option on. First and most complicated, I have to adjust the page trim sizes from 6.75″ x 10.125″ to 7″ x 10″, and the cover has to be similarly resized. That means that all the text and art has to shift just a tiny bit, so I had to go through each page and make sure everything reflowed properly.

Second, the printer requires a blank page at the end of the book for their own internal barcode – and since they require that the total book pages be divisible by four, I have to either delete one page of content or add four more. Naturally, I’m going to add three more. I’ve dropped in three advertisements (at the back of the book) for Corporia supplements as placeholders, but my plan is to replace these with new Director/GM and player templates and guides, which will also be released for free online for everyone who has the Kickstarter hardcover. This means that I won’t be finished with the conversion as quickly as I’d liked, but I think it’ll be a better product.

Of course, I’m also taking this opportunity to fix any typos or rules mechanics errors that slipped by, and to update or replace some of the art and graphic design elements. For instance, I’m updating the background and images on the “The Story So Far” section so it flows better with the rest of the book, and it won’t switch from a modern design to a faux-handwritten journal style. The text in this section won’t change significantly; it will just have a different look and feel that still uses some of the same art. You can see the title page to the left above, and below are some samples of the (before and after) work in progress. What do you think?



BEFORE (left) and AFTER (right) – click image to enlarge

Familiar Spirits

The latest Corporia supplement, Familiar Spirits, is now available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow for only 99 cents!cover_familiarspirits_800w

This little 14-page expansion details on how Sorcerer and Witcher characters can conjure animal familiars out of the very atmospheric energies (aka the Flux) around them. I tried hard to make familiars really easy and convenient to use, without the inconvenience of how they’ve traditionally appeared in the RPG medium. For instance, because they’re corporeal but still composed of energy, you can summon and dismiss them back into the ether – so you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to board them when you’re going on a particularly dangerous or stealthy mission. This supplement also includes a form-fillable record sheet for your familiar.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Corporia: eBooks and a free city map

Based purely on a quick browse through the internet, it doesn’t seem that the ebook format (typically, epub and mobi) are e-bookpopular formats for role-playing games. I suspect this is primarily because of the extra work involved for the publisher, since converting a graphics and chart-heavy format to an essentially ‘text-only’ format isn’t the easiest job in the world. The ebook is also a fairly new technology, and most tablets can handle the PDF format that’s so common among the RPG community now.

That being said, I’ve decided to convert the Corporia RPG both to mobi and epub format, for Kindles and other tablets respectively. The charts and tables have been simplified to a mostly line-item format, and will appear as close as possible to their original locations in the text. Where possible, both will be bundled free with the PDF wherever that digital edition is sold online (such as DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and Indie Press Revolution), as well as being sold separately. I hope to release them later this month, and will certainly mention it here when I do. (Citizen-level and higher Kickstarter backers will, of course, get the variant editions for free, since “future-proofing” was one of the stretch goals.)

I’ve also released the City Districts map (page 132 of the core rulebook) as a free visual aid, since it won’t be included in the ebook. That’s free to anyone who wants to download it, whether you’ve purchased the other products or not. You can currently download it on DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and on the Brabblemark Press website. Enjoy!


RPG Design: Race and Gender in “Agents of Change”

In May of last year, I took a look back at the photographic art in my Corporia RPG core rulebook, breaking down the numbers of people of various races and gendersAgents of Change final cover

As I mentioned then, “Unlike perhaps 99%+ of published RPGs, I wasn’t using graphic artists or painters to create new art from scratch, in which I could dictate the character model for every piece of art. Instead, to supply the art in Corporia, I relied heavily on actual photographs supplied by various micro-stock photographers around the world (often in Eastern Europe). And because it would have been incredibly cost-prohibitive for me to commission new photographs, setups, and models for each piece of art, I was limited to tracking down just the right blend of existing material from various portfolios.” The same holds true for the last Kickstarter-backed expansion, Agents of Change.

This time, however, I wanted to try to improve my previous record on both gender and race. Let’s see how I did. (Since the page counts are significantly different, I’ve converted the numbers in my last post to percentages.)

  • Corporia core rulebook
  • Men: 56.43 %
  • Women: 43.57%
  • Transgender: 0%
  • Agents of Change
  • Men: 50 % (-6.43% from previous)
  • Women: 41.67% (-1.9%)
  • Transgender: 8.33% (+8.33%)

Looks like the percentage of women (not counting men identifying as women) decreased a bit, though not as much as men – and I was able to add a new transgender character. I’d call that a slight improvement. Now let’s look at race.

  • Corporia core rulebook
  • African-American: 4.29%
  • Asian: 2.86%
  • Caucasian (best guess): 81.43%
  • Hispanic/Latin: 1.43%
  • Other: 0%
  • Unknown (fully clothed, silhouette, etc.): 10%
  • Agents of Change
  • African-American: 15.38% (+11.09% from previous)
  • Asian: 7.69% (+4.83%)
  • Caucasian (best guess): 76.92% (-4.51%)
  • Hispanic/Latin: 0% (-1.43%)
  • Other: 0% (no change)
  • Unknown (fully clothed, silhouette, etc.): 0% (-10%)

Race isn’t as well-balanced as I’d intended, but percentage-wise I suppose you could call this an improvement.

As I said last time, restricting myself by budget, by what was available/realistically possible, and by what I just thought looked cool meant that there was no way I’d be able to reach even a semblance of a perfectly diverse ideal. That’s still the case for Agents of Change, of course, since I wasn’t commissioning every new photo from scratch.

Honestly, I could have improved a few percentage points had I not removed a female Latina character and replaced her with a male Caucasian near the end of the design process, but I chose to use the piece that worked better for the look and feel of the chapter. She’ll no doubt appear in a future expansion.

So, that’s what I did, and how. I haven’t taken the time to compare my work with other published RPGs to see how the percentages stack up, though. Anyone out there know of someone that has tracked gender and race in other RPGs? If so, please let me know!

First Thoughts on Fate Core

Some of you may be looking at the title of this post and thinking ‘what took you so long?’cover fate After all, versions of the Fate RPG have been around for years and – according to a recent Examiner article – is currently the 5th most popular RPG around.

Well, it’s not like I’ve never heard of Fate before. I’ve thumbed through it occasionally over the years, but just couldn’t get a good handle on the rules. Possibly this is because I come from a dice-heavy as opposed to narrative/story-heavy gaming background, or possibly because I find the rulebook’s layout confusing.

There seem to be a lot of undefined terms or new terms for the sake of new terms (effort, magnitude, shifts…) and concepts thrown at me in the wrong order. I took me lots of internet and book searching to determine whether the term ‘effort’ means your dice roll + skill rank, or just the dice roll alone. Also, I quickly understood how the skills work, but had trouble finding the section that tells me how many skills a new character gets. That kind of thing. Maybe this would have been easier with a print book instead of trying to read it online; I’m not sure. Or maybe it’s just me.

I find it interesting that so much of what I’ve read from players online, and in the early pages of the book, weighs heavily on ‘aspects’. In the designer notes that I’ve read, however, there seems to be a preferred focus on each part of the rules as having equal weight, with aspects being no more important than the rest of the ruleset. Maybe that’s an incorrect interpretation. What do you think?

I’m toying around with ideas for a Fate conversion of Corporia, and if I follow through on that, then I think I’m going to stick with that interpretation. I feel like a minor change in the order of how the rules are presented may make it easier for the dice-heavy player to latch on to. We’ll see how it goes.

Any thoughts?