Tag Archives: urban fantasy

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: Boomerang statistics

Here’s a first look at the draft text for the boomerang, a new item to appear in the next supplement. Let me know if you have any comments!boomerang

Skill Rank: 4

Price: $60

Base Range: throw

ROF: 1

Damage: STR

Reload Die: n/a

Thanks to the latest in high-tech composite materials, the three-wing XXXXX-brand boomerang maintains the range of similar sport boomerangs and the striking power of the traditional aboriginal hunting weapon. This item is primarily designed for tactical scenarios versus AUTAC security devices, though a good throw can also temporarily hobble a flesh-and-blood opponent. Color options vary widely, and glow-in-the-dark variants containing LEDs or long-life cyalume are also available for easy nighttime tracking and retrieval.

The thrower must declare (before throwing) whether he intends to strike a particular target (in which case the boomerang does not return) or throw the boomerang and have it return to him without striking a target. The latter can be useful in order to (for example) cause a distraction or to activate a motion-sensitive alarm. If the throwing Attack succeeds (see 4.2.4 | Ranged Weapon Basics: Throwing, in the core rulebook), the boomerang strikes or returns as previously declared. Failed throws leave the thrower’s grip but do not strike the target or return to the thrower (for the direction of a failed throw, see also section 4.2.4). A returning boomerang comes back to the thrower within 1 round (in time for his next Attack roll; barring a Director ruling otherwise). Again, note that a boomerang only returns on a successful Attack roll where it does not strike a target or is not itself struck or held by an opponent or other force.

A target struck by a boomerang must succeed at a [MTL + WIT] check versus a TN equal to 7 + the amount of damage inflicted, or lose its next action. If the boomerang’s damage result exceeds the target’s MTL, the target suffers one wound as normal.


Corporia – Agents of Change (and not the small kind)

Here’s a look at the draft cover of the next Corporia supplement, which I’m planning to release in the first quarter of 2015. The actual title may still change, since I’m a bit concerned that the cover implies a product that’s entirely based on spies and spycraft. Although there’s a Spook archetype inside, that isn’t the case. Alternate title ideas include: Fringe Benefits (there is a Fringer archetype inside too), Hazard Pay, and Trade Secrets.

I’d love to hear what you think!

agents draft cover

Corporia – new archetypes and Assets

Wow – I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post! Time really has flown by lately.

If you’re following my home renovation blog, you can see what I’ve been doing there. As for Corporia, I’ve been slowly but surely creating new rules and material for the next supplement. I didn’t expect it to take as long as it has, but there are a few things that I really wanted to include, and those are taking a surprising amount of brainpower. So if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know!

For example, and as you may have read here in August, I wanted to add nearly two dozen new pistols. Instead, I’m adding nine specialty pistols spread over three categories (light, medium, and heavy). Barring any last-minute changes, those are completely written.

In addition to the pistols and other equipment, I also plan to add some new character archetypes. One prominent one I’ve been pondering is (was?) an ‘urban druid’ type, but it’s difficult to find powers/spells to give this archetype, since the existing spell disciplines cover a great deal of what this archetype would typically be able to do. Thus, it may not even appear in the next supplement, but in some other supplement (or stand-alone) later on. The same goes for the other magical archetypes I’ve been thinking about: the ‘cleric’ and the ‘vodoun.’

Two other archetypes that are 90%+ written are the Fringer (a sort of homeless ronin) and the Moppet (a kid/preteen). Again, I’m running into problems because each archetype has its own unique or discounted (rule-based) Asset, and the core book already covers so much of the existing and potential rules that it’s been hard to find something to add. I’m not sure if the other three archetypes still in my head – the ‘senior citizen’, ‘delusional superhero’ and ‘socialite’ – will make it onto the pages. At worst, they’ll be replaced by something else.

On a related note, I noticed last week that the Corporia RPG rulebook has reachedsilver seller the silver ‘Best Seller’ status on DriveThruRPG. Considering that it only released a few month ago to a limited audience, I’m quite pleased with that!

Okay, time to sign off. Remember, if you have any suggestions for the above rules, or ideas for something I haven’t mentioned, please let me know!