Thursday, 30 October 2014

[Guest Post] Marker Jones - What I Learned Developing Worlds of Rage

Hello World,

A few weeks ago I was got the chance to talk with Marker Jones, Creator of the Worlds of Rage RPG. In our discussions I got to learn about Marker’s experience in publishing and his development process. I really wanted to pass on this information with you all and figured who better to share the games development story than the author himself. Marker jumped on the offer to share his story, and hastily sent me in a monolith of a story, about every step of this 5 year publishing story. What follows is what he sent me, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


As with all things, we begin with a first step.

Hello, my name is Marker Jones. I am the writer of "Worlds of Rage," a brand new role-playing experience from United Sight studios, and the lead developer of the task resolution mechanic the game uses (likely the same dice mechanic all our games will use).

It's been a long time coming, as you, aspiring game designers, are about to find out. I began this project with a partner who left on good terms resting the whole thing squarely in my lap. Admittedly it sat there a few years collecting dust while I flirted with the idea of writing a novel or screenplay or anything that would get my name out in the world. In this time, I was running games, countless games; Battlestar Galactica, Vampire the Masquerade, Mage the Ascension, TMNT, Rifts, Beyond the Supernatural, Dragonlance, anything to give me that good game high I had experienced so many times before.

Creating my own RPG, I knew a few things before I even started typing. This would be science fiction, but it would have nothing to do with any previous IP with the word "Star" in the title; I went so far as to avoid the word for my title. It would have some of the usual trappings of an RPG such as some system of magic, but it could not be like anything ever seen before in game or movie. Finally, since I was very heavily playing every RPG I could get my hands on those days, it had to have something no other RPG ever had, and there had to be a solid story reason for this creation.

"Worlds of Rage" began as a street with two clubs and two competing crime lords. In an attempt to make it original, I dealt primarily street level storylines involving crime, treachery, extortion. Other planets were mentioned but rarely visited. We had an ongoing storyline of two competing criminals and the people caught in the struggle. It was fun, but limited. I had to expand more.

Enter the religions. I couldn't bring myself to have any kind of Judeo Christian religion in a world I had already said had no connection to the world those type religions had come from. The end result was a mix of Christian, Jewish and Jehovah's Witnesses belief systems but done in such a way to make sense in the back story of the game. It was a simple story of an omnipotent creator based on my upbringing in the Catholic faith, but I wanted a mixed connection/opposition between religion and science believing that would add drama. This gave me the antagonist I needed to keep religion on its toes.

While I was writing and creating (and recreating), I was keeping an eye open for a publisher. I knew I didn't want to sell to one of the established companies as I wanted to own my work. The best way for me to retain ownership of the property I had struggled to get into print, I soon found, was the print on demand market.

Print on demand is a new kind of creature, but yet it seems tailor made for the role-playing industry. We are creative people to begin with, and more than likely computer savvy. Print on demand services allow us to showcase our abilities a number of ways; writing, graphic design, desktop publishing, web design, etc. It's as if the digital world reached out to us, invited us into a tight embrace and asked what it can do to help. There I was with arms extended looking for my chance to etch my name in the stone of RPG history.

I soon discovered how valuable a tool constant research was. Not only was I looking up various publication channels, but I was also doing research on technology to get a sound idea where the advanced tech of my world(s) would be. Most important, it had to look right, it had to look plausible, it had to seem like these people would have naturally gravitated towards this tech. To do this, I studied a lot about where technology came from and how it evolved in our world.

History gave me more ideas than almost anything else. When designing your own world from scratch, why not research on our home planet and what happened in each stage of evolution? This got me looking at the races involved in my game. I suddenly had a model to work with, a way to decide where each race came from. The Limthrakk, the orange skinned nobles, see themselves as the Creator's chosen, the one the others should look up to. Their culture was based on Asian culture and history. The Groon are seen as savage and brutal by the other races, but they are nothing of the sort, they just don't think those that look down on them need to know just how beautiful their culture really is. They were heavily based on Native American tribes. This process continued with the other races.

I spent the most time deciding what classes would go into my game. I started out with classes whose sole defining characteristic was summed up in a few words, often the name of the class. It soon came to me that these class names were looking more like skills; thief, assassin, fighter with bladed weaponry, mystic, etc. I own the fact that a lot of "Worlds of Rage" is inspired by fantasy RPG's, but I could not see a place in my high technology science-fiction worlds for a healer or an arena fighter. However, a soldier who was only ever good at fighting and decided to increase his already wondrous skills with the addition of cybernetics to the point of facing a growing addiction to cybernetic implants? That had promise.

And soon other classes were inspired. An offshoot of one of the terrorist organizations that pledged a life of nonviolent social demonstrations focused on corporate espionage and activism. Priests that had to train heavily in combat with bladed weapons as they were going to do missionary work in some of the most dangerous places in the galaxy. Bodyguards who would self-administer poisons to build up an immunity and get a taste for them so that they could not only survive the effects but identify the substances in an employer's food (which also had the added benefit of making them quite adept at administering poisons themselves). These were the kind of morally ambiguous classes I was going for.

Alignment became a thing of the past. If you are creating characters that normally act outside the line on an average business day, why incorporate a system of alignment that would penalize them for doing the very thing they were buying skill points to do? Ridding myself of an alignment system got me looking at other mechanics of RPGs we have grown accustomed to.

I discovered a growing disdain for experience points. How is an encounter judged in such a way that one encounter is a higher threat than another? A large stampeding monster could be reduced to a blathering idiot if dice rolls were not going your way, and a low level pickpocket could ruin your day if he took your knife out of your pocket and stabbed you with it before robbing you and walking off, all in a time span of about 15 seconds with an amazing roll. So "Encounters" no longer had a numerical value, rather the skills that you roll increase themselves through repeated successful use. This not only rewarded the soldiers in combat, but also the engineers who repaired the ship, the technician that fixed the equipment, the ambassador that was able to use words to avoid a fight.

I am in no way an artist, and any RPG is judged on the quality of its art. Since I was self-financing this, I wanted to save the lion's share of the money for publication, so sacrifices had to be made. It took me 7 years to find an artist that could produce good art for a price I could afford. Anyone near to me was offering comic book quality artwork but for well over $100 per illustration. Thanks to researching options online I found a good quality artist at a more reasonable rate ( helped out wonderfully here). For the front cover, I tapped the friend of a friend who was a local tattoo artist and very interested in the project. This same artist is still producing content for me and negotiating a contract to work on future titles.

I had found my publisher in the form of CreateSpace, a publishing house owned by Amazon. I jumped at the chance to work with them, not only for brand recognition but also because this meant my RPG would be available on the Kindle. I've seen a good amount of digital role players as of late; you know them, the gamers that have either their laptop or tablet at the table. Technology has allowed us the chance to carry dozens of books to the gaming table in only one hand. I wanted to be a part of this, and was able to do so, thankfully, and not just with the Kindle but also drivethrurpg, which is another amazing resource for aspiring designers.

Ah, marketing. The total dominance of the internet has made marketing a double-edged sword; you would think it is easy given how accessible the entire world is now, but be careful for you can accidentally use these resources incorrectly and alienate potential customers. I did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything), created social media pages, a wordpress site, a twitter account, a Google+ page, had friends talk me up on social media, etc. It helped a bit. I got a lot more traction once I learned to use Roll20 and Skype. The online role playing community - and this includes online gaming conventions such as Virtuacon and Aethercon - allowed me to get my name out there and to introduce people in other state and other countries to my work. Once players saw it in action, they were more inclined to look it over.

My wordpress site has a beta test copy of the rules available. I would suggest this to any designer. The professional designers make their SRDs (system reference documents) available to consumers online, and your beta test rules can be the same thing. Also, it serves as a text for possible play testing, which is important, but also more honest if you can get people to play test it in your absence, and to find play testers who are not related to you. We all start running our games for our friends, but it's when people who do not know you try your game for the first time that the real issues start to show themselves. 

Don't settle for online, get out in the world and play it also. Your local gaming store is a good start, but absolutely go to conventions; go to a lot of conventions, go out of your way to go to conventions, go to each one you can find and afford to go to. Get the word out there. Let people you have never met before know about your game. Do demos wherever you can. Post demos online and let strangers find them on YouTube at 3 o'clock in the morning.

This has been a labor of love for me, and that is the complete truth. I have gone at this mostly on my own - not out of choice, out of circumstance. I was, however, fortunate to be able to realize this goal without having to Kickstart it (I never thought it would be beneficial to be a married gamer, but I was proven wrong on this).

Good luck, designers. I hope to see your products soon on the shelves of my local bookstore.


I would like to thank Marker for his post, and if you you would like to learn more about Worlds of Rage you can check out Markers Wordpress, or you can find the game on Amazon and Drive Through RPG.

before I end off this article I would like to make a quick announcement to all of my readers! I want to hear from you, use the contact form to the right of this article and let me know what you want to see in future posts. I love writing this blog, and with your help we can make it something great.

And as always, thanks for reading,


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Blog Updates And Scheduling Changes

Hello World,

With the recent success of Planet Crashers I have decided to formalize this blog in order to better serve my readers. Those who are returning readers may notice plenty of design and layout changes as well as a bunch of new features. But before I get into explaining that I would first like to make an announcement.

My Tabletop Journey will now be scheduling its content releases. From now on you can expect a new post every Thursday.

It is my hope that this will allow me to provide regular content for my viewers.

With that established, I can get into the new features of the blog. It was my goal with these changes to be as accessible as possible. The first major tool I have added is a contact box on the right side bar.  This will allow you the reader to ask me questions as well as suggest topics for future posts. I can’t wait for all of the great suggestions you will all bring for future content.

The other tool I have added is a real time twitter feed. This is to allow viewers to see my recent activity outside the blog, as well as act as an easy method to tweet at or follow me.

I hope to hear from all of you in the future. Without people to read my content and play my games, I would have no hope of become a game designer.

Thanks for reading, Really…


If you wish to receive play test document as they are released feel free to sign up as a play tester on the right hand side. You can also stay up to date on blog posts by following me on Google+. or Twitter.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

48 Hour RPG - What I Learned

Hello World,

For those who are not aware, during this past weekend I challenged myself to make a complete RPG in a 48 hour timespan. Out of that weekend came the Planet Crashers RPG, a game which pits players against the GM in an over the top galactic outlaw hunt.  I had a blast making it and I hope you guys have as much fun playing it. If you are interested in giving it a read or playing it yourself, the free PDF can be downloaded from the following link.

Download Planet Crashers HERE
Cover art courtesy of Meryn Mercer

But that announcement isn’t my only reason for this post.  As some of you may know, on this blog I strive to share what I learn about game design to all of you. With Planet Crashers’ creation still fresh in my mind, it seems like the perfect time to reflect upon what I learned from the whole experience as well as a bit about my design process.

I would first like to state that this endeavor, while being tough, was an amazing insight to me as a developer. It forces you to go through the entire design process in a very short amount of time, letting you see all of the little connections and dependencies between every phase of development. I encourage every novice developer to try their hand at a 24 or 48 hour game design jam. Even if you aren't able to finish a game, I guarantee you will learn tons.

As for what I learned from Planet Crashers, I like to sum it up in one simple line

“Constraints breed creativity”

This is true in all mediums, even game design. When I started the marathon my mind was whizzing with ideas, going in every which direction, but it wasn’t until I set my constraints that a game began to get designed. One of the most effective methods I have found to figuring out my constraints was to visualize how the game would be played.

The initial visualization for Planet Crashers was a one shot system about an over the top space crew. From that initial idea I got a few key constraints, and I was able to refine my intended play by looking at the next major part of gameplay, who is your ideal player. This part relies heavily on an article I did a while back called “Design Talk: Know You Audience”, for those who haven’t read it, the article discussed two distinct taxonomies for looking at your intended audience. The first is the GNS theory which states there are three mindsets a player can experience when playing a tabletop RPG, Gamist, Narrativist, and Simulationist. While the other method of classification looks at the aesthetics of play, and breaks any game experience into 8 separate categories, Challenge, Fantasy, Fellowship, Sensation, Narrative, Discovery, Expression, Submission.

The way I like to go about this is to choose one of the GNS mindsets to focus on as the style of play I want to engage  the most within my players. In Planet Crashers, I decided to focus on the Gamist mindset. One of the best ways to encourage and reward Gamist style play is, having clear goals, competition between players and rewarding clever choices. When reading through Planet Crashers it is clear to see where that choice influenced the design.

Now for the aesthetics of play I like to look at and rank the top three aesthetics I want to stimulate within the game. Planet Crasher’s aesthetic ranking was as follows.

1. Challenge
2. Fellowship
3. Fantasy

With those two classifications figured out, I have a pretty good idea on how playing Planet Crashers should feel. With those constraints set I had a direction, and whenever I wasn’t sure if I should put a mechanic into the game I just asked “how does the mechanic enhance the imagined play?” Knowing who would want to play this game, and how they would play it led the game to be much more unified.

Another resource which I have found very helpful for planning out my games is Troy Costisick’s “The Power 19”. A 19 question outline that lays out the foundation for what your game is going to become. It is a fantastic resource and I encourage designers to give it a try. A link to it can be found HERE.

There is one last concept I would like to mention about the power of rewards. If there is a specific way you want players to act or play within your game, it is important that the game rewards them for that. Planet Crashers is intended to be a comedic and silly space adventure. As such one of the design problems I came across is, how do you make a game comedic? The method I found most effective for this is to reward players for being funny. The entire “Trope” mechanic was introduced into the game to reward players for fun and comedic roleplaying. This one introduced mechanic shifts the whole style of play, and it is all because players now get rewarded for playing in a comedic manner. I could go on and on about effective use of reward systems in RPGs but I will save that for my next Design Talk post.

For now though, try to understand who will be playing your game, and how it will be played. With that figured out you can begin to constrain you game in order to design a unified play experience. I wish all of you the best of luck with you future gaming projects and as always,

Thanks for reading


If you wish to receive play test document as they are released feel free to sign up as a play tester on the right hand side. You can also stay up to date on blog posts by following me on Google+. or Twitter.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Development Update: October 2014

Hello World,

Although I have been rather quiet for the past few weeks it has not been in vain. Over this past week I successfully ran my first public beta test of Consortia at Virtuacon. I had a blast running it and I would like to thank all of the players who came out to play test the system, I learned a lot from each of you.  This test marks the first time Consortia has been played outside my internal group and it did better than I could have imagined. With this new found success I would like to begin taking Consortia even further, getting input from a vast population of players from all gaming backgrounds. As such, I will be looking to both expand my internal group and run a more one shots/ campaigns over the next few months.  If you interested in play testing the system feel free to contact me at with you name and gaming history/preferences and we will try to find a game for you to join.

I also have a few more big announcements for content coming out over the next week or so.

First off I am pleased to announce Marker Jones, creator of the “Worlds of Rage” Tabletop RPG will be making a guest post on this blog in the upcoming week. Within his post Mark will discuss his 5 year journey to publish his own tabletop RPG as well as share what he has learned along the way. It is sure to be an informative post so be sure to catch that next Wednesday.

I would also like to take this time to announce that I will be challenging myself to create a 48 hour RPG this weekend. Within this challenge I will design, create and release a complete RPG over the course of two days. This RPG will then be posted onto, for those interested in giving it a read. I have chosen to undertake this challenge to both test my skills as a developer as well as get some design Ideas off my mind.

This next week will prove to be very jam packed and interesting to be sure and you can keep up to date on my 48 hour RPG progress by following me on Twitter @MTTJ_Patrick. In the meantime though…

Thanks for reading,


If you wish to receive play test document as they are released feel free to sign up as a play tester on the right hand side. You can also stay up to date on blog posts by following me on Google+. or Twitter.