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Game Design: Step by Step

A Brief Return to the Underworld

Gareth-Michael Skarka
July 13, 2000

Well...no sooner to I come back from a hiatus...

As most of you are aware, we have reached the beginning of the full blossom of Convention Season, where the gamer's life becomes an unending string of plane trips, bad food, and no sleep (even more so for those of us who do this for a living).  So, I took time out of this marathon to write this column, primarily to inform my kind readers (and even the not-so-kind ones) that Game Design Step By Step will be going on hiatus until after GenCon.

What it comes down to is that I really want to put some effort behind the design of RetroFuture, especially keeping in mind some of the requests that have appeared on the forums, where it was asked that I show more of the "roads not taken" (more of the process, rather than the final results).  Honestly, if I'm trying to do that at the same time that I'm juggling a convention schedule, the column is going to suffer--and I don't want to pound out a few hundred words every week that I'm going to look at later and think: "Boy, I could've done that better...."

So, RetroFuture kicks off in late August.

As of late, as you might imagine, my life has been filled with UnderWorld.  I've been adding last-minute materials, some of which is based on the absolutely phenominal artwork that we've commissioned.  For example, take a look at the following piece by Raven Mimura, depicting a Junkman Librarian:

Or this digital piece, by hive, entitled "Ghost Train":

Images like that have fueled my imagination, inspiring me to add new material--which is great, except when everyone else is pestering you to quit tinkering with the damned thing so that it will be ready in time!  Anyway--I thought that you might like to see those, to get an idea of what the book is going to look like.

This book has a lot of artwork, folks.  I have always thought that it is better to have more art than you need, than to be stuck with less.  Artwork, after all, is the quickest way to bring across to the reader exactly what the setting is like...and, let's face it: potential consumers are more likely to buy a game based on the artwork and a brief perusal of the text (on the back cover, for example), than they are to sit and read a lengthy description of the setting.

The art in UnderWorld is a combination of traditional and digital media, with artists such as Christopher Shy, Raven Mimura, hive, Thomas Denmark, Brad McDevitt, Jerry Grayson, Frank Fallon, Yesse America, Andrew Baker, and others (including myself, actually--shameless plug).  These artists have all managed to absolutely nail the look that I was going for...and I think you'll really appreciate their efforts (I know that I do).

In other news, for those of you who are interested in UnderWorld, we have started the Official UnderWorld email list, over on eGroups.  To subscribe, go to the main page at

Or, you can just join by emailing  UnderWorld-RPG-subscribe@egroups.com.  All lot of you were really a great help during the process of design, and I'd love to see you continue your enthusiasm for the game on the official mailing list.

So...I'll be talking to you on the mailing list, and I'll be seeing some of you at GenCon.  For the rest of you, I'll be back here with the opening volleys of RetroFuture in a few weeks.  See ya then.

Gareth-Michael Skarka

Underworld, RetroFuture and all related terms and concepts contained herein are copyright 2000 by Gareth-Michael Skarka. All rights reserved.

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What do you think?

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All "Step by Step" design columns

  1. Inspiration to Perspiration October 26, 1999
  2. Comin' wit da Nifties October 27, 1999
  3. Concepts Continued October 28, 1999
  4. Character is what you are in the Dark October 29, 1999
  5. Forces of Occupation October 30, 1999
  6. Forces of Occupation, Part II October 31, 1999
  7. Head Count November 2, 1999
  8. Subterranean Ass-Kicking, 101 November 9, 1999
  9. Next Stop, Rune Station November 17, 1999
  10. It's All 'Bout Da Merlins November 23, 1999
  11. Miscellany December 1, 1999
  12. Lords of the UnderWorld December 8, 1999
  13. Lucky 13 December 15, 1999
  14. Miracle Under 34th Street December 22 1999
  15. Gareth's December 27th 'edition' is a survey, on what you want for future Underworld columns.
  16. Statistics and Junk January 5, 2000
  17. Reality Slap January 12, 2000
  18. Once More Into the Breach... January 20, 2000
  19. The Mechanics of Mechanics January 26, 2000
  20. Junkmen and Soundtracks February 2, 2000
  21. The Iron Forestries of Hell February 16, 2000
  22. And Now, For Something Completely Different... February 24, 2000
  23. Confessions of a Language Geek March 1, 2000
  24. Flood of Ideas March 15, 2000
  25. A New Direction? March 24, 2000
  26. The Envelope, Please... March 29, 2000
  27. Generic Systems, My Ass! April 5, 2000
  28. Big News, and Magic April 12, 2000
  29. Big Guns, Razor-sharp Swords, and a Bit with a Dog... April 19, 2000
  30. What's the Story, Morning Glory? April 26, 2000
  31. And now for something completely different, Survey time! May 3, 2000
  32. The Fever for the Flavor May 10, 2000
  33. Random Acts May 17, 2000
  34. A Run Through Dark Places May 25, 2000
  35. Service Interruption June 1, 2000
  36. Endings and Beginnings June 29, 2000
  37. A Brief Return to the Underworld July 13, 2000

Discussion of UnderWorld

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Earlier Comments (Issues 1-7)

(Editor's note: I'll consolidate these when I get a chance)

Other columns at RPGnet

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