Specimen Design


I want to take a few minutes to share a bit about our company: Specimen. This is all in the spirit of transparency and letting you guys know a little more about who you're supporting with World of Rynaga creations!

Specimen Design (LLC) was founded in 2007 by my wife and I. The company was primarily formed so that I could work as a consultant designer and commissioned illustrator, either on my own or on the side while maintaining a day job. Roles are simple. I get the design/illustration stuff done. Larissa keeps me on task and focuses on the important business/logistic stuff.

We also formed Specimen so that we could publish written stories and game experiences. I'd been working since 2000 on lots of ideas I knew I wanted to see accomplished, it was only a question of when and in what capacity. Forming our company allowed me to function not only as a designer, but as a small press publisher.

A lot has changed in the past eight years. Specimen still consists of myself and Larissa, but now our son Gavin has expressed interest in playing a greater role in our little enterprise. At seventeen he's completed high school and currently wants to become a software designer/engineer. He's also passionate about learning hand crafts like screen printing, which he'll be learning while we decide what schooling he'll undertake next.

As an enterprise, our main values have never changed: stay small, do big things. As part of the creative community here in Phoenix, we're tiny. Micro really. But what makes us unique is our approach to taking on and completing big projects. World building, creating social experiences for the table top, expanding our world view of Earth and its cultures. All of these things contribute to the sense of exploration and layered story elements we infuse into everything we do.

In the end, we're in business to stay in business. That means being smart about spending, sustainability, and overhead. Our goals for 2015 include expanding the Iconica experience for World of Rynaga, launching a new project called Pictoboy, and adding new capabilities to our business.

We've got lots of fun work ahead of us.


Next Steps for Rynagapedia

In our previous version of, Rynagapedia was a thing. It was this data base featuring information on the creatures, peoples, and places of Rynaga. After deciding our website needed to be more manageable and usable across lots of different platforms to achieve some of our future goals, we moved the site to Square Space. So far, we've been really happy with that decision. But there's lots we want to do on our site to build content.

This is where Rynagapedia comes in. Over the past few months we've received a few calls for Rynagapedia's return. We do have plans to relaunch it again, but in a new way. First some quick background on this project.

Rynagapedia started as resource for me, as the storyteller and world-builder for Rynaga. It helped me keep track of bits of lore, keep storylines connected, and it established a framework to form other stories and characters from. But something unexpected happened. RPG gamers started using Rynagapedia to create their own RPG experiences, with their own rulesets and such. Not only is this rad, we want this to continue to be an option for people.

So, here's what we're thinking – a PDF download. Yes, we'd like an online resource ultimately, but I think we'd need to build an expandable database for it. I don't have the time for that yet. However, a downloadable PDF could be updated periodically, be viewable on lots of devices, and be setup for print too. Seriously, this could eventually lead to a Rynaga RPG book of some sort.

Anyway, that's the plan. We don't have a release date quite yet. But you'll be the first to know. 

Safe travels!


Writing for Rynaga

When I was about 12 years old, I wrote a short story about people who lived on another world for a project in school and I was hooked. Since then, I've enjoyed everything about writing. The imaginative work, the character conceptualization, the research, the grammar editing. Everything.

Now I write, illustrate, and small press publish my own work. Here are three ideas I try to keep in mind when writing content for Rynaga and other creative projects.

Remaining Discoverable

Being discoverable is about creating the unknown. It's about content that's made for folks who want to wander the forest, not stay on the easily followed trails. In the deep forest, there are no spam messages, no buy-now ads, no cheaply thrown together commodities. Deep in the forest is where the magic of discovery happens. It's where the explorer gets lost in possibilities, learns about things that change his/her world, or is inspired to explore further.

Pursuing Progress

There are plenty of folks pursuing perfection. But how many things do you know of that are perfect? Practice makes better. Better = Progress. I carry a notebook and pencil around. All day I'm alert to opportunities to write, sketch, or doodle notes on ideas I have. Creativity can be elusive. It's not something we can just turn on and off. Capturing ideas while we can is key to keeping momentum on projects going while living day-to-day life. I've noticed when I focus more energy on making progress rather than being perfect, I get more done.

Having Adventures

Surrounding myself with friends who love to get out and have adventures inspires what I do. It's hard to write adventure tales if we never have any of our own! But beyond this, having adventures is about allowing ourselves to explore being a kid, even if we're adult-sized "kids". I try to avoid spending too much time with folks who are negative, overly serious, and excessively critical. Time spent adventuring might include gaming with friends, hiking trails outdoors, using our imaginations. Things like these hold the prospect of inspiration, laughter, and discovery.


Iconica Travels Update

Lots has been happening around the Specimen studio lately. Organizing ourselves, winding down from 2014, ramping up for Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and lots of other stuff. With all this going on, there's still tons of work, thought, and play being invested into future Iconica releases.

I recently announced the development of Iconica Travels (via Facebook). Iconica Travels is a new layer for the game which will add more RPG flavor, strategy elements, and lots of ways to customize your game experience. Iconica Travels will also dramatically expand the World of Rynaga by allowing players to discover more about the people, places, creatures, objects, and mysteries of this planet.

Progress continues on the structure and mechanic of play. Don't wanna bore you guys, but here are some things we're currently exploring, which might provide some hints as to what's to come:

  1. Pet functionality and usage.
  2. Armor sets and customizations.
  3. A resource element (currency, loot, or supply) and its use.
  4. Equipping weapons, objects, and other artifacts.
  5. World events and achievements.

As you can guess, this takes lots of time and experimentation. We're still early/midway through the development process and while a release date hasn’t been definitively set, our goal is to meet a 2015 release! We're really excited. 

The design of the Iconica Travels cards is something we’re giving lots of consideration to as well. We know we want the cards to be less substantial and have less table presence than the Iconica Character cards. Gavin, my 17 year old son and one of my most trusted advisors, and I have spent lots of time experimenting with different card sizes and we think we’ve identified our path forward.

But finding that right sizing balance is a challenging exercise. There are so many questions to answer. Will the cards be shuffled? Probably, at least hand shuffled. Will the cards be attached to characters once played? Yes, some will. Will the cards be played on the table and be static there for a time? Probably, yes. What will the size of the card deck be? 70, 90, 110? We're not so sure yet, but enough to feel like a substantial experience. 

So yeah. Dialing in the right size of these cards will be key so as not to increase the playing surface requirement too much.

There was some thought early on about adding game marker functionality to the Iconica Travels cards. While we’re not ruling this out, we’re cautious about adding too much to manage with these cards. The goal is for these cards to add a nice layer of fiction, function, and fun to the game. We do not want to bog Iconica down with unnecessary mechanical stuff. So, card functionality is were we’re spending most of our time.

From top down: Daggerhide Igwaza, Sabrewolf, Highland Zerka.

From top down: Daggerhide Igwaza, Sabrewolf, Highland Zerka.

Of course, artwork will be a big part of this project. I'm so tempted to dive into all of the art now, but I'm limiting myself to only exploring sketches at this point. Creating the art is a almost a reward for completing all of the technical, written, and balancing work involved in the project. There are still rules to finalize too. So, before I dive into all the art, gotta get the other stuff done first!

When we set out to create Iconica in 2005, we knew we wanted to achieve a measure of success. We had no idea how much success we'd find. The journey so far has been well worth the effort and has led us to all sorts of opportunities for growing the Iconica experience. We're excited to see where this new effort takes us.


Back to the Start

Growing a website the size of is lots to handle and over the past few years it's taken more and more of my time to manage. It was time for a major change in my approach to building the content. In redesigning the site I had a few goals:

  1. Make the site easier to manage and update remotely
  2. Improve the responsiveness of the site on mobile devices
  3. Set things up to be more photo-friendly and visual

That's basically it. Previous versions of the site were managed / developed by me. But I need to focus on making more content rather than expending lots of time and energy managing the site. So, I decided to use SquareSpace. I have plans to customize the site further, but first I'll be uploading more content.

The Travelogue is the site's blog. It's where I'll be sharing development notes, event news, progress updates, short stories, and articles on the business of making ideas happen.

The Rynaga project has always been about the writing, art, and design of our creations. Feels good to have a web solution that will allow me to keep focusing on those things!