Designer’s Diary: Scribeworx – Glyphs

Glyphs is a generic universal role-playing game written by Charlie Smith and published by Scribeworx.
By Charlie Smith

Welcome to the latest Designer’s Diary, a column where designers are given the opportunity to take readers on an in-depth ride through the design and development process of their system, setting, or product. If you’d like to share your product in the Designer’s Diary column, send a message to

Designer’s Description
Glyphs is a fun and flexible RPG that thinkers and creators can easily learn and teach. Customize, hack and skin your Realities and Characters to your liking. Glyphs is intentionally a bare-bones, Universal system and is not partial to any particular paradigm. Create your content from scratch, or emulate your favorite settings and content.

Glyphs offers an innovative approach to Turn-Based Pen & Paper Role Playing Games. Players can implement its universal ‘Toolbox Style’ rule system to easily create any setting and content limited only by their imagination.

Use this system as a standalone RPG experience, or blend it with other rule systems for a more immersive approach to your favorite games. Glyphs offers something to everyone.

I wanted to create a truly universal RPG system with a higher fun factor and greater player immersion than traditional RPG’s. We’ve been playing RPG’s roughly the same way for 40 years by merely interpreting random numbers on dice. I aim to offer an alternative way to play that encourages player and GM skill.

Glyphs gives players the freedom of creating virtually any content they wish, or emulating their favorite influences by providing the raw mechanical framework. After much experimentation, I strayed away from dice and developed the Token System with the purpose of boosting immersion and minimizing the reference process. The Token used incorporates a dexterity mechanism, which gives players and GM’s more control over their characters. More so, the Random Generation aspect relies on the interpretation of Random Context, allowing for infinite situational content in real-time.

I intentionally had as little influence as possible so that I could create something truly unique without being swayed by other sources. Mechanically, the vast majority of RPG’s available are clones or various takes on other systems, as good as they may be. I wanted to completely avoid my game being just another flavor of fantasy. Glyphs is an RPG system and yet is very much its own thing. However, the development of the Token System that Glyphs uses was inspired by the Tarot. I have over 15 years of experience in reading Tarot and studying symbols.

Research was generally done on the spot for specific mechanics and calculations for the sake of accuracy. Having an extensive background playing D&D, I basically plugged in everything that I would want to see in an RPG from a rules standpoint. I then researched online forums and weighed a list of what elements should be included, and refined the game into 26 chapters.

Art Direction
Glyphs was meant to be a personal challenge to see how much a single individual could accomplish, so I decided to do my own artwork as opposed to contracting an independent artist. A major challenge I had was to convey the purpose of each chapter, so I decided to use an archetypal fantasy model to illustrate the concepts behind each chapter and narrate their purpose. More so, there is a ‘line’ motif expressed in each chapter’s background that symbolizes universal manifestation. The artwork was generated in 3-D and stylized in a cell-shaded look. Glyphs is an homage to beauty, creativity and flexibility so the artwork shares elements from different settings.

Gaming Experience
1) Players are able to create virtually any PC, ability or equipment limited only by their imagination. They only need a very minimal understanding of the rules and can seamlessly jump in and start playing in minutes once their character is created. The Token provides a very fun experience because it largely relies on a dexterity mechanism to regulate the success or failure of their character’s actions, and most checks are done at a mere Token spin.

2) GM’s have hundreds of pages of rules and mechanics, many of which are optional. Glyphs attempts to give them the tools they need to make any campaign setting. It is a true bare-bones, universal system with solid default character content. Glyphs may appear overwhelming if you simply skim over the book and don’t do your due diligence, but is deceivingly very simple in practice and lots of fun to run. The system’s ‘Toolbox’ approach lets GM’s implement, tweak and hack content and mechanics as they see fit. Most notably, The Token functions similar to an oracle, allowing GM’s to generate random content on the fly based on the context. Mastering the Token can be akin to learning a language of symbols.

Glyphs is very much its own thing and does not try to be like any other RPG on the market. However, the closest RPG to compare it to would be GURPS in terms of its universal approach. Glyphs takes gameplay a step further for both PC’s and the GM.

Development Process
I have dedicated almost 7 years to create the Glyphs RPG Blueprint under the most stressful, interruptive and restricting conditions imaginable. Everything was done from scratch and underwent a great deal of trial and error. Most RPG’s are designed by small teams or entire studios. With exception to playtesting and feedback, I have been alone during the entire process and wanted to show my devotion to the craft of RPG design.

The manuscript and mechanics were conceptualized and written to be used with most types of dice, and then entirely scrapped for the Token System, which was designed from the ground up after I discovered the incredible application of a challenge coin for gaming purposes. The book was written several times until the optimum work was completed.

During the last year and a half of its development, the game underwent an Alpha Testing Session and multiple open and closed Beta sessions, including local sessions and at conventions. It was also professionally critiqued before it was released to the public in April 2016.

The Glyphs RPG Blueprint is available as a free download at

All necessary resources as well as character creation steps can also be found on the website. A Token is required to play the game since Glyphs does not use dice. Once you give it a try, you will see that this is a good thing. Additionally, players can purchase an optional Game Board, GM Screens and Dry Erase Inserts.

While Glyphs is a Universal System and thus formless, I am planning on releasing specific setting modules every 1-2 years. I will begin the first module on January of 2017. I encourage players to share their own creations derived from the Glyphs RPG Blueprint.

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