All Things Truly Wicked

Hello TopSecret Readers!

The night is long. Too long. The Sun sets and the temperature falls. They come with the Dark. Beasts the size of houses stalk the streets. Doors and window shutters clap and clatter, brushed by towering, spindly figures, skittering past. Foul-breathed demons leave the sidewalk slick with slobber. The grownups complain about the rain as they side-step the reeking pools. There’s
something evil happening in town, but they don’t see it.
But there is hope. You have power. If you believe in the good and the power of things, you can hold the Dark at bay. The small brown bear you’ve kept close since your birth has a power, a goodness in it. Hold it tight against the dark, and keep the worst at bay. Perhaps the tattered old army jacket that belonged to your grandfather will act as a shield against the monsters. It
will if you have faith.
But the nights are still getting longer, the world is getting darker. Things are changing. Voices call to you from beneath the floorboards. The scratching on the walls is getting louder, frantic, violent, and hungry. They want out. They want in. They want you.

For those of you just joining us, All Things Truly Wicked is a fantastic horror and one of the two winners of the first ever Two Page Tabletop Contest.

A horror game like none other, All Things Truly Wicked is not a game for children, but a game about children. The placid tranquility of your suburban neighborhood floats atop a pitch dark sea of magical horror. Can you stop it before it sinks into the darkness?

Gameplay

All Things Truly Wicked has some incredibly intense and flexible gameplay. The mechanics often force the players to make tough decisions: do I risk the spiritual will being of my character to heal? Do I move one step closer to disbelief just for a slightly better chance to succeed?

Despite its tough decisions thegame play is fast and fluid, using a partial success system to resolve actions quickly and intuitively. This let’s you focus on the story, the characters, and the decisions they face without having to stop the action to figure out which rule you need for which roll.

Overall, it’s one of the best dark-fantasy/horror games we’ve ever played.  But don’t take our words for it, check out the two page version yourself, or listen to One Shot for an example of gameplay.

The best part is that the rules have gotten even better. As the game has expanded from two pages to twenty, more options have been added for players and the rules have stayed every bit as intuitive. It’s no longer your typical partial success system.

Bring your friend and your rival as you join us in the coming month for a breakdown of some of the changes to this already amazing game.

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Top 10 Re-Imaginings of Superheroes

Hello TopSecret readers!

For those of you who are new to the site, we only run official updates on Monday and Wednesday. However, randomly we find something cool or interesting that we’d like to share and you end up fantastic bonus content.

Today, we’re going to share our top 10 re-imaginings of superheroes.

10 – Viking Batman

Viking Batman

9 – Storm Trooper Iron Man

Storm Trooper Iron Man8 – Pixar Punisher

Pixar Punisher

7 – Film Noir Iron Man

Film Noir Iron Man

 

6 – Punk Rock Superman

Punk Rock SUperman

5 – Child Galactus

Child Galactus

4 – Classical Joker

Classical Joker

 

3 – Squirrel Thor

Squirrel Thor

2 – 8 Bit Thor

8 Bit Thor

1 – Cyclops Manatee

Cyclops Manatee

 

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Copyright and the Tabletop RPG Industry

Hello TopSecret readers!

When Gary Gygax founded TSR in 1973 he insisted that the company allow its employees, himself especially, to retain all copyrights, trademarks, and royalties for their works rather than assigning them to TSR. This policy was largely maintained until Gygax was effectively removed from the company in 1985. [1]

Lead by TSR, the tabletop RPG industry would take a different approach to handling copyrights: they would belong to the publisher and not to the author of the work.

AD&D Player Handbook

One of Gygax’s more well known productions.

This has become one of the defining distinctions between independently developed games and games produced by the major players of the tabletop RPG industry. If you want to own the copyright to your game, you need to publish it yourself.

Fortunately, with the rise of print on demand services, it has now become easier than ever to publish and distribute your own RPG book.  Unfortunately, this has resulted in a large number of self published books that could have benefited from the services of a large scale publisher: editing, layout, art, and promotion.

At TopSecret we don’t think it has to be this way, we believe that authors can keep the copyright to their work and still utilize the practical benefits of a publisher. To that end, all of our authors are keeping the copyright to their works.

Instead of the traditional business model, our authors keep their copyrights and grant us a license to their work for some years along with a short period of right of first refusal.

As a company, we are not prepared to deprive an author of the creative control over their work. While arranging for a publisher owned copyright would simplify operations from both a business and legal perspective, we don’t feel that it’s necessary  to have a mutually beneficial relationship with our authors.

Our motives aren’t entirely ideological, we believe that this model makes sound business sense. Once our right of first refusal expires, our authors will be free to publish material under the copyright on their own or even with another publisher. This allows our authors to create as much amazing RPG content as they desire at the quality that they desire without being forcefully constrained by our production schedule. This means more content related to the games we sell which means that we can sell more games and reach a wider audience.

Our maintaining a license instead of the copyright results in a book publishing model that appears closer to a profit-sharing model than traditional book publishing, with each author receiving a portion or the overall profit from every book sale. This means that when you buy a TopSecret Tabletop, your money actually goes to the authors that wrote it.

At TopSecret we’ve chosen to take a non-traditional approach to publishing, by maximizing the freedom and creative control of our authors. We feel strongly that this is the right publishing model for us and that Gary Gygax would approve. We don’t expect our model to shake up the industry or become a new standard, but we believe it is a good model and we hope you find it worthy of your support.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for sneak peaks at the upcoming tabletop anthology.

[1]The Ambush at Sheridan Springs
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Updating and Online

It’s been far too long since we last talked like this. That pouty stare, I can see you’re wondering where we’ve been.

I say it doesn’t matter, we’re back now and we’re here to stay.

But you’ve heard it all before from so many others. Time and time again you raised your hopes only to see them abandoned, your expectations crushed. I can see your frustration, your lack of trust pervades your usually coy countenance.  Don’t let me be hurt again.

You start to voice your concern. What if you go away again? When will you leave me next? How can I trust you after all we’ve been through?

Ssssshhhhhh. I whisper, placing a single finger on your pouting lips. Don’t talk now, just enjoy the moment.


Hello again TopSecret readers!
You may have noticed the site looks a little different from how you remember. There’s been a couple of changes to the logo and a sleek new redesign. Check out all its majesty :
TopSecret RuneAlso in ruinic fire flavor:
TopSecret Fiery rune

But that’s not all we’ve been working on. We’re knee deep in editing the first ever tabletop RPG anthology.

Tabletop Anthology Alpha

Nightmares and Daydreams

To our knowledge, this is the first work of its kind with four expertly designed, full featured tabletop RPGs in one book.

Of course we have the winners from the TPT contest, alongside a couple of other strong candidates. The four RPGs are:

  • All Things Truly WIcked
  • Union of Magical Child Care Professionals
  • Police Cops
  • Retro Quest

This is truly a one of a kind undertaking and we’re proud to be leading the development of the first tabletop anthology. We want this undertaking to be the embodiment of everything we believe the tabletop RPG market should be. To that end, each of our authors is keeping the copyrights to their work.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we reveal the details of the four games. We’ll be providing regular updates on our progress and for members of our newsletters, we’ll even be throwing in some design and layout how-to’s based off of designs that will be incorporated into the anthology.

We had a lot of fun with the contest and we hope you’ll join us for the rest of journey. It’s going to be great making history together.

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Bringing Fear to the Table

Hello TopSecret readers!

Today we’re going to cover a very important topic in RPGs: how to cause fear in the players. It’s very easy to invoke most emotions in the players: joy – give a new shiny thing to play with or a couple of awesome scenes; frustration – have a bad guy keep them in the same spot for sessions on end; jealously – have the other players get just slightly more; the list goes on.

 

But fear holds a special place. Unlike the other emotions, there are very few shortcuts to causing fear. Fear needs build up and lots of it. Things start seeming consistently off and way outside the norm: randomly all the townspeople will stop what they’re doing and stare at the PCs with hallow eyes; lately whenever the wizard casts a spell he sees a gigantic snake-like eye appear above him and voice whispers disconcerting messages quietly into his ear; the animals of the forest are acting strange, when approached by the PCs a harmless squirrel’s eyes glow red and it begins to prophesy the doom of the their loved ones, if they’re paying close attention they may notice that the squirrel is growing steadily larger during its prophesy.

There are many good ideas on build up, but they all share a couple of common themes. Good buildup makes the players feel uneasy, but even more importantly the unease stays with the players: weather it’s through their weapons, their wizard’s spells, the townspeople, the large surrounding forest, the NPC that the party really cares about, etc… making the players face that unease all the time is one of the best ways to build up to the moment of fear.

Awesome reaper image by moni158.

But what is fear and how do I get my players to feel it? It’s not the moment that the big scary monster jumps out to confront the PCs, they’ll actually be relieved that they now have something on which to take out their frustration. This is your chance to latch onto that temporary relief, to invert it and make them realize the monster/bad guy is so much worse than could have ever imagined.

For this step, there is one surefire way to make your players know fear: remove something that they believe to be constant, something that they rely on. When you do this, the monster doesn’t even need to be strong, it only needs to show that is far outside the realm of what the PCs expected. After a long and tiring chase, the fighter strikes the possessed beast of the forest down only to find that there are now two possessed beasts; in their moment of triumph over the BBEG the wizard hears an otherworldly laugh as demon forces its way into the material realm through his magic, drained of resources the party fights the demon, but they slowly realize that it’s beginning to use all of the spells that the wizards had prepared.

If you want to evoke true and immediate fear this can be taken one step father, but you should be careful when doing so, lest you cheese off your players. The last shortcut to fear is to create a monster that changes or alters the rules of the game:using a 2d6 partial success system? The monster appears and now the players can only roll 1d6. Does the party consistently rely on one single strategy? Don’t just disable it, have the monster become empowered by it: absorbing the spells or growing in size with every wound.

Fear is a difficult emotion to invoke in the players. The level of separation between a player and their character requires a consistent build up of unease and terror to overcome, punctuated by a final moment of panic as the bad guy/monster makes itself known. In the end it takes a delicate approach: do too much build up and you risk becoming cliche, bend the rules too much and you risk frustrating the players.

But if you can make your players feel true fear, they will remember it forever.

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