Gen Con: Victorian Superheroes, Eldritch Conspiracies, and Other Childish Things

By George Holochwost

Many folks have not heard of Arc Dream Publishing. These people are missing out. Big time.

Setting up shop at booth 711 here at GenCon, the designers and writers of Arc Dream Publishing are an under-sung band of some of the most creative and talented people in the industry. Today I had a chance to gab with ADP’s man-of-a-thousand-hats Shane Ivey who gave me the skinny on what’s in the works. Not only did I get to talk to Shane, but also Benjamin Baugh (often called “Bailywolf” online) – creator of the Monsters & Other Childish Things RPG and the Victorian supers setting known as The Kerberos Club.

First we covered their newest release. Making its premiere at GenCon, The Kerberos Club: FATE edition is just that. Originally designed to be used with Greg Stolze’s One Roll Engine (ORE), The Kerberos Club has seen two additional versions – one for Savage Worlds and the most recent of which is FATE. FATE is a dynamic narrative system that uses evocative catch phrases called Aspects that players “tag” during play to generate dramatic story twists and otherwise bring the awesome. This is the same base system used in Evil Hat’s award-winning Dresden Files RPG and Spirit of the Century.

Once we got Benjamin Baugh on the phone, the conversation turned to one of my favorite games ever, Monsters & Other Childish Things nominated for three ENNIES in 2008 including Best Game, Best Writing, and Product of the Year.

In Monsters & Other Childish Things, player characters are children that face the threats of jerky older sisters, menacing detention hall monitors, sadistic dentists, insane teachers, cruel babysitters and all the other nasty folks that kids tend to endure while going about their already complicated lives. But these kids get friends. Imaginary friends. Make believe buddies that can be anything from giant lizards who breath radioactive pudding to man-eating teddy bears with an unquenchable appetite for bully meat. Unfortunately these are monsters – real dyed-in-the-wool bumpers-in-the-night with an inherent need for cause serious trouble. Kids make bargains with their pals in exchange for favors and the monsters help out because beyond all else, they love their kids.

Monsters & Other Childish Things doesn’t have a bazillion supplements but rather a small handful of hook-filled, deeply thought out accessories filled with enough stuff to run the game in a multitude of styles.

Curriculum of Conspiracy and the nine-adventure campaign Road Trip (both by Ross Payton ) give campaign options for the original version of the M&OCT.

Bigger Bads is a new antagonist book by the game’s creator that’s filled with all manner of nasties and ideas for stories involving them.

The Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor is a dark setting where the kids themselves are orphans with monstrous afflictions, shunned by the unkind town in which they live. Struggling to maintain their human relationships while simultaneously revealing the hidden nature of their warped pasts, the orphans-in-peril themes of Candlewick will not be lost on fans of such properties as Lemony Snickett and the grim works of Edward Gorey.

Much to my delight, Shane and Ben then revealed a project-in-the-works that draws on similar themes as Monsters but takes the whole show in a brand new direction. Following the lives of young knights in a fantasy setting, Drachenritter deals with the problems and pitfalls of being the caretaker of a good old fashioned dragon. Whereas the imaginary friends of M&OTC might put a tack on the teacher’s chair if you fail to appease their need for mischief, if the needs of your dragon are not aptly met, it may decide to immolate a border town of a nearby duchy, potentially plunging your kingdom into total war with an neighboring monarch. Yes. You can almost hear the coolness dripping off the ceiling.

After thanking Benjamin Baugh for his time and awesome contributions, Shane Ivey and I turned the discussion to darker matters. This weekend at the Arc Dream seminar, the team made an announcement forcing me to make a sanity check triggered by overwhelming excitement. Delta Green – the fan-adored modern day Call of Cthulhu setting of hopeless nihilism and bottomless conspiracy – will be getting a stand-alone treatment as its own RPG. Using a percentile based system inspired by Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying, the Delta Green RPG will draw upon the horror of the original Delta Green. In Delta Green, investigators are not so much pitted directly against titanic alien gods bristling with tentacles and teeth, but rather, they must unravel the endless webs of occult conspiracy spun by the mad human agents of Hastur, Shub-Niggurath, and the other monstrous gods known as Ye Great Olde Ones. Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy, Greg Stolze, Kenneth Hite, and Shane Ivey are all signed on to this exciting upcoming project which currently has no announced release date. Delta Green is published by Arc Dream under a dual agreement with Pagan Publishing and Chaosium.

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