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Unknown Armies: Understanding the Backer Levels

As we approach the final hours of the Unknown Armies Third Edition Kickstarter, I thought we might use this occasion to summarize what folks are going to actually get with their pledges, since so much content has been unlocked.

The Ponies

The Pony levels occupy the lower third of the tier ladder. These levels give you PDF and EPUB versions of Book One: Play, with variations. If we unlock the Godwalker novel from Greg Stolze, all the Ponies get that, too.
  • Digital Sparkle Pony adds Book Two: Run, Book Three: Reveal, Book Four: Expose, and Book Five: Mine all as PDF and EPUB, and all the Campaign Starter Kits and the PDF Reference Companion.
  • Super Digital Pony adds the two Crazy Packs to all of that content.
  • Real Live Pony and Real Live Random Pony don’t include all of that additional stuff, but they do include a print copy of Book One: Play, and Real Live Random Pony includes dice.

The Checkers

The Checker levels start with a base reward of all three print books (loose, no slip case) and all the digital books (Book One thru Book Five, the Campaign Starter Kits, the PDF Reference Companion) plus the UA soundtrack cycles from James Semple.
  • Stacked levels means they include Crazy Packs.
  • Stones levels means they include dice.

The Chargers

The Charger levels start with a base reward of a Deluxe Set (that’s the three hardcovers with a GM screen slipcase) and all the digital books (Book One thru Five, the Campaign Starter Kits, the PDF Reference Companion) plus the UA soundtrack cycles.
  • Stacked levels means they include Crazy Packs.
  • Stones levels means they include dice.
  • The Adept level takes all of the above and adds a handmade postcard.
  • The Avatar level takes all of the above and includes your photo or a photo of an object you like or a place you like in the game, somewhere.
  • The Patron is the Avatar level but it switches out the postcard for being a patron of content in Book Five.

The Merchants

The Merchant levels are only for retailers who can verify that they are actually retail sellers. The baseline is two sets of loose hardcover books and extra copies of Book One, with the Charged Merchant including Deluxe Sets instead of loose hardcovers and the Ascended Merchant being all of that plus your store’s logo or photo in the game somewhere.

The Medium Well Done Level

This is the $999 level that throws in a ton of print and PDF content and bonus goodies and doesn’t require any additional shopping costs, plus one of two unique predictive boards handmade by Greg.


If you want to custom-build your own reward, you can use a combo of any of the above reward tiers and one or more add-ons, which include more print copies, more dice, and so on. You can increase your pledge within Kickstarter to cover the cost of the add-on, but there’s no button to push or place to list which add-ons you want until we get around to migrating everything over to BackerKit.

So there you have it! Probably the best deal if you’re just wanting to go digital or you don’t want to pay for much shipping is the $55 Super Digital Sparkle Pony. Otherwise, we think the best deal for print is the $160 Stacked Charger with Stones, but even the $125 Charger level gets you all the printed stuff and all the digital stuff, so that’s a pretty nice place to park your pledge.

Unknown Armies: Illustrating the Occult Underground

This is the latest in our series of guest blogs by Unknown Armies collaborators and contributors. Today's blog is by UA3 contributing photographer and artist BenoĆ®t Felten.

When I first heard that UA3 would be partially illustrated with photographic material, I got really excited and started experimenting with some ideas. Reading the books, particularly book 3, I'd have all these cool ideas, but not all of them were practical to set up. Still, there were a number of things I wanted to try. One was to illustrate some freaky stuff, the other was to illustrate obsession. I first focused on the latter, and one of the first photos I came up with was this one:

I thought this was a good illustration of, in Greg Stolze's words, "doing it wrong."

I really like photography, and I think I'm quite good at it, but I'm not a graphic artist and my photoshop skills are pedestrian at best. So I tried to experiment with things I could get a good grasp on, and played around with tools that are not designed to do what I used them for. I did a series of portrait shots specifically for UA and I was trying to find a way of making them look creepy. For this next shot I used the tool that is so decried in photoshop because it's used to slim down models on magazine covers. As you can see that's not exactly what I did with it.

Finally, I tried to think of outdoor scenes that might look atmospheric and would work for the game. Things that would evoke the underside of urban life. I went through my photos in various places in the world and this one of Bangkok seemed perfect. It's one of those shots that seems to tell a story, but not one you can readily figure out. A great analogy for what Unknown Armies does best, I think.

Unknown Armies: Dead Presidents

This is another of our series of guest blogs about Unknown Armies to celebrate our ongoing Kickstarter for Unknown Armies Third Edition. Today's post is by award-winning game designer and writer Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.


I’m sure it’s possible to run an Unknown Armies game that isn’t set in America, but I know I never will. The game is quintessentially about America to me, violent and trashy and rootless and crazy and always about to drunkenly stumble into apocalypse. (Disclaimer: America is also full of lovely people and nice things.) Apparently, I passed that attitude onto my players when I asked them to brainstorm some suggestions for an UA campaign, because they came up with two absolutely brilliant ideas that only work in an American contest.

One of them, the one about a team of cursed Gulf War veterans who turn into terrorists at night – or, to be precise, everyone perceives them as terrorists by night – could have been really interesting to explore, but we were all binge-watching the West Wing back then, so we went with the other concept, and it led to one of the most entertaining campaigns I’ve ever had the pleasure of running.

Dead Presidents

The player characters were all ex-Presidents of the United States of America, on the run from the sinister shadow government/cult that resurrected them. George Washington, Herbert Hoover, John F Kennedy, Richard Nixon and George W Bush (he choked on that pretzel and was replaced by a magical doppleganger) marauding across the Occult Underground, like the A-Team filtered through a PBS biography series. Oh my word, it was fun. All the player characters racked up magical powers pretty quickly – Washington, for example could command anyone who’d ever served in uniform under the flag of the United States. JFK found Excalibur (because Camelot). Nixon, after an encounter with Ben Franklin’s electric ghost, ended up able to throw lightning bolts.

Obviously, the campaign went to bizarre places. Washington spent a lot of the game stuck in the body of a teddy bear toy after mouthing off to Immortal Teddy Roosevelt (who found the fountain of youth during one of his expeditions). The cryogenic head of Walt Disney tried to marry JFK to Snow White in order to complete the alchemical marriage of spiritual and temporal power in America. The Mystic Campaign Bus got trashed by the Lincoln Memorial golem that secretly guards DC.

Here's Looking At You (photo by Peter Griffin)
It all sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But here’s the wonderful thing about Unknown Armies – it takes the absurd, and treats it so f*cking seriously that you don’t have a choice but to run with the crazy.

Look at the funny drunk guy. Look at the funny drunk guy, who’ll only drink from one old Styrofoam cup that he carries with him everywhere, because he claims that it comes from Jonestown and makes everything taste of Kool-Aid. Look at the funny drunk guy, and shudder because he means it all. He’s crazier than you are, and that makes him stronger.

Look at the funny drunk guy as he telekinetically peels your eyeballs like grapes.

In the end, the Dead Presidents saved the world. They crept into the White House by sneaking through a secret time-crossing entrance that went through August 24th, 1812, and liberated the country from the grip of the cult. And by the end of the campaign, what had started out as a pop-culture spoof had become something deadly serious, with real emotion and desperation.

Unknown Armies isn’t the moment when you stop laughing at the absurdity. It’s the moment when you realize you stopped laughing twenty minutes ago, and didn’t notice because you were busy trying to murder Goofy with a shiv made from broken glass.

Unknown Armies Thread Necromancy

Today's guest blog is by Atlas Games President and carpentry advocate John Nephew, who makes diving into the archives of gaming his obsession identity.

One of the things I love about Unknown Armies is how it seems to compel fans to create and share fantastic ideas.  I was reminded of this by Eric Brennan's recent thread on RPG.net's forums, outlining a cabal and campaign focused on the fringes of Hollywood stardom and the occult underground.

If you're looking for a taste of what makes Unknown Armies special, or inspiration for putting together your own game, here are links to some fan creations that may interest you.

Undermined Expectation

This is another in our series of guest blogs, this time by award-winning game designer and part-time exercise enthusiast Jeff Tidball.

My favorite kinds of Unknown Armies stories tend toward the prosaic. That isn't to say that they come across as normal, per se. Rather, they come across as relatively normal with respect to what I imagine people who are doing Unknown Armies more correctly than I am do in their games.

My favorite Unknown Armies mini-campaign of my own devising was directly inspired by the original edition's sourcebook about The New Inquisition, Lawyers, Guns, and Money, and further, by the lyrics of the eponymous song. Here's the snippet of text the players got, each time I ran it, before we sat down to create characters:
Here's How It Is
The shit has hit the fan. Drop everything, come to Tucson. Meet me at Jimmy’s, on West Cortaro Road. Tomorrow night, 3am.   — Pierce

You got that yesterday, in an e-mail. Pierce Stoker is a guy you used to know; you haven’t heard from him in a while. One time, you got into some serious shit with him, and you owe him.

It’s just after midnight. You’re almost in Tucson.