Dispatches:
The Latest News from Atlas Games

Atlas Games

Noting a 50th Anniversary, and Credit Where Due

This year is a big Happy Birthday to Gen Con, which celebrates its 50th year! A decade ago we were proud to help celebrate an earlier milestone by publishing 40 Years of Gen Con, a big full-color coffee table book of the convention's history up to then. Written by Robin D. Laws, it includes a gazillion photographs from years gone by, interviews with many game industry luminaries (some of whom are sadly not here to join Gen Con 50), and more.

For a limited time, you have the chance to pick up 40 Years of Gen Con at a bargain price, thanks to a re-run of the "Designers, Dragons & More" Bundle of Holding -- a value bundle that will load you up with game industry history and the stories of some of the best games in our field.

I also want to add a note of acknowledgement and apology. Long after the book was published, it came to our attention that attribution for three photographs by Scott Griffin had been bungled. The digital version of the book is corrected, but in case you have the first printing, know that Scott is the photographer of "Ed Greenwood as Elminster", "Musicians entertaining at Gen Con, and "Gary Gygax in the "Klingon Jail 'n Bail". We thank Scott for his contribution and apologize for this error. Also, if you love game history, you should check out Scott's website, Gen Con in Wisconsin (1968-2002)!

Really Regrettable Robots

Although we've had robots — machines programmable to perform human-like functions — since 400 BCE, we only got the word robot in 1920, thanks to a Czech playwright. It's taken a long time for actual robot technology to even approach the potential imagined in the stories we've been telling about robots from this planet and others.

Translating these creations to stage and screen have yielded some truly regrettable robots, some of which are beyond even the reach of Gloom in Space to describe. Let's run down the top five saddest robots from movies and TV.

1)  Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 from Robot Monster: This robot, like many, is just a guy in a suit. That suit, though, wasn't made of metal hardware. Instead, Ro-Man wears a gorilla suit and a Sputnik-like astronaut costume helmet. He's bent on wiping out the last eight members of the human race. He doesn't succeed.


2)  Daleks from Doctor Who: These robots are the scariest foes for the Doctor, but it's hard for viewers to understand the terror they inspire when a Dalek is an upside-down trashcan on wheels, with egg beaters and a toilet plunger as weapons. All the earliest Doctors needed to do to foil these villains was to go up a flight of stairs.

3)  Nomad from Star Trek: The Original Series: A junkyard is a set designer's best friend, and Nomad looks like it was assembled straight from the trash heap. With a head like a coffee percolator and a body like a mesh office wastebasket, it's hardly a worthy adversary for Captain Kirk. Indeed, Kirk shuts down this mechanical menace by convincing it to commit suicide.

4)  Power Droid from Star Wars: This sad excuse for a robot was especially pathetic next to shiny, elaborate droids like C3P0 and R2-D2. Borrowing from the well-established tradition of trashcans as costumes, the Power Droid is just a box around a child or little person. Some flexible plastic ductwork gives them leg warmers to go with flat metal boxes for shoes. And still they managed to make two action figures out of this guy.

5)  Box from Logan's Run: As shiny as this robot is, all that chrome isn't enough to distract viewers from its janky design. The actor's head is wrapped in something like a reflective space blanket, with a slot cut for the mouth. The body looks like a shiny rooftop industrial air conditioner. While it has metal ductwork to cover the arms, it looks as though the actor is holding sticks with heavy, boxy guns on the ends, leaving them to flop around randomly.

Unknown Armies Deluxe Set Photos

One of the best things about publishing is seeing all of the hard work of designers, writers, editors, artists, graphic engineers, and printers come together in the form of an actual physical product. Regent of China shipped us a single copy of the Unknown Armies 3 Deluxe Set to review before full scale production and shipment happens, and we took a few photos.



This is the exterior of the Deluxe Set with slipcase, shrinkwrapped, and all three volumes included in hardback.



The slipcase unfolds to become a landscape oriented game master screen, with all the charts and tables you need during play. It turns back into a slipcase with ease (and a magnetic clasp).


Players can enjoy the gorgeous cover artwork of Jason Engle and Aaron Acevedo. Incidentally, when you take all three books and line them up in a triangle, the art forms a triptych image!

Finally, the books themselves are high quality, sturdy, and gorgeous full-bleed photo-illustrated casebound volumes. Thanks to the layout skills of Thomas Deeny, the table of contents, chapter splash pages, and trade dress all works together.


We can't wait for the thousands of Kickstarter backers to get their own print copies in April. Retail stores should see orders filled at the end of April and early May. If you can't wait, and you didn't back the books last year, our pre-orders are still open!


Hounded Learn-to-Play Video

Hounded came out in December. It's a two-player game that pits a cunning Fox against a veteran Master of Hounds. The Fox player must evade capture; the Master of Hounds must lead his pack to catch the Fox before the sun goes down.

We made a learn-to-play video that'll bring you up to speed on how to play Hounded in no time. You can stream it below, watch it on YouTube, see it on the Hounded product page, or even download the HD video file (600 MB) to watch later.


The Sound of the Unknown Part 3: Creating the Music

To celebrate the release of our three suites of Musick for Unknown Armies, composer James Semple wrote three blog posts about commissioning, collaborating on, and creating music for roleplaying games. This is the third post in the series.

Often when starting a new project I will try and define my palette, the range of instruments and sounds that will be used for the music. Sometimes this will be definitive but often it will just be the core sounds. With Unknown Armies I didn’t really do this. Instead, I defined the kind of sounds I’d gravitate towards but I’d begin my template afresh on each track. This definitely ended up being more work but I feel that it kept the tracks sounding more original and unique.

There are a whole lot of influences on the Unknown Armies music but it never really sits comfortably in a single, definable genre. For instance there are orchestral and choral sounds in there, but they're usually mixed with synthesizers or strange abstract noises, and often contemporary drums or bass. Even the alternative rock tracks include soundscape elements and unusual production tricks.

Most of the music was realised within a computer and honestly I used an enormous number of different virtual instruments to create the three suites. I also used a fair amount of live guitar, sometimes overtly and often as an effect in the background. I played acoustic, clean electric, distorted electric, slide guitar, reversed guitar — pretty much anything I could think of, really. It all went in there. I also used the wonderful cellist Deryn Cullen on the track "Lament for the Incorrectly Processed." The cello was so exposed and sensitive that I knew I needed a live player and her sublime performance truly lifted that track.

One reason I love working on RPG music is the chance to help define a genre and put a stamp on an original setting. The setting here was so original that I had a massive amount of freedom to come up with something new and I’d like to think that now Unknown Armies has its own musical identity.

If you haven't already, check out The Sound of the Unknown Part 1: Commissioning Music and The Sound of the Unknown Part 2: The Collaboration Process, the first and second posts in this series.