I wish to use my first answer in this issue of The Rasmussen Files to recognize the artists, writers, editors, and masterminds who made TOP SECRET: NEW WORLD ORDER™ a reality. It is my duty and privilege to thank you for your contribution to the success of this new product.
It has been four years since Jayson Elliot asked if I would consider writing a 21st century version of the original Top Secret RPG. I was interested.
I asked Allen “The Silencer” Hammack, the original title’s editor, if he would edit the new product. He was my editor, supervisor at the old TSR, and now editor again. His editing always makes my work better.
James “Inkubus” Carpio offered to buy drinks for Jackie “Cat Lady,” my wife, and me. We had ordered supper, so I told him he could buy our dessert. Little did we know his kindness would turn into the Lucky 13 game engine powering TS: NWO™ and soon his Pulp Era™.
Chad “Shaken Not Stirred” Parish made me an honorary member of the Dead Games Society. He was running Operation: Checkpoint Charlie at conventions. He conducted the first gaming interview I had granted in 30 years. I asked if he would be interested in writing a module for the new game system. He provided several archetypes and many tradecraft which he agreed to let me steal.
With this cadre of gaming personalities, we set out to create something for the modern player. We knew the genre, but we could not and would not use any material from the original title.
Jayson or James suggested “New World Order” as the edition name of the newest Top Secret. The project was codenamed “ACRID HERALD.” (That’s funny, those are the same initials as Allen Hammack.)
The supranational espionage organization needed a name. I suggested United Nations Institute Questioning Unauthorized Expenditures (UNIQUE) or “The Institute” with agents posing as auditors. This was met with deafening silence. Someone else suggested International Clandestine Organizations Network (ICON). In fact, the ICON seal with these words appears on page 7 of the rulebook and on the “Agent Dossier” created by Jayson Elliot. In further conversations, “Clandestine,” was shortened to “Covert.” Today, “The Institute” is officially, International Covert Operations Network, however, the back of the box refers to ICON: The International Covert Operatives Network. (To my eternal chagrin! Clearly such a shadowy agency results in varying levels of accuracy when their existence leaks to the public –ed.)
The dictionary tells me “clandestine” means “kept or done in secret, often to conceal illicit or improper purpose.” One of the definitions of “covert” means “not openly practiced, avowed, engaged in, accumulated, or shown.” Both are technically correct, but I suggest we retain the seal with the word “clandestine” to represent our origins, which may have been illicit. Let us use “covert” because our missions are not openly practiced.
Jayson suggested I build my brand name by joining Facebook. In two years, I now have nearly 800 friends.
Jayson started contacting other talent. Soon we had a prototype we could beta test. We were hoping for a couple dozen play test groups. We had to cut them off at 117. ACRID HERALD was also played at various game conventions. Consultants added their helpful comments. Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
At some point I met and dined with Satine Phoenix. She looked like Cleopatra at the time. I was wearing my tuxedo T-shirt and black fedora.
Cory “Shonuff” Gelnett e-mailed me. He wanted my photo. My likeness appears as a portrait hanging on a wall behind Dame Weatherby in The White Queen.
The design team conducted conference calls and playtesting across three Time Zones. With A.J. “Lancer” Davenport, we covered all four U.S. Time Zones.
Then came the kick starter. Jayson’s goal was $12,000. We reached $12K in 20 minutes. Interviews were conducted on various websites. In 30 days, we topped $126K. We knew we had a product and a public to support it. Now could it become a reality?
Components were designed. Artwork finished. Text laid out. The game was printed in China, traveled by slow boat through the Panama Canal, and landed in Florida. The game made it through customs to the order fulfillment warehouse.
I received my copy of TOP SECRET: NEW WORLD ORDERTM from Jayson in the Lake Geneva Pizza Hut. Three kick starter fans paid $300 each for a private game session with me at GARYCON 10.
The game is now being shipped to fans who pre-ordered the product. It started appearing in game stores. Yesterday morning, someone on eBay was asking $100 for the hardback copy.
What continues to sink in is that ordinary people with a shared passion made this happen. Together, we accomplished in 4 years what I could not accomplish alone in 27 years.
Although I may not have mentioned you by name in this column, I hope to make your acquaintance, take your photo, and collect your autograph. Be sure to create a code name for yourself. (Maybe there should be a code name registry.)
You should be proud of your contribution to this successful product and your company, the new TSR, Inc. We hope to produce future related products. Consider me a freelance writer who designs games as a hobby.
Merle “The Administrator” Rasmussen