May 16 2018
Thanks to your generous support, Star Crossed passed its funding goal with flying colours.
We are floored by the outpouring of support our two-player game of forbidden love has inspired. Excuse us for the next few months while we keep our heads down with production, printing, and fulfillment.
Missed out on the campaign? Join our monthly-ish newsletter to stay in the loop on our plans for pre-orders and distribution!
With infinite gratitude,
— The Bully Pulpit Team
Apr 10 2018
Star Crossed is now LIVE on Kickstarter!
Be the first to get this hotly anticipated two player game of forbidden love.
Develop characters who are irresistibly drawn to each other.
Build a world that keeps them apart.
Pull from the tower to find out what happens.
The Beloved Edition is a work of art – it comes with beautiful maple tower, tear-away pads of character sheets for instant setup, and an envelope of index-sized scene cards, along with the full-colour rule book in a sturdy box adorned with art by our Ignatz Award-winning Illustrator Jess Fink.
Already have a tower you love? Back at the Internet Crush edition for just the PDF of the game.
Either way, you’ll get to see the pre-release draft right away.
Jason Morningstar, our lead designer, on Star Crossed:
…a simple, fun game absolutely filled with delicious romantic tension. The beauty of Star Crossed to me is that it is a very precise story-generator operating along a desperately under-served axis. It isn’t a ‘couple’s game’ (although I’ve heard stories of people bonding over it, by various definitions of bonding). You can totally play Star Crossed with your buddy or a stranger, and it doesn’t feel weird. But the stories that emerge are all about tragic, doomed, love – pretty much the #1 theme in poetry and literature since forever. We all have these literary tools in our arsenal and never get to use them, because most games are about other things and don’t foreground love and romance at all. Sometimes this is deliberate, because human emotions are hard! Sometimes it just gets lost. But in Star Crossed that’s all there is. It’s a game about a romantic relationship that probably shouldn’t happen, and the aftermath of that. Will they? Won’t they? Will it all end in a sad shambles? (Probably.)
When I played Star Crossed for the first time, we told the super sad story of a bus driver and the passenger he loved. They went to the same church and they were both married, and everything was deliciously awkward, and in the end they just couldn’t leave their settled simple lives and parted ways, heartbroken. It felt like a pretty good short story and it felt grounded and real. I am told you can also play sexy sentient spaceships and the hyper-intelligent living stars they love, Regency-era rake-hells who are into melancholy ghosts, and all sorts of things.
The Kickstarter is only on until May 10th! Back now, and tell your friends!
(Not ready to back yet? Join our newsletter to stay on top of the campaign as we reveal stretch goals, a yet-to-be-revealed reward level, and a special audio surprise!)
Mar 13 2018
The game formerly known as Tension has a brand new look.
We are proud to announce that Star Crossed will be hitting Kickstarter this April with a new name, a new logo by our own Brennen Reece, and new art by Ignatz Award-winning illustrator and graphic novelist Jess Fink. Fink is best known for her time-travelling memoir, We Can Fix It, and her erotic robotic Victorian romance, Chester 5000 XYV.
Alex Roberts, creator of Star Crossed, had this to say:
Tension is a boring name and I am bored of it. The new name captures everything a potential player needs to know about the experience: that your characters are romantically entangled, and almost certainly doomed–but in the most thrilling, beautiful way possible.
Mar 6 2018
Our move to Kickstarter’s Drip platform has been quite a ride. We are so flattered, humbled, and amazed by the support we’ve been offered so far that we decided to release something free to everyone who even stops by the page – a brand-new Dungeon World adventure seed written by Jason Morningstar, called When War Came to Colgur.
The core conceit is that your village has become the epicentre of a massive conflict you are powerless to prevent – two big medieval armies are going to have a battle right on top of your turnip patch. What do you do? I’ve run this a number of times and every time it turns out different. I hope you enjoy it!
And, as always, let us know if you get a chance to play it!
–The Very Grateful Bully Pulpit Crew
Feb 27 2018
Chapel Hill, North Carolina (February 27th, 2018) – Bully Pulpit Games is proud to announce the creation of a dedicated site on the crowd support platform Drip, a Kickstarter subsidiary. Drip offers a new way for friends and fans to support work they love, engage with creators, and get cool stuff.
Bully Pulpit Games, well known for its innovative and sometimes quirky lineup of tabletop and live action roleplaying games, is one of a handful of game-related companies approved by Drip.
Jason Morningstar, the company’s lead designer, is happy to be on the leading edge of the new platform. “We’re confident this will be an amazing confluence of tools, resources, and enthusiasm,” Morningstar said, “We see in Drip a lot of cool opportunities, like highlighting emerging designers as guests and crowdsourcing bits of our internal development process in ways we think our supporters will have a lot of fun with. It’s a new tool for us, and we plan on banging it recklessly against various fragile objects to see what happens.”
Bully Pulpit Games CEO Steve Segedy sees a practical side to using Drip. “We are neck deep in cool, weird stuff that is so close to being done. It’s a problem. Most of these interesting games get lost in the shuffle and never get the attention to push them to 100%. We’ve decided that this cannot stand, so we’re trying something new.”
The Bully Pulpit Games Drip will go live on February 27, with a new playset for the award-winning Fiasco by Morningstar himself available to all supporters immediately.
About Bully Pulpit Games
Bully Pulpit Games LLC is a small press game publisher based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. BPG is known for publishing Fiasco and other fine games and has won an unprecedented two Diana Jones Awards for Gaming Excellence, an ENnie “Judge’s Spotlight” award, and been nominated for Origins awards numerous times.
Press Contact: Alex Roberts
Jan 10 2018
Today we’re releasing some supplemental material for our new game, WINTERHORN. These documents are designed to broaden the game’s footprint to include larger groups and non-roleplayers, as well as provide additional context and discussion points. I hope you find them useful and engaging.
You can find these materials on the product page, or by in the digital version of the game at DriveThruRPG or Indie Press Revolution. If you already bought the digital version, your downloads will be updated to include these documents.
WINTERHORN as Workshop provides an alternate introduction, facilitation guidelines, and debrief for playing the game outside its traditional roleplaying context. The game’s mechanics are simple enough to use in a classroom or less formal group setting, and this document outlines the necessary adjustments you need to make. My hope is that this will make WINTERHORN more accessible to groups outside Bully Pulpit Games’ core constituency, for whom “six people, two hours, lots of scenery chewing” feels perfectly natural.
WINTERHORN: 12 Techniques is a walk through the twelve methods of governmental disruption you pore over in play. Each has a short description, an example pulled from history or current events, and three directed questions you might consider related to your own activism. These are very straightforward questions! For example, Manipulation’s section ends with:
Are you a good candidate for manipulation?
Are those close to you vulnerable?
How will you know if those around you are being manipulated?
What actions can you take if you or those close to you are being manipulated?
As with WINTERHORN generally, there are no answers, only opportunities for self reflection. The questions pair well with the larger group version of the game.
I’m thrilled with the reception WINTERHORN has received so far, and I’m very excited to see these materials finally available.
Jan 2 2018
Welcome back to the ongoing series of conversations between Alex Roberts (our Production Coordinator, who you may have heard on her interview podcast Backstory) and some of the outstanding professionals we get to work with here at Bully Pulpit. So far we’ve heard Brennen Reece on book design, Karen Twelves on editing, and Claudia Cangini on illustration. Today, we’ll chat with, Jennifer Bedell, of Atomic Empire Comics & Games. Atomic Empire is our friendly local game store here in Durham, North Carolina, and we’ve partnered with them to fulfill all of our Kickstarter campaigns, from Durance to Ghost Court. If you’re curious about how a game gets from the publishers’ hands to yours–and all the fun things that can happen in between–this is the interview for you.
Alex: Let’s start with Atomic Empire. Besides being a purveyor of fine comics and games, what does Atomic do? And what is your role in all of that?
Jennifer: Calling Atomic a “store” always feels like an oversimplification, since we have a retail store, an e-commerce business, a tournament venue and something like a community center all under one roof. We also develop a lot of software in-house and dabble in Kickstarter fulfillment. My favorite part of our operation is providing a space for people to come together, form communities, and enjoy the things they have in common.
Since our staff is small, everyone wears a lot of hats: Trish handles comic-book subscription ops, graphic design, and HR; Shane coordinates wargames events and orders games inventory and writes some code. Like (I imagine) most small-business owners, my own role is a cobbled-together “kitchen sink” position that ranges from pay-per-click advertising to software development and from high-level analysis to replying to individual online reviews. On an ideal day, I’m facilitating cooperation between our various teams and making sure we challenge ourselves to try new approaches; but most days I’m happy if I feel like I’m winning the Hundred Years’ War with my inbox.
Alex: Hah! I think most small companies feel like that – the ones that are any fun to work for, anyway. It certainly keeps things interesting.
Before we get into game stores as agile companies, I want to pull on this thread of game stores as community spaces. What are the opportunities for gatherings and community building that you see at Atomic? How are you building on those opportunities?
Jennifer: I think game stores have inherent potential as community hubs. Most tabletop games are not single-player friendly, so you need other people to play with. Games are distinct in this way from chocolates or bikes or even comic books, which can be enjoyed in a vaccuum. Folks gravitate to their local game store in hopes of meeting players with similar interests. If your local store is friendly and inclusive, it quickly becomes a place not just to buy games, but to share and play them.
That’s where you’ll find a lone fan doggedly promoting his/her favorite game to everyone who will listen — those are the players who become the nucleus around whom a play group forms. It’s also where you can find a GM for your new D&D character or a Magic pod or just a few brave souls willing to throw down Twilight Imperium now that your family has refused to play it. We receive calls and emails from gamers just moving to town, asking, “How is the Warhammer 40K community at your store?” or “Do you guys have a board game night?” (I often think this is a gamer equivalent of finding the right church when moving to a new place.) When customers consider buying into a new game, they often start with, “What’s the play group like?” Enjoying games is as much about the people you play with as the game itself, and that’s where the communities that form around local game stores are critical to the hobby.
If we had a peanut gallery right now, some of them would say, “I get my games online, and I have plenty of friends to play with, so it doesn’t make any difference to me if there are game stores or not,” and that’s fine, too. Players may or may not ever find themselves looking for a community in a game store; but I know people who have formed lasting friendships there, and there are games that would not have gotten off the ground without the visibility provided by an enthusiastic player base at a game store.
When it comes to our role, we’re usually facilitators rather than direct community builders. We try to say “yes” when people come to us with things they’re enthusiastic about. You want to run a Dropzone league? We’re here for that. You want us to host a monthly meeting for game designers? We’re all about it. We provide an inclusive space, good beer, and visibility — you bring your passion. Of course, at heart we also have our pet games we’re trying to build groups around, and it’s gratifying when they come together.
Alex: That’s a great point – a place to game is more than just some tables and chairs. What does providing an inclusive space mean to you, and what are the practical steps you take to build and maintain the kind of atmosphere you want?
Jennifer: I think most of us are aware of the stigma of game-store-as-man-cave: those stores that are cramped, poorly stocked clubhouses where newcomers feel unwelcome. (I once walked into a store and the owner said, “Well, you’ve never been in here before.” I wasn’t sure whether his customer base was so small he knew everyone on sight, or if I was literally the first woman to come in; either way, it was a creepy first impression.) As much as I think those stores are in the minority today, they have nevertheless put a lot of people off of the whole idea of the local game store. So the baseline level of inclusiveness for us is avoiding that exclusive-private-club feeling. We want the store to be clean, well-lit and organized, and inviting to someone who stops in casually (almost like a real store!).
The second level is what people normally think of when you talk about inclusivity: making sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome (and if possible, represented) regardless of skin color, gender, orientation, and other factors that have traditionally been used to divide and exclude people. To that end, we don’t tolerate bullies or hate speech or harassment. We try to make sure that our staff and volunteers are folks we are proud to have representing the store, and we diversify our hiring as much as we can. And I think there’s another means of exclusion that’s been exposed in gaming and fandom in the past few years, and that’s the sort of gatekeeping behavior that insists that “cosplayers are fake geeks” or “party-game players aren’t real gamers” or “you can’t be a comics fan if you never heard of Captain America before the movies.” I personally have no patience for that sort of thing; we’re all fans of something, and I think the best way to celebrate what you love is to share it with others. I’m excited when new customers come in and say, “What’s a ‘Euro’ game?” or “Do you have anything about Wonder Woman?” To re-use the church analogy, I think welcoming new converts into the fold is a local store’s greatest responsibility.
Alex: Ah, yes. I’ve been stared at in stony silence by game store workers. What a reception! It sounds like you’re trying to give a much warmer welcome—are there any events coming up soon that you’re really excited about?
Jennifer: On January 27th we’ll have our annual Duck-Rabbit tap takeover, where some folks from the brewery come out for board games and beer with our customers. We’re also planning a game design workshop (no prior experience required!) in the new year.
Alex: Both of those things sound super fun! Especially the game design workshop; what a great way of bringing people together to connect and be creative. I know this time of year can be hard on people in retail, and owning a business is a heck ton of work any time of year; what keeps you going? How do you stay passionate and motivated, about the business and about games in general?
Jennifer: It’s true that small-business ownership can feel like a constant grind, especially in the early years. In talking to other store owners, it seems it’s easier to avoid burnout if you have a hobby outside the industry. My poison is autocross (an amateur motorsport no one’s ever heard of), so I spend a lot of weekends away from the store, talking to people who are so removed from our industry, they think gaming is something you do in casinos. I think it’s critical to have that separate space where you can hit the reset button. I’m also lucky to have a phenomenal staff that runs the place just fine without me, which has allowed me up to live the dream of forty-ish-hour work weeks. I’m always on-call, of course (I’ve had co-drivers answer staff texts while I tow a car trailer down the interstate, and I’ve deployed code patches from a race paddock), but I never worry that the shop will go to pieces while I’m gone. And while autocross and parenting limit the amount of time I spend playing games, the flip side is that games are always fresh to me. I don’t get enough exposure to feel jaded, so I can still get excited when something new comes out.
Alex: Yes! You can’t put all your eggs in one basket. Speaking of which, let’s quickly circle back to what we talked about at the top before we wrap up—you mentioned that you’ve been developing software, and working on Kickstarter fulfillment as well? What does that look like and how do you see it changing or expanding in the future?
Jennifer: Atomic is always in some stage of software development. We try to integrate new solutions to technical problems as they become available (right now, we’re working on an overhaul of our website search), and there’s a constant race to keep up with changing web aesthetics and user expectations. We spend the rest of the time trying to improve efficiency and data accuracy, solve problems we created ourselves ten years ago, etc. We’re always on the lookout for opportunities where we can bring our existing strengths to bear (like order fulfillment and code flexibility), and that’s why we’ve started doing some Kickstarter fulfillment. In talking to designers and publishers, we hear that the hassle of packing and shipping is a substantial downside to crowd-funding campaigns. When Steve approached us with the idea of doing some fulfillment for Bully Pulpit, we thought that would be a fantastic use of facilities and shipping processes we already have in place. I think small publishers are a critical part of the gaming ecosystem, and we’re always glad to help with the midwifery of getting a new game to market. In the new year, we’re hoping to develop more tools to help fulfillment clients manage their orders and inventory on our website.
Alex: Well, I certainly appreciated having your help with Ghost Court. Thank you so much for chatting with me; this was fun!
Jennifer: Thanks for the opportunity.
You can visit Atomic Empire here in Durham, North Carolina, or find out more at their website.
Dec 20 2017
Dec 13 2017
Spending some time with your family this season? Make the most of it with our catalogue of universally appealing, family-friendly, thematically appropriate games, such as:
Fruit cake is the butt of too many jokes this time of year. Cast that classic rum-soaked dessert in a new light, and suggest you all take turns swallowing a sentient telepathic Sumerian cockroach instead. It goes great with eggnog!
The older you get, the more you realize that holidays are all about the kids. The Warren is most appropriate for Easter, obviously, but why miss a chance to play? This simple tabletop RPG, inspired by YA classic Watership Down, appeals to every child’s adventurous spirit and love of fuzzy animals. Also, they need to learn about the looming spectre of death eventually.
Somehow, a game about petty disputes among the undead, brought to an adversarial court and arbitrated by a fickle judge, is actually a genuinely fun family game. Seriously, we heard positive reports after Thanksgiving! Maybe take out card six if you have really young kids.
It’s never fun when politics comes up over dinner–so turn your dinner table into a boardroom table, and tell a story you can all relate to: one about the relentless abuse of state power. This live-action game will bring the whole family together, as they take on the roles of agents of the Ministry of State Security, devising a plan to covertly destroy a group of political activists code named WINTERHORN. There may be some disagreements in the family, but you can always bond over your paranoia and crushing anxiety.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the spirit of the season, and need a break from all that merriment, retreat to a quiet place and play our introspective one-player game about people who love each other and cars that go fast.
The years fly by like snowflakes. Everything is tinsel. Everything is sleigh bells. You stand vigilant before the fireplace without thought or breath–such is your compulsion. You do not remember your name and still you watch. The flesh has fallen off the turkey and still you watch.
JUGGERNAUT is a card-based live-action game for 4-6 players about a machine that can tell the future. But it’s also about 4-6 people trapped in an enclosed space, watching seemingly uncontrollable yet completely predictable events play out in front of them, questioning their own free will as the stress of the situation brings their insecurities, old grudges, and deeply-rooted mistrust to the surface. In that sense it bears no relation to an extended family gathering whatsoever.
Just go to the car and scream for a while. That’s the whole game.
Here’s a game that, much like gift-giving, is all about savagery and servility. Know your role and stay on the right side of the family Dimber-Damber when it comes to gifts (your mom is probably the family Dimber-Damber). As in Durance, messing this up is a one-way trip to a desolate and unforgiving wilderness of shame.
Many people travel great distances to be with loved ones over the holidays. Why not play a game that is also about a great journey back to comfort and safety? As with modern air travel, only one will survive, and the entire place is infested with swamp ghosts.
Combine a themed celebration with a history lesson by magically transporting your whole family back to 1944, when the Night Witches spent their holiday bombing what remained of German-occupied Warsaw. Kasha for everybody! Officers (well, grandpa, anyway) get sprats in oil and a lend-lease chocolate bar, and you pocket the savings.
What says holiday cheer more than enjoying crisp snow, soaring vistas, and the prospect of ignominious failure in the face of a Himalayan gale? After a hearty meal, convert the dining table, the kid’s table, and maybe the living room furniture into surreal blanket forts for an evening of deception, ambition, and merciless death.
Actually, maybe not.
Sometimes, people are driven so powerfully to achieve an unrealistic vision of happiness in an unstable situation that failure becomes both inevitable and acutely painful. Incidentally, there are numerous holiday-themed Fiasco playsets.
Maybe next year you’ll opt to stay home, and keep cozy with someone who brings out the softer side of this beloved season. Stay warm by the fire with our tender two-player game of forbidden love. Fireplace optional but highly recommended.
Santa Hat by Alexandre from the Noun Project.
Dec 4 2017
Bully Pulpit Games is proud to announce the release of Jason Morningstar’s latest game, WINTERHORN.
Morningstar, a game designer best known for his Diana Jones Award-winning Fiasco, spent most of 2017 carefully refining and playtesting WINTERHORN with friends and strangers.
“WINTERHORN is all about how governments abuse their power to destroy activism,” says Mr Morningstar. “You play government agents with a mandate to disrupt this group code-named WINTERHORN, but you know little about them. As the game unfolds you learn more, and have to choose which of twelve techniques you are going to use to mess with them. The techniques range from surveillance to direct violence, and are all pulled from the real world. Choices and time are both limited, and you will be forced to make difficult decisions with imperfect information. You will probably make some terrible mistakes.”
The key to WINTERHORN are those twelve techniques which, Morningstar says, you get to know very well during play.
“And when you’ve finished destroying those fictional activists,” he says, “you can turn around and think about how you might harden groups you care about against the same techniques. By flipping the script, my hope is to give players insight into the approach and motivation of governments tempted to abuse their power.”
Bully Pulpit Games’ co-founder, Steve Segedy, is excited by the game’s potential outside traditional hobby audiences.
“WINTERHORN has something to say, and it can serve as a conversation starter for activists or a teaching tool for educators. I’m really looking forward to seeing it used in these settings, and we’ll be releasing supplementary material that tunes the game for use in classrooms and workshop settings.”
WINTERHORN is now available print-on-demand through DriveThruRPG, and will soon be available through Indie Press Revolution.
Bully Pulpit Games is the producer of award-winning games like Fiasco, Night Witches, and Ghost Court. Join our mailing list, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ to stay up-to-date on WINTERHORN, and our other games in development.
Jason Morningstar is a game designer, writer, and consultant with companies like Google and Kaiser Permanente. Some of his games include Fiasco, Grey Ranks, Night Witches, and Ghost Court. He is also co-founder and Chief Designer at Bully Pulpit Games.