If you are seeing this after 6/6/2019, you missed the kickstarter. However, you can still back this project!
Click the Third Act Publishing logo to pre-order The ORPHEUS Protocol. Pre-ordering will get you the game at the same rates as being a kickstarter backer!
Since the dawn of time, humankind has struggled to survive the ravages of nature, the frailty of the body, and the cruel whims of fate. This is known by all. But what only the initiated know is that nature and its attendant miseries are the least of our concerns. There exist powers, realms, beyond the comprehension of a sane mind, and the dark corners of the earth are home to the twisted offspring of these powers, and to exiles from these realms.
How has humanity survived in the face of threats whose very names can sear our souls? Some say by the grace of God, some say by mere luck or by the strength of the human spirit. All these speakers are wrong. We survive because we have captured some few of these supernatural threats and put them to use. Humanity has stolen a dark fire from gods it cannot comprehend, and wields it desperately against the coming night.
ORPHEUS, a secretive paramilitary organization tracing its roots to ancient history, strives to maintain a monopoly on deployable paranormal power, operating in strike teams and secret cells around the globe. Their methods are ruthless, their resources bottomless, and their directive simple: Assess, Contain, Employ.
The ORPHEUS Protocol is a tabletop role playing game in which players explore a world of eldritch horror, occult espionage, and shadowy paramilitary engagement. To this end, players take on the role of a supernaturally augmented or impeccably skilled operative with a role in ORPHEUS's eternal mission to protect the world and consolidate its supernatural power in the process. These operatives investigate strange occurrences, navigate dangerous social situations with cunning and finesse, and do battle with forces inconceivable to the unbroken human psyche.
Players familiar with The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Hellboy, Cosmic Horror Fiction, or even the Jason Bourne films should have a good idea of the game's intended feel. ORPHEUS Operatives must attempt to make sense of the impossible and insulate the “normal” world from factors it is woefully unequipped to handle. Players will infiltrate cults, prevent terror attacks, catalogue mind-shattering metaphysical phenomena, and kill and be killed by creatures that should not be, all the while engaging with a tense and delicately balanced system of resource management that mechanically models the operative’s dwindling internal reserves, the mounting dread of the supernatural, and their luck just plain running out.
The ORPHEUS Protocol is tabletop roleplaying game that has been in development for nearly 5 years. Rob Stith, the designer, was struck by the tension that the mechanics of games like Dread, Call of Cthulhu, and Don’t Walk in Winter Wood could bring to a standard RPG experience, and wished to combine that feeling with the tactical decision making found in many Euro-style board games, and set to work on creating a horror-thriller role playing game whose foundation lay on resource management mechanics.
Rather than go through closed beta testing alone, The ORPHEUS Protocol’s main beta test has been recorded, edited, and produced as an Actual Play podcast covering a continuous, sprawling narrative of global occult conspiracy, and has been airing weekly since 2016, with well over 100 episodes and counting.
The unique thrill of The ORPHEUS Protocol rests on the use of multiple, interlocking systems of resource management that play out over different time frames. The different scopes of these different systems allows The ORPHEUS Protocol to be played in a longform campaign style, as well as more focused, episodic adventures or one-shots that place more emphasis on the more short-term, immediate systems. Multiverse-spanning epics as well as contained slasher film-style stories can, and have, been played to the horrified delight of players and GMs alike using The ORPHEUS Protocol.
The book itself will be run 300-400 pages (depending on stretch goals), and will be full-size, full-color, and professionally illustrated. The book will cover the game’s rules, character creation, setting information, and advice for GM’s to get the most out of the game’s systems as well as how to adapt the setting and system to make something all their own. Some of our stretch goals will allow us to invite writers from some of your favorite role playing products and Actual Play podcasts to contribute adventure seeds, dark mysteries, horrific creatures, and other terrifying delights.
In addition to the hardcover book, the game will also be offered as a traditional PDF, and on the Roll20 marketplace. The Roll20 format is discussed in more detail below.
The ORPHEUS Protocol runs on an original system designed by Rob Stith specifically to model the mounting dread and desperation experienced by people in over their heads in the kind of horrific and tense situations one would expect from the cosmic horror-paramilitary espionage setting. To achieve this effect, as many aspects of the game as possible are put directly into the players’ hands as resources they must make tense, important decisions with.
On a moment-to-moment basis in combat, the players must decide how to spend their Initiative to best approach the current crisis. Within a Scene, players must decide the most opportune time to make use of the special mechanical advantages granted to them by their skills.
Players also have pools of Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Strain, which represent their inner reserves, toughness, and luck in these different areas, and they must decide how and when to spend these resources; they confer great advantages, but can be spent much faster than they are regained if one isn’t careful. To make matters more tense, Strain not only increases a player’s effectiveness, but can also be used to buy down incoming damage, leaving the player to make hard choices about whether to go all-in on offense, or save Strain to weather the storm.
On an even longer time scale, players must decide how much to make use of their supernatural abilities, if they have them; for tapping into unnatural powers grants a powerful edge, but slowly drains the player character’s humanity, making them more and more an inhuman manifestation of the strange forces that strengthen them.
Adventures and campaigns in The ORPHEUS Protocol focus on three distinct, but interwoven avenues of challenge: Investigation, Combat, and Social Influence. Each aspect is equally important, and often equally deadly.
ORPHEUS operatives are more than soldiers. They must investigate bizarre happenings around the globe, and attempt to understand the eldritch and the unexplainable. The work of an ORPHEUS operative combines some of the most challenging aspects of a private detection, crime scene investigation, scientific research, antiquarian study, and other disciplines, all the while carrying the risk of the operative learning too much of the truth and losing their mind.
ORPHEUS operatives are often called upon to solve problems very directly, as well. Shootouts with vicious drug gangs, deadly engagements with private corporate strike teams, and direct, violent confrontation with creatures whose very existence blasphemes against the concept of nature are all an expected part of the job.
Just as deadly and tense as any occult mystery or desperate spate of violence, however, are the delicate social situations ORPHEUS operatives can find themselves in. Cult infiltration, corporate espionage, clandestine meetings with informants, and other such tasks can pit the operative’s life and safety against one small slip of the tongue or one failed bluff.
If you are interested in seeing more of what The ORPHEUS Protocol can do, feel free to check out our playtest document. It includes the basic rules, 5 sample characters, advice for GMs; everything needed to get a taste of the game.
The beta testing process for The ORPHEUS Protocol has taken a rather unusual shape. I've been running a campaign for the last 3 years, and producing our sessions into an Actual Play podcast. In this way, an ongoing series of windows into the game's development are available for free to the public. The campaign is an intricate and epic story of eldritch monstrosities, corporate skulduggery, and heroes facing desperate odds.
The show can be found HERE, and can also be found on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), Stitcher, or your podcast app of choice.
The ORPHEUS Protocol will be released in the traditional formats of PDF and hardcover, however we are also working in conjunction with Roll20 on this project. Roll20 is the world’s largest Virtual Tabletop, with over 3 million users. Virtual tabletops are an ever increasing part of the RPG community, with millions of people that have their game experience solely on these platforms.
The ORPHEUS Protocol will be built for complete incorporation into the Roll20 platform. This includes Roll20 specific character sheets, an in-platform rules compendium, and more. The Roll20 version will be a seamless digital product that will provide the best possible online play experience for The ORPHEUS Protocol.
Rob is the creator of The ORPHEUS Protocol, a task that forced him to sink or swim in the arenas of both game design and audio engineering. Before either of these things, however, Rob was a storyteller. You can check out The Nightmare Gallery, a feature film Rob wrote, starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Amber Benson, which has distribution and will release this year, as well the new web series for The ORPHEUS Protocol, should you desire it.
Follow Rob on Twitter @LordOfTheStith, and follow ORPHEUS itself @ORPHEUSprotocol.
Erika Chappell is a graphic designer, tabletop RPG designer, and artist who operates Newstand Press. You can see her impressive work on the play test package for The ORPHEUS Protocol, and be sure to check out Flying Circus, a PBtA game she designed that features aerial combat, steampunk flair, and some roguish shenanigans. Probably the indie rpg scene's greatest aeronautical enthusiast.
Jim McClure is the President of Third Act Publishing and through the company has designed several RPGs including Reflections, Satanic Panic, and Reach of Titan. Jim is also a lead designer for Roll20 and designed their first game, Burn Bryte. Third Act Publishing will be working to help Rob and The Orpheus Prorocol move forward to completion and fulfillment of this game.
Lauran Stump is a brilliant graphic designer and layout artist. Most of wonderful graphics you see on this page were her design. She is a great talent that is helping with graphic designed related to the project.
Our various Stretch Goals are outlined below. We intend on expanding the scope of the book by including content from contributing writers, creating supplementary adventure and podcast content, and more, and if we reach the final goal, there may just be a surprise or two in store.
$10k - Funded! - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, we can deliver the book.
$12.5k - Full Color - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, we can pay for full-color printing for the book, enhancing both the beauty and the horror alike.
$15k - Prestige Print - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, we can afford to print on higher-quality paper and make the book sharper, cleaner, and generally more aesthetically pleasing.
$17.5k - Ross Payton Contributes - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, thing start getting really exciting. Ross Payton, the mastermind behind Role Playing Public Radio, Base Raiders, the upcoming Ruin, and dozens of other wonderful projects will contribute his mad genius to create a unique setting element for GMs to build into their ORPHEUS Protocol campaigns and one shots. (Folks, I really want this goal).
$20k - Expanded Art - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, we can afford to buy more art than we otherwise would. Let's take a second to appreciate how awesome the art on this page is, by the way. We can get more of that, and we can all agree that is a good thing.
$22.5k - New Player Character Archetype: Nephilim - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, I'll be able to spare the time and resources to fully develop, test, and balance a new player character archetype for The ORPHEUS Protocol. Listeners to the podcast may already have theories as to what it might be...
$25k - Kat Kuhl Contributes - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, Kat Kuhl, partner at Precocious LLC, Host and Narrator of the Autonomic podcast, founder of the One Shot podcast network, and the most creative mind working in tabletop role playing games today, will bring something magical to The ORPHEUS Protocol. She will create a unique setting element for GMs to build into their campaigns and one shots, and let me tell you. This goal would be a dream come true.
$27.5k - Companion App - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, we'll fund the full development of an ORPHEUS companion app by the lovely Jason Brown. This app will help streamline the character creation process with up-to-date rules. A beta version has been in the works for a while, but I want to pay Jason to finish this bad-boy and let it out into the wild.
$30k - New Player Character Archetype: Emanant - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, I'll have the resources to develop a second bonus player character archetype! This, along with the 22.5k goal, will greatly increase players' ability to mechanically customize their characters.
$32.5k - Quinn Welsh-Wilson Contributes - UNLOCKED!
At this funding level, Quinn Welsh-Wilson, host of the Swallows of the South and Arms of the Tide podcasts, will contribute an adventure seed or other setting element as with Ross and Kat.
$35k - Adventure Module PDF
At this funding level, I will design a full adventure module for use with The ORPHEUS Protocol, which will release as a PDF to all backers that bought a copy of the game!
$37.5k - Jim McClure Contributes
At this funding level, Jim McClure, host of Talking Tabletop, big cheese at Third Act Publishing, designer of Reflections, Reach of Titan, Satanic Panic, and more, will contribute as with Ross, Kat, and Quinn.
$40k - Bonus Adventure Podcast
At this funding level, I will gather a group of players and create a fully produced podcast playthrough of the adventure I designed for the 35k goal, listenable by every backer.
$42.5k - Audio Short Story
At this funding level, I will write and produce an audio short story set in the ORPHEUS universe, and release it to all backers!
$45k - Behind the Scenes Podcast
At this funding level, I, along with Jim McClure and others, will produce a behind the scenes podcast about ORPHEUS, the development of both the game and the podcast, and the crazy journey this has all been.
There are Strech Goals planned out further than this, but we'll have to move further into the unkown to discover them...
Social Stretch Goals:
Seraph Films is creating a web series set in the world of The ORPHEUS Protocol. The first episode is already live HERE. If their YouTube channel reaches certain thresholds of subscribers during this Kickstarter campaign, there will be rewards.
9,000 Subscribers - Side Story
At 9,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel, Seraph films will create a short film that functions as a side story to the ORPHEUS Protocol web series, digging into the origins of a character in the show.
9,250 Subscribers - Character Vote
At 9,250 subscribers, Seraph will hold a poll allowing fans to choose which character the film will follow.
Questions? Feel free to contact us on this page, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Risks and challenges
For the ORPHEUS Protocol Kickstarter campaign, I’ve partnered with Third Act Publishing, a group that has produced and completed several Kickstarter projects at this point and have helped manage projects for many other creators. There are always risks and challenges anytime we are doing a project of this scale, but the past experiences of Third Act Publishing will greatly benefit us. Big lessons learned from past projects are the need to have the production components of the project sorted out long before the Kickstarter. For this project, we have taken steps to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
The artists, editors, and layout designers have been contracted and are ready to start work. The printer has been chosen as well
All of the production pieces have been lined up, the printers are ready, and we are confident this will be delivered on time and to the standards you would expect.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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