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Tears of a Machine is a tabletop RPG of giant robots and the teenagers who pilot them.
Tears of a Machine is a tabletop RPG of giant robots and the teenagers who pilot them.
277 backers pledged $7,810 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Tears of a Machine is a tabletop story game (or RPG) of giant robots and teenage pilots inspired by the mecha anime shows that I love: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Fafner: Dead Aggressor, Gunparade March and others. Playing the character of a young pilot, you’ll be connected to the brain of a SAInt, a robot crusader with a dangerous will of its own, and sent to fight the alien raiders and their monstrous war machines.

A game of Tears of a Machine is about the characters first. The rules and situations of the game are tuned to create stories about the pilot's hopes, dreams, and fears. A pilot's ego can turn failure into success or mire a pilot in depression. What happens in the classroom or at the diner is just as important for a pilot as what happens on the battlefield.

Fast-paced combat, unrequited romances, dangerous alien technology, brutal robot foes, a secret society of zealot scientists, teamwork against overwhelming odds, and evenings spent goofing off at the video arcade. Get together with your friends and share those moments of joy and pain and wonder and cry your eyes out at the controls of a giant robot.

The game system scales, handling simple scenes with a single die roll and "zooming in" when more details are needed. Volleys of gunfire on the battlefield or traded serves in the volleyball match all use the same straightforward and fast­-moving rules. The events in an episode and the strength of their foes are all queued off the characters and their interests. The GM can quickly and easily build adventures around what the players enjoy.

Russell Collins. I’ve been an avid gamer since elementary school and was always the GM, inventing new stories and worlds. I’ve play-tested other games for years and been a part of many design workshops and small game design contests. Tears of a Machine is my first large-scale game design project.

Your support will get this game professionally edited, illustrated, formatted, and printed. I am paying for quality work by artists and creators with years of professional experience. And more than that, they're my friends. I want to see them succeed just as much as I want to see this book done right.

The text of the book is written, artwork is already in production, and editing begins as soon as the Kickstarter is funded. By September the book will be in layout and design and off to the printer in October. Then printing and delivery will begin.

Editor: J. R. Blackwell, creator of the ENnie award winning LARP Shelter In Place, designer of Court:Ship, an official FATE Core setting, The Ministry Initiative, and co-creator of Velociraptor! Cannibalism! with Board Raptor games. J.R. has founded writing groups and gaming clubs.

Illustrator: Jennifer Rodgers is the designer and illustrator of Velociraptor! Cannibalism! by Board Raptor games and contributing illustrator to The Dresden Files RPG by Evil Hat Productions, Torchbearer by Burning Wheel HQ, the licensed Firefly game by Margaret Weis Productions, along with other RPG, magazine, and book projects.

Graphic Designer: Nathan Paoletta of ndp Design is the creator of Annelise and carry: a game about war, among other games. He was most recently the graphic designer for Ron Edward's Sorcerer Upgrade and Warren Tusk's The Dance and the Dawn: A Theatrical Experience. Nathan’s design work spans from narratives, games, graphic and layout design, product and object design, and sculpture.

In the world of Tears of a Machine an alien force launches large scale raids on cities around the world. Their target is the population and mass abductions are part of every attack. The giant bug robots are more than a match for any conventional weapons but their most feared weapon is the Magnas; a hundred-foot-tall monster with the appearance of a disfigured angel, charred black by the heat of falling from orbit. These terror weapons spread chaos and destruction.

To fight back against the enemy a secret scientific group called the Cloistered Research Council emerged and offered the world new weapons built from the reverse-engineered alien technology. Their price was for the weapons to only be used by an international coalition and for the CRC to be allowed to maintain their secrecy and autonomy. The Earth's Preservation Force was formed.

Earth's greatest new weapon is the Symbiotic Android Interface, or SAInt. A human version of the Magnas but a Magnas is a monster and the only way to make it docile and controllable is to lobotomize it, leaving a gap in its mind. Human pilots must fill this gap but if a pilot is too old then his mature mind can't connect to the SAInt. Only teenagers with their still-growing neurons can merge minds with a SAInt and lead it into battle.

Here's an overview of a pilot's character sheet. (Note that this is the mock-up used for playtesting that will be replaced by a new sheet designed by Nathan Paoletta.)

Sunny (Sunako) is a young pilot, having joined Earth's Preservation Forces at 13 years old. Her Hope and Despair are her Motivations; the biggest influences on her sense of self-worth. When she can pursue her Hope or confront her Despair then she can improve her Ego. Her friend Jennifer is there to help her but the rivalry with instructor Lee is an obstacle to building her self-confidence.

When Sunny faces a challenge, like a pop-quiz or an enemy attack, I use her Aptitude rating as a number of 6-sided dice. Since her Intellect is 2, I'll roll 2 dice and take the highest result. Then I'll add her Study Proficiency rating to that rolled number and compare the result to the challenge rating. If I beat the number Sunny passes the quiz.

But what if I miss? I can spend points from Sunny's pool of Ego and add to my total until I beat the challenge. This quiz had better be important though. If I can't get Sunny's Ego back before the aliens attack, she won't have those points to spend when it means dodging the crushing claws of an enemy monster.

Fortunately for Sunny, the weapons of her SAInt will give her some help in striking and destroying her robot enemies and its structure of carbon steel and diamond hard ceramics means it can suffer through damage that would topple skyscrapers. On the other hand, the SAInt gains Id as it fights and those violent urges could overwhelm Sunny if she isn't strong enough. That would turn her robot into a raging monster, almost as dangerous as the alien machines.

Download the 12 page demo package to take the game for a test drive. You can get the PDF here.

Wallpapers: Digital download of high quality desktop wallpaper images of the artwork by Jennifer Rodgers in different resolutions. Three stills from the Tears of a Machine anime that never was!

PDF: The digital edition of the Tears of a Machine book, formatted for onscreen viewing and home printing.

Book: The Tears of a Machine game book. 250+ pages, black and white with five full color chapter plates. Softcover, digest sized.

C.R.C. ID Card: Limited edition reward! Be recognized as a member of the inner cabal of scientists and researchers who unlocked the secrets of alien bio­mechanics and built Earth's new weapons.

Art Print: The Tears of a Machine cover by Jennifer Rodgers as a high quality 8" by 10" art print.

Wall Scroll: A 16" by 24" inch fabric print of the Tears of a Machine cover.

Angel Unlock: The Angel backer earns a special reward for everyone backing the project at or above the $30 tier: A Preservation Forces patch! Decorate your fatigues or favorite jacket with the colors of Earth's defenders.

I work for an organization that provides accessible books for blind and dyslexic learners so I'm always aware of how the printed word is a barrier to more people than we recognize. RPGs are so print-reliant that many who would enjoy the hobby have to struggle through the reading. I don't think that should stop people from having fun! When Tears of a Machine is released I will also make the text available in a basic format for users of assistive technology. As a part of the stretch goals I'll provide it in other formats such as recorded audio and synchronized text, so that those with learning differences or impairments can enjoy the same access to the printed word.

Stretch goals are a celebration of a project and its backers. There will be additional reward items, but I'm not planning big supplements or projects that would keep you waiting a year for delivery.

  • $10K More Art! Additional illustrations will be added to the book providing more snapshots from the lives of pilots.

    $15K I'll record the book as audio files to improve accessibility for those with learning differences.

  • $20K Kikai no Namida theme song. Did you enjoy the music in the pitch video? Want to hear more? I'll complete the song, adding full verses and lyrics and then make it available to all backers as an MP3 download. 

    $25K I will also create an accessible synchronized text version of the book, combining the text and audio formats.

    $30K ??? All will be revealed. In time.

Risks and challenges

As with any writing and publishing project, there is the danger of delays. To ensure a quality product I am working with many other people and life happens to us all. All backers will receive regular progress updates and be informed of any changes to the schedule.

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Prospect: Tears of a Machine themed desktop wallpaper images

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    Cadet: A PDF of the Tears of a Machine book and the desktop wallpapers.

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    Pilot: Limited edition! The PDF and wallpapers and a Cloistered Research Council (CRC) ID card.

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    Robbie: PDF, wallpapers and a physical copy of the Tears of a Machine book. (CRC Card not included.)

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    SAInt: Limited edition! The physical book, PDF, wallpapers, and the CRC ID card.

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    Apostle: The physical book, PDF, wallpapers, and CRC ID card, plus an 8" by 10" artist's print of the Tears of a Machine cover.

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    Prophet: The physical book, PDF, wallpapers, and CRC ID card, plus a 16" by 24" wall scroll of the Tears of a Machine cover.

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    Angel: Book, PDF, wallpapers, CRC ID card, 16" by 24" wall scroll and 8" by 10" art print of the Tears of a Machine cover.

    The Angel also unlocks a bonus reward for all backers at the $30 and higher tiers! A Preservation Forces insignia patch!

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Funding period

- (30 days)