Thursday, September 30, 2010
Nihilistic Motorcyclists! Who runs Bartertown? Chris Engle runs Bartertown!
One of my earliest posts on this blog concerned Nihlistic Motorcyclists, a game I've had in my collection since the mid 80's. Through the magic of Google, the creator of the game recently came across that very post here on OGGA and sent me an etheric-mail.
I was very pleased to hear from him, and he's given me permission to repost that missive here.
I finally googled Nihilistic Motorcyclists and found your blog entry from last year. You are one of maybe twenty people who ever owned this game. Cool!
I the Chris Engle who wrote this dog so I can tell you what became of it and Angel games.
I sent out samples of NM to the distributors in 1986 and got a letter back from Richard Tulhoka (Bureau 13) who said he found a copy of the game at the bottom of a trash can and that the mothers of America would kill me for printing it. That made me think and then pull the game from the market. Only about 25 copies of the thousand I printed ever sold and I pulped all but a handful of the rest. I learned a useful lesson from that about not pandering to the taste of the lowest common denominator. Subsequently Angel Games ceased to exist. I went back to grad school and having been working in Mental Health since then.
My gaming interests didn't end though. In 1988 I invented Engle Matrix Games and started working on spreading that idea. Basically a game that could be run using words rather than numbers where players made up whole scenes and then rolled to see if they happened or not. Now we call that Indie Role Play Gaming but in 88 it was just weird and no one got it. I persisted though and am now happy that my ideas are so old hat. I started Hamster Press in 1995 and have had a booth at Gen Con since a year after it moved to Indianapolis. I do my own production so I can afford to put out all my games but I'm now working on how to move to selling in stores. My story games are about murder mysteries, Cthulhu horror, spy, and dungeon crawls. All very tame and main stream.
When it comes to NM I am amazed at how well the scenario and flow of play hold up. It still works today. I haven't run a game of it in over twenty years (It really is too sick) but I don't see anything now that would say it couldn't still work and creep people out. For all the sick and twisted games that have come out since then I haven't heard of one that made people act as badly as NM does. It is a pure game - it is a behavior mod token system for heinous crime on helpless victims. I learned from this that players do what they are rewarded to do so after that I reward good behavior. With NM I stared into the void and it stared back at me. That was enough for me.
Oh and I learned that you NEED to proof read. I misspelled "police" for god's sake!
BTW Now I live down outside Bloomington and work at IU. A group of us get together once a month and play Euro Games at the Union. Stop by my booth at Gen Con and say hi.
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
He's exactly right when he says there aren't any other games out there that so promote heinous actions on the part of the players. It's really astounding, the depths to which players will sink when there is an actual in-game rules reward system for committing atrocities.
The game does play fast and smoothly. It's in the category of rpgs referred to as "beer & pretzels games" today. It's probably more of a "whiskey and human ears" game in play though.
Nihilistic Motorcyclists did have a valuable lesson to teach, in an oblique manner. I like to think that I'm a nice guy, over all. I am introspective and contemplative by nature, and after playing this game a few times, I sort of felt bad about myself.
It's just an RPG, and I'm not of the camp that promotes the idea that RPGs are about self exploration. But I have to admit that Nihilistic Motorcyclists forced me to admit to myself that I'm capable of at least theoretically conceiving acts of no small evil.
No shocker there, today. But, as a teen we're all still learning what it means to be a human being, and when you realize you yourself have as much potential for evil as the next guy, it can be a bit disorienting.
I let chris know that I did gain something from the experience of playing Nihilistic Motorcyclists, expanded insight. This sure isn't a game to play with your kids though. It probably shouldn't be played by anyone actually. At least not by anyone with "issues" it might aggravate.
If you excised the Victory Points system, it would make the core of a nice bare bones post apocalyptic game.
When I asked Chris if I could use his email in a follow up post, he replied thus;
Sure you can. Please stress that after I realized what the game did I pulled if from the market. It just brings out the worst in people but in both our cases is seems to have steared us towards good.
I know its wrong but I can't help but feel a little pride that I wrote a game that remains more out there than anything that has followed. It was a very pure design (commit crimes for victory points - though at the cost of looking crazier and crazier) which is why it was so far out. Kind of "Kill Puppies for Satan" like. I'm glad I started using my powers for good (as the super heroes say).
PS: If you come to Gen Con look for the booth with all the stuffied animals and dragons at. We pay the bills with plush.
I want to say thanks to Chris for letting me use his replies here on the bliggety-blog, and for creating that horrible,horrible game in the first place.
Nihilistic Motorcyclists has a place in RPG history now. A dark,scary place.
It also strikes me as hilarious that plushies are a part of Chris's business now. Maybe some commemorative Nihilistic Plushies could spice up the booth?
Who wouldn't want a nice fuzzy Toe-Cutter to take home from the con?
Clicking on the Nihilistic Motorcyclists tag in the Old Guard Guide sidebar will bring up the original post on the game from feb-09.