The RPG Publisher Spotlight is a monthly feature for which Geek Native does what it can to shine the light of publicity on a small business. It’s intended to be a helpful thing.
Geek Native’s Patrons help nominate and vote for which publisher or creator to feature in the spotlight each month. It’s often a tight vote, but there was a clear winner for March: Dyskami Publishing Company.
I was pleased; I have two editions of “BESM” on the shelf behind me. However, I recognise that there might be some raised eyebrows at the choice. When I reached out to Mark MacKinnon, it was done frankly, explaining that the Spotlight was intended to be a helpful feature. As we’ll read in this interview, there’s plenty to be positive about, but also, we would not gloss over the relationship to Guardians of Order.
In some ways, you could see Dyskami Publishing Company as the successor to Guardians of Order. After Guardians of Order closed, some creators stepped forward to say that they were still owed money and that communication had broken down.
If you would like to help select candidates for the RPG Publisher Spotlight, please consider the Geek Native Patreon.
An introduction to Dyskami Publishing Company
My opening questions to Mark MacKinnon will be familiar reading as I like to ask not just “who” the publisher but what they feel they’re known for.
Who are Dyskami Publishing Company?
Dyskami Publishing Company is a tabletop game publisher headquartered in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Award-winning game designer, Mark MacKinnon, founded Dyskami in 2013 with an eye on publishing engaging tabletop games for busy board gamers who may not have as much time for their hobby as they did before – a too-familiar description of many gamers, right?
“It’s About Time” was our original tagline motto, though our gaming approach has certainly evolved over the past eight years as well.
In addition to a section of board games we released in our earlier years, we currently publish a line of licensed Sailor Moon Crystal tabletop board and party games and a new edition of the preeminent anime and manga role-playing game, Big Eyes, Small Mouth – also known as BESM.
In 2021 and beyond, we will be expanding our RPG offerings greatly and expand into numerous genres.
What would you like to be best known for?
When people think of Dyskami, we’d like them to associate us with engaging tabletop games that are well designed and tightly focussed on providing many hours of player fun. We are unapologetically driven by the creation of community connections for our games, both across the internet and across the gaming table.
Big Eyes, Small Mouth the anime RPG
The game that introduced many people to Dyskami and MacKinnon is surely BESM, if not Sailor Moon.
What can you tell us about the Big Eyes, Small Mouth journey?
Relating the BESM journey could fill many hours, but here’s a brief summary.
Mark MacKinnon originally created and published the Big Eyes, Small Mouth anime role-playing game under his Guardians of Order company in 1997.
An immediate small-press success, BESM (as it became later known) received much critical acclaim and earned an Origins Award nomination for the “Best RPG of the Year.”
BESM’s central game mechanics – called the Tri-Stat System, reflecting its use of only three game stats (Body, Mind, and Soul) – was later used in MacKinnon’s popular Sailor Moon RPG and Resource Book and in over a dozen other licensed game books based on anime properties, including Trigun, The Slayers, and Tenchi Muyo. Guardians published BESM Second Edition in 2001, and BESM Third Edition with partner White Wolf in 2006, before selling the property to White Wolf and exiting the adventure gaming industry.
After a nine-year publishing run with dozens of game book and more than 100,000 unit sales, BESM and the Tri-Stat System remained out of print and dormant for more than 15 years.
We announced in 2019 that we had reached a licensing agreement with White Wolf to create a new Fourth Edition of the beloved BESM – giving MacKinnon an opportunity to return full circle and revisit RPG creation.
After a year of intense design work, Dyskami successfully raised over $140K on Kickstarter from nearly 2,000 gamers and retailers to help resurrect the BESM game line.
The rest, we say, is history in the making.
You have got a Kickstarter for Anime 5e coming up. Is that BESM converted to 5e? Can you tell us a little more about the game, or will that spoil a Kickstarter surprise?
It’s natural to view Anime 5E as a conversion of the BESM system into the Fifth Edition of the world’s most popular tabletop RPG; that’s an overly broad assumption, but it’s not entirely inaccurate.
And yes, Anime 5E can also be viewed as the spiritual successor to Guardians of Order’s 2004 release, BESM d20 – a game that shoehorned BESM second edition into the d20 System under the Open Gaming License.
But Anime 5E is so much more than all of that. It presents a reimagined approach to the Fifth Edition role-playing system, featuring a balanced, point-based and effects-based framework that unleashes player creativity so they can construct anime-inspired characters and adventures that align with their vision.
Anime 5E is a complete game that fully integrates with Fifth Edition, yet is perfectly happy to stand alone on the gaming table as well.
What makes a good anime tabletop RPG, in your opinion? What do people want from them?
That’s a great question, and one that has always been the top priority in our conceptualisation of anime role-playing games.
Since RPGs are primarily collective exercises of the mind, players can of course use any game system to create their own versions of anime adventures.
Our BESM fans appreciate the rules-light approach to its underlying Tri-Stat System mechanics, which fades into the background during play and encourages the dynamic anime drama and action to step into the spotlight.
We believe that gamers looking to wrap their adventures in anime stylings want the near-unlimited character creation options that a robust, narrative, point-based system provides.
Give players the tools and freedom to unlock their imaginations, step back, and let the anime atmosphere envelop and permeate the story.
Changes and the future of Dyskami
Whenever I get the chance to talk to a publisher for the Spotlight, I always take the chance to ask about the future. Given that Dyskami sits in the middle of the rapid expansion of anime and tabletop games, this question felt more critical than ever.
Anime is very much more popular now in the West than it has ever been before. Crunchyroll sold for $1.2bn, and Netflix commissions their own anime. Have anime-inspired tabletop RPGs mirrored any of these changes, or have they been relatively constant over the years?
Tabletop RPGs are on their own fascinating trajectory right now, combining both new and innovative designs with old-school revival throwbacks.
The few RPGs that evoke an anime and manga atmosphere tend to follow along with these industry trends, which are independent of the larger anime sales and marketing industry. That’s a good thing.
How has the tabletop industry changed for you over the years? Would it be possible to run an indie publisher without Kickstarter?
The industry revolution between the mid-2000s when Guardians of Order closed its doors and 10-15 years later is immense.
Led by the emergency of gateway European games, the board game industry surge has been both incredible and transformative. Although the RPG industry compacted and consolidated on retail shelves during that same period, a rise of indie RPGs (particularly digital PDF titles) has expanded and diversified the offerings.
Crowdfunding in general, and Kickstarter in particular, has changed the game, so to speak. Having access to a highly visible direct-to-customer channel fosters community and assists with both predictive cashflow and the required pre-production funding.
The old distribution model – which still plays an important role for many medium-to-large companies – placed all the risk on the publisher and required too much crystalballing to foster innovative RPG growth.
Dyskami would not exist without the safety net that Kickstarter provides.
What can fans expect to see from Dyskami Publishing Company in the future? What does your pipeline look like?
2020 was an amazing year for Dyskami, with over a dozen BESM Fourth Edition products making their way to our customers.
We are doing a staggered release of expansion products into retail stores during the first half of 2021. With a solid foundation laid, we are now shifting our focus in 2021 onto three main game lines: Anime 5E, Tri-Stat System mini-games, and Absolute Power.
The previously mentioned Anime 5E Kickstarter that runs through the first half of April is our opportunity to expand our anime RPG offerings into the Fifth Edition system and reach an entirely different gamer base. We expect the initial Anime 5E titles to release mid-year.
Then in the summer, we are crowdfunding a trio of Tri-Stat System mini-games – complete boxed sets that each include a 32-page streamlined rules system, six game scenarios, pre-generated player characters, and custom dice.
The first three titles in this new line are: Pixies (“Amoral wee borrowers claiming their space”); Wyrms (“Voltron Highlander cannibal dragons”); and Demonicity (“Secret operatives fight to stop an infernal darkness”).
Finally, we finish 2021 with a new flagship game: Absolute Power is the second edition of our superhero RPG, Silver Age Sentinels. It’s been 20 years since the events of SAS v1, and much has transpired during that time. The heroes are constantly pressed to grab just that little bit more power to keep up with the bad guys and save everyone – hence the old adage “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Finally, we have Sailor Moon Crystal Imposterous – a Hive Mind party game variant, based on a design by the influential Richard Garfield – currently at the print and destined for a summer release.
2021 is going to be an amazing year for anime, superhero, and mini-RPG fans, so follow along and engage with us on our socials (@dyskami)!
Dyskami Publishing Company
- Dyskami Publishing Company on Facebook.
- Dyskami Publishing Company on Twitter.
- Dyskami Publishing Company on Instagram.
- Dyskami Publishing Company on YouTube.
- Dyskami Publishing Company on Discord.
- Dyskami Publishing Company’s website.
Latest Dyskami Products
- 23rd March 2021 BESM Cyberpunk – Book 1: Essentials (BESM Fourth Edition).
- 20th March 2021 BESM4 Cyberpunk Soundtrack.
- 1st February 2021 BESM Extras (Big Eyes, Small Mouth).
- 1st February 2021 BESM Dramatis Personae – Master Collection (Big Eyes, Small Mouth).
- 1st February 2021 BESM 2D-Animinis (Big Eyes, Small Mouth).
Do you have any thoughts on this article? Let us know in the comments below.