Asshat Paladins blog

Matt Borselli has a quick writeup of his experience with Crucible Design, and more specifically The 23rd Letter, on his blog, AssHat Paladins.

I enjoyed chatting about it – getting involved in my own narcissism obviously – and it brought back a lot of memories.

Part two will be out in a week or so so subscribe to his blog if you want to catch it.

The WhiteChapel Project

The Project in Whitechapel was formed in September 1941 as a subsection of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The SOE was directed to encourage espionage behind enemy lines and build the core of a resistance cell in the event of a land invasion. As a result, they were entirely dependent upon the security of radio transmissions and a lot of resource was allocated to eliminating the circumstances which would lead to a break in communications. Better radio sets, more secure operating procedures and the development of proper ciphers all aided their mission.

The ISRB (Inter Service Research Bureau) operated as a cover for the SOE and was responsible for developing modern clandestine technology as well as recruiting agents for the SOE. The Frythe Estate near Welwyn Garden City was the initial test ground for the use of psychics in espionage under the guise of a wireless research unit code-named “Special Signals”. Later, it became Station IX, a weapons development centre and the Special Signals group was moved to a small building on Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel. The SOE was dissolved in 1946 and most of their operational functions absorbed by MI6. The Special Signals group, however, survived. Their staff roster was filled out with German scientists, recruited from the post-war skirmish between the Allies for their knowledge.

Dr Saul Benedict had been head of Special Signals since it’s inception and guided the group through the post-war political turmoil by forming a significant attachment to the then-prime minister, Clement Attlee. While Attlee could not be convinced of the need for the SOE, the Special Signals group were able to secure their own future and Attlee consulted with precogs and telepaths regularly. He became known as an extremely effective politician and possible the most effective Prime Minister to date. Their consultations helped him decide the correct course of action and also how to build a cabinet of people he could trust. In return he pledged support for Benedict’s special interests and permitted the Project in Whitechapel far-reaching authority.

The establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 paved the way for regular screening of the population for psychic potential and the Whitechapel Project enjoyed a regular stream of enthusiastic recruits, young, cheerful and ready to do their bit for king and country. A centre for psychic research was opened in Huntingdon, funded by the NHS rather than the Special Signals group. When Churchill succeeded Attlee he was astounded his own words were so prophetic when he had accused Labour of introducing “some form of Gestapo, no doubt humanely administered in the first instance”. One of his first actions was to restrict NHS funding to Huntingdon and from that moment on Benedict and his advisors realised their remit had a wider reach than the ephemeral governments

Current games in development

As mentioned a few posts ago, here is a list of the games that have gone through our idea filter and dropped down into the Book Development stage. If you’re a regular reader, the chances are none of these are of surprise to you, although I’m not sure we’ve blogged about all of them. So, in no particular order, here is the list.

  • Illusion (working title) – Set in the 19th Century, players are in some way involved with a magical stage act. A game of secrets and showmanship, where nothing is ever quite what you expected. Uses a thematic system based on playing cards (although dice-based rules are included).
  • Additional 23rd Letter Material (working title) – The game of psychics and conspiracies. Over the years, we’ve written (and rewritten) a bunch of source material that was never published. The Projects Sourcebook almost saw the light of day, but not quite. This body of work includes detailed information on playing Network and Project campaigns, revised psychic abilities, GM information on the Powers, Terata, and more.
  • War of the Worlds: Earth (working title) – Set after an invasion by Martians which has left physical and ecological devastation. Based on H. G. Well’s “The War of the Worlds”, characters pick up the pieces after that novel. See the War of the Worlds: Earth category for more info.
  • ERIS – The system used by The 23rd Letter, War of the Worlds: Earth and others. This book will be available for free PDF download.
  • 6 – A spy game, set in the height of the Cold War. For advanced role-players only, this game uses a very narrative system and Tiered Play to create intricate plots in an atmosphere of fear and mistrust.

There is no set publish date for any of these, but if there is any game that you’d especially like to see first, please let us know in the comments. War of the Worlds: Earth is likely to be the last of those games to be published, just looking at the amount of work still needing done.

The 23rd Letter: in film?

Back in late 2006, I got a bit of a shock. Maybe you do as I do but I like to beachcomb through Google and see what people are saying about the things I have written. I pick up a few comments about The 23rd Letter and Zombi most often, usually through which seems to be the big granddaddy of RPG-related internet portals. It’s pretty nice for the most part and I get to talk to some interesting people (and make excuses for the things I missed). As The 23rd Letter is still on sale via Key20, every now and then I get an email asking about it which is why I’ve started posting updated materials on the blog here. There have been some relative champions of The 23rd Letter, like Chris Lupton and Max Cairnduff, who have both gone above and beyond in the past to make the games known and for that I’ve always been grateful.

Anyway, this was the shock.


This page linked to Starway Pictures, a Hollywood-based production company, who were producing an adaptation of The 23rd Letter, a film about ESP and psychokinesis. I was utterly gobsmacked.

The script for “The 23rd Letter” was written by Jim Beck, an aspiring screenwriter who had also written gaming material for Paradigm Concepts , a small RPG company, but Jim Beck was mostly identified via his blog at My stuff is also listed at and a few years ago, t23l would have been a lot more on the lips of people.

Information on the 23rd Letter movie was posted all around on Filmmaker magazine, and the Digital Video Information Network. The stars mentioned it on their myspace pages and there seemed to be loads of mentions of the name as I started digging deeper. Heaps more material is available on the Starway Pictures blog in February 2006, March 2006, April 2006, May 2006 and November 2006 including demo footage and pitch reels.

I found out about it in November 2006 and have been sitting on it for months. Why? Because I was really unsure at what to do about it. Am I supposed to assume the worst?

What do you do in this case?

[UPDATE: I’ve been talking to Robert Sanders @ Starway via email (and inadvertently to his lawyer (who didn’t get the hang of “Reply All”) and I think we’re resolving any issues. I do not believe that there was any infringement of IP so it’s now down to whether they change the name or we agree to jointly use the name).]