Guardians calls for order

LiveJournal posts and RPGnet threads aside, the fact remains that Canadian RPG company has had a rough time of late. Rumors have circulated that GoO was closing its doors, or had laid off its entire staff to become a struggling company of one member. Though the company has suffered considerable financial loss due to the declining strength of the US Dollar (“nearly a quarter million (Canadian) dollars,” according to President Mark MacKinnon’s statement, below), GoO has stated it will still be releasing anticipated titles such as Tekumel, Dreaming Cities, A Game of Thrones, and BESM Neon Genesis Evangelion. But to make sure that happens, the company is holding a , with the stated goal being “to raise $50,000 in US funds in a short period of time so we can continue to publish the great books you have come to expect.”

Reposted from Guardians of Order website:

Guardians Of Order’s New Year’s Message
From President Mark C. MacKinnon
31 December 2004 (Edited 3 January 2005)
NOTE: This message may be reposted to other internet sites and distributed freely.

[EDITED (3 Jan 05): While I was originally going to post this message on New Year’s Eve, the recent tragedy in Asia gave me pause. I didn’t think it was the right time, given the magnitude of the pain and suffering that makes our woes seem so very insignificant in comparison. That said, certain information, and mis-information, leaked today to the gaming community today, and I owe it to our supporters to respond quickly. This address, plus the explanation on our Enlightened Self Interest page, should put most things in the correct context.]

On this uncharacteristically warm New Year’s Eve I sit at my computer desk sipping hot chocolate as the sweet sounds of Bach’s Violin Partita in B minor plays in the background. I am thankful that all is well in our great country, and mourn the terrible losses that have devastated many families in Asia after the earthquake and tsunami. We are witnessing the incredible power of Nature, and I cannot help but be humbled.

Thinking about GoO’s 2004 business year, I am proud of what we accomplished but also disappointed with what could have been. A few key products needed to be delayed for various reasons, which unfortunately turned 2004 into our “year of sequels” (with sequels, conversions, and revisions) rather than our “year of new products.” Throw a weak economy into the mix, and it can be a recipe for disaster. Faith manages, though, and we pulled through. But sometimes … faith needs a little help.

To recap the developments at Guardians Of Order in 2004:

  • we released our two largest books ever, both weighing in at 352 pages: Ex Machina: Tri-Stat Cyberpunk Genre and The Authority RPG and Resource Book
  • a plethora of licensed BESM/BESM d20 anime guides (9 guides, plus Slayers d20) made it to market and finished many of our series
    we released BESM d20 Revised edition ‹ updated to d20 v3.5 ‹ only to learn to our embarrassment that it actually wasn’t updated

  • we reprinted BESM d20 Revised, and made sure it was updated this time!
  • we converted and re-released several of our popular BESM Tri-Stat titles to the BESM d20 system

  • working with the fine gents at Hero Games, we co-published Reality Storm: When Worlds Collide, a crossover adventure and conversions book featuring the characters from our Silver Age Sentinels and Hero Games’ Champions
  • we announced the acquisition of an RPG/fan guide license for the cult-hit anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • we moved and expanded our PDF offerings to, experiencing greater-than-expected sales in this new venture
  • we finalised our deal with Erick Wujcik of Phage Press to continue offering sales of Amber DRPG-related merchandise, with the hopes of more to come in the future
  • we helped two Magnum Opus publishers bring their “great works” to print: Hearts Swords Flowers and Everstone – Blood Legacy
  • we released our critically acclaimed short story anthology sequel, Path of the Bold, set in the Empire City superhero universe
  • we announced plans for BESM Third Edition, to release in spring/summer 2005

In total, we released 24 products — 23 books of our own and one co-publication with Hero Games — in 2004, effectively matching 2003’s releases. Breaking down the products into lines, we have:

  • Silver Age Sentinels/superhero books: 4 (17%)
  • BESM/BESM d20/anime books (original): 7 (29%)
  • Anime books (licensed): 10 (42%)
  • Other: 3 (12%)

As you can see, nearly three-quarters of our output involved original or licensed anime material — our signature strength. If I had to pick just a few must-buy stellar highlights, I’d recommend Ex Machina, The Authority RPG, Slayers d20, d20 Military Vehicles, and Path of the Bold.

I have talked to company presidents, renowned retailers, distributor representatives, and industry gurus. If there is one thing they all agreed on in 2004, it is the remarkable downturn in role-playing game sales. I’m sure the reasoning behind this trend is complex and varied, but the final result cannot be argued: RPGs were seriously hurt this past year.

Clearly, as an RPG-only company, this should have devastated our sales income, right? Well, no, actually. For the third consecutive year, Guardians Of Order has enjoyed an increase in gross sales revenue, and we achieved this remarkable fact without A Game of Thrones RPG (which, unfortunately, is delayed until spring/summer 2005). I’ll admit that releasing larger and more expensive books accounted for much of this increase, but it is still a great accomplishment for us in a declining marketplace.

Why, then, is our net income the lowest it has ever been?

To put it bluntly, over the past two years the American dollar has had the snot kicked out of it by all major foreign currencies. Unfortunately, this includes the Canadian dollar and as an exporting company that calls the Great White North home, we’ve been hit hard. Really hard. We pay most of our fixed expenses (company overhead, such as salaries and rent) in Canadian dollars, which means that we must convert our US dollar revenue into Canadian funds for disbursement. One American dollar used to fetch $1.60 Canadian a few years back when the US economy was stronger, but the continual decline for two years has dropped that to about $1.15 — a loss of nearly 30%. This “exchange rate deficit” comes directly out of our bottom line, and has resulted in us losing nearly a quarter million (Canadian) dollars since the start of the decline.

There is no end in sight for the weak US dollar, and so our business plan is forced to adapt through downsizing and cost-cutting. There comes a time when you have to say “that’s enough.”

Although we are firmly dedicated to having a full release schedule in 2005, we can’t do it alone. We have an abundance of inventory in our warehouse — partially the result of low sales, and partially due to greater-than-expected book trade returns — and we need to convert a large portion of it to cash quickly and efficiently.

Starting today, we are launching what we’re calling an “Enlightened Self Interest” sales campaign to help us convert inventory into cash. If there’s a book you’ve been thinking about buying from us, but have been waiting for the “right time” … well, now is most certainly the “right time.” The page also has a few older gems for sale, but copies are extremely limited. We have many books waiting in the wings, but the company needs an influx of revenue to remain healthy. Please take a moment and visit our Save GoO webpage for more information.

This New Year’s Eve message is about looking back and look forward. I don’t want to dwell in the doom and gloom, but every bit of support helps. The sky isn’t falling … at least not yet.

Although we have been under tremendous strain over the past year, I think we still did excellent work. Briefly, here is my review of our company’s performance in 2004:

Communication: B-
– With all the tools at our disposal — message boards, mailing lists, website, and a weblog — we should be able to communicate frequently and efficiently with our gaming community. Unfortunately, many hours of my time must be spent on financial management (budgeting carefully and moving monies from place to place) each week, which has prevented us from keeping in touch.

Effort: A-
– Not everything worked out as planned this past year, but we collectively worked very hard under difficult circumstances.

Follow-through: B
– We worked through a lot of backlog in 2004 (BESM Space Fantasy, Fushigi Yugi and Hellsing fan guides, SAS supplements), but due to many unfortunate circumstances Tekumel and A Game of Thrones RPG have still not yet made it to press. Tekumel is finally approved, though, so we are very, very close; AGOT is also well on its way, with a March 2005 release planned for the Deluxe Limited Edition.

Innovation and Leadership: C
– Unfortunately, “leading” took a backseat to “producing” in 2004. Although we had a few highlights — Ex Machina and The Authority RPG in particular — we’ll pick up this ball again in 2005.

Quality: A
– We produced simply amazing stuff in 2004. This would have been an A+ if not for the unfortunate error in BESM d20 Revised Edition.

Overall Analysis: B-
– Although I had hoped to rate my company better this year, it was not to be. I think we stumbled in 2004. Not terribly, but it happened. I think we can turn that around in 2005 if plans hold.

The future is always a tricky thing in this industry. You don’t want to announce many ideas too early, for fear you can’t follow through in time or that someone else will beat you to the punch. At the same time, fans want to know what you have planned and announcing plans early builds hype. This year, I’ve decided to lay the cards on the table and give you insights into our future:

EARLY 2005

  • Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne — The long-awaited RPG based on M.A.R. Barker’s exciting world is approved and ready for press.
  • Dreaming Cities: Tri-Stat Urban Fantasy Genre — As the follow up to the new-wave cyberpunk book, Ex Machina, there are high expectations for this book. With a complete Tri-Stat dX rule set and three world settings, you won’t be disappointed.
  • BESM Revolutionary Girl Utena (Book 3) — This book is ready for press, but low pre-orders are holding it back briefly.
  • BESM d20 Monstrous Manual — Adam is laying the book out now, with art soon to follow. It’s a balanced point-based breakdown of over 100 fantasy monsters, each of which is given an “anime spin.”
  • Advanced d20 Magic — Featuring the alternate DC-based magic spell system that premiered in Slayers d20, this book is ready for layout. Unfortunately, there are many products at the layout stage, and we still have to prioritise everything. Still, it should be out shortly.
  • The Shroud — This first supplement for the Everstone RPG explores the world of Lannith and the swamp-like forest of The Shroud.


  • A Game of Thrones RPG Deluxe Limited Edition — A masterpiece two-years in the making, and we are so very close now. With over 450 full-colour pages and an art budget of $30,000, this is destined to be one of most gorgeous RPGs ever published. Throw in excellent writing and game design (for both d20 and Tri-Stat), and the result will be truly stunning indeed. Signed and numbered editions are available for pre-order now.
  • BESM Neon Genesis Evangelion Books 1 and 2 — At last, the fan-favourite anime series will receive the BESM treatment. Your campaign will never be the same again!
  • Big Eyes, Small Mouth Anime Card Game — Our first card game published under the GoO brand, this is an exciting Hearts variant that is easy to learn but difficult to master.
  • Ex Machina: d20 Cyberpunk Genre — A d20 version of our cyberpunk masterpiece, containing core rules and four complete game settings.
  • Tekumel: d20 System RPG — The glory of Tekumel, detailing a customised d20 mechanic and the expansive world setting.
  • Dreaming Cities: d20 Urban Fantasy Genre — Three urban fantasy world settings, wrapped in customised d20 mechanics.


  • A Game of Thrones d20 — Westerosi politics blend perfectly with a gritty d20 mechanic to create the best in d20 role-playing. This standard edition will be a gorgeous full-colour hardcover.
  • BESM Third Edition — We return to our flagship product in 2005 with a new edition, featuring the new roll-high Tri-Stat implementation and a detailed multi-genre campaign setting that spans infinite dimensions. One system to rule them all!
  • A Game of Thrones: The Book of Ice and Fire RPG — This core rulebook for the Tri-Stat System gives you everything you need in one place for the ultimate “A Song of Ice and Fire” campaign.
  • BESM Companion: The Player’s Guide to the Multiverse — Everything you wanted to know about the BESM Multiverse is here, along with templates to complement any character.

LATER 2005
I don’t want to give away too many details, but a number of products are planned for later in the year. Here is a partial list, edited to remove my secret surprises:

  • BESM Player’s Options — A book of rule variants
  • Winter is Coming — A companion book to A Game of Thrones core rulebook(s)
  • The Authority Companion — Covers Millar’s run on The Authority comic
  • A Clash of Kings — Expands upon Martin’s world, covering the second novel in his series

That wraps up this address of 2004 … a bittersweet reflection of what was, and what could have been. With a strong release schedule planned for next year, I predict that 2005 will be the fourth year in a row in which we see increased sales. It will be a tremendous year for me personally as well, for my wife and I are expecting my second son to arrive in mid-January.

If you enjoy the products we create, and want to see us continue in our mission, please consider purchasing a book or two today from your local retailer or our webstore ( Additionally, you would not believe how much good press (reviews, discussion threads, telling your local retailer what you think of our stuff, etc.) helps. We need your support now more than ever.

Thanks for reading, and best wishes for the new year!

Mark C. MacKinnon
Guardians Of Order, Inc.


  1. I feel for GoO. We have seen a total slide of Indy RPGs for 2004. When we ran the numbers, it was really surprising. I am sure they are part of that…

    The D20 bubble bursting really hurt a lot of the smaller publishers…


  2. Yup. It’s starting. In five years, there may not be any professionally-printed indie RPGs left on the shelf of your game store. (Which will be okay, because they’ll be online and free, made and supported by people who love the work for its own sake.)

    On a side note, what is with MacKinnon’s claims of “leaks” and “misinformation”? A guy got laid off, and said so on his LJ. That’s not a “leak” unless he was specifically NDA’d somehow, and neither was GamingReport’s pointer to his post. As for “misinformation,” nothing in the original LJ post was too far from what MacKinnon has laid out here. If some bits were misinterpreted, the smart approach from a PR perspective was simply to clarify those points and move on. Words like “misinformation” overstate the issue a bit.

    (Although I suppose I can forgive some prickliness on the part of a company facing the very real chance of no longer having the status and credibility that comes from putting full-color books on real store shelves. That can hurt… but as I said above, GoO won’t be the last RPG publisher to face it this year.)

  3. Yeah, it’s been a rough year for the industry. I’ve been hearing about a lack of sales from various fronts for a while now. Heck, I just got laid off from Impressions myself.

  4. You call it d20 Bubble Burst, I call it a Saturation Period. It is bound to happen. When the internet dot-com Bubble Burst, only a few companies managed to thrive even today:, eBay, and Yahoo! to name a few.

    d20 wasn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, just another avenue of opportunity opening up for publishers. How you use it is up to you. Some companies are lucky if not skilled, such as Mongoose and Green Ronin. Some are not, like Monkey God Enterprises. That’s how business goes.

    Also, it cannot be denied that RPG sale still fall below TCG and boardgames in the gaming market. So, it hurts everyone across the board. 2004 wasn’t a good year for RPG.

  5. But you see, for them, it’s not about the downtrend in the industry. Their sales were and are up. Their problem is a 30% drop in the value of the US Dollar against the Canadian Dollar (factoring in the Canadian Dollar improving).

    Basically, they get paid in American dollars but pay expenses in Canadian Dollars. Each book they sell brings in less revenue than before once converted to Canadian.

    If you do the math, what it means is that they were losing money on every book sold.

    They either need a much larger following of RPG fans outside of the United States (for a more favorable exchange rate), OR they need to raise prices by about 30%.

    This is pure conjecture on my part, but I’d be shocked if Dream Pod 9 wasn’t having major problems right now as well.

  6. As for being prickly… Mark is not in a fantastic position right now. He has to do everything he can to fight the perception that GoO is dead. You see, many gamers refuse to buy ‘dead’ products, despite the fact that a game is just as playable with or without support.

    Also, if he has creditors and I’m guessing he does, news of GoO’s impending death means that they become more insistent on being paid now. That’s not unreasonable of course, but it makes even less likely that he’d be able to get the books out that they have in the pipeline… those same books that theoretically will help him stay afloat.

  7. I’m guessing it would be the same economic situation for UK-based publishers like Mongoose, correct?

  8. Seems kind of similar, with the US Dollar being converted to the strong British Pound, and the US Dollar converting to the even weaker Canadian Dollar. I’m sure there’s some differences that elude me, though.

    I hate to see GoO struggling. After surviving being a Wizard’s Attic client, they deserve better.

  9. [They either need a much larger following of RPG fans outside of the United States (for a more favorable exchange rate), OR they need to raise prices by about 30%.]

    OR, they need to relocate. While I really like their product, I have trouble with a company that does business outside the United States complaining about the exchange rate being the cause of their woes. If it is the case that most of their sales come from the US, maybe they should relocate in order to avoid the problem. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  10. Easier said than done. Not many people are willing to uproot themselves.

    But I guess for Americans you got to go where the job outsourcing is at, like India.

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