Tri Tac Games is a Michigan
-based role playing company probably best known for publishing two games with a solid cult following
: Bureau 13
. Tri Tac was started in 1978 by Rich Tucholka. Tucholka originally called his company Tacky Tack Games. Although an odd name for a game publisher, it was entirely consistent with Tucholka's early games.
Tucholka wrote goofy and somewhat tacky "microgame
s" in the spirit of Tom Wham
games like The Awful Green Things from Outer Space
. He sold them via rented booths at Midwest gaming conventions like Gencon
. His first game was Geriatric Wars
, a quick and dirty role playing/board game that required players to take on the roles of starving pensioners who battle over social security
checks in the year 2018.
His games were the kind of games that appealed to sleep-deprived and/or inebriated convention goers: easy to learn, so cheap you don't mind if chits get stained with onion dip, and demented in a way that appeals to people who have gone more than 24 hours without REM
sleep. He followed that up with Baby Boomer
, which was a board game where players are over achieving boomers so busy with career and consumerism that they fail to notice their toddler
has acquired a 16-shot semi-automatic pistol with a silencer and now wants to, errr, play. The object of the game is to disarm baby and avoid the family dog's fate.
In 1982 Tacky Tack became Tri Tac and made a move to publish larger, more respectable RPGs but still retain its alternative (read: not another swords and dragons RPG) hobbyist
(read: cheap) cachet
. It released Fringeworth
, the first RPG about interdimensional exploration. Fringeworth
set the standard for Tri Tac games. The subject matter was sweeping. The production values were crud: line art, cerlox
bound rule books. The game mechanics were detailed, appealing to gamers who like having a percentile
table to reference to resolve anything and everything. If detailed combat, movement, and action rules were not one's cup of tea, Tri Tac games always supplied simpler alternative rules.
Another first for Tri Tac was Bureau 13
, the first horror RPG. Bureau 13
involved characters belonging to an FBI-like organization dedicated to fighting monsters and alien horrors. At gaming conventions, to promote the game, Tri Tac sold "official" Bureau 13 agent ID badges. They were goofy badges consisting of laminated
orange and pink paper.
Following an appearance by Tri Tac at Gencon 1994, their badge promotion got them in trouble with the real FBI. Some pointdexter
decided these badges could be used by someone to impersonate a real federal agent
and reported the company to the FBI. Somehow the convention goers claim Tri Tac was forging "phony FBI identification badges" also got embellished to include the claim they were producing "illicit government operation manuals". The FBI raided the company's Pontiac, Michigan office on August 23, 1994 looking for these items.
Needless to say Tucholka and his small staff were quite surprised to have an FBI tactical
unit bust into their offices and read Tucholka his rights. It was eerily similar to the raid on Steve Jackson Games
but apparently in this raid the FBI had learned its lesson. Tucholka reported the FBI were polite and professional during their search, explaining they were looking for fake FBI badges and anti-government operation manuals. They didn't seize any computers and were especially concerned with not poking around anything that might constitute an author's work in progress.
The agents did seize copies of the ID badges in question and left. Two days later an FBI agent told Tucholka they would not press charges
but he should destroy all the badges he made along with the original art work.
A year later the FBI showed up at the Tri Tac booth at Gencon 95 to make sure Tri Tac was in compliance. Tri Tac was no longer selling the badges but they did proudly display one of the badges that got them in trouble. It was taped beneath a newspaper report about the raid. The FBI determined Tri Tac presented no threat to national security and left without comment, presumably to spend federal tax dollars chasing real criminals or something.
Outside of Tri Tac, Tucholka was also co-author on another ground breaking RPG classic: 1980's The Morrow Project
. The Morrow Project
was for hardcore gun lover
s. Set in a world destroyed by nuclear holocaust
, a small band of human emerge from a stasis
experiment and have to retake earth, helped along by a weapon bunker they were conveniently buried with...