Designer’s Diary: Arcanum Syndicate – Chaos 6010 A.D.

Chaos 6010 AD
Chaos 6010 AD is a complete role-playing system published by Arcanum Syndicate.
By Brandon Williams

Welcome to the thirty-sixth Designer’s Diary, a regular column where designers are given the opportunity to take readers on an in-depth ride through the design and development process of their system, setting, or product. If you’d like to share your product in the Designer’s Diary column, send a message to

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Chaos 6010 A.D. is a dark, sci-fi roleplaying game set in a distant future where Earth is ruled by a theocratic government known as the Order.  Monks, priests, and templars are the judges and executioners of criminals and demons. They work alongside the local police forces which are called the City Guard, in order to keep the peace and administer justice.

The eldrynn race, “elves,” were the first alien race to be encountered.  It was the eldrynn that took notice of a large asteroid traveling toward Earth that they knew would cause great disaster. The eldrynn hold the knowledge of magic and are in-tune with the spirits of nature. The only reason they were able to notice this asteroid was due to a warning from the spirits that upon this planet killer, lay an ancient and wicked device that would open a soul gate to the realms of hell. The eldrynn knew that not only would this asteroid destroy most life on the planet Earth, it would also open the gates of hell and unleash an army of undead and demons that would surely end the human race.

The eldrynn decided this disaster would also echo to their world in time. So they decided to amass an army of great warriors and spell casters to travel through a magical gate across space and time to help save the human race and their own. After the apocalypse of Earth, the coming of the eldrynn gave humans hope. The eldrynn taught their distant cousins how to use magic again and humans shared their knowledge of technology. With their combined strength they were able to stop the demons of hell and close the Soul Gate.

As this alliance grew over the years, they expanded into space and started what is now called the Armethian Empire. New worlds and new technologies were discovered each day, along with many other races such as the mongru (dwarves), bogkroll (ogres), org, mhen tep, kuthalan, Sharpheen (lizard men), and countless others within our surrounding star systems. The Milky Way Galaxy, or Sevatus in the eldrynn tongue, is a vast and mysterious realm filled with adventure, danger, and endless discoveries left by other ancient races.

Within the year 6010 A.D. it is known as the Age of Adventure and exploration, to some. To others it is known as the Age of Chaos, for the forces of evil that use necromancers and black magic to find and open soul gates have begun to unleash this evil. Not only is Sevatus in danger but the Primordial Realm hangs in the balance as well. These inter-dimensional gates have brought the war of the angels and demons to our dimension, thus forcing heroes and villains alike to join forces to save our dimension from becoming a realm of complete chaos.

The primary reason I developed Chaos 6010 was actually due to the fact that my gaming group at the time was unhappy with most of the rule systems and game mechanics of the other games we were playing. Don’t get me wrong though DnD, Forgotten Realms, Shadowrun, Rifts, Werewolf, these were all games I grew up with. Everyone that created them were all the masters back then and I still totally honor their creativity and the inspiration they brought over the years. Yet I wanted to mix fantasy, science fiction, magic, space travel, everything that I thought was awesome into one game. I wanted to be able to do anything and everything in one game and not have it limited to a certain genre.

If I had to choose two main influences I would certainly pick Forgotten Realms simply because I have always been a complete fantasy nerd. From movies it was Conan the Barbarian and Willow; I think I watched them every day after I got home from school. Dungeons and Dragons first and second edition, and Forgotten Realms books were my thing. I would take them to school and when I was supposed to be doing class work I was in the back making NPCs, rolling up characters, or making the next dungeon or adventure.

One day a kid I knew brought the first edition Shadowrun book in and we played in class while we had free time. I remember his breath smelled like hot garbage but man that game got me hooked within thirty minutes of playing it. I was always a fan of the Aliens movies, Star Wars, and Star Trek the Next Generation. Yet It was Shadowrun that got me really into sci-fi RPGs.

During the process of creating Chaos 6010, I did a great amount of research primarily on space and history. Of course I’ve always loved ancient and modern weapons and all of the research I did during the development phases was enjoyable. I took classes on astronomy in high school and have always been fascinated with space and I try to keep up to date with the latest in new discoveries or theoretical ideas.  What I tried to do in the Chaos 6010 Timeline is link all the events from Earth’s past to somehow fit into the game. For instance the mhen tep race is a playable race of cat-like humanoids. So in the description of that race there is a link back to the ancient Egyptians of our world, hinting that they may have come in contact with the mhen tep race at some point in time. Their home planet of Oonta is actually a desert world full of pyramids.  I also tried to keep many of the actual star systems that we have named and located within our surrounding systems as accurate as possible. Even the distance from our star Sol, to surrounding star systems is measured in light years, not AU. So you can actually travel to these worlds and explore them once you or your crew gain access to a space craft. This really depends on the game master though. Most of the campaigns that I still run start off on Earth and the players, or “crew” as I like to call them, must work their way up to purchase their own star ship. Some game masters might start the players off already exploring the galaxy.

So I have done a great deal of research on almost everything in the core rulebook, one thing I have never really been good with is mathematics though, so I do try to keep calculations as simple as possible. To me it is really all about the story though and making a good story together with the players. It is not just up to the game master to make a good story though; the players have to do their part as well. If you worry too much about the mechanics of certain things it kind of takes away from the fun of it to me. However, some people like all the calculations and the crunch, and that is fine too. I think whatever makes it fun for people is what they should pursue and if there is a rule that they do not agree with then they should change it to fit their own way.

When I first started out and you can certainly tell in the core rulebook, I did all of the artwork and all of the writing. I threw pictures in there from when I was in high school. I drew every gun in the game by hand and it is kind of crazy. The core rulebook is 300 pages of madness. I wanted a kind of comic book feel to it at times because once your character gets high enough in levels, you are pretty much like a superhero or super-villain. I wanted most of the art to fit a dark, gothic atmosphere but back when I created the rulebook it was all just me working on everything. To be honest, starting out I had no idea what 300 dpi was and some of the artwork comes out pixilated in some spots while some of the art is so old. So “you live and you learn” though and you can really tell in my more recent work that there is much more improvement.

As well over the past few years there have been others that have come along and love the game and volunteered to help out. I have been very grateful for that as well and blessed that such talented people have agreed to basically work for free to see these projects unfold. I’ve never really had the money to make a major production and I’ve always wished that I did because I know we could come out with some really cool stuff, but you work with what you have. I met a great artist named Adam Schmidt who is absolutely amazing; a very talented and awesome guy who did the cover of Pray for Dawn for me simply because he liked the game so much. I mean this cover is amazing. He told me, “I work better with direction so just tell me what you want and we can start there.” So I told him I wanted the characters kind of facing this ruined city and have the sun setting in the distance with kind of a worried look on their faces. So what he did was take his character that he was playing, this monk with a drinking problem, this girl Michele who was playing an elf, and this ogre they get stuck together by accident with in the adventure. Then he threw them into this cover and really nailed it. He has worked for some other game companies as well and is just amazing.

Chris Thompson is another great artist who worked on Pray for Dawn and is actually a close friend of mine. All of them agreed to help with the project and we decided to just work together as a guild and kind of feed off of each others’ talents whenever we need help on a project. So I feel really grateful as well to have run into people like this that love the game; they believe in it, and want to see it take off.  I do plan on coming out with a revised edition in the future, but that is in the very beginning stages right now. In the next edition I wish to fix the problems that I have had with my old art and come out with all new artwork and an entire new layout design. Just gotta’ have support and money to print the hard copies and I have faith that the next revision will be really cool.

Since I mentioned the Pray for Dawn book I should probably explain a little about that. I haven’t seen anything like this project yet but it is a survival horror campaign for Chaos 6010 A.D. It is set in the wastelands of Earth and used for starting characters. The book is a 130 page campaign where the adventurers wake up on a pile of dead bodies. They have no memory of why or how they got there, nor do they know who each other is. From that moment on they are kind of forced to stand together and seek shelter, all the while they are kind of trying to find out what is going on and what has happened to them. So these poor characters are forced into this situation together and whether they like each other or not they come to realize that they need each other to survive. If they don’t stick together they quickly realize once they get to this ghost town that they need each other more than anything. Because when they arrive in this abandoned town and the sun goes down, it is a total nightmare. They basically have to survive one night in this town. What is crazy though, you might say why would that take 130 pages? What we did is we made this entire town, every street and every building, have its own story. Every house has its very own nightmare in it. So depending on where the players choose to run and hide for the night could be totally different from what another crew might experience. So you could really go back and play the campaign more than once and have a totally different outcome than what you went through before. It is really a lot of fun. I have also detailed every room in every building so that new game masters can simply read the text out to the players if they are not as good at making things up on the fly, or just don’t feel like it. It is for mature gamers though. There is some very sick stuff in it as well as some disturbing artwork. I’m certainly not going to play this one with my kids, but we are thinking about re-releasing it in a boxed set and teaming up with the guys from Scrying Eye Games. James is a great guy, I walked up and gave him the Chaos Rulebook at Megacon and ever since we have been friends. They do some great battle map sets for all types of games and if their sets were put together with this module it would be a really cool boxed set. So I was thinking about possibly making it more PG than rated R so at least it was open for all ages.

I’ve been told before that Chaos 6010 A.D. is kind of like the Army of Darkness of RPGs. When I was writing it I wanted to approach it as if there is this thug that lives in this world who is explaining everything to you from the rules, to how everything works around you. There have been some rulebooks that I have read that seem so mechanical as if you were reading about how to put a radio together, or how to fix your carburetor. I wanted to try and throw in a lot of dark humor. It was originally supposed to be for adults only. Later I was persuaded to tone it down so that anyone could play it so really all of the harsh language that it is filled with is just kind of bleeped out. It’s filled with my kind of humor which is kind of strange to some people, but whatever. I always thought that it might make it to be more of a cult classic than a big mainstream game. It does have a great deal of violence and drug use for those who wish to pursue the darker paths.

Chaos 6010 A.D. uses a d20 as your primary die. This is your attack and defend die. So rolling a critical on the die can give you an awesome attack, or an awesome defense. I was never a big fan of using all of the same type of dice (all d6 or all d10). So skill dice and damage dice are all very different, you will find yourself using all of the great polyhedral dice that have been created in the normal sets. In this game armor soaks damage, so having an armor rating of 5 will take away five of the damage that is done to you. As for experience you are awarded cool points. You can spend these cool points on basically everything from your seven attributes to more hit points, mana for magic users, chi for those who use martial arts. You can add more to your frenzy pool (which you can burn for extra attacks when you’re mad).  You can raise your skill rating in your knowledge skills, or even buy skill slots to gain more skills or specialize in combat skills.

Within the core rulebook there are 20 character classes to choose from and over 20 alien races to choose from. I was talking to somebody in the company that makes Traveller who said that the game seems a little too heavy handed with so many races. I thought about this but we are talking about a game that spans the width of a multi-verse, there should be an endless amount of races in my mind. If the player wants to make some alien creature with tentacles out of his back and horns out of his chest that has some type of chameleon power then why not? As long as it isn’t too overpowered and it has strengths and weaknesses then let them do what they want. It’s a galaxy for crying out loud, there should be endless races shouldn’t there?

As far as the game experience that players should have when playing Chaos, I think it has always kept this dark mood where there is little hope until the heroes come along to save the people from the demons that have infected some poor souls. I really wanted to incorporate every movie, every story, every video game that I have ever enjoyed into one action packed RPG. I love using mood music to set the scene and when traveling through the dark city streets where it is always raining, it has always had that Blade Runner feel for me. Then when you’re on that job with your crew and you are in the middle of a fight, spells, bullets, and blades are flying around or high speed hovercar chases, I always get that Fear Factory industrial, heavy metal feel, or some hard techno that really gets the battle going.  Every session we play seems like another great episode of my favorite T.V. show. That is certainly what it reminds me of, even if I am the game master all of the time (hint: I’d like to play sometimes too guys); I really do not mind because it is always a lot of fun.

Creating the game has been a lot of fun and anyone out there that might wish to create their own games are certainly in for a long ride. This game took me probably two years to complete on my own and I have been playing it for over ten years now. I hadn’t really tried to get it out there until about two years ago. I lived in Japan for about four years on a military base called Camp Zama. The first play testers were a group of military guys stationed there and before I knew it there were people calling a week in advance to reserve a spot. I feel honored to have met these people over the years and I can’t take all of the credit for designing every little thing. There were plenty of ideas and such that were thrown my way. I feel like I am still a beginner in this field of design but I have learned so much over the years about the entire publishing industry, layouts, graphics design, everything. It is very difficult to get people to look at you and take an interest in something when they are so set in a game that they like in many cases. As well, it is also strange to me how many people will ridicule you without taking a look at your work. Especially over the internet, some people are very quick to talk trash behind their computer.

So for other designers just starting out, if you know your product is good and you believe in your work with all your heart, then go for it. Don’t give up and keep at the hard work. Don’t quit your job or anything though!  Geesh! No, but on the flip side of that you will certainly meet a lot of good people; these are the ones that stand together and help each other out in the industry. Just like in any industry I suppose. I have met a great deal of talented and good-natured people. As long as people can treat one another with respect, then it is all good.

So if you are interested in checking out Arcanum Syndicate products, you can find us on and There are some free downloads there and the new contracts are great mission ideas and props to hand out to your players. As well since our website was recently stolen, please like us on Facebook under Chaos 6010 A.D. There you may feel free to contact me or the other writers and artists, or even sign up for upcoming VTT (virtual tabletop) games that I will be running online. The next book coming out will be the Chaos Armory filled with all new weapons, armor, gear, and the new character class: the Armorer.  Thank you all for reading and I hope you all keep rocking in the Roleplayers Chronicle. Good luck in your struggles my friends!

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