Mining For Inspiration

Sorry Phantom Followers, it’s been a while! As I think I’ve talked about here before, I’m terrible at updating.

Nonetheless, here is a reasonably timely update for the Psionics Kickstarter! This update actually contains a lot of the stuff I want to talk about here, so I’m just going to post in a chunk of it in.

[Our local playtest group] has been struggling with some not entirely unexpected scheduling difficulties but nonetheless has managed to log three playtest sessions (six hours in length) since the playtest period began. We have our next one scheduled for tomorrow, and hopefully many more between now and January 1st 2015, when the playtest period officially ends (although we may keep playing after that). Local playtest experience has already yielded a few solid handfuls of rules corrections, tweaks, and ideas.

As I said previously, the priority between now and the start of 2015 is finishing the manuscript and incorporating actual playtest feedback into the final manuscript. What I am doing first is the “meat and potatoes”, all of the rules, mechanics, and procedural advice necessary for a game that feels entirely complete and able to support many robust campaigns. What we’ll shift focus towards going into the new year once the nuts and bolts are in place is the “candy coating”, all of the pretty stuff. This means first embellishing the manuscript with flavor, quotes and of course awesome fiction (which you generous people have paid for), and then embarking on the journey of securing the awesome art that you generous people have paid for and letting Mikaela work her layout magic, perhaps going into the later stages of that process in March or April (too early to say now for sure). Until then, I’m letting my actual play experience serve as both a continuing stress test of the rules and mechanics and as a groundswell of inspiration I’m currently storing up as the basis for the thematic and aesthetic trappings that my fiction and the fiction of other contributors will imbue the game with as the final coat of polish before the art and layout phase. This process is, fittingly, happening side by side with the painstaking “training” of the Psionics Pandora station.

It’s the last few sentences that I want to expand on here. So I did, although I didn’t expand on the music part much. Let me just say either listening to music is an inseparable part of your creative output or it isn’t, and either you know the uniquely frustrating experience of hammering a Pandora Station into the shape you want, or you don’t. : )

Basically speaking, this unusually lengthy playtest process is fascinating to me and I’m really enjoying having the time window to leisurely unpack the process and take my time with it. My past games have been written and published with much less time for playtesting and almost no time for REFLECTING on that playtesting. While I think the games we’ve already published came out pretty great (I’m biased), I’m finding both the playtesting and the time to reflect to be really invaluable. If nothing else, I’m catching mistakes that I never caught in past projects until the book was already published.

To be blunt, by no later than early next year, I need to write some fiction for Psionics and also write some evocative hooks and guidelines for the Fiction we’re going to pay other talented people to write. This prospect scares the everloving shit out of me. There are a lot of reasons of varying importance for this. The fact that I’m rusty at writing fiction-qua-fiction and I know I’m rusty at writing that kind of fiction (gosh, I think it’s been years since I’ve done it anything resembling regularly) isn’t the core issue, nor is the fact that I’ve never been a “manager” for other writers before.

The issue is more that my standards and expectations of the quality of the Psionics fiction–my own writing not just included, but especially–are enormously high. But even that doesn’t get at the heart of it, because I don’t just want it to be awesome, even more than I wanted the fiction associated with the Singularity System and SPLINTER to be awesome.

The real stumbling block is that for me there is a certain seemingly ineffable, seemingly unnameable, emotive, philosophical attitude, literary quality, aesthetic, and most of all style that I want the Psionics fiction to have. What I want, in my head, is so evolved in style from earlier versions of Psionics as to be almost unrecognizable when compared to the 2007 and 2002 incarnations of the unpublished game.

I hate things I can’t say in English, but the French have a better phrase for this. It is a very literal “je ne sais quois. I’m not being clever or coy here, because “je ne sais quois” is French that literally translates to “I-DON’T KNOW-WHAT”  and I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT. Or more saliently, more accurately, I do know what, in my heart, and my mind, but so far I’ve been totally unable to approach putting that quality and style into even the most rudimentary words. Which is a very problematic thing because putting it into words is literally my most important job.

Never fear, though. I’ve got time, I’ve got a burgeoning playtest campaign to mine for inspiration, I’ve got books to read, and I’ve got music to listen to while I do it. So I am going to sais quois this je ne sais quois, come hell or high water. Mainly by playing Psionics.

In other (enigmatic) news…invisible drama (if I’ve talked to you face to face in the last month or so, don’t worry, I’m not talking about you) continues to be more or less invisible, against my fundamental instincts, as I try to focus on productive things rather than my mounting thirst for absolute destruction.

I hope to make a more general update on our company soon. But since aspirations don’t always align with reality as far as blogging goes, here’s the short version in case I disappear for a few more months. We’ve got an exciting distribution deal with Studio 2 Publishing and that might allow us to actually have a reasonable presence at GenCon next year, hope to God.

Quick Update – GenCon ’14

So, we went to GenCon 2014 and we’re safely back now, news that virtually every reader knew almost two weeks ago. I actually saw a lot of folks posted their con recap the day after they got back home, which is good ‘n all cause stuff is fresh in their minds, but I can’t roll that way. My pace is a whole lot slower. Even now, about a fortnight after the con ended, I’m still finishing up the recovery step, with the reportage step still on the horizon for me.

Long story short: we had some fun, for once, because we weren’t required (or in fact, allowed) to be at the booth the entire time. However it was nonetheless very stressful. With no other choice and not knowing as much as we should have going in, we were locked into a booth scheme that was very problematic, and our sales (and general level of gamer interaction) were nowhere near what Origins of this year has showed us they could and should be. Much more on this later–once I’ve had more time to digest, unpack, and process everything that’s happened–followed by a general recap of all the fun stuff we did/bought/saw at GenCon even later on, after that. Keep an eye out for (much) these belated posts.

Other News:

1) We did a Q&A thing with the GMShoe, Dan Davenport. You can read it here.

2) Psionics Kickstarter. Still Kickin’ and Starting. We’ve got over a week left, not too late to jump in, expect a big final push from us when we get closer to the cut-off date.

3) In the near future we’re going to begin actively soliciting professional reviews for some of our older games that tragically don’t have full reviews yet. So um, if you happen to be a reviewer, and you happen to be reading this (and I think, y’know, cause of the foregoing sentence that that’s unlikely) drop us a line.

4) In the near future we’re going to begin actively and aggressively forming an elite team of GMs who will run End Transmission’s numerous RPGs around the country in exchange for free books, merch, perks, and most importantly, glory. This will follow the generation of a suitably epic name for this cadre of gamemasters, as well as some changes to our website. So keep an eye out for that.


This thing I wrote, Superstar Profile: Kade Merek is live on DriveThru RPG.

BUYITBUYITBUYITBUYIT BUYITBUYIT IT’S A DOLLAR. Er, ahem. Ahem. Superliminal messaging complete.

If you’re a SPLINTER fan, for the love of God, buy it. Then get all your friends to buy it, especially if they’re on the fence about SPLINTER. It’s just a buck for cripe’s sakes.

Speaking of which, if you’re on the fence about SPLINTER, for the love of God, buy Superstar Profile: Kade Merek. At $1.00, it costs less than a soda, so a lower risk purchase you won’t find. And it should give you a nice enough taste of the setting’s flavor and attitude to make up your mind–hopefully in the affirmative (but not if you hate violence). 

In other news, the Psionics Kickstarter continues to rumble along like a badass psychic train. Please do get on board. I promise a wild ride.

Let’s Start A Fire

At long last, things are happening. In my brain slides that strange moment of recognition that perhaps after all there *was* a right answer all along. “I’m sorry, but the correct Religion was…MORMON.”

Within fifteen minutes of stepping out of the shower this afternoon, I was: on the #rpgnet chatroom talking to Dan Davenport (the GMShoe) about scheduling a PsionicsQ&A for August 21st, on my personal facebook linking the Psionics Kickstarter, on the Psionics Kickstarter responding to backers, and combing through and shaking my head at decidedly sketchy and quite mercenary Kickstarter-boosting spam from half a dozen different directions.

Yesterday at 5:00PM our Psionics Kickstarter went live after a month of really hard work.

corridor kickstarter image

Since then we have received $1,417 dollars of our $2,500 goal, which we have 45 44 days to raise. At the time of this writing, we are just now nearing the 24 hour mark. Our First Wave $5.00 and $10.00 rewards are sold out.

In the #rpgnet chatroom I’m amicably swapping KS backs with fellow indie devs and rapping capsule description of my half-dozen or so published games to a tiny chatroom of gamers that haven’t heard of any of them in the years they’ve been out. I can’t even be surprised anymore. We never did a Kickstarter, after all.

So, finally, and once and for all, with great relief, I will make this statement: things are finally beginning to happen. Things are finally beginning to move.

My friends: please back us on Kickstarter. Let’s keep this motherfucker burning.

-DTO Out

Psionics Logo no BG

On The Horizon (great big news post)

Here at End Transmission Games, we’ve been working on some exciting stuff! As I have done more than once in the past, I’ll passingly mention that virtually no one reads this or is reading it; I can probably name way too high a percent of this blog’s readers just off the top of my head. But perhaps that is going to begin to change, as End Transmission is taking strides towards vaulting onto the public stage in a whole new way.

Let’s start with S|P|L|I|N|T|E|R!

So if you’re like new, SPLINTER is our very first game product and first appeared on the market way back in 2012, during ICON 31. Since then I’ve been shorthanding its premise as The Running Man meets D&D on Acid; a fun description, but not an adequate one to contain all its transgressively meta weirdness (and it sadly leaves out BLAME! and Dark City entirely). Three years ago when it was still theoretical and not yet a finished product, I explained it here in quite a bit more detail. In the two years and change since it came out it hasn’t seen a supporting release, a real shame, the cause of which is how busy we were launching other game lines.

Well, now SPLINTER finally has a supplement coming out, hopefully, in the next week. It’s a $1.00 PDF and only around ten pages long. In spite of that it’s an an essential piece of setting information that greatly illuminates the interaction between Earthside and the Realm, and gives gamers a glimpse of what can be expected from a continued SPLINTER campaign. In short, it helps illustrate “How To Use SPLINTER” as a game/setting, an example of tone and content that was sorely needed.


It’s the Superstar Profile of this guy Ronald Singh (the Player behind Kade Merek). He’s the greatest star the Splinter has ever seen. Superstar Profile: Kade Merek details how he made it to the top, climbing a big damn pile of bodies.

This is him. Art is WIP.
This is him. Art is WIP.

Ronald Singh is the most popular Player the Game has ever known. As the voice and mind behind Kade Merek, Needlekin assassin, his Adventures have sold billions of copies and garnered millions of subscribers and fans the world over. This in-depth bio profiles the rise of Kade Merek, from Singh’s conscription into the game as an Amateur at the age of 19 and his very first short form matches through the Long Form Adventures that made “Jacknife Kade” a legend, like Massacre at Lost Moorstoke (2455) and Quest For The Shade Diadem (2458), to recent events like Merek’s accession to the position of Royal Assassin for the Novembrist Court. Come and relive the story, and celebrate the man behind the legend!


Complete game statistics for Ronald Singh and Kade Merek are also provided.


 So this little product should offer a little signal flare for SPLINTER fans that the SPLINTER line is still alive and well. It will be released, hopefully, in the next week or two (a time period in which a lot of other exciting stuff is happening). Depending on how it sells, there may be more Superstar Profiles coming in the future, introducing us to some of the Game’s other movers and shakers.

Meanwhile, since the SPLINTER corebook was published (or even earlier) we’ve been working on two much bigger supplements. Since the Realm is meant to be limited, we want it to have as near to an infinite amount of content–wondrous treasure to find, strange monsters to fight, powerful spells to cast-as we can. We want random tables that sprawl for pages and pages. And the nearest mortal authors can get to infinite is arbitrarily large. Little Wondrous Things will introduce hundreds and hundreds of new weapons, armor, gear, spells, and technology to populate the Realm’s vast treasure store. Ugly Things will add over a hundred new monsters to populate the Realm and challenge Avatars of all Ascension Levels. These products don’t have a release date at this time–these are big books, with loads of content, being written by very few people–but they are somewhere on the distant horizon.

Now on to other news. The epic, 420 page Systems Malfunction campaign setting is still on sale for The Singularity System as a PDF. Efforts to get a correct print proof have been frustrating. Lightning Source is really, really dropping the ball on this for some reason. But hopefully we’ll have a physical copy for sale on DriveThru soon. So buy it now or buy it soon, once we finally manage to make it a widely available book!

Both halves of End Transmission Games are proud to announce that we have joined the Indie Game Developer Network. You’ll be able to find the IGDN presence, ourselves included, at Booth #1539 at this year’s GenCon, which is coming up in just a few weeks. We’ll have all our products there for sale.

Now, for the big one…


Psionics is a close cousin to Phantasm(2010), and uses the same core rules mechanic, the DicePunk System. I’ve been writing Psionics, on and off, in various incarnations, since I was 14 years old. That means that it is a one person passion project, a labor of love 14 years in the making! The year 2000, now amazingly nearly a decade and a half ago, was around the time I realized that just about anyone could make a roleplaying game out of just about anything. And I decided to make one that was very loosely based on the obscure PS1 game Galerians– which was never famous and has by now largely faded into obscurity–with an eye towards everything that, in turn, inspired Galerians. I have rewritten it over and over, throwing out everything I had as juvenillia and starting over time after time while marinating the subject matter in just tons and tons of thought. It has evolved into something very, very different in the decade and a half it’s been in pre-development.

Psionics is set in the real world, in the present day, or 20 minutes into the future, if you like. The players take the role of troubled teenagers and young adults who have just had an enormous power hidden inside them unlocked by external tampering–psionic talents. Following in the footsteps of novels and films like Akira, Carrie, Firestarter, and Scanners, the PCs will gain the ability to solve problems in their lives with the superhuman abilities available to them. And you’ll be confronted with questions about the cost of using telekinesis or pyrokinesis to get revenge on the bullies that tormented you, or using mind control to convince the girl you have a crush on to give you a chance.

Meanwhile, the PCs–called Espers–are hunted by a multitude of shadowy Conspiracies. These competing Conspiracies are seeking to control you and manipulate you into advancing their sinister agendas, and they have enormous resources at their disposal. So the story becomes, how do you buck the system and defy these groups seeking to capture and indoctrinate you, while coming to grips with your psionic talents. While the talents that Espers can access give them awesome problem-solving tools to play with, overusing your talents and pushing things too far can result in a catastrophic meltdown that is spectacularly fatal for everyone around you. So basically as a “typical” Esper, you’re a literal ticking time bomb of teenage angst, with enormous psychic powers, and the Man, in various incarnations, is constantly shadowing you and trying to fuck with you, taking away your agency and making you a foot soldier in their cause.

Espers are troubled young people with the aforementioned enormous psychic powers.

The bad news is that you have serious emotional problems.

The good news is that you have enormous psychic powers.

The other bad news is that because of your powers, shadowy conspiracies that secretly rule the world want to indoctrinate you into being their loyal puppets, or just put you in a cage and/or vivisect you, for science!–and to help them better rule the world.

But hey, the good news is that you still have enormous psychic powers.

The other other bad news is that your enormous psychic powers and becoming a fugitive from these conspiracies are going to make your serious emotional problems a lot worse.

Still bro…. enormous psychic powers. What could possibly go wrong?

So on top of a lifetime of being pushed around by your parents and tormented by bullies and snubbed by crushes who don’t even know you exist, The Man has emerged from the shadows to literally take control of your life. However, now you’re not limited to locking yourself in your room and listening to loud music. Now you have a real and powerful tool for pushing back. And you’re going to push back, aren’t you? You’re going to push back hard.

This hard:

Read Between The Lines

Psionics uses the DicePunk System, a very streamlined and flexible rules set with only four character attributes– Strength, Speed, Wits, and Will-and with player-defined skills augmenting the set list of skills. The DicePunk System is also used in our fangame, Phantasm (2010), which was nominated for an Ennie award for Best Free RPG in 2013. On top of the basic DicePunk chassis of Attributes, Skills, and Combat Techniques we’re going to overlay an in-depth set of rules for psionic talents. These will range from the “bread and butter” psionic powers like telekinesis (moving things with your mind, all the way from being able to levitate a coin to being able to throw or crush a city bus), pyrokinesis (starting fires with your will alone), and psychokinesis (mind-reading and mind-control) to exotic psi talents like magnekinesis (weather control), somakinesis (manipulating your body to enable superhuman physical feats), technokinesis (psionically ‘hacking’ mechanical systems), and necrokinesis (causing a cardiac arrest with a thought). The result is a tabletop RPG that will look and play out a lot like recent movies Push (2009) and Chronicle (2012).

To make the dream of Psionics, which is over a decade old, into an actual book people can buy and an actual game people can play with their friends, we’re going to use something we’ve been thinking about getting in on for years.


Virtually every indie RPG I can think of that’s hit a huge level of success and public awareness has been associated with a successful Kickstarter. So here’s hoping we can become part of that illustrious tradition, and here’s hoping I’m far from the only one who wants to play Firestarter/Akira/Chronicle the Tabletop RPG! If all goes well, our Psionics Kickstarter will be going live within the next week (!!) so be sure to check back here soon, or find us on KS, to check out the neat perks and rewards we’ll be offering backers.

And I think that covers everything. Until next time, DTO out.

Hard Out There For A Pimp

So much-belated Origins 2014 after action con report GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I think this may be shorter than usual, but I do have a tendency to say something like that and then write something like INFINITY pages, so we’ll see. I always have trouble hitting the mark between “short enough to read as perfunctory” and “really freaking long”

This year we were at Origins, running demos, and selling games. By we I mean the End Transmission Games crew, myself, Mikaela, and Rachid Yahya tagged along to help us out (thanks again, Rachid!). We were able to hold our heads up proudly because the Systems Malfunction setting book for the Singularity System is finally done after about a year and a half of sweat and toil and cat herding! Go buy it! Now!! Buy two of it!

Our pal Jason Walters of IPR/HERO Games/Blackwyrm Publishing invited us to join our booth to the three that IPR/Blackwyrm had to form an island, and we were happy to do so. It was a nifty arrangement and I’d love to do something similar in the future at Origins shows yet to come.

Following a meeting with Jason Pitre at the con, we have applied to join the amazing Indie Game Developer Network, home to many cool dudes and ladies what makes the indie RPGs. I sincerely hope we are accepted among their ranks, because it seems to be our last shot at having a sales presence at GenCon this year, without which we’re DOOOOOOOMED…not to have a sales presence at GenCon this year. Which would be terribly unfortunate, as our books are already headed there, and so are we.

Now on to the topic of… SALES, SALES, SELLING AND SALES

Sales were…not great, but not terrible. At least that’s my gut feeling without access to sales data for any companies of our size in our position…and without knowing for sure of any companies that are exactly our size and in exactly our position. Sales is a tough topic. As I said to many people and had said to me by many people over the course of the con, selling an RPG is a lot like selling a car. To someone who already has several cars. That they don’t ever use.

Basically, what I am learning is that our company sells the majority of our products during conventions. A lot of this is hand sales, us actually selling things AT conventions. This can be ascribed to A) Mikaela being i) a pretty girl and ii) actively outgoing, and please note that the latter of those two things is literally no less possible for me than the former, and B) game designers excitedly talking about their products to potential customers. But not all of the sales that happen DURING conventions happen AT the convention. We also see huge spikes in our online sales during cons. Which is weird but not really…I guess some of the dozens of people that take a business card and say they’ll “check us out online” do just that, and like what they see.

Besides conventions, we do most of our sales through DriveThru RPG, a huge online megastore of all things vaguely roleplaying related. While we are fortunate enough as of this writing to have an awesomely high publisher rating on DriveThru RPG and numerous very favorable and flattering reviews, DriveThru does not do anything to actively promote are products like they do for larger and better known companies. I think the number of sales we have through DriveThru have more to do with the degree to which DriveThru has cornered the online RPG Market.

Our sales on “indie” venues like the indie RPGs un-store and Indie Press Revolution are much more disappointing, especially since these are “indie” venues and as a publisher, we are as “indie” as you can possibly get. In fact, to quote MC Frontalot, with only a pinch of irony,

Unpromoted,  don’t know how you found me.
Soundly situated in obscurityland,
famous in inverse proportion to how cool I am,
and should I ever garner triple-digit fans
you can tell me then there’s someone I ain’t indier than. 

IPR who is our distributor (kind of), for instance, does not (perhaps “can’t” is the word to use?) carry our products at national conventions because they don’t sell well enough to justify taking up shelf space that could be used for the “mainstream” “indie” RPGs (to what degree is that an oxymoron?) people are literally flocking to buy (cough). From a purely capitalistic perspective, this makes perfect sense because it makes financial sense. It’s just the fact that places like IPR present themselves as advocates for independent creator-publishers just as much as they present themselves as business ventures that makes it a hard pill to swallow. When you’re so Indie (read: unpromoted, unadvertised, unknown) that self-identified Indie venues can’t carry your shit because it’s too obscure, it starts to feel like a real Joseph Heller, by which I mean a Catch 22. Of course, it’s not like the big guys are looking out for our interests either…or even know we exist. Oh well, not whining, just philosophizing. 

But we’re pursuing avenues to try and raise awareness of our brand and all that other…corporate shit…that I despise…because I’m a flaky tortured artist creative type and all I know is to mak gams, not to mak money *le sigh*. Anyway if you’re reading this and you weren’t yesterday, then maybe something’s working.

And then there’s the big old fashioned national Distributors that are still in many ways the gatekeeper to FLGS (Friendly Local Game Stores) sales and that whole huge market segment (not everyone buys on the internet or at cons), but that’s such a big topic it will have to be saved for another post.

So that about raps up the recap of Origins and the thoughts stemming from it. We learned our lessons from last year, we brought a lot less books, and we sold a great big mess of them, in person and (I’m presuming, if things go like they usually do during cons) online. We put a ton of business cards in a ton of hands and had a ton of interesting conversations and made a ton of contacts, just like last year. As far as our public awareness, we are still somewhere between “way under the radar” and “totally unknown” but hopefully rising on the graph. Anyone into us know is into End Transmission Games before it was mainstream. Or “indie”. Or whatever it is sells thousands of games. 

There is a new S P L I N T E R product on the horizon! Finally! It should see release in the next few weeks, maybe I’ll blog about it first! We are also planning our very first KICKSTARTER. I will definitely be a-blogging about that soon.

Till next time!

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And my girlfriend likes UL and DHC
And she’s so smart and independent
I don’t think she needs me
Quite half as much as I know I need her
I wonder why there’s not another guy she’d prefer

Yeah my girlfriend takes collect calls from the road
And it doesn’t seem to matter that I’m lacking in the bulge
She laughs at my dumb jokes when no one does
She brings me Mexican food from Sombrero just because