Transmissions From The End #009

Company News

It looks like we’re finally getting a full-time director of sales, marketing, and logistics. While I don’t mind disclosing it’s a huge fiscal investment for us to bring on a full time employee (as I think many of the people reading this know, Mikaela and I don’t actually get paid as such, and have been working on End Transmission “pro bono” for half a decade now), I’m really hoping that having someone who is devoted full time to raising our market profile will really help us to gain the traction we so badly need. In short, I have been sick for years of the fact we’ve been around since 2012 and no one has heard of us. We will now be employing someone full time to change that. Fingers crossed.

GM’s Day Sale

Almost all of our core game books and a few GM-centric supplements have been marked down by 30% on DriveThruRPG as part of their GM’s Day Sale. Go over and pick up any End Transmission titles you don’t own yet. The deals only last until March 13th!

Trumpsionics

As promised last transmission, here is a short essay about how the election of the pussy grabber in chief, “orange is the new black”, changed the universe of PsionicsEvery time the real world gets turned upside down like this (and gosh let’s hope it’s not many), we’ll try to provide the Psionics fan-base with some guidance on how the changes to the real world, now, effect the game–which is ostensibly set in the real world, and now.

Disclaimer: Two things. One, if, like many of my players, you’d prefer to at least be able to escape to an imaginary reality where Trump is not president, by all means, you do you. Trump does not need to be president in your Psionics universe. Secondly, the following may seem like a lot of editorializing on real world topics on my part, but that’s not how it’s primarily meant. While doubtless my perspective shines through somewhat, this is primarily meant to be read as written from the Institute’s point of view. 

The deep state parasite known as the Institute did not engineer the rise to power of President Donald J. Trump. In fact, they were powerless to stop it. Trump is the first President since the inception of the Institute in the 1950s that the Institute did not have a hand in electing. This has greatly weakened the Institute’s hold on the continental United States. “The Madness of King Donald” was not something the Institute was prepared to deal with. The Institute’s  highest-placed conspirators and policy-makers are within the US clandestine services and intelligence community. And Trump’s flagrant disregard and disrespect for the US intelligence community are frankly unprecedented, and have posed the Institute with unprecedented challenges. The status quo for decades has been that the President is a powerless figurehead and the Shop runs the US Federal Government from the shadows. That status quo has faced its first major challenge in the election of a president so unpredictable that the Shop cannot figure out how to manipulate him. To put it bluntly, they don’t see how they can get Trump to play ball when he is, essentially, a crazy person that became president by a terrible, terrible accident.

The Institute has concluded that their preferred presidential patsy and figurehead, Hilary Clinton, was compromised by the Red Orchestra’s hack of the US election. Abraxis Biotech has benefited more from the US presidential upset than Matryoshka, however. Several cabinet posts in the Trump administration have gone to corporate fat cats that Abraxis has its corporate tendrils of control in, including the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Commerce. Influence over the Treasury Department in particular will allow Abraxis to interfere with the Shop’s operations through obstruction to the federal funding that they are illegally siphoning. To the Shop, it’s unclear if the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is more loyal to Abraxis or Matryoshka, but he appears to be compromised by both. The Shop retains serious influence over the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland security, but has no optimism for its ability to influence President Trump through those departments.

To date, the Institute has not authorized any plans to deal with the Trump situation in either of the two obvious ways: assassination (under a false flag, most likely through a radical antifa movement, since the resultant crackdown would make things difficult for the Zodiac Order, which is finding the Antifa movement to be an incredibly useful recruitment tool) or mind control via the deployment of a powerful psychokinetic Esper. While the assessment of various operational plans for these options has generally produced a chance of success of greater than 90%, the risk of exposure has been deemed too great for The Shop to risk exposure. One of the Shop’s highest operational priorities is ensuring that the general public remains ignorance of the existence of Espers and of course, of its own existence. No matter how slim the chance, the Shop’s decision makers aren’t willing to risk a botched operation to remove Trump that could even potentially result in the light of the public eye falling on the Institute, or on the existence of Espers. Any operation to “revise” the results of the Presidential election would draw away badly needed resources from the Institute’s ongoing operations to capture and control Espers on US soil and around the globe.

So for now, like ordinary Americans, the conspirators of the Institute are forced to wait and see how the country fares under the leadership of a president that is widely perceived as a maniac and a fool. Depending on how Trump’s unpredictability plays out, the Institute may later have to risk action, direct or indirect, to remove him from power. Plans to approach and recruit Vice President Mike Pence are already in the offing in the event of Trump’s assassination or impeachment by forces outside of the Institute’s direct control.

As if Trump’s presidency wasn’t bad for them on enough fronts as discussed above, the public resistance to Trump has given birth to an American counterculture that is larger and stronger than any seen since the culture wars of the 1960s. The Zodiac Order has already latched on to and subverted this anti-fascist, pro-Social Justice movement, giving them more ability to hide in plain sight than ever.

I-CON 32

After an absence of some years, I-CON is back for its 32nd outing! End Transmission first ever game dropped at I-CON in 2012, so naturally we’re excited for the convention’s return. We’ll be at the exhibitor’s hall in force with the full suite of End Transmission Games products, so be sure to come by the show and say hi to us if you’re in the area!

<end transmission>

Transmissions From The End #008

What’s up End Transmission fans, he said by way of greeting, unsure if he was addressing an actual group of people that actually exist or a figment of his fevered imagination.

This episode is a sneak preview of what we’ve got coming up for the year 2017. Because we’re still early in the year, be aware of all of the following: there are some things we want to keep under wraps for now, some things we haven’t figured out yet, and some things we haven’t even thought of yet. With all of those caveats at the way, let’s talk about some stuff. Here’s an update on almost everything.

Systems Malfunction

For over 10 years it was an amazing, awesome, experimental boffer LARP. Then it was a gigantic, bullet-stopping setting book for the Singularity System. Then last year in October you guys funded us so we could make Systems Malfunction–still powered by the Singularity System–a standalone RPG. Again, thanks!

But I really, really, really want the book to be full color because well…just look at all of this full color art we produced during the Kickstarter. It’s AMAZING! But we ran out of time on our KS more than $10,000 short of our Full Color stretch goal. We thought more about what an injustice it would be to have to grayscale down those images from glorious CMYK,  So we tightened our belts and crunched the numbers a bit and now we’ve got an IndieGoGo set up. If we can get $3,500 in the next 59 days or so, we can make the book full color, which would be so great. For those of you who already gave generously to the KS and are already getting SysMal, if you have any ideas for additional rewards we could offer you through the IndieGoGo, shoot ’em over to me.

As for production on the actual book, here’s a quick look behind the scenes. The manuscript is currently just a hair under 50,000 words. Probably about 10,000 of those words are boilerplate and need to be rewritten. As a point of reference, Psionics weighed in at 78,000 words and change, and that was before about 30,000 words of fictions. I anticipate needing to write approximately another 20-30k words before the manuscript is complete, not counting a 10,000 word piece of introductory fiction. The latter I won’t be writing myself, at least plant A is that I want to hire a famous writer to write it. Someone whose name you will have heard of. But you know, make plans and hear God laugh, all that stuff. Anyway, I don’t anticipate having much trouble finishing the text portion of the game that remains to be finished at the rate which I write/design games, but art and layout often take longer, and we won’t know if the remaining art we’re commissioning will be color or B&W for 60 days. Still, we should be in position to deliver on our promise of a GenCon 50 release date, barring any (further) unforeseen personal disasters. Backers will receive their books first where at all possible.

S.P.L.I.N.T.E.R.

Last year I tried to launch the SPLINTER “living campaign” and didn’t get anywhere with it so I’m really hoping to make it work this year. If you don’t know what a “living campaign” is, the idea that diverse groups of gamers are playing the same adventures in the same setting at different game tables at various conventions across the country. It’s synonymous with ordinary play. D&D, Pathfinder, and Shadowrun: Missions have all run successful living campaigns at some point in their lifecycles. I know that we won’t be able to orchestrate on that scale any time soon, but we’re also doing things a little bit differently in that it is a literal, cohesive campaign: players can play it from the beginning or jump in wherever, experiencing an epic story where their choices really matter (my plan is, like what many established living campaigns did to one degree or another, to gather data on the choices made by players and think about how those can effect the writing of future adventures).

The living campaign is called Glory & Gore.

We have three episodes already written, and I had planned on writing the fourth, fifth, and sixth episode some time this year before Origins. Whether we have three episodes or six for 2017 players, it should be hard for the living campaign to do worse than the sad story of 2016, where we only ultimately ran two four hour instances of the living campaign. I am hoping to have a GM team that can run at least 25 instances of Glory & Gore, or 100 hours of organized SPLINTER gameplay, over the course of 2017. Wish me luck.

In other SPLINTER news, we have a terrific (and terrifying) adventure coming out hopefully at this year’s I-CON called Return To The Dread Abyss Of The Digitarchs from Oubliette co-creator Richard Kelly who also lead the charge on the (free) SPLINTER QSR. Art direction on it is almost three weeks behind, so it maybe delayed to a Lunacon or Origins release. Having not written it myself, I can say it is one of the greatest published adventures I’ve ever seen, for any game system.

Finally, I have a vision of a SPLINTER box set which will include the most current printings of SPLINTER Core, Sometimes Little Wondrous Things, and Ugly Things, perhaps also the SPLINTER Quick Start Rules, and pamphlets with things like three new playable Bloodlines (!) and rules for Martial Arts in the Realm (both ones Players train in Earthside, and ones passed down by Bloodlines for Aeons).

Psionics

Only two major pieces of news on the Psionics front (although there is some more Dicepunk news in the following and final heading). The first is that we want to take steps towards mass-producing the Psionics comic in a normal comic book size/format and try to get it in the hands of brick & mortar and digital comics retailers. Quite simply, we feel it’s too good a comic to be restricted to the cozy niche of tabletop gaming. We want to get it out there in the world.

And I also want to write a sequel, which is…daunting. But I want a comic book series, and it was never meant to be a one-off. I’m going to have to nut up and do it eventually, but thinking on the fact that I procrastinated writing “Tomorrow’s Starlight” longer than I procrastinated writing anything in my adult life, it may be later rather than sooner.

Speaking of sequels, sales of The Pleasantville Project have been decent enough that we are seriously considering beginning work on its sequel, continuing the Eternal Storm Campaign that will walk Psionics players from the awakening of their gifts to the end of the world as they know it.

No Country For Great Old Ones

(First off, a DicePunk adventure I believe I mentioned on here last year, Escape From Cleveland is officially cancelled before entering production. It stopped being fun around the same time that Trump was elected, making the possibility of Trump’s presidency 100% terrifying and 0% funny. However, since Psionics is firmly set “now”,  Psionics fans deserve an update on how the Trump presidency has effected the secret factions of the Psionics universe, much as it’s shaken up everything in the real world. This update will be short, free, and most likely delivered through this blog.)

No Country For Old Men is an adventure we have in the works that will feature officially licensed game statistics for Delta Green, Savage Worlds, and HERO System, Fifth Edition, Revised (or FRED) in addition to our own Dicepunk system.

No Country For Great Old Ones will be an intense, southern fried crime drama with subtle elements of supernatural horror. It’s deeply inspired by the excellent film “Hell or High Water”: my basic thought process, having been playing a lot of Delta Green at the time was, wow, what if we threw some Mythos into this mix.

The Delta Green and HERO System rules deal directly with the Lovecraft mythos, while the Savage Worlds and DicePunk rules keep the same basic structure of the adventure, but use elements of the mythos that we developed for Phantasm(2010) in place of the Lovecraftian stuff (I finally saw Phantasm RaVager, and my feelings are mixed). No Country will be unique in a few ways besides having full stats for four different game systems. Namely, it is a “two sided” adventure (think of an old record, with an A side and a B side) where the PCs can be either the “cops” or the “robbers”. Once you’ve played through it from one side, you can play through it as the other side, and see how the other half lives, and see what formidable enemies your former characters make.

We could probably rush No Country into production in time for Origins of this year without a problem, but we’re also considering doing a Kickstarter for the adventure to raise awareness. That would delay its release until well, well after GenCon, however, since as a company rule we don’t launch a Kickstarter until we’ve delivered on the previous one.

That’s it for the fourth week of February and the first time I’ve managed to force myself to make a proper update this year. Tune in next Thursday or the following Thursday  (hopefully) for more Transmissions From The End.

<End Transmission>

 

 

Crawling Out of the Muck and Mire

It’s a new year! 2016 is over…really, it’s over. Which is quite a relief, because 2016 was a shitshow of never before seen proportions, start to finish trash-fire 100%. Most people mention all the beloved celebrities who died, but for me it’s the election of the Goddamn antichrist for President of the United States and everything that implies that really seals the deal on 2016 being the worst year ever: that and the fact that it was a bad year for me personally (the worst year of my life on record, to be clear), and many friends and acquaintances.

But it is over. 2017 is here. Three days into a brand new years. I have plans I’m trying to put into immediate action to move m’family (that’s Mikaela and myself and our furry friends) to a new location. 2017 should be a new start, filled with End Transmission Games and therefore myself making and building and releasing all kinds of cool and interesting things. But just right now, if I’m to be honest, I’m having trouble, emotionally speaking, crawling free of the wreckage of 2016 and figuring out how to operate as a real human person again which is, most likely, a basic prerequisite for game design work of any kind. What I’m dealing with is almost certainly clinical depression–I’m on more psychiatric medication than ever before in my life, and none of it is working particularly well. The temptation is there to ditch all of the pills in frustration, but I am well advised what a bad idea that would be.

As has been written about popularly, depression is less a feeling of being sad all the time and more about just a complete lack of drive and impetus to do anything that previously interested me, or even to stay awake. My vital force feels completely drained. Writing this blog post felt like a pointless exercise and probably was, but maybe I can get some traction by making myself write SOMETHING today.  I feel bad about vaguely whining out into the internet, but 350 words about how listless and depressed I am almost feels like an accomplishment relative to my gut instinct upon waking up every day, which is to go immediately back to sleep, forever. My body seems to want to hibernate until the world is less of a dumpster, but that probably ain’t gonna happen, so I gotta find some energy from some place to crawl my way out of the muck and the mire.

Transmissions From The End #00…7?

Transmissions From The End #007

SysMal Kickstarter In Its Last Week

Giant thank you, if you happen to be reading this, to everyone who helped us get this far, from the backers to the writers and artists (whose passion and dedication for their work has genuinely impressed me) to the superfans that have been with us since the old, old, old days at SUNY Purchase (for me, those were the GOOD old days, but even within our innermost inner circle opinions vary widely on that). Having been in the opposite position last year, being funded with a week left to go feels much better than the opposite. I feel like anyone reading this a) has already backed or b) is fervently never going to, but nonetheless, there will be a link a couple of paragraphs down just in case.

I have desperately wanted Systems Malfunction to be a “thing” since graduating college eight years ago (was it eight whole years? was it only eight? time is a baffling thing). And by a “thing”, I mean a thing that least SOME people, at least within the geek set, have heard of. And as I’ve blogged before, it’s all extremely relative but I digress…

I think in 2010 I decided to dedicate my entire life to ensuring its thingness. Now, six years and change of toil and failure later, its thingness is far from ensured: the argument could be made, even, that it’s never going to happen and that I should up. But this moment right now is the closest that Systems Malfunction has ever come to manifesting into the awareness of the public. It’s not there yet, but the Kickstarter isn’t over yet, either, and even when it is, that’s not where things end. I want to build communities around these games: organized play, fan forums, the works. And we want to start really building some of that infrastructure going into the next year.

Anyway, in this Update, I talk about “pipe dream” ideas we had for way past the Full Color stretch goal, in the hopes of getting backers to vote on them, in case we finish with a little extra money. You may want to check that out if you have not already.

SPLINTER QSR and Infowar

SPLINTER is a game we make that is a crazy mindf*ck that’s like an RPG inside an RPG, man! I’ve actively derided it as “too weird to sell” yet soon we’ll be not just selling it, we’ll have a free Quick Start Rules up for it, so you can sample the weirdness for yourself, including pregenerated Players/Avatars and an introductory adventure by Mik Barree. Major shout out to Rich K for making the QSR possible with his diligence and attention to detail.

Even as Systems Malfunction is destined to be a standalone game, we will continue to support the Singularity System as our preferred flavor of “use it for anything you like” Space Kablooie simulator. Its newest update–and its first update in over two years–is MOD-04 Infowar, which includes not just awesome rules for hacking using the Singularity system, but tips for incorporating PC hacking into your science fiction campaigns from GURPS to Shadowrun to Eclipse Phase.

Both of these books were meant to be on DriveThru November 9th, 2016 but um…welp. They’re now slated for a November 14th release on DriveThru, give or take a week or so. 

Time for me, Dr. D, to start running and say goodbye for a little while.

Alright, Children
The lights are out and the party’s over
It’s time for me: Doctor D
To start running and say goodbye for a little while
And I know you’re gonna miss me
So I’ll leave you with this
You know that big ball of radiation we call the sun?
Well it’ll burst you into flames
If you stay in one place too long
That is if the static don’t get you first
So remember even if you’re dusted
You may be gone
But out here in the desert
Your shadow lives on without you
This is Dr. Death Defying
Signing off

<End Transmission>

 

Lesser Evils

I got this bumper sticker at DragonCon ’04 when I ws 18 along with a lot of other cool shit that I’ve treasured for my entire life: it’s where I learned about the awesome band Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, for instance. Since then, the Elder Party’s branding changed quite a bit. They’ve stayed behind their candidate–Cthulhu for President–and changed their slogan. Pretty consistently throughout ’04 to ’12 it was: Why Settle For A Lesser Evil?

I definitely don’t want Cthulhu to be the president of the United States. Not even if I personally get to go insane and be eaten the very last. I’ve matured since I was 18But the truth is…I really, really don’t want Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton to be my president either.

Hilary Clinton to me personifies everything presently wrong with America–she’s a corrupt, war-mongering, chickhenhawk, liar (which I almost typed “lawyer”–freudian slip?) who is completely and wholly owned by Wall Street interests. She’s the embodiment of the status quo, and she’s every cancer eating away at the status quo. Also, I might as well be honest: on a more petty level, I’ve had a grudge against her on a Free Speech level since the late 90s or early 2000s when she like a lot of other “Senators’ Wives” and “Tipper Gores” she came out on Jack Thompson’s side in the “war against videogames”.

Donald Trump is almost immeasurably worse. He goes way beyond “American will continue to suck in every way it sucks now”: in him, I see something truly horrifying. I see the death of America. Probably inseparable from this is the fact that I am third generation Jewish-American (I don’t practice the Jewish faith or any faith, but I am certainly enough of a Jew for Hitler to have liquidated me in his “Final Solution”). Yell “Godwin’s Law” at me all you want, but watching Trump’s “campaign” over the last year as a populist demagogue, I see the same exact dangerous parallels that

You know what’s more important to me than–but also probably inseperable from–my heritage as a Third Generation Polish-American  ethnic Jew? The World/Inferno Friendship Society, without which there would be no Psionics. That seems like a hell of a pivot, so let me explain. TWIFS have an incredible concept album called Addicted To Bad Ideas about the life and death of 20th century character actor Peter Lorre. I hate political correctness more than maybe anyone alive (I might hate it even more than I hate Fox News). But there are lines from this album that help me understand why not only could I never vote for Donald Trump, I probably can’t remain in this country if he does (ugh, such a melodramatic phrase, yet so perfectly frank) “rise to power”. They come from the song “Ich Erinnere Mich an die Weimarer Republik”.

“Me and my friends had some good ideas
but I swear that town got so damn weird.
I got out alive in ’35
I don’t think I’ll ever go back
but I remember….

….

It ain’t no thing about the promise ring
and socialists are so boring.
Just a bunch of bullies
that I can’t stand
they got elected into office by…well, you!

“I’m a fag, I’m a Jew, how do you do?
That’s Mister Anarchist to you.
You think your scene’s dead?
Well mine got killed
by some dimwit’s Triumph of the Will.

Now every time I see a Swiss bank I spit.
You say “resist control”?
Well, I mean it.
Cause it was come as you are
in the cattle cars
and not a damn thing you can do about it.
‘Cept remember!

I am not very political, personally. At least, I try not to be. But this “Two Party System” we have, where we hold our nose, going to our polling place, and vote for the candidate we hate/fear the least? It FUCKING SUCKS and I can’t blame anyone for checking out, even for a second. The American Two Party System needs to fucking go, because at this point we’re choosing between “another four years of everything wrong with America” and “not-so-secret-Hitler“.

 

 

Kickstarter Can Be Kind Of Gross

Kickstarter is the future of investment, kickstarter is the future of invention, kickstarter is the future of intellectual property creation, kickstarter is the future of capitalism, kickstarter intersects the future of pop science, Kickstarter may well be the future PERIOD.

Also, undeniably…

Kickstarter is a popularity contest.

That’s gross. Popularity contests are gross. They’re even grosser when you’re the one who’s losing. I should know that. I was never popular as a kid in elementary school, actively bullied throughout some of middle school, mostly ignored throughout most of middle school and high school, and at the tail end of high school, I finally managed to reach the “accepted within certain circles” rung of the ladder, which to me, along with finally having a girlfriend, felt like being King of the World. In college, I was the center of a small but passionate clique, which is not quite the same as being popular, but is the closest I will ever come. As an adult, like most adults I know, I have few friends and no real idea how to make new friends: unlike most adults I know, I am also great at losing friends, but that’s neither here nor there.

If you’re one of the people who want to help us stop losing this particular popularity contest, you can do so here, but I have a feeling that everyone who reads this already has pledged generously to the Systems Malfunction Kickstarter, or is one of my enemies, spying on me and waiting for me to say something that’s not PC. It’s impossible to overstate how much I hate the fact that I unironically have enemies at this phase in my life. Or for that matter, at any phase of my life. It is NOT good for someone with a chronic, stress-exacerbated disorder like Crohn’s Disease to know with total certainty that they have actual enemies that actually, provably spy on them.

Anyway I know at a glance this may seem whiny and entitled, but try and hear me out …Kickstarter has some issues, and those issues begin at the intersection of human psychology (which is terrible and ugly) and things like Stretch Goals. In essence, a Kickstarter isn’t really considered to be “successful” unless it has (massively) overfunded. The analytics are all whack. People are massively more likely to give money to Kickstarters that have already funded than Kickstarters that are desperately struggling to fund. Even worse, the more a product has already overfunded, the more likely new people are to keep throwing money at it. Even even worse, Kickstarter’s own algorithms seem to reinforce this behavior (although you could throw a citation needed there at me and I’d be right to take it because I do need a citation for that).

Still, I think that Kickstarter is a lot of what’s wrong with Capitalism, with “Democracy”, writ slightly smaller, microcosmic: the rich get richer. Full stop