Taking A Pill In Ibiza (Getting Blocked By @fredhicks on Twitter)

Hash. Tag. Sumthin.

“Why do you always say what you believe?
Why do you always say what you believe?
Every proclamation guarantees free ammunition for your enemies.”

So I woke up this morning (I’m lying already: it was the early afternoon) to discover that I’d been blocked by @fredhicks on Twitter. First things first: this hurt my feelings. My girlfriend, who is convinced I am the reincarnation of Alexander Hamilton, wouldn’t want me to do this, but I am writing about it while that hurt was still fresh.

Fred Hicks is a famous game designer (and it’s more likely I’ll always be other than famous). He created Evil Hat. He designed FATE Core. I don’t think I ever had a single personal interaction with him before today. Nonetheless, five years ago, his company was everything I wanted my company to be five years from then.

We’re not there yet, and that’s okay. Things take time–something, as an aside, which I understand at least a little bit better than that all-singing, all-dancing, mysteriously-Hispanic Alexander Hamilton the character–and Fred’s company is still today what I want my company to be two to five years from today. But if I keep saying what I believe and giving my enemies that free ammo, I don’t know. #HavingBeliefsIsProblematic.

This is me paraphrasing the exchange we had on twitter. I’m not going to include the actual tweets because–(secret not secret I HATE TWITTER)–that would be incredibly tedious. But if you want to find them, they’re up there, go nuts. I ain’t lyin.

Some Guy Who Makes Stupid Fucking T-Shirts (research bonus: there may be a nicely drawn gaming-themed webcomic involved?): @FredHicks: Look at this stupid fucking t-shirt I made.

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Protip if playing a D&D ranger: don’t choose as your favored enemy a fictional conspiracy that doesn’t exist, or you’ll never get those +2s to apply to anything. If The Patriarchy is a real thing in your DM’s campaign, disregard.

Me: nifty, when do we get Favored Enemy: Feminists

Fred “I’m Fred Fucking Hicks And I’m Kind Of A Big Deal” Hicks: um, how about never, since that’s when that would be funny.

Me: you’re right, favored enemy: the patriarchy is funnier since it doesn’t exist
(This is the one tweet that I feel any need to clarify or contextualize. What I was saying here is, I was actually conceding his point that favored enemy “Feminists” isn’t actually funny as a joke, because some self-identified feminists (or so I’m told) are actually real people who might feel threatened by such an off-color joke as a fictional D&D ranger having +2 damage against them. I was conceding that point, while also poking fun at the fact that (in the West) the Patriarchy is an imaginary conspiracy that doesn’t exist. Of course only the second part came across, because twitter is for barbarians and because he already saw me as a favored enemy.)

Fred “I’m Fred Fucking Hicks And I’m Kind Of A Big Deal” Hicks: BLOCK’D BITCH!
(I’m paraphrasing.)

So, that was that, I guess. Except, that is not that. Someone I have respected for years closes down my main ability to follow him or talk to him over a couple of jokes that didn’t match his politics? Because for one brief unfiltered second I said what I actually believed instead of virtue signaling to the SJW set? That’s fucking awful.

I just made the following comment somewhere in the vast webosphere of Evil Hat’s online presence:

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan of FATE as a system. But I’ve followed Evil Hat for years, I have great admiration for what you’ve accomplished, Fred, and to be honest, your company is everything I want my company to be two or three or five years from now…except for blocking people on twitter for the offense of expressing a different political opinion than yours, and being just a little bit snarky about it.

That is callous, and cruel, and harmful. It is the third one not just because it hurt my pwecious little feels, although to be honest: it did. It’s harmful because when you destroy a channel of discourse, you widen the gap between two camps that already dehumanize each other more and more in their respective isolated echo chambers, both sides virtue-signaling at each other (most of “my” (anti-SJW) side actually hates your side so much that they want to vote for clown meat orange Hitler, which as a Jewish-American socialist is so scary that it makes me want to hit the eject button from the planet earth) and de-humanizing the other side, both sides fapping separately to their two minutes hate.

We live in an ugly world and every time you erase someone from your narrative for disagreeing with you, you make it uglier.

Sincerely and sincerely butthurt,
@ETGames

UPDATE:

Fred Hicks responded with an email that was harsh and a little cruel and missed most of my point, but at least he responded, for which he retains my respect. I was expecting a form letter at best.

What happens next?

My best guess is that I start selling a t-shirt that says favored-enemy: SJWs, Fred Hicks unblocks me on twitter,  or both.

overly elaborate joke
Design is a work in progress.

I also had a new idea for a game, satirical, powered by FATE Accelerated and inspired by D. Vincent Baker‘s undisputed best game, kill puppies for satan. Working title? Kill SJWs for MiloBecause obviously, Milo Yiannopoulis maps well to satan in those circles…and in general.😉

Transmissions From The End #003 – The Irony Singularity (non-apology apologies to Brandon Sanderson)

Up front: this post is unrelated to our own Singularity System. Instead, this week’s Transmission From The End is a short esssay about the nature of fame and fandom.

This is the story of Devon, Margaret, and Mike, and how “fame”, how being “kind of a big deal” is so relative that it means everything…and nothing. And it’s also the biggest cluster of genuine irony I’ve ever encountered in my life.

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I’m Devon Oratz. I make these RPGs you’ve never heard of: https://www.facebook.com/EndTransmissionGames. Ignore the cat. I don’t know him.

 

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This is Mike Krahulik. He draws the JPEGs that Penny Arcade makes, while the little guy behind him “toils in the word mines”. He’s kind of a big deal…to certain people.
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This is Margaret Weis. She wrote (technically novelized) Dragonlance. She’s kind of a big deal…to certain people.

 

All Three Of Us Were At GenCon 2016

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Penny Arcade published this funny comic about Mike’s encounter with “Margaret”, and how he felt like he couldn’t talk to her. It’s a funny comic (like always) but it has a kernel of truth, too.

EVEN THOUGH OUR BOOTH WAS RIGHT ACROSS FROM THE LONE SHARK GAMES BOOTH WHERE MIKE WAS SIGNING THINGS AND OSTENSIBLY DEMOING THORNWATCH, I WAS LITERALLY UNABLE TO APPROACH MIKE KRAHULIK FOR THE ENTIRE DURATION OF THE CON.

IN PART, THIS IS BECAUSE MIKE WAS LIKE NEVER FUCKING ACTUALLY THERE (SHARKY MCSHARKERSON, IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME, YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT), BUT MAINLY, IT WAS FOR THE REASONS THAT THE PENNY ARCADE COMIC ABOUT MARGARET IS TALKING ABOUT.

So for your first layer of irony, there is. But this shit goes deeper. Like onions.

Groban was essentially leaking Gen Con tales for a week when he came back, or sweating them maybe; they beaded on his irregular surface.  One of them was about an encounter with Margaret Weis.  I should say that he had an encounter, perhaps.  Judging from the particulars of his account, it’s entirely possible that Margaret Weis – who must be considered fantasy royalty – had no perceptible encounter of any kind.

In other words, Margaret Fucking Weis doesn’t know Mike Fucking Krahulik from Devon Oratz which means she doesn’t know him from Adam. Mike meeting Margaret is a pivotal, nerve-wracking experience for Mike, and for Margaret, it is whatever. Meanwhile, to Devon, meeting Margaret is whatever. Look, I like Dragonlance. A lot. But it’s not even the novels I’m invested in–I’m reading my first one NOW (Dragonlance Legends Volume I: Time of the Twins)–it’s the actual D&D game setting (so Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman would be a much bigger deal to me), and plenty of that is plenty dumb.

But more importantly: I only discovered Dragonlance about three or four years ago, so it’s just really not a big deal to me to meet Margaret. In fact, I casually chatted with her twice about my Dragonlance campaign (I told her of the ignoble end that Elistan met at the hands of thermodynamics), got her to sign three books for me (the Legends trilogy) and then came back a third time to pick up a signed copy of Dragons of Winter Night for my friend John. Like it wasn’t even a thang.

But Devon, who can rap with Margaret like it ain’t no thang, can’t approach Mike for the same reason that Mike’s comic makes fun of himself for not being able to approach Margaret.

To Devon, Mike isn’t Mike, Mike is Gabe.

And Gabe isn’t Gabe. Gabe is Penny Arcade. And Penny Arcade is everything.

It’s bigger than Dragonlance. It’s bigger than meeting Raistlin in person (“Yeah? How’s he doing?” “Good. He’s good.”). It’s bigger than if I accidentally ran into Taylor Swift (who wouldn’t know Margaret from Eve or Mike from Adam) in a unisex bathroom.

This is because Devon has been reading Penny Arcade twice a week every week since 2003, when he was 17 years old. This is because Penny Arcade has, to quote the comic above,”ignited my imagination” (and more importantly, made me lol) for over a decade.

In short, Devon can’t approach Mike for the same reason that Mike can’t approach Margaret, but for Devon to approach Margaret is no big deal for the same reason that Mike wouldn’t give a shit about meeting Devon or that Jerry thinks that Margaret Fucking Weis wouldn’t even notice meeting Mike. It’s the motherfucking irony singularity.

What does it mean? I have no idea. Maybe it means that nobody is “kind of a big deal”, because everybody is. Or the inverse of that.

Jerry “Fucking” Holkins took a break from toiling in the word mines to tweet @ me three times today, though, so I intend to spend the rest of my day writhing around in a joy fugue. Excuse me, and peace out.

– D.T.O.

The Cyborg Manifesto Explained

Of Most Interest To Those Who Have Followed Me And My Work Obsessively For Years and Years

You know, like, there are maybe 4-6 of you? When I’m drunk enough to have double vision, I mean. : P

Also, in the off off off off off off off off off chance that you’re Kevin Siembieda and you’re currently on shrooms and reading this in a good mood, I’m sure this all makes perfect sense to you.

I’m aware that without context all of the following sounds super duper crazy, like time cube crazy. But if you don’t have the context of knowing that, for instance, Earthdawn and Shadowrun exist canonically on the same timeline and that in my own head-canon my alternate RIFTS setting (nee stand-alone experimental LARP) “The Last Day” follows Shadowrun, then this probably isn’t for you. That’s okay, you can still look at it, and it’s still kind of neat looking.

Multiversal Map 2016

For what it’s worth, this isn’t SOLELY my being a creative monomaniac. The text and subtext of RIFTS explicitly says that it contains every other possible world. So does the text and subtext of The Dark Tower. So does the subtext, at least, of The Magician’s Nephew. Therefore it blatantly refutes the text of these works to say that they don’t contain and connect to each other, and to all others (like, even to fucking Star Trek or whatever), even if you personally think “The Dark Tower is the shit and RIFTS is stupid and no they’re NOT set in the same universe I can’t hear you lalalala”.

It also helps if you have recently read either The Magicians or The Chronicles of Narnia, and therefore understand what the “Neitherlands” or “The Wood Between The Worlds” is. If you’ve ever talked to me seriously off-camera about SPLINTER, you understand that the SPLINTER is a manifestation of the same exact concept. If you raced up the Tower of Heaven pursued by the Pulsarians/demons during the end of Systems Malfunction Third Edition, then you probably understood the Tower of Heaven as a manifestation of the same multiversal “axle”.

This infographic shows how the “worlds” of my different game campaigns, published and unpublished game universes, and (unfinished) novels intersect (and who can move freely between worlds) in the form of a multiversal or metaversal Venn Diagram. In very fannish terms, it is the closest you are going to get to a CAT scan of my head-canon.

In the upper circle–“THE CYBORG MANIFESTO”, the creative mega-meta-narrative I have been working on since I discovered the creativity-enhancing properties of cannabis circa 2008 (ah, there’s the rub!) contains a large number of recognizable logos for other peoples’ intellectual properties.

I am not claiming ownership of these by placing them in my multiversal map. That would be rude and stupid.

Even though the text and subtext of several of these works–RIFTS and arguably Dungeons & Dragons and certainly The Dark Tower explicitly state that they contain and transcend all possible fictive worlds–I am talking solely about my own campaigns using these game systems/IPs, not the IPs themselves.

The lower circle is simpler, coming from a time when I was younger and smoked less pot. The isolated circles to the lower left and lower right are self-contained universes that are not connected to anything.

But the middle sliver of the Venn Diagram still connects it to all of the others, by virtue of the pesky buggers that can “walk between worlds”. Many of whom are names to run away from really fast. Of course, you can neither run, nor hide, because they can follow you from one universe to another as easily as you could go from your bedroom to your bathroom.

Final note: no, I will not EVER explain who “geraldine” is. That one is just for Mikaela.

My brain is experiencing a literal storm,
– D. T. O.

P.S. No relation to this, except the name. If you want to know why the more recent “multiverse” is and always has been called that, I’ve finally figured it out. However, your best chance to learn this secret is if I get hired by Palladium, write published things for RIFTS, and Kevin give me PLENTY of rope by which to hang myself from the crazy tree.

P.P.S. If for some bizarre reason you want to see the hideous mess that was my conceptualization of this same thing circa 2011, I’ll show you that infographic. But only in private. It’s really confusing and ugly.

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Transmissions From The End #002 -The Ghost of Diana Jones

“We’re movin’ on up, to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.”

As I mentioned recently, we just did up GenCon 2016 really fucking hard, and now we’re down from some R&R. But today is THORSDAY, and that means YOU, dear reader, get another Transmission From The End.

GenCon – Financial Transparency

Our games/books (games which are also books, books which are also games!) sold like hotcakes at GenCon. With our $25,000 sponsorship plus who-even-knows how much overhead for air fare and hotel lodging, it was literally impossible for us to break even. But I believe we grossed close to $4,000 in sales which means if you were to count our overhead only as our Entrepeneur’s Alley booth (which we got for $1000 as a first-year-at-GenCon company and which was upgraded to a double-sized endcap as part of our sponsorship), we actually netted at least $2,000+ in “profits”.

We came close to selling out of nearly everything, and we did sell out of Anathema, DicePunk Core, and the Systems Malfunction setting, although we didn’t bring terribly many of any of those.

DEMO-Lition Derby

I’d like to thank Kelly’s Heroes once again for running two games of SPLINTER and two games of Psionics on Friday. I was sad that we didn’t manage to get the GMs”Psionic Phantasms” or the three existing “Glory & Gore” episodes in time for them to feel comfortable running them, so instead they ran two instances of “Code Grey” (Psionics) and two instances of “The Race For Szenys’ Tomb” (SPLINTER). I understand those instances ran well and I definitely look forward to working with Kelly’s Heroes in the future.

Our new Interrim Director of Sales, Logistics, and Marketing John Jemmott ran a packed table of Singularity System (Systems Malfunction flavor) and a packed table of Psionic Phantasms and I understand acquitted himself heroically. Thanks for stepping up, John! In more way than one.

I’d also like to thank our SPLINTER and Psionics writer Richard Kelly for running three games of “Glory & Gore”:  one no-show, one that only two-people showed up to that went great, and then a packed table of eight that was apparently kind of a hot mess, due to no fault of Richard’s own. Apparently people were expecting a rules-lite, thinking-lite, cheerful and bright storygame from SPLINTER, my dark, ruthlessly cerebral, crunchy, tactical RPG and Richard’s delightfully disturbing and atmospheric “Digitarchs” dungeon…clearly some shit got miscommunicated along the way, and I’m sure that Rich K did the best with what he had.

In the future, I want to work harder on getting better event presence at conventions and getting better online presence for our organized play efforts such as the “Glory & Gore Living Campaign” for SPLINTER.

As for the two demos that I personally found time to run, here’s how they went:

Psionic Phantasms

Packed table, all eight PCs cast: Mindfucker, Juggernaut, Stormbringer, Firestarter, Sam Collins, Joey Collins, and Caleb Hendrix (vampire) and Del Finley (Aranea).

The Espers and humans came very close to killing each other for the first time in any time I’ve ever run this.

Firestarter and Joey Collins had to go two hours into the demo and became NPCs: I think Del Finley also left early, so I just had him go into his spider form and go eat some people that were further away from fire (the Firestarter unapologetically burned down the Collins’ house before leaving).

I had them become NPCs. Joey got kidnapped by the Tall Man in his hearse and the rest of the PCs followed to the mortuary to rescue him (side-note: I ruled that Espers could not bleed Overflow because they were being accompanied by a vampire and they all KNEW he was undead, because the Mindfucker had tried to Psychokinesis him and got the same result he’d get from Psychokinesis on a corpse). They found the blacked-out hearse parked outside the funeral home, and busted it open. Inside the casket inside was the Firestarter’s body, minus the brain. Emotional shock from this threw on about 20 Overflow which they couldn’t bleed because how can you relax when you’re around a vampire?

I was running about three hours late so I frontloaded all the danger to the first floor of the mortuary: namely, I sextupled the orbs. In the first hallway, the PCs pulped the two spheres I had there without any casualties. They weren’t so lucky in the main hallway, where I’d placed four spheres. The PCs put up a valiant fight, and might have won if the Vampire’s dice luck hadn’t been shit (with John Wu Special and Master in Pistols, he should have been able to drop at least one Orb a turn if he rolled just slightly above average). But the Stormbringer got brain-juiced, causing both the Juggernaut and the Mindfucker to overload due to emotional shock. The Juggernaut’s initiative came up first. He made his Will check to stagger away, but all orbs and all PCs were still caught in the Obliteradius and killed, except for Caleb, who survived on the strength of having crazy Vampire Health. The second turn of the overload, the Juggernaut’s head exploded from overload damage.

Barely still-undead, Caleb the vampire stood in the middle of the carnage: all the orbs and every other PC were dead. The Tall Man opened a door from a nearby coffin show-room, holding NPC Joey by the scruff of the neck.

“Good evening,” said the Tall Man, ominously.

“Good night!” responded Caleb, and FUCKED RIGHT OFF, driving away into the night in his stolen Sheriff’s cruiser, the sole survivor.

I sold two copies of Psionics off the strength of the demo, one to Caleb and one to the Mindfucker.

Epic Battles In Space!: Star Wars Edition

So I expected this event to be super-packed because this Star Wars is kind of a little bit popular…maybe you’ve heard of it? So imagine my shock when I only wound up serving a table for two. Six more people were signed up for it, but they all had different emergencies come up and couldn’t make it.

The two kids I got were fairly omnivorous tabletop gamers and big Star Wars fans: one of them had just bought the Singularity System. I let one kid play the whole rebel fleet and the other kid play the whole empire. After the demo they went back and bought Biotech, Mind Games, and Firefight.

ANYWAY, as for the battle of Tatooine:

At the end of the first turn, the Tantive IV successfully broke off and escaped (the kid playing the rebels had the BEST dice luck I’ve ever seen outside of myself: the force was seriously fucking with him). Because that happened about three hours before the demo was scheduled to end, I decided to play through the awful pyrrhic battle that followed.

Only the Devastator and one of the two Star Destroyers survived. Every single other capital ship and fighter craft involved in the conflict was destroyed. The 36 X-Wings sent to destroy one of the star destroyers gradually killed their way through a screen of 72 Tie Fighters, but only six X-Wings were left when they actually made it to the attack run phase, and the Victory-II’s point defense guns ate them alive before they inflicted any serious damage.

So technically, the rebels won, but the real winner was the void that devours souls.

Other Fun Shit I Did

Way too little of it this year! This year I was so busy that I was essentially all business:

“All work and no play 
Keeps me on the new shit.”
Lorde

I did manage to find the time, somehow, to sit down for forty minutes with our friends and neighbords at the Tower of Gygax and lose a seventh level D&D ranger to a swarm of his favorite enemy, goblins. I snapshotted this white board  they had which filled my heart and soul with gleeful delight:

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FUCK YEAH OSR

Upcoming Products For The Rest Of 2016

Here is a partial roster of the products we have cooking for the rest of 2016:

  • Richard Kelly and I are going to collaborate on SPLINTER: This Is Entertainment, a free Quick Start Rules package for SPLINTER. Street date: Christmas Season, 2016.
  • SPLINTER: Return To The Dread Abyss of the Digitarchs by Richard Kelly is one of the best modules that I have ever seen for any game ever, and I couldn’t be prouder that it’s for SPLINTER. Street date: Christmas Season, 2016.
  • Systems Malfunction–a standalone scifi RPG containing both the Singularity System and the incredible Systems Malfunction setting– is coming to Kickstarter in October.
  • Singularity System MOD04: INFOWAR by Devon Oratz with John Jemmott will enter initial writing in early September, for a street date of Christmas Season, 2016.
  • Escape From Cleveland, a DicePunk/Psionics  adventure by Devon Oratz will enter initial writing/production in early September, for a street date of Christmas Season, 2016.

I Wrote A Goddamn Poem

For the first time in about five years. And you get to read it, you lucky dog you. I make no apologies for the inside jokes and “you just had to be there” moments it describes.

I Am The Ghost of Diana Jones

This one goes out to the one I love
(This one goes out to the one I left behind)

Like a herd of scruffy-looking nerf herders,
we stagger through the streets of Indianapolis,
a gaggle of professional nerds.
“They left the bar at 9? What are we, school teachers?” I demand rhetorically of anyone who will listen.

Of course I am already very drunk and quite high. After all, it’s Wednesday night.

I am slow to realize that the seven-block exodus is simply taking us from the Irish pub we are late to
to the bar beneath the bridge
a moot of dwarven philosophers gathered
at the booze stockpile
fencing with their business cards
to confer the highest honor they can
on whoever they damn well please
without the slightest threat of accountability

I want to stay because I feel like I could get so blasted I spend the rest of the night
talking to John Wick
either one (this is an inside joke)
but the outdoor voices in the interior of the Ranch
(a bunch of introverts suddenly turned inside out, no doubt, loudly discussing theory and games and podcasts)
become an unbearable deafening sussurus
that drives me away
temporarily insane (1/1d10)
into the hot Indiana night

“I am either at a haunted award show,”
I text
“Or the hipster singularity.
I can’t tell.”

(leaving with Mikaela, I tell the bartender the definition of sussurus
and that he can find John Wick–the REAL John Wick–inside
he does not quite believe me
the fool)

To “Cogwheel Gelignite”, we bellow, obscure amongst obscurity in this toast
to an unsung engineer of Mount Nevermind,
(a girl I do not know
with a Pikachu tank-top
and a midline incision surgical scar
hugs my girlfriend again and again and again)
and down goes the poisonous green liquid.

LATER:
Pounding shots with Kelly Slaughter and his crew of heroes
(work is the curse of the drinking class, I tell him, mugging Oscar Wilde to do so,
but I have to explain it, and much later, look up that it is Oscar Wilde)
we toast the memory of a wargamer eight long years dead
who built or discovered the magic portal that leads us
to thousands upon thousands of Worlds.

NOW: alcohol has made sleep even more insurmountable than sex
(I can think of at least two songs called “Too Drunk To Fuck”,
but none about trying to sleep as your liver’s frantic
churning
turns
blissful oblivion into the waking nightmare of a hangover)
and I ponder the imponderables of an American dream
on what might be the last Summer we the young and foolish have left to us
before a tragicomic orange fascist from Queens
proves to be the Not-So-Secret-Hitler
that destroys
America
or the world

A simple prop
to occupy my time
this one goes out to the one I love.

 

 

Geneva Convention 2016 – Making History

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At GenCon 2016, End Transmission Games, a company that no one had ever heard of (unless you are very, very, very cool, that is) sponsored the convention as an Event Partner.This was the same sponsorship level chosen by Fantasy Flight Games, makers of a full suite of board and miniatures games licensed for the Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Arkham Horror, and Lord of the Rings IPs, plus the current license-holder for the Android (Infiltration and Netrunner) universe, two of my favorite games.

Now, our reasons for making the decision to give GenCon such an absurd amount of money are very, very, very “inside baseball”and I’m not going to get into them here. HOWEVER…

Having paid the same sponsorship tier and therefore gotten the same market visibility at the con, we tried our best to have a physical presence at the con that was even remotely in the same league. We tried to do this with three and a half people (Richard Kelly, who’s my favorite writer for 2016 if anyone was wondering, was there from Friday Evening through Sunday Afternoon). If you understand anything about anything in the industry, you know that such an undertaking is fully insane, bordering on suicidal. (As a frame of reference, Catalyst Game Labs brings a battalion of booth monkeys and demo agents over 100 strong.) I don’t think it’s something any company has ever done before.

And I think in the history of being too big for your britches, we made motherfucking history.

As I told anyone who was even slightly willing to listen: “If we’re going to die, we’re going to die historic on the Fury Road.”

Now, the post-game recap while it’s fresh in my mind.

  • We grossed more in booth sales than we have at any other con ever, by a factor of nearly double. I’m not gonna say the number, but the amount of money people paid for books full of crap I made up leaves me floored and humbled.
  • I strongly suspect that we grossed more in booth sales than a company or two that I really love and respect. Companies that are older, bigger, and more established. Was the sponsorship a factor in this? Certainly. But I think that the extreme level of hustle and chutzpah that my crew brought to the show was an even bigger factor. We were there to move product or die trying.
  • We came far closer to selling out of everything we brought than we ever, ever have before.
  • Obviously, counting the sponsorship, we were deeply, deeply in the red, and it was literally impossible for us to break even. We knew this going in.
  • If you count just the Entrepreneur’s Alley booth fee, we actually MADE MONEY at a convention for the first time ever. If you count hotel and airfare, we’re back to losing money, but less than usual.
  • We did not win an ENnie award for Epic Space Battles. I actually thought we had a chance until I realized we were up against Paizo.
  • Attendance at the events that didn’t go up until a month before the con was very,very, very, thin on the ground. I think something to the tune of two no-shows and two-or-three events where only two people showed up.  This was no great surprise. The exception was the Psionic Phantasms that I ran on Friday, where Mikaela sent me fully eight people, and I did my best to handle a packed table. All PCs but one died and I sold several copies of Psionics on the strength of that, so that’s kind of becoming my signature.
  • Attendance at the handful of events that went up months in advance was packed, and this too was unsurprising. It is…unfortunate that the credit for those event tickets goes to IGDN, which doesn’t help End Transmission get better event placement at future GenCons.
  • In general, our event logistics game needs a lot of work. We’ve been trying to make Stormwatch happen for a year now. We need to try harder. And we need to go hardcore to recruit booth sentinels and GMs.
  • Big ups to Kelly’s Heroes for being awesome and making our shit look good. Let’s do it again, gentlemen!
  • We are never, ever, ever doing anything like this again: bodying the con this hard with this few people is ruled out for all of future time. The best news of all is that we literally, physically survived GenCon 2016. Because dying historic on the Fury Road is still dying.

Now, some general impressions of the Con (these are more feels than business) in no particular order:

  • I finally made it to the Diana Jones awards and I finally got what they are (I could not stay for the show, the Cadillac Ranch was horribly loud, and I admit that it gave me a panic attack, so I bolted almost as soon as I arrived). I wrote a pretty nifty poem about the experience (first poetry I’ve written since 2011, actually). I’ll post it Thursday.
  • My actual literal favorite moment of the convention was obviously watching Zak S win ENnie award after ENnie award as his victory speeches gradually escalated from just the expected trolling of SJWs to increasingly drunken, belligerent, and incoherent. Flawless victory, Zak. Three thumbs up!
  • Made a lot of industry connections as usual. What follows are some of the best memories, and a lot of them happened on Sunday:
  • Collecting signatures from John Helfers, Jason Hardy, Phillip Lee, Rob…shit, was it Rob Thomas or Rob Wieland? I can literally NEVER keep those two apart…, Loren Coleman, and ECHO CHERNIK (gawd she is da bomb) on my comp copy of Drawing Destiny. I also signed quite a few of their books, just like I was real famous, and not fake famous. I also also made Echo sign the Sixth World Tarot itself and the Page of Blades card, and naturally I made Loren Coleman sign the CEO card.
  • Speaking of Jason Hardy, I said something incredibly tactless to him while claiming my comp, and he responded with arch good humor. Jason (not that you’re reading this), your story is very good, my man, almost as good as your bio. It raised some questions that I’m gonna e-mail you about when I’m done with this post.
  •  Speaking of Echo Chernik, I gave her a free copy of Psionics #1: Tomorrow’s Starlight and a free Psychokinesis t-shirt, and asked her why she likes to draw hot babes so darn much.
  • Speaking of Loren Coleman, he is now firmly in my good books. On Sunday I swapped him a copy of Psionics (MSRP: $39.99) for a copy of Court of Shadows (MSRP: $49.99) and a second copy of Drawing Destiny (MSRP: $12.95) (I wanted a clean copy, since I turned my comp into essentially a high school yearbook). I was more than willing to pay the difference in cash, but Loren just shrugged and made it so. Mighty, mighty decent of you, boss.
  • Stopped in to chat with Kevin Siembieda, maestro of Palladium Books, who I found looking well recovered on Sunday. Picked up two new RIFTS titles (Chaos Earth: Resurrected and Coalition States: TOTALLY THE GOOD GUYS), both of which I’m stoked to read. Kevin, you looked almost as tired as I felt. I enjoyed the big belly laugh I got when I cracked wise about the unambiguously heroic nature of the Coalition States. And when I saw you hauling your own stanchions and whatnot to your truck during teardown, well, I’ve never respected you more. As a co-owner and CEO who does his own lifting and hauling, I respect anyone that does the same.
  • I got Margaret Weis of Dragonlance fame (I know her company publishes some pretty major RPGs too) to sign copies of the Twins’ trilogy (which I haven’t read) for me, which was mighty decent of her. I got her to sign a copy of Dragons of Winter Night (which he hasn’t read) for my friend John, too.
  • I collected signatures from Scott Glancy, Greg Stolze, and the elusive, pokeman-like Dennis Detwiler on my copy of the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook. Dennis assured me that my poor, poor PCs always will have touched the antenna: they’re fated to, and doomed by fate. And of course, having written the adventure, he’s right. SHANE “WILD TALENTS” IVEY YOU STILL OWE US A FREAKING BEER AND EVERY YEAR THAT PASSES, THE POST-GENCON BEER INTEREST ACCRUES.
  • I finally met John Wick. The game designer, not the hitman played by Keanu Reeves.

And that’s all for now folks. We’re back from GenCon, and we made it back alive. More on Thursday!

apxo9

SO ABOUT THAT (SIXTH WORLD) TAROT!

So, this site’s called Tarot American. That’s a World Inferno song, you know. I’m…kind of obsessed by them. (Working grammatical theory: “obsessed with” is correct in American English, but “obsessed by” is what you’d go with in British English. Correct me if I’m wrong.) ANYWAY, I’ve been blogging about five years now. I’ve been an American for all of them, but I ain’t said nuffin about the Tarot. Past time I do so!

I love the Tarot (I used to be able to perform simple readings, but those skills have atrophied over time: I still have the basic meanings of a solid two dozen cards memorized, mostly in the Major Arcana; I use references to the Tarot in my game design and my GMingall the damn time). I love Shadowrun. So naturally I am very excited about the Sixth World Tarot. Am I gonna be buying that shizzle? Try and stop me!

I’m even more excited because I’ve got a story coming out in the accompanying anthology: Drawing Destiny. As you can imagine, every story  in the anthology is tied (more-or-less) directly to a tarot card. The one that inspired my story, a street banger anthem called “Djoto” (that’s Or’zet, ya heard?, is the Page of Swords.

Meet Devil. She's on Kamikaze right now, so watch your yap, breeder.
Meet Devil. She’s on Kamikaze right now, so watch your yap, breeder.

The Page of Swords means a lot of different things, depending who you ask, but is generally considered to be a courier with big news to deliver (a common kind of Shadowrun, actually). Some of my favorite meanings for the card are: speaking truth to power, bravery, cleverness, passion, energy, youthful exuberance and courage untempered by an excess of caution, striving to prove yourself, and  handling shit on your own. Overall, I find the Page of Swords to be pretty punk. I am the Hermit, by birth (i.e. my date of) and by disposition, but I wish I could be the Page of Swords.

But none of that informs my story as much as the amazing art by Echo Chernik. Look at what a bad mamajama this young ork is. She’s a strong ork babe who don’t need no man!  She’s cutting some motherfucker in half. She’s got style and attitude that’s exploding off the page (okay, the screen), check out those piercings, those goggles, those bootie shorts, dat katana and that hair, like cotton candy set on fire! But what’s the story here? What’s with that hot blonde vamp posing coyly in the background in her suite corset? Why’s there a pig’s head there dripping blood? What is with that awesome graffiti of the cherub with an AR? What in the ever loving frag is going on here?

Well, that got my brain to spinning and a hoop-kicking story flowed out of me, easy as soy-pie: Devil is an ork razorgirl that runs with the Bot’Kham, a loosely affiliated network of smugglers, gangs, and runners that spans the Ork Underground and the Puyallup Barrens. When “Grampa Kham” gets black-bagged by the Yakuza, it’s going to take all of her street smarts, contacts, and attitude to get him back. Rescuing the old man will take Devil and her crew on a Kamikaze-fueled, blood-spattered, gritty adventure through the meanest streets and the darkest shadows. Find out what happens in Drawing Destiny, available exclusively at GenCon!

Which is in like three days! YIKES!