Fission Mailed

I don’t imagine I will have a whole lot of game design to be blogging about for the foreseeable future. End Transmission Games is kaput, at least for the time being. I might try doing my own stuff under a different masthead after a while, but I don’t think that will be any time soon.

I had a random thought though which is really the only reason I make this blog post. Considered by many the first “post-modern” video game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty’s themes and messages are more relevant now than ever, particular its Gainax Ending . Just before the final boss fight, the literal talking heads of the Patriots (the La-li-lu-le-lo!), the simulated Colonel Campbell and Rosemary, lecturing Jack on the dangers of a post-fact, post-truth world feel eerily urgent in the face of a game released in 2001 and largely developed pre-9/11. The worst case scenario that they are talking about sounds a lot like the post-Trump, “Fake News” era we live in now. It’s uncannily prescient for a 16 year old Japanese video game. Echoes of the themes of the popular musical Hamilton (“What is a legacy?”) are also surprising coming from a 16 year old Japanese video game. I suggest anyone who has had this gem collecting dust in their collection or never got around to playing it seek it out and a console to play it on, just for the ending.

There’s no good reason that the often brilliant, frequently self indulgent, and always pleasantly bizarre Hideo Kojima should have been able to predict the death of truth in media and the rise of echo chambers and thought bubbles instead of discourse, but he did. It almost makes me wish we had a censorious GW like AI, like that housed within Arsenal Gear, to prevent us from reaching this sad point in our society. Almost.



So the SysMal PDF has been done and out to backers since the end of August as promised, but it’s not as perfect as we want it to be yet. There is art in there that is not of the minimum quality we wanted because artists missed their deadlines, and the presence of most of the exceptionally great finished art makes its unfinished status all that much more jarring. There are typos lurking in the manuscript and one major goof up in terms of structure on my part that might reduce the page count noticeably after we scrub some redundant verbiage.

After Mikaela is rested up from the exhausting double-header of GenCon and DragonCon (I’m not sure if it’s always this way, but those cons were really like back-to-back this year and attending both as exhibitors/vendors/geeks who drink really really wiped us out) she’ll be polishing it to a smooth shiny finish and it should be on its way to printers some time in September.

GenCon 50: Real Talk

There’s a lot of pressure to be positive even when you’re feeling anything but because people smell weakness and instinctively hate it. But there aren’t a ton of people who read this anyway so why waste energy lying to an audience that’s almost/mostly not there?

GenCon 50 was kind of a bummer.

We lost a LOT of money by being there, not because we didn’t sell a lot of games (and “Comrade Octo-Stalin” T-Shirts), but because the overhead was crazy, our booth was in the ass end of nowhere, and we didn’t have a marketing strategy in place going in. Everything was very seat-of-the-pants. I enjoyed some of the demos I got to run, but I didn’t sell games right off of the demos, which always makes me feel like I failed.

Probably most importantly, in spite of having more help at the booth than we’ve ever had before–courtesy of Mike Myler and friends plus our promising-is-an-understatement new Director of Marketing Tytiana Browne–I felt like I spent as much of the con as ever running around like a headless chicken, freaking out over Systems Malfunction not being done, trying frantically to coordinate and manage people’s efforts even when I wasn’t shackled to the booth. Probably worst of all, I managed to miss out on catching up and socializing with nearly all of the friends and colleagues that I only get to see at GenCon, losing a never-ending game of booth tag with cool cats from Rich DeBarba to Ron Edwards. I missed out on stuff that I wanted to see to commemorate the fact that I, Devon Oratz, however small a part, was personally there at the 50th annual Geneva Convention, inaugurated by E. Gary Gygax in 1968. I missed out on the They Might Be Giants concert. I missed out on the GenCon museum and Lucas Oil stadium. And I missed all of these things because of my frantic fretting over the fortunes of a game company that shows distressing signs of failing.

I don’t have time to feel sad about this stuff. I don’t have time to feel anything. DragonCon is the first weekend in September and even though it’s a last-minute arrangement this time around, we’re going to be there with bells on, as exhibitors. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Dexterity Convention…

Is not what DexCon stands for. But we WILL be there at Booth #((XYZ)) so come holler at us and buy some games and stuff!

Including our brand new product, the first full length Adventure module for #SPLINTER, Return To The Dread Abyss Of The Digitarchs! Adventure by Richard Kelly, cover by the amazing @Strutzart.

Happy Independence Day! Protip: Try to ignore the President and focus on the GOOD things about America!

Transmissions From The End #14: Reviews & More

Greetings from the End of Everything!

So, thanks in part to the work of our marketing director, a few of our games that have been out for years actually have reviews! How about that! It’s almost like we don’t actually exist in an interstitial dimensional bubble that separates us from true reality and prevents us from interacting with it or being noticed by it in any meaningful way!

The GMShoe’s (Dan Davenport’s) Long-Awaited Review of The Singularity System:
Throat Punch Games’ Review of Psionics (This One’s Even On The Big Nurple):
The Wandering Alchemist’s Review Of SPLINTER:

A soothing balm on the burns inflicted by our tremendous losses at Origins, the reviews range from mostly positive to glowing. Rock on.

If you want to buy any of those games (or the supplements and adventures supporting them), we’ll be selling them at DexCon,  July 5th-9th at the Hyatt Regency & Convention Center in Morristown, New Jersey and of course at GenCon50, August 17-20 in Indianapolis. We love meeting our fans in person, but if you can’t wait till then, our entire product lines can be found on One Bookshelf and at select Friendly Local Game Stores through our distributor, Studio2. Further convention appearances will be announced as the year develops.

Upcoming cons mean revised street-date announcements, so we’ve got those!

We should finally be able to debut the introductory SPLINTER adventure “Return To The Dread Abyss Of The Digitarchs” at DexCon, hot from the presses, by the exceptionally talented Richard Kelly.

At GenCon, for our major new title launch, we’ll have the Systems Malfunction standalone RPG. I just got done editing the introductory fiction for this one, by the aforementioned absurdly skilled Richard Kelly, and it’s a truly phenomenal read both for people brand new to Systems and to the oldest of oldbies. The playtest period on this one is ending in the next week or so, then it’s a race through art, layout, and printing in the month of July to have it ready to go for GenCon 50.

I’m excited! Are you excited?

<end transmission>

Transmissions From The End #13: Westward Ho! And Sneak Peak: Cooking With Nanites

Greetings real followers and unpersons alike! Just tomorrow, I embark on the “Columbus Trail” with Mikaela, where we’ll set out with our oxen and our wagons to bring a shit-ton of role-playing game greatness to Origins Game Fair, June 14th-18th at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. I hope to see many of you there where I’ll be hawking my wares! Just now I’m obsessive-compulsively organizing the miniatures I’m bringing for the games I’ll be running–a demo of Psionics, the Glory & Gore living campaign which will hopefully gain some traction this year, and two never before scene playtest scenarios for the all new Systems Malfunction standalone RPG–of the to be as close to WYSIWYG as possible.

In the meantime, as I fervently hope to see you there, please enjoy the final sneak preview from the Systems Malfunction manuscript draft. This one is about nanofacturing which has been DRASTICALLY re-worked from the cludgy mess of the old sourcebook. Enjoy!

Cooking with Nanites

Nanotechnology is really complicated, in theory and in practice, in the Systems Malfunction universe and in real life. It is a technology with the possibility to change anything and everything about our lives, and about which we can for now only speculate, and people have been speculating about nanotechnology for decades now across many media. In the minimum number of words and pages, we’ll sketch out the massive role that nanotechnology plays in the Republic while keeping the rules for crafting with nanotechnology as simple and straightforward as possible.

  • By design, nanites cannot self-replicate. This is an inherent design feature hard-coded into the nanites to prevent a “grey goo” apocalypse scenario. It is effectively impossible to hack or bypass.
  • Nanites that are in organic bodies are sometimes called Medichines, and greatly increase the body’s natural healing rate and battlefield survivability while enhancing the immune system and battling diseases. All Organics have these from birth, while certain individual might have specialized nanite hives installed in their bodies that allow them to do more with their nanites.
  • Nanites can be created at planetary facilities and space stations, and can be destroyed by a high-energy electromagnetic pulse, as long as they have not completed been configured into an object.
  • Nanites can be used to build anything and everything, from guns, to medpatches, to buildings. Any handheld object that is “nanofactured” can also be disassembled into its component nanites.
  • Nanites are used as a form of currency, particularly on frontier worlds where there is less of an established economy. 1 Credit buys 1k Nanites. Because they are individually microscopic and invisible to the naked eye, nanites are collected onto “chips” or “casettes” not unlike credit chips. Common denominations are 50k Chips (50 Credits), 100k Chips (100 Credits), 250k chips (250 Credits), 500k chips (500 Credits), 1000k chips (1,000 Credits), 2500k (2500 Credits), 5000k Chips (5,000 Credits) and 1 Million Chips (10,000 Credits). These nanite containers are color coded (green for low denominations, blue for medium denominations, and purple for high denominations) and vary in size from the size of a bingo chip at the very smallest denominations to the size of a small thermos at the very largest.
  • Players should keep track of both the Credits their characters have in their bank accounts and the nanites they have on them.
  • Replicants, who can’t be healed by normal means and who don’t heal naturally, can ingest or topically apply nanites to repair damaged systems almost instantaneously (see p. XX).


While buildings and structures can be nanofactured, and even demolished with disintegrator nanites, that is beyond the scope of gameplay in Systems Malfunction.

The following rules explain how nanites can be used to craft objects in the Systems Malfunction universe.

  1. Access crafting hardware. For most people, this requires gaining access to a Nanoforge, (a million credit piece of technology generally held by major corporations at most large facilities and capital ships). For PCs serious about cooking with nanites, this is probably the nanotech assembler you have already built into your hand.
  2. Download a schematic for what you intend to build. This requires a commlink, a GalaxyNet connection, and a successful Computer Test. The Difficulty Stage is determined by the GM based on the legal restriction level and rarity of the item. The time interval is one minute and the number of successes needed is equal to the cost of the item on the market divided by one thousand. The GM can decide that certain items just do not have their schematics available on the GalaxyNet, like HEAP grenades, BOROS H-TLAW, Hardsuits and other highly restricted military hardware. Note: PCs should be assumed to automatically access schematics of all items which are legally available to the public and/or cost 1,000 Credits or less. Once you have an item’s nano-schematics, you don’t have to re-download them for future builds of that item, unless you lose your commlink.
  3. Deposit a sufficient quantity of nanites in your work space. The nanite cost of an item is equal to 10% of its purchase cost. To wit: a medpatch or commlink requires 25k Nanites (25 Credits worth). A Laser Rapier or Capsilus Arms Hawkeye rifle each cost 400k Nanites (400 Credits worth). A basic Hardsuit requires 1000k Nanites (1,000 Credits worth), and so on.
  4. Start cooking. The skill used depends on what you are building. Electronics for a commlink or Vauggles, Demolitions for a grenade, a Medic test for medical equipment, Armorer for weapons and armor, and so on. If working from an external Nanoforge, each roll requires one hour. If working with an implanted nanotech assembler, each roll takes one minute, and the crafter receives +1 Die. The total number of successes that must be achieved to create a complete item is equal to the item’s Credit price divided by 500 and rounded up (minimum 1).
  5. When you reach the total successes needed, you now have a complete nanofactured item. Rinse and repeat as desired and as time allows.


  • If you want to scrap an item that you know or have ascertained to be nanofactured (determining if an item is nanofactured requires a nanotech assembler and a Comms/Sensors (2) Test: the GM should make the test in secret, because if you use a nanotech assemble to deconstruct a traditionally manufactured item, all you’ve done is destroy that item).
  • Only a nanotech assembler can be used to deconstruct nanofactured items. Nanoforges are not designed to disassemble things made from nanotech.
  • Unless the GM decides otherwise (like if the piece of tech you’re trying to disassemble is very advanced, exotic or unfamiliar), no schematics are needed to disassemble something with a nanotech assembler.
  • Start deconstructing. Only handheld items and personal equipment can be deconstructed with a nanotech assembler. The skill used depends on what you are disassembling. Electronics for a commlink or Vauggles, Demolitions for a grenade, a Medic test for medical equipment, Armorer for weapons and armor, and so on. Each roll takes one minute, and the crafter receives +1 Die. The total number of successes that must be achieved to deconstruct a complete item is equal to the item’s Credit price divided by 500 and rounded up (minimum 1).
  • When you reach the total successes needed, you now have a tidy pile of nanites equal to the amount needed to craft the item. If you disassembled a commlink, you have 25k nanites (25 Credits worth), if you disassembled a katana, you have 100k nanites (100 Credits worth), if you disassembled a Shangdi Type 51 assault rifle, you have 200k Nanites (200 Credits worth), and if you disassembled a perfectly good basic Hardsuit (you monster, how could you!) you have 1000k nanites (1,000 Credits worth).

Limitations on Nanofacturing

  1. Clearly, nanofacturing is tremendously powerful. It lets characters with nanotech assemblers get most equipment at 10% of its normal cost in a matter of mere minutes (admittedly, there are times when you don’t have minutes). It does have some limitations, however.
  2. Vehicles, robots, and vehicle weapons/systems can’t be nanofactured, but nanites can be assumed to repair vehicle Hull during downtime. Assume that the vehicle regains Hull equal to the Engineering skill of a character with nanotech assembler (or a Vehicle Tool Kit) for each hour the character works (+1 Hull for each character helping).
  3. Replicants are much too sophisticated to create through nanofacturing.
  4. Nanofacturing cannot be used to create starships, but again nanites can be assumed to repair starship Hull during downtime. Assume that the ship regains Hull equal to the Engineering skill of a character with nanotech assembler (or an Engineering Tool Kit) for each day the character works on the docked ship (+1 Hull for each character helping), or the ship’s Repairs subsystem if it is performing self repairs.
  5. Nanofacturing cannot be used to create drugs or toxins (see p. XX), except for Replicant “drugs”.
  6. Nanofacturing cannot be used to create support machines (see following chapter).
  7. No technology exists that can safely purge the nanites from an organic’s body. An EMP grenade or two can kill all of a Celestial’s nanites, but doing so also murders the Celestial.

Replicants and Nanites

  1. Replicants can be healed by the direct application of nanites, a Major Action done by the Replicant or an adjacent character.
  2. No test is necessary. Every 1000k nanites restores 1 Health. Up to 10,000k nanites can be applied or ingested at one time (restoring 10 Health), but no more.
  3. A Replicant reduced to 0 Health is beyond the help of Nanites. A Hard (3) Engineering Test taking ten minutes can be attempted—once—to reboot a downed Replicant at 1 Health if its body is mostly intact (this requires an Engineering or Electronics tool kit). If that test fails or the Replicant goes down again, the Replicant is scrap metal until its next backup.