Conventions

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>

 

 

Dragon*Con – Just The Best(er) Party

I can’t review my experience at Dragon*Con 2016 here beyond saying it was awesome. The con itself has left me without the energies to direct in that direction.

Instead, I can just say:
A) Check out my facebook page in the next few weeks for the story told by the picture. As a person who “doesn’t do costumes”, I wore no less than two different costumes, and they were both pretty hardcore. Nonetheless I got mad pics with people whose cosplay made mine look like the mere dabbling it was. One was the girl I brought with me, of course.

B) What I said to everyone I encountered in Atlanta who asked me how my #Nerdigras was: One time when I was 18, I went to just the best party (Dragon*Con ‘o4). Returning for the first time in 12 years, at age 30, old enough to drink and old enough to know better than to drink as much as I did, I can say only this: “just the best party” got even bester.

Appendix A.

One time I went to just the best party.
The music was good. The girls were pretty (and in costume)
The booze flowed and it lasted so long
I had a full time job in another city
I think it was in uh…game publishing!
It evolved as the days went by
It involved no hierarchy
It moved and grew to a pitch so fine
Generally encompassing several hotels at a time
Impressive. Extensive.
Nerds paid the expenses.

Appendix N.

The personal high-point of the con was selling a copy of Psionics to an on-the-job (not active duty) Florida police officer, and then showing him how much XP he was worth in the game.

Twenty.

If you were curious.

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.

 

t100art_penny_arcade

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.

margaret-weis

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.

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!