Personal

Hellllllloooo Woild!

so if you’re just tuning into this site (if i had to guess, I would guess it has not had double digit readers during its five year plus existence, but I haven’t checked, for fear of confirming sad expectations) or just check it occasionally, i just felt like making a few random declarations:

  1. site masthead is by Mikaela Barree
  2. my “selected ludography” is probably pretty badly out of date, i should fix it some time
  3. my “about me” might be pretty outdated too
  4. i should probably add a permalink to a download for phantasm(2010) at the top since this is currently perhaps the only place it’s available after it was yanked from DriveThru and it is an ENnie award nominated RPG
  5. (if i wanted to get really fancy, I could start archiving the Transmissions From The End posts)

 

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ENWorld’s New Inclusivity Policy: RAI vs. RAW

This is kind of an open letter type deal.

Anyway, I love that ENWorld’s site has

“In gaming parlance, please don’t attempt to “rules lawyer” these rules, find loopholes, or otherwise exploit them: the rules below are intended to help you understand the tenor of our community, but they will be applied “as intended” (RAI, not RAW). If you need clarification, feel free to ask”

as a masthead above its rules. Nicely put, considering the site’s focus. Apparently three simple rules (keep it civil, keep it clean, keep it on topic) kept the site running smoothly for 20 years, which is impressive. Now they’ve added a fourth:

Keep it inclusive: EN World is an inclusive community, and we encourage and welcome all people here. To that end, we strive to make it a welcoming place where nobody feels alienated because of who they are. You MAY NOT use the terms “agenda”, “ideology”, “politics”, or “propaganda” in relation to the inclusion of people slightly different to you in gaming products or other media, or post any message which is discriminatory towards those who differ to you in terms of skin colour, gender, gender identification, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, or any other personal attribute. We do not subscribe to the argument that tolerance means that we need to tolerate intolerance or that inclusivity means that we need to include non-inclusiveness.

So,  here’s the thing because I’m going to proceed to rules lawyer the shit out of this. By “RAW”, you’re not allowed to refer to propaganda coming out of the Trump White House as “propaganda” (Republicans are “people slightly different to you”) or tell a climate change denier that they have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about (not believing in climate change is a “personal attribute” and that would be “discriminatory”).

I wonder what the RAI was for this one?

See folks, the thing about policies in the real world is that, as a rule at least, there is no one around to “DM”, interpret, or adjudicate them. So it’s a very bad business to make it against the rules to express the opinion, for instance, that The Dark Tower was a shitty movie for myriad reasons, merely one of which is that they prioritized a political agenda over making a quality film, especially when you word it in a way that implies that you can’t say any of the above about the Trump White House or climate deniers. Then you’ve put yourself in a place where you’re either selectively enforcing policy based on politics (cough, rpg.net, cough) or you’re taking a stand as being against freedom of speech, period.

Freedom of speech is a two way street, folks. And I can’t stand the argument that “we’re so tolerant and inclusive that you can get the hell out and stay out for daring to disagree with us in any way”: it always is the worst kind of nonsense, and it always has been.

Disclaimer: I do not actually post on ENWorld, although I intend to when I have more free time i.e. when I am less hopelessly addicted to Elite: Dangerous. In spite of this, ETG has had the good fortune to be nominated for two ENnie awards thus far. This little essay was sparked by a tweet I saw from @Morrus who I gather is one of the head honchoes (if not THE head honcho) at ENWorld.

Transmissions From The End #16: Bug Hunt (Contains Free Stuff!)

My science fiction roleplaying game, the Singularity System, actually rose from the ashes (well, that’s a little dramatic but let’s go with it) of an intended-to-be-free* Aliens/Alien vs. Predator** fan-game I was making called Bug Hunt. I left the project alone for a while, lost interest, and when I returned to it (or returned to the idea of making a science fiction RPG set in the “future of space“, whatever) I realized that a lot of the specifics of the Aliens setting also described my default assumptions about what a sci-fi future should be like.  No surprise there. Aliens (1986) is (at least tied for) my literal favorite movie of all time***, and is one of the subtler influences on my beloved Systems Malfunction setting (mainly the lived-in, believable, functional aesthetic of the world, going back to Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) , but also in a more in-your-face sense the FUCKING PRAXAR) which Singularity would grow up to support.

So, the Singularity System was built off of the skeleton of the never published Bug Hunt, and there’s even some copy-pasta in there from the Aliens: Colonial Marines technical manual where the Dropship, APC, and space suit are described! (There’s some obscure End Transmission Games Trivia for you.)  When I published Singularity, the intention was always to publish a bunch of settings for it, from Aliens vs. Predator to Halo to Mass Effect, either for free as fan-made material or commercially licensed material depending on how successful the setting and the very-new company publishing it were.

* In hindsight, because of the background I come from–RPG Maker, specifically, where releasing your product for free is the exception, not the rule–when I started out, I released a lot of TTRPGs for free–like Phantasm(2010)–with the thinking that I could never possibly get the license, because licenses must cost a gajillion dollars and licensors must protect them like their balls. And here you’ve caught me releasing more free fan-made content now! I don’t think it was until this year at GenCon 50 that I really understood just how many successful board games and TTRPGs are licensed properties from other media–NEARLY ALL OF THEM!

So either every other company out there is Monopoly Man rich and always has been (a lot of these companies have held the licenses in question for a LONG TIME) or licenses to make games based off of media properties is not as ASTRONOMICALLY EXPENSIVE as I assumed back in 2010-2012, and since. Of course, companies are cagey. When I, as a random Joe Nobody, approaches the company making the Dark Souls board game and ask if they can tell me what the ballpark figure was for that license, of course they can’t give me an answer. But these guys aren’t wearing diamond-encrusted top-hats and gold monocles, so that’s a limited form of answer in and of itself.  I wish I had reasoned this out a lot earlier, say back in 2011? I have a feeling that the brilliant, eccentric, presumably approachable Don Coscarelli would have been a much softer target than 20th Century Fox!

** Initially, this post was going to include stats for Predators (the Yautja, as my extended universe reading has told me, but I’ll save the extended universe rant for another day) and my thoughts on the Predator franchise and the crossover, but I burned a lot of time and word-count talking about the Alien movies, so that will all have to be in a later iteration of “Transmissions From The End”.

*** My feelings on the films in the Alien franchise, to be (as) brief (as I can manage). Considering the overall pH spectrum of nerd rage on the internet, these are surprisingly positive overall.

  • Alien (1979) – The first truly successful attempt to make a horror movie set in space by brilliant auteur Ridley Scott featuring the genuinely disturbing designs of Swiss Painter H.R. Geiger. I know that older readers might be able to point me to earlier–truly old, even–sci-fi horror films, and I’ll give them a watch and see if they cut the mustard for me. But I will credit Alien as pants-shittingly scary to first time viewers even now, nearly four decades after its release, which is an incredible accomplishment considering how desensitized we’ve become to just about everything in the intervening time. This is my second favorite movie in the franchise, and only because the extremely supporting characters of the sequel
  • Aliens (1986) – Add a drop of action to the seat-of-your-pants terror and suspense of the original and you get my favorite movie of all time. (Actually, it is a three way tie with Ghostbusters (1984) and Reservoir Dogs (1992).) Ripley is the strongest heroine in the history of so-called genre fiction and this might be the most feminist genre movie ever made. The entire heart of the film is about the tetrad of Ripley, the daughter that grew up, lived her entire life and died of cancer while Ripley was in cryostasis for sixty years after the events of the first film (you don’t get that bit without the director’s cut), the daughter-surrogate of Newt, and of course the unforgettable Alien Queen. I’ve never particularly given a toot about Feminism, but this movie duct-tapes a flamethrower to an M4A1 pulse rifle and blows the fucking Bechdel Test to pieces with it. All of this movie’s main characters are female and all of its central drama follows them. This is why I am frankly bamboozled to see people’s collective “finally, a female cinematic role model” bullshit over this year’s (reasonably decent) Wonder Woman movie when Ellen Ripley is a stronger female character in every way and carried an entire franchise going back to 1979. But I must confess it was the supporting cast of Aliens that really cements it as my favorite film in the franchise. Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton (RIP brother, you will always be the “state of the badass art” in my heart), Lance Henriksen, Carrie Henn, Al Matthews, William Hope, Mark Rolston and Jenette Goldstein deliver unforgettable performances as Corporal Hicks, Private Hudson, the heroic “artificial person” Bishop, Newt, the unforgettable Sgt. Apone, the ever-so-bitch-slappable Lieutenant Gorman, Private Drake and Private Vasquez (another seriously bad bitch), respectively. And Paul Reiser is perfectly cast as ruthless corporate douchebag Carter Burke, cementing for me I think the movie’s most chilling message: that the human monsters are even worse than the xenomorphs.
  • Alien 3 (1992) – I am positive that I saw Aliens at least a dozen times before I was six years old, which I attribute to (I’m not being ironic here) fucking great parenting on the part of my dad. I remember eagerly awaiting this film as a child for what seemed like forever and I remember hating it for years after it came out. I hated it for childish reasons–the callous off-screen killing off of the surviving supporting characters from Aliens–and as I grew up, I eventually forgave the movie and came to appreciate its excellence in its own right. It is my third favorite film in the franchise.  It also has a fantastic supporting cast (look out for a great performance from Charles Dance (pre-Tywin Lannister) as a disgraced doctor who is the closest thing Ripley gets to a love interest before he gets perforated by the alien, and seeing Lance Henriksen re-cast as the Weyland-Yutani admin) and is  tautly directed by David Fincher (Seven). Ripley’s final sacrifice at the end of the movie was bitter to me to swallow as a kid, but as an adult I greatly preferred it as the end of her character arc to the ill-advised abortion of a sequel that followed.
  • Alien: Resurrection (1997) – The weakest movie in the franchise, but not wholly without merit, directed by a very young Joss Whedon, who imported some interesting supporting characters from what I’m presuming is an unrelated project he was working on that later become Firefly (I’m guessing here). The most entertaining supporting performances in the film comes not from featured deuteragonist Annalee Call (Winona Ryder) or her weird and kind of forced-feeling homoerotic relationship with clone Ripley, but from Dan Hedaya’s doomed general and Brad Douriff’s increasingly mad scientist, Gediman.  Ultimately, the cloning of Ripley makes her sacrifice at the end of the third film pointless, and makes the way that movie disposed of the supporting characters from the second that much more galling. The movie’s backstory/director’s cut dismissal of Weyland-Yutani (the ominous, ruthless, and mysterious corporation responsible for the events of the first three films who any viewer must desperately desire to see get their on-screen comeuppance) as having been “bought out by Wal-Mart” centuries ago while good black comedy is badly anti-climactic cinema, almost anti-climactic as the movie’s goofy looking antagonist, the alien-human hybrid. In short, Resurrection is the worst film in the franchise because it throws away everything about Alien 3 that I came to realize made it a good movie as an adult in the interest of…what, exactly? 
  • Prometheus (2012) – I don’t know if this even makes sense, but Prometheus is definitely not an Alien movie, yet is inseparable from the continuity of the Aliens Franchise. I’ll keep my commentary on it brief because it’s recent and contentious. I thought it was a good, possibly great science fiction movie. If you were expecting it to be a great horror movie, like Alien, to which it is a prequel, I could see why you might conclude it was a bad movie overall, but I strongly disagree. It doesn’t quite make the connection to Alien I wanted, but it sets up symbiosis with the most recent (and hopefully final) movie in the Alien franchise which does. I think Prometheus was a very smart movie that probably went over the heads of general audiences in a lot of ways, but I think it did have a couple of dumb moments which unfortunately went memetic in the age of the internet.
  • Alien: Covenant (2017) – It’s probably controversial to say this,  but: I think this was a good science fiction film, a great horror film, and a very good Alien movie: I’d rank it above Resurrection and Prometheus (if you count that as an Alien film at all) certainly and almost as certainly as an equal to Alien 3. The performance(s?) from Michael Fassbender were incredibly strong, even riveting. Covenant wasn’t as well received critically as I think it deserved to be. Probably most controversial was its ending (no major spoilers here if you haven’t seen it yet), which word of mouth described to me as “predictable”. The ending disappointed me a little, but on the basis that I found it a touch cruel and pessimistic, for a movie that had not been kind to its cast throughout. I understand that Ridley Scott–80 years old at the time of this film’s release!–has probably grown more cynical with age, not less, as is typically the case. But to me, a happier ending, a drop of sweetness and mercy, would have better seasoned and served the horror that came before. I need to re-watch it and see how my opinion changes over time, of course. As the first new Alien film in 20 years, it’s pretty monumental.

And Now, With No Further Adieu, All Of The Ingredients For Aliens In The Singularity System

The Xenomorph’s Lifecycle

Facehugger

The “facehugger” is the second stage of the alien life-cycle, following the egg from which it is hatched (eggs are stationary and relatively helpless, with 12 Health and Armor 1; destroying an egg in one hit destroys the facehugger inside it, while failure to do so means the facehugger begins to hatch, and finishes hatching by the end of the next turn after the egg was damaged). Facehuggers are more of a vector or a gamete, depending on your perspective, than a full-fledged organism. They are incredibly fast, surprisingly strong, have the xenomorph’s concentrated acid blood, and are utterly single-minded. The purpose of its short life–it withers and dies within 6d6 + 6 hours if it cannot find a host–is to wrap itself around an organic host’s face, ram its ovipositor down their throat, and lay an egg in their chest.

Fortitude Strength 8  Quickness 8
Intelligence PerceptionCyber 1
Initiative 14d6 Health 7

SKILLS: Athletics 6, Low Tech Weapons 6, Stealth 6

Impregnate: The facehugger launches itself at an adjacent target’s well…face. It doesn’t need to make an attack roll, nor does the victim get an evasion roll. It is just too fast. The victim must make a Hard Quickness Test just to react at all. If the victim fails that roll, they are unable to react and are impregnated. See the Chestburster’s Bloodbath of Birth ability, below.  If the victim succeeds, they can struggle to pry the creature off. They make an Opposed Strength roll versus the facehugger. If they achieve a net success, they throw the creature off. If the creature achieves a net success, it impregnates them. If there is a tie, they struggle with the creature for the rest of the turn. A character adjacent to the victim can also try to pry the facehugger off with their own opposed Strength roll.

If the victim is wearing a protective face-plate (like the kind that often comes with a spacesuit) it buys them exactly one turn as the facehugger excretes a weak acid that boils through the face plate.

If a facehugger is pried off, it is thrown to the ground. To attempt to leap onto a character’s face again, it must hit with an Unarmed Combat roll vs. Normal Evasion: if it does, Opposed Strength tests happen as described above.

Once a facehugger has attached itself firmly to its host, there is no safe way to remove it. Cutting it will kill the host with a facefull of acid blood. Any attempts to pry it lose with force will just cause it to tighten its grip around the host’s throat, potentially crushing the host’s trachea or asphyxiating the host.

Acid Blood: Whenever a facehugger takes damage from anything other than fire, characters it is grappling with, “hugging”, or on top of suffer the same amount of damage the facehugger takes, reduced by their Armor as normal. The rating of their Armor is also reduced by 1 point.

Chestburster

A chestburster is a relatively helpless alien embryo. It is cannily aware of its helplessness and will immediately, instinctively seek to flee via a small aperture where it cannot be pursued after its birth. It has a bite attack, but only makes use of it in the direst of emergencies. Its survival prerogative is flight, not fight.

Fortitude Strength 4  Quickness 6
Intelligence PerceptionCyber 2
Initiative 11d6 Health 7

SKILLS: Athletics 6, Stealth 6, Survival 4, Unarmed Combat 6

Bloodbath of Birth: Twelve to twenty four hours after a facehugger attaches itself to a host, it falls off, seemingly dead, its payload delivered, and its host seems to recover to normal health (chest X-Rays will reveal otherwise). A suitably appropriate dramatic interval–no more than a few days–after a facehugger has impregnated a host (or 6d6 + 6 Hours after detachment) if the GM is feeling arbitrary) at a suitably appropriate dramatic moment when everyone is least expecting it, the chestburster punches its way free from the host’s torso in a shower of gore. The host is killed instantly. Every human who witnesses this hideous birth must succeed a Hard Intelligence Test or be unable to act for two turns. Humans that were particularly close to the host or cared for them should not be allowed an Intelligence Test at all: they automatically spend two turns gaping in horror.

Fast Movement +4: A Chestburster can move 15 meters as a Minor Action instead of the 11 meters that would normally be calculated from its Quickness.

Bite: At 6 Dice for 2 Damage, Piercing 1.

Acid Blood: Whenever a chestburster takes damage from anything other than fire, characters it is right on top of or that are right on top of it suffer the same amount of damage, reduced by their Armor as normal. The rating of their Armor is also reduced by 1 point.

Xenomorph (Adult)

In just 6d6 + 6 hours after its birth, a xenomorph has grown to its full adult size, molting and shedding its skin several times during the process. This is exceptionally rapid growth, and it is unknown if it requires the xenomorph to consume biological material (rats, cats, dogs) or simply happens inevitably over time. An adult xenomorph is a terrifying, nigh-perfect killing machine, and could easily wipe out a group of PCs on its own by hunting and stalking them intelligently, using its affinity for stealth and its deadly natural weapons. Note that the following stats represent a xenomorph born from a human host. A xenomorph born from a dog, a cow, or a manatee might have slightly different statistics and abilities.

Fortitude Strength 7  Quickness 7
Intelligence 2* PerceptionCyber 3
Initiative 13d6 Health 12 Armor 4
Optional: ReAct -20 (adult xenomorphs should only have a ReAct value in a campaign where most PCs have a ReAct value in personal combat, which is not the default assumption of an Aliens campaign, since cyberware augmentation of humans is not featured or mentioned in the series.)

SKILLS: Athletics 6, Electronics 3 (“What do you mean they cut the power, man, they’re animals, man!”), Low Tech Weapons 6, Stealth 6, Survival 6.

TRAITSCatlike, Toughness.

“What If They Don’t Show Up On Infrared At All??”: An Alien that is flush with, stationary against, or crawling amongst pipework, industrial machinery, or its own resin (see below) is like a chameleon, almost impossible to spot because of the way it blends in with its surroundings. Perception tests to see it (even with Vauggles or the like) are Hard, and Stealth Tests made by it are Easy.

Hive Mind: Individual alien drones act primarily on Instinct, as indicated by their Intelligence of 2. If a queen is within 100 km, the drones can operate as a hive mind instead, using the queen’s Intelligence of 5 instead.

Natural Weapons: Note, the Evasion roll made against any of an Alien’s Natural Weapons is Normal, not Easy, due to their deadly speed.

Claw Rake: Attack at 7 Dice for 5 Damage, Piercing 1.

Impale With Tail: Attack at 10 Dice for 4 Damage, Piercing 4.

Grab and Bite: With one net success on a Low Tech Weapons vs. Normal Evasion test, an alien can grab a victim as a Major Action. Unless that victim can somehow thrash his way free (beating the alien on an opposed Strength test), on the following turn, the Alien can ram its proboscis and pharyngeal jaws through the victim’s brain, an instant and automatic kill in a campaign setting based in the Aliens universe (if importing the Xenomorph to a different universe or crossing over into the territory of equally badass monsters like the Predator, assume the attack inflicts 12 Damage with Piercing 6 and requires no roll beyond the initial grapple).

Acid Blood: Whenever a xenomorph takes damage from anything other than fire, characters within two meters of it suffer the same amount of damage, reduced by their Armor as normal. The rating of their Armor is also reduced by 1 point. If more than one character is within two meters of the xenomorph when it is damaged, the acid damage is divided evenly between them.

Metamorphosis: A solitary alien drone (male) that is not already part of a colony or hive can attempt a metamorphic process that transforms it into an alien queen. Doing so requires an ample supply of biological material–several corpses or live victims–and ample time to encase the victims and itself in a resin cocoon, from which the drone can emerge as a queen. This process a Survival (60, 1 Hour) Extended Test.

Alien Warriors

Larger and stronger than the other male drones, alien warriors are specialized to protect the queen. There are usually between four and six of them guarding the queen and the royal egg chamber at any given time.

Fortitude Strength 8  Quickness 6
Intelligence 2* PerceptionCyber 3
Initiative 11d6 Health 16 Armor 5
Optional: ReAct -20 (Alien warriors should only have a ReAct value in a campaign where most PCs have a ReAct value in personal combat, which is not the default assumption of an Aliens campaign, since cyberware augmentation of humans is not featured or mentioned in the series.)

SKILLS: Athletics 5, Electronics 3 (“What do you mean they cut the power, man, they’re animals, man!”), Low Tech Weapons 8, Stealth 5, Survival 5.

TRAITSDurability, Toughness.

“What If They Don’t Show Up On Infrared At All??”: An Alien Warrior that is flush with, stationary against, or crawling amongst pipework, industrial machinery, or its own resin (see below) is like a chameleon, almost impossible to spot because of the way it blends in with its surroundings. Perception tests to see it (even with Vauggles or the like) are Hard, and Stealth Tests made by it are Easy.

Hive Mind: Individual alien warriors act primarily on Instinct, as indicated by their Intelligence of 2. If a queen is within 100 km, the drones can operate as a hive mind instead, using the queen’s Intelligence of 5 instead.

Natural Weapons: Note, the Evasion roll made against any of an Alien’s Natural Weapons is Normal, not Easy, due to their deadly speed.

Claw Rake: Attack at 8 Dice for 6 Damage, Piercing 2.

Impale With Tail: Attack at 11 Dice for 5 Damage, Piercing 5.

Grab and Bite: With one net success on a Low Tech Weapons vs. Normal Evasion test, an alien can grab a victim as a Major Action. Unless that victim can somehow thrash his way free (beating the alien on an opposed Strength test), on the following turn, the Alien can ram its proboscis and pharyngeal jaws through the victim’s brain, an instant and automatic kill in a campaign setting based in the Aliens universe (if importing the Xenomorph to a different universe or crossing over into the territory of equally badass monsters like the Predator, assume the attack inflicts 12 Damage with Piercing 6 and requires no roll).

Acid Blood: Whenever a xenomorph takes damage from anything other than fire, characters within two meters of it suffer the same amount of damage, reduced by their Armor as normal. The rating of their Armor is also reduced by 1 point. If more than one character is within two meters of the xenomorph when it is damaged, the acid damage is divided evenly between them.

Alien Queen

The sole female and arguably the start of the alien life cycle, it is the queen that lays the eggs that give birth to the facehuggers that then forcibly impregnate their victims, creating chestbursters which grow into alien drones. The queen does not ordinarily fight, her job in the alien’s life cycle is to produce eggs and to guide her hive through their telepathic communication. But if her eggs are threatened or the enormous egg sack she uses to lay eggs destroyed, then she becomes a deadly enemy, nearly the size of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but much smarter, and way more pissed off. If the queen is destroyed and the colony is reduced down to a single male drone, that drone can metamorphose into a queen under the right conditions, see Metamorphosis above.

Fortitude 12  Strength 9  Quickness 5
Intelligence PerceptionCyber 4
Initiative 13d6 Health 20 Armor 6
ReAct -30

SKILLS: Athletics 3, Coercion 6,  Low Tech Weapons 9,  Survival 6.

TRAITS: Durability, Toughness

Egg Sack: While attached to her egg sack, the queen cannot make Evasion rolls. The Egg Sack has a separate Health of 20 and no Armor. The queen lays eggs with an Extended Fortitude (6, 15 Minutes) Extended Test, creating on average one new egg every 45 minutes, although the overall size of the colony is limited by the number of human hosts available. If a threat begins attacking the queen directly rather than the egg sack, she begins to detach herself from it, a process which takes two full turns.

Natural Weapons: Note, the Evasion roll made against any of an Alien’s Natural Weapons is Normal, not Easy, due to their deadly speed.

Claw Rake: Attack at 10 Dice for 6 Damage, Piercing 2.

Impale With Tail: Attack at 12 Dice for 7 Damage, Piercing 6.

Bite: At 9 Dice for 9 Damage, Piercing 6.

Acid Blood: Whenever an alien queen takes damage from anything other than fire, characters within two meters of it suffer the same amount of damage, reduced by their Armor as normal. The rating of their Armor is also reduced by 1 point. If more than one character is within two meters of the queen when it is damaged, the acid damage is divided evenly between them. Attacks that only deal 1 damage to the queen due to her Armor do not cause any acid backsplash.

Hive Mind: The Queen is smart, and can see through the…eyeless heads of all of her drones and warriors, and adapt her strategy and tactics accordingly via this telepathic link.

“We Got Nukes, We Got Knives, We Got Sharp Sticks”

The Smartgun and Flamethrower first described on page 50 of The Singularity System core rulebook accurately depict the M56A2 Smartgun and M240 Incinerator Unit from Aliens respectively.

Armat M4A1 Pulse Rifle (Firearms Skill)
Accuracy: +0
Damage: 5
Ammo: 99
Maximum Rate of Fire: Full Auto
Notes: Piercing 2, 4-Round Burst
Minimum Strength: 4
Cost (Game Balance Benchmark Only; Marines Are Issued Their Rifles): 8,000 Credits

With Underslung U1 Grenade Launcher (Heavy Weapons Skill)
Accuracy: +0
Damage: 10
Ammo: 4
Maximum Rate of Fire: Single
Notes: Blast -1/2 Meters

The Armored Personnel Carrier first appearing on page 65 of the Singularity System and the Dropship first appearing on page 66 of The Singularity System accurately represent the M577 Armored Personnel Carrier and the UD4L Cheyenne Dropship from Aliens respectively.

M-5000 Powered Work Loader (Power Loader)

Handling: +0
Mobility: 1
Tactical Speed: 20
Hull: 25/12/12/15
Armor: 10
Weapon Systems: Pincer (Accuracy +0, Damage 12, Ammo NA, Range Close)
Welding Torch (Accuracy +0, Damage 18, Piercing 8, Ammo 10, Range Close)
Systems:  None.
ReAct: -30

[last lines]

Ripley: Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew – Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash, and Captain Dallas – are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.

[to Jonesy the cat]

Ripley: Come on, cat.

<End Transmission>

 

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.

Crawling Out of the Muck and Mire

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

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

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

Transmissions From The End #00…7?

Transmissions From The End #007

SysMal Kickstarter In Its Last Week

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

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

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

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

SPLINTER QSR and Infowar

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

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

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

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

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

<End Transmission>

 

Lesser Evils

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

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

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

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

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

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

….

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

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

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

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