Tabletop Roleplaying

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>

 

That Feeling When

TFW: You realize that a rule that you both wrote and published makes no fucking sense.

I think that Firefight came out in 2013 or 2014? I forget. Anyway, anyway, there’s this Combat Maneuver on p. 15, Defensive Roll, that makes literally no fucking sense.

IF CHEWBACCA LIVES ON ENDOR YOU MUST ACQUIT.

The rule says “A character with this Combat Maneuver decreases the Difficulty Stage of all Evasion rolls made versus Splash Attacks by one, from Hard to Normal.”

This makes exactly 0 sense. In The Singularity System you do not ever ROLL an Evasion test versus a “Splash Attack” because that is NOT A THING. Instead, attacks have a BLAST Radius and you suffer damage based on how close you are to ground zero, your Armor, the attack’s Piercing, and nothing else.

In 2013 I published a rule that was goddamn nonsense. But that can’t have happened! I’m perfect!

new20sorry20so20perfect

Except for that pesky part where I’m totally NOT Perfect, or even close.

Still, though…that…fucking…feeling…when. So, Errata, effective immediately:

For Firefight, p. 15:

  • Replace the Description of Defensive Roll with the following text: “A character with this combat maneuver can make an Evasion or Athletics roll (whichever is higher) when caught in the Blast Radius of any attack with a Blast Radius. Each Hit achieved on this test reduces the damage of the Blast attack by one–after reducing Base damage by meters from target,but before applying Armor.”

In summation:

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

There Are Bad Things And Then There Are Bad Things

A few minutes ago, I was having a discussion on the Shadowrun freelancer group’s secret internal e-mail. In the course of firing off a grumpy e-mail, I accidentally wrote a mini-essay that I was quite proud of and decided to publish here. While it began as a conversation “inside the secret circle”, nothing I have to say here violates my NDA by even the broadest definition.

***

Anyway, to provide context for this mini-essay, I was talking about the character Haze in Shadowrun, a character whose existence predates me working on Shadowrun but who I wrote up in Street Legends. The TL;DR of my comment can be summed up in Haze’s little section here where this trope is invoked and I argue that trope involves a certain degree of hypocrisy (we’re completely inured to murder, but rape is so bad many people screech that it can’t even BE IN FICTION).

In return, I was linked to a four year old Jimquisition video. The TL;DR of the video is that rape is a “special” evil that is always worse than any other atrocity a character could commit in fiction. Then around seven minutes he takes a shit on the entire medium of videogames by suggesting it’s not mature enough to handle rape. Thanks Jim, way to advance the cause of vidya as a legitimate art form you fat sanctimonious bastard.

I was also linked to where this trope (my least favorite trope for reasons I get into below) is cross referenced with Shadowrun.

Anyway, here’s the essay!

***

Jim Sterling says some over-the-top, just wrong-on-the-face-of-it things like “Rape is not privy to the same moral respect [as murder]”. What??? Maybe in the most barbarous parts of the Middle East under Sharia Law this might hold true, but certainly not in the vast majority of the English speaking world. In Western civilization, rape is and long has been considered the most morally reprehensible act a person could commit. As a matter of fact, even other criminals hold in special contempt, because it gives them someone they can feel better than (see below).

If a player at my table was playing a PC that was a rapist or god-forbid trying to commit rape in game, I would be extremely uncomfortable with that and shut it down. Because it might well make other players uncomfortable, and even worse, I would be strongly suspicious that it was intended to make other players uncomfortable. But to acknowledge that rape happens in the world of Shadowrun is nothing short of necessary for the same reason that it’s necessary to acknowledge that racism and drug addiction and genocide exist in Shadowrun.

The statement some troper made that “Haze is canonically a serial rapist” is not one that I think I would ultimately agree with. I would say that Haze is a real piece of shit, someone who frequently uses seduction and mind-influencing spells and has a sketchy and worrisome (at best) respect for consent.

Jim Sterling says that rape is “not a gray area” but in a universe where we have Control Thoughts and Control Emotions that becomes much less true: unlike actual rape, you can totally cast those spells on someone who would might have consented anyway. And the area can get even more gray than that. What if a character casts Increase Charisma and that magical boost enables them to seduce someone they otherwise wouldn’t be able to? Is that definitely rape? Is it definitely not rape? Or does it just fall into a gray area that is “kind of rapey”?

But more profoundly, I have some profound issues with the idea of “darkness induced audience apathy” in general. To be blunt, I think that if the preponderance of bad people and dark deeds in a work of fiction you were otherwise invested in makes you disengage from that fiction, then you should probably stop consuming adult fiction and go back to nursery school. By that same logic, you should have given up on the real world a long time ago: it is far more full of senseless tragedy and awfulness than Warhammer 40k to the tenth power.

Of course, I am also deeply invested in creating and promoting games and fictional settings that are dark, dark, dark.

Transmissions From The End – #001

So, this is going to be more upbeat than the last thing I blogged, which is a very low bar.

I’ve decided that every Thursday or every other Thursday (not sure which I’ll be able to manage) I’m going to check in on-the-regs with an update on the affairs of the folks here at End Transmission Games and the status of the various products that we’re working on. Why Thursday? Well it’s the only day of the week named for the Norse God of muthafuggin Thunder, Thor (trivia: he was totally a thing before Chris Hemsworth played him on TV). And that’s good enough for me.

So here it is:

TRANSMISSIONS FROM THE END – #001

Right now, I’m the line developer of no less than three game lines: SPLINTER, DicePunk (which includes both Phantasm(2010) and Psionics), and The Singularity System. The workload this entails probably deserves a blog post of its own, but this isn’t that blog post. It’s the short version. That’s a crazy amount of work, and being the line dev of one game is probably enough to drive a normal man crazy, but I’m crazy to begin with, and this is what I love, so down for it.

GenCon

This year, we’re an Event Partner of GenCon 2016! Yes, seriously. Like at the same tier as ACD Distribution or Fantasy Flight Games (holy shnikees!). We’ve finally made it into the Dealer’s Hall (Booth #2853) and we’re running a staggering 64 hours of the aforementioned games at the con. I know that’s a pittance compared to what Catalyst Game Labs or D&D is running, but for us, it’s a TON.

Big shout out to the BAMFs at Kelly’s Heroes who’ll be running twenty hours of those games for us. But that leaves us with 44 hours of games to run between myself and Mikaela and the inner circle we’re bringing along, and we need to spend a lot of our time at the booth. If you’re coming to GenCon and you’d like to help out, please sign up to become a StormWatch Warden here! We’re offering exclusive free swag, badge comps, and more depending on how many hours you can run.

SPLINTER

Mikaela did the legwork of mailing out the books from the SPLINTER Kickstarter a couple weeks ago, so those should be arriving in the hands of our awesome backers soon. The dice gnomes at Chessex are currently manufacturing our custom SPLINTER dice too, and we’re still waiting on those (not a lot of backers are getting custom dice, just the highest tiers, but they’ll be on sale at GenCon).

In other SPLINTER News, the SPLINTER Living Campaign, Glory & Gore (website still to come), is launching at GenCon. We’ve got six instances of it running at GenCon this year and most of them still have some tickets left. The first three adventures in Glory & Gore were written by Richard Kelly and will eventually be available as a stand-alone published adventure (working title: Return To The Dread Abyss of the Digitarchs). You can bring your own Player/Avatars or pick PreGens, either way you level up as you progress through the adventures. This is part of what we’re looking for GMs for, so see the Stormwatch Warden application form above.

DicePunk

The Pleasantville Project is the first Psionics adventure, and the first installment in the Eternal Storm Campaign. It’s written by Richard Kelly, so I don’t feel like I’m bragging when I say it’s awesome. If enough people buy it, we WILL publish more adventures continuing the campaign, so check it out!

This convention season, our demo for DicePunk is Psionic Phantasms, a crossover between Psionics and Phantasm(2010) that I’m very excited about.

I’m also working on a new DicePunk adventure (it’s a canon event in the Psionics universe, but the PCs don’t need to be Espers) that will be published at some point, maybe alter this year. The plan is for it to include conversions for running it in other popular systems like FATE and Savage Worlds. It’s called Escape From Cleveland, and I’ll tease more about it in future installments of Transmissions From The End.

Singularity System

Good and bad news on this front. Bad news first. In the past, I think I had teased Module 04: Infowar, the hacking sourcebook, for a GenCon release. Unfortunately, at this point, I think the release of a physical book by GenCon is pretty much ruled out at this point. A rash of personal (mental) health programs has really slowed me down on writing this one. A PDF release by GenCon is more of a possibility, because we won’t have to wait for it to come back from the printers, but I’m not promising that either.

The good news is that our September, 2015 Singularity System release Epic Space Battles was nominated for a Best Free Product ENnie award this year! You can vote for it here! And you should, apparently today is the last day to vote (already!?) so VOTE FOR IT!!!!!! Ahem. I mean…cool, practiced indifference. This marks our tiny little concern’s second Ennie nomination, which is awesome. And an actual win would be awesome beyond words.

To celebrate this free product’s surprising popularity (which is news to me!), I am considering using some of the four instances we have of The Singularity System running at this year at GenCon as “Epic Space Battle” tournaments instead of the same old sampling of Singularity System demos that we’ve been running since 2014. I’ll reveal more about that in the future.

Wrapping Up

That’s all I’ve got for right now. See you next Thorsday or the Thorsday after that for the next installment of Transmissions From The End.

UPDATE (Crosspost from ETG Tumblr)

Why did we pick Tumblr? I literally can’t remember.

Systems Malfunction: The LARP: The Resurrection: If we get six more preregistrations today, and have an attendance of 20+ on July 8th, there will be a game. If not, this dream goes back in its coffin indefinitely, but maybe not forever. Here’s hoping.

SPLINTER: Surprising Things: ATTN Backers, assuming our printer doesn’t poo the bed, we should be mailing out books starting next week.

Also, Glory and Gore, the SPLINTER Living Campaign, got off to a rocky start because of a SNAFU in Origins’ preregistration system. I’m hoping for a more robust launch at GenCon.

DicePunk: The Pleasantville Project by Richard Kelly, the first Psionics adventure, is out! First of how many? Depends entirely on how it sells. So, you know. Buy it! (Apparently, as I type this it’s on sale? Kick ass, who knew!) It’s awesome. It’s the first thing we’ve published that I didn’t write even close to a majority of, and so I feel less iffy about saying that it’s awesome.

Singularity: MOD04 – Infowar, the book of the hackings for The Singularity System, is tentatively slated for a GenCon Release.

GenCon: We’ll FINALLY be at GENEVA CONVENTION (that’s what GenCon actually stands for, if ya didn’t know) in a booth of our very own: #2853 (mother of God that dealer’s hall is BIG)! Stop by and say hi. Get some books! Get your books signed! Etcetera. I should repeat this announcement several times before the show is upon us.

Origins 2016: SNAFUBAR

SNAFU: Military acronym for Situation Normal: All Fucked Up.
FUBAR: Military acronym for Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition, a more severe version of the former.
SNAFUBAR: A portmanteau of the two above military acronyms, forming a longer acronym: Situation Normal: All Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. As far as I know, I’m the person who came up with this but if I’m not, I wouldn’t be surprised. The concatenation seems pretty obvious.

Anyway, did you know, Origins Game Fair has a preregistration system? It’s where you can preregister for games. In 2015, IIRC, we ran six demo events. Nearly all of them were packed tables, so because of that and because we had more GMs on our demo team, we expanded to nine events for 2016.

The first five of our nine events, and the ninth, were no-shows and Did Not Run. At first, we thought we had been hexed by voodoo, or perhaps cursed by God. Midway through the show, we found out that it was not dark magic or divine wrath. Rather, a “SNAFU” in Origins’ preregistration system was showing everyone that tried to preregister for our events that they were sold out, even though there were zero tickets sold. (This even effected Catalyst: two people went up to a Catalyst Demo Team agent and said: “The system said this was sold out.” The Demo guy responded: “If by sold out, you mean that you two are the only ones who showed up, then yeah.”) That meant that only our Friday Night, Saturday Morning, and Saturday Afternoon demos actually ran. The Origins registration system’s little SNAFU cost us literally 2/3rds of our events.

“Thanks, Obama!”

As for sales, they were solid, but not quite as good as 2015. Our lil’ booth grossed just a hair more than the IGDN megabooth, which I’m proud of, because they had Call of Cathulhu (and in case you haven’t heard, Cthulhu and/or Cats are a little hot right now).

We’re going to be Kickstarting something soon. Internal deliberation exists as to what and when, so it’s probably months off. I can more or less guarantee that it won’t be a brand new game line: supporting the DicePunk, Singularity, and SPLINTER lines is all my brain can handle. But the Psionics KS in 2014 taught us that a non-zero number of people notice our company exists when we’re actively Kickstarting something. And since our meta-goal is to increase public awareness (if you’re one of the five people that read this, lol, you can help boost our signal!) that means another Kickstarter. We’re not lacking for product ideas. The most likely candidate is a new setting for the practically venerable Singularity System (on the market since 2013 now!).