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

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

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

Cooking with Nanites

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

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


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

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

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


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

Limitations on Nanofacturing

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

Replicants and Nanites

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


Transmissions From The End #12: Sneak Preview – Just Say Yes To Space Drugs

This is the third sneak peak from the Systems Malfunction manuscript, and it would probably be the last, except I inherited my father’s irrational hatred of the number three, so instead this is most likely the penultimate preview, with one more to come. The topic this time around is the section from the end of the Personal Equipment chapter called “Something No Pill Could Ever Kill” which includes revised and expanded rules and roleplaying cues for drugs, plus new and improved answers to questions about how drugs effect Xel, how Replicants can do drugs, and how characters can become addicted, and then (theoretically at least) get clean.

Shout out to Rachid Yahya, wherever he is, for originating one or two of these drugs and doing the original writeup on them for the now out-of-print Systems Malfunction sourcebook.

As usual, sorry for the janky formatting of the tables.

Something No Pill Could Ever Kill


Most of these drugs are of the “performance enhancing”, not “recreational” bent and are often “prescribed” to appropriate troops by Great Houses or the Republic Military (a dose of Zip2 is standard issue for Colonial Marines going into battle: Red Mist is technically prohibited by the Red Army, but its prohibition is commonly violated). Most of these drugs are illegal for most civilian citizens of most systems most of the time. Of them, Prophecy and Skye are the most likely to be legal or unregulated in more liberal systems. Red Mist, Stardust, and Zip2 are all criminalized on the federal level.

Drug Duration Effects Per Dose Crash* Addictive? Street Cost

(One Dose)

Synthetica 1d6 + 1 Hours per dose Special: see text. 4 Fatigue plus 1 Fatigue per extra dose, and -1 to all tests for 2d6 hours. Yes. 1000 Credits
Prophecy 3d6 Hours Special: see text. 3 Fatigue, -2 Perception and Intelligence for 2d6 hours. No. 1000 Credits
Red Mist 5d6 Minutes +1 Strength, +1 Fortitude, and +1 Damage with all attacks. 5 Lethal Damage plus loss of all temporary Health: note that temporary extra Health gained from taking Red Mist is not lost ‘first’. Very 500 Credits
Skye 2d6 Hours Cost of sustaining Psi Talents is reduced by 1, to a minimum of 1. -1 Perception and Intelligence per dose, lasting 2d6 hours. No. 1500 Credits
Stardust 5d6x10 Minutes Special: see text. 6 Fatigue plus 1 Lethal damage per extra dose. Very. 750 Credits
Zip2 1d6x10 Minutes +1 Quickness; +1 Dice Pool Bonus To Hit With All Weapons. 6 Lethal Damage Yes. 750 Credits

* The minimum that a drug’s Crash effects can reduce any attribute to is 1.

Mechanical Effects of Synthetica: Whenever you take a dose of Synthetica, roll a die. If the result is even, you receive +2 Perception and -1 Cyber (Minimum 1). If the result is odd, you receive +2 Cyber and -1 Perception (Minimum 1). As you take additional doses, keep track of the size of the bonus and the size of the penalty, but keep in mind that each additional dose makes the trip “switch”: the bonuses and penalties do not “level out”. For example: if you take two doses of Synthetica, rolling an odd number for each dose, you are at +4 Cyber and -2 Perception. If you later take a third dose and roll an even number, you are now at +6 Perception, -3 Cyber, not +3 Cyber and +/- 0 Perception as you would be if you were simply summing the bonuses and penalties. Each dose adds 1d6 + 1 hours to the drug’s effect duration.

Finally, for every two points of Cyber bonus you have from Synthetica, you receive +1 die to all skill tests with skills that have Cyber as a governing attribute. For every two points of Perception bonus you have from Synthetica, you receive +1 die to all skill tests with skills that have Perception as a governing attribute.

Roleplaying Notes on Synthetica: Synthetica (other street names include Cynerium and Answer7) is usually ingested in the form of a silver and/or gold capsule that is swallowed. As indicated by its mechanics, the effects of Synthetica are more than a little unpredictable. We’ve waxed poetic about what it’s like to be on Synthetica more than a little, in the braided Systems Malfunction fiction anthology Angels In Jersey City. The shorter version is that when it’s enhancing Perception, Synthetica blurs the barriers between yourself and other people, creating a kind of euphoric, genuine empathy. It blurs the walls between dreams and reality and turns personal boundaries porous. When it’s enhancing Cyber, Synthetica causes a less euphoric, more dissociative, and more contemplative high. The user feels like they have drifted outside of their own body, and they view it from a detached and clinical perspective that allows for a more complete understanding of systems of all kinds and how they intersect and interact.

Mechanical Effects of Prophecy: One hour after using Prophecy, you are tripping balls. All Tests become Hard for the duration of the effect. At some point during the trip, the GM should call for a Hard Perception Test. If you get two successes, you receive a (highly surreal) vision of your future: if you receive the vision, your Advent pool, if any Advent was spent this session, is refreshed. Additionally, you temporarily receive +2 bonus Advent that can only be spent this session. Unlike all other drugs, there are no bonuses or penalties to taking additional doses of Prophecy beyond the first.

Roleplaying Notes on Prophecy: Prophecy is made from naturally occurring, Aetherially active space flora. Sometimes it is consumed by swallowing translucent capsules full of seeds, sometimes by brewing tea, sometimes by inhaling smoke. Because prophecy is a strong hallucinogen, users experience vivid and strange visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as hallucinations that can’t be ascribed to any one sense or combination of senses. Stationary objects may seem to move, static patterns may seem to writhe, mundane objects may suddenly appear scintillatingly beautiful or indescribably sinister, and so on. Characters on Prophecy should not handle or have access to weapons, let alone go into combat.

Mechanical Effects of Red Mist: See table.

Roleplaying Notes on Red Mist: Red Mist comes in a hypo-sprayer and is applied (sprayed) directly into the eyes: the pupils dilate sharply and the whites of the eyes go almost completely blood red. You are an unstoppable killing machine, a humanoid thresher, your enemies but rows of grain before you. Manic rage fills you and it is difficult to stop yourself from giggling and/or screaming in sheer, violent joy. You have the killing fever. Characters on Red Mist suffer from delusions of indestructibility, but are of course unaware that these are delusions.

Mechanical Effects of Skye: See table.

Roleplaying Notes on Skye: Skye is ingested as brightly colored, triangle shaped tablets which are swallowed or crushed and insufflated.  Of all the drugs described here, Skye is the most subtle and perhaps the only one that a character might use unnoticed even by those who know the signs. Characters on Skye feel more alert and intelligent, are better at abstract thinking, act somewhat detached, and feel philosophical and calm about even imminently dangerous situations. It is difficult for them to comprehend the urgency of any given scenario unless they specifically focus on it.

Mechanical Effects of Stardust: Stardust has no mechanical effects except when you are in combat. While you are in combat, you receive +1 Die to all Macrokinetics tests, and you lose 1 Health but regain 4d6 Psi Points at the end of every combat turn.

Roleplaying Notes on Stardust: Stardust is a silvery golden powder which is snorted like cocaine. Its effects are not unlike Red Mist, but for Xel. The first few minutes yield a euphoric rush, after which feelings of manic rage and a sense of invincibility are often reported. Xel on Stardust often testify that they can see and/or feel the psionic energy of the universe coalescing and collecting and flooding into their bodies and minds, causing them to feel sensations of godlike and/or limitless power.

Mechanical Effects of Zip2: See table.

Roleplaying Notes On Zip2: Zip2 is distributed in spring loaded epi-pen style syringes, and injected subcutaneously. The fluid inside is a rather caustic looking shade of green. Like Red Mist, Zip2 creates a state of manic fury in the user. Uncontrollable twitching and tics are a common side effect, as is a total lack of patience and the need for ACTION RIGHT NOW. Zip2 is issued to Armada Colonial Marines for use in combat. While on Zip2, users experience a sensation of time dilation, as though everyone else is moving in slow motion while they are moving and fighting at normal speed, or faster. While Zip2 does in fact make you faster on your feet and faster on the trigger, the adrenaline rush it releases can lead to (sometimes fatal) overconfidence.   Rumor has it that Zip2 is made from processed, fermented Xel organs, but this is widely disregarded as an urban legend.


Just Say No To (Human) Drugs

Most of the drugs listed here are specifically designed for (meta)humans. Accordingly, some of them have different effects on the alien physiology of Xel.

  • Zip2 provides no benefits to Xel, and causes them to feel extremely sick. While on Zip2, Xel receive a -2 dice penalty to all actions. They suffer the Crash effects of the drug as normal. On the bright side, Xel cannot get addicted to Zip2.
  • Crimson Fever is horribly poisonous for Xel. Any Xel who takes Crimson Fever must make a Hard Fortitude roll. If they fail, they automatically fall to 0 Health and begin bleeding out. While on Crimson Fever, Xel lose 1 Health per minute from poison. They suffer the Crash effects of the drug as normal. On the bright side, Xel cannot get addicted to Crimson Fever.
  • Conversely, Stardust has the same effect on humans that Crimson Fever has on Xel.
  • Synthetica largely has no effect on Xel. They must take four doses to receive the effects of one dose.
  • Prophecy affects Xel normally.



Do Androids Dream Of Electronic Smack? (Hooked On A Feeling)

 Obviously, none of the biological drugs described above have any effect on Replicants, since Replicants do not have the same internal anatomy as organics. However, there are digital equivalents for some of the drugs above that do effect Replicants, as well as some drugs that are for Replicants only. Replicant drugs—called chips—come in single use chips programmed to burn themselves out after running one.

  • Synth2 or Synthetica Squared (i.e. Synthetica for Synthetics) has the same cost and effects for Replicants as Synthetica does for organics.
  • Scramble (aka Radio Bye Bye) has the same cost as Prophecy for the most part the same effects for Replicants as Prophecy does for organics, except it doesn’t refresh the Advent pool or provide an Advent bonus.
  • Touchy-Feelies (a variety of street names exist for different “flavors”) cost anywhere between 200 and 1,000 Credits depending on the flavor and the fluctuations of the gray market. Their only effect is allowing a Replicant to feel, for 2d6 hours, an emotion the Replicant is normally incapable of feeling (see p. XX). Actually, ‘forcing’ would be a better word than ‘allowing’. A Replicant normally incapable of experiencing Joy that jacked in a “happy chip” will be happy for 2-12 hours, regardless of how wildly inappropriate that might be. Touchy-Feelies are in the mentally addictive (“habit forming”) category (see below). Their addictiveness varies based on “flavor”, common sense, and GM ruling. For instance the aforementioned Joy chip would be Very Addictive, while a Sorrow chip would likely not be addictive at all.


Addiction and Getting Clean

“I can think for myself, I’ve got something no pill could ever kill
Hey, I’m not Synthetica, oh
I’ll keep the life that I’ve got, oh
So hard, hard to resist Synthetica, oh
No drug is stronger than me, Synthetica”

– Metric, “Synthetica”

If you use drugs, the potential exists to become addicted during gameplay. PCs with the Addiction problem (p. XX) start the game addicted.

Red Mist and Zip2 are physically addictive. Stardust is mentally addictive (“habit-forming”). Synthetica is both physically and mentally addictive. Physical addiction is resisted with Fortitude. Mental addiction is resisted with Intelligence. Synthetica addiction is resisted with whichever attribute is worse.

Each time an addictive drug wears off, the user must make a test to resist addiction using the attribute indicated above: the number of successes needed is the number of times the user has taken the drug in the past. The test is Easy for drugs that are addictive, and Normal for drugs that are Very addictive. Advent can be spent as normal on rolls to avoid addiction.

If the user fails, he becomes addicted to the drug.

Penalties of Addiction: These penalties set in the “morning after” the character became addicted, or at the GM’s discretion. An addict must take the drug they are addicted to every day. If they are unable to do so, all tests are Hard until the character takes the drug (in which case the character is able to function normally for 24 hours before they must take the drug again) or beats the addiction (see below). A character who is addicted can still spend Advent to make a particular test Easy (see p. XX), but all characters addicted to drugs receive -1 Advent for each drug they are addicted to.

Getting Clean: To shake an addiction, first the character must go a full week without using the drug they are addicted to. That means a full week with all tests set to Hard and -1 Advent: withdrawal is no fun for the character going through it, who is virtually crippled by those penalties.

The character then can make a Fortitude or Intelligence test as appropriate (see above). The test’s difficulty is Normal and the character can spend Advent to add dice to the test before rolling it, or to reroll failures, but not to make the test Easy before rolling. Three successes gets the character clean of an addictive drug, while a very addictive drug needs five successes. If the character fails the roll to get clean, they can try again in one week (assuming that they don’t relapse by using the drug again). The character receives +1 die to the roll to get clean for every previous week in which they’ve gone without the drug but failed to get clean.

Note that if a character successfully gets clean of an Addiction that was one of their starting Problems (see p. XX), they must either choose another Problem that the GM agrees can logically replace the addiction, or lose the corresponding Edge and its benefits (see p. XX).

Thus endeth the excerpt…

Check back in a week or so for one last sneak preview, and don’t forget that Origins Game Fair is right around the corner!


Transmissions From The End #011: Sneak Peak – Putting It All Together

Here’s another excerpt from the Systems Malfunction manuscript, as progress continues slowly and steadily. We really ought to get art briefs written up and out before the end of the month, which means we should be able to preview some art after Origins (which is suddenly very soon!).

As any of you following the Kickstarter closely probably noted, we didn’t make one of the Stretch Goals I was most excited about, which would have allowed us to include capital-scale starship combat rules and actual deck-plans for common capital ships in the Systems Malfunction universe. This is a major bummer, but one bright side is that with how far behind we are on a couple of projects, it would have been a nightmare trying to get those deck plans done in time. I still look forward to publishing a book of SysMal vessels, complete with deck plans, in the future.

In the meantime, here’s the chapter on scaling personal and vehicle combat from the Systems Malfunction manuscript. For those backers/fans/players who don’t have the Singularity Core Rules (and the extensive Strategic Starship Combat rules therein), I tried to provide some guidance on how to incorporate big honking starships into your campaign without having their full stats. The formatting of the table is incredibly janky, but obviously, won’t be in the final product, because it’s not being published through WordPress 😛

Astute readers will note that some of the suggestions for running combats involving both infantry and vehicles have changed from those provided in Singularity Core, in attitude as much as in content.

Bringing It All Together

If personal combatants and vehicles are involved in one fight, the shit has hit the fan and (meta)human beings are going to die historic—and become red mist. Some of those metahumans might be PCs.

If you have a battle mat and miniatures, bust ‘em out. Crude sketches are fine, but if you like some production values on your table, that’s cool too. It is very hard to do a vehicles-on-drones-on-infantry-on-Jackhammers fracas using only “theater of the mind” because vehicles can move much faster than infantry and in more directions. You use a vehicle’s Tactical Speed as its move speed in meters per turn. You ignore the ‘change range maneuver’, and resolving other Tactical Maneuvers (see p. XX) as Minor Actions (see p. XX), with Tactical Actions as Major Actions (see p. XX). This enables vehicles to use a Minor Action to take evasive maneuvers.

Instead of 10 seconds like turns with only personal combat, a turn of “mixed” combat is assumed to last the same duration as a turn of Tactical Vehicular Combat: a number of seconds equal to the highest initiative rolled (again: do not think about this too much!). ReAct (see p. XX) applies the same to metahuman and vehicular combatants, allowing extra partial actions after the “all-skate” phase.

Personal weapon damage and personal armor rating are designed to scale directly into those of tactical combat. If a personal weapon looks like it would not even scratch most vehicles, that’s cause it wouldn’t. If on the other hand, a vehicular weapon looks like it would unfailingly vaporize even the toughest, most heavily armored Replicant (and everyone standing next to him) it totally fucking would.

People trying to fight Jackhammers and drone-tanks and attack helicopters isn’t fair. The only chance of it being a fight at all lies with the odd chance that the people involved remembered to bring heavy anti-vehicular weapons.

There is a silver lining to having brought your frail metahuman body to a Jackhammer fight. Humans are very small targets; sensor assisted targeting can’t be used against them and they get to roll Evasion against all vehicular attacks: although ‘blast’ weapons will probably kill them even if they miss. Missiles cannot attack individual humans at all, nor can other weapons you can’t picture being fired at a man with a gun. For a human attacking a vehicle, the base difficulty stage is Easy. That is the last and only advantage humans get, however.

Capital Ships

Unfortunately, due to budgetary and page count constraints, the full rules for capital-ship combat (“Strategic Starship Combat”) can’t be reprinted in this book, which is a real shame. The rules appear in full on pp. 75-115 of the first (2013) printing of the Singularity System Core Rulebook, if you have access to that text. The silver lining to not being able to reprint those rules here is that they were as discovered in play less than perfect, and are definitely less than perfect for Systems Malfunction.

Generally speaking, it is probably best to treat capital ships as “set pieces” in any given Systems Malfunction campaign. Describe a larger space battle if one is happening, but keep the focus on the PCs and their actions (resolved through the rules for vehicular and personal combat). In other words, a Ferrata-Class Heavy Destroyer or a Narcissus-Class Planet Cracker is a location that exciting things are happening on, such as boarding action and defense, or a tense game of cat and mouse with an unknown alien lifeform. When in the course of space combat, a Destroyer that the PCs are assault boarding (or fighting off boarders from) becomes treated by the game more as something that things are happening to, rather than someplace that things are happening on, the likely “realistic” outcome is that a lot of PCs are going to die, very abruptly and without any chance (any roll to make) to survive.

In other words, if the Ferrata destroyer the PCs are waging an epic sword/gunfight on has its hull ruptured by ASGMs and railguns and explodes, the PCs and their enemies are all, most likely, immediately and anticlimactically dead.

On the other hand, it’s likely that at some point in a good, action-packed science fiction campaign-scape like Systems Malfunction, one or more PCs are going to be in powered armor, Jackhammers, or Starfighters, attempting an assault/boarding on a much larger ship. It’s the kind of iconic scene that good military sci-fi is chock full of. When someone’s closing in for boarding action, characters will unfailingly come under fire from (or be firing themselves) point-defense weapon systems. The least I can do is offer the stats for some common point-defense weapons, and the damage they do to vehicles and unlucky individuals alike (all have Piercing 10).

Starship Turret Weapon Accuracy Damage Starship Turret

Point Defense Weapon

Accuracy Damage
37mm Gatling Autocannon 0 24 Flak Gun -1 10×4
Quad Pulse Laser +1 4×10 20mm CIWS 0 15
Grenade Machinegun -1 32 Point Defense Pulse Laser +1 4×4
Gauss Cannon +1 28 Point Defense Beam +4 10

Note that each turret a capital ship mounts can have up to two turret weapons, up to four point defense weapons, or up to one turret weapon and two point defense weapons (when firing a twinned weapon system, i.e. two or more weapons of the same kind on the same turret, the point defense operator receives +1 to his Gunnery roll). While a small torpedo or missile boat or a Prospector-Class scout or Traveler-Class Light Transport mount only one turret each, a mid-sized capital ship like a Ferrata mounts three turrets (each with two 20mm CIWS), a Great Dragon-class Red Army flagship mounts 12 turrets, and a Vitrix-Class Supercarrier boasts 18 turrets. Only attempt a boarding or bombing run on a serious capital ship if you’re part of a massive wave of smaller craft, or if you’re feeling particularly suicidal.

Note that ground and naval bases often have mounted turrets with similar weaponry, although in that context it’s properly referred to as “anti-air” rather than “point defense”.

Closing & Boarding

It takes at least a full combat turn to close to boarding or vehicle weapons range with a capital ship: how long it takes is ultimately up to the GM, based on how far your point of launch is from the target ship, but one turn is the minimum. A Hard Helmsman, Jackhammer Rig, or Pilot (2) Test is required to bring the vehicle within boarding distance of the target starship. During this time, point defense fire must be weathered.

Jackhammers and characters in Powered Armor get to make Evasion rolls against each instance of incoming point defense fire as normal (and at a cumulative penalty of -1 for every Evasion roll made that turn, as normal). Other vehicles such as fighters and drones, however, do not make Evasion rolls. If the Gunnery roll produces a number of hits equal to the vehicle’s Handling (minimum 1), the point defense attack hits.

Jackhammers and dropships (including the Fulminata) can breach and board enemy ships after closing. Breaching and boarding is a dangerous, time-consuming process, because of the risk of fatally depressurizing both vessels. The process of penetrating a hostile hull to deploy a boarding party takes one full turn. It requires a successful opposed test versus the target ship’s Repairs subsystem rating (range of 2 to 6 depending on the size and sophistication of the enemy vessel). The boarding party either rolls Demolitions (for a combat hardbreach), an Electronics test (to rewire an airlock), or a Computers test (in the case of a software override). If the test fails, the boarding party can try again, but not by the same means, and again combat boarding takes one full turn to attempt.

Transmissions From The End #010: Sneak Peak – Extra Lives

An excerpt from the Systems Malfunction roleplaying game manuscript:

Extra Lives

Human cloning is an established technology in the Systems Malfunction universe. However, as cloning works a little differently in every sci-fi setting, we need to be a lot more specific about how clones work here. An amusing anecdote illustrates why. During a playtest/promo game, a group of actual play podcasters were faced with a scenario where they had to evacuate as the colonists from a planet under invasion by aggressive, biomechanical aliens (if you’re your group’s GM, see In Keeping Secrets, p. XX, and Robots, Monsters, and Worse, p. XX). There were too many colonists to fit in the dropship along with the Colonial Marine PCs, so the players assumed they could avoid leaving anyone behind by decapitating all of the colonists—after all, their heads would weigh less than their bodies and take up less space!—and then have them cloned later.

That is most emphatically not how cloning in Systems Malfunction works, and acting on those assumptions would have been a disastrous mission failure. They would have brutally murdered all of the people they were there to rescue. I found this misunderstanding hilarious, but also enlightening. It was an eye opening reminder that just because I’ve been immersed in the Systems universe for over a decade, newcomers to the setting don’t automatically know its nuances and details.

Here is an overview of how cloning in Systems Malfunction does work:

  • Clones are essentially “extra lives”. All Player Characters start with three clones (see p. XX) but may “sell back” any number of them during character creation, receive +1 Edge per clone sold back (see Building Your (Tragic) (Anti)Hero).
    1. After a character dies, there is a 24 hour waiting period before their clone becomes available as the clone is thawed and awakened. It may take substantially longer than that for the character to rejoin the action, depending on where they have decided to store their clones and what arrangements they’ve made beforehand. If a PC dies, this should be worked out between the PC and the GM. If the character was an NPC, it is at the GM’s discretion how long it takes for the NPC to reappear, but the minimum time is still 24 hours. Only important NPCs have clones, and the average Joe Galaxy doesn’t have any clones.
  • With currently existing technology, a clone can only be “copied” from a living being. Preserved genetic material (or a bunch of heads in a garbage bag) is not sufficient to create a new clone from.
    1. Clones are very expensive. Creating a clone of your character costs 100,000 Credits multiplied by the number of times you have had your character cloned. In other words, creating a third clone of a given character costs 300,000 Credits. Any clones you started with don’t count towards this cost multiplier.
    2. Every clone has 10 less Purity than the “generation” which proceeded it. See Purity & Consequences on p. XX and “Spiritual Machines” on p. XX for the consequences of Purity loss. (An average, heavily augmented human can die and transfer into a clone about nine times before their 10th clone has a Maximum Health of 0 and is effectively stillborn.)
    3. Most capital ships, space stations, and cities have facilities where clones can be created and stored. Backwater colonies may not, and uninhabited/uncharted planetary bodies certainly don’t.
    4. The scanning process to create a clone takes only 10 Minutes. The creation of the clone body takes between one day and one week, at the GM’s discretion.
    5. A Player Character can attempt the cloning process himself, but doing so is incredibly challenging. The PC must have access to an advanced scientific facility (and obviously the person being cloned), must spend 50,000 Credits (multiplied by the number of times the subject has been cloned, as described above), and must succeed a Hard Science (5) Test. Attempting to clone someone in this way takes one hour for the scanning process, and the usual time for the creation of the clone body. Failure on the Science Test means that you have created an invalid abomination it would be merciful to terminate: the credits are still spent. No character can manually create a clone of herself.
  • In addition to the scientific and technical limitations on how clones can be created, there are also numerous scientific, technical, and legal limitations in place on why clones can be created.
    1. Carter’s Laws of Biogenics prohibit duplicative cloning, i.e. it is entirely illegal for two instances of the same person to be active at one time. The entire government-military-medical-intelligence-communications infrastructure of the Republic is engineered to make duplicative cloning impossible. The primary limitation is in the InfoLink Implant which allows for recording of memories and continuity of consciousness (see p. XX). The implant’s hardware has been designed in such a way that none of the galaxy’s major known powers—the Republic, House Yamamoto, House Dresden, or House Dallas—can produce duplicative clones. Attempting duplicative cloning is the single most serious crime in the Republic’s legal clone, and carries more substantially more serious legal consequences than 1st degree murder.
    2. Carter’s Laws of Biogenics also prohibit reproductive cloning, i.e. it is illegal to use cloning technology to produce an offspring that is genetically identical to yourself. The legal consequences for attempting reproductive cloning are less serious than those associated with duplicative cloning, as long as the clone created is a fetus or an infant. Otherwise, this crime is treated the same as duplicative cloning.
    3. Finally, Carter’s Laws of Biogenics prohibit “longevity” cloning. For a human example, it is illegal to create a clone of yourself at the age of 30, with the intent of transferring your consciousness into that clone when you die of natural causes at the age of 76. Other treatments exist to extend the human life-span, but they cost even more than cloning, making them prohibitively expensive for all but the extremely wealthy.
      1. While modern nanomedicine can easily cure most cancers known to man, it is still worth noting that a clone made of a body with a systemic disease will still have that disease upon becoming active. In other words, a woman with Crohn’s Disease who purchases a clone now has a clone in storage that also has Crohn’s Disease.
    4. The only cloning actually permitted by Carter’s laws of biogenics is cloning as “life insurance”. In other words, it is only legal to create and store a clone as a form of insurance against death by violence or accident.
  • Cloning works exactly the same for Replicants as for characters of biological Origin with two minor exceptions.
    1. Replicant “Clones” are instead called “Backups”.
    2. Replicants needn’t worry about Purity loss from iterative cloning, as Replicants begin with 0 Purity and can never lose Purity.
  • To review, Carter’s Laws of Biogenics limit the function of clones in Systems Malfunction to that of “Extra Lives” for people who die by violence, accident, or suicide. (If a nasty fall breaks both of your legs or leaves you paralyzed from the waist down and you aren’t near an Autodoc or anyone who can help you to one, if you have a clone, it is legal to blow your brains out and wake up in your clone body 24 hours later.)


For a mixture of reasons that are around 70% in-universe and 30% game-balance. The early Presidents in the Carter “dynasty” had specific ideological reasons for creating the Laws of Biogenics and making their enforcement so air-tight and the penalties for violating them so severe. The rationale behind the policy making was as follows.

Duplicative cloning was criminalized to prevent anyone—including future Republic administrations—from creating clone armies. To do so, it was reasoned, would create an underclass of people so replaceable they would have effectively no rights, and to protect the stability of the Republic from an “attack of the clones” type scenario. (From a game balance perspective, a character with multiple duplicates of themselves would be both overpowered and slow down gameplay.)

Reproductive cloning was criminalized under the rationale that the human race had benefitted from the genetic diversity granted by “traditional” reproduction for its entire history. A non-stagnant gene pool was desired to populate the galaxy. Also, natural biological reproduction was simply cheaper and therefore more effective than reproductive cloning.

Finally, “longevity” cloning was criminalized to prevent the further growth of the gulf between the Galaxy’s haves and the have-nots by adding a major line item like immortality to the gifts the wealthy enjoy that the poor do not.

In general, Armand Carter’s children and their children and grand-children were very reticent to allow human scientists to “play God”. After all, it was their famous ancestor that had saved the human race from enslavement to the will of a machine god during the War Against the Gaia (see A Brief History Of The Future, p. XX).


not counting my dog

so i know i said this was going to be  my game design blog but it’s not exactly like i’m ever going to start a “grandstanding on philsophical bullshit and the profane mundanities and mundane profanities and little peccadiloes of every day life miscellanea” blog so let’s just consider this to officially be that too.

Whenever I check into a hotel, even when I’m 100% certain I’m going to be checking in completely ALONE & SOLO (not counting my dog if I’m traveling with my dog to a pet friendly hotel but that’s an edge case and also irrelevant since Dodger can’t use a room key so why would we count it) I always ask for TWO room keys. I always absurdly feel like the check-in desk reads this as me trying to put on the ridiculous front that I am open to the possibility that I (hideous creature that I am, of all people) might somehow acquire female companionship later in the “night” (which is as often as not the following morning) and then I always get defensive about this thing that I think that they might be thinking about me.

For the record, I like to leave one keycard in my wallet, which I can take off and put on the nightstand, when I take off my pants. Then, I can put on sweatpants or pajamas, put the other key card in the pocket of those, and set out to look for the vending machine or fill the ice bucket relatively “unencumbered”. Instead of my pants and my belt and my gun and my wallet and my ID, I just have to carry the “back up” keycard (and possibly some cash or coins for the vending machine) rather than going out fully clad and encumbered.

SO THAT IS WHY I ALWAYS TAKE TWO KEYCARDS WHEN CHECKING INTO A HOTEL ALONE (not counting my dog), NOT BECAUSE I THINK I’M MOTHERFUCKING MILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY BRUCE WAYNE (i am well aware that i look more like his murdered parents) OR AM CONSIDERING USING AN ESCORT SERVICE. Not that, you know, any desk clerk at any hotel over any number of years has ever actually made any question or comment about my second keycard whatsoever.

So in spite of being a REALLY LOUD ANSWER to a question NO ONE ASKED, in honor of the worthlessness of the entire rest of the internet, I HEARBY PRONOUNCE THIS TO BE EITHER THE MOST NOTEWORTHY, OR TIED FOR THE MOST NOTEWORTHY, THING WRITTEN ON THE INTERNET TODAY. (fingers crossed no terror attacks or might have to back down)



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!


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!

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