Horror

Transmissions From The End #009

Company News

It looks like we’re finally getting a full-time director of sales, marketing, and logistics. While I don’t mind disclosing it’s a huge fiscal investment for us to bring on a full time employee (as I think many of the people reading this know, Mikaela and I don’t actually get paid as such, and have been working on End Transmission “pro bono” for half a decade now), I’m really hoping that having someone who is devoted full time to raising our market profile will really help us to gain the traction we so badly need. In short, I have been sick for years of the fact we’ve been around since 2012 and no one has heard of us. We will now be employing someone full time to change that. Fingers crossed.

GM’s Day Sale

Almost all of our core game books and a few GM-centric supplements have been marked down by 30% on DriveThruRPG as part of their GM’s Day Sale. Go over and pick up any End Transmission titles you don’t own yet. The deals only last until March 13th!

Trumpsionics

As promised last transmission, here is a short essay about how the election of the pussy grabber in chief, “orange is the new black”, changed the universe of PsionicsEvery time the real world gets turned upside down like this (and gosh let’s hope it’s not many), we’ll try to provide the Psionics fan-base with some guidance on how the changes to the real world, now, effect the game–which is ostensibly set in the real world, and now.

Disclaimer: Two things. One, if, like many of my players, you’d prefer to at least be able to escape to an imaginary reality where Trump is not president, by all means, you do you. Trump does not need to be president in your Psionics universe. Secondly, the following may seem like a lot of editorializing on real world topics on my part, but that’s not how it’s primarily meant. While doubtless my perspective shines through somewhat, this is primarily meant to be read as written from the Institute’s point of view. 

The deep state parasite known as the Institute did not engineer the rise to power of President Donald J. Trump. In fact, they were powerless to stop it. Trump is the first President since the inception of the Institute in the 1950s that the Institute did not have a hand in electing. This has greatly weakened the Institute’s hold on the continental United States. “The Madness of King Donald” was not something the Institute was prepared to deal with. The Institute’s  highest-placed conspirators and policy-makers are within the US clandestine services and intelligence community. And Trump’s flagrant disregard and disrespect for the US intelligence community are frankly unprecedented, and have posed the Institute with unprecedented challenges. The status quo for decades has been that the President is a powerless figurehead and the Shop runs the US Federal Government from the shadows. That status quo has faced its first major challenge in the election of a president so unpredictable that the Shop cannot figure out how to manipulate him. To put it bluntly, they don’t see how they can get Trump to play ball when he is, essentially, a crazy person that became president by a terrible, terrible accident.

The Institute has concluded that their preferred presidential patsy and figurehead, Hilary Clinton, was compromised by the Red Orchestra’s hack of the US election. Abraxis Biotech has benefited more from the US presidential upset than Matryoshka, however. Several cabinet posts in the Trump administration have gone to corporate fat cats that Abraxis has its corporate tendrils of control in, including the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Commerce. Influence over the Treasury Department in particular will allow Abraxis to interfere with the Shop’s operations through obstruction to the federal funding that they are illegally siphoning. To the Shop, it’s unclear if the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is more loyal to Abraxis or Matryoshka, but he appears to be compromised by both. The Shop retains serious influence over the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland security, but has no optimism for its ability to influence President Trump through those departments.

To date, the Institute has not authorized any plans to deal with the Trump situation in either of the two obvious ways: assassination (under a false flag, most likely through a radical antifa movement, since the resultant crackdown would make things difficult for the Zodiac Order, which is finding the Antifa movement to be an incredibly useful recruitment tool) or mind control via the deployment of a powerful psychokinetic Esper. While the assessment of various operational plans for these options has generally produced a chance of success of greater than 90%, the risk of exposure has been deemed too great for The Shop to risk exposure. One of the Shop’s highest operational priorities is ensuring that the general public remains ignorance of the existence of Espers and of course, of its own existence. No matter how slim the chance, the Shop’s decision makers aren’t willing to risk a botched operation to remove Trump that could even potentially result in the light of the public eye falling on the Institute, or on the existence of Espers. Any operation to “revise” the results of the Presidential election would draw away badly needed resources from the Institute’s ongoing operations to capture and control Espers on US soil and around the globe.

So for now, like ordinary Americans, the conspirators of the Institute are forced to wait and see how the country fares under the leadership of a president that is widely perceived as a maniac and a fool. Depending on how Trump’s unpredictability plays out, the Institute may later have to risk action, direct or indirect, to remove him from power. Plans to approach and recruit Vice President Mike Pence are already in the offing in the event of Trump’s assassination or impeachment by forces outside of the Institute’s direct control.

As if Trump’s presidency wasn’t bad for them on enough fronts as discussed above, the public resistance to Trump has given birth to an American counterculture that is larger and stronger than any seen since the culture wars of the 1960s. The Zodiac Order has already latched on to and subverted this anti-fascist, pro-Social Justice movement, giving them more ability to hide in plain sight than ever.

I-CON 32

After an absence of some years, I-CON is back for its 32nd outing! End Transmission first ever game dropped at I-CON in 2012, so naturally we’re excited for the convention’s return. We’ll be at the exhibitor’s hall in force with the full suite of End Transmission Games products, so be sure to come by the show and say hi to us if you’re in the area!

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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!).

SPLINTER’d (Kickstarter Campaign Ongoing)

Not gonna lie, I wanted to make an ETG post quick to get the taste of the last post out of my mouth. I certainly don’t regret anything I said, as such, but let me say this: having at-all controversial opinions and a crippling anxiety disorder is a really tough combination to live with. Hell, having an anxiety disorder doesn’t pair especially well with having principles, period. I’m eager to get back to discussing games I actually like, and of course that includes the ones that I invented myself.

So, SPLINTER. Our Surprising Things Kickstarter has been live for about a week now. It will be a full week tomorrow. So far we’re about 30% funded with about three weeks to go. That’s not terrible by any means but of course I’m already worried we won’t make it: see again, anxiety disorder making life more difficult than it should be.

This also has to do with the fact that this KS is very much necessarily our litmus test for the future of the SPLINTER game line going forward. If this KS funds, obviously SPLINTER has enough public interest to support in full. If it doesn’t, that would be a clear indicator that SPLINTER is just too niche and weird a project for the adventure games market. So the stakes are scary high. If you’re reading this and you haven’t backed and/or put in your 20 hours on social media pestering all your friends to back, please help me out and do so. (To those of you who’ve already given, the vast majority of you have given AMAZINGLY generously, so thank you all so, so much!)

Some exciting news, though, in the field of…actual news. I’m happy to report that our KS has been featured on the frontpages of Tabletop Gaming News (TGN) and Roleplayers Chronicle. That’s super groovy and hopefully it will bring us to a larger audience.

When we hit the 50% funding mark, I’m going to reveal some of our stretch goals which I’m pretty stoked about. This isn’t quite a preview, but it verges on one.

So the SPLINTER Core Rulebook is the very first product End Transmission Games ever published (not the first game I designed by a long shot, though, as both Phantasm and Psionics are older than it by five years or more, but that’s neither here nor there). Anyway, as our oldest product SPLINTER is obviously the one I most wish I could go back and change, since I’ve learned so much about this game design business since its release.

Mostly, this is a production values thing. Mikaela has grown by such leaps and bounds as a layout artist that the difference in visible production quality between SPLINTER (her very first layout project) and Psionics is obviously a difference of several orders of magnitude. Likewise, some of the art that we included in SPLINTER is not up to our current standards (although don’t get me wrong, some of it is just as great as anything in Psionics: I really dig black and white art in general.).

But there are also some things in SPLINTER’s rules that I’d like to change. Traditionally, this is why roleplaying games have second (and third and fourth and sixth) editions. It’s too early for a new edition of SPLINTER, though, by every conceivable metric. For one, it simply hasn’t been enough years. For another, we haven’t sold anywhere near enough copies to justify launching a new edition as any kind of sound financial decision. Finally and most importantly, we haven’t received nearly enough actual play feedback to have a truly informed perspective on the issues with the rules that would be needed to make the targeted changes for a new edition.

When it comes to the SPLINTER rules, I’m fairly happy with the rules governing gameplay in the Splinter itself (both the core dice pool mechanic and its particular interactions). But the “real world” rules for “playing your Player” Earthside use a primitive primordial ancestor of the DicePunk System that I’m not entirely proud of. I’d love to upgrade the Earthside rules to use the DicePunk System proper (at the Realistic/Literary Campaign Power Level), since it’s better than its prototypical ancestor in pretty much every way. This would have the added benefit of making our roster of supported coherent games that much more coherent. We’d be supporting DicePunk, Singularity, and Splinter which as one game with two systems would be DicePunk/other, as opposed to not-quite-DicePunk/other, which is even sloppier and more confusing. Fans of DicePunk games like Psionics could logically have their attention drawn to Splinter, and vice versa. Finally, since EarthSide stats influence Avatar stats, using the modern incarnation of the DicePunk system for Splinter’s Earthside play would improve upon that two-systems-in-one-game interaction.

A chance to overhaul the SPLINTER core rules would give me an opportunity for lots of other little tweaks too–while writing this, for instance, I noticed that many of the SP awards in the Subscriber Point Reward table on page 59 are a bit low for my tastes–but I’m not looking to make any major changes to the core “in-the-Splinter” gameplay. Except for the massive influx of new content that’s the entire point of the Surprising Things project.

So, at this point I’ve basically come around to revealing that our first stretch goal will be some kind of overhaul of the SPLINTER core rulebook. Which is an idea that really excites me, so here’s hoping.

ALL HAIL KING TORG!

“ALL HAIL KING TORG!”

POST-CON RECAP GOGOGO

For the third year running, Origins was awesome and exhausting. For the third year running our sales showed slow and steady growth, too. This year, just as steady but way less slow. In fact, if you squint, for the first time ever we actually MADE SOME MONEY by going to the con. Shocking, I know. But I think we might be approaching one of them ‘tipping point things. Keep in mind you’re hearing guarded optimism from a dedicated lifelong pessimist here.

21 out of 25 copies of the limited edition Psionics Core Rulebook sold with two more hand delivered to backers. I can confess this is the fastest we’ve ever sold anything. T-Shirts, stickers, and dice were a hit too–especially the design we’ve taken to calling Comrade Octo-Stalin and anything remotely related to Pyrokinesis. It is a pleasure to burn, apparently.

We had great fun running great Psionics demos Thursday and Saturday nights–Friday was a mysterious no-show. On Friday for the first time ever two PCs played by strangers initiated and completed the act of coitus in a men’s bathroom stall during a combat sequence, if I’m not mistaken, IN INITIATIVE ORDER. So yeah. That happened. Much experience was awarded.

On Saturday, the player manning the Firestarter intentionally overloaded, instantly reducing all other PCs to ashes. I was cringing and expecting recriminations for this disaster, when two of the players whose characters had just been immolated bought the book immediately! The most pleasant surprise ever, for sure. And goes to show that there ARE some gamers out there still who share my philosophy about character death.

The sole Splinter demo was a huge success too, sad I wasn’t there to see it but Mik did a bangup job and the number of groups actually playing Splinter might have just increased by a relatively huge margin. Singularity demos were fun too, especially Thursday’s.

On Friday night Mikaela and I got to hop on a game of RIFTS being run by the folks at Amorphous Blob (a gaming club, or so I gather). I played a CS Strike ‘Borg, she played a Dog Boy, the scenario was based on Expedition To The Barrier Peaks (my favorite!) and SOME ALIENS GOT THEIR DAYS THOROUGHLY RUINED. Huzzah.

In the background, I overheard a WWII Champions/Hero System game with Marvel superheroes as the PCs and the Red Skull as the villain, and at one point I heard the GM say “well he has 10 points of Mental Defense, because he’s a Nazi” and that was pretty great, but then I heard the GM say:

Take an extra 6d6 for your Presence Attack, since you just killed Hitler.

And my life was well and truly complete. What an awesome week. Big thanks to John and Allison for helping out with the Booth, the Demos, and everything else.

I bought some stuff. Notably, I got a starship deckplan from Scrying Eye games (starship deckplans, usually from Traveller, are something I almost never get to use but am nonetheless addicted to collecting), the miniatures game Aetherium (if you know anything about the stuff I make, you understand why I had to buy this) and the short story collection Soft Apocalypses by Lucy A. Snider, because as an author who sells my stuff directly, I love to buy stuff directly from authors. I’ve read a few stories in it and I can’t recommend it strongly enough if you’re a fan of really, viciously disturbing horror. I mean, “I Fuck Your Sunshine” is the title of one ‘track’ on this ‘album’. ‘Nuff said, I think?

Now to re-enter my post-convention recuperative coma. Psionics fulfillment will be underway shortly, with the rollout of the PDF most likely leading off.

On The Horizon (great big news post)

Here at End Transmission Games, we’ve been working on some exciting stuff! As I have done more than once in the past, I’ll passingly mention that virtually no one reads this or is reading it; I can probably name way too high a percent of this blog’s readers just off the top of my head. But perhaps that is going to begin to change, as End Transmission is taking strides towards vaulting onto the public stage in a whole new way.

Let’s start with S|P|L|I|N|T|E|R!

So if you’re like new, SPLINTER is our very first game product and first appeared on the market way back in 2012, during ICON 31. Since then I’ve been shorthanding its premise as The Running Man meets D&D on Acid; a fun description, but not an adequate one to contain all its transgressively meta weirdness (and it sadly leaves out BLAME! and Dark City entirely). Three years ago when it was still theoretical and not yet a finished product, I explained it here in quite a bit more detail. In the two years and change since it came out it hasn’t seen a supporting release, a real shame, the cause of which is how busy we were launching other game lines.

Well, now SPLINTER finally has a supplement coming out, hopefully, in the next week. It’s a $1.00 PDF and only around ten pages long. In spite of that it’s an an essential piece of setting information that greatly illuminates the interaction between Earthside and the Realm, and gives gamers a glimpse of what can be expected from a continued SPLINTER campaign. In short, it helps illustrate “How To Use SPLINTER” as a game/setting, an example of tone and content that was sorely needed.

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It’s the Superstar Profile of this guy Ronald Singh (the Player behind Kade Merek). He’s the greatest star the Splinter has ever seen. Superstar Profile: Kade Merek details how he made it to the top, climbing a big damn pile of bodies.

This is him. Art is WIP.
This is him. Art is WIP.

Ronald Singh is the most popular Player the Game has ever known. As the voice and mind behind Kade Merek, Needlekin assassin, his Adventures have sold billions of copies and garnered millions of subscribers and fans the world over. This in-depth bio profiles the rise of Kade Merek, from Singh’s conscription into the game as an Amateur at the age of 19 and his very first short form matches through the Long Form Adventures that made “Jacknife Kade” a legend, like Massacre at Lost Moorstoke (2455) and Quest For The Shade Diadem (2458), to recent events like Merek’s accession to the position of Royal Assassin for the Novembrist Court. Come and relive the story, and celebrate the man behind the legend!

 

Complete game statistics for Ronald Singh and Kade Merek are also provided.

 

 So this little product should offer a little signal flare for SPLINTER fans that the SPLINTER line is still alive and well. It will be released, hopefully, in the next week or two (a time period in which a lot of other exciting stuff is happening). Depending on how it sells, there may be more Superstar Profiles coming in the future, introducing us to some of the Game’s other movers and shakers.

Meanwhile, since the SPLINTER corebook was published (or even earlier) we’ve been working on two much bigger supplements. Since the Realm is meant to be limited, we want it to have as near to an infinite amount of content–wondrous treasure to find, strange monsters to fight, powerful spells to cast-as we can. We want random tables that sprawl for pages and pages. And the nearest mortal authors can get to infinite is arbitrarily large. Little Wondrous Things will introduce hundreds and hundreds of new weapons, armor, gear, spells, and technology to populate the Realm’s vast treasure store. Ugly Things will add over a hundred new monsters to populate the Realm and challenge Avatars of all Ascension Levels. These products don’t have a release date at this time–these are big books, with loads of content, being written by very few people–but they are somewhere on the distant horizon.


Now on to other news. The epic, 420 page Systems Malfunction campaign setting is still on sale for The Singularity System as a PDF. Efforts to get a correct print proof have been frustrating. Lightning Source is really, really dropping the ball on this for some reason. But hopefully we’ll have a physical copy for sale on DriveThru soon. So buy it now or buy it soon, once we finally manage to make it a widely available book!

Both halves of End Transmission Games are proud to announce that we have joined the Indie Game Developer Network. You’ll be able to find the IGDN presence, ourselves included, at Booth #1539 at this year’s GenCon, which is coming up in just a few weeks. We’ll have all our products there for sale.

Now, for the big one…

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Psionics is a close cousin to Phantasm(2010), and uses the same core rules mechanic, the DicePunk System. I’ve been writing Psionics, on and off, in various incarnations, since I was 14 years old. That means that it is a one person passion project, a labor of love 14 years in the making! The year 2000, now amazingly nearly a decade and a half ago, was around the time I realized that just about anyone could make a roleplaying game out of just about anything. And I decided to make one that was very loosely based on the obscure PS1 game Galerians— which was never famous and has by now largely faded into obscurity–with an eye towards everything that, in turn, inspired Galerians. I have rewritten it over and over, throwing out everything I had as juvenillia and starting over time after time while marinating the subject matter in just tons and tons of thought. It has evolved into something very, very different in the decade and a half it’s been in pre-development.

Psionics is set in the real world, in the present day, or 20 minutes into the future, if you like. The players take the role of troubled teenagers and young adults who have just had an enormous power hidden inside them unlocked by external tampering–psionic talents. Following in the footsteps of novels and films like Akira, Carrie, Firestarter, and Scanners, the PCs will gain the ability to solve problems in their lives with the superhuman abilities available to them. And you’ll be confronted with questions about the cost of using telekinesis or pyrokinesis to get revenge on the bullies that tormented you, or using mind control to convince the girl you have a crush on to give you a chance.

Meanwhile, the PCs–called Espers–are hunted by a multitude of shadowy Conspiracies. These competing Conspiracies are seeking to control you and manipulate you into advancing their sinister agendas, and they have enormous resources at their disposal. So the story becomes, how do you buck the system and defy these groups seeking to capture and indoctrinate you, while coming to grips with your psionic talents. While the talents that Espers can access give them awesome problem-solving tools to play with, overusing your talents and pushing things too far can result in a catastrophic meltdown that is spectacularly fatal for everyone around you. So basically as a “typical” Esper, you’re a literal ticking time bomb of teenage angst, with enormous psychic powers, and the Man, in various incarnations, is constantly shadowing you and trying to fuck with you, taking away your agency and making you a foot soldier in their cause.

Espers are troubled young people with the aforementioned enormous psychic powers.

The bad news is that you have serious emotional problems.

The good news is that you have enormous psychic powers.

The other bad news is that because of your powers, shadowy conspiracies that secretly rule the world want to indoctrinate you into being their loyal puppets, or just put you in a cage and/or vivisect you, for science!–and to help them better rule the world.

But hey, the good news is that you still have enormous psychic powers.

The other other bad news is that your enormous psychic powers and becoming a fugitive from these conspiracies are going to make your serious emotional problems a lot worse.

Still bro…. enormous psychic powers. What could possibly go wrong?

So on top of a lifetime of being pushed around by your parents and tormented by bullies and snubbed by crushes who don’t even know you exist, The Man has emerged from the shadows to literally take control of your life. However, now you’re not limited to locking yourself in your room and listening to loud music. Now you have a real and powerful tool for pushing back. And you’re going to push back, aren’t you? You’re going to push back hard.

This hard:

Read Between The Lines

Psionics uses the DicePunk System, a very streamlined and flexible rules set with only four character attributes– Strength, Speed, Wits, and Will-and with player-defined skills augmenting the set list of skills. The DicePunk System is also used in our fangame, Phantasm (2010), which was nominated for an Ennie award for Best Free RPG in 2013. On top of the basic DicePunk chassis of Attributes, Skills, and Combat Techniques we’re going to overlay an in-depth set of rules for psionic talents. These will range from the “bread and butter” psionic powers like telekinesis (moving things with your mind, all the way from being able to levitate a coin to being able to throw or crush a city bus), pyrokinesis (starting fires with your will alone), and psychokinesis (mind-reading and mind-control) to exotic psi talents like magnekinesis (weather control), somakinesis (manipulating your body to enable superhuman physical feats), technokinesis (psionically ‘hacking’ mechanical systems), and necrokinesis (causing a cardiac arrest with a thought). The result is a tabletop RPG that will look and play out a lot like recent movies Push (2009) and Chronicle (2012).

To make the dream of Psionics, which is over a decade old, into an actual book people can buy and an actual game people can play with their friends, we’re going to use something we’ve been thinking about getting in on for years.

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Virtually every indie RPG I can think of that’s hit a huge level of success and public awareness has been associated with a successful Kickstarter. So here’s hoping we can become part of that illustrious tradition, and here’s hoping I’m far from the only one who wants to play Firestarter/Akira/Chronicle the Tabletop RPG! If all goes well, our Psionics Kickstarter will be going live within the next week (!!) so be sure to check back here soon, or find us on KS, to check out the neat perks and rewards we’ll be offering backers.

And I think that covers everything. Until next time, DTO out.