Psionics

Transmissions from The End #18: No Country For Great Old Ones

So, while all my many haters will definitely scoff loudly at this, I’ve never really felt comfortable tooting my own horn. But, now that I’ve reached the point where I pay other people to toot my horn, I figure that stepping it in to toot it myself from time to time is really the only decent thing to do. It’s like…really it’s my horn. I bear some responsibility.

No Country For Great Old Ones is an RPG adventure scenario that is coming to the Kickstarter machine in the next two weeks (yikes) based on an idea I had for a Delta Green adventure well more than a year ago. It is not in fact a Delta Green adventure (as of the time of this posting: I will probably figure out some way to release it ported for the DG rules, possibly for free, as long as the KS funds). It has statistics for DicePunk, and is officially licensed and compatible with HERO System and Savage Worlds, which is kind of a big deal, and so it goes without saying it’s gonna have FRED and SW stats too. And it may not stop there. Depending on where we wind up with the Stretch Goals, we might have officially licensed crunch for upwards of six other game systems. If you build it, we will crunch.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAhPAAAAJGM1ZDI5ZDUzLTk3ZmItNDMxZS1hZmIxLTNhMmRkNjNiY2I2NA

Two Sides To Every Story

No Country For Great Old Ones is in the so-played-out western neo-noir crime/Lovecraftian-conspiracy-horror subgenre. The truly cool thing about this adventure in my opinion is that it does this mini-Rashomon type thing where it can be played either from the “A” side of the adventure where you’re law enforcement types, or the “B” side of the adventure where you’re the criminals, and we actually suggest you do play it both ways to get the whole story or at least to see two very different interpretations of what happens.

Each side has what are I think really strong pregenerated characters but obviously I wanted either side of this adventure to be able to be slotted into anyone’s ongoing campaign here which means they can be thrown out the window in favor of established PCs. And in fact, we will provide guidelines for just such figurative defenestration (hooking in established PCs instead of the pregens) in the adventure itself, specific to our level of expertise in each system the game is translated for. All that being said, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the pregens since they’ve been around over these past couple of years, so I’m going to use their names when I lay out the two sides to the story.

Oh, and this was all vividly inspired by the exceptional 2016 film Hell Or High Water, written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David McKenzie. I can’t recommend the film enough.

Cops

An elderly Texas Ranger within weeks of his mandatory retirement date, Marcus Bridges represents a classic Western stereotype–the man who has lost touch with time, and knows it, the man for whom, like Stephen King’s Roland or any number of classic western heroes and anti-heroes, “the world has moved on”.

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The character of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell from Cormack McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men is the iconic example: an old timer whose memories of a more idyllic west don’t allow him to truly conceive of the chaos and carnage of modern times.

Like many other western antiheroes, Marcus is also rough, gruff, surly, ornery, and generally unpleasant.  As Marcus Bridges represents the longing for the tranquility of the past, his long suffering partner Jorge Quesada represents the uncertainty of the present. He quietly tolerates his incessant politically incorrect barbs about his Latino heritage out of a sense of profound respect for the man’s experience…while worrying that Marcus is looking for an opportunity to die in a blaze of glory rather than face the slow decay of retirement.

US Marshals Roger Barrister and Gina Torres are not “really” US Marshals. They belong to a fractured, fractal conspiracy within the various agencies of the US government and the interstices and interfaces between them. Call it “the Shop”.  Agent Barrister and Agent Torres attach themselves to the Rangers’ case, and of course, they too want to catch the bad guys (and make sure that the situation never becomes publicly visible). They know things that you aren’t cleared to know.

And the bad guys that are taking more than money from the crime scene. Things like fingers. Things like eyes.

…And Robbers

The Quinns were a crime family in the deep, dark, muddy backwaters of the Lousiana Bayou since the turn of the 20th century or even sooner. Throughout the years they’ve operated as smugglers and trafficked in moonshine, “white slaves”, gun-running, and meth. Unsavoury rumors persist about the Quinn clan intermarrying with things from the Black Bay region…inhuman things.

The ghastly rumors about the Quinn family are true. Alectra’s mother Annabelle met her Deep One daddy some time in the late 80s and she followed family tradition. By the time of Hurricane Katrina, Alectra was already beginning to show signs of the change (see appearance).

Jimmy was always shy growing up and he still seems nebbish and retiring much of the time when he’s not in the midst of committing an armed robbery. He was a shrimpy little kid growing up, and a magnet for bullying, and he tends to be quiet and keep to himself. The love of his life is Alectra Quinn, who washed up on his doorstep when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans in 2005. The two are now happily married and love, but Alectra isn’t entirely human and Jimmy isn’t entirely sane. However, deep down, he knows that the Deep-One Hybrid he’s in bed with is more than just his true love, that she’s evidence of a world of hidden wonders and horrors that the average “normal” person will never, ever witness or comprehend until it’s too late, and they’re dead. Jimmy takes great satisfaction in that.

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Here in the dry Texas heat, Jimmy “The Squid” Quinn is a ways from his home in the Lousiana Bayou. He met Chris Foster as his cell mate at the Federal Penitentiary in Pollock, Lousiana while he was doing a five-stretch for armed robbery. Jimmy got out first and gave Chris his contact info, and Chris contacted Jimmy for help on the job. Jimmy brought along his partner in crime, and in love.

Poor white trash from birth, Chris Foster has a criminal record a country mile long, gradually escalating from vandalism and aggravated assault to armed robbery (mostly gas station and convenience stores). Just out of prison on parole, and he was already thinking about the kind of hell-raising that would get him thrown right back in again. But then his straight-arrow brother, Taylor, with whom he’s had a very rough relationship, suggests a more ambitious plan. One which involves robbing a large number of banks in a short period of time.

A wildman outlaw, Chris was born into the wrong era. He takes genuine joy in the chaos and violence of the rough life of a career criminal. It’s not institutionalization–he hates being in prison–it’s just that he feels like the best use of his freedom is raising hell. Various lawyers working to reduce Chris’s prison sentences and increase his chance of parole have had psychiatrists (mostly correctly) diagnose him with anti-social personality disorder, ADHD, sociopathy, and oppositional defiant disorder, which Chris dismisses as “a bunch of bullshit”. His hatred of police and other authority figures is downright pathological. Deep down, he is badly scarred by his alcoholic father’s abuse, and resents his ailing mother for dying while he was in prison. The only person he cares about is his brother Taylor, who he’ll treat like shit, but ultimately, will do anything for. While Chris likes to appear dim so people underestimate him, he’s a lot smarter than he appears.In fact, he’s smart enough to know that he’s not meant for this world–a relic of another age–and is willing to die in a blaze of glory, laying his life down at the right moment.

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Chris Foster’s brother, Taylor has dealt with their poor white trash background and their abusive alcoholic father in the exact opposite way as his brother, by keeping to the straight and narrow in life. He did his best in school, got through some college, met a woman, had kids that are now teenaged, and got divorced, all without once spending a night in a jail sell. Now his ailing mother has died and Texas Heartland Bank stands ready to foreclose on the Foster ranch. Two other things have happened that have given Taylor the glimmer of an idea. His brother is just out from prison, and oil has just been discovered on the ranch property.

Taylor grew up in poverty and has a plan to finally drag his family out of generations of poverty. His plan is meticulous and if everything goes according to the playbook, he’ll be able to pay off the reverse mortgage on his mother’s ranch with their own goddamn money, laundered through an Indian casino, and they’ll get off scot free. The only challenge is going to be keeping his wildcard brother–who doesn’t believe anybody ever got away with anything and acts accordingly–and the even less trustworthy help that Chris brought on board.

***

And that’s all I can say about that. I really can’t go into any more detail about how the Mi-Go, Yig the Father of Snakes, or the Screamers from Phantasm(2010) may or may not be involved. Look out for our Kickstarter coming scarifyingly soon. But some time time before Halloween. Um…boo.

<End Transmission>

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Transmissions From The End #009

Company News

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

GM’s Day Sale

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

Trumpsionics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I-CON 32

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

<end transmission>

Guest Post From Thom Caulfield: Complications For DicePunk

Man, that last post. I HAD to get that shit I just spit off my chest. I WANT to get the taste out my mouth.

So here goes, my first ever guest post:

My friend Thom Caulfield (who if he had his own damn blog, I’d like to it in his name there, hint hint man) came up with these awesome house rules for DicePunk. They squirt a tiny bit of FATE in there, but in the best possible way. Personally speaking, I love ’em. Tell me what y’all think:

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Transmissions From The End #002 -The Ghost of Diana Jones

“We’re movin’ on up, to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.”

As I mentioned recently, we just did up GenCon 2016 really fucking hard, and now we’re down from some R&R. But today is THORSDAY, and that means YOU, dear reader, get another Transmission From The End.

GenCon – Financial Transparency

Our games/books (games which are also books, books which are also games!) sold like hotcakes at GenCon. With our $25,000 sponsorship plus who-even-knows how much overhead for air fare and hotel lodging, it was literally impossible for us to break even. But I believe we grossed close to $4,000 in sales which means if you were to count our overhead only as our Entrepeneur’s Alley booth (which we got for $1000 as a first-year-at-GenCon company and which was upgraded to a double-sized endcap as part of our sponsorship), we actually netted at least $2,000+ in “profits”.

We came close to selling out of nearly everything, and we did sell out of Anathema, DicePunk Core, and the Systems Malfunction setting, although we didn’t bring terribly many of any of those.

DEMO-Lition Derby

I’d like to thank Kelly’s Heroes once again for running two games of SPLINTER and two games of Psionics on Friday. I was sad that we didn’t manage to get the GMs”Psionic Phantasms” or the three existing “Glory & Gore” episodes in time for them to feel comfortable running them, so instead they ran two instances of “Code Grey” (Psionics) and two instances of “The Race For Szenys’ Tomb” (SPLINTER). I understand those instances ran well and I definitely look forward to working with Kelly’s Heroes in the future.

Our new Interrim Director of Sales, Logistics, and Marketing John Jemmott ran a packed table of Singularity System (Systems Malfunction flavor) and a packed table of Psionic Phantasms and I understand acquitted himself heroically. Thanks for stepping up, John! In more way than one.

I’d also like to thank our SPLINTER and Psionics writer Richard Kelly for running three games of “Glory & Gore”:  one no-show, one that only two-people showed up to that went great, and then a packed table of eight that was apparently kind of a hot mess, due to no fault of Richard’s own. Apparently people were expecting a rules-lite, thinking-lite, cheerful and bright storygame from SPLINTER, my dark, ruthlessly cerebral, crunchy, tactical RPG and Richard’s delightfully disturbing and atmospheric “Digitarchs” dungeon…clearly some shit got miscommunicated along the way, and I’m sure that Rich K did the best with what he had.

In the future, I want to work harder on getting better event presence at conventions and getting better online presence for our organized play efforts such as the “Glory & Gore Living Campaign” for SPLINTER.

As for the two demos that I personally found time to run, here’s how they went:

Psionic Phantasms

Packed table, all eight PCs cast: Mindfucker, Juggernaut, Stormbringer, Firestarter, Sam Collins, Joey Collins, and Caleb Hendrix (vampire) and Del Finley (Aranea).

The Espers and humans came very close to killing each other for the first time in any time I’ve ever run this.

Firestarter and Joey Collins had to go two hours into the demo and became NPCs: I think Del Finley also left early, so I just had him go into his spider form and go eat some people that were further away from fire (the Firestarter unapologetically burned down the Collins’ house before leaving).

I had them become NPCs. Joey got kidnapped by the Tall Man in his hearse and the rest of the PCs followed to the mortuary to rescue him (side-note: I ruled that Espers could not bleed Overflow because they were being accompanied by a vampire and they all KNEW he was undead, because the Mindfucker had tried to Psychokinesis him and got the same result he’d get from Psychokinesis on a corpse). They found the blacked-out hearse parked outside the funeral home, and busted it open. Inside the casket inside was the Firestarter’s body, minus the brain. Emotional shock from this threw on about 20 Overflow which they couldn’t bleed because how can you relax when you’re around a vampire?

I was running about three hours late so I frontloaded all the danger to the first floor of the mortuary: namely, I sextupled the orbs. In the first hallway, the PCs pulped the two spheres I had there without any casualties. They weren’t so lucky in the main hallway, where I’d placed four spheres. The PCs put up a valiant fight, and might have won if the Vampire’s dice luck hadn’t been shit (with John Wu Special and Master in Pistols, he should have been able to drop at least one Orb a turn if he rolled just slightly above average). But the Stormbringer got brain-juiced, causing both the Juggernaut and the Mindfucker to overload due to emotional shock. The Juggernaut’s initiative came up first. He made his Will check to stagger away, but all orbs and all PCs were still caught in the Obliteradius and killed, except for Caleb, who survived on the strength of having crazy Vampire Health. The second turn of the overload, the Juggernaut’s head exploded from overload damage.

Barely still-undead, Caleb the vampire stood in the middle of the carnage: all the orbs and every other PC were dead. The Tall Man opened a door from a nearby coffin show-room, holding NPC Joey by the scruff of the neck.

“Good evening,” said the Tall Man, ominously.

“Good night!” responded Caleb, and FUCKED RIGHT OFF, driving away into the night in his stolen Sheriff’s cruiser, the sole survivor.

I sold two copies of Psionics off the strength of the demo, one to Caleb and one to the Mindfucker.

Epic Battles In Space!: Star Wars Edition

So I expected this event to be super-packed because this Star Wars is kind of a little bit popular…maybe you’ve heard of it? So imagine my shock when I only wound up serving a table for two. Six more people were signed up for it, but they all had different emergencies come up and couldn’t make it.

The two kids I got were fairly omnivorous tabletop gamers and big Star Wars fans: one of them had just bought the Singularity System. I let one kid play the whole rebel fleet and the other kid play the whole empire. After the demo they went back and bought Biotech, Mind Games, and Firefight.

ANYWAY, as for the battle of Tatooine:

At the end of the first turn, the Tantive IV successfully broke off and escaped (the kid playing the rebels had the BEST dice luck I’ve ever seen outside of myself: the force was seriously fucking with him). Because that happened about three hours before the demo was scheduled to end, I decided to play through the awful pyrrhic battle that followed.

Only the Devastator and one of the two Star Destroyers survived. Every single other capital ship and fighter craft involved in the conflict was destroyed. The 36 X-Wings sent to destroy one of the star destroyers gradually killed their way through a screen of 72 Tie Fighters, but only six X-Wings were left when they actually made it to the attack run phase, and the Victory-II’s point defense guns ate them alive before they inflicted any serious damage.

So technically, the rebels won, but the real winner was the void that devours souls.

Other Fun Shit I Did

Way too little of it this year! This year I was so busy that I was essentially all business:

“All work and no play 
Keeps me on the new shit.”
Lorde

I did manage to find the time, somehow, to sit down for forty minutes with our friends and neighbords at the Tower of Gygax and lose a seventh level D&D ranger to a swarm of his favorite enemy, goblins. I snapshotted this white board  they had which filled my heart and soul with gleeful delight:

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FUCK YEAH OSR

Upcoming Products For The Rest Of 2016

Here is a partial roster of the products we have cooking for the rest of 2016:

  • Richard Kelly and I are going to collaborate on SPLINTER: This Is Entertainment, a free Quick Start Rules package for SPLINTER. Street date: Christmas Season, 2016.
  • SPLINTER: Return To The Dread Abyss of the Digitarchs by Richard Kelly is one of the best modules that I have ever seen for any game ever, and I couldn’t be prouder that it’s for SPLINTER. Street date: Christmas Season, 2016.
  • Systems Malfunction–a standalone scifi RPG containing both the Singularity System and the incredible Systems Malfunction setting– is coming to Kickstarter in October.
  • Singularity System MOD04: INFOWAR by Devon Oratz with John Jemmott will enter initial writing in early September, for a street date of Christmas Season, 2016.
  • Escape From Cleveland, a DicePunk/Psionics  adventure by Devon Oratz will enter initial writing/production in early September, for a street date of Christmas Season, 2016.

I Wrote A Goddamn Poem

For the first time in about five years. And you get to read it, you lucky dog you. I make no apologies for the inside jokes and “you just had to be there” moments it describes.

I Am The Ghost of Diana Jones

This one goes out to the one I love
(This one goes out to the one I left behind)

Like a herd of scruffy-looking nerf herders,
we stagger through the streets of Indianapolis,
a gaggle of professional nerds.
“They left the bar at 9? What are we, school teachers?” I demand rhetorically of anyone who will listen.

Of course I am already very drunk and quite high. After all, it’s Wednesday night.

I am slow to realize that the seven-block exodus is simply taking us from the Irish pub we are late to
to the bar beneath the bridge
a moot of dwarven philosophers gathered
at the booze stockpile
fencing with their business cards
to confer the highest honor they can
on whoever they damn well please
without the slightest threat of accountability

I want to stay because I feel like I could get so blasted I spend the rest of the night
talking to John Wick
either one (this is an inside joke)
but the outdoor voices in the interior of the Ranch
(a bunch of introverts suddenly turned inside out, no doubt, loudly discussing theory and games and podcasts)
become an unbearable deafening sussurus
that drives me away
temporarily insane (1/1d10)
into the hot Indiana night

“I am either at a haunted award show,”
I text
“Or the hipster singularity.
I can’t tell.”

(leaving with Mikaela, I tell the bartender the definition of sussurus
and that he can find John Wick–the REAL John Wick–inside
he does not quite believe me
the fool)

To “Cogwheel Gelignite”, we bellow, obscure amongst obscurity in this toast
to an unsung engineer of Mount Nevermind,
(a girl I do not know
with a Pikachu tank-top
and a midline incision surgical scar
hugs my girlfriend again and again and again)
and down goes the poisonous green liquid.

LATER:
Pounding shots with Kelly Slaughter and his crew of heroes
(work is the curse of the drinking class, I tell him, mugging Oscar Wilde to do so,
but I have to explain it, and much later, look up that it is Oscar Wilde)
we toast the memory of a wargamer eight long years dead
who built or discovered the magic portal that leads us
to thousands upon thousands of Worlds.

NOW: alcohol has made sleep even more insurmountable than sex
(I can think of at least two songs called “Too Drunk To Fuck”,
but none about trying to sleep as your liver’s frantic
churning
turns
blissful oblivion into the waking nightmare of a hangover)
and I ponder the imponderables of an American dream
on what might be the last Summer we the young and foolish have left to us
before a tragicomic orange fascist from Queens
proves to be the Not-So-Secret-Hitler
that destroys
America
or the world

A simple prop
to occupy my time
this one goes out to the one I love.

 

 

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.

Splinterpunks (A Brief History Of The DicePunk System)

Join me chitlins for a  bit of an open-ended game design ramble.

Somewhere around 2004, at the tender age of 18, on my laptop at the house of one John Jemmott, I set out on one of my first fumbling forays into designing my own tabletop roleplaying game. A few things about this roleplaying game:

  • Its primary design goal was to be as dirt simple and accessible as possible. It didn’t actually fail at this design goal, per se. Ironically, at the same time, this place called The Forge was in its heyday, a bubbling cauldron of game design: many of the games being designed there had similar design goals, but due to a shared design environment and certain shared assumptions, they came out almost unrecognizably different.
  • I gave it a name that, even as a dumb teenager, I should really have known was very, very taken, and had been, even at that point, for nearly as long as I had been alive. This should have been clear to me at the time, because when you make a game system that uses six-sided dice, the d6 System is a rather obvious choice for a name. But of course I didn’t even google it, because derp.
  • The end result was a very poorly designed game indeed. There were things I liked about it, sure. Design features that I carried over into the many, many tabletop RPGs and LARPs that I went on to design over the next five years: only having four attributes, instead of the 6+ that most “traditional” RPGs carried around, not having a set skill list, but rather using easily generated (if arbitrary) custom player-created skills, and maybe one or two other things. But it had serious problems, too.
  • Namely, the core mechanic was shit. You rolled 1d6 and added a bonus from +0 to +3 against a target number from 3 to 9 assigned by the GM. The reasons that this is absolute shit eluded me then, but are obvious to me now. First off, you have at the outset a “bonus” that is 50% of the size of a very small random number generator range. From the outset, you are very likely “off the RNG”, i.e. “off the reservation”. Secondly, a tiny RNG range means very little granularity. Finally and perhaps most importantly, using a roll of 1d6 for the core mechanic, you have a perfectly flat distribution of results like with 1d20 (without the d20’s advantage of granularity), rather than the nice pseudo-Gaussian or “bell curve” distribution you get with 2d6 or 3d6. In layman’s terms, average results are more likely with 2d6 or 3d6 due to something called “binomial distribution”. Because average results are more likely, it’s less swingy, and random chance hold sway less. (I’ve always been math averse, but you can’t spend your entire life playing games where you roll dice to see what happens without accidentally learning SOME math.)

Now, over the next ten years or so the “d6 System” (Devon Oratz, 2004), no relation to the D6 System (WEG, 1996) was gradually refined and in the process renamed into the more betterer DicePunk System. This system forms the core of a couple little indie games you may have heard of called Phantasm(2010) and Psionics. But midway through this process of refinement, something dumb and stupid happened.

In 2008, I designed a game called SPLINTER. This game was weird as shit. It was so weird, it needed TWO core mechanics: one for the “real world”, and one for the “game world” wrapped up inside that one, like a cocktail weenie inside of that delicious croissant biscuit stuff. For the “real world” mechanic, I used an intermediary stage of the system I’m discussing. It had a few improvements on the (har har) “d6 System” but it had not yet reached the stage of refinement that the DicePunk System is operating at.

This, obviously, annoys me to no-end. It means my company publishes two games that are compatible with the DicePunk System and each other (great), a third game that uses a completely separate system (whatever), and then SPLINTER, which both has its own system and uses a half-formed, half-baked precursor of the DicePunk System, which is terrible, and confusing, and terrible.

BUT I AM FIX.

The following documents convert SPLINTER’s Earthside rules to use the proper DicePunk System instead, including an overhaul of the rules for (yes you heard me right) “Player Creation”. No need to thank me, I did this for my own sanity. But hopefully a more permanent and prettier application of this patch will be forthcoming in the near future, with you know, layout and stuff.

Rulesburst – Playing A Player

The Id, The Ego, and the Avatar.

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.