Roleplaying Games

Transmissions From The End #14: Reviews & More

Greetings from the End of Everything!

So, thanks in part to the work of our marketing director, a few of our games that have been out for years actually have reviews! How about that! It’s almost like we don’t actually exist in an interstitial dimensional bubble that separates us from true reality and prevents us from interacting with it or being noticed by it in any meaningful way!

The GMShoe’s (Dan Davenport’s) Long-Awaited Review of The Singularity System: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/review-the-singularity-system/
Throat Punch Games’ Review of Psionics (This One’s Even On The Big Nurple):  https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/17/17166.phtml
The Wandering Alchemist’s Review Of SPLINTER: http://thewanderingalchemist.com/2017/05/19/review-splinter/

A soothing balm on the burns inflicted by our tremendous losses at Origins, the reviews range from mostly positive to glowing. Rock on.

If you want to buy any of those games (or the supplements and adventures supporting them), we’ll be selling them at DexCon,  July 5th-9th at the Hyatt Regency & Convention Center in Morristown, New Jersey and of course at GenCon50, August 17-20 in Indianapolis. We love meeting our fans in person, but if you can’t wait till then, our entire product lines can be found on One Bookshelf and at select Friendly Local Game Stores through our distributor, Studio2. Further convention appearances will be announced as the year develops.

Upcoming cons mean revised street-date announcements, so we’ve got those!

We should finally be able to debut the introductory SPLINTER adventure “Return To The Dread Abyss Of The Digitarchs” at DexCon, hot from the presses, by the exceptionally talented Richard Kelly.

At GenCon, for our major new title launch, we’ll have the Systems Malfunction standalone RPG. I just got done editing the introductory fiction for this one, by the aforementioned absurdly skilled Richard Kelly, and it’s a truly phenomenal read both for people brand new to Systems and to the oldest of oldbies. The playtest period on this one is ending in the next week or so, then it’s a race through art, layout, and printing in the month of July to have it ready to go for GenCon 50.

I’m excited! Are you excited?

<end transmission>

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).

  Nanofacturing

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.

Deconstruction

  • 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.

 

Full Tilt SJW Crazytown (or: Fuck My Entire Life)

Jesus Christ do I hate having to make this blog post. I hate politics and I have tried my entire life to avoid the discussion of or involvement in politics. But this turned out to be impossible. Politics in life. On top of that, this is post is a heaping helping of nothing but capital D Drama. Something else I have striven to avoid at every turn. Something else.

0. Foreward. Almost no one reads this blog, and I know that no one reads this blog. If my regular readership were to be counted in the 10s, I would consider myself lucky. Due to the events that precipitated this blog-post, that readership is even more unlikely to go up than it was before. A concentrated effort on my part will be necessary to spread and signal-boost this post so that everyone even remotely interested in the online tabletop roleplaying community has a chance of seeing it. Even thinking about this endeavor makes me feel incredibly tired.

I. #GamerGate. Maybe you’ve heard of it. If you haven’t heard of it: this is not an adequate introduction or summary, and if you’re at all interested in the changing shape of the internet, you should do some research, and be omnivorous in that research, sampling all sides.

#GamerGate, a little over a year old now, is an online hashtag movement with an unbelievably bad reputation. No, strike that, it’s such an understatement that it’s inadequate to the point. By late 2015, #GamerGate’s PR situation and public-facing reputation is the worst you will ever encounter outside of the public launch of the “Baby Rapists and Puppy Murderers Club”. The reason for this is primarily that the mainstream media has flawlessly and ceaselessly controlled, curated, and simplified the very simple and unchallenged narrative that describes #GamerGate to the general public. If you are not in #GamerGate, and you’ve heard of it, chances are you perceive #GamerGate as a misogynistic hate-group that targets women. In the interest of fairness, what doesn’t help this terrible, terrible, terrible public image is that early in #GamerGate’s history, some asshole misogynists did use the hashtag to harass women online, thereafter poisoning the movement’s image forever. Since then, even if it’s members’ behavior has improved, its image has only gotten worth via the snowball effect.

#GamerGate portrays itself as a “grassroots consumer advocacy movement advocating for better ethics in game journalism” and is nearly universally reviled as a “misogynistic hate group”. The truth in my opinion lies somewhere in-between. I call bullshit on the idea that #GamerGate came into existence purely out of some noble drive to improve ethics in game journalism. Otherwise it would have been born in 2007 when Jeff Gerstmann was fired for giving forgettable turd Kane and Lynch: Dead Men a less-than-glowing review, rather than being born in 2014 out of the Quinnspiracy. Since I began following the movement in late 2014, after the shitstorm’s apex, I have seen basically no evidence of misogynist behavior. #GamerGate’s leading lights certainly hate the shit out of CERTAIN WOMEN, but not because they are women, rather because those particular women are assholes spreading genuinely toxic ideologies. I myself am certainly not a fan of these particular women: I have said unkind things about them on multiple occasions. That is because I think they are terrible people and that they ideology they represent is a cancer. Not because they happen to represent as women.

Instead, I would describe #GamerGate as a reactionary force against the equally reactionary trend in the gaming community of shrill, perpetually offended social justice warriors that openly favor censorship, enforced political correctness, and overt politicization of videogames.

This is a chart I whipped up of what kind of reaction you can expect online should you make a positive or neutral mention of #GamerGate now in late 2015 based on your political environs in the digital sphere. I make no guarantees to its accuracy, so you’ll have to rely on your own judgement.

#gg chart

II. RPG.net. Active since 1996, RPGnet is one of the oldest and largest online websites for discussing, reviewing, dissecting, and enthusing over tabletop roleplaying games, not just the heavy hitters like D&D, Call of Cthulhu, World of Darkness and Shadowrun but with a special focus on fringe indie games much like the ones that well…that we make. Referred to as “the big purple”, with over half a million threads teaming with 16 MILLION posts by 115,828 members nearly 10,000 of which are presently considered active, RPGnet is 200 times larger than its next largest competitor among general Tabletop RPG discussion sites. Obviously, RPGnet is an invaluable place to have access to if you are a person who likes to engage in open and vibrant discussion of tabletop RPGs (I am just such a person) and especially if you are one of the intrepid souls involved in the creation of indie RPGs.

As of this post, I have been permanently banned from RPGNet. Before I discuss this revolting development in any more detail, let me write my second paragraph about RPGNet.

I joined RPGnet extremely late in its history, maybe…three to four years ago? I didn’t begin posting with any degree of regularity until the past year. I noticed almost immediately that RPGnet was the most heavy-handed, heavily overmoderated forum I had ever seen on the entire internet, to a comically over-the-top degree. Without getting into the inherent bias of this over-moderation, the over-moderation itself was a serious problem. Disagreements basically were not allowed. As soon as anything got the slightest bit heated, moderators swooped in heavy-handedly handing out “infractions” and warnings. Two new concepts were really hard to get my head around. One was that there were “[+]” or “[-]” threads where only negative or positive perspectives on a topic were allowed. This was a huge red-flag to me, because to me, echo-chambers are something to be avoided, and something I’ve never seen consciously purpose-built before. Who would want to create meaningless threads where posters were only allowed to agree with each other and preach to the choir. The other incredibly toxic policy I saw was something called a “thread ban”. If you said something in a topic that the moderators arbitrarily decided was “out of line”, you would be banned from posting to that topic. Other posters still in the topic could rebut you, insult you, mock you, and misunderstand what you had said, but you were not allowed to respond or to clarify what you had said. The other thing I noticed when looking through older threads that I thought was kind of odd was that at least half of the usernames I saw there had the word banned under them.

RPGnet is full-tilt SJW crazytown. The moderators are the actual, literal Social Justice Gestapo. If you fail to think and say the “right” opinion, if you fail to toe the party line, they will break down your proverbial door and drag you off to be disappeared. It is the single most insane fucking thing I have ever seen in my entire lifetime of bouncing around the internet. SJW if you didn’t know stands for “Social Justice Warrior”. There is a subset of people on the internet (let’s call them “reactionary jerks”) who use “SJW” as an epithet to describe anyone who doesn’t believe, for instance, that racism in America is over. As a liberal democrat, I am not part of that subset. When I say SJW I am talking about perpetually-offended reactionary bigots who parrot insane things they read on tumblr like “there is no such thing as racism/sexism against white men”, about people whose psychotic zeal for “social justice” supercedes for them all of the basic principles of liberalism such as freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of dissent, freedom of thought. These people are dangerous. Their ideas are toxic. They are crazy extremists. They are in total, unsupervised dictatorial control of the largest open tabletop RPG discussion site on the planet.

This brings me to my ban and Thank God, near to the end of this incredibly arduous and draining and upsetting post. The condescending and hostile explanation of my “permanent” ban mentioned a few infractions I’d received in the past. Most of these “infractions” amounted to me discussing why I personally didn’t like certain roleplaying games, or why I personally did not think that they were very good. Any reasonable person would expect that on a site for discussing roleplaying games, this would BE ONE OF THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF DISCUSSION, let alone something that would be moderated. The fact that I did not like certain games or did not think they were good was somehow construed as “simmering hostility and contempt for fellow RPGnet posters”. This of course could not be further than the truth. I think the Twilight franchise for instance is nothing more than terrible, worthless dreck. That doesn’t mean that I hold “simmering hostility and contempt” for its millions of fans. I happen to know that the–again, extremely heavy handed and in-depth–moderation system allows for, besides warnings and threadbans, three-day bans, one-week bans, one month bands, three month bands, and so on and so forth. I had never received any of these disciplinary measures and immediately went from zero to a PERMANENT BAN. Why did that happen? Well, guys, I’ve kind of pulled an H.P. Lovecraft and saved the punchline of my entire story to put in one sentence, the entire fucking point, at the end, in Italics.

The other two things mentioned in my permanent ban infraction were that I had “advocated for gamergate via private message”  and that “you don’t feel you’re a good fit here. We concur, and as such, you are permanently banned”. In other words, the key reasons for my ban were that a) when someone asked me via PM, I told them I did not think GamerGate was a hate group and b) that they basically just didn’t like me, nana nana poo poo. Leaving aside the ridiculous childishness of the latter, let’s reflect for a second on how disturbing the former is. In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party. In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects. To entertain unacceptable thoughts is known as crimethink in Newspeak, the ideologically purified dialect of the party. In the end, I was banned because the moderators went into my private messages, or I was ratted out to the Gestapo by the person I was privately conversing with (I’m not sure which is more disturbing), and punishe dme for the thoughtcrime of secretly holding the wrong opinion.

I did not harass or abuse anyone. I did not publicly advocate for #GamerGate in any forum or topic. I privately responded–when I was ASKED–that I believed #GG was not a hate group. For that I was permanently banned.

The Orwellian idea of crimethink is alive and well on RPG.net.

– Devon

Postscript

Strawman Says: Devon, if you hate and are sickened the insanely draconian, Orwellian moderation policy at RPG.net and their unbelievable hypocrisy, why do you even want to be a part of that hellish toxic shithole?

Answer: I’m glad you asked, Man of Straw. The problem is, those free-speech hating Social Justice Gestapo reign with an iron fist over the largest open tabletop roleplaying discussion forum on the planet, two hundred times larger than its next-largest competitor. As someone who loves to talk and think about roleplaying games, for my sanity, I need to have access to that vibrant and lively discussion. As someone whose entire livelihood comes from publishing indie roleplaying games, I need to have access to that marketplace. I am a person who has done nothing wrong, nothing that could be construed as harassment or abuse. I am literally and actually entitled (ooh, there’s that dirty word!) to access to this forum for discussion. For these reasons, I am not going to take getting permabanned by SSJWs for crimethink lying down.