Transmissions From The End #009

Company News

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

GM’s Day Sale

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I-CON 32

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

<end transmission>

Transmissions From The End #005 – Making Up For Lengthy Silence With Endless Rambling!

Sorry guys, I’ve been really fucking busy. The Kickstarter that is going to jump in about two weeks has been taking all my time getting ready for it. I am about excited enough to poop my pants. So I missed about two installments of Transmissions From The End, so I’ll try to make up for it by making this one triple length!

Guest Shit From Thom Caulfield:

I asked Devon if I could have a guest post and he was like “you can have a guest 1/8th of a post because I have a lot of shit to write get your own fucking blog man” and I was like “I will take what I can get!” so here goes.

I’m sad that I can’t post this to the big purple because fascism (hurray!) which we’ll probably have in real world American in about a month and five days (double hurray!) but here are the sample complications I came up with based on the movies that Fiasco abjectly failed to be the Roleplaying Game Version of.

////FARGO (1998)

* “What kind of trouble are you in, Jerry?”
* “This was supposed to be a no-rough-stuff type deal!”

* “Love ya, hon.”
* “There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”

* “… So maybe the best thing would be to take care of that, right here in Brainerd.”
* “You know these are the limits of your life, man! The rule of your little fuckin’ gate here! Here’s your four dollars, you pathetic piece of shit!”
* “Is this a fuckin’ joke here?”

* “That’s a– that’s a fountain of conversation, man. That’s a geyser. I mean, whoa, daddy, stand back, man.“
* “I need … unguent.”

/////IN BRUGES (2008)

* “One of the girls they murdered WASN’T a friend of mine. I just wanted to make you feel bad. It worked quite well.”
* “The little boy.”
* “He pauses, even though he should just hit the cunt, and he repeats, yes, I am talking to you.”
* “That’s for John Lennon, you Yankee fucking cunt!”
* “I’d hit a woman who was trying to hit me with a bottle! That’s different. That’s self-defence, isn’t it! Or a woman who could do Karate. I’d never hit a woman generally.”
* “Would you ever think about killing yourself because you’re a midget?”

* “Harry. I am totally in your debt. The things that’s gone between us in the past, I love you unreservedly for that. For your integrity, for your honor, I love you.”
* “The boy had to be let go.”
* “My wife was black. And I loved her very much. And in 1976 she got murdered by a white man. So where the fuck am I supposed to stand in all this blood and carnage?”

-HARRY (Raiph Fiennes)-
* “How can fucking swans not be somebody’s fucking thing? How can that be?”
* “I liked Ray. He was a good bloke, but when it all comes down to it, y’know, he blew the head off a little fucking kid.”
* “You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!”
* “An Uzi? I’m not from South Central los-Fucking-angeles. I want a normal gun for a normal person.”
* “I know I shouldn’t, but I will.”
* “You’ve got the capacity to get fucking worse!”
* “Well obviously I’m not gonna go through you, am I, with your baby and that. I’m a nice person. But could you just get out of the fucking way, please.”
* “Don’t be stupid. This is the shoot-out.”
* “I do want the guy dead. I want him fucking crucified. It doesn’t change the fact that he stitched you up like a blind little gayboy, does it?”
* “You’ve got to stick to your principals.”

\\\\\PHANTASM IV: OblIVion (1999)

* “Mike, that Tall Man of yours didn’t take Jody away. Jody died in a car wreck.”
* “Small Man, your end approaches but it is not yet. Take great care how you play.”

\\\\PULP FICTION (1994)

* “Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!”
* “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”
* “Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals.”
* “Well, I’m a mushroom-cloud-layin’ motherfucker, motherfucker!”

* “Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face.”
* “Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.”
* “I don’t mean any disrespect, I don’t like people barking orders at me.”
* “I got a threshold, Jules. I got a threshold for the abuse that I will take. Now, right now, I’m a fuckin’ race car, right, and you got me the red. ”

* “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”
* “I specifically reminded her – bedside table! On the Kangaroo! I said the words, “Don’t forget my father’s watch.””
* “I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.”

* “…Marcellus Wallace don’t like to be fucked by anybody except Mrs. Wallace.”
* “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.””
* “I’m prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If [Butch] goes to Indochina, I want a nigger hiding in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.”
* “I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’ma get medieval on your ass.”

* “Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?”
* “This fucked-up bitch is Marsellus Wallace’s wife! Do you know who Marsellus Wallace is? Do you? If she croaks on me, I’m a fuckin’ greasespot!”

* “I’m gonna get fuckin’ divorced. No marriage counselling, no trial separation, I’m gonna get fuckin’ divorced.”
* “Did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said “Dead Nigger Storage”?”

* ” If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please… with sugar on top. Clean the fucking car.” (I am going to call out Devon on totally having this complication in real life, because it’s his favorite thing to quote when demanding that me or Mikaela or anyone else to do something in a completely unreasonable timeframe.)
* “You see that, young lady? Respect. Respect for one’s elders gives character.”
* “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character.”
* “I get my car back any differently than when I gave it, Monster Joe’s gonna be disposing of two bodies.”

/////BONUS (2016) Moderators/Admins-
* “I love rules! They make me powerful!”

I had more planned, but to be honest, the one-month ban from made me feel like my sample complications would have less of a

If you had any questions about how any of those complications are supposed to work (in what situations would you bust them, in what situations would you raise them, etc, why are their so fucking many for In Bruges.), email

Worlds End. Heroes Die. Systems Malfunction.

I saw what you did there, Thom, and if Harvey Keitel wasn’t so fucking awesome, you’d never have gotten away with it.

In two and a half weeks, I will have been developing this game, this setting, and this world, for exactly 12 years of my life (add 2-3 years if you count the videogames too, which started development in 2001). For that entire time, I have been trying to make it a thing. I feel like I have finally “brought the thunder” enough that I feel like I actually have a chance of making that happen.

This is a very early rough of a single piece of promotional art. It might not be enough to get you hyped, but it gets me fucking HYPED.


Actually, it’s 10 of them. And that makes me HYPED X 10.

I am hereby officially announcing that our Kickstarter for Systems Malfunction the tabletop roleplaying game is launching on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016.

Artificial Nocturne

Accompanying the Kickstarter will be an 80,000 word braided fiction featuring stories from yours truly, Mikaela Barree, Richard Kelly, John Jemmott, and others. While this will give our monowire sharp deadlines to contend with, our intention is to have the first story ready to launch by the 21st and to launch one story roughly every three days thereafter, on the KS main page. There will be 11 stories total.

Artificial Nocturne is a braided anthology set in the Systems Malfunction universe designed to show up why that universe is FUCKING AWESOME: smart, literate, literary, genre-savvy, morally ambiguous, violent, profane, beautiful, science-fiction like you’ve never seen it before, with vampires fighting robots in goddamn motherfucking space.

Most of the writers already know how awesome Systems Malfunction is because of having played the LARP it’s based on. Some of the writers already know how awesome Systems Malfunction is because of having played the amateur CRPGs it’s based on. The rest of them will have to learn as they go.

It is the year 556 R.T…

D-042 “Jersey City” is an artificial nocturne. It is a wretched hive of scum and villainy (our principal characters). It’s just as fucked up as they say. It’s an outsider’s escape for a broken heart. You can buy anything there. Anyone.

They hide out in the back. They are the YWY (pronounced like “Why” singular, or “whys” plural), a sleeper cell of the Fallen that is wide awake. They are kids, all, terrorists all — age 3 to 300. Some of them are 200 year old psychic aliens. Some of them are robot prostitutes. Some of them are psychic cyborg immortal posthuman teenage prostitutes with a grudge against the po.

They are all terrorists. They are all kids.

They are our heroes. This story is about them and the shadow of a life they eke out around and beneath a space station with 250.5 million souls on board and a million stories.

Artificial Nocturne is a braided anthology in the Systems Malfunction universe designed to introduce it while telling a COMPLETELY NEW STORY within it (believe me, I have a LOT I could have rebooted).

Artificial Nocturne is informed by and keys to the album Synthetica by the rock band Metric.

It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Adventure

I’ve had a couple of DicePunk adventures planned for a couple of months. The first of these, “Escape From Cleveland”, a Psionics adventure set during the Republican National Convention, I was really excited about this fucked up and awesome idea. But the closer we’ve gotten to the general election, the more and more terrifying Trump’s inevitable rise to power has seemed compared to his merely possible rise to power  and the less and the less fun this adventure has seemed to write and playtest. I might actually leave the country if/when Trump wins. I don’t know that I’m feeling as keen on statting the fucktard  giant douche in DicePunk as I was back in July.

Instead, what we have coming up for some point in the future is an adventure I like to call No Country For Great Old Ones. It’s southern-fried cops and robbers a la recent incredibly amazing film Hell or High Water only with a ‘dash’ of the supernatural thrown in. We plan on releasing it “quad-statted” for DicePunk (specifically, Phantasm), Delta Green, HERO System 5E (Revised), and Savage Worlds, assuming that we can get all the licensing lined up. It’s going to be the tits.

This Is Entertainment

The SPLINTER Quick-Start Rules are called SPLINTER: This Is Entertainment. It will be a free PDF booklet (some dead tree copies possible for Free RPG day) that will include everything you need to jump into SPLINTER including pregenerated players/Avatars and an introductory adventure. In other words, the world’s weirdest RPG just got a bit more accessible.

It’s currently on schedule for a Christmas season 2016 release thanks almost entirely to one Richard Kelly. Richard: TYVM for keeping this particular ETG assault vessel on track and on target.

In Closing

I think that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks everyone for listening to my blather and turn in next Thursday for another Transmission From The End.


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:


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.


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.


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.


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

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

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

Singularity System

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

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

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

Wrapping Up

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

UPDATE (Crosspost from ETG Tumblr)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journey To The Forbidden Jungle: The Thrilling Conclusion

“After regrouping and rearming, the party moved down to the second floor of the Temple of the Frog. There, they faced and overcame a seven Proto-Batrachians, a Steel Mother, and a swarming Apocritean Host. Then a Hell Sphinx swooped down from the rafters to attack, sewing chaos amongst the party. During this chaos the party–after defeating the Hell Sphinx–also engaged and destroyed six Psyclops.

The party settled down to rest for an hour, Hegik crafting and Yntrew using a Recharge. Using a Fantasy (Area) spell, the Haon-Dor Fallen Lachrymoses appeared as a gigantic face on the ceiling, warning the party of their doom if they pursued the Lizard King any further (and showing them the Hollower Hydra and Vyscerid Charnalossus that awaited them in the nave of the Cathedral of the Frog below.  While most of the party treated with this illusion, Lachrymoses entered the counsel chamber where Yntrew and Hegik were. Holding one and then another, he reduced Hegik to a pile of ashes, and wounded Yntrew with a Bladewand before being driven off by Yntrew’s bladewand. Yntrew then was ported out.

The remaining members of the party were led by a mysterious hooded figure to a slop room on the ground floor of the Temple. She told them that she intended to use them as catspaws to disrupt the Prophecy surrounding Khasothel, and armed them with an array of fantastic weapons. So-armed, the party were able to easily overcome the Hollower Hydra and the Vyscerid Charnalossus, although the latter did impregnate Viperis with its horrid spoor (poor Viperis, why always her!).

Meanwhile, Hryll the Cephaloplexi Wizard ported into the same level, behind the Cathedral’s alter. Blinding a Yaktaur guard, he made his way to a store room where six of the Lizard King’s Salamdrean Survivors had been armed with Kalash assault rifles and posted as guards. After a pitched battle, the surviving S surrendered, and took him to the Lizard King via a secret passage. He convinced the Lizard King–surrounded by his allies, the Hypnogorgon Euryale and the Punisher Lord Kron Thalos–that he was there to chronicle the Lizard King’s ascension on behalf of the Sages. And he noted that the Lizard King already held the cursed blade Khasothel.

An impenetrable forcefield divided the Cathedral of the Frog’s aisle in half, separating the Lizard King and his group from the party. After defeating a Grimstalker and taking his quarters, and scouting the nearby doors in the cathedral aisle for traps, identifying the (trapped) Control Room and locating one of two manual overrides for the forcefield, the party attempted to rest for eight hours. Six hours into the rest, Viperis vomited out a Vyscerid Liberator, and then promptly cut it to pieces with her Warp Sword. The party then collapsed back to sleep, being rejoined by Renzozuke and Yntrew Tilt porting back in when they awakened. Meanwhile, Hryll insinuated himself further into the Lizard King’s trust.

The party–including Maurice Beauxhomme and Herk Vadis–began to search for a means to shut down the forcefield. They fought a tough battle against a Harvester Lord and four Harvester Knights, during which Philarion (Reid Omara) was killed. In a virtually never-before-seen turn of events, Philarion was resurrected while Reid Omara was not able to be resuscitated. With the aid of his Neural Symbiont (“brain friend”) Yntrew tilt listened in on Philarion and Maurice discussing their concerns about Outsiders in their midst.

Maurice used a Flight Disk to levitate above the trap door outside the Control Room, unwittingly instigated the climactic final battle. He picked the lock, safe from the trap on his hovering Flight Disk. A trio of Ugly Things oozed out of the Control Room to fight the party, and were quickly cut down. During the confusion. snuck up on Viperis, Lachrymoses cast a Hold on her, and smashed her with a Teke. The rest of the party ran to help her, and Lachrymoses darted away from them and hurled a Blizzard into their midst. He had just Held Renzozuke and was about to kill him when the Lizard King’s patience ran out. He took down the forcefield himself and ran to engage the party in battle.

Due to Hryll’s sudden but inevitable betrayal, the Lizard King’s blinded forces were on the losing side of the epic melee that followed. The Lizard King sliced Herk Vadis in half with Khasothel, Viperis herself cut down the Lizard King with her Warp Sword and a Maelstrom Elemental summoned by Philarion saw to the speedy defeat of Kron Thalos and Euryale.  During all of this, Yntrew inhaled a bag of Hell Sphinx Ash and applied a Potion of Invisibility, before contributing to Kron Thalos’ defeat. Lachrymoses seized Khasothel from the Lizard King’s corpse and used Smog Soul to escape out the Temple’s southern doors.

As the dust from the battle settled, Hryll cast a Hold on Maurice, only to find himself at the blades of the rest of the party. Philarion set his Maelstrom Elemental to batter down the southern doors. With the Hold released, Hryll ominously declared that Maurice was marked for death. Yntrew attempted to negotiate Maurice’s surrender into Metropol custody, and Maurice seemed ready to agree. The sounds of a VTOL aircraft from the south, out the doors the Maelstrom Elemental had destroyed, sent the party running, as Ziq spotted Lachrymoses fleeing towards a guard tower in the outer courtyard through the X-Ray scope of his Zeus-PSR. Hryll took advantage of the distraction to escape to the north, having looted Dawnbow from Euryale’s corpse.

Maurice, Philarion, and Yntrew flew to the top of the guard tower, carrying Ziq and Viperis with them. The VTOL craft–carrying Haon-Dor Fallen–flew away, apparently retreating. Descending the guard tower’s stairs from the roof, Yntrew and Viperis saw Lachrymoses’ corpse, his neck broken and Khasothel taken. Ziq caught a glimpse of none other than Kade Merek (Ronald Singh) with Khaosthel, leaping from the guard tower’s roof to the moat below.

Then the Adventure game abruptly to a close!”

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.

Epic Battles In Spaaaaaaaaace

Epic Space Battles is a free rules add-on we’re releasing for The Singularity System designed to make space battles more epic. I mean this more literally than facetiously. The base Singularity System starship combat rules are SO DETAILED and SO INTRICATE that with more than 2-4 starships, things bog down and the lag becomes so great that the game is effectively unplayable. A six starship on six starship combat would take an unfeasibly long time to resolve, like maybe eight hours or more depending on the GM’s personal style and processing speed. This is…less than good. I’ve always pitched the Singularity System as having really fast playing and scalable starship combat, so I wanted to go back and make those things actually true, and release the patch for free.

From a game design standpoint, here’s some of what I did to convert the Singularity Core Starship Combat (SCSC) rules to the majorly simplified rules sytem I’m calling Epic Space Battles:

  • In the base rules, every starship gets at least four or five and as many as ten or more actions per turn at a minimum. One action for the helmsman, the engineering chief, and the infowar chief, plus one action for each bay weapon and each turret. But then each of these roles or stations gets additional actions later in the turn based on its ReAct value, which is based on character attributes (for manned stations) or ship system ratings (for autopiloted stations). This can quickly get a little crazy, with 20 or more actions per ship per turn being not all that anomalous. In the Epic Space Battles rules, this was the first thing to be drastically simplified: one action per ship per turn. (There are now several phases to each turn, however, so for PC crewed ships, each role still gets to do their thing.)
  • In the base rules, every starship role–or at least most starship roles–can use their actions to aid their ship in various ways. The Engineer, for instance, can boost the shields to help the ship’s defenses or boost the engines to help the helmsman perform maneuvers, the Helmsman can perform Evasive maneuvers or change range and facing relative to target ships to line up a shot, the Infowar station chief can give the Weapons bay chief more dice with a target lock or perform active jamming to keep their own ship from getting locked on to, etcetera. We wanted to retain that dynamic and that sense of teamwork and synergy but without all of the extra actions. So what I did is I added an ‘allocation’ phase where each role can allocate dice to one of four dice pools–Attack, Defense, Maneuver, and Initiative–depending on the role’s individual actions. Instead of “rolling to lock on” or “rolling to jam incoming target locks”, the Infowar Chief can now just choose to allocate their dice into Attack or Defense. Because allocating dice into dice pools individually would take too long for NPC ships, you can also just pick a preset ‘Stance’ for your ship which allocates your available roles’ dice automatically into different dice pools to focus on Attack, Defense, Maneuverability and so on. This makes things a lot faster while retaining a lot of tactical depth.
  • This already shaves a lot of time off, but I wanted it even faster, for truly epic space battles. In the base rules, a starship couldn’t be killed or crippled until you’d shot through its shields, then shot through its hull, then destroyed either its bridge or its reactor. Again, I simplified: “Shields” were abstracted into a Defense Pool bonus, and ships were simplified down to just having one pool of ‘Hit Points’, called ‘Hull’, rather than Hull Points and then Hit Points for each individual component of the ship. Some weapons had the partial ability to penerate Shields, so this was converted into an abstract Attack Pool bonus.
  • Finally, individually processes like Point Defense (shooting down incoming projectiles) and launching swarms of fighters for attack runs on enemy ships (to be intercepted by screens of enemy fighters) were heavily abstracted, moving in the latter case from handling individual vessels to handling ‘swarms’ of small craft.

So with the new rules in place, I wanted to do some playtests. I knew it was faster but I didn’t know if it was fast enough. I decided that I’d try for four playtests, doubling the number of ships each time: 4 vs 4 ships, 8 vs 8 ships, 16 vs 16 ships, and finally a clash of vast armadas, 32 ships vs 32 ships. Of course most of the conflicts would include carrier class ships carrying swarms of fighters, to make things hairier and really test the system under strain.

To make things more fun, I decided to make the playtests a game. Mikaela and I each picked a faction from the Systems Malfunction universe and spent an appropriate budget of credits to assemble and arm our fleets before pitting them against each other.

As arbitrary benchmarks, I set a target time I wanted to be able to complete each combat in. For 4 vs. 4 I decided that should easily resolve in under an hour. For 8 vs. 8, I decided 90 minutes. I thought 16 vs. 16 ships should be doable in 2.5 hours and 32 vs. 32 ships should be resolved within 3 hours, which would allow a truly epic space battle with extra time left over for an average RPG session. Like I said, these targets were selected in a pretty arbitrary fashion. One constant was that I set up the names and hull points of each ship in a notepad for tracking, and we had wet erase markets on hand for tracking relative ship positions, but I did NOT preroll the first initiative.

So how’d we do?

  1. The first playtest was easily completed within an hour, with 15 or 20 minutes to spare. I shudder to think how long a simple four starship versus four starship skirmish would take in the SCSC rules.
  2. If I recall correctly, 8 vs. 8 ships took a lot more than 90 minutes but a little less than two hours. I know that we missed the target but not by a huge margin.
  3. The 16 vs. 16 fight I was expecting to run longer than the target time based on how the 8 vs. 8 fight had gone. I wasn’t wrong. This fight was still going solidly after the 3 hour mark, though. Based on this, I decided to reduced the final trial to “only” 24 vs. 24 ships.
  4. The 32 vs. 32 24 vs. 24 fight was the finale. For this one, we decided to pit an armada from the Sol Invictus setting versus an armada from the world of Systems Malfunction. This epic battle took far longer than three hours, and I think we were somewhere between four and five hours of playtime before we thought a winner had emerged. The first initiative took a half hour to roll and set up.  One thing I noticed with this playthrough was that after the three hour mark, things felt more grueling than fun, but that probably has more to do with us not starting the playtest until 10PM than anything about the system itself. I think by that point we were just worn down physically.
  5. Our goal was to determine how long each combat would take, not which side would win or what the casualties would be. With that said, a miscellaneous observation we couldn’t help but making was that the loss of life (and ships) on both sides was, in all battles, catastrophic, a total massacre. Most fights involved so much senseless destruction on both sides of the battle that there was no clear winner. When a winner did arise, it was only the most stringently pyrrhic victory. I think this owed more to the fact that fleets built on the same amount of credits tend to be rather evenly matched, as much as the fact that the ESB system is (for the reasons discussed above) rather lethal. Mikaeala thought this was pretty sad, but I thought it was pretty neat.
  6. Due to the Advent rules, the side with the PC ship on it always fared better than the other side, and the PC ship always survived, a definitely desirable feature for obvious reasons.

Conclusions: The Epic Space Battles rules were hugely faster than the rules they’re designed to (optionally, for larger scale battles) replace, but not quite as fast as I wanted. While I found a few things I could twist and turn to speed them up by a few percent (the first rules for resolving initiative ties that I’d put were just terrible, for instance), in the end I think the times I wound up with can be deemed acceptable. 24 vs. 24 battles in most RPG systems can take quite a bit of time, and when dozens of massive starships are maneuvering in three dimensional space and allocating systems dice to different pools to fire dozens of lasers and missiles at each other, while launching dozens of fighters on attack runs to be intercepted by other fighters and…yeah. I think that the concept of “Epic Space Battles” has a pretty darn high inherent complexity as far as things to faithfully simulate in a game go, so I’m happy to have gotten the running time and complexity for huge fleet-on-fleet space combat actions down from “GM’s head literally explodes” to ” a couple hours”.

If you’re curious about the final product, it will be up on the usual suspects for free once it’s laid out, arted, and published.