scifi

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>

Transmissions From The End #008

What’s up End Transmission fans, he said by way of greeting, unsure if he was addressing an actual group of people that actually exist or a figment of his fevered imagination.

This episode is a sneak preview of what we’ve got coming up for the year 2017. Because we’re still early in the year, be aware of all of the following: there are some things we want to keep under wraps for now, some things we haven’t figured out yet, and some things we haven’t even thought of yet. With all of those caveats at the way, let’s talk about some stuff. Here’s an update on almost everything.

Systems Malfunction

For over 10 years it was an amazing, awesome, experimental boffer LARP. Then it was a gigantic, bullet-stopping setting book for the Singularity System. Then last year in October you guys funded us so we could make Systems Malfunction–still powered by the Singularity System–a standalone RPG. Again, thanks!

But I really, really, really want the book to be full color because well…just look at all of this full color art we produced during the Kickstarter. It’s AMAZING! But we ran out of time on our KS more than $10,000 short of our Full Color stretch goal. We thought more about what an injustice it would be to have to grayscale down those images from glorious CMYK,  So we tightened our belts and crunched the numbers a bit and now we’ve got an IndieGoGo set up. If we can get $3,500 in the next 59 days or so, we can make the book full color, which would be so great. For those of you who already gave generously to the KS and are already getting SysMal, if you have any ideas for additional rewards we could offer you through the IndieGoGo, shoot ’em over to me.

As for production on the actual book, here’s a quick look behind the scenes. The manuscript is currently just a hair under 50,000 words. Probably about 10,000 of those words are boilerplate and need to be rewritten. As a point of reference, Psionics weighed in at 78,000 words and change, and that was before about 30,000 words of fictions. I anticipate needing to write approximately another 20-30k words before the manuscript is complete, not counting a 10,000 word piece of introductory fiction. The latter I won’t be writing myself, at least plant A is that I want to hire a famous writer to write it. Someone whose name you will have heard of. But you know, make plans and hear God laugh, all that stuff. Anyway, I don’t anticipate having much trouble finishing the text portion of the game that remains to be finished at the rate which I write/design games, but art and layout often take longer, and we won’t know if the remaining art we’re commissioning will be color or B&W for 60 days. Still, we should be in position to deliver on our promise of a GenCon 50 release date, barring any (further) unforeseen personal disasters. Backers will receive their books first where at all possible.

S.P.L.I.N.T.E.R.

Last year I tried to launch the SPLINTER “living campaign” and didn’t get anywhere with it so I’m really hoping to make it work this year. If you don’t know what a “living campaign” is, the idea that diverse groups of gamers are playing the same adventures in the same setting at different game tables at various conventions across the country. It’s synonymous with ordinary play. D&D, Pathfinder, and Shadowrun: Missions have all run successful living campaigns at some point in their lifecycles. I know that we won’t be able to orchestrate on that scale any time soon, but we’re also doing things a little bit differently in that it is a literal, cohesive campaign: players can play it from the beginning or jump in wherever, experiencing an epic story where their choices really matter (my plan is, like what many established living campaigns did to one degree or another, to gather data on the choices made by players and think about how those can effect the writing of future adventures).

The living campaign is called Glory & Gore.

We have three episodes already written, and I had planned on writing the fourth, fifth, and sixth episode some time this year before Origins. Whether we have three episodes or six for 2017 players, it should be hard for the living campaign to do worse than the sad story of 2016, where we only ultimately ran two four hour instances of the living campaign. I am hoping to have a GM team that can run at least 25 instances of Glory & Gore, or 100 hours of organized SPLINTER gameplay, over the course of 2017. Wish me luck.

In other SPLINTER news, we have a terrific (and terrifying) adventure coming out hopefully at this year’s I-CON called Return To The Dread Abyss Of The Digitarchs from Oubliette co-creator Richard Kelly who also lead the charge on the (free) SPLINTER QSR. Art direction on it is almost three weeks behind, so it maybe delayed to a Lunacon or Origins release. Having not written it myself, I can say it is one of the greatest published adventures I’ve ever seen, for any game system.

Finally, I have a vision of a SPLINTER box set which will include the most current printings of SPLINTER Core, Sometimes Little Wondrous Things, and Ugly Things, perhaps also the SPLINTER Quick Start Rules, and pamphlets with things like three new playable Bloodlines (!) and rules for Martial Arts in the Realm (both ones Players train in Earthside, and ones passed down by Bloodlines for Aeons).

Psionics

Only two major pieces of news on the Psionics front (although there is some more Dicepunk news in the following and final heading). The first is that we want to take steps towards mass-producing the Psionics comic in a normal comic book size/format and try to get it in the hands of brick & mortar and digital comics retailers. Quite simply, we feel it’s too good a comic to be restricted to the cozy niche of tabletop gaming. We want to get it out there in the world.

And I also want to write a sequel, which is…daunting. But I want a comic book series, and it was never meant to be a one-off. I’m going to have to nut up and do it eventually, but thinking on the fact that I procrastinated writing “Tomorrow’s Starlight” longer than I procrastinated writing anything in my adult life, it may be later rather than sooner.

Speaking of sequels, sales of The Pleasantville Project have been decent enough that we are seriously considering beginning work on its sequel, continuing the Eternal Storm Campaign that will walk Psionics players from the awakening of their gifts to the end of the world as they know it.

No Country For Great Old Ones

(First off, a DicePunk adventure I believe I mentioned on here last year, Escape From Cleveland is officially cancelled before entering production. It stopped being fun around the same time that Trump was elected, making the possibility of Trump’s presidency 100% terrifying and 0% funny. However, since Psionics is firmly set “now”,  Psionics fans deserve an update on how the Trump presidency has effected the secret factions of the Psionics universe, much as it’s shaken up everything in the real world. This update will be short, free, and most likely delivered through this blog.)

No Country For Old Men is an adventure we have in the works that will feature officially licensed game statistics for Delta Green, Savage Worlds, and HERO System, Fifth Edition, Revised (or FRED) in addition to our own Dicepunk system.

No Country For Great Old Ones will be an intense, southern fried crime drama with subtle elements of supernatural horror. It’s deeply inspired by the excellent film “Hell or High Water”: my basic thought process, having been playing a lot of Delta Green at the time was, wow, what if we threw some Mythos into this mix.

The Delta Green and HERO System rules deal directly with the Lovecraft mythos, while the Savage Worlds and DicePunk rules keep the same basic structure of the adventure, but use elements of the mythos that we developed for Phantasm(2010) in place of the Lovecraftian stuff (I finally saw Phantasm RaVager, and my feelings are mixed). No Country will be unique in a few ways besides having full stats for four different game systems. Namely, it is a “two sided” adventure (think of an old record, with an A side and a B side) where the PCs can be either the “cops” or the “robbers”. Once you’ve played through it from one side, you can play through it as the other side, and see how the other half lives, and see what formidable enemies your former characters make.

We could probably rush No Country into production in time for Origins of this year without a problem, but we’re also considering doing a Kickstarter for the adventure to raise awareness. That would delay its release until well, well after GenCon, however, since as a company rule we don’t launch a Kickstarter until we’ve delivered on the previous one.

That’s it for the fourth week of February and the first time I’ve managed to force myself to make a proper update this year. Tune in next Thursday or the following Thursday  (hopefully) for more Transmissions From The End.

<End Transmission>

 

 

That Feeling When

TFW: You realize that a rule that you both wrote and published makes no fucking sense.

I think that Firefight came out in 2013 or 2014? I forget. Anyway, anyway, there’s this Combat Maneuver on p. 15, Defensive Roll, that makes literally no fucking sense.

IF CHEWBACCA LIVES ON ENDOR YOU MUST ACQUIT.

The rule says “A character with this Combat Maneuver decreases the Difficulty Stage of all Evasion rolls made versus Splash Attacks by one, from Hard to Normal.”

This makes exactly 0 sense. In The Singularity System you do not ever ROLL an Evasion test versus a “Splash Attack” because that is NOT A THING. Instead, attacks have a BLAST Radius and you suffer damage based on how close you are to ground zero, your Armor, the attack’s Piercing, and nothing else.

In 2013 I published a rule that was goddamn nonsense. But that can’t have happened! I’m perfect!

new20sorry20so20perfect

Except for that pesky part where I’m totally NOT Perfect, or even close.

Still, though…that…fucking…feeling…when. So, Errata, effective immediately:

For Firefight, p. 15:

  • Replace the Description of Defensive Roll with the following text: “A character with this combat maneuver can make an Evasion or Athletics roll (whichever is higher) when caught in the Blast Radius of any attack with a Blast Radius. Each Hit achieved on this test reduces the damage of the Blast attack by one–after reducing Base damage by meters from target,but before applying Armor.”

In summation:

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:

IMG_0560

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.

The End of Everything

I am a 30 year old man and this is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to type. In some ways, I should probably count myself fortunate for that. But I do not feel fortunate. And this is not an upbeat post.

Ten years and nine months ago, I was a Sophomore in college at SUNY Purchase. I started a science fiction boffer combat LARP called Systems Malfunction. I probably asked around fifteen or twenty friends and acquaintances (many of which I knew from another LARP I was playing) to come. Ten or twelve did. So began the game, the running and authoring of which would be a huge part of my life–at times even the larger part of my life–for the next decade.

Through the time I graduated college, Systems Malfunction was, to me, a wild success. As I’ve written in the past, we played six hours a night, one or two nights a week, every week for six consecutive collegiate semesters. In so doing, we played through a story that was astonishingly epic in scope (about a thousand hours of gameplay, give or take), a story that became hugely important to everyone involved (the game in turn became the keystone of the social scene for many of the players) and that grew richer for the participation of everyone who played. At the close of the Spring ’08 semester, the story was brought to a fittingly climactic end. Eight or twelve players were present. Some openly wept for the sense of closure that was collectively felt.

That would have been a good time to stop, but I was stupid, and got greedy. I imagined that after I graduated, the game, Systems, would stay behind me on the college campus and grow. That it would continue on where I had left it, eventually falling under the creative control of a younger generation of students: I thought, fondly (which is to say stupidly) that I would be remembered as founder. I tried to build and nurture a foundation that I could hand off to the next generation. I failed in creating this legacy, largely due to a lack of political sensitivity and acumen: I failed to build the foundation that could have supported the game as a lasting club at the college (that the atmosphere of the college was changing, from a haven for artsy/theater geeks to more of a mainstream state school, probably did not help).

Having failed my first objective, I tried a second one. I tried to grow and expand the game to a real LARP. I had no experience doing this and I went about everything all wrong. From 2008 to 2012 I squandered thousands of dollars of Mikaela’s money and hundreds of hours of my time trying to build, promote, and recruit for a Live Action game at the scale of NERO/Alliance, Dystopia Rising, Knight Realms–an “event” based game, with dozens of players in attendance at each of six to twelve yearly events. I failed abjectly, totally, and utterly, because I had no idea at all what I was doing. Throughout this period, we continued playing the game, a second story arc set in an earlier time period: 30 action-packed full weekend events. On average, eight to twelve people attended each game. Three and a half years ago, we played through the destruction of DP-010 “Dallas”, a Grand Finale to the game’s second story arc, the Croatoan Campaign. There were about eight to twelve people in attendance at the finale. Again, the “final game” was a joyous and moving event.

Of those eight to twelve people, a quick mental tally informs me that I am only currently on speaking terms with about two of them. And one of those two I am basically married to. Virtually none of the relationships dissolved amicably, or without significant pain that has left lasting scars.

I wish I could go back in time and make myself stop then, in December of 2012. Whatever dregs or drops of Systems Malfunction I have managed to ring out since then, I would trade them for the friendships that have been destroyed in a second. It was not worth it.

In 2013 and 2014 I tried to run Systems Malfunction again–a new setting, a new venue and format, poorly thought out and doomed to failure. We struggled desperately, painfully, and humiliatingly to maintain an attendance of even ten people per game from month to month. In late 2014, I gave up. It wasn’t a good time to leave off–I’d had two chances for that, and missed both of them. It was just that trying to breath some pitiful spark of life into the game that we loved was destroying the quality of our lives. It had to end. (At the same time, we published Systems Malfunction as a campaign setting for the Singularity System–a process that proved to be an arduous, backbreaking labor. We printed a tiny run of less than fifty copies of the book. We still have a few lying around unsold: I don’t know the exact number of PDF sales, but they are not good. I have trouble looking at this as anything but yet another failure, but technically, the clock is still running on this one..)

This year, we decided to give it one last try. This time we finally went about things the right way. We found an excellent venue and we booked it for the weekends we wanted to run the game, like every “real” LARP does, something we could easily have afforded to try the last time around, if my head had been in the right place. We tried to run games in April, in May, and in June. Two of them went off: in May and in June, everyone, old players and new, had a great time.

The June event had an attendance of about twelve to fifteen people: a decade later, in spite of everything I had learned and all of the new and improved editions of the game I had authored, I had done nothing in my efforts to grow the game’s player base but to spin my wheels and advance perhaps by a few debatable inches.

Between June and now, my personal life completely imploded. Long-lasting friendships disintegrated in a spray of shrapnel and betrayal. People who I had counted among my closest confidants are now strangers I would not even piss on to extinguish if I found them on fire, because that is the same level of care and compassion they have demonstrated for me, through the eloquence of their silence.

In spite of a healthy influx of new players, we canceled the July game and all subsequent events due to lack of attendance. If you don’t have all the facts, no one could blame you for seeing this as self-sabotage. But I have spent over a third of my life trying and failing to grow this game, and sometimes the only way to end the agony of failing at something is to give up: to have failed, and to put it in the past. I absolutely won’t say in writing that “I will never organize or run a game of Systems again” even though it’s overwhelmingly probable that is the truth. The reason I won’t say this is simple, maybe even a little silly: I am always very annoyed by people who announce repeatedly they are done with something forever (say, Hideo Kojiima and the Metal Gear franchise, for instance) only to keep doing it again and again. I want to at least leave myself a sliver of a backdoor of a chance of not being that guy.

Indefinitely and for the foreseeable future, Systems Malfunction is over. To everyone who loyally followed the game for years and to everyone who came (or came back!) to give it a chance this last time around, you have my profound thanks. I genuinely wish things could have been different. This is not how I want to close the door on ten years of my life, it’s not the note I want the thing I love the most to go out on, but the only alternative is picking at a healing wound over and over until it becomes violently infected, and that is just self destructive madness.

End Transmission Games will continue to produce Tabletop Roleplaying Games of excellent, perhaps even unparalleled quality, for sale at preposterously low prices. The future of Systems Malfunction as a game setting–as opposed to as a live combat LARP–remains open ended.

– DTO
7/17/2016
Ossining, New York

Origins 2016: SNAFUBAR

SNAFU: Military acronym for Situation Normal: All Fucked Up.
FUBAR: Military acronym for Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition, a more severe version of the former.
SNAFUBAR: A portmanteau of the two above military acronyms, forming a longer acronym: Situation Normal: All Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. As far as I know, I’m the person who came up with this but if I’m not, I wouldn’t be surprised. The concatenation seems pretty obvious.

Anyway, did you know, Origins Game Fair has a preregistration system? It’s where you can preregister for games. In 2015, IIRC, we ran six demo events. Nearly all of them were packed tables, so because of that and because we had more GMs on our demo team, we expanded to nine events for 2016.

The first five of our nine events, and the ninth, were no-shows and Did Not Run. At first, we thought we had been hexed by voodoo, or perhaps cursed by God. Midway through the show, we found out that it was not dark magic or divine wrath. Rather, a “SNAFU” in Origins’ preregistration system was showing everyone that tried to preregister for our events that they were sold out, even though there were zero tickets sold. (This even effected Catalyst: two people went up to a Catalyst Demo Team agent and said: “The system said this was sold out.” The Demo guy responded: “If by sold out, you mean that you two are the only ones who showed up, then yeah.”) That meant that only our Friday Night, Saturday Morning, and Saturday Afternoon demos actually ran. The Origins registration system’s little SNAFU cost us literally 2/3rds of our events.

“Thanks, Obama!”

As for sales, they were solid, but not quite as good as 2015. Our lil’ booth grossed just a hair more than the IGDN megabooth, which I’m proud of, because they had Call of Cathulhu (and in case you haven’t heard, Cthulhu and/or Cats are a little hot right now).

We’re going to be Kickstarting something soon. Internal deliberation exists as to what and when, so it’s probably months off. I can more or less guarantee that it won’t be a brand new game line: supporting the DicePunk, Singularity, and SPLINTER lines is all my brain can handle. But the Psionics KS in 2014 taught us that a non-zero number of people notice our company exists when we’re actively Kickstarting something. And since our meta-goal is to increase public awareness (if you’re one of the five people that read this, lol, you can help boost our signal!) that means another Kickstarter. We’re not lacking for product ideas. The most likely candidate is a new setting for the practically venerable Singularity System (on the market since 2013 now!).