Systems Malfunction

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>

 

 

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)

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

-MARGE GUNDERSON-
* “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.”

-STEVE BUSCEMI-
* “… 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?”

-PETER STORMARE-
* “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)

-RAY-
* “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?”

-KEN-
* “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)

-JULES-
* “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!”

-VINCENT VEGA-
* “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. ”

-BUTCH-
* “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.”

-MARSELLUS-
* “…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.”

-MRS. MIA WALLACE-
* “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!”

-JIMMIE-
* “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”?”

-THE WOLF-
* ” 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)

-RPG.net Moderators/Admins-
* “I love rules! They make me powerful!”

I had more planned, but to be honest, the one-month ban from RPG.net 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 aventine.iconoclast@gmail.com.

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.

movie-poster-rough-options

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.

 

The Cyborg Manifesto Explained

Of Most Interest To Those Who Have Followed Me And My Work Obsessively For Years and Years

You know, like, there are maybe 4-6 of you? When I’m drunk enough to have double vision, I mean. : P

Also, in the off off off off off off off off off chance that you’re Kevin Siembieda and you’re currently on shrooms and reading this in a good mood, I’m sure this all makes perfect sense to you.

I’m aware that without context all of the following sounds super duper crazy, like time cube crazy. But if you don’t have the context of knowing that, for instance, Earthdawn and Shadowrun exist canonically on the same timeline and that in my own head-canon my alternate RIFTS setting (nee stand-alone experimental LARP) “The Last Day” follows Shadowrun, then this probably isn’t for you. That’s okay, you can still look at it, and it’s still kind of neat looking.

Multiversal Map 2016

For what it’s worth, this isn’t SOLELY my being a creative monomaniac. The text and subtext of RIFTS explicitly says that it contains every other possible world. So does the text and subtext of The Dark Tower. So does the subtext, at least, of The Magician’s Nephew. Therefore it blatantly refutes the text of these works to say that they don’t contain and connect to each other, and to all others (like, even to fucking Star Trek or whatever), even if you personally think “The Dark Tower is the shit and RIFTS is stupid and no they’re NOT set in the same universe I can’t hear you lalalala”.

It also helps if you have recently read either The Magicians or The Chronicles of Narnia, and therefore understand what the “Neitherlands” or “The Wood Between The Worlds” is. If you’ve ever talked to me seriously off-camera about SPLINTER, you understand that the SPLINTER is a manifestation of the same exact concept. If you raced up the Tower of Heaven pursued by the Pulsarians/demons during the end of Systems Malfunction Third Edition, then you probably understood the Tower of Heaven as a manifestation of the same multiversal “axle”.

This infographic shows how the “worlds” of my different game campaigns, published and unpublished game universes, and (unfinished) novels intersect (and who can move freely between worlds) in the form of a multiversal or metaversal Venn Diagram. In very fannish terms, it is the closest you are going to get to a CAT scan of my head-canon.

In the upper circle–“THE CYBORG MANIFESTO”, the creative mega-meta-narrative I have been working on since I discovered the creativity-enhancing properties of cannabis circa 2008 (ah, there’s the rub!) contains a large number of recognizable logos for other peoples’ intellectual properties.

I am not claiming ownership of these by placing them in my multiversal map. That would be rude and stupid.

Even though the text and subtext of several of these works–RIFTS and arguably Dungeons & Dragons and certainly The Dark Tower explicitly state that they contain and transcend all possible fictive worlds–I am talking solely about my own campaigns using these game systems/IPs, not the IPs themselves.

The lower circle is simpler, coming from a time when I was younger and smoked less pot. The isolated circles to the lower left and lower right are self-contained universes that are not connected to anything.

But the middle sliver of the Venn Diagram still connects it to all of the others, by virtue of the pesky buggers that can “walk between worlds”. Many of whom are names to run away from really fast. Of course, you can neither run, nor hide, because they can follow you from one universe to another as easily as you could go from your bedroom to your bathroom.

Final note: no, I will not EVER explain who “geraldine” is. That one is just for Mikaela.

My brain is experiencing a literal storm,
– D. T. O.

P.S. No relation to this, except the name. If you want to know why the more recent “multiverse” is and always has been called that, I’ve finally figured it out. However, your best chance to learn this secret is if I get hired by Palladium, write published things for RIFTS, and Kevin give me PLENTY of rope by which to hang myself from the crazy tree.

P.P.S. If for some bizarre reason you want to see the hideous mess that was my conceptualization of this same thing circa 2011, I’ll show you that infographic. But only in private. It’s really confusing and ugly.

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

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.

On The Horizon (great big news post)

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

Let’s start with S|P|L|I|N|T|E|R!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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


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

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

Now, for the big one…

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

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

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

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

The bad news is that you have serious emotional problems.

The good news is that you have enormous psychic powers.

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

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

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

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

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

This hard:

Read Between The Lines

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

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

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

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

Hard Out There For A Pimp

So much-belated Origins 2014 after action con report GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I think this may be shorter than usual, but I do have a tendency to say something like that and then write something like INFINITY pages, so we’ll see. I always have trouble hitting the mark between “short enough to read as perfunctory” and “really freaking long”

This year we were at Origins, running demos, and selling games. By we I mean the End Transmission Games crew, myself, Mikaela, and Rachid Yahya tagged along to help us out (thanks again, Rachid!). We were able to hold our heads up proudly because the Systems Malfunction setting book for the Singularity System is finally done after about a year and a half of sweat and toil and cat herding! Go buy it! Now!! Buy two of it!

Our pal Jason Walters of IPR/HERO Games/Blackwyrm Publishing invited us to join our booth to the three that IPR/Blackwyrm had to form an island, and we were happy to do so. It was a nifty arrangement and I’d love to do something similar in the future at Origins shows yet to come.

Following a meeting with Jason Pitre at the con, we have applied to join the amazing Indie Game Developer Network, home to many cool dudes and ladies what makes the indie RPGs. I sincerely hope we are accepted among their ranks, because it seems to be our last shot at having a sales presence at GenCon this year, without which we’re DOOOOOOOMED…not to have a sales presence at GenCon this year. Which would be terribly unfortunate, as our books are already headed there, and so are we.

Now on to the topic of… SALES, SALES, SELLING AND SALES

Sales were…not great, but not terrible. At least that’s my gut feeling without access to sales data for any companies of our size in our position…and without knowing for sure of any companies that are exactly our size and in exactly our position. Sales is a tough topic. As I said to many people and had said to me by many people over the course of the con, selling an RPG is a lot like selling a car. To someone who already has several cars. That they don’t ever use.

Basically, what I am learning is that our company sells the majority of our products during conventions. A lot of this is hand sales, us actually selling things AT conventions. This can be ascribed to A) Mikaela being i) a pretty girl and ii) actively outgoing, and please note that the latter of those two things is literally no less possible for me than the former, and B) game designers excitedly talking about their products to potential customers. But not all of the sales that happen DURING conventions happen AT the convention. We also see huge spikes in our online sales during cons. Which is weird but not really…I guess some of the dozens of people that take a business card and say they’ll “check us out online” do just that, and like what they see.

Besides conventions, we do most of our sales through DriveThru RPG, a huge online megastore of all things vaguely roleplaying related. While we are fortunate enough as of this writing to have an awesomely high publisher rating on DriveThru RPG and numerous very favorable and flattering reviews, DriveThru does not do anything to actively promote are products like they do for larger and better known companies. I think the number of sales we have through DriveThru have more to do with the degree to which DriveThru has cornered the online RPG Market.

Our sales on “indie” venues like the indie RPGs un-store and Indie Press Revolution are much more disappointing, especially since these are “indie” venues and as a publisher, we are as “indie” as you can possibly get. In fact, to quote MC Frontalot, with only a pinch of irony,

Unpromoted,  don’t know how you found me.
Soundly situated in obscurityland,
famous in inverse proportion to how cool I am,
and should I ever garner triple-digit fans
you can tell me then there’s someone I ain’t indier than. 

IPR who is our distributor (kind of), for instance, does not (perhaps “can’t” is the word to use?) carry our products at national conventions because they don’t sell well enough to justify taking up shelf space that could be used for the “mainstream” “indie” RPGs (to what degree is that an oxymoron?) people are literally flocking to buy (cough). From a purely capitalistic perspective, this makes perfect sense because it makes financial sense. It’s just the fact that places like IPR present themselves as advocates for independent creator-publishers just as much as they present themselves as business ventures that makes it a hard pill to swallow. When you’re so Indie (read: unpromoted, unadvertised, unknown) that self-identified Indie venues can’t carry your shit because it’s too obscure, it starts to feel like a real Joseph Heller, by which I mean a Catch 22. Of course, it’s not like the big guys are looking out for our interests either…or even know we exist. Oh well, not whining, just philosophizing. 

But we’re pursuing avenues to try and raise awareness of our brand and all that other…corporate shit…that I despise…because I’m a flaky tortured artist creative type and all I know is to mak gams, not to mak money *le sigh*. Anyway if you’re reading this and you weren’t yesterday, then maybe something’s working.

And then there’s the big old fashioned national Distributors that are still in many ways the gatekeeper to FLGS (Friendly Local Game Stores) sales and that whole huge market segment (not everyone buys on the internet or at cons), but that’s such a big topic it will have to be saved for another post.

So that about raps up the recap of Origins and the thoughts stemming from it. We learned our lessons from last year, we brought a lot less books, and we sold a great big mess of them, in person and (I’m presuming, if things go like they usually do during cons) online. We put a ton of business cards in a ton of hands and had a ton of interesting conversations and made a ton of contacts, just like last year. As far as our public awareness, we are still somewhere between “way under the radar” and “totally unknown” but hopefully rising on the graph. Anyone into us know is into End Transmission Games before it was mainstream. Or “indie”. Or whatever it is sells thousands of games. 

There is a new S P L I N T E R product on the horizon! Finally! It should see release in the next few weeks, maybe I’ll blog about it first! We are also planning our very first KICKSTARTER. I will definitely be a-blogging about that soon.

Till next time!