Roleplayer

These are the Letter pages from Roleplayers 22-29.

22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29


Roleplayer #22, November 1990

Letters

We like letters – they're great feedback. And we want to share the good ones. But in a 32-page magazine, there's not room to print many. So . . . we'll run short excerpts only, and (where possible) group comments by subject.

Speaking of feedback: This issue includes an adventure. Let us know how you liked it. Did you use it as written, or vary it for another genre? And what other adventures would you like to see? Comments we've gotten so far on adventures:

"I would like to see a few mini adventures and maybe even a long one occasionally . . . the best length would be like those from your RP adventure contest a few years ago."

– Trey Palmer

"I would like to see a serial adventure for GURPS Cliffhangers. ('Can Rhumba Bob escape from the cheesy nightclub? . . . The answer's in the next issue of Roleplayer!')"

– Kyle O. Beatty

"Would it be possible to run short (4-page or so) adventures for different worldbooks . . . a GURPS Cyberpunk adventure would be extremely helpful for GMs to see how one might run."

– Matt Cheney

"Try not to publish any adventures unless they're for Fantasy (which almost everybody can use) or they can easily work with several different types of campaigns."

– Richard Ingram

Long Articles

Last issue, we asked how you felt about very long articles, assuming they were otherwise good . . .

"'Noble Steed': nice, but way too long. Maybe a 10-page maximum on most articles, subject to editorial judgment?"

– Trey Palmer

"Nothing longer than 'The Noble Steed,' please. In fact, please make the maximum about 12 pages. If you print long articles, readers who can't use the material in their campaigns will feel shortchanged."

– Scott Paul Maykrantz

"I hope to see further articles with as much detail as 'The Noble Steed.' I am in favor of the "super" article, and an adventure would be great."

– Jesse Morgan

Conclusion: We shouldn't run more than one long article per issue. We should try to keep article length below 8 pages, and we shouldn't run anything over 10 unless it's WONDERFUL. Note that this issue has no long articles at all, and the adventure is only 7 pages.

– SJ

Covers

"The thin-cardstock cover is nice, but is it necessary? Would the money saved by going back to slick paper allow expansion to 48 pages?"

– David B. Ackermann

We were having problems with the thinner covers getting damaged in the mail. When the cover gets torn, off the address goes with it. . .

– SJ

General Questions

A couple more oft-asked questions:

"Why don't you print on the inside covers? I hate those blank covers."

We don't like the blank covers. . . but it would cost a lot of money to print on the inside covers. At those prices, it's not worth it to add two more pages of material, since we don't sell ads. If we can find a way to solve this problem economically, we will.

"How can I write for Roleplayer? Do I need to submit the same waiver that game writers fill out?"

No, you don't need to fill out a waiver form – just submit the article. For a long article, it would be good to inquire first. We're certainly open to more writers; just write the kind of article you'd like to read!

– SJ

(Back to Roleplayer #22 Table of Contents)


Roleplayer #23, May 1991

Letters

We like letters – they're great feedback. And we want to share the good ones. But in a 32-page magazine, there's not room to print many. So . . . we'll run short excerpts only, and (where possible) group comments by subject.

Last issue we asked about adventures. Do you want to see them in Roleplayer? What kind? How long? Comments included:

"I think you should include long articles but probably not adventures. Articles that include small scenarios would be nice, especially if they include only an encounter or two, not a whole adventure."

– Alex Morgan

"I play primarily Fantasy . . . More adventure seeds set in Yrth (or even pre-written adventures). Also useful are articles on advantages, disads, new skills, new races, some articles on medieval/fantasy history, society, customs, etc."

– Joseph M. Minarik

"I liked the alternate backgrounds for the adventure in #22. I think 7 or 8 pages is about the ideal maximum size."

– Dana Medford

Conclusion: Short adventures are a good thing, and the more widely usable they are, the better.

– SJ

Other Comments

"I approve of long articles in principle . . . I think "The Noble Steed" was well-written and well-researched, and I hope your next long articles have this much behind them. I also hope they cover more generally applicable areas. . . I applaud articles like "Converting a Campaign to GURPS" (#19). For someone like me who loves to tinker with game systems, such cross-fertilizations are a delight."

– Frank Mitchell

"Can you tell me whether you will be bringing out a generic vehicle supplement to cover all TLs?"

– Stuart Laird

Yes, it's in progress now, and we hope to release it before the end of the year.

– SJ

(Back to Roleplayer #23 Table of Contents)


Roleplayer #24, June 1991

Letters

We like letters – they're great feedback. And we want to share the good ones. But in a 32-page magazine, there's not room to print many. So . . . we'll run short excerpts only, and (where possible) group comments by subject. Except we didn't get many comments last issue . . . so it's time to open a new topic. Next issue, if this gets comments, we'll run them.

"It is with great reluctance that I send to you my check for $21. I just picked up Number 22 . . . and unfortunately I was impressed with the contents . . . My reluctance to pay the subscription cost can be summarized in one simple piece of advice. "Do the Job – Get Advertisers." I can't understand why there seems to be some sort of taboo about having advertising "taint" your otherwise pure magazine. It seems you would be doing your readers a big service by doing what you can to reduce the cost of your magazine."

– Stu Venable, Jr.

Back in the Dark Ages, we published Space Gamer as an advertising-supported publication. The bitter truth as I see it: unless your readership is well into five figures, you can't charge enough for ads to justify the cost and trouble of selling them, putting them in, and sending out the bills.

Ads would not reduce the magazine cost; they'd add more pages at the same cost. At a guess, if we followed the standard game-magazine pattern, we could double the size of the magazine by adding 32 pages if we could get 20 pages of ads – which would be hard, since we don't want to change the focus away from pure GURPS. The production cost to us would increase by about 50%. The shipping cost would double. The labor cost would more than double, and scheduling would become even harder. Seems like a bad tradeoff for another 10-12 pages.

Alternatively, we could – perhaps – sell a few pages per issue without adding to the labor overhead . . . offer only full- or half-page ads, and require payment in advance. That might let us add a few more pages, or maybe put full color on the cover. But again, I don't know if it's a good tradeoff and I don't know if anybody wants to see ads here.

Feedback from other readers would be welcome!

– SJ

(Back to Roleplayer #24 Table of Contents)


Roleplayer #25, August 1991

Letters

We like letters – they're great feedback. And we want to share the good ones. But in a 32-page magazine, there's not room to print many. So . . . we'll run short excerpts only, and group the comments by subject.

This issue we got a lot of letters, both on topics launched by Stu Venable Jr., who clearly has a talent for controversy . . .

I Hated Them. So What?

The topic that drew the strongest comments from last issue was Stu's article "I Hated Them, So I Killed Them." Some people agreed wholeheartedly . . . others thought that was no way to run a game.

"There is wisdom in many of the balancing techniques here . . ."

– Blaine DeYoung

"I found it very hard to take seriously a GM who would kill PCs due to his inability to handle them . . . Was this article written as a joke?"

– S. John Ross

"It was nice to see that I'm not the only GM in the universe who hates smartass mages."

– Brian Rasmussen

That article definitely made people think. Good! It also inspired at least two new article submissions, which may appear in later issues.

– SJ

Ads or No Ads?

And in the letter column last month, Stu suggested that we consider advertising. That drew a lot of comment, too:

"Please, please don't add advertising . . . Increase the price if you must, to cover costs. I say advertising is a 'taint.'"

– Grant C. Schampel

"Gaming ads are often interesting to browse through and would provide another source of revenue."

– Chris Becker

"Don't bother doing ads in Roleplayer. The upcoming releases for SJG are all I want to see. I've seen gaming magazines chock full of ads, and I still seem to be paying $3.50 to $5.50 (Canadian) per issue."

– Rick Smith

"Included in the idea of advertising is the (unstated) idea that Roleplayer may be overpriced at $3.50. I do not consider this to be the case . . ."

– Kevin P. Koch

"I have no objection to advertisements for non-SJG products or even selling space for advertorials . . . All this is naturally conditioned on the fact that you can make a profit selling ad space. I do not want to subsidize a second company's advertising."

– William R. Wells

"Unless it would really increase revenues, which it apparently wouldn't, we can all live without ads and with the current cover price. I like the current format – all articles gives it a meaty feel . . ."

– Chris Aylott

The response was mixed, but leaned toward "no ads." That's the way it will stay for now. If I ever see a way to really make money (or really expand the magazine) through ad sales, I'll ask again.

– SJ

(Back to Roleplayer #25 Table of Contents)


Roleplayer #26, October 1991

Letters

We like letters – they're great feedback. And we want to share the good ones. But in a 32-page magazine, there's not room to print many. So . . . we'll run short excerpts only, and group the comments by subject.

I Still Hate Them . . .

We're still getting commentary on "I Hated Them, So I Killed Them," Stu Venable Jr.'s commentary on dealing with super-powerful characters.

"Limiting very powerful characters by killing them after only a short amount of play has been the way I GM ever since I learned GURPS. It allows unbalanced PCs a short time to enjoy their creations before they get out of control . . . "

– Christian Sandvig

"It was nice to see that I am not the only GM in the universe who hates to be confronted with smartass mages . . . It is just too boring and hardly original to watch mages 'solve' every problem by 'I concentrate on a 2d fireball.' Mages are thinkers. They usually have IQ 14+, so why play them as IQ 7 hack'n'slash fighters? I beg all mage players: be creative!

"In Roleplayer 24, Brian Mackintosh complains about magic being too weak to compete with an Uzi. That's true if you are the classic Fireball mage. What about beating the Uzi guy on his own terms? A soldier can empty his rifle in two seconds, but if he does so at a Reverse Missiles, he'll be sorry . . . Yet another way could be attacking him with Spasm (maybe while Invisible) forcing him to drop his weapon . . . Or have a police car/helicopter suddenly enter the scene demanding everybody surrender . . . it is 'only' a Perfect Illusion . . . To me, mages are still very powerful, even in a high or ultra-tech setting."

– Brian Rasmussen

"I have always avoided the excesses of maximizers in my own games by weighting the situations against specialists. Originally the blunt approach was used to the full. During a long period of information gathering and research I found that Combat Monsters tend to deliberately go out and get themselves killed through sheer ennui if they have nothing to do, and the brief periods of physical activity can easily winnow out the less athletically inclined academics. This approach however smacks of the blatant interventionism of 'I hated them so I killed them . . .' Positive reinforcement works better than any other tech-nique. Rewards for characterization, not in points but in activity, can convince most players to avoid the cardboard excesses of maximization . . . When players consistently forget to ask you about character points at the end of each session you know you have succeeded in producing a good game."

– James Steel

"I get the impression that a lot of wussie GMs are facing players capable of making characters better than they can and are trying to twist the rules to cripple the players and PCs, rather than develop their GM skills to the point they can handle competent PCs. Folks: You have an entire game universe to draw upon. Your players have only what is on their sheets. If you can't modify the world (not the game) to keep them in line, turn in your GM screens."

S.D. Anderson

"'I Hated Them . . . ' is a gross example of what GURPS is not about! Killing PCs on whim runs counter to all elements of roleplaying . . . As for one spell ruining an adventure, I can only say 'Not if you're creative.' If the PCs use Seeker to foil a quest, simply improvise a Scryguard, and so on . . . "

– Sean M. Punch

Coming Detractions: The Perils of Silliness

We got mixed reactions to the "Coming Detractions" humor piece in issue 23, including one which accused us of denigrating blue-collar workers . . .

"BLEAHH! Don't ever do that again! I'm not interested in seeing humor in Roleplayer. Not purely humorous pieces, anyway. If an adventure or other useful game-relevant piece is filled with levity, that's fine with me . . . "

– Al Duncan

"Proves you don't have to be serious all the time. Our group proves that every time the Cinematics are invoked . . . "

– Trey Palmer

(Back to Roleplayer #26 Table of Contents)


Roleplayer #27, February, 1992

Letters

We could go on for years about "I Hated Them, So I Killed Them," but it's time to start a new argument. Besides, a number of our correspondents didn't seem to notice that Stu Venable said that slaughtering PCs was a bad habit, and that he had quit and didn't recommend it . . . Lighten up, gang. And now for something completely different . . .

Demons in a Vacuum?

"The demon article [in issue 26] brought up some interesting points, but not about the article itself. It seems odd to have these tables without a theology or cosmology to give some reason for them. I think the tables as published are an example of "Gaming in a Vacuum."

"Pontification Warning: The following text is entirely the result of the author's prejudices. Any resemblance between the next passage and normal practices of most roleplayers is purely coincidental.

"When a group of players start a long campaign there are several ways to prepare. Most GMs will have a vague idea of where the game is going and will use a selection of published material to lighten the workload. As the campaign goes on the GM will use bits and pieces from many sources. Sometimes the players will want to use "optional" rules from magazines or other compatible worldbooks. Gradually "accepted practice" will accumulate until the GM begins to find it difficult to maintain consistency. Rules arguments will begin. Optional rules accepted many ses-sions before will start to come into their own and dominate the game. The GM will be forced down paths he did not want . . .

"The Extra Demon Summoning rules are a good example of "optional" rules that players may seize upon. Being able to summon a horde of nasty little buggers to hassle your foes can seriously change the way players go about figuring out how to get through an adventure. Similarly the big, almost-omnipotent creatures . . . could completely wreck a "political" campaign. The principle of "don't use what you don't need" has to be explained to novice GMs time and time again. Even so, you'll always get some players who start up with "It was in Roleplayer so I must be able to use it." If you give in, you're lost.

"Such catastrophes can sometimes be avoided if the GM has a Clear World View . . . think about the very most important aspects of the world first Is there a God? Can other dimensions exist? What happens to someone who dies? . . . If Christian Exorcism works in a Horror game then why? Is Christianity "True," or is it the power of the Will driving the nasties away? What is Evil, and what's it up to?

"The building of a clear world view before the game begins . . . means that the GM can think through any questions put by the players and give a logical, consistent answer. It can be thought of as "top-down" design. Most campaigns are "bottom-up" designs where a few games revolve about a limited area and the characters gradually spread out into the wider world. The players are in the middle of a big blank map with a tiny area of detail in the middle . . .

"So what am I going on about? It should be obvious from the above that I take the whole thing far too seriously, but I genuinely think it would improve rolegames across the world if campaigns started with a logic to the universe behind them . . . Tell them there's another way of doing it!"

– James Steel

So shall we argue about top-down vs. bottom-up for a while? Should the GM solve the secrets of the Universe before he lets the players create their first characters, or are there things even the GM was not meant to know?

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #27 Table of Contents)


Roleplayer #28, April 1992

Letters

We like letters – they're great feedback. And we want to share the good ones. But in a 32-page magazine, there's not room to print many. So . . . we'll run short excerpts only, and group the comments by subject.

Should The GM Know Everything?

To me, it seems self-evident that a GM should know the Secrets of the Universe before he opens his Campaign to the general public, not only for all of the excellent reasons Steel so eloquently lists (in Roleplayer #27), but also quite simply because, if the GM doesn't know it, the PCs can't possibly discover it . . . and inquiries into Cosmic Truths are one of the more enjoyable aspects of roleplaying, to me. While such inquiries seem to be inevitably frustrated in the real world, roleplaying cosmos should be able to be solved, if they are investigated diligently enough.

– Darren Madigan

A clear world view does not imply completeness; in fact, the very opposite is true. Such a view should be an aid to the GM's imagination. It's impossible and futile to design every nook and cranny in a game, and even trying to do so will stifle the little GM improvisations which can really bring an RPG to life. What I am arguing for is for GMs to think about why things are as they are. There should always be scope for the GM to find the NPCs, as well as the PCs, doing things he/she didn't expect. Any world worth its salt should be more complicated than the players expect, but the really good ones turn out to be more complicated than the GM expects.

What do you think of all these letters from across the pond? Who'd ha' thought it, eh?

– James Steel

Return of the Tree-Huggers

I do not normally write letters in response to an editorial, but the one in Roleplayer #27 is deserving of comment . . . "And yes, we plant trees." Bravo! The one question I always ask people who complain about the environment is "How many trees have you planted?" I am usually rewarded with a blank stare. I, too, plant trees.

– Michael A. McKown

Errata: Threat or Menace?

Keep on plugging the holes, guys. It is appreciated.

– Trey Palmer

Many publishers of computer software encounter the same problem when they release updated versions of their products, and I believe that you might well consider a similar solution to that which they have adopted – namely, update fees. Someone who owned an earlier version of one of your products could send in proof of purchase (perhaps the original title page) and pay a reduced price to receive an "update packet," which might be a set of unbound pages containing the changes or expansions to the earlier rules. After more than one such update, referring to the various sets of rules would become tedious, and there would still be an incentive to buy the complete, bound new edition.

– Seth L. Blumberg

Hmm. Most of the feedback we've gotten on unbound pages, whether as errata or whole products, has been poor. But it could certainly work. Would that be more convenient than the current system of free errata sheets which the user can mark in his book as he pleases?

Of course, the obvious answer is to do exactly like the computer companies do . . . get all this stuff on disk, so we can send a complete update in one small package.

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #28 Table of Contents)


Roleplayer #29, November 1992

Letters

Disaster Relief

As you might already know, Florida has just suffered one of the worst disasters in ages. The hurricane has left over 200,000 people homeless. I am now also homeless; my trailer is gone, so for the time being I'm staying with my parents. Like others, I have lost everything; valuable comics, clothes and my huge collection of roleplaying games (the majority of my gaming friends are in the same boat). My TSR, West End Games, Steve Jackson Games and various other games have all been destroyed. I'm most sad at the loss of my Sorcery game books as they are very rare and hard to find . . .

I've been playing since I was 13 (1983) so it's no lie when I tell you I had about 3 or 4 thousand dollars worth of games, supplements and comics. But at least I am alive. Still, I'm jobless (worked in the keys), homeless and depressed. Please ask your ADQ readers and Roleplayer readers to donate to the Red Cross and any other hurricane disaster charities available. Miami is in very bad shape. We need all the help we can get. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I recall that your company had trouble with a flood once, so you must know what it's like . . .

– Milton Martin Fernandez
Miami, FL

Thanks for letting us know how things are going. Hard times are much easier when the burden is shared.

– Jeff Koke

(Back to Roleplayer #29 Table of Contents)


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