The Daily Illuminator

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January 31, 1996

Errata, Errata, Everywhere!

Here at SJ Games, we have been been discussing the future of our errata pages. Don't worry, they're not going away; we're taking a serious look at how we can improve the way we distribute errata, both electronically and via mail.

So I'm asking you, the viewing audience, what would you like to see? What are we doing well and what could we be doing better in terms of fixing our past mistakes? Send your comments to

And to everyone that has told me about the missing weapons table for GURPS Japan, the missing map for Uplift - thanks! We know they're missing and we're trying to track them down. By the way, you missed one (what would I do without MOMspider?. . .)

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 30, 1996

On the Road Again . . .

I'm off this morning (horribly early) for Life, the Universe and Everything, in Provo, Utah. I'm looking forward to this . . . the convention bills itself as a "literary symposium," and I want to see how that plays! And Tracy Hickman is a guest of honor . . . I'll enjoy seeing him again.

This convention treats its guests very well indeed. They're taking us to an exhibition of ancient Chinese artifacts, and I'm going to do some dinosaur-museum-crawling while I'm in Utah. And Sunday, I get to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. See, us gamers got culchah too. Really.

-- Steve Jackson

January 29, 1996

Pyramid #18 Proofs Arrive

It's coming, it's coming - the printer's have sent us proof copies of Pyramid #18, and they're looking good.

[Pyramid #18 Front Cover] Featured articles include:

All this in addition to Industry News, Pyramid Picks, Murphy's Rules, AADA News, Supporting Cast, Adventure Pizza, Warehouse 23, and more...

Pyramid #18 looks good for a February 5th release date, so keep your eyes peeled!

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 26, 1996

ISDN Woes Force Retreat to Command Bunker of Rancho Sucko

Man, I'm tired. You would be too, after a marathon editing session like the one I just pulled. Our ISDN connection ran into a tree (my dim colloquialism for crash and burn, crater, i.e. stop functioning in an aggravating manner, driving men of less patience to hit the Pipeline-50 Mystery Net Communications Box (TM) with a log).

So, no Illuminator, no nothing. But when the going gets tough, the tough go home to try a flanking maneuver via the dialup lines to IO. I retreated to the mood-lit Command Bunker of Rancho Sucko (cleverly disguised as my kitchen).

What do I have to show for six and a half hours of near-constant fighting with vi and Netscape? Every GURPS Worldbook that we have a page for now has a link to the appropriate errata page. The Writers' Guidelines and Artists' Guidelines have been reviewed and reformatted and a lot of our General Info pages have been updated and shuffled about. Tonight has been a blur of Weblint, MOMspider, vi, PFE (a damn fine Windows editor, for free even!) and the Reload button on Netscape. Heck, there's even a page for GURPS Ice Age just because someone asked me nicely if there was one.

''uh... Bob, have you ever considered getting a life?''
I think the last person who asked me that was beaten to death with a phone, one of those indestructible old AT&T rotary motel jobs with the tiny orange neon bulb guaranteed to wake even the most hung-over business traveler. I didn't do it; that's just what the police report said. Really.

I actually do have a life - I just used it earlier in the week when some very good and very talented friends of mine dropped in this week and proceeded to try to break my liver with near-fatal quantities of dark beer. Okay, so I helped. No matter, I had my liver replaced by a specially-treated lump of Salisbury steak in 1982 as part of a Department of Energy project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Though the research program was defunded early last year by Energy Secretary Hazel "What do you mean I can't get a Q-clearance?" O'Leary, I keep in touch with some of the guys. They've adapted to civilian sector work pretty well. Last I knew, they were part of a special research group formed as a joint venture between Waffle House and the Wackenhut Corporation. Very hush-hush.

Anyway, I was out earlier this week depleting Austin's supply of malty goodness with one-half to two-thirds of the Anachronauts, Dayton's premier AstroSurf band. Check for their split single Disjointed Parallels with Man or Astroman? on the Eerie Materials label. The Anachronauts were one of the few things that kept me from going postal during my entirely-too-long stay in Baton Rouge.

What that has to do with anything, I don't know. All I know is that the site is that much cleaner and clearer, for my efforts, and I'm about to collapse from exhaustion.

Poor baby. I hope it makes a difference.

-- Bob Apthorpe

Tonight's rant brought to you by Superchunk, Stan Ridgway, Drywall, The Church, The Mr. T Experience, Lipton Saccharine-Laden Advanced Iced Tea Death Beverage and the number 6...

PS: Anybody gives me any crap over using vi and . . . well, let's just say I have copies of the access logs and I know a man with an AT&T rotary motel phone . . .

January 25th, 1996

GURPS Mecha, Warehouse 23 in Playtest

The first drafts of both GURPS Mecha and GURPS Warehouse 23 have arrived and are now online.

GURPS Mecha contains:

GURPS Warehouse 23 is another matter entirely:

The Ark of the Covenant shares a crate next to the gold plates of Moroni, and the dissected corpses of the Martian invaders. Frozen in ice you'll find the Jersey Devil or a Yeti, or a bacteria that can eat any metal -- it just can't STOP. Growing in a hidden hydroponics facility is a plant with a fruit that tastes like steak, with enough nutrition in a single serving to sustain you for a week. The plates they serve it on in the cafeteria are made of a 100% biodegradable plastic that - while it's still fresh - can absorb the kinetic energy of a tank shell without even spilling your drink.

You don't want to know what's in the drink.

The global power balance teeters on the brink of chaos. We touch too much too soon. We discover things we were never meant to comprehend: Relics created by the whim of mad genius, or aliens, or gods - or godlike DEMONS . . . substances so potent that a handful could destroy our world, computers so subtle that no network is secure from their manipulation, sorceries dark enough to annihilate the purest soul.

Somewhere, those with true Power have built a facility to imprison these forces . . . for proper study. For our own good. To insure order. Until THEY decide to unleash them. They know WE aren't yet ready for the contents of Warehouse 23. But are they? Inside the Warehouse, you might wonder if ANYBODY could dare consider itself a master of such power.

Your players will be delighted. At first.
Check out some of the other games we have in playtest. . .

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 24th, 1996

Conspiracy Afoot in [deleted], Alabama

The Daily Illuminator staff recently received this from one of our hidden operatives. The names have been changed to avoid compomising our Technical Means. More on this as the story develops:
I've just completed arranging the trades I'd like to make to complete my INWO collection and play deck. Through communicating with many of the traders on this list, I've learned that INWO conspiracies are a favorite subject, but then why wouldn't they be?

I have something to share with those who find INWO conspiracies and other weirdness interesting. Please bear with me, there is a connection.

I am a [deleted] year old mother of two whose military husband is currently staioned in Alabama. We live in a SMALL town near our base where those who don't fit into the typical southern baptist mold are usually thought of as aliens from another planet. We collect and play INWO with enthusiasm and are thus doubly damned.

Yes, Alabama pretty much lives up to the reputation it has outside the deep south. I was very concerned about this as we have two children who will be subjected to the public shcool system for a few years. We chose the location of our house based on the schools our children would attend. They are the best available in the area, but that still isn't saying alot. So I stepped out of my own "character concept" and became a volunteer mother at the Elementary School. They found out that I was computer capable and requested that I assist in "automating" the school's media center (library). They are trying to get the circulation system computerized.

This didn't seem too difficult at first -- they had already picked and purchased the software -- all I had to do was get a computer bought and get the software installed. Piece of Cake. (Or so I thought.) As it turns out, the local School Board has forbid the purchase of ANY computer equipment by the school, with school funds. Just in case anyone wonders why we didn't try the usual bake-sale/car wash fund raiser route, I'll tell you what I was told. Quote: "By Alabama state law, any funds collected for use for the school also fall under the stipulation set forth by the school board for the spending of school monies." (But that's a different conspiracy, so I won't go into it.)

To make a very long and frustrating story short -- we got our computer. I built it using donated parts.

But the next obstacle we faced was getting "library cards" for the bar codes to go on. As it happens, Kevin Tyrrell was composing his Rare vs. Ultra Rare Assassins list the week we were agonizing over just what sort of cards we needed and where we could buy them cheaply. I went from discussing this 'important school business' with the librarian to my home where my spare INWO cards were sitting on my computer desk, awaiting Kevin Tyrrell's Sufficently Advanced Probabity and Statistics Magic. I was sitting there looking at a small stack of BLANK Illuminati cards when I was received a truly warped inspiration.

As luck would have it, not EVERYONE in [deleted] is so stuck in the conservative mold that many of us yankees expect. Our school librarian is one of those. I showed her a blank Illuminati card (blank side up, natch) and she was thrilled. The stock was quality stuff and they were BLANK. I was in the process of explaining to her that they were a game when she turned the card over. She's the sort who doesn't laugh out loud too often but she nearly fell off her chair laughing when she saw the backs of the cards. After hearing the whole history and concept/object of the game she wasn't daunted. So we convinced the local game shop (who had been sent 10 boxes of blank boosters when they had only ordered one... yet another conspiracy?) to donate the cards to the school for use as library cards.

They went for it, since it is a tax deduction and now we have our cards.

I just find it unusual (and oddly satisfying) that the 3rd and 4th grade children of [deleted] Alabama will be using Illuminati cards to check out their library books. And I'm wondering if the Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow DID succeed in their attempt to sabotage this batch of cards -- What will happen to the youth of [deleted] when the Orbital Mind Control Lasers manage to 'activate' those cards.

Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 23nd, 1996

Allston to Sign Fantasy Novel

Austin-area writer Aaron Allston will autograph his most recent novel, Doc Sidhe, at the north Austin Borders bookstore on Tuesday, January 23.

Doc Sidhe, a May 1995 release from Baen Books, is an original fantasy described as "An American Kick-Boxer in Faerie." In the novel, Faerie, the world of Celtic mythology, is much like the world of the 1930s - as seen in the pages of pulp hero magazines such as The Shadow and Doc Savage. It's a world full of weird science, zeppelins, gangsters, and world-conquering madmen . . . all with the unique and magical characteristics of Celtic myth.

From reviews of Doc Sidhe:

Date & Time:
Tuesday, January 23, 1996, 7:30 p.m.
Borders bookstore, 10225 Research Blvd., Austin, TX

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 22nd, 1996

SJ Games Website Gets A Major Facelift

As if you hadn't noticed already, we've been busily rebuilding and reorganizing our website. Jeff Koke did a great job on the graphics, especially considering the accelerated pace we've been working at. I pulled a couple tricks to get the effects we wanted without leaving Lynx users out in the cold. The site is getting leaner, cleaner, and faster as you read this.

It's going to be busy around here for the next few days (weeks) as I clean up the rest of the site. So pardon our dust - I hope you like what you see.

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 19th, 1996

GURPS Translated to Braille

The GURPS Basic Set is now available in Braille, thanks to the volunteer efforts of Nancy Feldman. It and several other books are also available on tape. These editions for the blind are produced by permission of SJ Games, and sold at cost . . . neither the company nor Nancy makes any money from this.

Requests for taped or Braille copies of GURPS Basic can be sent to:

   Nancy Feldman
   GURPS Braille Project
   1440 W. 4th Ave.
   Eugene, OR  97402
Please pay with cash, check or money order only. Cassette copies will be $10, braille copies will be $40. If ordering a Braille copy, allow 3-4 weeks for delivery; cassette deliveries will be faster.

A number of GURPS supplements are on tape, and more will be added - write to the above address for a current list. And if you want to volunteer to help in this project, please get in touch!

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 18th, 1996

Zouaves Aplenty!

[Zouaves] In my wanderings about the web I occasionally find a harmless and interesting nugget. Today is no exception. Acting on a tip, I started wandering around the Library of Congress - Selected Civil War Photographs Home Page, an amazing asset of this great nation of ours. Picking a unit at random, I headed for the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry. As it goes, I really lucked out - the 114th Pennsylvania is a unit of Zouaves, one of the most photogenic of all military units. Originally French units from Algeria, the Zouaves made a notable showing the American Civil War, if only for their dress. I can just imagine the possibilities for these guys in a GURPS Time Travel adventure...

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 17, 1996

Yet More Convention Announcements

More from the convention mailbag:
1/19 - 1/21: CONSTITUTION IV - Laurel, MD
Location: Best Western Maryland Inn in Laurel, Maryland
Primary Contact: Brian W. Allison
Event Schedule Available

CONSTITUTION IV was a late entry, but better late than never (next year we'll do better, I promise . . . ) They have an events schedule posted and they have a few GURPS adventures planned. It would be nice if they got a good turnout of INWO players, hint, hint . . .

3/2: 2nd Annual Miami Conjurer - Oxford, OH
Location: Miami University, Clawson's Hall's Basement (Rathskeller), Western Campus
Time: 10:00am - [?]
Host: Miami University Strategy Gaming Club
Primary Contact: <>

The Powers That Be at Conjurer told me they are looking for GMs - if you're anywhere near Oxford, OH (like Dayton or Cincinnati) get off your rump and give these people a call. Hint: we like it when people referee our games at conventions. We really like it.

By the way, if you happen to be in the Dayton area, check out the Anachronauts, the most amazing astro-surf cobalt-bluegrass band in the Tri-State Area. Also check out the Beeer Pagans - I've heard good things about them, too, and they have a pretty cool name.

4/5 - 4/7: Balticon 30 - Baltimore, MD
Location: Omni International Hotel, Baltimore MD
Host: Baltimore Science Fiction Society
Primary Contact:Mark Geary - (703) 578-0132

Balticon is primarily a science fiction convention but there will be some gaming going on. I'll keep you posted on their events schedule as I get it. . .

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 16, 1996

Ultra-Tech Update

GURPS Ultra-Tech is at the printers and it looks we'll make our February 5 ship date with no problems (barring interference from those damned elves). We've seen the bluelines and everything looks good; you should be seeing Ultra-Tech, Second Edition, Revised in a few weeks.

All of the Above #25

Issue #25 of All of the Above has just crossed my desk after winding its merry way around the office. For those of you not in the know, AotA is an Amateur Press Alliance devoted to GURPS, featuring articles by a number of GURPS luminaries. They currently have 20 members with room for another 5, so if you have the time, inclination, and ability, drop by their web page and learn how to join.

Or start your own APA. Hint: if you don't have any publishing credentials, an APA is a great way to start. You get honest feedback on your work, you learn to meet deadlines, you can experiment with layout and content, and best of all, you get to work on something you really enjoy. It's also pretty cheap and as far as entertainment goes and there's nothing quite as satisfying as building it yourself.

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 15, 1996

CONSTITUTION IV This Weekend in Laurel, MD

This just in: CONSTITUTION IV is going on this weekend in Laurel, MD. Registration is $22 at the door and the convention runs from the 19th through the 21st. There are a couple GURPS events going on and a whole slew of other stuff.

If you're in the area, check them out.

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 12, 1996

GURPS Character Assistant Aids Character Creation

Armin Sykes has produced the GURPS Character Assistant, v1.1 for MS-Windows. There are data files for GURPS Atomic Horror, Aztecs, and Cthulhupunk. Version 2 is on the way and promises to add many more data files.

GURPS Illuminati Mysteriously Vanishes Followed By Pyramid #15

In an event described as "[...DELETED...]" by our secretive and heavily-armed "Shipping" Department, the few remaining copies of GURPS Illuminati have disappeared in a puff of credit-card debt.

Yesterday's announcement of an unrelated appearance of a few issues of Pyramid #15 has also led to their rapid (but not total) disappearance. Perhaps our Unseen Masters have decided to go to ground once again and have taken Pyramid #15 with them.

Or perhaps it's those damned elves again. If so, at least they're purchasing stuff now instead of their usual practice...

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 11, 1996

GURPS Martial Arts, 2d Ed. Arrives From Printers

[GURPS Martial Arts, 2nd Ed.z Front Cover] We just received a large shipment of GURPS Martial Arts from our printers today, and they're already heading to the distributors as we speak. It's a big book, a whopping 160 pages of historical and cinematic hand-to-hand action for GURPS.

SJ Games Website Appears in Internet Graphics Gallery

I was as surprised as many when I heard that our website had been mentioned in the book Internet Graphics Gallery by Paul De Groot, Dick Oliver, and Lane Boyd. The In Nomine pages really impressed them - a big round of applause for Derek Pearcy, Jeff Koke, Dan Smith and the rest of the In Nomine artists!

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 10, 1996

Cache of Pyramid #15 Unearthed!

This just in ...

Our Direct Mail Department has just received a handful of Pyramid #15. That's the issue with the Assassins promo card "Convenience Stores" inside, and it's the only place you can get it.

This back issue was sold out . . . but now there are a precious few available. First come, first served -- send e-mail to, or call them at (512) 447-7866 and ask for Direct Mail. $5.00 apiece, get them while they last.

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 9, 1996

Henry Cobb to Moderate OGRE List

The OGRE mailing list is changing hands - I'll let Henry explain things in his own words:
Well, here goes nothing.

I am once again running the OGRE/GEV mailing list.

This time I even have Mr Jackson's permission, so it's official.

This is one of my mailing lists, so it's completely moderated and Spam
free (or your money back ;-).

This is one of Mr Jackson's Lists, so anything submitted becomes the
property of Steve Jackson Games (Due credit will be maintained), and it
should prove an excellent source for insider info and sneak peeks at
work in development.

My charter is anything directly connected to OGRE, GEV, Shockwave,
Battlesuit, OGRE Minis and etc.

I will not be running any more PBeM games, but this list will be the
place to coordinate PBeM on the above listed games.  (I will be talking
about my unit price & design rules here, so if basic algebra MYEGO,
better stay away).

To sign up for this special charter discount rate (nothing, the same as
usual), send me mail at and ask to be added.
Henry J. Cobb
All OGRE-related items Copyright (c) 1995, by Steve Jackson Games.

January 8, 1996

Game Designer's Workshop: 1973-1996

Game Designer's Workshop, one of the grand old companies in the industry, is going out of business after nearly 23 years.

GDW announced that they would stop selling product to distributors as of Jan. 19, and that the business would be completely closed sometime in February. Satisfying creditors is a top priority, GDW President Frank Chadwick said, though an earlier plan to declare bankruptcy and go through the courts has been dropped.

Chadwick said that after a lot of restructuring and cost-cutting in early 1995, the company seemed stable, but a 35% decline in sales the last three months of the year doomed the operation.

Chadwick refused to blame the rise of trading card games or any other market trend for the company's demise. "It's not because the market failed. We failed the market. We didn't adapt to the changes," he said. But the gaming business has definitely changed, Chadwick noted. "I think roleplaying as a pastime is under some stress," he said. "It's at a little bit of a crisis point . . . Collectible card games have had an impact on actual distribution channels, but I'm not sure how much that had to do with it."

But Chadwick doesn't think GDW's downfall is a harbinger of doom for the entire industry. "Just because I can't figure it out doesn't mean there's no answer," he said.

GDW has a long and impressive list of gaming accomplishments: They are best known, of course, as the publishers of the Traveller roleplaying system, the very first science-fiction roleplaying game. GDW published a number of other RPGs -- Twilight: 2000, Space: 1889, Dark Conspiracy and others -- but none enjoyed the longevity of Traveller.

GDW also has an impressive line of wargames. They were the original publishers of the Europa line of World War II simulations, considered some of the best wargames ever. Europa is still being published by GRD, who bought the line several years ago. GDW also published the Assault and First Battle line of wargames.

Miniatures rules is another field in which the Bloomington, IL-based company excelled. The Harpoon naval miniatures rules are cited by technothriller author Tom Clancy as part of the inspiration for his novel The Hunt for Red October. Other miniatures rules include Command Decision, Volley & Bayonet and the science-fiction rules Striker.

GDW also published a well-respected gaming magazine, Challenge, that ends its run with issue #77.

The fate of the many GDW game lines is still to be determined. Traveller, Harpoon and Johnny Reb revert to their designers -- Marc Miller, Larry Bond and John Hill, respectively. The rest are up to Chadwick to dispose of. While the rumor mill has been working overtime so far on this one (GURPS Traveller, anyone?), there are no developments to report on this front.

GDW releases have won 23 Origins awards. The company founders, Chadwick and Marc Miller, are both in the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame. Chadwick is also a past President of the Game Manufacturer's Association. Chadwick was not sure what he would be doing next, though he hoped to remain part of the adventure game industry in some way. "I haven't made any definite plans," he said, though he mentioned the possibility of getting into computer game design.

After two decades of leadership in the adventure gaming industry, Chadwick was not bitter over GDW's dissolution. "I don't really have any complaints," he said. How GDW's many fans will take the news is likely to be another story entirely.

-- Scott Haring

January 6, 1996

Life, the Universe, and Everything

I was wrong. Three out of three of my upcoming cons have web sites. Hey, I **like** this trend. Here's the one for Life, the Universe, and Everything in Provo!

-- Steve Jackson

January 5, 1996

Another Deep Breath

We're still in "rumor confirmation mode" with respect to yesterday's teaser about what's shaking in the game industry. I apologize for the delay on breaking the news, but we want to make sure we've got our facts straight before we start making too much noise. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Cons Aplenty!

No, this has nothing to do with convicts - this is my ill-fated attempt at introducing our new Convention and Trade Show Page. We've been keeping this list for a while so we knew who is supposed to be where and when and it seemed like a good idea to publish on the web.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of conventions and trade shows, but it is currently the list of cons we expect to be attending. We will be posting more convention announcements as we get them.

Oh, and by the way, if you are running a game convention and you want to be added to the list, drop a line to the lovely and talented Claudia, our Sales Wizard. She'll ensure that your convention announcement gets woven into the web...

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 4, 1996

The Official Level of DOOM!; Breathless

In our constant search for new, weird and wonderful web surprises (and occasional relevant information), we occasionally run across (afoul of?) "interesting" uses of what-was-once-taxpayers' money. Today we have good news to report: we actually found something useful - the US Marine Corps DOOM! page.

No, really.

If you're sick of filling imps with buckshot and wasting all your friends in Deathmatch has become stale, check this site out. Hats off to the Marine Corps Modeling and Simulation Management Office!

Serious news is being saved for tomorrow. The game industry has taken a few more blows and as soon as we confirm the rumors wafting about, we'll let you in on what we know. Hold your breath 'til then.

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 3, 1996

ATCon ho!

Austin will soon be graced with the presence of ATCon, a local gaming convention. No big per diems for Claudia - oh well.

The event is the 26th through the 28th of January, at the Ramada on Ben White (right off of I-35).

The man (aka John Paul Carney) is making a fairly generous offer to anyone who wishes to run anything, and who wants to play any of the other games available. If you run three time slots, then you can play throughout the rest of the con. Or if you only have one day that you might be available, run one time slot, and then you can play for the other two.

The time slots are four hours each, 10-2, 3-7, and 8-12. We'll get you more info on ATCon as we find it.

-- Bob Apthorpe

January 2, 1996

Dreamation (and other upcoming cons)

We're back in the office, but everybody is digging out from piles of mail and nobody is doing anything really neat today. But plans progress . . .

And more con travel is coming up. Weekend after next (January 11-14), I'm off to Dreamation, in scenic New Jersey. January 31, I will be at Life, The Universe and Everything, in Provo. And February 16, I get to visit Anaconism in Denver. You will note that two of these cons have web pages! Check them out.

-- Steve Jackson
Past columns