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March 29, 1996

Copernicus to Release Polish Edition of INWO

Steve Jackson Games, publisher of the award-winning INWO (Illuminati: New World Order) trading card game, has licensed Copernicus Corporation, of Warsaw, to produce a Polish edition of the game and of The INWO Book.

More than 70 million INWO cards have already been printed in English and German. The game won the Origins Award for Best Card Game of 1994, and its supplement, Assassins, is a nominee for Best Card Game of 1995. "Just another step toward total global domination," INWO designer Steve Jackson said.

The Copernicus edition is scheduled to appear in September, 1996. It will include about 20 new and unique cards satirizing European politics and society.

Copernicus is also the publisher of the Polish edition of R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk RPG.

-- Scott Haring

March 28, 1996

Still More New Stuff - GURPS Ultra-Tech 2 in Playtest

Announcing GURPS Ultra-Tech 2. We just received the first draft from David Pulver and have massaged it into web-friendly format for your viewing pleasure. In three words: More Cool Stuff. Have fun!

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 27, 1996

New Stuff! We've Got New Stuff!

New stuff today! Sample copies of Pyramid #19 have come back from the printer and they look sweet (as always). A couple other tidbits - there have been a few changes made to the online catalog. GURPS Robots, High-Tech and Bestiary have dropped into the Low Stock category. Bigger news: Sale on the INWO Factory Set!

Stay tuned for a new contest announcement in the next few days. . .

And, before I forget, today's link is the WWW Virtual Library - Games Section. They've got sections on board games, RPGs, table games, PBM gaming, miniatures and a bunch of other stuff. Plus, they'll let you add your URL to their list - an added bonus!

Also, I've only received positive comments on the site cyanification (we must be doing something right!) and I think I finally got Lynx and Java to stop fighting on the home page ("You kids settle down this instant or I'm turning this website around and we're going back home!")

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 26, 1996

SJ Games' Knightmare Chess Coming in July

Take a 5,000-year-old classic game of strategy and skill -- and then turn it upside down. That's what Steve Jackson Games has done with Knightmare Chess, a new card game shipping in July, 1996.

Knightmare Chess is a licensed translation of the French game Tempete sur l'Echequier (literally, "Storm on the Chessboard"), a hit in Europe for ten years. This is the original "cards and chess" game (accept no imitations . . . ). In Knightmare Chess, players use cards to affect the traditional rules of chess in different ways. One card might make your knight move like a bishop for one turn, and another builds a permanent wall to stop enemy pieces! The possibilities are endless -- and endless fun -- in Knightmare Chess.

Knightmare Chess is a single set of 80 full-color, oversized cards painted (in a Gothic, surrealist style) by Brazilian artist Rogerio Vilela; players will also need a standard chess set. Each card has a point value, so you can build custom decks based on an agreed point total, or handicap the match so the better player has fewer cards. Or players can play from a common deck, taking whatever chance deals them!

"I loved this game the moment I saw it," Steve Jackson said. "I'm very pleased to be able to bring it to the American audience."

-- Scott Haring

March 25, 1996

Writer's Block? Troma Can Help!

Starting out this lovely week in March, we bring you the best in off-mainstream plots and characters: Troma Studios!

For GURPS Supers:
Searching for that certain, special superhero? Bored with the standard fare of pretty-boy mutants and bulked-up, angst-ridden, Lycra-clad wonders? Look no further than Troma Studios for a wide variety of unique superpowered crimefighters such as the Toxic Avenger and Sgt. Kabukiman, N.Y.P.D.

For GURPS Atomic Horror:
Need some bad movie ideas? I mean, BAD ideas? Visit Troma Studios - makers of such celluloid classics Class of Nuke'em High, Chopper Chicks in Zombietown and Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid.

Warning: Not for the easily-offended or the humor-impaired.

We've got real news for you tomorrow. I figured I'd start the week off right.

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 22, 1996

Behind the Scenes at SJ Games

Today's column is a bit longer and geekier than usual, so if you're violently allergic to technical web talk and touchy marketing issues, go check out the new links on the Dino Hunt page or the kinder, gentler In Nomine Art Gallery. If not, stay tuned: We've got a lot to cover.

First off, we've been experimenting with serving pages specific to particular browsers. The reason: It's getting harder and harder to support certain browsers (specifically Lynx) without making pages either ugly or boring. The problem is that we'd like to take advantage of things like client-side imagemaps, Java and Javascript, tables, etc., but we want to do it in a way that doesn't 'break' the page for people whose only web access is via Lynx.

I've received a number of messages from people thanking us for supporting both text and graphical browsers (both color and monochrome). We make an effort not to alienate particular browsers and we avoid overreliance on nonstandard proprietary tags. You won't find any unpaid ads for Netscape or Internet Explorer on our site (heck, they don't advertise our products for free. . .).

Speaking of Microsoft Internet Explorer, my apologies to MSIE users; I couldn't resist making use of that horrible <BGSOUND> tag (don't worry, I'll make it stop - eventually. . .). Tell Bill this is an unwelcome 'feature', bound to be misused in horrible ways. . .

Other stuff: The online catalog has been modified to make modification and updates easier - that takes some of the pressure off me and the Shipping Department and means that our catalog stays minty fresh. Well, not minty fresh - current. Sorry, I've been watching too much TV lately. Our Viewing Audience should not have noticed much of a change. If things seem broken or wonky, please let me know so I can fix them. The New & Improved catalog was tested to make sure nothing was lost in translation but we've had elves break things around the office before. It would not surprise me if those little creeps had mucked up the catalog while our backs were turned.

One addition to the general info page is our Distributor Locator. This is no big deal unless you are a retailer or one of our Authorized Distributors. In which case, this may be a big deal. Here's the scoop: we sell to Authorized Distributors (and a small amount to consumers via direct mail), they sell to retailers, and retailers sell to the general public. This is the Economic Food Chain of the game industry. We try to make it as easy as possible for retailers to get our products, and our Distributor Locator is one of the ways we try to do that.

Color Change: Watch for an upcoming color change that should make our pages more legible under monochrome displays (the Mystery Color is blue).

One final thing: I mentioned JavaScript earlier - there are some serious privacy problems with the JavaScript-enabled version of Netscape 2.0. John LoVerso has compiled quite a few of them. If you are using Netscape, check your copy against some of the sample scripts he's put together. I found the directory browser to be particularly unsettling.

Netscape has been made aware of the problem and they have said they plan to fix it soon. That doesn't help you unless 1) you know there's a problem and 2) you do something about it.

So now you know.

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 21, 1996

SJ Games Offers Bounty for Magazine Articles

There are a lot of great gaming magazines out there that have asked us, over and over again, for articles and adventures about GURPS, Car Wars, Illuminati: New World Order, Toon, and just about every other game we publish. We'd love to see them run articles about us (nothing like free publicity...), but we simply don't have the time.

That's where *you* come in. If you get an article published about one of our games in another industry magazine, we'll match what they pay you! Just send us a photocopy of the published article and your check, and we'll match it (up to $100, and no less than $10). Note that simple game reviews don't count -- we're looking for strategy articles, variants, adventures, that sort of thing.

There's lots of magazines out there that will run good articles if they get them (I know, I hear from them all the time) -- Shadis, Duelist, InQuest, Combo, Collect, Ventura, The Familiar, Dragon, Adventures Unlimited, The Unspeakable Oath, Arcane, Conjure, Scrye, d8 and others.

Go for it!

-- Scott Haring

March 20, 1996

GURPS Compendium I Draft Arrives

Todays big news is the arrival of the first draft of the GURPS Compendium I: Character Creation manuscript.

GURPS Compendium I collects in one volume all the the new rules that have been added to the GURPS character creation system since the GURPS Basic Set, 3rd Edition was released in 1988. Compendium I will contain hundreds of advantages, disadvantages and skills and other rules for character creation, all in one place!

When we get the draft files massaged out of Quark format into something we puny humans can comfortably read, they will be posted online as playtest files.

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 19, 1996

Sneak Peek of Dino Hunt at GAMA Show

Claudia and I are back from the GAMA trade show, held this year at the TropWorld Casino in beautiful downtown Atlantic City. Scott gave me $5 to bet on the number 20 in roulette, but zero came up. Oh, well . . .

[Dino Hunt] Our big show news is that the demonstrations of Dino Hunt went very, very well. The retailers really liked it. They were coming up to me in the BAR, for instance, and saying "Can we play your game now?" The answer, of course, was yes.

What's Dino Hunt? This is my big new project -- it will be out for GenCon. It is a card game that plays kind of like a board game. The cards will be collectible, but it is not a deck-building game. How do we do that? Wait and see . . .

The silliest thing I saw at the show, though, was Pizza Dice ($2 per set from Flying Buffalo). If you can't figure out what to put on your pizza, this pair of 6-siders will decide for you. It just told me "sausage" and "green peppers," for instance. I think he ought to do another one, with things like "M&Ms" on it.

-- Steve Jackson

March 18, 1996

SJ Games Signs Deal for GURPS Discworld

Terry Pratchett's best-selling Discworld fantasy world will come to roleplaying life in 1997 with the Steve Jackson Games release of GURPS Discworld. Pratchett himself will co-author the GURPS worldbook with John M. Ford. Ford, winner of both the World Fantasy Award and two Origins Awards, is also well-known as a humorist. He was the author of How Much for Just The Planet? -- a very successful Star Trek novel that lampooned many of the characters and cliches of the series.

"I'm a big Discworld fan," Steve Jackson said. "I've wanted to do this one for a long time, just because the books are so great. But it doesn't hurt that we'll sell about a million billion copies, even to non-gamers. And maybe some of them will get into gaming because of GURPS Discworld."

The latest book in the Discworld series, Maskerade, was recently released and is a top-seller throughout the world. Other titles in the series include The Colour of Magic, Pyramids, Lords and Ladies, Small Gods and many others -- 18 books in all!

"I love humorous* roleplaying," Jackson commented. "And the Discworld background is perfect for the GM with a sense of the absurd. In fact, it ought to be completely impossible to play a "straight" roleplaying adventure in this world."

GURPS Discworld is tentatively scheduled for an early 1997 release.

For more information, contact Steve Jackson at (512) 447-7866.

* Or, in this case, humourous.

March 15, 1996

Easter Island Adventure Hook For Places of Mystery

[Easter Island Map] Today I was scanning the net for interesting stories about Easter Island and ran across a bit of trivia that might prove useful as an adventure hook for a modern era GURPS adventure.

Courtesy of NASA's Crustal Dynamics Data Information System (don't laugh), we obtained a map of the NASA survey marker used to measure continental drift located on Easter Island.

This offers several possibilities for luring, uh, attracting adventurers to Easter Island:

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 14, 1996

Vampire Hunting in Virginia Beach

Can you tell fact from fantasy?

The answer is unduobtedly "yes" (if not, how can you tell?. . .)

Why the bizarre metaphysical questions? Well, once again role-playing has made an appearance in the news in a not-too-complementary light. The Virginian-Pilot (Virginia Beach's local paper) ran articles on Jon Bush, air conditioning repairman by day, mentally-unbalanced manipulative pervert by night and Det. Don Rimer, the man who took him down.

For an unbiased, factual, lucid and sane report on the Virginia Beach case, take a look at Vampire - Not Just A Game at the 700 Club site. Yup, I'm quite certain the 700 Club has no hidden agenda, what, with articles entitled Congress Calls For Family-Friendly Television ("someday every channel will be the Christian Shopping Network. . .") and Suffering For The Faith -- The Persecution of Christians Worldwide.

Actually, this last article makes one heck of an adventure hook, especially the parts about white slavery. The story about the man being locked in a cell with a bear has potential, too ("A bare what?", asked SJ Games Network Fascist Jim Robinson.

Actually, one has to wonder why nobody (to my knowledge) has ever investigated the link between air conditioning system repair and criminal activity. Surely nobody would suggest that ASHRAE or ARI or even Sally Struthers' Remedial Correspondence School are somehow causal factors in crime, teen suicide and general societal badness.

Can you tell fact from fantasy? Compare the articles from the Virginian-Pilot with the one from the 700 Club and you be the judge - which of these organizations has a tighter grip on reality?

-- Bob Apthorpe

PS: SJ Games denies any knowledge of whether Jim Robinson is related to the 700 Club's Pat Robertson or not (but if he were it would be more amusing than you could ever know. . .)

March 13, 1996

Up For Adoption: Contaminated Kittens

This just in from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS):

"Four kittens found at San Onofre have received considerable attention. The kittens, found in the Unit 1 area on February 1st, had an initial reading of 6000 counts/min.

After the kittens were shampooed, the reading dropped 1000. Cesium-137 accounted for approximately 98% of the readings, with the remainder being Cesium-134 and Cobalt-60.

Once the radiation levels have dropped to an acceptable level, the utility will allow the kittens to be adopted."

[Artist's Conception]
[Artist's Conception]

Don't hold your breath about adopting those kittens any time soon though. Given the amount of hassle SONGS had to go through to let contract workers take their picture ID cards home with them, those kittens aren't going anywhere this year. . .

--- Bob Apthorpe

March 12, 1996

GURPS Supers and Places of Mystery Now Shipping!

Yes, that's right - GURPS Supers and Places of Mystery arrived today via large truck. Our intrepid Shipping Crew has been toting barges and lifting bales like mad to get these books on the road.

Supers Cover Watch the skies for GURPS Supers! This is one of our best-selling worldbooks, and it's coming back into print with a hot new comic-style cover by renowned artist Romas, new interior art, and a great new "retro" page design.

Places of Mystery Cover GURPS Places of Mystery visits the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge, Atlantis, Angkor Wat, the Forbidden City, and hundreds of other sites -- most real-world, some legendary -- for use in just about any kind of GURPS campaign you can think of.

Attention - Atlantis and Black Pearl have left the building . . .

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 8, 1996

3D Star Maps and Space Campaign Resources

Another fine topic for the Daily Illuminator has been forwarded to us by Honorary Illuminator Newshound Greg Costikyan (via Our Fearless Leader and Grand Poobah, Steve Jackson)

Subject: 3d star maps

Winchell Chung has a great page on star maps, astronomy and other space science resources. It's not all hard science - in fact, a fair bit of this page is aimed at the science fiction and gaming community to help people add realism to their campaigns, stories and adventures.

I'm a bit ashamed to say that the name Winchell Chung seemed vaguely familiar, but not immediately recognizable. Until I hit his homepage, that is. Take a quick look at your copy of the rules for OGRE/G.E.V. (you do have a copy of OGRE, don't you?) - Winchell did the original design of the OGRE back in 1976.

By the way, Honorary Illuminator Newshound Greg Costikyan is also the author of TOON and many, many other classic games.

On a personal note, of Greg's game design credits The Creature That Ate Sheboygan is a personal favorite. While it's got a great name and a very attractive theme (stomping small cities with big monsters), it's even more fun when you get to stomp the city you live in.

"Take that, South High!" -- SPLAT!

-- Bob Apthorpe
[voted most likely to blow up the Earth, Sheboygan South High School - Class of '84 . . .]

March 7, 1996

Game News: Ars Magica(TM) Acquired by Atlas Games - Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Finds Second Home For Roleplaying Line

Here's some late-breaking game industry news (thanks to our own Derek Pearcy for spotting this):

Roseville, MN (March 6, 1996) - Wizards of the Coast(R) announced today that it has sold the publishing rights for its second roleplaying line, Ars Magica(TM), to Atlas Games. Two members of the team that originally published Ars Magica are Atlas staff members. This recent transfer comes less than three months after Wizards of the Coast announced it would no longer publish Ars Magica and would begin looking for a new home for the game.

"This is a very exciting acquisition for us, in both strategic and historic terms," observed John Nephew, President of Atlas Games. "Ars Magica, as a fantasy role-playing game, is a complement to our current product lines. The game has a dedicated fan base, and great potential for future growth. The game also brings Atlas Games back to its roots."

In Ars Magica, players take on the roles of wizards and their comrades during medieval times, in a place called Mythic Europe(TM). Legendary dragons, faeries, and ghosts are just some of the creatures that characters must face. Wizards of the Coast had published three expansion books: Lion of the North, Houses of Hermes (TM), and Faeries(TM).

Atlas Games plans to release the long-awaited 4th Edition of the game before the end of the year, and foresees a steady schedule of supplementary materials to support the game.

"It is exciting that we (Wizards of the Coast) have been able to sell Ars Magica to a company with a history of publishing products for the game," said Jonathan Tweet, co-designer of the game's first and second editions, now a game developer at Wizards of the Coast. "This is an exciting opportunity for the game and fans alike."

Atlas Games publishes a number of products include Over the Edge(TM), a role-playing game; On the Edge(TM), a trading card game (named "Best New Collectible Card Game" by GAMES Magazine in December 1995); and Once Upon A Time(TM), the storytelling card game. The company, which currently employs seven people, was formed in 1990. Wizards of the Coast is a game manufacturer based in Seattle, Washington. In August 1993, the company created a worldwide sensation when it released its first trading card game, Magic: The Gathering(R). To date, more than a billion cards have sold worldwide in six languages. Wizards of the Coast has branches in Glasgow, Scotland; Antwerp, Belgium; and Paris, France. Currently, the company employs more than 225 people in its four locations.

March 6, 1996

More Hot Air? Not Quite...

Alright - I couldn't help it. Aside from receiving preliminary sample copies of GURPS Supers and GURPS Places of Mystery back from the printer, there hasn't been much news.

 [Zeppelin Stamp] So I went trolling about to see what I could find. Today's keyword is Zeppelin. First, I ran across the Zeppelin Library Archive which has few pictures and a good overview of the history of rigid airships.

Then it was on to Miscellaneous Airship Stuff which has a whole mess of blimp and dirigible links, including a picture of the Pink Floyd airship and a few stills from an upcoming dirigible CD-ROM game.

Finally, I wandered over to the US Navy, which used airships for antisubmarine warfare during WWII with varying degrees of success.

"Blimp K-74, under the command of Reserve Lt. N.G. Grills,
attacked the German submarine U-134 while she was surfaced off
the Florida  Keys on July 18, 1943. Grills, concerned with
protecting a tanker and a freighter, put K-74 into a steep dive
and bore in for the attack. The blimp took tremendous
antiaircraft fire (it was very hard for the German gunners to
miss such a big, slow-moving target), and the balloon was fatally
punctured. This is why standing orders decreed that blimps could
not attack surfaced submarines.  With the balloon gone, K-74 lost
all control. 

     For a moment, however, it seemed that the airship could
still get in her licks. The blimp's momentum carried it directly
over the sub. However, Grills discovered to his dismay that
K-74's bomb release mechanism had failed, and U-134 escaped by
diving. The airship crashed into the sea, where nine of the 10
crewmen were rescued.  Despite his disobedience of standing
policy, Grills received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his
actions.The incident, however, provoked debate on the use of the

The Navy had the most bizarre story of any I had found during my misguided foray:

Unsolved Mystery:  Blimp Crew Disappears
By L.C. Kukral
WWII Committee

     On Aug. 16, 1942, the Navy blimp L-8 left its base at Naval
Air Station Treasure Island, near San Francisco, to hunt
submarines off the California coast.

     About two hours after takeoff, the Navy's Moffett Field
received a radio report from the blimp that the crew planned to
investigate an oil slick sighted about 5 miles east of the
Farallon Islands.  

     Moffett tried to contact the blimp 15 minutes after that
report, but got no answer.  After repeated efforts to radio L-8,
Moffett declared an emergency.  Two aircraft searched the area
around the Farallon Islands, but did not find the blimp.
Dale City, California, residents did, however.  Just before noon,
the airship landed on the narrow main street of the San Francisco
suburb.  Citizens held the blimp down until police and
firefighters arrived.

     The rescuers were amazed to find no one inside the blimp. 
The Navy sent investigators to determine what had happened in the
two-plus hours the blimp had been out of radio contact with its

     That question, and the question of the crew's whereabouts,
remains a mystery.  Navy technicians could find nothing that
would have caused the crew to abandon the airship.  Its radio was
in good working order.  The crew's parachutes and life raft were
aboard, untouched.  Fuel was plentiful.  But, other than a cup of
warm coffee and a sandwich with a bite missing, there was no sign
of the crew.

     Rescue teams at sea combed the area the blimp had flown
over.  Even if the crew had drowned at sea, the life jackets they
wore would have kept their bodies afloat.  No logical explanation
was ever found for their disappearance.

Eerie. . . a perfect hook for a GURPS Cliffhangers or Time Travel adventure.

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 5, 1996

Steve Jackson Games Gets Four Origins Awards Nominations

We just saw the 1996 Origins Awards ballot for products released in 1995, and we're very pleased to have received four nominations.

The INWO Book was nominated for Best Game Accessory; INWO Assassins was nominated for Best Card Game; GURPS CthulhuPunk was nominated for Best Role-Playing Supplement; and Pyramid magazine was nominated for Best Professional Gaming Magazine.

Two products near and dear to SJ Games also received nominations: the Illuminati play-by-mail game was nominated -- again -- for Best Play-By-Mail Game and the GURPS apazine, All of the Above, was nominated for Best Amateur Adventure Gaming Magazine.

The Origins Awards ballots will be available in magazines throughout the game industry, including the May/June issue of Pyramid (issue #19). The award winners will be announced at a ceremony at Origins, the national game convention sponsored by the Game Manufacturer's Association, in Columbus, OH, July 4-7, 1996.

-- Scott Haring

March 4, 1996

In Search Of: "Red Mercury"

For all you military/industrial conspiracy intrigue lovers, we bring you a couple stories on the elusive substance known only as "Red Mercury".

First, a snippet from sci.physics.fusion:

"What Barnaby and Cohen claim,  and what I think s.p.f. readers
might find interesting,  is that Red Mercury could play a role in a pure
fusion weapon.  It is thought that Red Mercury somehow stores energy in
inner electron shell excitations (suggested by Ted Taylor),  although ~I~
wouldn't rule out a nuclear excitation of some sort.  It can be used as a
"super" chemical explosive with prehaps 100 times the yield per weight of
conventional explosives.

        The article has a picture of a possible pure fusion device using
a concentric implosion -- the core of the device contains a D/T mix that
is surrounded by a shell of red mercury which is in turn surrounded by
a conventional explosive shell.  Barnaby claims that red mercury might be
a component in Soviet neutron weapons such as the M-1975 240-mm mortar."

Taking a slightly-less-serious tack are the wonderful people over at Fortean Times. FT's Paul Sieveking examines the rumors of red mercury, an elusive substance said to be useful in nuclear weapons, medicine and voodoo:

"When the stuff first appeared on the international black market in 1977, the
supposedly top secret nuclear material was 'red' because it came from the Soviet
Union; later, it actually took on a red colour. A report last summer from the US
Department of Energy, compiled by researchers at Los Alamos, entitled Red
mercury: caviat emptor began: "Take a bogus material, give it an enigmatic
name, exaggerate its physical properties and intended uses, mix in some human
greed and intrigue, and voila: one half- baked scam."

The report said that the wonder substance was offered as a modern philosopher's
stone that can do just about anything: it makes stealth aircraft stealthier, infrared
sensors more sensitive, counterfeits harder to detect, and atom bombs smaller
and easier to build. Sometimes it is said to be radioactive, sometimes not. It
might be the densest compound known to science, but then again, it might

Fact or fiction? You make the call.

-- Bob Apthorpe

March 1, 1996

Lost: Russian Destroyer - Reward Offered

Picture of Nessokrushymy As a public service, we are helping Mr. Devang Chitalia find his lost destroyer. The destroyer is 39 years of age, weighs 2100 metric tons and is approximately 127m X 14.8m X 3.5m. It was lost in the vicinity of Lat 24.39,6 South; Lon 57.20,3 East (appx. 260 miles south of Mauritius) on December 30, 1995 at 14.10 local time. The destroyer is grey and answers to the name "Nessokrushymy". Mr. Chitalia is offering $20,000 for the safe return of "Nessokrushymy". If anyone finds "Nessokrushymy", do not try to apprehend him yourself - he is to be considered armed and extremely dangerous. . .

-- Bob Apthorpe

Past columns