The Daily Illuminator

Past columns

August 29, 1995

Back from Dragonflight

I spent last weekend in Seattle, as a guest of Dragonflight, and I had a great time.

Dragonflight is a gaming con, with a good split between roleplaying, boardgaming, cards and miniatures. And I got to run some of everything, if you cheat and call Darwinopoly both a boardgame and an RPG. (It went well. We ended up having three tribes. One decided to make war on another. Most of the warmongers got dead. Sometimes there's justice.)

I also ran an INWO tournament (30 players, which is 2 x 3 x 5, and lots of evil stuff) and an Ogre game.

Big thanks go to all the Dragonflight staff - very friendly, helpful folks - and especially to Pam Dotson, who was my advance man, assistant, gopher and keeper for the whole weekend. I also got to meet several people I'd only known electronically, including INWO god Robert DeLoura and IO's games guru, Jon Sari, aka surge.

Tomorrow, after I get some sleep, I'll tell you a bit more about the trip. Right now I'm going to go fall down. Because, though the mocha latte in Seattle is wonderful, it only goes so far . . .
-- Steve Jackson

August 28, 1995

Wedding Bells

Our warmest congratulations to two members of the SJ Games family who ran off to Las Vegas this weekend and got married -- to each other, even! Rick Martin is our newest production artist, electronic colorist and layout artist extraordinaire and collector of Star Wars toys. Suzanne Champion is our receptionist and all-around office helper deluxe (``Suzanne? Could you make 12 photocopies of this book, re-sort the pages in alphabetical order, then highlight every word that's exactly 7 letters long?'' ``No problem.''). Suzanne is also the owner of the cheery voice that greets you when you give us a call.

So anyway, keeping their plans quiet, the two slipped off Friday for Las Vegas. The wedding was held at the Graceland Wedding Chapel -- no, an Elvis impersonator did not perform the ceremony (though Rick tells me they looked hard for one). The happy couple and the other family members who flew in had to settle for having Elvis simply make an appearance and wish them well. And there were Star Wars figures atop the wedding cake -- Han Solo and Princess Leia, of course.

Couldn't have happened to two nicer people.
-- SDH

August 25, 1995

Sometimes, We Play

One quick note: Spent a good portion of the afternoon updating the Pyramid home page. Updated the advertising info, the back issue list, the article recaps, you name it. Check it out.

Spent the rest of the afternoon tracking down hot industry news stories for Pyramid #16. Exclusive distributorship deals, game companies for sale, folding magazines, lawsuits decided, game designers switching companies -- got a lot of tantalizing tidbits, but no solid news. Yet. I'll get it eventually, and then you'll read it in the magazine.

Tonight, I'm actually playing in a roleplaying game. Gasp! One of our business guys, Will Fisher, decided to start up a GURPS Fantasy campaign, and we had our first session three weeks ago (then GenCon got in the way -- we want to meet every week, really we do, but it doesn't always work out). Looks like it could be fun, though it was a real challenge to build a decent mage on only 75 points. I'll let you know how Kendryk Moriel (that's his name) and friends do sometime down the road. TTFN . . .
-- SDH

August 24, 1995

When All Else Fails, Do an Update

OK, so I don't have a lot to talk about this week, Steve's off in Seattle and nobody else feels like writing. So like the title says, guess I'll do an update:

[GURPS IOU Front Cover] GURPS IOU is out the door and on the way to distributors. Watch for this deeply disturbed game world on your store shelves any day now.

September releases include GURPS Fantasy Folk, 2nd Edition and Pyramid #15, delayed to include the INWO Assassins promotional card that's at the printer right now.

Shipping in October are GURPS Blood Types, a sourcebook of vampires, life-stealers and soul-suckers from dozens of cultures; a reprint of GURPS Fantasy with new art; and Pyramid #16.

In November, it's GURPS Greece, and GURPS Celtic Myth is slated for December. INWO Assassins will be out in one of these fall months, too, but I'm hesitant to identify exactly when just yet -- though I figure it will be sooner rather than later. That's about it for today -- I promise something more entertaining next time . . .
-- SDH

August 22, 1995

Ah, Fame

One of the fun things about post-GenCon is the traditional ``counting of the graft.'' I should explain. Companies of all sizes have new releases that come out at GenCon, or just before, or (more likely) just after. And they want their friends in the industry (and a lot of us in this business still are, thankfully, friends) to see their handiwork. Then tack on the fact that as editor of Pyramid magazine and the supposed wielder of great influence over the gaming masses, companies want to butter me up -- er, I mean, make sure I get a good impression of their line -- and the result is that I come home with an extra suitcase filled with advance copies of games, sample cards, promotional buttons, press packets, flyers, and lots, lots more.

I admit it -- I still love to get free stuff. And when something cute comes along, I'll plug it. Today's plug: Government-Funded Robot Assassins From Hell!, an extremely silly, low-budget card game from an outfit called Propaganda Publishing. The object is simple: Starting with a basic assassin robot, you must kill targets (represented by other cards) totalling a certain number of points. The more points a target is worth, the harder it is to kill. Other cards can give a robot special weapons, or improve the defense of a target, or whatever.

But here's the kicker -- the entire thing happens in the adventure game industry. The ``targets'' are all living, breathing game designers (including Steve). The modifier cards are all game companies and magazines (Pyramid gives a designer a defensive bonus and increases his value as a target) and game company situations; the ``I Don't Need an Editor'' card (``The designer edits his own work. Need we say more?'') lowers the defense of a game designer target, but it lowers his point value, too.

The production value is non-existent, the printing cheesy and the art bad. But Government-Funded Robot Assassins From Hell! made me laugh. And that's good enough for me. You can reach Propaganda Publishing at 319 W. Grand, Perryville, MO 63775.

August 21, 1995

Stop Me Before I Do My John Denver Impression . . .

Hello again. Everybody else flew back to hot, steamy Austin from our long, tiring, but extremely fun GenCon trip. Not me. I went to cool, lovely Estes Park, CO. Rocky Mountain National Park. I saw elk. And ate trout caught fresh from mountain streams. And slept with the windows open. And played golf. And hiked. And took pictures (which I will post soon). Jealous yet? Oh, yeah, the humidity was about 20%. Meteorolgists have invented something they call a ``heat index,'' a combination of temperature and relative humidity that is supposed to be an indication of just how miserably hot the summer heat is supposed to feel like. In Estes Park, the heat index was below the temperature . . . eat your hearts out.

Of course, now I'm back in this combination sauna/toaster-oven they call Texas in August, just like everybody else. GenCon was great -- you should definitely check out Derek's GenCon report if you haven't already -- but now I'm paying the price in the form of waiting e-mail that nearly hit triple digits and a pile of physical mail that had to be put in its own postal tub. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

One more thing -- Direct Mail has asked us to post that the precious handful of Limited Edition INWO Starter Sets mentioned a couple of days ago here are now gone. You snooze, you lose . . .
-- Scott Haring

August 20, 1995

Off to Dragonflight!

This weekend, I'll be at Dragonflight in Seattle. This is one of the oldest regional game cons -- they've been doing it for around 15 years, I think. I'm looking forward to it. If you're in the Seattle area, come by and look me up.

Ill be running a 12-player Ogre miniatures game, with the help of Pam Dotson. And, of course, a lot of INWO, for which I am bringing some outrageous prizes.

My other big event is a four-tribe (32-player) game of Darwinopoly. This is the semi-roleplaying, semi-board game of social evolution that David Brin and I were working on before The Raid. It got mothballed. Well, a few nights ago, I dragged it out and prepared another playtest draft, from a bunch of five-year-old scribbles plus the new notes from MisCon a couple of months ago. We did three tribes there. Everything worked except combat, which was awful. We'll see if I got it right this time. This game has the potential to be a whole lot of fun; someday I really hope to publish it!

My own non-business goals for the weekend are to visit the Archie McPhee store; to see some Dale Chihuly glass; and to get in a game of Risk. It's been too long . . .
-- Steve Jackson

August 18, 1995

The Canadian Invasion

By one of those weird coincidences that makes you believe in Stuff, we've got two of our freelancers visiting this week . . . both from Canada.

Sean Punch (a.k.a. Dr. Kromm) is one of our GURPS question answerers and freelance editors, and he's about to hit his stride as GURPS line editor. We'll see just how much editing and communication can really be done over the net. My guess is that the answer is ``A whole lot.''

Richard Meaden is a longtime Ogre artist and graphic designer (he also writes and sculpts). He has been doing a lot of the graphic work for Pyramid for the last few issues, too. And for those of you who have seen the spiffy screaming green-and-orange-on-black Ogre t-shirts that a few of us wear at cons . . . he made those. He's going to take the title of Ogre line editor and make it mean something . . .
-- Steve Jackson

August 17, 1995

More News Than You Can Handle

Well, I was working on a quick and informal GenCon report, I started typing, and two hours later I had much more copy than I felt comfortable dropping into the DI. So here's a link to it; go check it out. You'll like it - there are pictures and everything.

But first, a quick note from Planet Shipping:

Direct Mail has just recently received seven Limited Edition INWO starter sets. If you are interested in purchasing one or more of these sets at a bargain price of $9.95, give us a call at (512) 447-7866. First come, first served. We will not take e-mail orders, fax orders or mail orders, only a direct phone call. Thank you. Direct Mail.

Now, onward. We were going to talk about GenCon.
-- Derek Pearcy

August 16, 1995

Next PYRAMID Issue Will Be Delayed

Issue #15 of Pyramid will not ship next week with GURPS IOU, but 3 weeks later with the second edition of GURPS Fantasy Folk. This is not the fault of Scott Haring or his crew -- blame it on me -- it's part of the fallout from the INWO Assassins delay. We promised an Assassins card in that issue, and that's what is causing the holdup. Grovel, grovel. But the card will be there.

In other news, Scott is on vacation, so the full-dress GenCon report may be a bit delayed too. Unless Jeff or Derek wants to (hint, hint) take a swing at it.
-- Steve Jackson

August 15, 1995

The Pyramid Is Not Smiling Today

Today was Dana Blankenship's last day.

Dana has been our Sales Manager since 1992. She's leaving us to marry Jim Atkiss and go to Pittsburgh . . . sigh. Her last act (wearing her other hat of Convention Boss) was to organize and supervise our disgustingly successful trip to GenCon.

Dana started off as my assistant, and was promoted to the Sales Manager job in 1992. In less than three years, it seems that she's met everyone in the industry, sold GURPS and INWO to most of them, charmed almost all of them and scared the rest to death.

We will all miss Dana very much . . . not just because she was so good at her job, but because she's Dana.
-- Steve Jackson

August 14, 1995

Very Preliminary GenCon Report

We're back. We're all right. It was a heck of a good show. More details later.

Apologies . . . as Jim indicated, nobody remembered to phone in a report. We're scum. We live under the house. We were so busy we couldn't find our rear ends with both hands and a road map, okay? Like I said, it was a REAL good show.
-- Steve Jackson

August 11, 1995

Only So Much of a GenCon Report

NONE of the journalists assigned to the Daily Illuminator has spoken to anyone on the Away Team. No updates are available at this time as to whether the CEO, rumored missing at Thursday noon, has been located.

HOWEVER, an informant in the Business Office reported that Ms. Blankenship's feet hurt. Apparently packing for the move from Austin interfered with packing for a convention, and she neglected to take along any comfortable shoes. Swelling and soreness followed. If you see her, you might win points for a good foot massage. Or not: people whose feet hurt are notoriously short-tempered, and you might not get close enough.

ON the home front, the threatened Nerf(tm) War failed to develop. As a result, the planned Pizza Accords were cancelled. Stockpiling of weapons continues to be discussed, however. At least one of the parties to the promised conflict has chosen to rely on a lower-tech rubber-band 6-shooter. Damage is not much different, and b oth reliability and availability of ammunition may give him the edge in any future shootouts.

AND that's . . . the way it is, Friday the eleventh.
-- jimr for SP

August 10, 1995

This Is Not a GenCon Report

GENCON - that's all anyone's been speaking of the last few weeks around here. GenCon SchmenCon. I'm not at GenCon, am I? If it's such a big deal, then how come I never received my invitation from those at GenCon requesting I attend as Guest of Honor? I'm sure there's some big ceremony involving a big r ibbon that I could have cut with the applause and the flashbulbs and the cheering and the money and the women and the...Sorry. Fell asleep.

Well, much to my chagrin, I will be giving you GenCon reports as they come in from The SJGames Away Team. Or Susan will do it. Or Lillian. Or Jim. It's not like I'm dying to give everyone updates on this GenCon thing. Im not even attending. Join me in a revolt! If you're reading this, then you're probably not there yourself. Why didn't the folks in charge of GenCon invite you? Like you're not worthy of being Guest of Honor? We'll show 'em!

Fight the power!
-- jimr for RM

August 9, 1995

Tap, tap, tap, is this thing on?

BWAAhahah!! The Daily Illuminator is Ours!

ALL of the senior staff have left for GenCon. Stay tuned for exciting front line reports.
-- jimr

August 8, 1995

GenCon Update #6 (Collect 'Em All!):

OK, last chance before GenCon . . . what have I forgotten?

Airplane tickets? Hotel reservation? Check. Dana Blankenship has done her usual bang-up convention preparation job -- sadly, her last for us. She's leaving us right after GenCon to get married, of all things. It seems true love has won out . . . I hope she knows how much we're going to miss her around here.

But there's still so much to do . . . Tournament prizes ready? (Oh, geeze, I forgot to e-mail the other judges with the last instructions; OK, I can do that in a couple of minutes . . .) All the product shipped? Pyramid #15? GURPS IOU? What about the giveaways, the demo copies, the displays?

To recap, Steve Jackson, Derek Pearcy, Jeff Koke, Dana Blankenship and Scott Haring will be at GenCon. We have a good-sized booth in the dealer's room -- drop on by. All five of us will have posted ``office hours'' at the booth in case you have to speak to a particular one of us, though we'll talk to you just about any time you can catch us. We'll have loads of demos, Car Wars and INWO tournaments and lots, lots more. I've got a plane out of here 7 am tomorrow (yow, that's early . . . ). See you there!
-- SDH

August 7, 1995

GenCon Update #5 (Collect 'Em All!):

Not many more days to GenCon now . . . I should mention our Car Wars events, I guess.

The AADA World Racing Championships, long a GenCon tradition, return for another go-round at the MECCA Convention Center in Milwaukee, WI. The first round is divided into two heats, Thursday 12 noon and Thursday 4 pm. Survivors of the first round, along with Club Champions, fight it out in the Semi-Finals Friday at 4 pm. And those who advance from that will hook up with the Regional Champions and the defending World Champion in the Final on Saturday at 4 pm. All rounds take place at table W213, in the West Hall on the ground floor of the convention center.

Start your engines . . . and see you there! More tomorrow . . .
-- SDH

August 4, 1995

GenCon Update #4 (Collect 'Em All!):

Did I mention the ``Deck-athalon'' the other day? I didn't think so. It's an all-weekend event organized by the folks from Mayfair Games. Theoretically, it tests a gamer's ability to play more than one trading card game. Eight games from six companies are involved: INWO, Magic, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, Star Trek, SimCity, On The Edge, Blood Wars, and Spellfire. When you sign up, you get randomly assigned to four of the events. At each event, you play two games. The cards are provided by the referees -- and everybody plays with the exact same decks! If you've ever played duplicate bridge before, you know how this works.

At the INWO portion of the event, there will be eight tables with five decks at each table -- Cthulhu, Bavaria, UFOs, Gnomes and Network. But all eight Network decks are identical. So are all eight Bavaria decks. And so on. And the decks are as balanced as I could make them. To tell the truth, they're all copies of my personal decks -- and I've kicked butt with each and every one of them, so I know they're all good. Whoever does the best gets the most points. If you earn enough points at your four preliminary events, you go to the finals. In the finals, the best players meet up and play one game -- randomly selected -- for all the marbles. If you haven't set your GenCon plans in stone yet, this could be a fun way to spend the weekend.

More tommorow (or maybe Monday) . . .
-- SDH

August 3, 1995

GenCon Update #3 (Collect 'Em All!):

[Pyramid #15 Front Cover] The other new product we'll have out for GenCon is Pyramid #15. This is going to be another pretty good issue (if I may say so myself), with a great adventure for GURPS Time Travel and Dinosaurs, a hilarious Toon adventure, a preview of INWO Assassins, plus (of course) all our regular features.

And just because it's GenCon, we'll be giving away eight free cards in each issue, most not available anywhere else! We'll have a German-language INWO card, two different Everway cards, plus cards for Highlander, Towers In Time, Galactic Empires and Shadowfist in each issue. The eighth card will be handed out at the booth -- the Arcana card for On the Edge will arrive at the convention, Atlas Games tells us.

More tomorrow . . .
-- SDH

August 2, 1995

GenCon Update #2 (Collect 'Em All!):

[GURPS IOU Front Cover] One of the new products we'll have out for GenCon is GURPS IOU, a wild cross-genre romp through space, time and weirdness. IOU got its start as a shared fiction anthology on the original Illuminati BBS, and it didn't take long before a strange world where space opera heroes, anime characters, anthropomorphic fuzzies with ray guns, vampires, superheroes, wizards and Men In Black were happily mingling, plotting and scheming -- and they were the normal ones . . .

Before long, Walter Milliken and Beth McCoy (two of the steadiest and strangest contributors) realized that the makings of a really, well, strange game world was right there for the writing. So GURPS IOU was born. IOU, by the way stands for ``Illuminati University.'' What does the ``O'' stand for? You're not cleared for that . . .

Illustrated lavishly (and strangely) throughout by Phil and Kaja Foglio, GURPS IOU looks as great as it reads. I hear the Foglios will be at GenCon -- maybe you can get them to autograph your copy . . .

More tomorrow . . .
-- SDH

August 1, 1995

Another new month wipes the Daily Illuminator clean -- but don't fear. You can check out previous columns with a single click (or two . . .).

GenCon Update #1 (First of a Series, Collect 'Em All!):

GenCon '95 will be held Aug. 10-13, 1995, at the MECCA Convention Center in Milwaukee, WI. Steve Jackson Games will be there in force: Steve Jackson his ownelf, along with Dana Blankenship, Scott Haring, Derek Pearcy, Jeff Koke and lots of volunteers. We'll have a booth in the Dealer's Room, of course, with our entire product line for sale and open tables for game demos and whatever else comes up.

One of our main activities will be INWO, of course. We've prepared a separate page with a complete rundown of our GenCon '95 INWO Events. Check it out.

More tomorrow . . .
-- SDH

[JUMP] -- To return here, [JUMP] ``sjgames-ill''.
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