The Daily Illuminator

Today's Illuminator

December 31, 1995

A Happy (and Weird) New Year, Everyone!

To start the year off right, here's some information about one of our favorite peculiar organizations: the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). Check out their web page. I stole the following descriptive material from their information mailer daemon; to get the complete thing, send mail to

Some of AIR's recent research reports:

Some of AIR's regular features: AIR is also famous for publishing: -- Steve Jackson

December 28, 1995

I Can't Tell You What I've Been Doing (But You'll Like It)

Tthings are still really quiet around here, so I came in to catch up on snailmail, check for faxes, and get a little break from the Big Project.

Can you believe it? A (woo woo) Secret Project. We'll announce soon, but right now I'm working on something Not To Be Discussed. Sort of a pain not being able to talk about it. On the other hand, if we hadn't talked so much about, err, Very Warm Heavy Metal, or In The Name Of, we wouldn't have to wear full-face masks every time we went to GenCon.

I promise, we'll spill the beans soon, and you can see what I've been up to. The art is going to be neat, too . . .

-- Steve Jackson

December 26, 1995

Exploding Car, Sibling Amiss

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday with their friends, family, and other loved ones. Yeah, I know, it sounds kinda trite but this has been the first Christmas I've spent with my family in about four years.

My brother's in cooking school in Hyde Park, NY. He loves his work, he's good at it, and it pays well - he's truly found his calling. And if things don't work out for him, at least he'll always eat well. Anyway, on his drive back to the "lovely" frozen waste of Sheboygan, WI, his car decided to behave decidedly uncarlike (hence the 'exploding car' comment above) thus stranding him in New York. Damn. I was hoping to see him this season. Our paths so rarely cross anymore.

Two Worlds

But these things happen. Life goes on - I've had several sumptious meals with my parents (dysfunctionally enough, they're still married to each other). The sad thing is that, while we are no longer at each others' throats, my parents are drifting farther to the Right/Stupid end of the political spectrum than ever. Kinda hard to bring up the Exon bill over dinner without wanting to brain someone with a drumstick. F*****g lowest common denominator - my parents aren't even on the internet - WHAT THE HELL DO THEY KNOW!? At least it's easier explaining to Mom & Dad what it is that I do anymore. I mean, Dad knows his company has a web page, even if he hasn't seen it and doesn't know what it is. Trying to explain the whole nuclear safety schtick to them was like explaining photocopier repair to a potato - just give up, grab a beer, and see what's on cable.

Trapped Like a Fly in Amber

So like most good Wisconsinites, I headed to the bars this evening with a friend of mine. The pitchers of MGD and Bud Light did flow (bleah - bring on the real beer; the dark stuff) and we conversed over the din of Mötley Crüe, Guns & Roses and whatever retread-80s hair-metal the bartender could dig up. The Green Day was a nice relief but it still didn't detract from the whole Wisconsin bar experience. My clothes still smell like I was rescued from a burning warehouse filled with Marlboros. Oh well. Between the faux-alternagoobers on break from college (you know, the guys who look like they've been auditioning for Soundgarden or the Community Players' version of Jesus Christ Superstar - or, in combination, Jesus Christ Badmotorfinger), and the guys with the cheesy moustaches and the K. D. Lang haircuts, you alternately feel sorry for them but you wish you never had to sit near them, with the Bud Light, the Marlboros, and the bar dice.

And as different as my life may be from theirs, I can still go to the same bar and drink beer with my friends in peace (ignoring the Mötley Crüe). If only the Congress could encourage such a degree of tolerance. Maybe Sen. Exon is afraid a machinist from Vollrath would whip his ass in a game of darts. Who knows?

The more things change, the more they yadda, yadda, yadda. I feel like I'm getting old. At least I dress better than I did in 1986, which is more than I can say about the bar crowd at 10-0-2's tonight. Still, everyone's got to have a hobby, and theirs is beer. My experience in Louisiana tells me that there are worse ways to spend your free time.

So I'm a cynical bastard - sue me. I had a good time tonight talking about stereo equipment, the internet and the future of commerce, my past life as an Evil Genius and (I'm sorry) imitating Beavis & Butthead.

Geez, hey - It's Sheboygan. What do you expect, eh?

-- Bob Apthorpe

December 25, 1995

Merry Christmas!

As you probably guessed from the on-and-off appearance of this column, we're on vacation this week. The office won't really wake up until January 2.

I'm back from Boston. Everything went well. Steffan ran us through a Four Musketeers adventure in FUDGE and, mon Dieu, it was a gas. We played some Robo Rally, too. The new boards in the Armed and Dangerous expansion are deadly. And Steffan's random-event cards make everything even nastier . . . I'm trying to get him to submit them to Pyramid.

Hhave a good holiday. Relax, slack off, play games.

-- Steve Jackson

December 22, 1995

Assassins Leaping Off Shelves

See? We're not nearly out of stupid Assassins jokes yet. Even as the SJ Games staff flees home for the holidays, the booster boxes are making their way into stores. And out of them again, we hope. (From the comments on the Net, yep, that's what's happening.)

As for myself, I'm in Boston, holding - no kidding - Secret Meetings about a couple of different 1996 projects. Well, one sure-thing project and one interesting potential one. No, I'm not going to tell. Yes, I just dropped the hint because I'm a bad person fnord.

But tomorrow I get to sit down and play a game with GURPS writers Ann Dupuis and Steffan O'Sullivan. But we're not going to play GURPS - we're going to play a swashbuckling scenario in FUDGE. It's only fair; Steffan wrote it, Ann's company published it, and they outnumber me . . .

-- Steve Jackson

December 20, 1995

Assassins Released On Unsuspecting Public; INWO OMNI League; No New ADQ Today

Beware! Assassins officially shipped from the distributors today. After a very long delay, it's finally, REALLY, and TRULY making its way to you. Thanks to last-minute development work and our still-frozen Traffic Manager Brenda (and everyone else's effort), Assassins are sneaking up on the retailers of America and the rest of world, heh, heh . . . ,

Introducing the INWO OMNI League! The Omni League was originally developed by Jonathan Tweet, designer of On The Edge from Atlas Games, and the original Omni League is for OTE players. It was such a great idea, we wanted to do it too, and we thank Jonathan and Atlas for giving us their permission!

INWO OMNI is a set of rules for tournament and non-tournament play. An Omni League is, in the words of its creator, "a non-localized community of players, all working with a limited number of cards." The key to the league is "limited number." No one can buy a killer deck in Omni gaming . . . you have to build it, a game at a time.

In other news, no new HTMLizations of back issues of ADQ came in today. I suspect that our intrepid volunteers have been swallowed up by the holidays, finals, or a spontaneous INWO OMNI League tournament.

Either that or the Assassins got them . . .

-- Bob Apthorpe

December 19, 1995

Even More ADQ

Today I received yet another batch of web pages, this time from J. D. Forinash (Thanks!). I swear it must be a Christmas rush. ADQ 3/1 is now available for your viewing pleasure.

Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I HTMLized Kids in Car Wars from ADQ 2/2.

That reminds me, I still have to finish my Christmas shopping.

-- Bob Apthorpe

PS: We realized we had erred with last week's selection of a representative smutty newsgroup. The appropriate newsgroup is We regret this error.

December 18, 1995

More ADQ, The Exon Song

The ADQ HTMLization Project has really been paying dividends lately. We just received ADQ 7/4 from Gustav Dahlström at Lund University in Sweden. Thanks, Gustav!

The Exon Song

We received this in our e-mail this morning and we felt the need to share it with you:
With all the recent commotion about net censorship, and with the approach of the holiday season, I was inspired to write the following song for our department's annual holiday party skit.

(Note that some of the lines are identical to the real version. I don't know if that poses copyright violations for posting purposes or not.)

Kevin Hinshaw

The Exon Song

{sung to "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)"}

Sex nuts posting on an open wire
Sick thoughts dripping from their prose
Dirty pictures showing young girls for hire
And men dressed up in women's clothes

Everybody knows
That mountains of pornography
Have been appearing left and right
Tiny tots with their eyes all a-glow
May find the ones with sheep tonight

We know that Satan's on the Net
Along with all the creeps and perverts he could get
Enticing every child to try his luck
At finding pictures of people who fundamentally undermine the morals of society

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two;
Although it's been said many times, many ways
"Let us censor for you."

My apologies to Mel Tormé - he really deserves better than that.

Congress roasting on an open fire
Exon pining for some smut...

Sorry, Mel - I couldn't resist...

-- Bob Apthorpe

PS: We realized we had erred with last week's selection of a representative smutty newsgroup. The appropriate newsgroup is alt.pantyhose. We regret this error.

December 17, 1995

Hot Off Someone Else's Press

The Austin Chronicle, our local alternative weekly, gave GURPS a good mention in an article on online roleplaying. GURPS online? Well, kind of - a lot of people on AoL and other gaming chat boards use the GURPS rules. Real online GURPS, sadly, is still just a sparkle in our eyes. Keep hoping . . .

-- Steve Jackson

December 15, 1995

''Life in London is nasty, brutish and short. So are you.''

No, that's not an insult; that's our catch-phrase for GURPS Goblins which is scuttling its cowardly way to completion. This book has been very difficult to edit, what with our editor periodically falling out of her chair and laughing uncontrollably for extended periods of time.

Here's a sample:

''Casual Employment...

Goblin society has many irregular vocations for unemployed juvenile ruffians - in particular those which the employer doesn't want any visible connection with (e.g. whacking the employer's boss, stripping him naked, painting his backside with tar and throwing him into the Thames). If the delinquents perform this task well, they may be called upon again to perform another such job in the future. If they perform it badly, they might be caught, whacked, interrogated, stripped naked, painted with tar and thrown into the Thames...''

-- Bob Apthorpe

PS: We realized we had erred with yesterday's selection of a representative newsgroup. The appropriate newsgroup is alt.lycra. We regret this error.

December 14, 1995

New SJGames Image Use Policy; More Exon Mania

After many hours of torturous discussion and not nearly enough martinis, we've finally settled on an image use policy. ''Why?'' you might ask. The reason is simple - we get a lot of requests to use the images found on this site (shame on you who haven't asked permission). It's a touchy legal issue, especially when trademarks and copyrights come into play. Extremes positions abound - we think we've come up with a low-hassle response that clearly and coherently gets the point across.

Steve Jackson Games Image Use Policy:

You can use images found on our website for non-commercial purposes as long as
you tell us first. We might put a link from our pages to your page.

We will politely tell you to stop using our images if you do something we
consider "yucky" (example: GURPS Proctologist, GURPS Attorney, GURPS Drug
Trafficker, GURPS House of Representatives, etc.). Other than that, you're on
your own.

Pretty simple, huh?

Re: the so-called Communications Decency Act
Stardot Consulting, Ltd. has been gracious enough to provide a page to let you send your message to Washington, whatever your opinion of this piece of legislation. I'm not comfortable using the Illuminator as a political soapbox, but I'd be even less comfortable knowing that I could be jailed for 'indecent' e-mail or for perusing alt.binaries.lingerie.

This ''busybody complex'' that has gripped America has got to go. Senator Exon, et. al. have more pressing problems to worry about than cheesecake GIFs and the use of the term ''hooters'' in my e-mail. Like extracting our forces from the Bosnian meatgrinder, balancing the Federal budget and debt reduction, tort reform, high-level nuclear waste disposal and a whole myriad of tangible social ills.

End of soapbox.

-- Bob Apthorpe

December 13, 1995

Brenda Returns From Icy North, Adventures of Bromwyn Bunny

Our intrepid traffic manager Brenda Hurst returned from frosty New York where she spent last week monitoring the packaging and shipment of Assassins. Luckily, she missed Austin's recent cold snap and we expect that she will fully thaw out by President's Day at the latest.

Today's Secret Toy Surprise is the Adventures of Bromwyn Bunny in Canada. Our heroine, the fair Bromwyn, had been devoured by an ''Evil Bunny-eating totem pole'' running amok in Vancouver. Luckily, she survived this mishap unscathed, but wiser for it. This is only one of her many adventures. Truly a charmed bunny.

-- Bob Apthorpe
(admitting that yes, Virginia, it has been a slow newsday. . .)

December 12, 1995

Assassins Update; ADQ HTMLization; Secret Toy Surprise

[POSTER ART] The first Assassins packs arrived at our offices today and they're pretty. Well, as pretty as cards depicting weird phenomena, strange organizations, and untimely demises can be. In celebration, we coerced our own Jeff Koke into creating a wonderful graphic for Assassins (at right). It's a little premature, given that Assassins hasn't hit the retailers yet, but it will soon (barring any technical difficulties).

Good news for Car Wars aficionados - the Autoduel Quarterly archives are beginning to fill up. We just received a pair of articles from ADQ 2/2 and we are anxiously awaiting several more.

Last, but not least: Today's Secret Toy Surprise!

On a whim, I ran a Lycos search on Earl Butts (and, alternatively, Earl Butz, mainly because I couldn't remember how to spell his last name). For those of you who are historically impaired, Earl was the politically-incorrect Agriculture Secretary under Jimmy Carter. Anyway, the most popular link I found was not suitable for the Daily Illuminator (the curious can run their own Lycos search themselves). Suffice to say, the part about the turnip always cracks me up.

It doesn't really matter though. Senator Exon and his ilk will ensure that whatever content does manage to be publically posted will be sufficiently watered down so as not to arouse the most sexually frustrated rural postal inspector.

So, on that Freudian note, we arrive at today's Secret Toy Surprise - The Alaska Volcano Observatory. They have a beautiful map of the volcanic activity in the Aleutian chain as well as satellite images of eruptions and ash plumes. This is also the only place I've ever seen the word "Kamchatka" oustide of the game Risk.

Bonus Points: Using the rules from Web That Smut, how many clicks does it take to get from the Alaska Volcano Observatory to (kids, hide your eyes) the Butt Page alluded to above? Mathematicians are encouraged to send us the general algorithm for finding the shortest path between these two pages...

-- Bob Apthorpe
(who gave up without linking the sites but whose Web That Smut! score was 19...)

December 11, 1995


Aside from settling in and dealing with the local banking demons (What, you want me to pay you to use my money when I'm not looking? You're out of your f...), it's been a pretty slow Monday.

No major upheavals in the gaming world, no disasters or windfalls of any real import, no major news, nothing.

So I dug around for some info on my old pal, Jim Exon Okay, I'm being sarcastic. I doubt Mr. Exon gives a flipping flounder about me, you, or the U. S. Constitution - he's just trying to get the rest of the Senate to stop addressing him as "The Gentleman whose name rhymes with a major oil company representing that large, flat state containing little of consequence."

Anyway, I decided to see what other pieces of jughead legislation the good Mr. Exon is attempting to promulgate. Outside of a couple bills messing with broadcast and cable TV, public broadcasting, denial of benefits to illegal aliens, regulation of the size of Mexican truck trailers entering the U.S. (a national crisis to be sure), and something about replacing striking railway workers, I found twine.

Really. Twine. I found this unusual. I usually associate twine with Kansas, along with the deepest hand-dug well, but that's another story for another day. Twine. Here's the context and you be the judge:

MEASURE:         S751

SPONSOR:         Exon (D-NE)


OFFICIAL TITLE:  A bill to provide that certain games of chance
	 conducted by a nonprofit organization not be treated
	 as an unrelated business of such organization.

QUICK REFERENCE: Duty tax on twine products

INTRODUCED:      05/03/95

COSPONORS:       1 (Dems: 1  Reps: 0  Ind: 0)


Kerrey, R. (D-NE)

I (ahem) pulled the string on this over at the Library of Congress. No twine. Nothing.

A coverup? A conspiracy? What tangled ball of, uh, intrigue have we stubled upon? A simple typo, or is Mr. Exon pandering to the bingo halls and twine producers of Nebraska? And what, if any, relation does this have to the abominable Communications Decency Act? If I was a little more paranoid, I'd suspect an Illuminati was on the move, its motives hidden behind the mundane machinations of a Congress so addled and corrupt.

But I'm not that paranoid. I dug around in the Library of Congress until I found "Truth in Poultry Labeling Act of 1995", decided that I had had quite enough of Congress for one day and went home.

-- Bob Apthorpe ''Live Free Or Die''

December 10, 1995

Chilly Weather

Well, balmy Austin just got its first really cold weather of the year; it froze last night and it's down there again tonight. Sigh.

On the other hand, Brenda Hurst, who is up in NYC supervising the Assassins shipment, says they had several inches of snow. So we shouldn't complain. (But we do anyway.)

-- Steve Jackson, waiting for spring

December 8, 1995

Assassins Drop-Ships Start Today, WotC 'Realignment'

We've got two big pieces of game news for you today.

First, the palletized Assassins drop-ships went out today. No, this isn't some strange science-fiction invasion fleet (though if we could get one of those, who knows what mischief we could get ourselves into, heh, heh. . .) That's publishing lingo for 'a massive amount of Assassins Booster Packs have been shipped from the printers directly to the distributors and will hit your retailer "soon".' The rest of the Assassins booster packs are due to be shipped Monday and we can't wait to see them. Finally, the wait is over!

Our other headline story is that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has announced a realignment in which they have discontinued some of their smaller product lines, including their roleplaying games. This was done in order to 'focus (their) energy and resources in the Deckmaster line and new product areas'. This has meant the loss of 30 jobs in the US and Europe, announced thus far.

WotC President and CEO Peter Adkison stated, 'We are not abandoning these products or their fans, and we are looking for new publishers for the roleplaying games.'

-- Bob Apthorpe ''Live Free Or Die''

December 7, 1995

Important Political Announcement!

Yesterday the House Conference committee voted to criminalize "indecent material" on electronic networks. If we lose the Senate Conference Committee vote, we will have lost a tremendous amount of our First Amendment rights. All content on the Internet will be dumbed down to the level of Saturday morning cartoons.

IMO, the proposed legislation is vague, unnecessary, and lends itself to arbitrary and capricious enforcement. The government has proven itself incapable of responsibly handling a checkbook, yet somehow it feels it's capable of making complex judgements about the content of many-to-many electronic communications. This is absurd; it would be funny if it didn't put you and I at risk of imprisonment.

The following is courtesy of the Voters Telecomm Watch:

The Christian Coalition and others are lobbying for broad infringements on free speech net by passing legislation that "dumb down" Internet content to that which is acceptable to children. In addition, services like this one might become liable for what their users say and read on the Internet. Please call Congress now; for more info URL: or send mail to with "send alert" in the subject line. (12/6/95)

Stop the government from restricting your online speech! (12/6/95)

See you in prison,

-- Bob Apthorpe ''Live Free Or Die''

December 6, 1995

Car Wars Compendium Draft Arrives, Web That Smut!

We just received the most recent draft of the Car Wars Compendium from Richard Meaden and the staff opinion is "It's so spiffy, you'll die." Hopefully the more lethal elements will be removed before it hits the streets sometime in February.

In other news, our own Jim Robinson found a new game you can play with your web browser - Web That Smut! Apparently, there's a solitaire version, but I'm not sure I want to know the details. . .

-- Bob Apthorpe

December 5, 1995

Assassins! Cacophony! Spontaneous Combustion!

Simply beautiful! I saw the card sheets for Assassins today and they're truly impressive. On a related note, I found a lovely site explaining a documented case of Spontaneous Human Combustion, which happens to be an Assassins card.

On an unrelated note, I decided to search the web for the keywords 'exploding cheese elves'. While I didn't find much on detonating mythical creatures made of dairy products, I did find the L.A. Cacophony Society. Their missive on software testing was truly enlightening...

-- Bob Apthorpe

December 4, 1995

Celtic Myth now shipping!

Once again, the lovely sight of pallets of fresh books has graced our warehouse. Yes, GURPS Celtic Myth has returned from the printer and is shipping to retailers and distributors as we speak.

It shouldn't be too long until GURPS Martial Arts gets back from the printers as well. Also of note is that the Assassins cards have been printed and are in the process of being cut; they are still set to be shipped by Christmas.

Things have gone pretty well for a Monday.

-- Bob Apthorpe

December 3, 1995

Roaming through Rome?

Check out S.P.Q.R., a free 3-D Web game about fourth-century Rome. Lots of nice art. I haven't yet found any of the scrolls I'm supposed to be looking for . . . I'm still learning to navigate.

-- Steve Jackson

December 2, 1995

No Matter Where You Go, There You Are

Where? The Buckaroo Banzai web site, of course. Remember: Treat me good and I'll treat you better. Treat me bad and I'll treat you worse . . .

-- Steve Jackson

December 1, 1995

Road Trip, Load Trip

Tomorrow I hit the road for another 6 to 8 hour journey back to Chemical City to retrieve more of my life/debris. Chemical City is a polite term for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Very polite, considering that Baton Rouge has all the disadvantages of a town its size and none of the advantages. Still, I was lodged there for nearly four years and found most of the good it had to offer.

Wish me luck and good fortune. Especially clear weather. I'll have an interesting tale for you unless someone else around the offices has something relevant to offer Monday.

Until then, don't divide by zero. You'll just make it angry...

-- Bob Apthorpe

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