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August 31, 2000: Worldcon!

I will be at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago for the next week, along with Monica Stephens and Alain Dawson. (Alain has an advantage - she lives there.) We'll see if we can get some good planning meetings, make some fantastic new licensing deals, have some fun, or all of the above. One thing we probably won't be doing, unfortunately, is participating in scheduled programming or game demos . . . the gaming department seems to be desperately understaffed, and after their initial reply to my letter they never got back with me about events, nor did they respond to later inquiries. Sorry about that; we tried. Look for me in Open Gaming, if there is an Open Gaming -- I'm bringing some things to demonstrate and playtest. And we WILL be running some Dino Hunt in the Children's Programming room :-)

(The moral of this story: if you are a gamer and want to see more gaming at Worldcon, volunteer early and often.)

August 30, 2000: Our Phones Are Up!

Moving with speed amd grace, the intrepid minions of the phone company have restored full service to the SJ Games home office. We thank them, and we thank everyone who offered sympathy in this time of distress.

Warehouse 23 News: New Dork Tower!

Dork Tower #10, "Road Rules," is now available on Warehouse 23!

-- Brendon

August 30, 2000: Now Hiring!

We're looking for a part-time assistant to help process Warehouse 23 orders and resolve customer service questions and problems. Computer literacy is required, and some knowledge of Filemaker Pro would be helpful. The job involves processing online and mail orders and maintaining records. Experience in retail or customer service is preferred, since an important part of the job is answering customer questions via phone, snail mail, and e-mail. The job will be 20-25 hours a week. The preferred schedule is 8am to noon, Monday through Friday, but we can be flexible for an otherwise strong applicant. This job is local to South Austin.

Interested applicants should fax a resume to 512-447-1144 or email a plain text resume to

-- Brendon Rehm

August 29, 2000: Our Phones Are Down!

While installing the natural gas line for the miniatures casting facility, the plumbers cut our phone lines. You can still reach us at 512-447-7863 or 512-447-7894. The others ring with no answer. Our fax is completely down - if you need to send us a fax, better just hold off a day. SW Bell promises to get this fixed by tomorrow.
-- Steve Jackson

August 29, 2000: The Curse Engine

There's no curse like an Irish curse. The Curse Engine will let you select from a wide variety of elements to build an imprecation . . . and then translate it into that most ominous of tongues, complete with a pronunciation guide. "May the worms eat your hard disk," for instance, becomes "Go n-ithe na péisteoga do dhiosca crua."

-- Steve Jackson

Warehouse 23 News: Chess Bundle

Chess moves in new directions with the Warehouse 23 Chess Bundle!

-- Brendon

August 28, 2000: New Miniatures

New Miniatures Saturday's painting session was fun. Here's Richard in full teaching mode, with Loren, MIB Jimmie Bragdon, and the back of Paul Chapman's head. Over the course of the afternoon, we went through quite a bit of pizza and (almost) completely refitted our three Ogre armies. But we'll need more; we've got a lot of demos planned, and we will need some world-class paint jobs for the photos on the boxes. So, if you're an amazingly good painter interested in doing some Ogre units, contact Richard Kerr at

New Miniatures A frequently asked question over the last few months has been "When will we see some brand-new units?" Here's one. This is the Combine LGEV, and I probably shouldn't tease you with it, because it's currently scheduled for a set that will ship in February. But it sure is pretty . . .

We're not far from an official announcement of the first few months' miniature schedule. Unofficially, the first three sets should ship in November:

It's really been great to see the miniatures finally happening. I can't wait to be in production for real.
-- Steve Jackson

August 27, 2000: Now Shipping!

Several new things are shipping this week:

GURPS Castle Falkenstein
Imagine a world very much like 19th-century Earth, but with wizards and swashbuckling heroes . . . and Dragons and Faerie! A world where Kabbalistic magic meets steam-powered technology against the backdrop of imperial intrigue, and where the writings of Doyle, Shelley, Verne, and their contemporaries are *fact.* A world of high fantasy and romance. This is the world of Castle Falkenstein.

This critically-acclaimed RPG setting was originally published by R. Talsorian Games. It found an enthusiastic fandom . . . gamers even showed up at conventions in elaborate Falkenstein court costumes. For its fans, there is no setting quite like "Falk," with its combination of courtly graces, 19th-century intrigue and steampunk. Now, Steve Jackson Games has acquired a license to adapt Castle Falkenstein to GURPS. The book will be released in mid-2000. GURPS Castle Falkenstein will be true to the original in style and substance, and will include full conversion notes so GMs of either system can use all the sourcebooks published for the other.

#6099, ISBN 1-55634-438-4. 160 pages. $22.95.

GURPS Imperial Rome, Second Edition GURPS Imperial Rome, Second Edition
GURPS Imperial Rome takes you to a world of adventure and intrigue, gladiators and glory. The sprawling Roman Empire is full of campaign options, from orgies in the decadent Roman villas to battles with pirates off the coast of Sicily. As an adventurer in the Imperial Age of Rome, you can journey through the narrow streets of the greatest city in the world, fight gruesome battles as a slave gladiator in the Colosseum, visit exotic provinces like Greece, Egypt, and Asia, or march to war with the Roman legions.

#6048, ISBN 1-55634-446-5. 128 pages. $19.95.

The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming (reprint)

There are those who want to play, and those who want to WIN. The whiners who don't understand "power gaming" call these people "munchkins."

But what do we care?

In this outrageous satire, an experienced munchkin gleefully reveals the tricks of the trade: everything from re-rolling an unfavorable result to bribing the GM. Learn how to get the most out of character design, and why it doesn't really matter what your character's personality is as long as you get to FWACKOOM! the NPCs and grab their stuff. Munchkin GMs get their own chapter, of course: how to control the players, bend the rules, and up that body count!

Remember: If it's only a game, why do we keep score?

#3003, ISBN 1-55634-347-7. 128 pages. $19.95.

-- Keith Johnson

August 26, 2000: A Painting We Will Go

Miniatures planning is in full swing - the casting machines should be delivered next week - and it's time to dust off the old demonstration sets and get a few Ogres and whatnot ready to photograph for the packages. I've been doing a very litttle painting over the past few years, just enough to stay in practice. Tomorrow, a random assortment of staff and local MIBs will be getting together to repair and spiff up the old armies and maybe add a few units. This is also an opportunity for all of us to get a free lesson from Richard Kerr, who is frighteningly good at this stuff.
-- Steve Jackson

August 25, 2000: Quantum Computing and Live Pictures That Lie

It's been years since you could trust a photograph; with modern computer imagery, any still picture can be faked. Now video, even live video, can be edited in real time. Here's the Netscape story. Want to digitally add tanks to a live spy satellite image, make the President sing "I'm A Little Teapot," or change the names and numbers on the players' backs during the Super Bowl? You can do it now, and someday you'll be able to do it from a laptop. And here comes a computer fast enough not just to edit the live video -- that's possible already -- but to generate whole scenes in realtime. Read the IBM press release.

Warehouse 23 News: New Button Men!

We just got the Fantasy Button Men sets, illustrated by Larry Elmore. Check 'em out!

-- Brendon

August 24, 2000: Cutting Out the Middleman

Well, you knew it had to happen sometime. A Maryland man has decided to auction off his vote -- for the federal, state, and local elections -- on eBay. Read the CNN story.
-- Andrew Hackard

August 23, 2000: Our New Alpha Geek

John Stringfellow is our new Computer Guru/Information Systems Administrator. He lives in North Austin with his wonderful wife, Shelley, his dog Laerel, and his two rats: Mystra and Spencer. When not working, he spends his time either with his wife and pets or gaming. John has been roleplaying for almost 10 years, and plays GURPS, In Nomine, AD&D, D&D, and many other games. He also spends a [classified] portion of his time inventing new [classified] and plotting to take over the world. Rumor has it that he is a charter member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

August 22, 2000: Winning the Silver

Dedicated Illuminator readers will remember that, in their first issue, Games Unplugged named Steve Jackson as the second most influential person in gaming.

Now the second issue is out, and once again, Steve Jackson has been honored. This time, they've placed him second on the list of the 20 best game designers of all time. As they said, "His abundant creativity prompted one well-known game designer to remark, 'Steve Jackson gets more good ideas before breakfast than most designers have in a whole year.'"

Thanks to the good people at Games Unplugged, and congratulations to Steve!
-- Andrew Hackard

Warehouse 23 News: New Special: GURPS Space Adventures

The Warehouse 23 staff has tracked down several copies of GURPS Space Adventures. Grab one now in this special offer!

-- Brendon

August 21, 2000: More Random Finnish Notes

A few more trip impressions from Finland . . .

Cell phones are everywhere. You think they have taken over in the US? Not by comparison. Something like 70% of the population has them in Finland. You literally cannot look at a sidewalk, bus or other crowd scene without seeing cell phones in use.

Pizza there is . . . different. For instance, I had a delicious combo of chicken, pineapple and blue cheese. Standard menu item . . .

The weather was beautiful. But I was warned that it gets really cold in the winters . . . and having seen huge space heaters in public buildings, I believe it. On the other hand, it never gets very hot. My hotel room - a very nice hotel room - had no air conditioning. It's so rarely needed, they didn't bother with it.
-- Steve Jackson

August 20, 2000: Wanted: Ogre Reality Check

We're going to reissue The Ogre Book soon; I'm re-editing and compiling material now. But we need a new article on the current state of the mechanized battlefield. When Ogre was new, Charles Bowles wrote an excellent article - Tank: Present, Future, Ogre. I'm leaving it in the book as an appreciation of the state of the art in the late 1970s . . . but we need to follow it up with something current. Who's interested in writing it?

I need it within the next few weeks. The slant is up to you, but it should discuss the current state and future trends of armor, anti-armor measures, and the computerized battlefield, and reach a conclusion about whether, and when, we might really see something like the Ogre. It should run 2,000 to 3,000 words.

Yes, we will pay for this - in new Ogre miniatures, or cold cash . . . E-mail me if you are interested, and tell me why you're the one to write it.
-- Steve Jackson

August 19, 2000: GURPS Discworld Also Now In Playtest!

In GURPS Discworld, based on the novels of Terry Pratchett, gamers met Great A'Tuin the turtle, Rincewind the incompetent wizard, and Susan Sto Helit, the granddaughter of Death. Everyone had such a good time that we've booked a second trip to the Discworld!

Visit the playtest page to access the Discworld Also files (Pyramid subscribers only), or click here to subscribe to Pyramid.
-- Keith Johnson

August 18, 2000: Silent, Deadly, Delicious

Illuminated Site of the Week: You've gotta respect people that will kill or die to get your order to you. Ninja Burger, the on-line restaurant, guarantees on-time delivery. You know what you want, but they know where you live.

-- Suggested by Andy Fix

Warehouse 23 News: New Poster!

Check out our new poster, celebrating two great fall releases: GURPS Castle Falkenstein and GURPS Steampunk.

-- Brendon

August 17, 2000: Shafted by Apple

Warning: I'm venting. If you are annoyed by complaints about Big Silicon dumping on the people who keep them in business, skip this and come back tomorrow . . .

I've been an Apple user, and fan, and backer, for many years. A litmus test for any computer game proposal has been "Will they support Apple?" But in just a couple of days, Apple has burned through all that goodwill. I don't know if SJ Games will ever buy another Apple machine.

It started in Finland. My Powerbook G3 - with which I'd been very happy for over a year - quit booting up. So on return to the States, I called Apple's own repair service. Seemed like a good choice - for a flat fee, they promised to find and fix whatever the problem was. I made a point of telling them that I'd been out of the country and there was unbacked-up data on the drive, and that if they had to do anything involving the drive, *let me know.*

So Monday when I called to check, after a looooooong hold, I was told that it was on its way back to me. They said they'd replaced a circuit board and a cable, but the hard drive was OK.

Except that Tuesday when I opened the box and booted it up, my data wasn't there. In fact, my OS wasn't there! I was running OS 9. This was an empty drive with OS 8.something. Needless to say, I called their repair service in something of a panic. The panic got worse as I listened to music-on-hold for more than 20 minutes, as their program repeated over and over, featuring Kermit the Frog's "It's Not Easy Being Green." Finally a lady picked up the phone and identified herself as F-----. I explained that my drive was missing. She called up my case and replied "Well, your drive was making some noise, so we gave you a new one while we were working on it."

"Why didn't you call me like I asked? Or move the data over?"

"Sorry, there were no instructions for that in your case." (And, like every other Apple employee I've talked to since then, she told me that they are SUPPOSED to get a $50 credit card deposit BEFOREHAND if data needs to be saved. But they didn't ask for that when I phoned in the repair order. Apparently, though, the fact that they didn't do it makes the missing data my problem.)

Still, all was not lost. F----- assured me that replaced drives weren't disposed of right away. They'd find it for me. She said it had been readable when it was removed. So I breathed easier for a few hours.

But then the new story - from a different repair representative, M------ - was that no, the drive wasn't readable. And whether they had taken it out wrongly or not, and whether they had failed to contact me or not, and whether they had actually damaged it while removing it -- in fact, whether they had followed ANY of their own procedures or not - "Apple won't be responsible for your data." Now, they would be willing to loan me my own old drive back, so I could attempt to have the data recovered at my own expense. But they wouldn't deal with that themselves. In fact, they wouldn't send me the old drive back unless they had my credit card number, to make sure I didn't keep the drive. And I'd have to wait for a different person, R------, to call me to arrange that.

So the day went by and R------- didn't call. This morning I was back on the phone with M--------. He told me that R----- was still reading his mail, or something like that, but that certainly he'd call me today. I told M-------- that I'd like to talk to his supervisor. He engaged me in a long conversation about what I might say to his supervisor, but he wouldn't escalate it. I insisted, as much as you can "insist" when the other person has the power of petty bureaucracy. He flat refused to let me speak to a supervisor. In fact, after that, he wouldn't answer any other questions, either. He played games with me, tried to put words in my mouth, and stonewalled with things like "I don't think that's relevant and I am not going to answer irrelevant questions."

For a feeling of total desperate powerlessness, try talking with a self-righteous bureaucrat who controls your data and has the power of a big organization to back him up. I haven't felt this way since, hmm, 1990 . . . but then it was the Secret Service. (Believe it or not, the parallel only now occurs to me, consciously. But probably my subconscious has been worrying at it all day.)

At any rate, since the repair service was providing neither repairs nor service, I called Apple Customer Relations. Another 30-minute wait on hold (thank heaven for speaker phones), and more Kermit the Frog. Finally, B------ picked up. I explained the problem and how unhappy I was. And how did B------- deal with it? By transferring me back to the office I was complaining about. At least he managed to get the elusive R------ to talk to me. R------ didn't bring any special knowledge to the discussion or ask any new questions, but apparently only he could arrange to return a screwed-up hard drive to a screwed-over customer. M-------- doesn't do that, though he has lots of time for word games.

At any rate, I remember last week, when I really liked Apple. Last week we were talking about who in the office might get the first G4 cube. Now? Now I'm thinking Linux runs really well on those new Dell boxes.

Postscript 1: When we tried to restore my existing backups to the new drive, it failed in the middle of the restore. It won't even boot up now. So I drove to the airport this evening and sent it back to Apple.

Postscript 2: Our in-house tech, John, is of the strong opinion that the "noise" that the Apple techs heard in the original hard drive was in fact my CD-ROM drive.

Warehouse 23 News: New In Nomine Shirts Available!

New <i>In Nomine</i> Shirts Available! Warehouse 23 just got a shipment of new In Nomine T-shirts. Look at the design and place an order!

-- Brendon

August 16, 2000: Doing Something Interesting With Their Money

I've often wondered why so few of the Silicon Valley billionaire types do anything really interesting with their wealth. We keep reading about how these are geek types. Well, how about funding some truly geek projects? I mean, if I had a net worth in 10 or 11 figures, I'd be running my own space program, funding more dinosaur research than all the world's governments put together (which wouldn't take all that much, actually), and publishing good science fiction in a way that paid the authors enough to keep them happy, healthy and writing more, even if it lost money . . . just for starters.

Finally, here's somebody thinking the same way.

Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) and Nathan Myhrvold (until recently Microsoft's CTO) have given $12.5 million to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project and the University of California at Berkeley. The money will pay half the cost of the world's largest telescope specifically to search for intelligent signals from space. The project should be finished in 2005.

Thank you, gentlemen. Three cheers.
-- Steve Jackson

August 15, 2000: UFOs attack to control the NSA . . .

Or something like that. Did you know that the National Security Agency has a website where a lot of once-classified documents can be viewed? Here's the UFO section . . . search and see what else you can find . . .

August 14, 2000: Peter Adkison Chats About D&D3

Join us in the Pyramid chat room this Wednesday (August 16th) at 7pm CDT to chat with Peter Adkison, founder and CEO of Wizards of the Coast. He'll be talking about 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

You'll need to be a Pyramid subscriber to attend. Subscribe today!

August 13, 2000: Gen Con Reports & Pix

If you couldn't make it to Gen Con this year, you might enjoy some of the reports being posted elsewhere on our site. Keith Johnson, our Assistant Webmaster, has created his own page of photos from the con. And if you're a Pyramid subscriber, you can read Micah Jackson's con reports, as he reprises the role of Pyramid staff reporter for Gen Con this year.
-- Kira

August 12, 2000: More on Tinfoil Helmets: The Straight Dope

Cecil Adams knows everything. "Everything" includes "everything about protecting yourself from hostile mind-controlling influences." So read what he has to say in The Straight Dope. You will be amazed, delighted, nauseated or bogonified, but you probably won't be running to the store for more Reynolds Wrap.

August 11, 2000: Nyah-Nyah, Can't Abduct Me!

Illuminated Site of the Week: A cosmic game of one-upmanship is raging between humans and aliens, but who's zeroing in on whom? The aliens know where to find their abductees, so Stop Alien Abductions tells you how to build a thought-screen helmet to block their telepathic control. How do the aliens fight back? They steal our helmets.

-- Suggested by Charles Oines

August 10, 2000: We Think it's Jimmy Hoffa

Scientists in Norway are searching for a mammalian sea serpent named Selma. Read the CNN story.

August 9, 2000: Off to Gen Con

Several Steve Jackson Games staffers will be attending Gen Con this weekend. Representing SJ Games are Alain Dawson, Managing Editor; Ross Jepson, Sales and Marketing Manager; Keith Johnson, Assistant Webmaster; and Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch, GURPS Line Editor. Also attending are Russell Godwin, Production Manager; Andrew Hackard, Promotional Writer; and Phil Reed, Art Director. And lots of MIBs will be there as well, ready and willing to run demos of Chez Geek or many of our other great games.

Once again, the kind people of Atlas Games have agreed to let us share their space, so please drop by the Atlas booth and say hi to these SJ Games folks!
--Andrew Hackard

August 8, 2000: Ropecon Report

Ropecon is over, and I had a great time. There were well over 1,500 gaming Finns filling up the convention center. Lots of LARPing, lots of costuming. Here's a picture of an interesting table . . . Yes, the rock walls are inside. Long story. They were a great place for climbing and lurking.

Here's a shot of the INWO tournament. If the cards look a bit funny, they are. They brought out the old playtest cards that I left here last time I visited, in 1994!

Today we're going museum crawling; tonight is the dead dog party. Tomorrow we're going to cruise along the coast, and tomorrow night I'm scheduled to sit in the sauna with some techie types and talk about wireless gaming. Speaking of sauna: for those who remember the INWO card for Finland, no, I did not take my laptop into the sauna this time. A Palm device, yes . . .

Wednesday midmorning I get on the plane and head west, almost but not quite keeping up with the sun. Wednesday afternoon I'll be in Austin after a very long day of travel . . .
-- Steve Jackson

August 7, 2000: Digital Darwinism

This gives new meaning to the term "computer bugs".

August 6, 2000: More In Nomine Collaborative Fiction!

In August of 1999, World Weavers In In Nomine opened its doors with an announcement on the Daily Illuminator. Here's an update on our progress. World Weavers is a net-based collaborative fiction club that supports writing in several different genres. Steve Jackson Games gave us permission to use In Nomine as one of our settings.

After a year, World Weavers In Nomine is growing steadily. We have three groups of angelic characters writing in the settings of Indianapolis, Minneapolis/St. Paul (Twin Cities), and Boston. A demonic unit set in Washington DC will open soon. We don't have any units set outside of the United States yet, but it's not for lack for trying :-).

Right now, we have a waiting list for demonic characters, so the best way to write a demon is to write an angel first to show us that you're competent and reliable enough to run your own WWIN demonic unit.

Collaborative fiction combines elements of traditional roleplaying games, fan fiction and the challenge of writing as part of a group. Members create and develop one or more characters, and cooperatively write the stories which advance the lives and careers of these characters.

If this interests you, take a look at the WWIN Website. You can read our posts from the archive there or on our newsgroup alt.shared-reality.sf-and-fantasy. For more information, send email to the WWIN archive account or World Weavers In Nomine World Admin Lynette R. F. Cowper.

-- Susan Rati, World Weavers Club President

August 5, 2000: Will That Be Diesel, Unleaded, or Canola?

A couple of bright kids at Hampshire College have figured out a way to allow cars to run on vegetable oil -- used vegetable oil, even. They're driving the "Grease Car" across the country to raise awareness for their project. Check out their progress at the Grease Car Web site.
--Andrew Hackard

August 4, 2000: The Secret Toy Surprise Inside

Illuminated Site of the Week: Hold on, Charlie Brown, don't throw that rock out just yet. Crack that bad boy may have one of those genuine Out of Place Artifacts. People find the oddest things set in stone. Is this the work of time travelers? Phasing technology? Or perhaps some practical joker just thinks rocks are too dull.

-- Suggested by Rus Hall

August 3, 2000: Dragon*Con Pix

Dragon*Con Pix A couple of shots taken by John Hurtt at Dragon*Con . . .

Can you tell what is being played in this area? Take as many guesses as you need.

Dragon*Con Pix This is T.J. Jensen's big 1/300 Ogre Miniatures layout, built with GeoHex.

We had a great miniatures schedule at Dragon*Con - between Ogre Miniatures in both 1/300 and Macroture scale, and Car Wars, and the Pirate Game, I could have stayed down there the whole convention.
-- Steve Jackson

August 2, 2000: Now Shipping!

The following products left our warehouse this week, headed for your local game store:

For more than 20 years, the mighty Ogre cybertanks have terrorized boardgamers and miniature players around the world. Now the Ogres are coming to roleplaying.

Take the part of a GEV pilot, driving his craft at fighter-plane speeds a foot off the ground . . . a ragged partisan, armed only with determination and a nuclear bazooka . . . or a brand-new artificial intelligence, awakening to a world in which it is the most dangerous creature of all . . . the Ogre.

#6097, ISBN 1-55634-417-1. $19.95.

Rim of Fire: The Solomani Rim Sourebook (for GURPS Traveller)
The Solomani Rim sector lies at the rimward edge of the Third Imperium. It is an ancient, densely populated region. For six thousand years, the Solomani Rim has been a place of epic revolutions and wars. Today it remains a flashpoint for galactic conflict. The Third Imperium occupies hundreds of worlds, including Terra, the human homeworld. But much of the sector is under the control of the despotic Solomani Confederation.

The Solomani Rim has always been a place where the actions of individual heroes could change the course of history. Today there are still many challenges for the GURPS Traveller player within the Rim of Fire!

#6615, ISBN 1-55634-436-8. $20.95.

GURPS Old West, Second Edition
The American frontier was a legend, even as it was happening. Gunfighters, Indians. cowboys, miners, and mountain men . . . the "rust-eaters" who pushed the rails west . . . the Pony Express . . . the Texas Rangers and the outlaws they fought . . . the settlers battling fire, floods, stampedes, and sickness . . . their adventures made the nation what it is today!

Come west if you've got the guts for it. The weak die on the trail, and the cowards never leave home. Let's see what you're made of, pardner . . .

#6044, ISBN 1-55634-439-2. $19.95.

-- Keith Johnson

August 1, 2000: Halfy Birthday, JTAS!

The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society was relaunched as an online magazine on February 1, 2000. In its first six months, JTAS has racked up over 600 subscribers, and we get more every day!

Congratulations to Loren Wiseman, JTAS editor, and to all the Traveller fans who've made this relaunch successful.
--Andrew Hackard

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