The Daily Illuminator

Past columns

September 28, 1995

More Pretty Pictures

[Pyramid #16 Front Cover] Here's yet another cover for you to drool over, this time for Pyramid #16. Our last issue of 1995 (where does the time go?). There's lots of neat stuff in it (as usual, he said humbly), including a Horror adventure suitable for GURPS or any number of other roleplaying systems, reports on our trips to GenCon, Origins, Europe and Brazil (not necessarily in that order), an Earthdawn story with adventure seeds, and lots of other neat stuff.

And even though #16 won't be back from the printer for another three weeks or so, I spent today worrying about what will be in the next issue. The lead article will be ``CybEarth,'' a game world for GURPS Robots where all the humans have died and the robots have decided to take their place in society. We've also got a cyberpunk adventure about losing your heart in virtual reality, more tech magic, and all our wonderful regular features -- including a new one called ``Adventure Pizza.'' What's it about? That would be telling . . . look for it when it comes out at the end of the year.
-- SDH

September 26, 1995

His Name's Carson. He's a Muskrat.

Well, sort of. Actually, he's a cartoon character. One of John Kovalic's cartoon characters, from the strip ``Wild Life,'' which appears in the Wisconsin State Journal and many other newspapers across the country.

So what's Carson doing in the Daily Illuminator? His creator, the aformentioned Mr. Kovalic, is also our cartoonist for ``Murphy's Rules,'' appearing in each and every issue of Pyramid Magazine. And he has a new home page that features online versions of both ``Wild Life'' and ``Murphy's Rules.'' It's our way-cool site of the day (week, month, whatever . . .) and you should definitely check it out.
-- SDH

September 25, 1995

. . . And the Bride Wore White

Regular readers of the Daily Illuminator will recall the announcement last month of the departure of our Sales Manager, Convention Liaison and all-around darling human being Dana Blankenship, lost to the call of True Love and Wedded Bliss. Well, Saturday was the wedding, at the First Christian Church just outside San Marcos, TX, about 30 miles south of Austin.

The bride wore white. The groom wore a tux. Jim Atkiss, recently of TSR's marketing department and now Vice President of Marketing for FPG of Pittsburgh, PA (publishers of the Guardians card game, among other things) was a little nervous but acquitted himself well. Dana was in complete control -- as usual -- and as tradition requires, the most beautiful woman in the room (there's something about that getting married glow that does that . . .).

It was a beautiful wedding, and we offer our wishes of a lifetime of good things to the happy couple. Thus ends the society column -- more game news tomorrow.
-- SDH

September 22, 1995

It's Done! It's Done!

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Scott Haring and Jeff Koke, backed up by the rest of the creative team, GURPS Blood Types went to the printer today. We do expect it to ship on time. This is a Big Win. Get some rest, guys.

I just spent some time going over several of our web files, like the SJ Games FAQ and staff list, that hadn't been updated in a while. Don't want cobweb pages . . . This is a great medium, but you can't rest on your laurels. Things have to be kept fresh, or they're no fun. In that sense, it's very different from book publishing. On the whole, though, I like being able to update the pages any time there's new information. But when you can, you have to . . .

-- Steve Jackson

September 21, 1995

Make Money Free!

No, this isn't one of those horrible spam messages cluttering up the Internet newsgroups about envelope-stuffing, franchise-selling or any number of other pyramid schemes. (Although, when you think about it, we should be pretty good around here at ``pyramid'' schemes . . . get it? ``Pyramid''? Pyramid Magazine? Oh, sometimes I just crack myself up . . .)

Actually, it's a not-so-subtle reminder that we'll pay you to write articles for other game magazines! Of course, Pyramid Magazine stands ready to run your fine gaming articles in our own pages, and pay for the privilege. But there are a lot of other great game magazines out there, and a lot of them want to run articles about our games, particularly GURPS and INWO. They even call and ask us to write them. And frankly, we don't have the time.

So here's the deal: If you write a legitimate article about a Steve Jackson Games product for another gaming magazine (just about anything other than a review applies), and they pay you for it, send us a photocopy of the article and a photocopy of your check -- and we'll match it, up to $100 (and you'll never get less than $10, no matter how cheap the other magazine is . . .). It's that simple.

So sharpen up those pencils, fill up those pens, tune up those word processors -- there's free money to be had out there!
-- SDH

September 19, 1995

Can We Talk About Something Other Than Work?


It's not that I'm unhappy here (lately, I've been having real trouble being unhappy anywhere. But that's another story for another time . . .). It's just that everything's on deadline, and nerves are just bit frazzled, and I'd like to talk about something else today.

Hey, how about them baseball pennant races, huh? Don't care? You are, apparently, not alone. My beloved Houston Astros are a game out from this new-fangled wild card spot, and with less than two weeks to go in the season, they can't draw flies to the Astrodome. Nobody in Houston seems to care. In Seattle, where the Mariners are in a similar race, they had advance ticket sales for last night's game of 13,000 -- and another 17,000 walked up and bought tickets the day of the game. So somebody's interested, somewhere . . .

One bit of office news . . . it looks like the Nov./Dec. issue of Pyramid Magazine is going to the printer today. We'll get the cover up on the Illuminator soon.
-- SDH

September 18, 1995

GURPS Blood Types -- New for October

[GURPS Blood Types] Another product we're sweating over to get out in October is GURPS Blood Types. Blood Types will be the definitive vampire sourcebook for all sorts of campaigns. Nearly every culture since the dawn of time had their own unique vampire myths, and this book covers damn near all of them. You can use this book to base an entire campaign on vampires (as either fearless vampire hunters or as the hell-bound fiends themselves!), or just to toss in some vampiric flavor into any number of other GURPS campaigns.

This is a cool book with a Tim Bradstreet cover (pretty, huh?) and Dan Smith interiors. Check it out.
-- SDH

September 14, 1995

GURPS Fantasy -- Back in October

[GURPS IOU Front Cover] Yes, indeedy, GURPS Fantasy went off to the printer. Here's a look at the cover . . .

The next issue of Pyramid, #16 is moving along nicely, too. Now if only I can get GURPS Blood Types finished, October will look absolutely peachy. Anybody got any No-Doz?

More updates (and more covers) to come . . .
-- SDH

September 12, 1995

Progress on GURPS Fantasy

This book, delayed by our little power outage, was finished today and checked tonight. It should be fixed up and sent out tomorrow morning. It's too soon to say whether the Oct. 23 ship date is endangered . . . but right now, that's the way to bet.

But when it comes out, it will look really nice. It's been completely re-illustrated by Guy Burwell, with a new graphic design by Jeff Koke. Check this out for a (little) foretaste of what GURPS Goblins will look like . . . Burwell is illustrating that one, too.
-- Steve Jackson

September 11, 1995

Welcome, Claudia

Today is Claudia Smith's first day as our Sales Manager. She's Dana's replacement. Well, nobody could replace Dana . . . but Claudia's going to put her own spin on things, and it will all work out. Today she gets to do a week's worth of solicitations. After that things will get really busy.
-- Steve Jackson

September 10, 1995

No Light, No Power

What do the Secret Masters do without power? What do the Illuminated Ones do without light?

Well, we sit around in the dark . . .

Austin was hit, last Thursday, by its worst storm in at least 15 years. Trees went down; signs and small buildings blew around; a large part of the city lost power. Why are we only telling you about it now? Because this building only got its electricity back a bit before midnight Sunday.

Fortunately, IO only lost power for about 45 minutes. But here, east of the freeway, we didn't get much done over the weekend. This may mean that the October ship date (GURPS Fantasy) is delayed. We'll see.

And it was really exciting Thursday while the storm was right overhead. We had water blowing up under the eaves and into the computer room; we had 60-mph gusts trying to blow the warehouse doors right off (with Brenda, Mindy and I hanging onto them, they still flapped around like playing cards in front of a fan); and for a while it looked like it was raining inside the warehouse. And when it was over, there were several fallen trees to deal with.

Texas weather. Gotta love it.
-- Steve JAckson

September 7, 1995

More from NanCon

What were they playing this weekend at NanCon?

Of course, every convention has its own character and traditions, so it's dangerous to make any generalizations about the state of the game industry or anything, but . . . Anyway, what they were mostly playing was roleplaying. The biggest events were the two AD&D tournaments, one for individuals and one for teams. Many of the attendees came just for those two events.

A lot of other RPGs got played, too -- Call of Cthulhu, Werewolf, Vampire, Shadowrun, and a lot of GURPS. Card games did OK -- there was a small but dedicated group of Magic players there, and INWO got quite a workout, too. Of the newest games, Highlander seemed to draw the most interest in open gaming.

On the boardgame front, there was a strong BattleTech tournament, and both Axis & Allies and Civilization drew well, but boardgames were definitely running third.

But I did see one thing that warmed my heart -- two teenaged girls in open gaming on the last day of the con, laughing and smiling . . . over a game of GDW's A House Divided. There's hope for wargaming yet . . .
-- SDH

September 6, 1995

See the U.S.A., in your Chevrolet

I thought the convention travel season would end when the summer ended . . . how wrong I was.

I spent the Labor Day weekend in Houston at NanCon 88-XVII (that's right, the 17th edition of something called, for reasons no one exactly remembers, ``NanCon 88''). I had a wonderful time, got to run lots of INWO demos and an INWO tournament, answer tons of questions and even hand out some of the prizes at the awards ceremony at the end of the con. Like I said before, I had a great time.

NanCon gets it's name from the sponsoring hobby shop, Nan's Games and Comics, Too! Nan's is run by a chain-smoking game lover with long, gray hair in a ponytail named Frank Joines. Frank has run Nan's for at least 20 years -- I remember when the store was called Nan's Toys and Games and was located in the Houston Galleria, then (and now) the toniest, most upscale of the Houston malls. Nan's was located right next to the movie theater at the west end of the mall on the first floor. When I was first discovering these weird adventure games as a college freshman (back in 1975, for you whippersnappers), it was a 100-mile drive from Texas A&M to Nan's. But it was a holy pilgrimage, for Nan's was the only store in southeast Texas (in 1975) that carried these games. As a 17-year-old college freshman, Frank Joines sold me my first funny-shaped dice, my first lead miniatures and my first roleplaying game -- Dungeons & Dragons, of course, the three tan-bound booklets in the white box. It would be safe to say that Frank Joines and Nan's changed my life. And 20 years later, we're both still at it. Thanks, Frank.

But that's not all the traveling up our sleeves -- Convention Liaison Becca Bross spent the weekend at some sort of East Coast invitation-only relaxi-con called ``Weekend at Craig & Tadley's.'' And Derek leaves tomorrow for Greenville, SC and a con called Fanfaire. I'll get him to post something when he gets back, though frankly, I'm more interested in that Craig & Tadley's thing . . .
-- SDH

September 3, 1995

The Worldhouse Goes Online

Alex von Thorn is an old friend, author of Tredroy and one of the writers of GURPS Cyberpunk. And his store, the Worldhouse, is now on the Web! Good on you, Alex. In his own words:

The Worldhouse, Toronto's oldest game store, is pleased to announce our new site on the World-Wide Web, with the cooperation of Magic Online Services. You can find us at

Some of the things you can find on our Web pages are:

* What's New at The Worldhouse? (Find out about new games. Updated daily.)
* Games Reference Page
* Clubs, conventions, campaigns, and special events.
* What's Happening at The Worldhouse?

Of course, as with many Web sites, this is a developing project. (Right now I'm doing research to add a bunch of links to the games reference page.) One of the reasons we're announcing it now is so that you can tell us what you want us to include, and so that we can put links from our pages to yours, so we can be a clearinghouse of useful information for the Canadian gaming community.

So drop by for a visit!

Alexander von Thorn, 416-608-7464
Manager, The Worldhouse (Toronto's specialty game store)
Guest Coordinator, Toronto Trek 10

September 2, 1995

Seattle is Cool

Which is wonderful for a refugee from Austin's summer heat. Even better, though, Seattle is full of cool stuff. I promised to fill you in on what else I saw last weekend - all right, weekend before last, now - at Dragonflight.

I got to play with the Nintendo "Virtual Boy." Very nice. The image is all red, but crisp as can be. The illusion of three dimensions is good, and the games are fun. I can see why they had to program it to kick the player out every so often . . . otherwise, you really might just sit there with your head in that thing for hours on end, going beep boop beep until your fingers wore off.

Bthat wasn't an option for me . . . I just had a few days in town. The con was a lot of fun, and better yet, they didn't mind if I cut out once in a while to see the rest of their city. So what did I do? I went to Archie McPhee's.

If you're not familiar with this Mecca of High Weirdness, I hardly know where to begin. Imagine a store with all the neat, strange, stupid toys and STUFF in the whole world, stacked as high as it will go. With more hanging from the ceiling. For instance, I bought a porcelain hand and a book on gargoyles (as gifts) and, for myself, a kit of eggs that will hatch out things that EAT sea-monkeys; a container of glow-in-the-dark goo; and a very realistic rubber Cat-Eyed Snake. (If you want their great catalog, write them at PO Box 30852, Seattle WA 98103.)

Peter Adkison of WotC took me by their offices (huge, beautiful, and too small . . . they're moving) where I was shot at by a Nerf gun and spent hours playing Great Dalmuti. We also went to the Pike's Place Market, a huge collection - some indoors, some out - of shops, restaurants, grocery stalls, florists . . . just incredibly neat. I bought a couple of books and a couple of papyrus plants. (And they made it home just fine, too, and they're now in my pond.)

And, maybe best of all, I got to look at some glass. One of the things on my must-do list for Seattle was to see some of Dale Chihuly's sculpture. I did. Wow. I want some. I was also very impressed by another artist, William Morris. He started out as a student of Chihuly's, but the work he's doing now is very different . . . inspired by prehistoric burial sites and primitive artifacts. It sounds spooky, and it is, but it's also grippingly beautiful and fires the imagination.

Yes, Seattle is very cool. I want to go back.
-- Steve Jackson

September 1, 1995

Goodbye, Summer

Where does the time go? Another month gone, and with it the summer. I won't miss the heat, that's for sure, but I won't have to for a while yet -- down here, the summer heat persists through September and often well into October . . .

Sorry about missing a couple of days on the old Illuminator. Steve'll be back with some more news about his Seattle trip soon. Other convention news: I'll be at NanCon 88 - XVI in Houston this weekend. We'll be at the Ramada Inn Northwest, so if you're in the neighborhood, be sure to drop by and say hello. I'll be running INWO demos and a tournament, and doing lots of other things, too.

And don't forget -- if you missed any of the Daily Illuminator entries from last month you can always check out our past columns page.
-- SDH

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