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December 31, 1997: Top News Stories of 1997

Everybody else does their top news stories of the year, filled with things like Princess Di and Mother Theresa and Tiger Woods and the Iowa septuplets and El Nino. So, why should we be any different? Here, we humbly present the Top Gaming News Stories of 1997:

1. Wizards of the Coast buys TSR. Like, duh.

2. Wizards of the Coast gets CCG patent. Perhaps even more imporatant than the actual patent was Wizards' announced plans to obtain licenses from those other card games they thought were in violation of their patent, and to pursue legal remedies against those who refused. The continuing dogfight over all this could easily be the biggest news story of 1998.

3. Mayfair shuts down, rescued by Iron Crown. Hard to believe that the company that brought us Settlers of Catan couldn't make a go of it, but it says a lot about the state of the gaming market in 1997. Iron Crown grabbed up Mayfair as a subsidiary, so at least some of those games will continue to be available.

4. Magic Championships televised on ESPN2. OK, so it was late-night filler. But did you ever think that anything we gamers played would end up on ESPN?

5. Resurgence of inventive roleplaying worlds. From In Nomine to noir, Deadlands, Fading Suns, Trinity, Asylum, Blue Planet and more, it was a good year for roleplaying games.

6. Continued retrenchment in the card industry. The big studs -- Magic, Star Wars, Star Trek, Middle-earth -- were still strong, most everything else faded from sight. Only two major new card games made any impact at all -- FASA's Shadowrun and the Aliens vs. Predator by Harper-Prism (designed by Precedence Publishing).

7. Wizards of the Coast buys Five Rings Publishing. Adding their Legend of the Five Rings title to their already formidable lineup, Wizards also picked up some top-notch marketing talent.

8. More bankruptcies and departures. Companion Games, Daedalus Games, Gamesmiths all called it a career, though Companion and Daedalus both announced plans to be back after reorganization. And Australian Realms and arcane magazines ceased publication after years of excellent articles.

9. Wizards of the Coast opens Game Center. Their Seattle showcase is perhaps the ultimate gamer's clubhouse, with plenty of room for card tournaments, separate private rooms for roleplaying, networked computers for the latest electronic games, an arcade, video rooms, a snack bar, and even its own game store. It's this last part that has some retailers worried -- if this concept is successful and spreads, what does it mean to the existing game stores?

10. GAMA considers restructuring. The talk of last spring's GAMA Trade show was a proposal to kick the retailers and distributors out of the organization, on the premise that the manufacturers had conflicting agendas with the other two divisions. This could of been a more important story in 1997 if, as seems typical with GAMA initiatives, something had actually happened beyond the talk stage.

-- Scott Haring

December 30, 1997: Doing the Backstroke in the Primordial Soup

When Steffan O'Sullivan was here last week, he brought along a German game called Ursuppe - which translates to "Ur-soup," or "Primordial Soup." Each player controls a race of amoebas, eating, reproducing, and acquiring new genes to better deal with competition and the increasing scarcity of food. Fun, and IMHO the best "evolution" game I have played. And the rules come with English translations. Even the game cards have English on one side. Very nice!

By all means look at the web pages (in English!) of the game's creators, Doris Matthäus and Frank Nestel. Steffan has also posted some new gene ideas you can fool with.

Now, what I do NOT know is how you can GET this game. Bug your local retailer; tell him it's an import; see what he says.
-- Steve Jackson

December 29, 1997: Loren Wiseman Joins the Secret Masters!

We're very excited to report that Loren Wiseman, long-time Traveller guru for GDW, is joining the SJ Games staff in January.

Loren is one of the original Secret Masters of Gaming (it was Loren who popularized the phrase, "Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow"). He will be doing a couple of different things for us, including overseeing the GURPS Traveller line of products, as well as art directing and some production.

Of course, we'll also be taking advantage of his years of experience on the convention trail, so be on the lookout.
-- Scott Haring

December 28, 1997: Christmas Blackmail Photos

We had an office Christmas party last week, and (unfortunately for everyone else) I went armed with the new digital camcorder. Quite a neat little toy, the camcorder...
-- Kira

December 27, 1997: We're Closed

The Steve Jackson Games offices are closed. We're all having holiday fun with our family and friends. Hope you are, too.

Well, that's not entirely true . . . While the offices are closed Dec. 25 and 26, and the entire week of Dec. 29 to Jan. 2, you might find one or more of us here, burning the midnight oil.

But you might not. So if you're having trouble reaching us by phone, e-mail, fax or carrier pigeon, that's why. Please don't panic, all will be back to semi-normal on Monday, Jan. 5.

Happy Holidays!
-- Scott Haring

December 26, 1997: The Darwin Awards

Illuminated Site of the Week: The Darwin Awards are given, usually posthumously, to the individual(s) who remove themselves from the gene pool in the most spectacular fashion. You will be amazed at the stories they have collected. Don't try ANY of these at home.

- Site suggested by Shig the Unmentionable (

December 25, 1997: A Christmas Card

I got this Christmas Card yesterday from John Kovalic, our Murphy's Rules artist and a very talented cartoonist. His stuff also appears in Shadis and -- coming soon, he tells me -- Dragon, but remember, he was in Pyramid first!

Anyway, enjoy the card. Merry Christmas!
-- Scott Haring

December 24, 1997: Pyramid 28 to the Printer

The title pretty much says it all, but I'll elaborate anyway . . .

Pyramid #28 left the building late last week, and will be out in January. The issue features a GURPS Black Ops adventure by Gene Seabolt, a Call of Cthulhu - Paranoia crossover you have to see to believe, plus tons of reviews, Industry News, Murphy's Rules and more!
-- Scott Haring

December 23, 1997: Too Much Fun

One thing about the holiday season - people are traveling. Friday we had a visit from Laird Popkin, publisher (with Juliette Hartel) of the only official GURPS supplement NOT put out by SJ Games: IST Kingston. Saturday, Steffan O'Sullivan, author of GURPS Bunnies & Burrows, GURPS Swashbucklers, and zillions of reviews, dropped in for a game. We played a couple of German imports: El Grande (an abstract political game arbitrarily set in medieval Spain) and Ursuppe (amoebas evolve).

And sometime this week, Walter Milliken and the Archangel Beth, creators of GURPS IOU, will be coming by . . . I predict they will like the new IOU t-shirt design. "What t-shirt?" you ask. Well, when you're cleared for it, we'll tell you.
-- Steve Jackson

December 22, 1997: Car Wars Live, South of the Border

The Associated Press reports that the late Mexican drug tycoon Amado Carrillo Fuentes played Car Wars. It doesn't say so in so many words . . . but he had a late-model Dodge Ram pickup with armor plating, solid tires, a smokescreen, an oildropper, and a junkdropper!

December 21, 1997: We're Looking for Sinister Boxes

This photo shows one of the army-surplus lockers that we use to transport our Geo-Hex foam terrain. We think it was an ammo can, but we don't know for sure. It's metal; the lid is a separate piece. There are metal carrying handles that swing out at each end, and three latches on each side and two on each end (see closeup). It's 31.5" long by 19.25" wide, and only 10.5" deep.

We have only three of these. We'd like about five more . . . and we can't find any. They provide really great protection for our nice foam terrain, although transporting them internationally has proven to be a great way to get special attention from customs inspectors. (The time in Germany when a box had a vacuum inside from its hours in the unpressurized hold, and therefore wouldn't open, was especially memorable.)

Whoever brings us information that leads to our buying the cans we want will make the Illuminati very happy; just what you get for your favor will be negotiable. So call your local surplus store . . .
-- Steve Jackson

December 20, 1997: Fierce New Copyright Law

Because we don't want to pay fines of up to a quarter-million dollars for a first offense, and go to jail for up to 3 years, we will carefully not reprint a word of the CNN story about the new copyright bill that Clinton has just signed, including harsh punishments for copying things on the Net. Go read it yourself . . .
-- Steve Jackson

December 19, 1997: Slimy, Yet Satisfying!

Illuminated Site of the Week: Bugs outnumber all other forms of animal life on the planet. Stomping them is noisy and exhausting, and poisons have a tendency to get out of hand. So what'll we do? Well, the creative folks at Iowa State University have come up with a number of Tasty Insect Recipes. Get in the spirit of the season with Banana Worm Bread and Chocolate Chirpie Chip Cookies!

(Site suggested by John Karakash)

December 18, 1997: Pegasus on the Web

Pegasus Press, the German publisher of GURPS, INWO and Dino Hunt, is now on the web. When you get past the home page, of course, some knowledge of German will be helpful.

December 17, 1997: Cool Dino Noises

Sandia National Laboratories has announced a joint project with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science to recreate the sounds that Parasaurolophus might have made 75 million years ago. The low-frequency sound was produced by computer scientists and paleontologists using computed tomography (CT scans) and powerful computers. (Earlier recreations of the dinosaur's voice used physical re-creations of its huge, curved crest.)

You can download sound files at the Sandia website.
-- Steve Jackson

December 16, 1997: Start Your Own AADA Chapter

We've put the AADA Charter Application online, so now you don't need to send us a SASE just to get the form. Just print it out, fill out the info, and send it in with your charter dues, and you'll be an official AADA Chapter.

Also, we maintain a list of active AADA Chapters. Check it out if you're looking for autoduellists near you.

December 15, 1997: Tips for Freelancers

David Pulver, our most prolific GURPS writer, wrote this article for a private mailing list. It was so good we requested, and got, his permission to put it permanently on the web. If you think you might want to write for ANY game company someday, read this.
-- Steve Jackson

December 14, 1997: Triplanetary Counters

Matthew Goldman has created a PostScript file with which you can print out more Triplanetary counters, in your choice of colors, than any sane person could ever need. Have fun. Our thanks to Matthew, and to Stefan Jones for giving us the heads-up that these existed.

December 13, 1997: New Records

On Thursday, we had more than 2500 visits to the SJG homepage - about 800 more than our old record. And we've just topped 10,000 for the week, too. Thanks for visiting us!

And remember, if you'd like to add a link to us on your site, we have a nifty little button for that purpose:

December 12, 1997: Duct Tape

Illuminated Site of the Week: Why is duct tape like the Force? Because it has a bright side, and a dark side, and it holds the Universe together. The Duct Tape Page will answer all your questions about the use, care, and feeding of the world's most powerful tool, unless you want to know about gerbils.

- Submitted by Shig the Unmentionable

December 11, 1997: Plague Ravages SJ Games!

The flu season has hit our crew pretty hard, with up to half the staff (and not always the same half) out on any given day for the past couple of weeks. It's not just Austin; Woody has called in sick from his Secret Tundra Headquarters out there in Minnesota. So you should be wearing a mask when you read this note, in case it's really a computer virus.

December 10, 1997: Thanks, John!

This is just a thank-you to John Blaylock, who bought our old Amiga - the one that used to run the BBS - in the auction.. We know he'll give it a good home.

December 9, 1997: What Do You Want From the GURPS CD-ROM?

We're looking for your comments about the GURPS CD-ROM tentatively set for release sometime next year. So . . . you guessed it . . . we're running another poll. Thanks for your feedback.

December 8, 1997: Angelic Players Guide now shipping!

Yes, the reason that cover looks like a Rowena is because it is. The APG should be in your stores in less than two weeks - maybe a lot less, if they pre-ordered it from their distributors.

In the same shipment is the new printing of GURPS Magic - same edition, just a few typos and whatnot fixed.

December 7, 1997: Adkison Rejects Evil! Film at 11!

Many gamers, judging by posts seen on the net and comments at conventions, are worried that Wizards of the Coast has become, or might become, "evil." Rumored signs or sources of "evil" have included purchases of competing businesses, mass layoffs, changes in artist contracts, direct sales to retailers which would cut out the distribution chain, competition with retailers through their mega Game Center, kind words directed toward Games Workshop, and, of course, their trading card game patent, all of which could be taken as signals of an intention to control the whole industry. But we're happy to report that the whole "evil" issue has been laid to rest.

The current (November) issue of Comics Retailer features an interview with Peter Adkison. In that interview, Adkison squarely addresses the question of "evil," as follows:

"Well, we're certainly not considering anything evil."

There you have it. What could be more definite? I know I'll sleep much better now.
-- Steve Jackson

December 6, 1997: The Warehouse 23 Dumpster

Every week, we get a lot of Warehouse 23 entries that are . . . err . . . not what we are looking for. The Secret Masters are really picky. Most of those entries are swept into oblivion by the almighty Delete key. But a few are just TOO WEIRD to ignore.

So . . . here's the Warehouse 23 Dumpster. Explore it at your own risk. It's never been emptied . . . dig down far enough, and you may find the very first thing the Men in Black ever cleaned off of their warehouse shelves.
-- Steve Jackson

December 5, 1997: Anders' Transhuman Page

Illuminated Site of the Week: Will science make it possible for us to take control of our own evolution, individually or as a race? What's the next step beyond humanity? This page is a collection of resources about transhumanism.

- Submitted by C.D. Skogsberg (
-- Steve Jackson

December 4, 1997: Too Much Coffee Man

If you haven't seen this wonderful and demented cartoon strip, by Austin native Shannon Wheeler, go hit the site now and THEN come back and finish reading.

Those of you who live in Austin already know about Too Much Coffee Man – but did you know that Shannon is doing a signing? Two, actually - 7pm December 6 at Fringeware, 2716 Guadalupe (494-9273) and 3-5pm December 7 at Borders, 10225 Research (795-9553). This is to promote his new book "Wake Up and Smell the Cartoons." Too much weirdness, man.
-- Steve Jackson

December 3, 1997: SJ Games announces its Online Policy!

I get a great deal of e-mail. Much of this mail consists of requests for permission to use the logos, rules, and other intellectual property of Steve Jackson Games in derivative works, like a GURPS character generator, an In Nomine Mush, or a CAR WARS t-shirt for a gaming club. I've probably answered about a hundred of these questions over the few months I've been here. I was taught that anything you're going to do more than two times should have a policy. So, we are now developing a policy regarding the use of Steve Jackson Games related material on the Internet. You can find a draft copy of this policy here. As always, if you have comments or questions, or need any clarification, please send those notes to me.
-- Micah Jackson

December 2, 1997: GURPS Online!

We are very happy to announce that you will soon be able to play GURPS live on the Internet. Sarnath Software will be presenting online GURPS adventures with live GMs beginning soon. Beta testing is ongoing. Please contact Bruce Stephenson for more information, especially if you're an experienced GM. He's looking for you!
-- Micah Jackson

December 1, 1997: Delta Green Online

Those strange and amazing folks at Pagan Publishing have struck again.

If you've been keeping up with Pyramid Magazine at all, you know that I'm a big Call of Cthulhu fan and a great admirer of the Pagan folks. They've done a bunch of great CoC stuff, but perhaps nothing finer than Delta Green, a modern-day creepfest where the truth is really out there, in a way that makes a certain popular monsters-and-conspiracies TV show look like Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Anyway, the latest addition to the Delta Green universe is Delta Green Online. It's got new fiction and scenarios, adventure ideas, and even a way to register as a Delta Green agent! Well worth a visit.
-- Scott Haring

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