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August 31, 1998: Traveller News Service by E-mail

Those of you who have been reading the Traveller News Service on our GURPS Traveller page can now get it by e-mail, too. Just send mail to with the message "subscribe traveller".

And for the curious, GURPS Traveller is scheduled to ship out from SJ Games on September 14th.

August 30, 1998: Too Many Connections

Since the launch of the GURPS Technomancer playtest board last Monday, we've started having problems with the web server, things like "too many connections" errors on the message boards, people unable to access certain Pyramid pages (or the moo), and other related Pyramid pages because the sql server is overloaded.

We're working on solutions. In the meantime, if you have problems, please just wait a few moments and try reloading the page - that will usually solve it.
-- Kira

August 29, 1998: Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

But snakes it is. Ophiophobes, this would be a good week NOT to visit us. Melissa Brunson has adopted a small Ball Python named Fnord. Reese Harrell then took in his big brother, as yet unnamed. They are both very friendly; one might even say cuddly.

In the picture to the left, Reese and Melissa compare notes (or scales). To the right, Reese models her new choker necklace while Fnord climbs over Melissa's arm.

August 28, 1998: We Aren't Talking About Pierced Eyebrows

Illuminated Site of the Week: Here is an personal account of investigations into Cattle Mutilations, including UFOS, black helicopters and more. Lock your barn doors!

- Submitted by Rachel McGregor Rawlings

August 27, 1998: A Truckload of Dinosaurs

We had to rent a forklift to do it, but the Nature Company's Dino Hunt order hit the road today. They should be hitting the stores in October. Our first real shot at the mass market . . . wish us luck! And if you have friends who really, really need to buy the game, send them to the Nature Company . . .
-- Steve Jackson

August 26, 1998: Watch This Space!

Those of you who have tried to order SJ Games products through Barnes & Noble Online have undoubtedly been disappointed by the "Sorry, that book is not available" messages when you use their search engine. We are making arrangements for B&N Online to stock our products for quick shipment, and will announce the fact as soon as we conclude the deal.
-- Loren Wiseman

August 25, 1998: Kelly Singletary Named To SJ Games Board

Kelly Singletary, who has been our CFO since 1996, has been elected to the post of corporate Treasurer and to a seat on our Board of Directors. We have some choppy waters to steer through in the next year, and his is a good hand to have on the wheel . . .

-- Steve Jackson

August 24, 1998: Pyramid Subscriptions Continue!

We're very pleased with the way the online Pyramid is going, and apparently the readers are too. We had 62 new subscriptions just last week. Now, at our annual subscription rate of a whopping $15, that's not going to let us buy WotC any time soon . . . but it's getting closer to break-even, and for a Web project, that's unusual.

If you haven't checked us out yet, please do! You can look at the first few paragraphs of every article, even the new ones, for free.

August 23, 1998: Looking for Origins Award Info

In trying to build a page to list our own awards over the last couple of decades, we found that there is no central record of all Origins nominees. The GAMA page lists all winners, but not nominees.

Now it turns out that the administrator of that page, Charles Ryan, would LIKE to add the nomination info. So . . . if you have back files of magazines that carried the ballots, and you'd like to help get that archive built, get it to me. I'll pass it along.

We currently have only the ballots for 1990 (that is, games released in 1989) and later - we need all the earlier ones. If you've got some, you can fax them to 512-447-1144 . . . except, if you are reading this after August 1998, it's probably already taken care of, so e-mail me first to inquire. Thanks!
-- Steve Jackson

August 22, 1998: Aaron Allston's New Book

Aaron Allston is an old friend of SJ Games, and his latest book, Iron Fist, comes out this month.

Iron Fist is Book #6 in the X-Wing Series of Star Wars novels. Aaron also wrote #5, The Wraith Squadron. Another gamer-turned-big-time-author, Mike Stackpole, wrote the first four books in the series.

Aaron's new book is no doubt available at a bookstore near you, but you can also get it online at or a number of other online booksellers.

August 21, 1998: Peeps Science!

Illuminated Site of the Week: In order to discover the strengths and weaknesses of this most ubiquitous lifeform, the folks hosting this web page put Peeps, those bastions of sucrose-intensified Spring celebration, through a rigorous battery of tests. Check it out and see how these little critters held up.

Disclaimer: All Peeps in these studies were volunteers.
Warning! Some Peeps were harmed in these experiments.

- Submitted by Brent Stypczynski

August 20, 1998: GURPS Technomancer Playtest Files Posted!

After a short delay (David Pulver's computer blew up, and he can't cast the Repair spell -- not yet, anyhow), the first draft of GURPS Technomancer is now available for playtesting! Technomancer is an original new setting for GURPS: an alternate history where the Trinity nuclear bomb test in 1945 unleashed mana and magical creatures on Earth, leading to a technomagical society in the 1990s.

The playtest discussion board will be activated on Monday, August 24. This is to encourage people to read the whole thing and maybe even game a bit before they post playtest comments. Remember: you have to be a Pyramid subscriber to playtest! Subscribe today!

--Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch

August 19, 1998: New Level in the Warehouse

Warehouse 23 just keeps on growing... We just recently opened Level 5! That's more than 4,000 items the secret masters don't want the world to see, and still counting. Enter at your own risk...

August 18, 1998: Quick Bits

Dino Hunt Support

Andrew Walters ( is our new Dino Hunt web page maintainer. And you can now subscribe to a Dino Hunt mailing list just send mail to with the message "subscribe dinohunt".

The Game Formerly Known As . . .

It turns out that we may have to find a name other than Darwinopoly. When we get that sorted out, we will announce it and send the game to the printer.

August 17, 1998: Discworld and Egypt Shipping!

Shipping this week from Steve Jackson Games:

GURPS Discworld brings the incredibly popular (and wonderfully hilarious) world of Terry Pratchett's Discworld to roleplaying! Written by Pratchett and Phil Masters, GURPS Discworld also includes the 32-page GURPS Lite in the back, making the book a complete, stand-alone roleplaying game!

GURPS Egypt is Thomas Kane's tome of Egyptian wonders, from prehistoric times to the time of the pharaohs, through the Ptolemaic decline. It's another entertaining, thoroughly-researched book in the celebrated line of GURPS historical sourcebooks.

Also shipping and returning to store shelves everywhere is GURPS Creatures of the Night. Look for all three books on the shelves in the next week or two.

-- Scott Haring

August 16, 1998: Vehicles Companion Needs You!

Freelance author Steve Hammond is working on GURPS Vehicles Companion for late this year (or perhaps early next). It will have lots of neat additions to the GURPS Vehicles rules, but mostly it will have tons of sample vehicles, already built and ready to go. Steve has set up his own web site to solicit contributions; go check it out!
-- Scott Haring

August 15, 1998: A Bad Day In Austin

As we all know, the game market has changed a great deal, and not for the better. SJ Games is reorganizing to deal with a world that is very different from the one of a few years ago, or even last year. The most painful part of that reorganization: we are cutting our payroll to a manageable size while the company as a whole is still viable.

Effective today, we have laid off four staff members and rearranged several duties. Our current staff assignments should permit us to retrench effectively.

We will continue to support our roleplaying lines fully. We will increase our support for conventions. We will continue to support Pyramid Magazine and our website; in fact, more website improvements are coming soon. This is where the future is.

However, some production-intensive (and expensive) projects will be delayed. INWO SubGenius will be our last card set for a while, and Deluxe Illuminati will be a winter release at the earliest. The GURPS CD-ROM is being pushed back, and some other "skunk works" projects are going on the back burner for now.

I'm setting aside my editorial duties for now; they will be in good hands. I will be doing - of all things - sales. Our distributors, and the retailers they serve, are vital to us. To adapt to this changing market, I need to learn everything I can about the distributors' problems and needs, and I need to get it straight from them . . . and they need to know that they can call ME any time.

This is very painful, but by doing it now, and working both smarter and harder, we think we've done what it takes to stay here and keep making more games. Thanks for your support.
-- Steve Jackson

August 14, 1998: Hasbro Buys MicroProse!

Toy giant Hasbro, which just a few days ago announced an agreement to buy The Avalon Hill Game Company, has now unveiled another takeover: game software publisher MicroProse. Commented industry observers, "Well, now we know what they're going to do with Avalon Hill!" Read all about both acquisitions in Pyramid Magazine.

Illuminated Site of the Week: I Want My Warp Drive

Illuminated Site of the Week: See what NASA is up to in the area of exotic propulsion systems. This site, titled "Warp Drive When?", explains the physics behind problems of warping space and travelling faster than light.

This site is supported by the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program, out of NASA's Lewis Research Center, which is charged "to seek the ultimate breakthroughs in space transportation:

  1. Propelling a vehicle without propellant mass,
  2. attaining the maximum transit speeds physically possible, and
  3. creating new energy production methods to power such devices."

- Brett Slocum

August 13, 1998: In Nomine Song Book Playtest Files Available

. . . if you're a Pyramid subscriber, of course.

The In Nomine Song Book is a collection of, well, songs for the In Nomine roleplaying game. There's lots of other stuff in there, too, like rules for combining songs, creating new songs, using songs to counter other songs, and lots more.

That's not going to be the real name of the book, by the way. As soon as we get the finer points of the Latin figured out, we'll announce what it is.

Anyway, click here to get access to the files. A discussion group goes up tomorrow for you to talk about what you've found. And like I said before, access to the files and discussion group are for Pyramid subscribers only -- so subscribe already!
-- Scott Haring

August 12, 1998: GenCon and Worldcon

Reports from the big shows are trickling in.

Worldcon it seems clear that the MIB contingent ROCKED, and that gaming in general went extremely well; one correspondent thinks a new standard for Worldcons has been set. GURPS Discworld was popular, and the booth did quite well.

GenCon - John Nephew of Atlas reports that booth sales were excellent across the board (he attributes much of this to the problem gamers have been having in getting things at their retailers). As for the convention as a whole, both bitter complaints and happy praise have been seen online; it will be a while before either fan or company reactions really sort themselves out.

On the downside, there were no "hopeful" announcements from distributors or from the one company in a position to affect distribution by a single announcement. That suggests that the industry, as a whole, will have to endure some more same (or worse) before looking for an upturn.
-- Steve Jackson

August 11, 1998: Allen & Beth's African Adventure

Last week's terrorist bombings in Kenya and Tanzania made me think of Allen Varney and Beth Fischi. The couple are traveling through Africa this year, and posting sporadic reports on their web site. Their last entry, dated early July, was from Kenya, with Tanzania next on their itinerary. Fascinating reading, and well worth checking out.

Allen is a former employee of SJ Games and a long-time freelancer in the business; he's written articles for Duelist and InQuest magazine, adventures and novels for TSR, West End Games, us (who could forget Globbo?) and plenty others. Beth has done some writing and editing for White Wolf, too. The two of them quit their day jobs this spring, put their stuff in storage and just took off for Africa. When they return to Austin, they'll start over, saving as much money as they can for when they can chuck it all and go travelling again -- no telling where. Like I said, fascinating reading. Check it out.
-- Scott Haring

August 10, 1998: Evil Stevie's Con Schedule

My convention schedule for next year is beginning to flesh out:

Radcon 2C - Feb 12-14 - Tri-Cities, WA

JohnCon - Feb. 19-21 - Baltimore, MD

ConQuest - April 2-5 - Australia

MarCon - May 7-9 - Columbus, OH

ConDuit 9 - May 21-23 - Salt Lake City, UT

InConJunction - July 4 weekend - Indianapolis, IN

For a detailed, look at our convention page. Of course, I note that none of these 1999 cons have submitted their information yet . . . so I will poke them, I will.
-- Steve Jackson

August 9, 1998: Kind Words for the IPG

The new issue of Shadis Magazine reviews the Infernal Players' Guide favorably; we always like to hear the phrase "must-have." The reviewer closed by calling the book "a framework for fully-fleshed, three-dimensional characters that, like their angelic contemporaries, generate as many interesting thoughts about human nature as they do about the game itself." Since that's exactly what we wanted to achieve, with the book and with the game, it's very good to hear that we succeeded . . .
-- Steve Jackson

August 8, 1998: New Faces

Just arrived, to fill a couple of positions that have been empty too long . . .

S. John Ross, who you know as the author of GURPS Russia and many, many GURPS articles, has arrived to take over development of the GURPS CD. He will also be dealing with archiving, helping on Pyramid, and generally making himself editorial. For more about S. John, visit his own web site, The Blue Room.

Reese Harrell is Steve's new assistant, giving him a slightly better "Be Two Places At Once" roll. She'll also be filling (and helping to define) the job of Retail Sales Manager, improving our online catalog offerings. She comes from Houston, where she worked for Frontier Games while attending the University of Houston as a pre-med major. She will be transferring to UT in the spring and changing her major to journalism.

Reese's interests range from politics and the environment to prehistoric art. Her favorite games include Call of Cthuhlu, In Nomine, Illuminati, Teenagers From Outer Space, Werewolf, and Vampire.

August 7, 1998: Not Yoda Too!

Illuminated Site of the Week: The Sound Doctrine site discovered the true purpose of the Star Wars movies: recruitment propaganda for Satan!

Make sure you go up to the top level to see some of their other discoveries, such as possessed clones, the evils of Christian rock and television, and the truth behind Catholics.

- Brett Slocum

August 6, 1998: The Baby Express Rolls On

Hot on the heels of Kelly Singletary's new son, production artist Celeste Hollister and her husband Steve are the proud parents of a new baby girl.

Katrina Beth Hollister was born July 31 at 9:07 a.m., and weighs in at a robust 9 lbs., 4.6 oz. Mother and baby are both doing well. Congratulations, Celeste!
-- Scott Haring

August 5, 1998: Congratulations to Illuminati Online!

IO, which started off as the SJ Games BBS and eventually spun off into a separate company, is doing quite well. Their revenues may exceed ours this year (no surprise, the way the game indusry is spasming, but it also means THEY are growing). IO is now the biggest private ISP in Austin; they recently hit the 7,000-account milestone, and I'm proud of the way they keep on supporting their customers as well as (or better than) we did when it was a one-room operation with 300 users.

To see what they're up to, hit the IO home page.
-- Steve Jackson

August 4, 1998: Flash! Hasbro buying Avalon Hill

A Reuters report confirms persistent net rumor: Monarch Avalon has agreed to sell its game division to Hasbro for $6 million in cash, pending stockholder approval. According to an AOL posting from an Avalon Hill employee, all AH staff have been laid off; this has not been confirmed. We'll bring you more as the story develops . . .
-- Steve Jackson

August 4, 1998: Hi. Miss Me?

Yep, I'm back. As Steve noted some weeks ago, the wedding was beautiful, the reception fun, and Belize was magnificent. There will be a web page, with lots of pictures, soon. Watch this space for announcements.

Many thanks to the crew -- Jack Elmy, Alain Dawson and Celeste Hollister -- for keeping Pyramid going and getting lots of important product out the door while I was gone. Extra special thanks to those in other departments -- Monica Stephens, Gene Seabolt, Melissa Brunson and Steve hisownself -- who pitched in.

Give me a day or three to get caught up on the e-mail and the regular mail and everything else, and we'll be back in the swing of things. Thanks.
-- Scott Haring

August 3, 1998: Lego Dinosaurs!

If you've ever seen my .sig file, you know that Lego and dinosaurs are two of my manias. Well, check out Suzanne Rich's Lego dinosaurs!

This "museum exhibit" is just a small part of her city of Legopolis . . . I'm boggled. If you like Lego, you'll be boggled too.

-- Steve Jackson

August 2, 1998: Darwinopoly! At Last!

Since 1989 (really!) we have been working on Darwinopoly, a really different roleplaying game. Based on a design by Uplift author David Brin and developed by Yr. Humble Servant, this is a game in which each player takes the part of a cave man or woman . . . creating tribal laws, and struggling to keep the children fed.

It's been popular when we playtested it at conventions; I've just always been concerned that we'd scare people away if we released it in a big fancy box. So here it is, not in a big fancy box, but in a $9.95 ziplock edition. The graphics are great, but the packaging is affordable.

This game will debut at Worldcon; we will be running demonstrations and selling it at our booth . . . or if you are going to GenCon, visit the Atlas table. They will have our line.

It will be available to retailers; it will ship with GURPS Discworld and GURPS Egypt, and should be on sale in late August. Or you can order direct from our online catalog.
-- Steve Jackson

August 1, 1998: Atlas, SJ Games to Cooperate at August Cons

AUSTIN, TX and ROSEVILLE, MN Steve Jackson Games and Atlas Games are pleased to announce an arrangement whereby each will represent the other at the major conventions, the World Science Fiction Convention and Gen Con, the weekend of August 6-9, 1998.

John Nephew, president of Atlas Games, stated, "This is a small but important cooperative effort. Our products will be made available exclusively at the SJ Games booth at WorldCon, exposing such broadly appealing games as Once Upon A Time and Cults Across America to a new audience of science fiction fans. Likewise, we will be proud to be the sole vendor of Steve Jackson Games at GenCon, offering such perennial favorites as GURPS and In Nomine as well as exclusive new releases.

"This sort of cooperation serves both of our companies and the attendees of each convention. Granting exclusivity makes the deal feasible by assuring that other vendors will not undercut sales of the most popular items, making it possible for us to devote space to more of each others' products. The result is a wider range of products at both cons than would otherwise be found at either."

Steve Jackson commented, "What he said."

Both companies have exciting new releases that will debut simultaneously at the two shows.

Steve Jackson Games will release GURPS Discworld, based on the best-selling fantasy series by Terry Pratchett, and Darwinopoly, by Steve Jackson and award-winning SF author David Brin, a combination roleplaying/boardgame in which the players take on the roles of primitive tribesmen, re-inventing society and protecting their children.

Atlas Games will premiere Cults Across America, the Call of Cthulhu boardgame of Mythos cultists attempting to rule the USA, and The Wizard's Grimoire Revised Edition, a long-awaited core sourcebook for the Ars Magica game.

My, It's Hot

As I write this addendum, early Friday morning, I'm just back from a pre-dawn trip to the airport to send off the Final Trumpet disks to the printer. And it was already or, rather, still hot outside. We understand that some of you out there have more rain than you need. We would be quite happy to take it off your hands.
-- Steve Jackson

Past columns

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