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Hunted Down
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  The Man in the Mirror of Play By Mail
Posted by: GrimFinger - 07-17-2017, 02:05 AM - Forum: Editorials - Replies (16)

It has been said that all good things must end.

When you ponder the end of life, itself, then the end of play by mail gaming seems to draw the short straw of interest. As I grow older and older and older (still not old, technically, yet), my thoughts and my gaze shift. Not that play by mail gaming ever suffered from a shortage of distractions. Hell, distractions were the one area that PBM gaming always managed to log a net surplus.

No matter what, I always seem to manage to lose my way. Perhaps that is my true destiny, my ultimate calling - to ever remain lost, to ever personify the concept. Just when the footing seems true, I slip and fall again into the abyss.

All progress halted. All hope abandoned.

Theories have been advanced. Theories have been tested. Yet, all has been for naught - or so it seems. With all light extinguished - the light of desire, a desire to continue on, I have flailed about in what some whisper to themselves in their moments of quietest solitude as "the real world." Even still, I manage to find my way back here.

Not just to this website. not just to this forum. But, to this section, even to the very button which allows me to archive this moment of thought.

Through it all, from beneath the ashes of all that lies in ruin, one things is certain - and that is that of all things that I bring to this contest that is play by mail gaming, the one thing that I do not bear and bring forth is certainty.

One minute, everything is going fine. The next, and all momentum has collapsed. Far from a blessing to play by mail gaming, I am a curse. No doubt, even now, many are they that rise in applause of this one statement.

Just join some games, I told myself. Go on, just give it a try. Invariably, sickness followed. In days gone by, games were a reprieve from the miseries that occasional bouts with sickness would bring. They could even destroy monotony. Boredom dared not go toe to toe with PBM games, for fear it would be swiftly vanquished!

Not so, now.

Publishing a magazine becomes a chore.

Or does it?

Suspense & Decision only works, when there is decision to go long with the suspense. Publication of nothing generates no enthusiasm. It inspires nothing! Yet, what is a fellow to do? What does one do, when that man in the mirror simply won't cooperate?

And, so, now you know. I am lost in my own mirror of thought, a mirror universe where play by mail is no more. Has it ever even existed there, at all? Honestly, I'm just not sure.

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what we've tried, what we've given a go at. It doesn't matter who has said what, who has thought what, nor even who has done what. The Rubicon materializes, anew.

Taunting me.

Daring me to cross it, once more. Whispering to me that before was only an illusion. Screaming at me that all was for naught!

So much to do. So much that needs to be done. Yet, here I sit, writing. Just jotting down thoughts as they come to me.

Saying nothing. Thinking nothing. Doing nothing.

Like I said, all good things must end.

I'm done.

I no longer care.

I don't care about what we tried, about what succeeded or what failed. I don't care what anyone wanted. I don't even care about what I wanted.

Hell, for that matter, I don't even know what I wanted.

What was I thinking? What was I hoping? What was I reaching for?

I am in a funk from which there is no escape. I should be ashamed of myself, for even polluting this forum with this sorry excuse for a posting. What a wretched excuse for a thread about play by mail gaming!

This is babble, not gaming!

For you, though, it is probably akin to a message in a bottle. You had hoped for a life pod, some sign that I escaped, and that the magazine could go on, anew. Either that or you had hoped - fervently hoped - that I would not be heard from, again.

Or something else.

So much time spent, so much effort expended.


Surely, I didn't just say that. Surely, I didn't just post that.

It doesn't even amount to a mere drop in a bucket.

Who am I trying to kid?

When I stare in a mirror, I get no answers. The mirror that I stare the most frequently into, the mirror that I stare the deepest into, is the one located in my own mind's eye.

After all, you don't need a real mirror, just to stare into one.

Just like you don't need a real game, to be entertained by one.

Honestly, I just sit here with my face in my hands, when I ponder what to do about it all. I can't save PBM. Hell, people, I can't even save myself!

Melodrama. False crisis. Much ado about nothing!

So, I am going to step out of this pile of manure of my own creation, and I am going to go on a journey. Know, that I do sincerely appreciate the time that you have given me, the interest that you have shown, both in this website and in the magazine and in this shared interest that is our hobby of play by mail gaming.

But, the time has come to move on. The time has come for me to head down a new path, for me to take a new route. Destination? Nowhere.

Suspense & Decision is dead.

It always has been.

It was still born.

All this time, we were all simply pretending.

I miss Paper Mayhem. I still miss Flagship. I can't really say that I miss Suspense & Decision.

My thumb began twitching, when I wrote that, just now. Life remains full of irony, it seems, even at this late date, even at this late hour of the night.

By the way, did I mention that we have a solar eclipse coming up? From what little that I understand, it will probably be the best one in my lifetime that remains.

Not sure if I will participate. You might want to check it out, though. I hear that it will be quite the show.

Me? I'll be here, accomplishing nothing. Who knows? If we're lucky, maybe I can get the final issue of Suspense & Decision out the door by then. If so, then it will give you something to read, when the sun goes out.

The final issue.

If you have something that you would like to be included in this issue, then send it to me at my new e-mail address of: charlesmosteller@protonmail.com

There is no publication date. Just whenever I get around to it.

Take care!

God bless you, one and all!

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  Hunted Down
Posted by: jperkins - 07-16-2017, 02:42 AM - Forum: Introduce Yourself - Replies (1)

After handing over the running of my main game, fleeing to the other side of the world and keeping quiet for a few decades, you'd think you'd be safe from your ex-players. But abuse a group of people for sufficiently long and some of them will persist.

And so I was t tracked down in Indianapolis by some determined gamers in Australia to hear that the Tribe Net had been running for some time in its latest guise and was in expansion mode. I was a little surprised, thinking several decades of game development and the emphasis on immediacy in the world of online multiplayer games had surely seen the demise of PBM/PBEM. I wasn't even sure how well 2 week turnaround would stand up these days, but decided to give it a try and ended up happily involved as a player this time.

Well, mostly. Old habits die hard and there was a feeling that there was room for a little something else in the game, nothing that shook things up too much but which provided a chance for those who wanted to get a bit more involved and fill in the time between turn submission and turn report.  So now I'm running cultural/sporting events largely based on tribal skills within the game and bringing small rewards. So far this game year we've held the Tribal Games and a Song Contest which most people entered at the simpler end of the spectrum but which did include some actual songs submitted by players as well as a music video from one. Next up is the World Cup for the local ball game and an art competition is going to round out the year.

A long way from running the original Tribe Vibes as it was, a longer lasting cricket game on a smaller scale and various more military based games along with some Diplomacy zines. But, if I ever decide to run something major full time, just have me committed to an institution. Please.

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  Legends: Vote for the Next Game
Posted by: Harlequin - 07-05-2017, 10:18 AM - Forum: New Games Launching - No Replies

We want to know what Legends Module to run for you Next?

Yahoo ID is required to join the Whispers Yahoo Group and answer the Poll.

Help us answer the question!

Poll closes Noon Monday 10th July

Copyright © 2017 Harlequin Games, All rights reserved.

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  Olympia: The Age of God - Scenario 2
Posted by: sun-e - 03-27-2017, 12:17 PM - Forum: Play-By-Mail Games - Replies (1)

Hi there,

here are the english rules (scenario) of our second game

And here is the signup to the game:

You need to choose a priority in nations, because we try to start the game with minimum of 2-3 players per nation.

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  Legends: Blood Tides 3 Explorer Game open for Pledges to Play!
Posted by: Harlequin - 03-23-2017, 05:04 PM - Forum: New Games Launching - Replies (1)

Blood Tides Rising 3

Blood Tides Rising 3 Explorer game is now open for accepting player pledges to play!

New to Legends? 

Legends is the most in-depth fantasy world character/army-level action turn based PEBM on the market!

Take the Tour.

We've just launched a Brand New Legends Module/Fantasy Game World, so there has never been a better time to start playing Legends if you have never experienced it.

Here are ten great reasons why you should play Blood Tides Rising

1. Explore the Newest Legends Module
This Explorer game gives you a chance to discover the hidden depths of Legends newest game world!
2. Hundreds of New Adventures
Brand new adventures, with greater depth than any previous Legends module, and which have a real impact on the game.
3. Brave the Unknown
Many modules contain everything there is to know about the world. Not this one! Will you be the first to uncover its many secrets?
4. New Play Styles
Think you know how to win Legends? Think again! New factions mean new styles of play, and that means new ways to achieve victory, or to have it snatched from you. From Merchants to Monsters to Mad God worshippers, each have their own strengths and weaknesses, requiring fresh tactics. Are you up the challenge?
5. Create your Own Religion
Tired of the existing Legends religions? Then create your own, as the Mad God looks to his followers for direction.
6. Monster Madness
Summon Medusa, conjure Cockatrices, and even unleash the Dragons!
7. Become a God
As below, so above. And as the gods war among themselves, the bravest heroes might snatch immortality from their grasp, or even take their place among the pantheon!
8. Mage Priests
Can't decide between the arcane might of a mage, or a priest's miraculous powers? Well, now you don't have to! All starting characters can be skilled in both the priestly and arcane arts, with new items, plots and adventures designed especially for them to discover.
9. All the Support you Need
Unrivalled customer service, up-to-date computer software and active player factions all ensure a hassle-free gaming experience, leaving you free for the important business of annihilating your opponents.
10. Become a God
And did we mention that you can become a god?!

So visit our website today, and download the Blood Tides Rising module for free.
Or, if you have any questions, please get in touch at pbm@harlequingames.com - we would love to hear from you.
The Blood Tide Rises. Will you Sink or Swim?

Copyright © 2017 Harlequin Games, All rights reserved.

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  Silence is golden
Posted by: GrimFinger - 03-14-2017, 10:20 AM - Forum: Opinions & General Discussion - Replies (2)

That's what they say, anyway.

I'm not dead - just sick. Trying to shake it off. I hope that everyone is having a good day.

Post or not, as your personal preference lies.

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  Issue #17 - Suspense & Decision PBM magazine
Posted by: GrimFinger - 03-05-2017, 06:04 AM - Forum: Suspense & Decision (A New PBM Magazine for the 21st Century) - No Replies

This thread is for discussion of Issue #17 of Suspense & Decision magazine.

The Submission Deadline for articles, news, events, etc. for Issue #17 is: 20 March, 2017

The scheduled Publication Deadline for Issue #17 is: 01 April, 2017

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  Battle Reports
Posted by: Angerak - 02-13-2017, 06:41 PM - Forum: PBM Design - Replies (8)

One of the aspects that Cohorts shares with many other games is the infamous Battle Report.  The key bit of information that tells you that tells you what happened to the playing pieces that were involved in a battle.

As far as I can surmise, there are 4 different types of reports:

1. Very high level - which describes the sides that took part in the battle and which side one.  It may or may not include some basic details about important pieces that were involved and/or how much damage each side took.  This may or may not be described in the form of prose.

2. Detailed outcome - which describes in detail which pieces took part in the battle, what their starting and ending status was, and who won.  None of the details as to how the battle unfolded are provided.

3. Detailed description - which describes each piece that took place in the battle and describes on a round by round basis who inflicted damage and who took damage.  This too may or may not be in the form of prose.

4. Graphical replay of the battle - showing the pieces moving about the battlefield in a graphical manner - either as pieces on a board (like moving playing pieces about) or something far more elaborate with animated figures and animated action.

In my mind, option 1 is useful as a bit of summary information that you might want to look back on to see what battles you might have engaged in.  Or, it might be used as a more "global history report" that all players would get access to, showing them who'd been fighting who (assuming a multiplayer game).

Option 2 is likely my personally preferred option.  Give me the facts, tell me the outcome and let me plan my next turn.  What this lacks however are the details as to how the outcome came about.  Did either player make a mistake and not load the right spells, equip the right weapons, put their units in the correct battle slots?  With just a bare-bones summary, the player will never know.  If the game designer likes a bit of mystery as to how their engine runs, this is a good method.

Option 3 is good, but if the battle has a lot of pieces in it can become lengthy.  If the blow-by-blow descriptions are presented in prose, a single battle can easily turn into a 30 page document.  Quite frankly, I don't think anybody wants that.

Option 4 is fun.  No doubt about it - watching a battle unfold is entertaining.  But my guess is, it is entertaining the first few times you watch it - and then you'll opt to skip the animation and go back to wanting to see the output from Option 2.

From a game designer point of view, trying to find the balance between too little and too much information is a tough call.  One could opt for "give them all the choices and let the user decide" but there is a development cost to that.  With an unlimited budget and unlimited time, giving the ultimate solution is always best - but when we're dealing with a niche market like PBM games, we have to be frugal and get the most bang for the buck.

Does anybody have any opinions on this?

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  Status Update for Cluster Wars
Posted by: GrimFinger - 02-11-2017, 08:39 AM - Forum: Cluster Wars - Replies (1)

Can someone provide us a current status update for Cluster Wars?

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  Immersion or drowning? Walking the hot coals of PBM gaming!
Posted by: GrimFinger - 02-11-2017, 05:35 AM - Forum: Editorials - Replies (1)

As I begin to immerse myself a bit further in several different games, simultaneously, I notice that a fear of drowning has begun to creep upon me.

How much is too much? How fast and how far can one swim the waters of learning the rules of PBM games and their ancestral descendants that now populate the map of play by mail gaming in the modern age?

Is it better to mater one game, before moving on to another? Or should one whet one's appetite for something with some PBM flavor, even at the risk of trying more than one game, simultaneously?

I can't imagine how David Webber, the editor of Paper Mayhem magazine, managed to find time to learn and to play a variety of play by mail games, back in the day, back when that magazine was a driving force on the PBM scene. How does one balance it all? How does one juggle not just playing games and publishing a PBM magazine, but negotiating the learning process for multiple games, as well, and all at the same time, at that?

Just now, as I was typing this posting, my computer notified me that my user account on the Takamo forum has been reactivated.

And Omega did stir in the quantum, once more!

Now, where was I, again?

Ah, yes - where does one find time for it all, for digesting rules and playing games and publishing a magazine, all three?

I don't have to chart this course through the rough seas of PBM gaming. I could simply choose another way. I could choose to limit myself more, and tackle one game at a time. For that matter, I could simply fore go playing games, at all, and just focus my attention and my efforts upon publishing the magazine, Suspense & Decision, instead.

I could - but I choose not to.

I firmly believe that the magazine will be a better end product, if I am able to write articles first-hand about playing in this game or that one. Game moderators and game companies always seem to want lots of people playing their games, but I can tell you this - many are the obstacles and impediments that stand in the way of people just joining right in and playing. The more of a pain in the ass that it is, or the more time-consuming that it proves to be to the person who has zero degree of familiarity with the games in question, the less likely that people will be, I think, to become a permanent part of the respective player communities for the various games on offer. This, I think, is a fundamental lesson that game companies and game moderators would be well served to take to heart, for there remains VAST room for improvement in this area - and I think that it is one of the most important areas of all.

Of course, in the realm of play by mail and its ancestral descendants, of which there are many, there are many different hot coals on which to burn ones feet. If the PBM industry is not to be consumed by the sands of time, and if it is to push back against the forces that seem Hell-bent on consigning it to the dustbin of history, then walk upon the hot coals, we must, it seems.

Numerous re-works on PBM games are either underway or completed - some in more complete form than others, it seems. Aside from modernizing the interfaces and delivery systems of old PBM games, though, what entirely new play by mail games are either in planning or under construction, already? Since the vast bulk of the remaining PBM player base across the industry is collecting years as if there was a gold rush on aging, what new and creative PBM fare is being rolled out to attract younger players? What is the long term fate of the industry?

Or does the industry even have a long term fate, going forth?

In the old days, there was lots of buzz - always lots of buzz - in and about and across the PBM industry. These days, not so much. How best, then, to tackle the scenario that the PBM hobby and the PBM industry now finds itself facing?

To create buzz, there has to be word to spread. That much strikes me as being rather obvious on its face. Yet, how much time and energy and effort is CURRENTLY being expended by the PBM industry on advertising and on creating ads, which lie at the base of their advertising efforts? More hot coals to walk across, it seems, if you ask me.

In fairness though, I'm not usually the one being asked. They all have their theories. We all have our theories. I have my own theories on it all, as do many of you out there, I'm certain.

Whatever else may be said about the current state of affairs in the PBM industry, I do think that it is accurate to say that there still exists much potential energy to be harnessed in the ranks of PBM players scattered across the face of the play by mail hobby. A lot of that potential is simply never being harnessed and put to use, much less exploited to its maximum potential.

With Suspense & Decision magazine, I attempt to harness a relatively small fraction of that potential energy - that potential PBM energy. Not everything that I try works equally well, of course, and the magazine itself has faced its own set of challenges on multiple occasions, to include the challenge of just trying to stay alive. For now, though, the worst of that particular danger seems to have passed (Knock on wood!), as the magazine is clicking on all cylinders, once again.

A few people contribute articles to Suspense & Decision magazine on a recurring basis, but the hot coals of persuading even more people to become regular, recurring contributors is a path that must be walked.

Time stands in the way of it all. The passage of time causes us to age, and there just never quite seems to be enough time to get it all done. This is a common malady, this creature called time, that spreads its contagion across the face of the entire industry. Game companies, game moderators, and the players, themselves, are all in a constant, never-ending battle with time.

Hopefully, I won't end up drowning myself, as I trek down the path of trying more games, in my bid to make the magazine a better read. If I do, though, just toss my editorial corpse to the side, as you encounter it, and keep pushing forward, no matter what.

Ever forward!

Because every other direction is the wrong way.

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