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Approaching the PBM Equation from a Different Angle
Every attempt to do "something" with the whole play by mail ball of wax is, in effect, tantamount to starting over. So, in a way, it is deja vu and Groundhog Day all over again.

But, I figure that no matter how many attempts are made, and no matter how many failures transpire along the way, it is still better to start over (yet again), than to bring the effort to an end. Granted, it can get old even the first time that things go belly up or implode or just plain don't pan out, much less God only knows how many times. Yet, here we go, again!

Nonetheless, it is always interesting to listen to other people's characterization of "why" things fail. For instance, while it might strike many as counter-intuitive, maintaining a strict publication deadline has invariably proven to be more manageable to me, than publication deadlines with lots of leeway in them. Strict publication deadlines help to instill discipline into the overall process, and they help to create (and to maintain) a greater degree of urgency, than do publication deadlines that tend to give the publisher of a digital PBM magazine more breathing space.

Far more problematic and difficult than maintaining a strict publication deadline is the maintaining of energy AND focus over the long run. Life, itself, has an infinite number of distractions to throw your way, and life tends to have pretty good aim, when it is trying and conspiring to distract you.

The whole ball of wax, which includes PlayByMail.Net (the website and the forum), Suspense & Decision (the magazine) and a Facebook component (not to mention a Google+ component, for a while (Google discontinued Google+, even though it was beneficial to search engine ranks). While it is exacerbated by a lack of engaged and energetic manpower, the far bigger issue is with generating the focus and the energy and the momentum at the core of the whole play by mail enchilada.

Trying to actively engage the bulk of the known pay by mail gaming populace tends to pay small dividends, as far as converting interest form those segments of the overall PBM populace. A more casual, easy going approach that focused the bulk of its efforts on interacting with (and generating interest on the part of) the less committed (and uncommitted) bulk of potentially interested parties is, I think, likely to bear more fruit, in terms of growing the overall player base of PBM players.

Plus, too, trying to persuade the Old Guard of PBM to become primary contributors to growing awareness of the hobby tends to run smack dab into the brick walls of reality. They're either far too busy (both with their business which, in some instances, have non-PBM components that are considerably larger than their PBM interests), or they just don't have the time and energy and stamina to be at the cutting edge of the PBM energy front the way that they were several decades ago. The PBM Old Guard, whatever else might be said about them, have aged along with the rest of us, and in addition to age there are medical concerns that go along with growing older. Additionally, large investments of time, energy, or resources toward play by mail may not make good business sense for them, individually, when  weighed against competing interests and demands on their time and resources, and especially in the reality of the current PBM market, compared to what it was like back in the heyday of play by post. Times change, as do business models. Furthermore, the Old Guard of play by mail have tended to not remain stagnant in their interests, in the intervening years between the PBM scene of yesteryear and the PBM scene of today.

Generally speaking, one should strike while the iron (of interest) is hot - no matter who you are in the realm of play by mail gaming. Not everyone involved with PBM gaming at every level can all strike at the same time, for not everyone's iron (of interest) is hot, at the same time. My own level of interest in a whole variety of different things is like the ocean tides. Not every moment of every day is the equivalent of a high tide of interest.

Plus, one lesson has become crystal clear to me, in terms of things that I feel that I have learned, over the last few years, where my own efforts to reinvigorate interest in PBM gaming are concerned, and that is that what might work for me may very well not work at all, for others, and vice versa. That I might be ready at any given moment to push the whole of the play by mail gaming community forward, come Hell or high water, does not mean that everyone else is necessarily in sync with me. The fact is that it is a very complex equation, to get everything and everyone firing in unison.

Regardless, at least on my end of the PBM universe, the tide is rolling in, once more. Ahead of me (and us) now lies either success, or failure, or perhaps a little bit of both.

I would tell you all to wish me luck, but as I have articulated many times down through the years in play by mail gaming circles, luck is for the weak and unprepared.

That said, it feels good - damned good - to be back!

Happy gaming!
Welcome back!

As I recall from a movie: "Fortune favors the prepared mind!"
Thanks for keeping up the good work!

So, here's my problem for PBM 'zines. My background is in tabletop RPGs and miniature wargames. I'm working on my TT RPG 'zine. There, the question of content is relatively easy: discussion pieces, new monsters, new characters, reviews, etc.

I find the question of what content to write for a PBM 'zine much more difficult.

I'm kind of bumping along in Riftlords, right now, so I'm hardly the right person to go to for tactical advice.

So what's left?

I'm interested in running an amateur PBM game of Flashing Blades/ En Garde, Gangbusters, or Golden Heroes. I could imagine submitting campaign write ups or something similar to S&D. But I'd also like to hear from people who've run their own amateur PBMs. How did these go? What challenges did you face? And so on ...
Back when I ran Starforce Battles as a PBM game, originally, I ran it via the mail (postal service), and the inability to program it to automate certain functions meant that growth of the player base, itself, was the main threat to the game. Eventually, the use of macros helped to off-set this to some degree, but processing the turns manually meant that there was an inherent limit built into how far that I could grow the game, player-wise.

A lack of discipline to keep the player size manageable, and my enthusiasm at that time to keep on adding more and more players, quickly began to manifest the problematic side of the equation.

I ran Starforce Battles outside of the "known" PBM circles, so it was never advertised in a PBM magazine such as Paper Mayhem and Flagship, back in the day (which also makes me wonder how many PBM games were ran beyond the eyes and ears of the PBM press, back then.
(08-06-2019, 12:26 PM)Participant-Observer Wrote: I find the question of what content to write for a PBM 'zine much more difficult.

At one point I had someone suggest that they run a "solo" (introductory one-human) version of my game and publish their progress and comments regularly in the magazine.  Unfortunately they apparently ran out of time to play on a regular basis, but I think they had a great idea.  I'd welcome anyone else to try the same thing in my game, and suggest it for any other game where it could be done without spoiling the fun for other players.
(08-06-2019, 12:26 PM)Participant-Observer Wrote: I'm kind of bumping along in Riftlords, right now, so I'm hardly the right person to go to for tactical advice. ...

That rather misses the point. The "bumping along" is where the heart of the real interesting matter lies.

Bumping Along would make a fine title for a series of articles.
I sent out an e-mail, today, using Mail Chimp, basically welcoming the first group of subscribers to the new mailing list that I am compiling using Mail Chimp. I made a couple of mistakes, but I will try to refine what I am doing with this software, going forward. I think that Mail Chimp holds a lot of promise, and will prove to a boon to our efforts, here, as time progresses.
(08-06-2019, 02:46 PM)GrimFinger Wrote: That rather misses the point. The "bumping along" is where the heart of the real interesting matter lies.

I dunno. I'm not sure how interesting "bought shields and installed a new drive. Stay tuned for my next turn report next issue" will be after several weeks. Wink

(08-06-2019, 02:46 PM)GrimFinger Wrote: Bumping Along would make a fine title for a series of articles.

Agreed! Smile
(08-11-2019, 03:50 PM)Participant-Observer Wrote: I dunno. I'm not sure how interesting "bought shields and installed a new drive. Stay tuned for my next turn report next issue" will be after several weeks. Wink
Maybe it just needs a different approach, such as...
  • I finally bought my shields but I had the deuce of a time figuring out which ones I needed.  It's a tough balancing act between protection and power draw and cost.
  • My ship really needed a new drive, but I couldn't figure out how to interpret some of the confusing options.  Eventually I settled on something that I hope will work for me, but it's going to be awfully expensive if I have to trade it in later.  My old drive was about to break down completely (or blow up) and I had to get a new one right away.
Davin is right.  Turns and game decisions can be a window in your thought process, a way to record and remember your most interesting moments, and a chance to craft a narrative.  You can share a snapshot of your brain at that moment, for fun reading long after the game is over.  The head-on conflict I had with Charles in that one space empire game (documented in an old thread, here) is among my favorite gaming memories.  I laughed out loud several times, while reading his posts and crafting my own responses.

And I love reading sessions (or "after action reports") over at board game geek.  Occasionally I'll write a running commentary in the shared comments area for a game I'm playing online (usually on  And reading the game reports of players of Civilizaton 4 (over at was an epiphany.  I dramatically improved my game by reading those.

My kids do their version of this when they watch youtubes of people playing computer games (like Fortnite).

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