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The Brink of War - PBM Style
I stand at the cliff's edge, staring into the abyss that is the future of play by mail gaming. It's hard as Hell to see anything. Of course, maybe that's simply due to the fact that there's nothing to see.

Does a PBM version of Camelot lie just beyond my field of view? Or is the future of play by mail just a never-ending desolation of barrenness?

I recently received an e-mail from Vern Holford of Cluster Wars fame, inquiring of me whether I intended to keep playing Cluster Wars, or if I was planning on dropping out.

I used to wonder why David Webber, editor of Paper Mayhem magazine, didn't post a lot about the PBM games that he was playing in. If he did, then those articles must lie buried in past issues of Paper Mayhem that I have never read.

It's all about time. How does one allocate whatever amount of time that they choose to allot to play by mail gaming? What should I do?

Play PBM games more? Play more PBM games? Update the PlayByMail.Net website more frequently? Grow the PBM Wiki? Create a new PBM game? Launch a new PBM Magazine? Or, do nothing?

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

None of it is Vern Holford's fault, of course. I have to make a decision, not just regarding Cluster Wars, but regarding my interest in - and degree of interaction with - PBM gaming in general.

There are twenty-four hours in every day. Contrary to popular assertions, time passes at the same rate for all of us on this big blue globe of ours. So, what's a fellow like me supposed to do?

Accomplishing nothing doesn't seem to accomplish much. Alas, alack - the cupboard is bare. That cupboard that I keep all of my extra time in is empty. Dagnabitall!!

Back in January of 2011, over two and one-half years ago, I authored an editorial titled, "Gloom, Despair, & Agony." In it, I said, "I'm not here to save the play by mail industry from a final death, nor am I here as a harbinger of a revival of the hobby of postal gaming. From time to time, I will post, when I take a notion, and hopefully, a few others will join in, whenever the mood strikes them."

That's all fine and dandy, and maybe I am just still stuck in "notion mode." How does one move past notion mode, as it relates to PBM gaming as a whole?

Or, am I wrong to look at PBM as a whole? Maybe that's where the error lies, in thinking that there's more to it - that there perhaps should be more to PBM than what reality has treated us all to.

Perhaps I owe Vern Holford an apology - for not being very good at issuing turn orders for my position in that game. However, in all fairness, I wanted to see what the game looked like. I wanted to see how far along they had progressed, Vern and crew, with bringing Cluster Wars back into the modern day era for the PBM player community that exists today.

How do I report on PBM, if I don't know what is going on? I'll bet that David Webber could have appreciated that perspective. Hell, he appreciated it a long time before I ever did. That's a fact.

The remaining vestiges of commercial play by mail gaming are worlds of players that largely exist independent of one another, separated by the vast expanse of space that is the PBM universe as it has evolved to be.

And PlayByMail.Net?

The PlayByMail.Net website is more akin to a far flung asteroid, or to a small space station, one that lies so far off the beaten track that few are they who venture here. Of those that do visit, fewer still are the hardy souls that choose to stay.

And of those that choose to stay, you can judge for yourselves how often that each of them post in the forum here.

And the point of it all is what?

Well, I'm not sure that there is a point, to be honest. Rather, I'm just in the mood to share a few thoughts about play by mail that come to me off the top of my head, as I sit here and ponder what I should or should not devote time to, as far as things PBM-related. In the process of doing this, I tend to ramble on about first this and then that.

Since the play by mail industry is largely a barren desolation, in its current form, this just might be an ideal time to start a war. Imagine that! Launching an all-out attack upon the remaining vestiges of all that we know to be PBM.

Not to destroy it, mind you - but to try and stir the dust up a little. In case you haven't looked, lately, there's one heck of a lot of dust that has settled on the postal genre of gaming over the last number of years.

No magazine dedicated to PBM gaming remains. They've all gone kaput.

Unlike Congress, I can't pass a budget to fund such a war. A war of words, alone, would be tantamount to a propaganda war. That, it seems to me, would largely miss the point of starting such a war to begin with.

So, what do I have? I have a few ideas. I think that the hour approaches when I shall set a few of them into motion.

If I fail, I fail. I wouldn't be the first, and I likely won't be the last.

OK, sounds good, so far. So, what am I waiting for?

This is the point where I leave you, the reader, in suspense.
I submit, Grimfinger, that this site IS the reigning PBM magazine. You have built it, and we have come.

It may not be the printed, glossy, ad-bedecked curio that we all used to know and love, but it serves the same role -- a clear channel of communication for players, moderators, and interested bystanders.

In this, your magazine/site might actually be a reflection of what's happening in the PBM world at large. Many games have morphed into some hybrid forms, with turns submitted and returned by email, active reporting through web sites, short or continuous turnaround, quick feedback loops between players and moderators, and occasional hives of vigorously buzzing excitement over some particular juicy nugget.

There are a few tantalizing signs of convergence happening, thanks to your site:

- Cluster Wars has basically abandoned it's own all-but-dead forum and taken up residence here, with vastly more player contribution than before.

- I've seen at least two instances in which posters at some game forum have alerted their comrades that their game is being discussed here, salivating at the prospect of new players entering their fray.

- I have dipped my toes in a number of PBM games that I never would have without your site. And for those in which I am actively embracing (CW at the moment, others soon to be added), I will post game-logs to share the experience.

- There are pockets of PBM or PBM-like activity that are quite hot, and I see a possible link-up with the enormous growth of adult board-games this past decade. (Settlers of Catan and its ilk) Add to that the growth of turn-based play in casual games on the mobile market (mob wars, farmville, etc), and I see real possibilities of synergy and cross-pollination.

All of which leads me to rephrase something that I and others have posted on your forum before -- "The PBM Magazine is dead! Long live the PBM Magazine!"
(09-11-2013, 03:33 PM)ixnay Wrote: I submit, Grimfinger, that this site IS the reigning PBM magazine. You have built it, and we have come.

It may not be the printed, glossy, ad-bedecked curio that we all used to know and love, but it serves the same role -- a clear channel of communication for players, moderators, and interested bystanders.


I am curious, with several months of hindsight and the benefit of several issues of Suspense & Decision for comparison's sake, do you still feel the same way? Do you still think that the PlayByMail.Net website is the reigning PBM magazine?

Also, do you still feel that it serves the same role?

Others are free to chime in, if the mood strikes, but I am particularly interested in hearing back from Ixnay, concerning this.
Let me put it this way. This forum is forming the core of a greater PBM community, which is in many ways more important than the magazine. But the magazine -- wow -- it is thrilling to watch it grow and refine! It is becoming an artifact of the PBM world of these times, and I fervently hope you keep it going!

So while the forum has enabled the community to gel, the magazine is the proof of PBM's nascent resurrection. I don't think you'd have been able to create such a fine magazine without having built the forum first, and without the forum the magazine would be in danger of losing momentum. So the two go hand-in-hand in my mind.

I guess I love both equally. I read the magazine with great anticipation each month, and I read each new post here with milder-but-more-frequent anticipation throughout the month. And now that you've forged both, I think I can speak for the community in saying that we'd all be crushed if either one were to disappear!

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