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It is a nice change to find a magazine like yours actually exists. Having played AD&D for over 10 years now [I was introduced to it at Uni], I find it refreshing to know that there are other adults in Australia that are passionate about a game that encourages people to think! I would love to subscribe to your magazine and would also like to know if you are willing to accept written and original graphic submissions?
Sandra Nicholson

We certainly do accept written submissions, however at this stage we don't accept art. However, as the next letter shows, Sandra was not alone in offering her services.

Does any one ever submit art for you guys to include in your articles? If so I'd love to do some stuff for you. You can check out some of my art at and if you're interested just let me know.
Adam Briggs

If enough people tell us they would be interested in seeing art in PTGPTB, we'll include it. So let us know!

Great article on the history of roleplaying. Fantastic. I am really suprised as an Aussie that it took so long to run into your web page. Perhaps links from RPG Net or Gaming Outpost would help. Looking forward to the next issue.
Jason P. Prince

Actualy, we do have links on RPGNet and Gaming Outpost. Any advice on how to lift our profile further would be appreciated!

Hi Steve. Just a few words to tell you that I took a glance at your article in PTGPTB, once upon a time #2 and that I found it great. This article constitutes a nice pair with once upon a time #1. Too bad you can't read frech, for on this page on my site, I collected some souvenirs of games played with parents. Those testimonies meet what you wrote, and some are simply hilarious.

Even Steve Dempsey tells (translated from French):
"We started my parents initiation with Star Wars... A short story: a scenario takes place on Tatooine. the PC face a horde of banthas running to them. My father figured out he could stop the flock by mounting the head beast. After beeing draged, he succeeded in climbing the animal ... but couldn't stop it. His caracter must still be turning around on the back of the poor beast. In any other SW adventures hapenning on Tatooine, the NPCs refer to the legend of the rider of bantas...

"Then we moved on to Warhammer: the place of his exploit: castle Drachenfelds. In one of the rooms, four statues of chaotic gods are exposed. Guess who hammered them heavily ? Garanteed result: major daemons and major thrashing.

"Last, in AD&D: he's the only warrior of the group that tried to steal sweets in a bowl... by a magician's... who trapped the bowl with levitation !! guaranteed fall at the first sweet drop !

"We're about to start a new campaign and he's willing to play a necromancer!!"

Some father Steve Dempsey's having, no ? :-) I wondered what other stories one may get if he calls for in an english-speaking newsgroup...

Meet you next mail.

Great story, thanks Regis! If anyone else has a great story about how their parents took to gaming, why not submit it to Once Upon A Time?

Get yer pale blue Bunnies and Burrows here! Actually, I'm rather attached to my sole copy of original B&B - even though I've NEVER played or run a game of it! It's in pretty good nick because of this, though.

I am quite willing, however, to run a single copy of it off for Kreg Mortis Mosier - as long as this would be legal, of course (i.e. only if the FGU version is no longer available and the owners don't object - and I'm not after any payment, o'course).

What do you think?

Thanks to Mr Argarthan, Kreg got his copy of B&B. It's so nice when PTGPTB can bring gamers together to help each other like that.

Your articles are great and I enjoyed them a lot. You should however consider changing your site a little. Maybe adding a some more color would help. I found it a little plain. Anyway, thank you for the interesting read.
Jeff Ruel

We've had comments like this about our image more than once, but we have a soft spot for a non-nonsense approach, free of bells and whistles. So for the moment, the look of PTGPTB will be staying how it is.

Nice magazine! I haven't really gamed in years, so I must confess that I read mainly for nostalgia, but I'm quite impressed.

I read David Thomas' essay on why fiction does not make for good gaming, and vice versa, with interest, sprinkled with the urge to disagree with him on a few points. Indeed, I attempted to craft a letter that would praise him on the points I thought that he made well, while at the same time, respectfully offer counterpoints to some of the areas where I believed that his assertions were inaccurate, the whole affair liberally punctuated with illustrative examples. After about three pages of semi-articulate rambling, I was forced to give up. I'm a poor essayist, and I know it.

So I'm going to distill the whole thing down to one simple concept, that I hope brings out what the point properly: Both Role-Playing and writing are exercises in creativity. When the conversion from gaming to fiction and vice versa compromise creativity, or are used to cover its absence, then the result is mediocre. Crossovers that, to paraphrase, "follow their inspirations slavishly," whether they be games or fiction, are always going to be poor, because they are, by definition, non-creative. But when the adaptation of elements of one into the other is used as a springboard or enhancement to creativity, then the finished product is vastly entertaining. Of course, and perhaps this was Mr. Thomas' point all along, while it will be clear to people familiar with both that one inspired the other, it will be just as clear that the similarity ends there.
Aaron McLin, Bothell, Washington

A good point, Aaron, but I think David was looking at cases when the cross-over was more than just inspiration. Inspiration is a nebulous thing, after all. Stephen Donaldson once said that the climactic scene in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant was inspired by a can of disinfectant in a toilet. But I've never seen any essays on why disinfectant shouldn't cross-over to fiction, and vice versa. :-D

David's article also inspired further response:

I have a few comments about the recent article 'Gameable fiction'. As a GM who has long interspersed short stories and conventional fiction with games and settings to good effect, I find a lot of what the author of this article has said to be at odds with what I find to be effective. In many ways I think his assumptions about setting, character and roleplaying in general are somewhat innacurate, or at least seriously conflict with what I know about roleplaying. This might sound harsh, but that's how it looks to me.

"There is no call for characters to survive in a story. Indeed, the death of one or two often serves the plot better than their survival. Try telling that to the player of an ex-wizard reduced, for dramatic reasons, to a pointy hat sticking out of a pool of slime. Some players might very well welcome the death of a comrade as a roleplaying opportunity, but I doubt they would feel the same joy over the demise of their own PC."

On the contrary, PC's tend to die a lot more than story characters, especially in long term play. If you look over the lifetime of a pc as opposed to a character in a book, you'll see a lot more casualties usually. Also, most players I know rarely object to a well-played, meaningful death for their PC- it's the meaningless, dice-based ones they abhor. While it is clear that rp and new characters keeps a certain pattern to the number of characters in a story, that hardly seems a fundamental rift between the two mediums.

"Consequently, the writers of both games had to extrapolate whole cultures for the characters to inhabit, while remaining consistent with the published work. It's no surprise that they chose lulls in the main product's action (between Wars and Empire, or before the first series respectively) for their games. The point is that the PCs know both that they are second rate, and that they will remain so. They might be in the same universe as the action, but they will never perform it. Darth Vader's combat statistics are irrelevant as the characters will never best him."

I tend to see this as a cliche'd view of roleplaying groups. Not everyone wants to be 'top of the heap' so to speak, in fact it's rather an outmoded concept wich fails to take into account the wealth of settings and characters that players find enjoyable. Granted, only the most crass of GM's would try to belittle their players characters with npc exploits, but I find that many different settings and characters can fill a campaign. Pc's don't have to be heroic alpha-male types- they can be cowardly worms, starving junkies, or worse- for entertaining effect, whether a more dark style of gaming, the humor of their predicament, or the truly heroic nature of a group of second-strongers fighting their own self-doubt to take on a first rate villain. All this can be extremly rewarding.

An example extending from your Star Wars example- Maybe the PC's weren't the ones to take on darth vader or destroyed the death star- after all, they're only a lowly security team, not even front line troops. But if they hadn't fought off the Noghri death squad that came for a very special bunch of Mon Calamari technicians they were protecting, the B-wing bomber would never have been invented and the rebellion wouldn't have lasted long enough in the fight over Endor to take the second death star down. Sure, let Jedi-boy get all the credit- the PC's know who did the real legwork.

"Rather than sidelining the PCs from the action, purpose-built environments, such as Traveller or WotC's Star Drive (for Alternity), just remove the big picture entirely. They allow the characters to do a wide variety of things; from fighting or being pirates on the frontier to breaking the law in planet-wide cities; but nothing which would force the big picture to change. This means that the characters can get up to all kinds of nastiness without ever rippling the fabric of the game world itself. While this provides a playable, mostly consistent game, what it doesn't do is enable the characters' seedy exploits to acquire any epic grandeur."

And that's only really a problem if you have an epic campaign. Otherwise they don't have to save the galaxy, in fact it would be pretty silly if they did, unless there was a plan to move them to that epic scale.

"They're typically of four to eight determined, adventure-seeking loners, with complementary skills and few emotional attachments or dependants. This is not exactly the kind of thing which spawns great novels. Their idiosyncrasies are usually tacked on to provide depth, rather than being intrinsic to them. As such, these people might be fun to play, but they're not dramatically interesting. Conversely, fiction can easily support "useless" characters, as long as they provide drama or humour."

I found this an unfortunate assumption on the authors part. He seems to think that just because (I assume) the majority of characters he's encountered are stereotypical loners with tacked-on idiosyncracies, everyone elses characters are too. This is simply not so. Roleplaying is about character, and playing different types of characters. Yes thay usualy have to have certain traits, like the ability to be reasonably upwardly mobile, but that does not equate to the simplistic and shallow characters that seem to be suggested.

"The same goes for the Traveller-based short fiction that pops up occasionally in magazines and fanzines. It is just too attentive to its game world background to take risks or be entertaining. The need to be loyal to the game detracted from the ability to tell a story."

Again, this seems clearly to me to be a failure of literative quality rather than a failure caused by origins. It takes a crappy writer to write in such a fashion, not a need to be loyal to the game. In fact, if the writer is to be loyal to a game he must place it in a written context properly, not as a wierd adjunct to an rpg, that reads like some kind of advertisement.

In general I felt your discussion to be based on faulty assumptions about roleplaying, setting, and characters. I also feel that the 'one party per planet' assumptions that you seem to have are also the ones that cause a great deal of trouble with roleplaying online, something which is holding up what I feel is the next step in the evolution of our hobby.

Now enough criticism, I don't mean to sound negative but I realise I do. My experience in matters of fiction and gaming are with a campaign I've worked on in some depth, involving tabletop games, PBEM's, freeform roleplaying, short stories, forays into miniatures and computer games, and even stories with a single author. All these factors have been combined into the setting, only to add to it's depth and complexity. What's more, often games run parallel, or are run in game-time parallel whilst out of sync on real time. All of this has never resulted in serious clashes of will or continuity, and have added imesurably to the setting. This includes cases where short stories have been written, and even when the events of short stories have been used in a game. All that's required is some care and a realisation that not everyone has to be the best of the best, or the most famous, or the centre of the universe. It's also good to realise that just because something is said by a character, doesn't mean it was true, or that there isn't another side to the story.

Rather, a good setting is not one story but a thousand, and rarely will a single hero or group of heroes be the ones to vanquish all the evil, or make all the profit. I understand your point as to the differences between varying media, however in my experience the combination of these different styles of storytelling can result in some really great stuff for use as background for further games and stories, not to mention they make very good reading. As an aside, i've had roleplaying and other people stumble onto my page, read the 'archives' where I list all long texts, and think it's ALL stuff i've written by myself, where more than half of it are actually turns in a PBEM- simply compiled with some 'off stage' action added in, and usually laden with the free will of pc's inherent in rp.

Eh, just some thoughts. . .

No need to apologise, we like to see our articles critically examined, and if you disagree, please do tell us! You make some very sound points about the assumptions of the author. Personally, I agree that the same setting can inspire both fiction and gaming. However, I agree with the author in that the wide difference between the concerns of executing each of these requires the setting to be approached in a very different way. However, this also depends strongly on the nature of your games. And as always, what works for you can't be wrong!

I have enjoyed the articles directed toward game masters and those that involve the dynamics of gaming groups. I consider myself a decent GM, but I am always looking to improve. The articles in the magazine are thought provoking and interresting.
Victor C. Panus III

That sums us up nicely. Thanks, Victor.


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