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Your zine is pretty cool. It has a distinctive style that sets it apart from other RPG publications. It's different. Different is good.

The look could be improved a bit. The background isn't distracting, but it's kind of dull. I don't know what I want, really. I've never been good with layout. I just think it could benefit from a slicker look.

Your history series was extremely informative--but you're right, you didn't do the 90s justice. I dig the articles about real-life RPG history, events, and sociological stuff. The regular features and series are what kept me browsing through the back issues.

I think some of the articles you publish are longer than they need to be. The really long ones might be easier to read if they were split over a few pages.

That's about it, the good, the bad, and the whatever. No complaints, really. Hopefully some of this has been encouraging. Take my criticisms with a grain of salt--I know how hard publishing on the net with a small staff of writers can be.
Greg Chatham

Thanks for the analysis, Greg. We're working on the new look, and we'll keep in mind your points about article length.

I was wondering if you know of any gaming societies / groups who are into roleplaying in, Auckland New Zealand. Any help would be most appreciated.
Tom Davies

If anyone can help Tom, please drop us a line!

Hello All. I really like what you're doing with this 'zine. I just wanted to answer a question that was posed on the Forum in the may issue.

Nick McCarthy asked whether any anthropologists out there knew about some tribe somewhere where a matriarchy existed. Well I'm an anthropology student and the Matriarchy (that being the female equivalent of patriarchy, that is a society ruled by women) is a theoretical construct. Anthropologists and archaeologists do not recognize any matriarchies existing or having existed in the past, at least not among humans.

This being said other types of social organizations exist. We call societies such as the Iroqouis Nation on the North East Coast of the United States and Canada Matrilineal, that is power passes through the female line and not the male line and so women have some measure of political power though they are not themselves rulers. Some societies are Matrifocal, that is that they center around the mothers and have no resident fathers. There is no reason that a matriarchy could not exist in a fantasy or sci-fi game however, especially not if women had an advantage over men like magic. There may not be any evidence of matriarchies in the real world but then there's no evidence of Orcs either but they show up just as often if not more so.

I would suggest that anyone trying to learn more about political structure and descent groups find a good introductory text. The one I got my info from was "Mirror for Humanity" by Conrad Kottak, which is excellent, concise, and inexpensive for a text book, but I am unsure of availability outside of the US.
Jon Carroll

Thanks a lot, Jon! Always good when we can answer questions through the forum.

And now Nick McCarthy responds to some of the other remarks made about his piece on competitive gaming back in Issue 15:

John F. Meehan made several points about the competition guidelines I proposed. First off all I would like to thank him for his interest, and am glad to know my little piece is sparking some debate. As for what he had to say…

I did not mention the Magic the gathering game outright, as I know next nothing about how it is organised or moderated (and am interested to hear it is going through a rough patch, does any one have any more info on that?). However the whole concept of increased professionalism in the gaming world is largely based on what I have perceived as the success of the CCGs circuit and the computer/pc gaming circuit as well. It was wrong of me not to point that out directly. Sorry.

As for the idea that the ideas I put forward are a “typical RPG tournament that you encounter at the larger conventions” I have to argue against that. It has been my experience at conventions around the UK and Ireland that there is no standard, fair or unbiased system of assessing the quality of the role playing (and that is what the competition is supposed to be for in the first place). Perhaps I have been unlucky, or perhaps John has been very lucky. The fact that we have not had the same experiences with the relative fairness or impartiality of the competitions at conventions indicates that they are not constant I think. As for the idea that amateur status is needed to ensure that certain special something that we know RPGs have, I suspect John is mistaken. Every time a sport has started to turn professional, there has been an outcry that it will be the death of the hobby. This was true of athletics, cycling, football and a bucket full of other pastimes. The same bemoaning voices were heard when soldiers stopped being amateur status, doctors and just about every profession or trade that has ever existed. All of the above have gone from strength to strength with the advent of professionalism, and the pastimes are on the whole more popular and pursued at a greater level of skill and ability than ever before. I see no reason why RPGs should be any different. The profesionalisation (how many points for that one in scrabble?) of the Gaming world is perhaps inevitable as John points out. My point has always been that if we want RPGs to continue to exist, we need to be a bit more professional as well. As for reading a Barnes and Niven book… I did that by mistake once before, and had to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon to ensure it never happened again! (Oh dear, some idiot has let all the worms out of the tin!)

Jesse Burneko's “why Bishops…” was interesting, and it is nice to have it pointed out that game balance is a major factor in the design of games, though I suspect that the people who most need to take that on board (power gamers) are the ones who are least likely to read it! I also have to say I more or less disagree with the idea of sticking to the rules in a game! All my RPG books are awash with notes and pencil marks as I tinker over and over again with the rules, usually trying to make them more realistic, often trying to make them more streamlined and free flowing (why roll 4 dice when you can roll none?). I suppose the main reason for this is that most game designers don’t really know what they are doing! Millennium's End, First edition Jorune, MERP, etc etc. Need I say more?

On a totally unrelated topic, be sure to check out “Nathaniel’s Nutmeg” by Giles Milton (Hodder and Stoughton (Sceptre) publication) for tales of the Spice trade in the days of sail. A great read, and more ideas for GMs than you can shake a very large stick at! Thanks for another great issue guys, and luck to every one in the exam season.

I don't think I can add anything to that. Jesse's article caused more comments, however...

I read the article "Why Do Bishops Move Diagonally And Other Stupid Questions" by Jesse Burneko with interest. It's a good and well reasoned argument, but one with which I can't agree.

It's true that roleplaying games are not real world simulators. I think of them as fictional world simulators. AD&D is a swords and sorcery game, and I think it's reasonable to expect it to provide tools for recreating the style, atmosphere and genre idioms of swords and sorcery novels.

The problem is that not all swords and sorcery stories evoke the same atmosphere, or even follow the same idioms. AD&D, in all it's editions, builds in alot of world-specific rules into the game system. There is objectively demonstrable good and evil, the class system pre-empts many social and cultural questions about the world the characters live in, etc. In the fiction on which many of the ideas in AD&D are based, there are often good reasons for the way things are. Wizards may have made magical pacts to foreswear the use of blades in return for arcane powers, etc. You wouldn't expect a fantasy novel to just say that in that world wizards don't use swords - you'd expect to be told why, and not just 'because!'. Should RPGs be measured against lesser standsards?

Maybe you want to run a game in which good and evil are objectively testable absolutes. Where the social roles fit well with the class system, etc. If you don't, then you have a problem.

Finaly, I don't necesserily agree that fairness is an adequate test of the quality of a game system. Life is rarely fair, and this is often true in literature as well. Are Frodo and Bilbo the same level as Aragorn and Gandalf (who can wield a sword, by the way)?

Yes, I know it comes down to stylistic preference. I find AD&D far too gamey for my tastes. In providing so may rules for so many things, I believe the game actualy limits choice rather than increasing it. For example, if I Bull Rush someone, why do they - never - fall over? What if I specificaly want to knock them over? Why should I trust that the game designer knows arcane reasons why I shouldn't be able to do this? Other games have handled so many of these issues so much better.
Simon Hibbs

You make some very good points, Simon, and I agree, limiting choice is not a good thing. But as games, RPGs need structure, and that structure should provide a way of making sure each player gets equal chance to shine. I think what Jesse is saying that ultimately, this is a higher goal than suspension of disbelief...but this depends on just how much suspension our individual disbeliefs can take, of course. What do others think on this issue? Let us know!

Our next two readers also had some disagreements, this time with Rebecca's piece on superhero gaming in the last issue...

I have to disagree with Rebecca's suggestion to offer non-superhero comics to non-superhero fans as a way to lure them into playing superhero RPGs.

Contrary to her assertion, comic books are a medium, not a genre. Superheroic fiction is merely one of many genres presented through the medium of comic books, albeit the most popular. A non-superhero comic would no more attract a person to superhero gaming than a non-action movie would attract that same person to Feng Shui.

That aside, it was a very insightful and enjoyable column. :)
Dan Davenport

I just wanted to comment briefly on the "Introducing Superhero Gaming" article you featured in Issue 17. Great article, first of all. It's just that a couple of Rebecca's comments about comic books sparked a response in my geek-heart. The common preconception of comic books seems to be that "it's about superheroes." Of course, comic books are a *medium* through which stories are told, like films or novels. Comics are no more "about superheroes" than roleplaying is about fighting dragons in a dungeon. In some games, yes, but that's only one of a multitude of possibilities. I realize that wasn't really the whole intent of the article, but I bring it up because Rebecca made a couple of comments about it, and I want to reinforce her comments with a little more enthusiasm. There are a great wealth of comic books with worthwhile stories and various genres that have nothing to do with superheroes, many of which are made by people who *aren't* necessarily interested in that genre. Granted, with a publication like PTGPTB, I'm probably preaching to the choir. I'm an aspiring comic book creator who isn't really into superheroes, and since it seems like such a battle to get people to realize that it's not all "improbably-breasted women, extraordinarily silly character names, and incomprehensible plots", I get huffy about it when the subject comes up. :) Thanks for a great issue!
Devin Parker

P.S. A couple of other comics I would recommend to newcomers (and I agree with Rebecca's recommendations, especially "Bone"):

Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley (fairy tale-based fantasy)
Thieves and Kings, by Mark Oakley (fantasy, with almost Hayao Miyazaki-esque artwork)
Superman: Hope; Batman: War; Kingdom Come; Marvels (pretty much anything involving Alex Ross, really)
V For Vendetta; League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Top Ten (pretty much anything involving Alan Moore)
The Replacement God and Other Stories, by Zander Cannon (more fantasy stuff, but not *standard* fantasy stuff...of course, since Zander's been working on Top Ten, I dunno when he's going to get back to this series...)

Thanks for the feedback guys; you both make a good point. Still, I think you could use non-superhero comics as a stepping stone to supers comics. First show them not all comics are stupid, then show them not all superhero comics are stupid. But your point stands.

Know what? You are lost! D&D is a claasic and i'm not thinking what you think! Yeah I know that the 3rd edition of D&D is a piece of shit but dont say what you did on AD&D!! When the original productor died, is wife did take the compagny and by THAT moment D&D was not the same... I'm a player and a GM of many years of experience and i can say that D&D second or first edition is realy good! The TSR boss are not god like u sais... and i know this! I also know that there are many other RPG in the world! And i play with em too! But the thing is that when you said that D&D is a piece of shit it make me pissed of because its not thru!! Maybe here are some of the leader of tsr that are asshole... but there a also some of em who did try to make a great game but because of the "$leader$" they was not able to... Anyway i dont think that i can change your mind but consider what i said!

Thanks Lucien, good to see you're passionate about your game of choice. It should be pointed out, though, that Gary's piece is deliberately over the top, and we bear no real loathing towards AD&D, TSR or any of the game's creators.

I have just been reading your history of roleplaying, and I have found it to be quite well written. My only suggestion would be that it should have it's own 'homepage' with direct linking to all the articles - or perhaps a set of links at the bottom of each history article, allowing readers to move through the history directly without forcing them to navigate through the rest of the magazine structure first.

Any way, well done.

It's on our list of things to do, Sara. Of course, in the meantime it does help ensure people do peruse all our back issues... :)


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