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We Told You to Write
Editorials are not something that most people read. But if you are reading this, you have probably read the last issue's editorial. And unless you happen to be Steve Dempsey, Steven Satak, Steve Darlington, David Astley or Pierre Nuss, you have not contributed to issue 29.
In the last editorial, we apologized for the long delay between issues. Then we asked: "What's your excuse?"
We called for contributions. Even if you had no opinions, nothing to say at all, on the numerous subjects of roleplaying and game mastering then we suggested that you could tell us about your recollections of your first games for our "Once Upon a Time" column. You could have related to us about your worst stories, or your best. Or any memories that are at the same time unique to your game sessions, and yet something that we have all experienced.
Your job is to send us articles on RPG in general. The majority of you haven't done that. Some have complained about our lack of new issues. I hope you are not the same people. Our job is pretty easy: receive submissions. Edit them. Put them online. Announce a new issue when we get 4-5 articles. We haven't gotten them. Should WE apologize again?
Of course we realise we should move with the times. Gamers still write for newsgroups and on their blogs. But in newsgroups you have got to get rid of unnecessary comments ("I agree!") and you have the repetition of statements coming after a while ("I mentioned to you above"). With blogs, you have to brush aside off-topics.
The format of the articles of PTGPTB is in my opinion the best way to make a point: you are not interrupted, and you can fill up pages and pages to illustrate why your opinion is relevant. Do you read many essays on newsgroups? Of course not: in newsgroups you want to start debates and read the opinions of others. Do people write more than 2,500 to 5,000 words on their blogs? No, blogs are diary entries and all they take are 15 minutes a day to tap out a few random thoughts. That's why the articles we feature are in contrast more demanding, but the end result is something of lasting quality.
Since we point our fingers at the disorganisation of blogs, we also had to better organise our 130+ articles. And that's why we would like to introduce to you our Theme Index: the articles of PTGPTB, processed and ordered methodically!
Though we would like to expand our stock of feature articles, we have to take into consideration the scarcity of contributions; and since we don't want the few brave souls who do contribute to wait a year before getting published, we shall find a way to add their articles and let you know there are still authors out there!
Enjoy this issue! There won't be another after this one for a long time — and you reader, think about the magnificent monumental edifice we could have built with stones of your contributions?
Do I sound bitter? Read on what the founders have to say.
About ten issues ago, I wrote a retrospective on my time as an editor of PTGPTB, because I was hanging up my keyboard and handing over the reigns to Steve Dempsey. Now, they've asked me back to write a guest editorial, as PTGPTB perhaps winds down for good, or, more hopefully, reboots into some new incarnation. I've already written about my time here, and what PTGPTB accomplished, so this time I thought I'd look at what's changed around us since we began.
PTGPTB began exactly ten years ago, which I suppose gives us an average of almost three issues a year. That's not bad for an itinerant labour of love like this one. It is certainly more than most other e-zines ever manage, and we've outlasted everything that was around when we started. We also managed to do more issues than professional and semi-professional print magazines like Arcane, Imazine and Interactive Fantasy; we even gave Shadis a run for its money.
Print magazines are of course the way of the past these days, but this wasn't common knowledge when we began. Pyramid hadn't yet gone online, and Wizards tried to maintain a Star Wars vehicle and regular Polyhedron printings on top of Dungeon and Dragon. Indeed, in 1998, the RPG world was still discovering the power of the internet. RPGNet didn't have a forum, and put out new material only once a week. The Gaming Report didn't exist. EN World didn't exist. Neither did TheRPGsite, storygames.com or anything else.
The Grog publish reviews of every English or French language RPG publication. They award a prize to the best RPG each year (the Grog d'Or). For more information go to www.roliste.com/index.jsp (or their English version).
It was also before Ron Edwards launched his first RPG Sorcerer. Around the same time, he wrote his "The Nuked Apple Cart" article on The Gaming Report, which was the bugle call that sounded the beginning of the indie revolution. Soon afterwards, The Forge website and its forums appeared, and from them came the GNS model and the Indie RPG awards and then the Indie Press Revolution. EN World meanwhile went from one man's personal site of rumours about third edition D&D to one of the largest communities on the internet. Soon it too had its own awards, the Ennies, which are now as respected as the Origins Awards and the Grog D'or. The web is now the place to be for gamers and the industry alike.
And impressively, PTGPTB hasn't just recorded a lot of this, but contributed to it. We reviewed Sorcerer and its new distribution ideas in Issue 10; two years later we covered Edwards getting his Diana Jones award at GenCon 2002, and a few issues after that we completed the arc had a piece about the excesses of Narrativism. We also, for that matter, had a rant about 2nd edition D&D in our first issue, saying it was a game that desperately needed a third edition. We had a rant about that new edition just a few issues ago, and I'm almost certain we've got one about 4E in our near future.
We called for more licensed games, especially one for Buffy and more for computer games, and the industry responded, with the Buffy RPG itself coming along with a cascade of titles like Stargate, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Dune, Hellboy, A Game of Thrones, Thieves' World, Black Company as well as Warcraft and Everquest. Between all that, we looked back at history, examined political and cultural trends, explored new ideas and controversial opinions, reviewed, commented, satirised and poked fun. We've managed — despite the terrible vagaries of submissions — to maintain our goal of keeping it about more than just the minutiae of rules and settings: to keep things focussed on the big picture of the progress of the hobby and the whole nature of what we play.
So why stop?
Because as the industry has evolved to embrace the internet, surfing on the same wave we caught, the place for netzines has, alas all-but disappeared. Just as the early days of the internet made fanzines obsolete, the rapid-fire updates of a constant and ubiquitous media has made the old methods of monthly instalments far less interesting to the average reader. Once upon a time, a website could give people a voice they otherwise might have lacked. In the world of the blog and the forum, everyone has that voice. Once upon a time, gaming articles could provide new insight from gamers you had never met, which might spark something new at your table. Nowadays, you can get insight on a thousand issues from a thousand gamers by simply hitting the refresh button every five minutes.
That's not to say that the article is the same as the clamour of the forum — the article can be far more thoughtful, reasoned and powerful. It is just that fewer people look to articles now because some of their needs are being met elsewhere, and the clamour is ultimately, more exciting. They can get their voice heard, and hear the voices of others, in more convenient ways and in much more immediate time frames. They can also get instantaneous and often copious feedback on their opinions and writings, something a netzine cannot guarantee its authors at all. Especially one without solid forum technology.
It is foolish to sit back and remain what we are, then, when the world has moved on. Although we can provide a different kind of material, there is less demand for it, and there are better ways to do it. PTGPTB started when the netzine was nascent and has always looked at the changing fortunes of the industry and hobby — it would therefore be ludicrous for us to not follow the trends we've normally been so good at observing and analysing. To be true to PTGPTB, we have to reinvent ourselves, to ride the new wave and take hold of the new style. We have to change, or die.
Literally, because in our current mode we're just not getting the pieces in, or the issues out. In our current form, we're as good as dead anyway. So even if we didn't want to change, we have to. If we want to keep doing what PTGPTB does, we have to find a way to stay relevant and useful and interesting.
I don't necessarily know what that is. I don't know what new form the zine will take, if any. I hope it is good. I hope it is strong. I hope it leads to more articles, more issues and more successes. PTGPTB has survived three editors, thirty issues and several face-lifts; it has tracked three editions of D&D, the rise of indie gaming, the rise of the internet, witnessed scores of gaming revolutions and faced down an uncountable amount of death-knells ringing for the gaming industry, if not the entire hobby as we know it.
We can, therefore, certainly survive this. As long as there are people who want to write what we want to publish and you want to read, we can survive anything. And, as always, those are up to you.
You can read more about this early history, including the Antifesto, at the What is PTGPTB? page.
It has been over ten years now since Steve Darlington asked me for some help with this 'HTML' stuff. Steve had a vision: we would fill the niche left by the closure of the UK print magazine Arcane. We set ourselves some high goals: to be for all systems and styles, to focuss on RPGs rather than 'Gaming', and to eschew commercialism. We aimed to capture the fundamentally verbal essence of RPGs by sticking to a simple, textual design.
Steve Darlington's excellent History of Roleplaying attracted our first readers (and still pulls in new readers). Our early editorial team was, not surprisingly, our local gaming group and many of our first articles came from them. So we had not only an Australian, but a distinctly BrisVegan feel. In these early days we really benefited from the editorial skill of Brett Mathews.
Before too long we were pleasantly surprised by interest from around the world: we grinned for weeks after receiving email from Gary Gygax (although I think the email may have been of the 'cease and desist' variety). Among the great and the good one particular person stood out for us: Steve Dempsey from the UK. He was enthusiastic, and better yet, able and willing to help take the editorial load from Steve Darlington.
Time passed, the zine was translated into many languages. Steve Darlington moved on to other things. About the same time Rappar, leader of our French Translators, came onboard to help out. Our acerbic Frenchman has been a major player kicking Anglo-Saxon butt to get the most recent issues to bed.
The zine has changed little over time. We have kept our original design pretty much intact, although we have had several title makeovers. Daniel Beeston and Orie Hiromachi deserve credit for our earlier and latest looks respectively.
The PTGPTB logo through the ages...
We also maintained our commitment to finding and publishing high quality essays about gaming and the gaming craft. And, unlike so many sites, you can still find everyone of our articles from Issue #1 to Today.
In one thing we have changed: we don't publish anywhere near as often as we did. And the main reason for that is that we are not getting the same volume of submissions that we used to.
Ten Years ago, it was actually pretty hard to get stuff published in a semipermanent place on the Internet. These days some people have a blog at each of the big blog sites, and thats before we get to RPG specific sites like RPG.Net. There are a huge variety of outlets for writers on RPG topics, which is fantastic for everyone (including PTGPTB Editors -- we are consumers too!).
So, we are going to have to change. I am not quite sure what that will look like, although it seems likely we will drop the issue based format. What I am sure of is that we will tell you all via our subscribers mailing list -- so please subscribe.
Ultimately, we need submissions. And we have just not received enough of those. It is hard to fill a blank page — imagine how much harder it is to fill a blank magazine! And thats what we've had to do for the last few years.
So, as I said to one past author: no worries about not writing that article, now write me an article ya lazy Bastard (in the good aussie sense)! Please?
So what can you look forward to in this exciting, tenth anniversary issue?
We begin with interviews with some of our editors' favourite indie game designers. The Indie scene has really grown in leaps and bounds, something we have been happy to encourage.
Our next two articles concern realism. First, what would it take to provide a realistic winter setting for a campaign? You might be surprised at the drama which can unfold. Second, we consider the problems of making armour work. Sure it is fun to be running around in your +10 jock-strap of studliness, but would it really stop bullets? While fantasy is a big part of why we game, munchkinism is rarely satisfying.
We then turn to the central topic of our hobby: characters. We consider the sorts of questions that can form a checklist for producing a good character, and provide an example of what the answers may produce: a well rounded, interesting character. Even more important than the character sheet, is how we bring that character to life around the gaming table. We conclude by summing up how that should happen.
Also with this issue we announce our new email address. The old editors@ address is now so full of spam that it is almost a full time job to discard them all. Our new address is theeditors at the place you would expect — ptgptb.org. If you are still reading to the end of this somewhat petulant editorial, then you will need this address to send us some articles :-)
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