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[Special Year Ending Issue]

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PBM Chaos welcomes 7 new subscribers during the month of December 2023, so far, and bids adieu to 1 unsubscriber during that same time frame.

The end of this year is now upon us, and we must rise to the occasion of seeing it depart from our presence, hopefully to be replaced by another - a younger, fresher, vibrant new year! What a new year will translate into for PBM, none of us yet know. There is always an air of mystery around the dawning of a new year. Will PBM prosper and flourish? Or will it just grow another year older and gather more dust? Only time will tell. . .

And with the arrival of a new year also comes opportunities. One of these opportunities is an opportunity to craft and to adopt some New Year's resolutions. resolutions don't always pan out, but sometimes, they do. Have you made any resolutions for the new year involving play by mail gaming? If you do, be sure to write in and share them with me, that I may then share them with others - namely, your fellow readers here at PBM Chaos.

Be sure to take part in the PBM Survey, if you have not already done so.

Here are ten PBM-related New Year's resolutions from me for 2024:

Resolution #1
To give TribeNet a try.

TribeNet GM Peter Rzechorzek has already assigned a clan number to me (Clan 0210), and my first turn orders are due on January 14th, 2024. Jeff Perkins will be my TribeNet mentor.

Resolution #2
To complete the PBM Rulebook Library.

This will primarily, though not entirely, be a matter of me tracking down and organizing links for as many rulebooks, starting guides, introductions, etc. as I can find. It's just a matter of allocating a sufficient amount of time, and making it an actual priority.

Resolution #3
To revamp The Hyborian Tome website.

The current design of the site has served myself and the Hyborian War player community well over the years that it has been in effect. An aesthetic facelift for The Hyborian Tome site is long overdue.

Resolution #4
To create a PBM Gateway.

This is envisioned as a very large undertaking, perhaps my largest PBM undertaking, to date. It will be aimed at newcomers to PBM gaming, primarily, and will be a central repository of links for all PBM games and sites that I am aware of. I will aim to make it comprehensive in scope - not just links to other PBM websites, but also links to specific things on other PBM sites.

Resolution #5
To double the size of the Play By Mail subscriber base.

This will be quite the challenge, but whether it can be accomplished within the time span of a single year or not, I do believe that noticeable progress towards that goal is within the realm of "achievable possibility."

Resolution #6
To play a multiplayer game of Galac-Tac.

I've already signed up for Galac-Tac Galaxy #113, which is started on Christmas Day of 2023.

Resolution #7
To create a PBM Network to better facilitate growth of the overall PBM player base.

This one will be perhaps the most complicated of all of these ten resolutions listed, herein. It will be a concerted effort to implement a viable mechanism or series of mechanisms to enable and to facilitate PBM companies and PBM GMs to better participate in a visible and effective way to grow the size of the overall PBM player base. Underlying this PBM Network will be the aim to make it quick, easy, and realistic for PBM Companies and GMs to participate.

It will not be a pressure-centric approach, but entirely voluntary and wholly flexible, but with regular reminders incorporated into it and sent out to develop and maintain greater awareness of this PBM network's existence and purpose. A more effective network and communications structure can be achieved, without it having to become a time-drain for anybody. It will be geared more towards one-way information flows, and less towards back-and-forth two-way information flows. This approach should help to minimize the potential for personality conflicts, while simultaneously increasing the flow of PBM-related information from those who have it to those who need it.

Resolution #8
To breathe life into the old PBM forum.

Numerous different existing PBM forums have a decent number of forum users, already, to perpetuate themselves. However, not all existing PBM forums enjoy such a user environment, currently. To grow the size of the overall PBM player base, an increase in discussions by current PBM gamers and/or by former PBM gamers who still retain an active interest in the hobby and in the industry needs to happen. A portion of the time and effort and energy that I direct at PBM-related stuff can be redirected to the old PBM forum, in order to generate and grow new content for postings, there, in a bid to give others more reasons to visit and to participate in the discussions that spring up there.

Resolution #9
To continue publishing PBM Chaos.

If anything, my PBM Chaos-related activities will likely accelerate. I do not have any current plans to shut PBM Chaos down anytime soon..

Resolution #10
To establish a cadre or corps of die-hard PBM gamers, in order to act as a force multiplier in and across the PBM sphere.

A PBM force-in-readiness is what comes to mind, a group of the PBM-dedicated working towards a common purpose of seeing to it that more gets done to help improve the PBM landscape and to ensure that newcomers to PBM gaming don't fall through the cracks of the Internet on their way to becoming PBM gamers.

Ultimately, I may succeed or I may fail, in whole or in part, on any or all of these PBM resolutions for 2024. But at least I have made some. What about you? Why not make at least one PBM resolution for the new year?

Just imagine if all PBM gamers, and all who used to play PBM games, made and followed through on just one new PBM resolution each. Wow! What a positive difference that that could make to play by mail gaming.

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos

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To be fair, the capitalism model for a PBM magazine in the 2020's was tried, as per the recommendation of the article by Randall Ritnour in Issue #27. Jon Capps tried it with Suspense and Decision. However, it faced a limited audience in addition to the sudden, obsessively zealous arrival of a free, 8-page newszine called PBM Unearthed that ballooned into full magazine proportions and released at eight times the pace. One that not only offered free ads, but proactively created ads for games the didn't even ask for them. One that mysteriously ended right about the time it was clear S&D had crashed and burned. I can't know for sure, but I think if the attention was not so clearly divided and people had incentive to unite behind S&D as the sole PBM publication being published, it would still be in existence. To say that a capitalist approach to magazines and webzines is totally flawed, outside of the presence of such insanely persistent competition as PBM Unearthed, is really hardly an argument at all.

When Jon Capps announced S&D was shutting down, I contacted him about possibly continuing things myself and he walked me through some basic numbers at my request. It was a dismal situation, to be sure, and Jon Capps adamantly refused to turn over ownership to anyone else. It was probably an act of mercy. S&D was failing to even cover costs with his existing setup. It's really a shame, since it was the only magazine available by post that catered to PBM. Everything else was online. But who knows what would have been the situation outside the unusual circumstances?



I very much enjoyed reading your comments, above, which you posted in the pbm-chaos channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord. Different perspectives, which tend to be predicated upon a combination of facts and opinions, frequently make for interesting reading, no matter whether the subject matter under discussion is PBM-related or otherwise.

Two words come to mind - context and sequence. Your quasi-recap is a brief articulation of what was, in actuality, a larger sequence of events. In fairness, though, a paragraph or two to frame what happened simply lacks sufficient space to detail things. Not all PBM Chaos readers are likely aware of what happened, though certainly, many are familiar with Jon Capps not-too-distant attempt to field a PBM magazine in both digital and print formats, simultaneously.

As the individual who published PBM Unearthed from beginning to end, I remain intimately familiar with its disappearance. Wherein you said that it "mysteriously ended right about the time it was clear S&D had crashed and burned," while you may have perceived it to have "mysteriously ended," it certainly wasn't a mystery to me. Like one of those old "connect the dots" pictures from the days of my youth, the more dots that one connects, the clearer that the picture becomes.

With the natural passage of time, certain details or events tend to fade from view. Also, people sometimes simply forget about this or about that. I certainly do. But whether one has, or whether one remembers or ever knew, all of the relevant facts associated with a given situation or event, people will still tend to craft their own perspectives. It's various stuff that your brief synopsis leaves out that could possibly add clarity and reduce mystery. Also, how one chooses to characterize certain things can aid or diminish the pursuit of a better overall understanding.

Certainly, I don't begrudge you the vantage point from which you survey what transpired. However, I look at it all, which was a sequence of numerous different events in and of themselves, from quite a different vantage point.

As for "Capitalism models" for PBM magazines, there are in theory a near-infinite number of different permutations for developing a PBM magazine, whether from scratch or from something always in existence. Also, most of the things that the PBM community knows and has experienced in the form of a "PBM magazine" has been in paper-format, and sold for a price in a standard-fare capitalist model. Some notable past examples that come to mind include Flagship, Paper Mayhem, Gaming Universal, Nuts & Bolts of Gaming, and American Gamer, to name a few, all were available for individual copy purchase or paid subscriptions, to the best of my understanding. Nuts & Bolts of Gaming started out as a fanzine named Nuts & Bolts of Starweb, before eventually transitioning to the capitalist for-purchase model that it became more widely known as.

Capitalism, it should be noted and underscored, does not preclude free products and services in their entirety. Furthermore, free PBM magazines and newsletters are not the opposite of for-purchase PBM magazines. All of the "free" PBM publications that I have published, to date, are traceable back to the commercial PBM sector - which is how I learned about PBM gaming before I ever fell in love with play by mail gaming.

When you characterize Jon Capp's new Suspense & Decision magazine as having "crashed and burned," while that's certainly a colorful way to characterize the final stage of Jon Capps involvement with his attempt at publishing a PBM magazine so late in his rather lengthy involvement on the PBM gaming scene, it is not a characterization that I agree with, at all. And that's likely due to the fact that I look at things from a different perspective. I was one of many first-hand witnesses to to that slice of the PBM time frame.

If one only looks at things from a very narrow perspective, and the focus is placed upon the new Suspense & Decision magazine in the context of failure or success, based solely upon paid subscriber numbers, then it might at first glance seem that Jon Capps' version of Suspense & Decision magazine might rightly be counted as a failure.

But that approach, aside from yielding manifest error, effectively robs Jon Capps of his due - namely, the full measure of his due. Not intentionally, of course, but because it doesn't take into account "the big picture."

Notably absent from your recounting of events is a 67-question survey that I, myself, conducted via MailChimp back on or around January 30th, 2023. There were sixty-eight different people that participated in that survey, during the span of time when it was available for interested parties to participate in it. It might be worth refreshing our individual and collective memories of the outcome of one particular question from that survey.

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The vote was almost six-to-one in favor of reducing the frequency of publication of PBM Chaos. Jon Capps, even with the timing of his bringing the new Suspense & Decision magazine to a close factored into the equation, makes a poor scapegoat for anything that happened to PBM Unearthed. PBM Unearthed thrived during Jon Capps reign as editor of Suspense & Decision, and his decision to stop publishing it (it was a conscious, deliberate, and thought out decision on his part, not a crash and burn scenario that took place) had no actual bearing on my decision to stop publishing PBM Unearthed. As a side note, there's actually an unfinished Issue #30 of PBM Unearthed that's parked in a digital hanger at my own PBM base hidden somewhere in the desert of my PBM existence.

As I seem to recall having explained elsewhere, previously, if it weren't for Jon Capps, PBM Unearthed would likely never have ever come into existence. Now, that doesn't mean that Jon Capps had a direct hand in the creation of PBM Unearthed, and had he been given a choice or preference, it's quite possible that he may have preferred that I didn't launch PBM Unearthed, or that I not have launched it at the time that I did. But I can certainly avow and attest to the fact that my spark that led to the creation and publication of at least twenty-nine issues of PBM Unearthed is traceable in a clear line to Jon Capp's decision to publish a new PBM magazine of his own.

PBM Unearthed's initial aim was for it to become a PBM newsletter, and not a PBM magazine, per se. Here is a quote from Issue #1 of PBM Unearthed, which articulated what PBM Unearthed was intended to be, at its point of origin in digital print.


PBM Unearthed is intended to be a PBM publication that doesn’t take forever to read, one which will focus more on frequency and reliability than page count. The maximum size of any given issue of PBM Unearthed will be no more than eight pages in length - which will equate to four pieces of paper, when printed on both the front and back of each page. Issues can be shorter. The modern era is a hectic place, and PBM Unearthed hopes to be a bit of PBM tranquility in the midst of all the madness that life throws at you.

PBM Unearthed will also be aimed at providing the prison populations of inmates with news from the PBM realm that lies beyond the walls of the incarceration facilities to which they are confined.

- Charles Mosteller

PBM Unearthed

Issue #1 - Page #2

Even this relatively modest goal of an 8-page PBM newsletter proved to not be feasible, from the standpoint of inmates with e-mail capability, and this would be the case, even if I stripped out all images that came to imbue PBM Unearthed with a lot of what I will call it's "visual flavor."

One of the inmates that I occasionally still e-mail, now and again, has e-mail access (many inmates still don't). When I go to send him an e-mail, the limit is two thousand characters - not words, but characters.

As for the supposed "obsessively zealous arrival of a free, 8-page newszine called PBM Unearthed that ballooned into full magazine proportions and released at eight times the pace," just as one man's junk is another man's treasure, likewise, one man's "obsessively zealous" is another man's "unextraordinary." Plus, too, one of my underlying, foundational desires with PBM Unearthed was to actively pursue a publication schedule that would be a marked improvement over what transpired with the original Suspense & Decision magazine.

Additionally, it should also be remembered that when I first started publishing PBM Unearthed, I wasn't using Canva to publish it, and Canva - more than anything else, and particularly anything else that was planned or conceived of by myself - proved to be the equivalent of a technological revolution for me, as it greatly facilitated my ability to handle the various layout tasks that come from trying to publish a PBM publication with a staff of just one person. Canva proved to be a force-multiplier for me. It yielded certain efficiencies that otherwise likely would never have materialized, and once I began to acquire familiarity with Canva's interface, my ability to transition PBM Unearthed from a relatively small PBM newsletter into something more closely resembling a full-blown PBM magazine (albeit in digital form/PDF format) soon began to take on a life of its own.

Both my offering of free ad space for turn-based games, and my "proactive" creating of ads, are traceable, as concepts, back to my stint as editor and publisher of the original Suspense & Decision magazine. As one of several different underlying PBM philosophies, I am firmly of the mindset that to effectively dispel the notion that PBM is dead requires, among other things, visual and irrefutable evidence that PBM is alive. And one way to do that is by actively taking steps to send a strong and sustained "visual message" where people can see for themselves that new PBM ads are coming into existence with some degree of regularity. One element of PBM "storming the beaches" of gaming and entertainment is the prosecution of a visual campaign.

Furthermore, both of these core concepts - free ad space and the free service to create new ads for PBM games - are also geared towards the "elimination of excuses" on the part of PBM companies and PBM GMs. The objective is to try and help ensure that at least some things get done, that at lest some progress does occur. Granted, it may be an imperfect approach, but as I gaze back across the last decade or so, I'm inclined to think and to believe that some good for PBM gaming has come out of it all. Not nearly as much as I would otherwise have obviously preferred, but sometimes in life, something is a better alternative to nothing.

Also, as part of a PBM Report Card survey taken a few years back, almost 90% of the 17 individuals (15 out of 17) who participated in that survey gave a grade of "A" to free ad space for PBM and other turn-based companies. Additionally, no one who participated in that survey gave free ad space a grade lower than a "B."

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And after all of the fun and entertainment that PBM has given me over the last several decades, I try to find ways to at least give something back to PBM. Free ad space and creating new PBM ads are a couple of ways to do that. At least, from my perspective, it is.

On the one hand, do I honestly believe that providing free ad space actually disrupts the creation and running of PBM ads, both new and old, that weren't really happening any longer, at all - or at best, only rarely? Nope, I definitely do not. How do you disrupt something that practically and literally doesn't even exist, anymore?

On the other hand, back when I first brought the original Suspense & Decision magazine into existence, was my decision all those years ago calculated and deliberate decisions aimed at bringing change to the state of the PBM world as it existed at that time? Oh, absolutely. Positively. No doubt about it, whatsoever.

The whole idea was to do something different, to do at least some things different from what the "long-established norm" had devolved into being. Even my friend, Rick McDowell, who is the creator of Alamaze, favored a paid-ads approach.

The vast bulk of the issues of PBM Unearthed that were published were published between issues of the new Suspense & Decision magazine being published. Historically and traditionally, PBM gaming has demonstrated that more than one PBM magazine can exist and survive, simultaneously. I am not aware of any actual reason, whatsoever, why the same does not, or could not, hold true, in the current PBM era of today.

If I were to sit down and to conduct an extensive postmortem of why Jon Capps incarnation of the new Suspense & Decision magazine "died," if that's the term that others are comfortable with (if something crashes and burns, that likely to result in death, right?), then I would probably be inclined to look at the broad body of "evidence" that exists to aid in determining the "likely cause of death."

My intent was to "depart" PBM gaming. It wasn't to continue writing PBM articles. The original Suspense & Decision Frankenstein of a digital PBM magazine that I breathed life into years ago was dead, even if it was never the recipient of a proper burial. But how does one love PBM gaming as much as I do, and not be curious and intrigued by the prospect that someone else has decided to bring a new PBM magazine into existence?

The very first issue of the new Suspense & Decision magazine that Jon Capps published was, by far, the best issue that he published. Just an opinion, of course, bit it is mine. That first issue that he published, which was actually a free issue (and not a capitalistic paid issue), turned out to be Issue #20. He resumed where I left off on the original Suspense & Decision. And he had a number of the best PBM writers in the business aiding him in adding some real literary heft into that issue. It was - and it remains - a very nice start.

Douglas Neman chipped in a Galac-Tac fiction article. Raven Zachary wrote a high-brow intellectual piece titled, In Search of Perfection: Postmortem Examinations on the Path to Play-by-Mail Immortality. Jon Capps, himself, authored a KnightGuild article for that issue. David Spencer and Shannon Muir Broden collaborated on a nice article titled, Paper Mayhem: A Critical Resource During the Heyday of PBM Gaming. Also included in that "first" issue of the new Suspense & Decision magazine helmed by Jon Capps was another piece by Raven Zachary (the most important man in PBM), and this one was titled, A Review of Paper Mayhem: Issue #60, May/June 1993. If memory serves me correctly, this last article was actually posted initially by Raven on the Suspense & Decision website (but it was still a solid choice to include in Jon Capps' first issue).

Not to be outdone by himself, yet another Raven Zachary article appeared in that "first" issue. This time, it was the one titled, The Research Column: Postal Play-by-Mail Games, and it was intended to be the start of a new PBM column, which means that it was envisioned as the start of a series of forthcoming PBM articles. And rounding out the article contributions for that "first" issue was one authored by Bernd Jaehnigen titled, Tribal Starfleet Trade Report. And all this without even counting the inclusion of the Suspense & Decision Game Index, a list of PBM games that, at that time, counted seventy games in its pages.

Talk about stacking the deck in one's favor with some real heavy hitters, some genuine PBM writing talent!

That "first" issue of the new Suspense & Decision magazine weighed in at a very respectable forty-four pages, from cover to cover. The following issue, Issue #21, shrank noticeably to twenty-eight pages - which, in fairness, is still a respectable amount of pages, and there are numerous historical examples from other, older PBM magazines that attest to such. Issue #22 rose back up a bit, coming in at thirty-two pages in length. And Issue #23? It was back to twenty-eight pages, again. Issue #24 also replicated the twenty-eight page feat. And the final issue of the new Suspense & Decision magazine under Jon Capps' editorial oversight to get published, Issue #25? It rounded things out with another thirty-two pages.

And to be quite frank about it, there are some really decent articles by a variety of other authors in those other five articles. Jonathan Spore, David Fair, Antony Dunks, Richard Lockwood, Severus Blackthorn, David Oliver Kling - even Raven Zachary and David Spencer still contributed additional articles. Heck, even I weighed in with an article (Hyborian War: The Game of Many Things), and a letter to the editor, and some ads.

In my estimation and in my considered opinion, the most likely "cause of death" was a wholesale lack of support from the existing PBM industry, at large, and from the PBM community, at large. That, I think, was the primary cause of "death" for the new Suspense & Decision magazine. After all, if the PBM companies, PBM GMs, and a slew of PBM players and PBM-interested non-players had actually, truly thrown a lot of support Jon Capps way, then what PBM Unearthed was doing or not doing wouldn't have amounted to a hill of beans.

And what was it than Jon Capps, himself, said not so very long ago?


Well, today marks one year of owning / running Suspense & Decision. I am going to shut down the magazine. It is simply not worth my time. I think PBM is essentially dying and on life support. I can make more money and have more fun writing games for Steam and Cell phones than writing a PBeM. After all, at the end of the day, it is all about having fun.

- Galen (Jon Capps)

suspense-and-decision channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord


I suspect that his publicly-stated view that he thought that PBM is essentially dying and on life support, which was an opinion stated after he attempted to publish a PBM magazine for a year, was likely what he actually believed.

For Jon Capps, at the end of the day (or at the end of the year of his PBM magazine publishing "adventure"), it (life, or a large portion, thereof) is all about having fun.

And you know what? He's right. He was right, then, when he said it, and he's still right, now, all these many months later.

As recent events unfolded, Jon Capps suffered a heart attack. None of us are getting any younger (though most of us aren't nearly as old as Old Smitty Smith).


It seems to me that one of S&D's biggest problems was a lack of contributors for articles. With more content, I think it would have done better. Unearthed seemed to be grabbing what few contributions that were available, for some reason. But there just wasn't enough out there to work with in the first place, and that's got to be the fault of the whole community (including me).

- Davin Church

GM of Talisman Games

pbm-chaos channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord


To be certain, in any postmortem that I would conduct of the demise of the new Suspense & Decision magazine, were I ever to undertake such a thing, in addition to listing the primary cause of death, I would also likely be heavily inclined to list contributing factors - things that contributed noticeably to the PBM magazine patient's ultimate demise.

And you know what else? If Jon Capps had never launched his attempt at putting together and publishing a PBM magazine, none of you would likely have ever had the privilege of PBM Chaos ever coming into existence, at all. Never fall to prey to confusing subscription sales to a new, and largely unsupported, PBM magazine with an individual's actual influence and impact across the PBM spectrum.

So, whenever anyone out there in the realm of PBM gaming is tempted to think, much less to actually believe, that Jon Capps' PBM magazine crashed and burned, I would caution one and all not to be swift to buy in to that notion. Why? Because it's not nearly as well thought out of a proposition as it could have been.

As for PBM Unearthed "grabbing" what few contributions were available, it's not as though there was a "limited pool of available PBM contributions" from which I snatched away, while Jon wasn't looking or off busy doing other things (and make no mistake about it, he was a busy man - I know that, from having read various things that he's said, at times). Certainly, both I and PBM Unearthed were fortunate to receive as many article and other contributions as we did, but perhaps I hustled and persuaded more, or perhaps those that contributed simply gravitated more towards PBM Unearthed, or possibly they could be chalked up to an increase in networking effectiveness. I definitely reached out to a number of different people over the time that PBM Unearthed was being published. Or maybe I was just the recipient of good luck.

The fact of the matter is that the PBM industry and the PBM community, with some numerous exceptions, is complacent, lifeless, and overflowing with excuses. The way that things get done is by someone doing them, whatever they are. Persuading people to "contribute" PBM articles and other materials/stuff has  always been a challenge of the first magnitude. David Webber could have told you that, and Carol Mulholland could have told you that. Generally speaking, PBM articles, especially, aren't written and submitted to a pool of interested PBM editors well in advance. Rather, it's more akin, many times but not always, to pulling PBM teeth. It tends to be viewed more as a chore, or a task best avoided if at all possible, than as an opportunity.

As far as "if the attention was not so clearly divided and people had incentive to unite behind S&D as the sole PBM publication being published, it would still be in existence" is concerned, as the vast majority of current PBM gamers at that time, and now, also, have never even read a single issue of PBM Unearthed, chalking it up to their attention being "divided," or to some incentive-based issue, strikes me as a bridge too far to believe. Myself, I'm not inclined to make excuses for the PBM industry or for the PBM community at large, much less for both.

Of course, one could also question whether the PBM magazine that Jon Capps created, edited, and published was attractive to the current PBM community, specifically, or to gamers, generally. And it would be equally fair to question, and to speculate, whether my own approach to creating, editing, and publishing PBM publications and other content is attractive to the same segments of the gaming population.

What if none of us on the media publishing end of PBM gaming, and what if none of us on the game publishing end of PBM gaming, are on the right track. My own gut feeling, however, is that waiting for the PBM cavalry, or waiting on others, to ride to the rescue isn't a particularly attractive option.

Almost ten years ago, when pondering Issue #4 of the original Suspense & Decision magazine, I talked a little bit about what I was building - a Kirby machine. I even said at that time, "Suspense & Decision magazine is not this Kirby machine. It is, at most, but a single energy source." 

Of course, I don't ever operate on the assumption that I am the one who will actually end up being the one to succeed at building a PBM Kirby machine. Nor do I even assume that just one PBM Kirby machine will be sufficient. One person on their own will likely never prove sufficient to build the thing, much less start the thing and keep it running. But I could be wrong about that, just as I could be wrong about every single thing that I have tried, in order to bring some degree of improvement to the PBM gaming scene.

For that matter, the possibility is very real that, even if everyone from every corner of the PBM realm were to genuinely give it our all, we might still come up short. But I am inclined to believe that there exists a tipping point, which if we can collectively succeed in reaching that, we might be able to achieve some momentum of substance. Maybe the PBM stars are aligned against us, or perhaps we're just not collectively and/or individually doing even remotely enough. Maybe we're all crashing and burning, but whether we are or not, maybe Jon Capps latched onto something substantially more important than the fate of all play by mail gaming. Namely, that at the end of the day, it is all about having fun.

Ain't this a hell of a way to spend Christmas Eve? But it's a big world, and we can all choose what to believe in. And on that note. . .

Merry Christmas, my friends, my foes, my envelope-acquaintances!

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos

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"Even the treasures of Smaug pale in comparison to the MEPBM Wiki."

Hi Charles,

I will get that article written, but, whatever you say, it IS tough for us non-writers to write.

You may not charge for your magazine, and you may have a drop in readership, but I would certainly pay for your musings, if you wanted to professionalise (?) your magazine.

Richard Weatherhead

Richard "Missing in Action" Weatherhead,

Let me get this straight. You wrote me an e-mail, but it's tough for you to write? Help me out, here, because I'm having difficulty grasping what you're saying. Clearly, you can write. Heck, you just demonstrated it, for crying out loud!

Your glaring contradiction and your gallivanting around Singapore aside, I see that you have fallen prey to the bait that I toss in the PBM Chaos waters. Whenever you come up for air, like a rare breed of PBM whale, and you chime in like you did, it signals to me that you're reading what I'm writing, reading what I'm publishing. And that does an old PBM heart like mine a world of good, my friend.

While I'm always prowling PBM's ocean like a shark, ceaseless searching for contributions of PBM-related material of all stripes and flavors, and while I give you a hard time about that one Austerlitz article (that the fate of the entire PBM realm hinges upon) that you made the mistake of committing to, once upon a long while back, in truth, I care much less about that particular article from a self-professed "man who can't write" than I care about the fact that you continue to follow along with me on this PBM journey. Know, Old Man Weatherhead, that I do greatly appreciate the fact that you are an unabashed, unrepentant fan of play by mail gaming. No doubt, I can count on you to be with me to the bitter end. And for that, you command both my respect and my admiration (but you still owe me that article).

Plus, too, by riding you long and hard about you still "owing" me that article, perhaps it will help to keep other PBM fanatics such as yourself "in line," fearful that I might subject them to what shall henceforth be known the PBM world over as "the Weatherhead Treatment," should they commit to writing an article, and then boldly dash off to Singapore for God-only-knows what sort of free-styling holiday pleasures. Not that I begrudge you rest and relaxation and fun at Christmastime, but while you're off living it up in exotic holiday style, someone has to stay home and man the PBM publication machine. ::sigh::

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos

* The PlayByMail.Net Discord currently has 213 members.


Galaxy #113 News From Galac-Tac

(December 25, 2023)

Galac-Tac galaxy #113 has now begun play! On-line players should visit your game page, review your report, and enter your first-turn orders by the turn deadline of Sunday, January 7, 2024.

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* Have you visited the Galac-Tac channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord?

Currently Active Galac-Tac Galaxy Statistics
 3 regular galaxies are currently in progress. 
The next approaching due date is January 5, 2024.
19 solo galaxies are currently in progress.
Galaxies Filling
Galaxy # Turn Interval Star Density Empire Count Positions Filled Start Date
25 2 days Normal 10-15 Many Filling
130 1 week Normal 10-15 Many Filling
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Galac-Tac: What Santa brought me for Christmas!

Charles Mosteller

Like a fool, I decided to join the Galaxy #113 game of Galac-Tac that started on Christmas Day of 2023. Now comes the hard part.

Fortunately, turns for this game are scheduled to run every two weeks. If I find myself pressed for time, then that's good. But two weeks between turns for an online game can be quite the wait. After all, Game #5728 of Alamaze, which I am playing the Demon Princes kingdom in, runs once per week, and even that seems slow. So, we'll just have to wait and see how it goes.

If Galaxy #113 runs until the Masters return, which the rulebook on Page #1 states is usually around turn 85-95), that translates into this game running as long as about 22 months - almost two full years! Will the players of an online game really want to invest almost two years in this single game? My gut instinct cautions me against placing much stock in that, but perhaps the unfolding of the game will teach me otherwise.

But I still have to learn to play TribeNet, as my first turn for that game is due on January 15th, 2024, if I'm not mistaken. Plus, I'm still trying to churn out issues of PBM Chaos, yet it's the PBM GMs that don't have any time? Give me a break!

But this article is about Galac-Tac, not Alamaze, not TribeNet. So, let's get with it.

The first order of business is to figure out what to name my empire in Galaxy #113. Not that I can't come up with an empire name on my own, but for this occasion, I decided to at least consult with ChatGPT, to see what kind of names that it could suggest. Whatever name that I decide to use for my empire name, it has to be a total of 30 characters or less, as that is a limitation set in the rulebook for the game.

Astral Imperium. Nebula Ascendancy. Starlight Empire. Orion Hegemony. Galactic Syndicate. Interstellar Ascendancy. Synthocide Conquerors. Infinitron Menacers. ExoEntropy Eradicators. You get the idea. For me, the empire name that I decide upon is purely for the grand purpose of adding flavor to the game, and to possibly aid me when engaging in any tidbits of in-game roleplaying.

One of the things that Galac-Tac does when creating a new game is to auto-generate players an array of starting "ships." Specifically, I now have no less than 29 ships awaiting my orders, to include 10 Scout Ships, 10 Freighters, 2 Skirmishers, 4 Fighters, 1 Carrier, and 1 Station. While these pre-generated ships allow Galac-Tac players to get off to a faster start, it's also one of the things that I like least about the game.

Why? Because it imbues the game with a greater degree of ""generic flavor." While I could certainly scrap all of my starting ships (and I might), to do so basically means that I will end up incurring the price of a delayed start. Why anyone ever thought that all of the players in games of Galac-Tac should all have identical ship types at game start is beyond me.

In various well known science fiction universes, do the Colonies of Man and the Cylons have the same ship types? In Star Trek, do the Federation and the Klingons and the Gorns all have the same ship types? In Star Wars, are the Empire's and the Rebellion's ships the same? I grasp that these all-alike ship designs/classes originated from designs of the Masters, where Galac-Tac as a game and as a setting is concerned, but even still, a big chunk of me tells myself that generic is generic, and that generic isn't a good quality to instill into a science fiction war game.

The Galac-Tac rulebook on Page #34 states:

CLASSIFY can also be used to rename the design code and design name for a given design rating.

Initially, from what I could tell, it didn't actually seem possible to rename an existing ship's design code, in spite of what this section of the Galac-Tac rulebook stated. But as it turned out, I was wrong about this, and Davin Church, the Galac-Tac GM, came to the rescue, and my degree of self-inflicted error on this particular PBM item was diminished. A special "thank you" to Davin for his help!

I then created a new solo game of Galac-Tac to test it out on, and lo and behold, I was able to successfully change the starting Ship Codes and Ship Classification names for all of the 13 different ship types that all players in Galac-Tac start the game with.

Here's a screenshot of what all players of Galac-Tac receive for their starting ship designs:

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But if Galac-Tac players want to, while they can't change the starting Ship Ratings for their starting ship types, they can change both the starting Ship Code and Ship Classifications for all starting ships. As Galac-Tac players only have a maximum of 50 order slots each turn, if a player wanted to change the Ship Codes and/or the Ship Classifications on all of their starting ship types (to imbue their empire with more "flavor" and to add to the overall "atmosphere" of the game), then it will require 13 order slots to achieve the changes for all 13 of their starting ship types.

Players can also change the Name of individual ships through use of the Name order/command, but that is something else, entirely. In the Star Trek universe, the Enterprise is the name of a starship of the Constellation Class. In fairness, some players may prefer to have all individual ships of a particular Ship Classification type to have the same name. They may, for example, want all of their freighters to be called freighter. And since even very small ships in Galac-Tac are technically "ships, even the ones that can't move at all because they have no engines), maybe some players might not want to go to the trouble of naming every individual ship with a different name.

In Galac-Tac, it is quite possible for the size of players overall ship inventory to swell considerably. All players start the game with no less than 29 ships awaiting them to issue orders to. Building hundreds of ships over the course of a game of Galac-Tac is quite realistic.

Below is an example screenshot of what a player's starting Ship Codes and Ship Classifications can look like, if the player chooses to change them on Turn #1:

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In a previous solo game of Galac-Tac, I already learned first-hand that a player can actually scrap all of their starting ships, as well as declassify (eliminate) all starting ship designs (as long as the player issues Scrap orders to scrap all of their starting ships, first), and simply start from a clean slate. Clean as a whistle!

In a multiplayer game of Galac-Tac, is the tradeoff of effectively starting the game already behind worth what is gained in terms of improved role playing foundation and greater uniqueness of one's empire's ship types? Maybe. Maybe not. I suppose that it just all boils down to what individual players favor and prefer the most. Changing the starting Ship Codes and Ship Classifications do not change the starting ship ratings, but if you really want to inject more flavor into the game, then every player in the game not all sending out the exact same Ship Classifications, especially, becomes an important consideration.

The Ship Rating is ultimately what determines how many weapons of a given type that ships in Galac-Tac have, and how many hangers they have, and how many cargo holds they have, as well as how many engines and of what type that any and all ships in the game have. But if you decide to role play an empire that you've seen in a television series or movie, or read about in a book, which is something that PBM gamers have done for decades on end, then the names of Ship Codes and Ship Classifications and Ship Names takes on far greater importance. Regardless of whether you make any changes to your starting Ship Codes and Ship Classifications, you an still play Galac-Tac just as good or just as poorly as you otherwise normally might.

One could just split the difference, and create some new ship types via the Classify and Build orders, while using at least some of the generic starting ships that the Masters stuck the player empires with, simply to get off to a quicker  economic footing. But from my perspective, if I were to decide to play Klingons in any space warfare game, I wouldn't expect to see some other fellow playing the United Federation of Planets zooming around the galaxy with the exact same kind of ship types. Of course, if the Star Trek universe is your thing, then PBM gaming offers far more exactitude for your gaming pleasures with Franz Games' Star Fleet Warlord and Star Fleet Battles Online offerings. Be sure to drop by those PBM games' websites and check them out. In due time, I hope to try out both. Paul Franz, the owner of Franz Games would love for you to give his PBM games a try, as well.

One of the things that I hope to do over the course of this Galaxy #113 game of Galac-Tac is to write a series of articles in issues of PBM Chaos, that my empire's fate, frustrations, and glories will spread across PBMdom, so my empire does not simply vanish beneath the sands of time, whether comes victory or defeat. Now, whether this game ultimately proves to be memorable, there's no way of knowing that, just yet. I have little doubt, though, that at least some of the other players in this game I might have some degree of familiarity with.

Will any of them turn out to be PBM Chaos readers? Even now, are they already conspiring against me? And will any of them dare detail their empires' exploits among the stars, also? The looming threat of my empire's extermination from Galac-Tac Galaxy #113 will no doubt hang over my head like the proverbial Sword of Damocles. But for PBM Chaos' readers' sake, I feel that it is a risk that I must be prepared to endure.

Stay turned to future issues of PBM Chaos to learn what happens in Galaxy #113!

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* The Eressea Discord currently has 181 members.

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The Briefing is a weekly email for those who love the board game Diplomacy. We want to be a place where everyone can keep updated on the current events going on across the community. We'll also include a weekly strategy article. Whether you are an online player or someone on the tournament scene, this is for you.

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Austerlitz Game Positions

Available Empires as of Friday 13th October 2023.

Available Empires in Au430

Austria Hungary - £4.50

Spain - £4.50

France - £4.50

Great Britain - £5.00

Holland - £4.00
Italy - £3.00

Kingdom of Portugal - £4.00

Morocco - £4.00
Naples - £3.00

Russia - £5.00

Sweden - £3.50

Ottoman Empire - £4.25
Duchy of Warsaw - £3.50

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The Sword and Crown Discord channel awaits you!

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Do NOT become trapped in the maze, forever!

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There is a maze. . .and you're in it!

But here's the thing, others are in it, as well. All that you have to do is to find your way out. . .before they do!

Sounds simple, right?

On your turn, you do not get to see the whole maze. Rather, you only get to see a small portion of it. But you also get to see everyone's else's map segments - each turn, every turn!

Even if you see the exit, you may not be able to see how to get to it. Some dangers you will be able to see. Others you may not even realize that there is a danger, until it's too late.

Be careful in the maze. Be very, very careful. Don't get lost. Don't get hurt. Don't get killed.

Simple, right?

Your character will be assigned a number, which will represent you within the maze at all times. Your fellow players will all be assigned their own number. What gruesome fate awaits each? Or can you push on to victory?

You may see other characters while in the maze, and they may see you. In fact, you might even pass one another, as you all search for a way out.

Lest I forget - there are "things" within the maze.

These "things" may be good. They may be bad. They may be deadly.

Fate will tempt you . . . but don't tempt fate. Hopefully, you won't get eaten.

The Maze has more than one exit. But can you find one of them in time?

Whenever a player exits the maze, that exit will close and seal off.

Flee. Escape. But do NOT become trapped in the maze, forever!

Players In The PBM Maze

1 - Stephan

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Starting Position - 1

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4 - Jim Smith

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Starting Position - 4

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7 - Jef Tonelli

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Starting Position - 7

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10 - Richard Lockwood

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Starting Position - 10

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2 - Lubos Comor

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Starting Position - 2

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5 - Undeadlord

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Starting Position - 5

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8 - mdhender

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Starting Position - 8

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Discord Channel


3 - Trachyte

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Starting Position - 3

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6 - java

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Starting Position - 6

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9 - Peter H.

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Starting Position - 9

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Far Horizons 23

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DungeonWorld PBM

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Atlantis New Origins

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Fire on the Suns

Discord Server


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5742 24 Hours 10 2
2 weeks
5747 72 Hours 5 7
5751 48 Hours 0 12
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Third Age 1650

The Third Age 1650 module in MEPBM

At the end of the Second Age, Sauron was thrown down from power. At the beginning of the Third Age, his ring, the One Ring, vanished from all knowledge of man and dwarf, elf and Maia. But Sauron was only defeated, not destroyed. And the One Ring was only lost; and what was lost, can once again be found. The year 1650 of the Third Age finds Sauron gathering his servants to him once more within the mountain fortress of Mordor, mind and will bent on the discovery of the One Ring and the conquest of the lands of Middle-earth. The Free Peoples of Middle-earth, devastated by the Great Plague, are weakened, scattered, divided. But there is strength still, in the hearts of man and in the mines of the dwarves, and the elves are not yet all gone from the land. And there are yet other nations, independent empires who have managed to remain apart from the struggle between Sauron and the Free Peoples. But who, for good or for ill, will surely play a part in the coming months of conflict.

(Note: this module assumes that Sauron makes his bid for domination of Middle-earth shortly after Gondor’s watch on Mordor ceases, a thousand years before his invasion occurs in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.) There are 25 nations of Middle-earth in the Third Age 1650 Module.

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The Free Peoples


The Woodmen are composed of both the Woodmen and the Beornings of Mirkwood. They are a loose collection of hunter- gatherer tribes who live in or below the trees of the great forest. The Beornings are closely related to the Woodmen, although their ancestry is distinct, and a select few can shape-change. The Woodmen numbers are few, generally preferring to blend in with their environment rather than placing a burden upon it. Their clans prefer small centres of population, and hold several sites in the forest as holy. Loosely led by Beoraborn and Waulfa, they possess skilled leaders with great insight and wisdom, and deft agents with speed and cunning. The scattered population of the Woodmen presents difficulty in co-ordinating plans, but they are fierce warriors, effective in almost any terrain, and have rich resources at their disposal.


The Northmen nation is composed of both the Lake-men and Dale-men of Rhovanion, as well as the Dorwinion near the Sea of Rhûn. Their cultures are similar, since all are skilled diplomats and merchants, and together they influence much of the mercantile trade in western Middle-earth. The Northmen aspire to develop and control vast markets, and so acquire considerable wealth. Their numbers are not great, but their settlements are much larger than their neighbours’. The Northmen possess adequate and well-provisioned armies, and also possess a navy at the Sea of Rhûn. Led by Éoder and Gaerandil, the Northmen represent a significant power waiting to be awakened.


The Éothraim nation includes the sedentary Gramuz peoples as well as the plains-riders who reside on the vast plains of Rhovanion and near the eaves of Mirkwood. A loose collection of semi-permanent clans led by Uirdiks and Mahrcared, the tribes of the Éothraim control considerable territory. While they have chosen to establish few permanent settlements, these ancestors of the Riders of Rohan are capable of placing roots when need dictates. On horseback, the riders of the Éothraim have few equals anywhere in Middle-earth. Their forces enjoy the mobility of cavalry and are masters of the wild horses of the region. Although their dispersed forces and sparse settlements inhibit their power, the Éothraim possess considerable numbers of troops, and have reliable clan leaders.


The last independent kingdom of the former realm of Arnor, the nation of Arthedain still represents a significant force in the region. From the hills of northern Eriador and led by King Argeleb II, the knights and mages of Arthedain have withstood the evil forces of Angmar for over 300 years. The great power and influence they wielded long ago is no more, yet the memory of former glory remains and serves as a beacon for the people of Arthedain. The blood of the Dúnedain runs rich in the veins of their leaders, who still possess many of the heirlooms of ancient Númenor. Numerous well-fortified towns support the remaining population, and a variety of resources are still abundant in the region. Gifted with few but excellent leaders, the well-provisioned armies of Arthedain are formidable, whilst lately, to bolster their flagging recruitment, mercenaries have been hired to swell the ranks.


The glory of Cardolan has long passed, and the blood of the Dúnedain runs thin. However, the largest region of the former realm of Arnor still wields much influence, and employs numerous swords in central Eriador. Consisting of several co-operating fiefdoms loosely led by Hallas, Cardolan seeks to be a reunited and restored nation once again. The armies of Cardolan are adequate but lacking in discipline, and consist of large numbers of mercenaries hired to provide quantity if not quality. It is the numerous towns and settlements of Cardolan which help establish their influence over the strategic region of Eriador, and much of their strength lies in the considerable resources available in Eriador. A good navy is also anchored and ready to oversee the extensive coastline and numerous rivers within Cardolan.

Northern Gondor

Although no longer the dominant force in western Middle-earth, Northern Gondor still controls a huge domain extending north from the White Mountains, east from the Gap of Isengard, west from the land of Mordor (with outposts still evident in Rhovanion), and south of Mirkwood. The blood of the Dúnedain runs richest in Gondor, and the leaders are well-seasoned veterans of both foreign and internal conflicts. Led by King Tarondor, their armies are well-provisioned and supplied, and have even begun to reach their former proportions once more. Many strong cities and fortified towns are scattered across this vast realm, and several navies help maintain Gondorian interests along the Anduin and the route to the sea. The source of greatest concern for the people of Northern Gondor is not their own strength, but rather the extensive realm they must protect, and the many enemies who reside on their borders.

Southern Gondor

The numerous territories and fiefs of Southern Gondor are considered allied with their cousins to the north. However, the recent Kin-strife has strained relations and estranged some of the powers, and many powerful men within the nation ponder their own right to rule all of Gondor. Their realm consists of the lands south of the White Mountains and north of Near Harad. Led by Prince Celdrahil, the forces of Southern Gondor are not to be taken lightly. Numerous well-fortified towns dot a countryside rich in natural resources. A formidable army, in terms of numbers, training, and provisions, and powerful navies that patrol the sea regions south of Gondor and up the Anduin delta, provide considerable deterrent to the other major powers in the region. The mages of Southern Gondor are also very talented, and betray the presence of Elvish blood mixed with that of their Dúnedan ancestors.


The descendants of the Seven Fathers, known among themselves as the "Khazâd", are scattered from one end of Middle-earth to the other. The largest settlement of the Dwarven nation is centred at Khazad-dum, ruled by Báin I, but there are enclaves to be found in the Blue Mountains, the Grey Mountains, the Iron Hills, and the hills near the Sea of Rhûn. The rise of the Dwarves as a power has been prevented primarily by the isolation of their forces, but further hampered by the slow growth of their population. A stout and sturdy race, the Dwarves are blessed with some of the most formidable warriors, pound for pound, to be found in all of Middle-earth. The Dwarves were little affected by the Plague in the early Third Age, and most of the Dwarven population are trained warriors. Thus the Khazâd are capable of fielding a large, well-provisioned, well-led army. In matters other than military, however, the Dwarves are less-skilled. And although their settlements are usually strong and well-fortified, they have limited resources, other than metals, with which to trade.

Sinda Elves

The nation of the Sindar consists mostly of Silvan (Wood) Elves, who are led by their Sindar brethren. The Sinda Lords Thranduil and Amroth effectively lead the dispersed forces of the Wood-elves resident in northern Mirkwood and in Lórien. The armies of the Sindar are not numerous, but they are effective, possessing fine-quality weapons and superb leaders. The forces of the Sindar are adept at moving and fighting in their natural terrain – the forest. Skilled mages and numerous agents also keep them well-informed about their surroundings, and the activities of their neighbours. Although their settlements are few and far between (they possess harbours as far away as the Sea of Rhûn and the Great Sea), the Sindar are well hidden and well protected.

Noldo Elves

Arguably, the Noldo are individually the most powerful of Eru's Children. However, there are now so few of them that their potential to control events is not what it once was. The Noldo nation consists mostly of Wood-elves and a few Sinda Elves who are led by their Sinda and Noldo Lords, Círdan and Elrond. Residing in the westernmost parts of Middle-earth, they survey and consider the changing world from the Grey Havens and Rivendell. By no means strong by military standards, the Noldo still can bring to bear a well-trained, well-armed, and well-led army to back up their demands. Skilled mages and ancient artifacts grant them considerable knowledge of their surroundings, including the affairs of other nations, and well-protected by magical and natural forces, the settlements of the Noldo are perfect havens from which to launch attacks at almost any point in north-western Middle-earth.

The Dark Servants


Led by the Lord of the Nazgûl, the Witch-king, the nation of Er-Mûrazôr is one of the most feared in Middle-earth. From his realm of Angmar in the far north, Mûrazôr influences many of the events that transpire in Eriador and the Grey Mountain region. Surrounded by competent leaders and skilled emissaries, the Witch-king can send forth his armies to battle with considerable confidence. His main concern is that many of his troops are so poorly trained that only their sheer numbers make the difference between victory and defeat. Powerful mages and ancient items of power also contribute much to the fear felt in the presence of the forces of the Witch-king.

Dragon Lord

Led by the Second of the Nazgûl, the Dragon Lord, the nation of Khamûl is one of the most extensive of the Dark Servants. From his main fortress in southern Mirkwood, the Dragon Lord influences many of the events that transpire in Rhovanion and the Misty Mountain region. Surrounded by a variety of competent emissaries and skilled mages, the Dragon Lord can manipulate the affairs of the region almost at will. His agents frequently infiltrate his adversaries' settlements, yet due to the numerous enemy military forces in the area, the Dragon Lord has not yet openly displayed his growing armies. The Dragon Lord does not like to operate near bodies of water, so maintains no navies and does not even bother to maintain vigilance over the nearby Anduin river.

Dog Lord

Led by the Third of the Nazgûl, the Dog Lord, the nation of Dendra Dwar is both powerful and in ascendance. From his main fortress inside Mordor, the Dog Lord prepares his forces for what he considers his rightful rulership of Ithilien and Rhovanion. Numerous dark mages and skilled agents are in the Dog Lord's service, but his greatest potential lies in the able commanders that handle his growing military might. The forces of the Dog Lord are aptly named, for many of his troops ride the infamous war-dogs and war-wolves that Dendra Dwar himself breeds and trains. This ferocious cavalry is one of the most feared forces Middle-earth. Until recently, the resources available within Mordor were sufficient for the Dog Lord's purposes. However, the need for both more canine-mounts and other war materials has forced Dendra Dwar to look beyond his current haven, and consider extending his domain's boundaries.

Cloud Lord

Led by the Fourth of the Nazgûl, the Cloud Lord, the nation of Jí Indûr is probably the most secretive of all the Dark Servants. From his main fortress in south-western Mordor, the Cloud Lord's minions perform the most delicate of extractions and arrange the most unobtrusive of accidents for the leaders of the Free Peoples. As a result of the exploits of his highly-skilled agents, Jí Indûr also influences and oversees much of the trade and commerce that passes through Harondor. His knowledge of the affairs and plans of his neighbours has allowed the Cloud Lord to begin preparing his forces, both military and arcane, in preparation for his own plans of expansion and domination.

Blind Sorcerer

Led by the Fifth of the Nazgûl, the Blind Sorcerer, the nation of Akhôrahil represents one of the most dangerous conclaves of mages in possession of powerful artifacts among all the Dark Servants. From his main fortress in south-eastern Mordor, the Blind Sorcerer's adepts prepare for the inevitable expansion of his domain into Harad and Khand. Akhôrahil possesses one of the richest regions from which to operate, and controls one of the few navies serving the Dark Servants. Although lacking individuals skilled in the more subtle means of persuasion, the Blind Sorcerer is surrounded by powerful mages and well-supplied forces, and his armies and navies are swiftly becoming a force with which to be reckoned.

Ice King

Led by the Sixth of the Nazgûl, Hoarmûrath the Ice King, the nation represents a formidable and growing force among the Dark Servants. From his main fortress inside Mordor, Hoarmûrath's adept mages and skilled agents have permitted him to maintain constant vigilance and influence over the Ithilien region, while at the same time remaining largely undetected. The Ice King's armies are growing, and pressuring his neighbours is the next step in his plans for expansion. For the rich and poorly-defended lands outside his realm are an attractive goal, and the resource-poor lands of Mordor will not long continue to support the growing might of his forces.

Quiet Avenger

Led by the Seventh of the Nazgûl, the Quiet Avenger, the nation of Adûnaphel wields the most well-balanced force of the Dark Servants. From her main fortress south-west of Mordor in Near Harad, Adûnaphel's learned mages, numerous diplomats, and military commanders execute the dire whispers of the Quiet Avenger throughout the region of Harondor and Harad. The location of Adûnaphel's stronghold provides her with a rich source of supplies and good potential for further, albeit controlled, expansion. However, the people at Adûnaphel's disposal are not the best-trained nor the most skilled, and the delicate position of her realm places great emphasis in balancing the many neighbouring forces.

Fire King

Led by the Eighth of the Nazgûl, the Fire King, the nation of Ren the Unclean wields the most dedicated force among all the Dark Servants. From his main fortress inside Mordor, the Fire King's mages, numerous agents and military commanders maintain constant pressure and vigilance on the Gondorian towers that surround Mordor and the region of Ithilien. The armies of Ren, although not the most skilled, are typically well-armed, and represented by a diverse mixture of races and peoples. His servants have enabled the Fire King to begin preparing his forces, both military and arcane, in preparation for his own plans of expansion and domination.

Long Rider

Led by the Ninth of the Nazgûl, the Long Rider, the nation of Ûvatha controls one of the most extensive realms of the Dark Servants. From his main fortress near the Sea of Rhûn, the Long Rider's minions infiltrate and pressure many of the peoples that inhabit Rhovanion and the region of Khand. The skilled agents of the Long Rider are able to exert considerable influence on mercantile operations throughout these regions, whilst the vast realm of Ûvatha is patrolled by the superior cavalry that serve as the bulwark of his armies. Whilst perhaps not as highly regarded as some cavalry, nevertheless the exclusively mounted forces of the Long Rider are numerous, well-provisioned and quite capable of carrying out the planned expansion of his domain. And the rich lands found in his realm hold strong potential for this growth.

Dark Lieutenants

The nation of the Dark Lieutenants represents a strategic centre of power for the Dark Servants. From their main fortress inside Mordor, The Mouth of Sauron (Ûrzahil) and The Warlord (Gothmog) initiate and control events that influence much that transpires in all the regions surrounding Mordor. While the forces that constitute the armies of the Dark Lieutenants are not well-skilled, the seasoned commanders of the Dark Lieutenants are probably the most capable leaders to be found anywhere in Middle-earth, and their presence makes their armies a formidable force. Surrounded by wise mages and protected by artifacts, the Dark Lieutenants' power is rapidly rising, and rivals that of any of the other Dark Servants.

The Neutrals


The nation of the Corsairs consists primarily of descendants of the Dúnedan rebels who fled from Gondor in the wake of the Kin-strife wars, and also their Black Númenórean cousins who resided in Umbar prior to the arrival of the rebels. Led by the exceptional sea-captain Angamaitë and the powerful Teldûmeir, the Corsairs have effectively established themselves as a dominant force in the Bay of Belfalas and along the southern coasts. The vast navies of the Corsairs are feared by all and equalled by few. The strategic location of the Corsairs affords them a region that has both plentiful resources, and ready access to the Great Sea, the Harnen and even the Anduin river. Along with a few mages, the skilled diplomats and agents of the Corsairs wield their powers to great effect throughout the neighbouring regions, and have so far managed to keep the forces of both the Free Peoples and the Dark Servants in check.


The nation of the Haradwaith chiefly consists of the Northern Haradwaith of Near Harad, and the peoples who occupy the semi-arid lands south of Mordor, called Harondor, with their greatest settlements located along the sea-coast and rivers. Led by Haruth Ramam and Carlon, the Haradwaith regard the Belfalas area to be their own, and contest other rival navies for right of passage there. The lands about Harondor provide bountiful resources and afford considerable protection from their powerful neighbours. Surrounded by powerful realms of the Free Peoples and the Dark Servants, the Haradan nation utilises their strategic location and rich resources to thwart these foreign influences. While their main strength lies in their military might of their armies and navies, they also possess individuals with skills in the arcane as well as the more subtle arts.


The nation of the Dunlendings encompasses the large region south of the former realm of Arnor in central Eriador. Consisting of several co-operating clans loosely led by Enion and Eríbhen, the Dunlendings seek to be reunited and restored to the lands of their forefathers. Possessing neither valorous nor skilled warriors, the armies of the Dunlendings rely primarily upon their charismatic leaders and sheer numbers to win the day. However, their forces are accustomed to fighting in all types of terrain (the rougher the better), and possess a wide variety of troops to suit their varied styles and expertise. While few of the Dunlendings aspire toward the arcane arts, the few that do so have acquired considerable skill. Surrounded by powerful adversaries, the Dunlendings have quietly reinforced their armies, and plan a return to the days of old when their people were possessed of great power and influence.


The glory of Rhudaur has long passed, and blood of the Dúnedain almost vanished, but the eastern region of the former realm of Arnor still wields some influence, and employs numerous swords in northern Eriador. Consisting of several fiefdoms, led by Arfanhil and Broggha, Rhudaur seeks to be a reunited and restored nation once again. However, some factions favour the policies of the Dark Servants and others the policies of the Free Peoples, whilst the considerable natural resources of Rhudaur are of interest to both, making such restoration difficult. While the armies of Rhudaur are adequate to defend their borders, they are lacking in discipline, and consist of large numbers of mercenaries. The military commanders of Rhudaur possess some skills in subterfuge and magic, as well as a keen interest in ancient artifacts. This broad spectrum of tools has allowed the leaders of Rhudaur to balance the strong influences of their neighbours whilst harbouring their own desire for expansion. So far.


The Easterlings consist of the collection of peoples who occupy the north central region of Middle-earth. This region encompasses part of Rhovanion, and all the lands south of there above the Khand. This diverse nation includes the tribes of the Sagath, Logath, Asdriags, Nuriags, and the Variags. Loosely led by Tros Hesnef in the north and Ovatha II of Khand in the south, the Easterlings are a people with great potential, but equally with numerous pitfalls to overcome. The greatest strength of the Easterlings lies in their fierce and brave warriors, and especially their much-feared cavalry. Competent commanders and numerous warriors make this mobile threat very real indeed. Additionally, their skilled mages and adequate agents help make up for the lack of political envoys, and the abundant availability of resources provides the Easterlings with a rich base for growth. The most difficult barriers to be overcome in the Easterlings’ plans of conquest, however, are the lack of central command, and the dispersal of their forces over much of Middle-earth.

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A look back at PBM Gamer via the Wayback Machine

Remembering PBM Gamer and Mark Wardell

PBM Survey for 12/27/2023

Please participate in the PBM Survey!

Click here for the PBM Survey for 12/27/2023

This survey is comprised of 7 questions.

“What in PBM would you like to see

PBM Chaos provide more coverage of?”

Some Of The Survey Responses Received Thus Far

Unknown contact said:

"I believe you are managing a good balance of coverage for my reading enjoyment at the moment."

Unknown contact said:

"More SCHMRPG stuff."

Unknown contact said:

"Ideas about PBM Game types. Data about old Games, maybe rulebooks, or something like that."

Unknown contact said:

"Help in understanding certain games like space games and the 3 and 4d mapping. It’s always confused me."

Unknown contact said:

"Until you get more help from external contributors (I know!), whatever you want to write about, Charles! Can you get posts from other sources, and see if they take yours - like that magazine bloke I've seen before. Or boardgame websites, book websites. It IS a case of more exposure equals more new/old players. But, whatever you write, I'll read - even if it's me and my lack of contributing."

Unknown contact said:

"Games close to starting, live waiting lists (if any), new games in development."

Unknown contact said:

"I am in it for the history."

Unknown contact said:


Unknown contact said:


More Survey Responses Will Appear In Future Issues

This poll does not tell me who any of the participants are. A couple of them, I could guess. One is likely Richard Weatherhead, and another one is likely Richard Lockwood. Maybe I just have some Spidey sense, if you're name just happens to be Richard. Honestly, though, I don't really care who is whom in these PBM surveys.

This issue of PBM Chaos actually embodies an increased effort on my part to try and provide some lists of player-sign-ups. Specifically, I tried to provide some information along these lines for Galac-Tac and Alamaze and Middle-earth PBM games that are forming/filling up. One might think that for PBM companies and GMs, getting information of such a basic, fundamental nature would be crucial, or at least important, but my experience over the last decade or more has been that PBM companies and GMs don't really seem to care, or to make much (if any) effort, where sharing/providing information about what PBM games need players or how many players that they need.

Over the years, the habits of PBM GMs and PBM companies have changed, and definitely not always for the better. Changing habits and persuading people to change habits is frequently among the hardest of things to achieve success with. As the old saying go, you can't teach an old dog a new trick, but where PBM gaming is concerned, PBM companies and PBM GMs learned this particular "trick" a long, long time ago. It's more about getting them to shift a habit acquired in more recent years, and not really even remotely related to trying to teach them  "new" trick.

In this early sampling of survey results received before this issue even gets published, there are some good ideas, some things worth striving for or towards. Certainly, it's not a hard or difficult thing to publish more about PBM's history, but by and large, people across the PBM spectrum tend to not bother with sharing their PBM memories. And each PBMer or GM that dies off translates into huge amounts of PBM memories being lost to all of us, forever. It's sad, but it's definitely true. It's not like I don't ever make any effort to try and persuade people to share their PBM memories.

New PBM games in development is an area where some progress can be made, but it's not like there are hundreds of new PBM games in development. At most, there's probably a half-dozen or less, of the ones that I am somewhat or vaguely aware of. You can probably count them with the fingers on one hand, and still have fingers left over. That Dutchman game is one. Jonathan Spore it chomping at the bits, going werewolf-crazy wanting to try and program something. And I think that there's probably at least two more that my mind can't focus on, off the cuff. Maybe somebody out there cast a "forget" spell on me. Or it could just be my imagination, or it could just be that my memory (at least a portion of it) is failing me, even though I am still quite younger than that Clemson Tigers diehard fan, Wayne "Smitty" Smith.

As for 3D and 4D mapping in PBM games, that's certainly not my area of expertise, but there are certainly individuals out there that can provide greater enlightenment on those aspects of PBM gaming - Randy Ritnour being one that come immediately to mind, as Takamo uses that kind of mapping system, if I'm not mistaken. He reads PBM Chaos, so he'll likely see this, and if time and opportunity allow, he might be willing to write an article about 3D or 4D mapping in PBM games (hint, hint).

Most PBM games that once existed are probably 100% lost to the sands of time, by now. By that, I mean hundreds of different PBM games, their rulebooks, and most traces of memories of them. It's sad, but it's true. There are no vast repositories of old PBM programs/software out there on the Internet, that I am aware of. The closest that you'll find to that sort of thing are a few old PBM games (or portions thereof) on GitHub.

As for the acronym, SCHMRPG, that damned term that Richard Lockwood uses (and which I can never remember what it stands for, entirely), I did a web search for it, yesterday. What came up? Stuff about Super Mario. Maybe I'll start calling Richard Lockwood by another name - Luigi Lockwoood. As for the "magazine bloke" (Alex Bardy - who was big into PBM gaming before I ever got into it), he had asked me to submit an article to Tabletop Spirit magazine a few months back, and then that got pushed back to this month. I authored an article of some 5,000+ words, but that was way too long, and I need to chop it down to to something more closely resembling 1,800 words, or thereabout. I started on it, then I ended up rebooting my computer (without saving my progress, which was on some web software and not on my computer's hard drive), and my progress on that got deleted.

So, certainly, it's possible to get the word out about PBM via other channels, and that's actually been done to a small degree, such as with the article titled Remember When Multiplayer Gaming Needed Envelopes and Stamps? That article appeared back in June of 2021 on the Wired.com website.

Sometimes in life, the best laid plans (or even the best of ideas) go astray. For me, personally, writing an article of five thousand words isn't unduly difficult, but editing 3/5ths of it out is a different beast, altogether. Anyone who has follow my writings about PBM gaming long enough might recall that editing is not one of my personal favorite things to undertake. Yes, I can do it, but editing is more of a chore than a love. Now, if it was the only thing on the plate of my agenda, that would be one thing. But how many other irons do I have in the fire? Probably way too many. Not to make and offer any excuses, but it all ultimately boils down to passions and priorities. Alex Bardy last wrote to me on 12/23/2023, inquiring about my progress on that article. I'm the same guy who still hasn't gotten around to responding to several e-mails from Jonathan Spore, you might remember.

It's not that any of the variety of different things on my "list" are unimportant. Rather, much like a sailing ship of old, the winds of life and reality and competing priorities blow me in a lot of different directions, sometimes all at once. Invariably, I end up off course, and some things take longer to get done that would be ideal or preferable, and as sad as it may be, some things ultimately never get done at all. Could I just bring some things to a grinding halt, in order to focus more upon other things? Sure. Oh, absolutely. Positively. For example, I could just put PBM Chaos, itself, on pause, and focus upon that article that Alex was nice enough and interested enough to ask for in the first place.

I don't have to put out a new PBM survey, at all. I didn't have to do the PBMville: Wild West Shootout thing, at all. I didn't have to try and come up with The PBM Maze. I could have simply told Jon Capps to get someone else to write that foreword for that reprint of Games Mastership: How to Design and run a Play-By-Mail game by Carol and Ken Mulholland. Nothing requires me to spend any time making new PBM image ads. And even where PBM Chaos, itself, is concerned, I could write shorter articles, or even less articles. Tome can sometimes be clawed back, by changing or refocusing one's priorities. I could reduce or eliminate a lot of the image ads or text links in issues of PBM Chaos. I could stay off of Canva. I could dispense with fiddling around with art generated via A.I. (artificial intelligence).

Even this "article" that wasn't planned, look at how long it's quickly becoming. That time comes at the expense of other things, or at a bare minimum, of other possibilities. By this stage of my life, though, an awful lot of things that are important end up becoming the recipients of less of my time, effort, energies, focus, and attention. It's sad, but it's true. Again, I am a realistic, not an optimist, not a pessimist. For the most part, it's a one-man show, a one-man staff. And I'm older and somewhat slower than I used to be, and my memory isn't quite what it once was (and neither is my eyesight, come to think of it). yeah, yeah, I know. Excuses. For better or for worse, it is what it is. I don't want a parade of sympathy, but all things considered, it's not a parade of horribles, either, if everything worthy of getting done doesn't get done on a perfect schedule. Besides, what could there possibly be left to say, that I haven't already said in countless other articles?

The new PBM List is further along toward getting done than the PBM Rulebook Library is. And if y'all bothered to read earlier in this issue, I've even sacrificed some time to try and come up with some new PBM resolutions for the new PBM year of 2024. Are any of them super-critical or absolutely vital in nature? Nah. Even still, I deemed them worthy of a portion of my time. Part of what I write isn't even for the current PBM generation. Rather, some of what I write is akin to PBM time capsules. The fate of mankind doesn't hinge upon anything PBM-related that I do or try to do or hope to do.

And with that said, unplanned though it was even as late as earlier today, I encourage one and all to participate in the current PBM survey, as well as to participate in any future PBM surveys. The PBM survey link that I included in Issue #4 of PBM Chaos, do you know how many people chose to participate in it? Zero.

Certainly, I would love to hear back from PBM Chaos' readers (every last one of them), so that I could learn what all efforts that they have been making, of late, to get the word out about PBM. More or greater exposure for PBM is one of those things that I do not hold a monopoly on. What are you - all of you - doing to achieve more or greater exposure for play by mail gaming?

Be sure to have a happy new year!

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos

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News from Phoenix: Beyond the Stellar Empire

Sub Space Static

from KJC Games

*** Inter Galactic News ***

 NHS attempt to claim Solo away from DTR 

In a shock move the NHS have contested the Solo claim with a huge garrison of 600,000 trained troops. In a move that nobody saw coming, especially as it was unknown the NHS had such a large force of troops to draw upon, the NHS seem to be provoking a response from the DTR. Currently there has been no word from the DTR in how they are going to deal with this claim jumping, although rumours are that they are pretending the Solo claim doesn't really matter to them and so action is unlikely. However this may be a smokescreen and we may yet see the DTR's powerful fleet cause havoc in the system of Solo, which has for a long time been an important junction and fought over by many different factions.

 DNA Chairman TonTon resigns 

The following communication has been leaked from the DNA to the GTT's PD.

Greetings CEO Fox.

It regrets me to have to inform to you that the DNA nation state will be renouncing its claim on Aladdin system following a ceremony planet side, shortly.

However, it gives me great pleasure to have to inform you that these ceremonies are being planned by Vladimir Tavikovitch, the South Road Traffic Coordinator. He is also responsible for all DNA and .ore. assets in the Outer Naplian (Capellan) periphery so if there are any further issues, please take it up with him.

For any and all other matters, please forward your request directly to the DNA directorate services at NexusID: DNA people. The Foreign Ministry objects one last time to your illegal claim jump of Aladdin, but we realise it is time to de-escalate.

Normally I would sign off with Naambta, but doing so would be hypocritical. Let me say good riddance, instead.

I hereby resign in protest!

Chairman TonTon,
Foreign Minister, DNA
cc: Directorate Services personnel coordinator - !urgent resignation!

 DTR threaten WMB with fines for multiple breaches of DTR Law 

Lady Sylvansight of the DTR has issued a fine of 1,000,000 stellars to the Wimbles for multiple breaches of DTR Penal and Territorial Law. This seems a very brave move of the DTR to risk upsetting the huge and warlike WMB when they also have the rival NHS Solo system claim to deal with. No word has been received yet that the Wimbles are going to pay, but if the formidable WMB warfleet is seen heading for the DTR home systems we will know what their thought are on the matter. The DTR and WMB fleets going head to head would be a sight to behold.

 *** Affiliations *** 

AFT Association of Free Traders (54) - Marion Tweedy
BLG Bolg Organisation (22) - Akhenaten
CIA Combined Intelligence Agency (64) - Laton CIA
DNA Displaced Natives Asylum (66) - DNA people
DTR Detinus Republic (58) - Morley Decker
DWK Dewiek Packs (19) - <Unknown>
FCN Falconian Republic (70) – Graspien
FEL Felini Tyranny (49) - Kr'Shan
FLZ Flagritz Republic (47) - Kayxaer
FET Frontier Exploration & Trade (56) - Cu Chulainn
GTT Galactic Trade & Transport (52) - Xavier Fox
HEX Hexamon (23) - Tranquility
KRL Krell (30) - Namica
KRT Krell of the Reverence Temple (37) - Cyn
KST Kastor Kastorians (12) - Kastor
MOH Mohache (73) – Listens
NHS Noble Houses (41) – Roy Roberts
NLF Naplian Liberation Front (38) - NLFHQ
SMS Stellar Mining and Smelting (53) - MikhailM
WMB Wimble Nations (25) - zz

* Leader MAY be inactive, affiliation may be active
** Only known contact, please update us if this is incorrect.


* The Phoenix BSE (Unofficial) Discord has 74 Members!

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Takamo Status Report

12.29.2023 Terran Standard Calendar (TSC)

Takamo Report for this week’s turn on December 29, 2023

::Begin Transmission::

GRIM NODE 2nd Fleet reported that a “HA AT IN” fleet was detected at extreme range. The alien fleet maintained its distance, scanned the GRIM NODE fleet, and then jumped away. Naval installations on two worlds intercepted communications between ORREY starships.

MRI CONFEDERATION is engaged in a world-building campaign. To finance the effort, planetary population growth has become a priority. Local governors are promoting what many believe is an excessive tax and spending program coupled with large RU subsidies from several empires.

A duel between a class three super dreadnaut of an unidentified empire, rumored to have the national motto “You See Nothing,” and a MEGACORP Rift Battlecruiser resulted in the destruction of the super dreadnaut. Megacorp officials have not commented on the ship-to-ship duel.

A recent survey of IMWU corporate assets shows that the mining concern has mines operating in twelve empires not including mining centers on corporate worlds.

KVIZIER forces successfully invaded a XENAPHOBES world. The KVIZIER marines achieved total surprise when they went in with no preinvasion bombardment and without air support.

::End Transmission::

Takamo Discord Channel

The Takamo channel (#Takamo) on the PlayByMail.net Discord site awaits your arrival there. Players and lurkers are invited to join.

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