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Table of Contents




Galac-Tac: Galaxy #113 - Turn #1


Judicious Use, Black Holes, Star Formation, and the Paving of PBM's Streets


Game Fiction - Green Sun: Rise & Fall

Charles Mosteller

Charles Mosteller

Charles Mosteller


Who will help out by sending in a PBM article?

Other Items Of Interest


PBM Quote - Kevin Kelly

GTac Options for Showing New Information

PBM Quote - Davin Church

Alamaze Games Currently Filling

PBM Quote - Sean Long

PBM Chaos Back Issues

Currently Active Galac-Tac Galaxy Statistics

Galac-Tac Galaxies Filling

Sentinels of Time Quote

Paper Mayhem - Issue #20

PBM Did you Know?
The PBM Maze

PBM Quote - Pax

The PBM Forum

PBM Quote - Puckohue

Coming Next Issue!

If you like and enjoy PBM Chaos, then be sure to help spread the word about it! If no one spreads the word, then how will the word get spread? Will you join me in helping to spread the PBM word?

- Charles


It's twenty-seven minutes past midnight, as I've fallen off the cliff of Saturday night straight into the lap of a very dark and very early Sunday morning, where I begin to type these words to you - to the all of you who read and browse and ponder PBM Chaos.

A few days ago, this issue was longer than it is, now that it's in your hands. I made the decision to remove an article that I was working on, one that was probably 1/2 to 2/3rds done. But it's not like it's the first issue of PBM Chaos that I've removed articles from, after I had written them or begun them. Until a given issue is finalized and published, though, then nothing within it that appears during the construction process is safe from the digital guillotine.

And so the brief article that I've included on Galac-Tac, this issue, will have to do. That and whatever else I include after writing this editorial/introductory article, but before I hit that final publish/send button, and it begins winding its way to you.

I started to publish this issue about a week ago. I kind of wish that I had, but the way that things work and the way that my mind works, decisions to publish what and when routinely turn out to be somewhat chaotic. It's all about the chaos, baby!

Well, not entirely, but there does tend to be a chaotic element associated with most everything about PBM Chaos. I also stripped out from this issue what was the start of the PBM Rulebook Library. Instead, you can find it (still under construction) and the PBM Games List (which I corrected numerous link errors in), here:

PBM Rulebook Library

PBM Games List

Earlier, tonight, I found myself wondering anew why I even bother with any of this, at all, and yet my feelings on the matter are always swinging like a pendulum on a clock. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. One minute, I've grabbed my passion for PBM gaming by the balls, and the next minute (proverbial minutes, not literal ones), I just want to say, "To hell with all of it!"

But that's pretty much been the norm for as long as I care to remember. Ironically, though, the sense of pervasive futility associated with trying to publish a digital PBM publication is actually an integral part of what I like about doing this sort of thing, this sort of whatever it is that I am doing. It's kind of like looking for El Dorado. I believe that the PBM city of gold is out there, somewhere, just waiting to be found, but I've wandered my life away looking for it. Maybe I can't find it, for the very simple reason that it doesn't exist, or because it can't exist, or because I just don't know where to look. PBM was deeply mined for the gold that is the fun that it became famous for, but is the PBM vein all played out?

If that's the case, then why do I sense it, why do I smell it, why do I taste it? Hell, for all that I know, I'm standing right on top of it, while simultaneously remaining oblivious to it.

If you follow along over on the Play By Mail Facebook page, then you will catch the occasional rambling or posting that pertains to PBM something or other that you won't find here (and vice versa). The Play By Mail subscriber list continues to grow, albeit incrementally. I've been thinking a good bit, of late, about things that Randy Ritnour wrote in an article several issues back, and which Rick Loomis said many years back. I'm talking about a PBM magazine, that is.

A good PBM magazine. A quality PBM effort. A professional PBM magazine.

And every single time that I think about such, reality clubs me right up side the head really hard. It kind of feels like that ladder that hit me in the head, several decades back. Once wasn't enough, so I got konked on the head bu it twice. OUCH! Talk about something that hurts like hell!

While there are certainly numerous people who would read such a PBM magazine, the network to put such a thing together simply doesn't exist. You see for yourselves how few articles get written for PBM Chaos, or how quickly the influx of articles for Jon Capps' PBM magazine effort tapered off. Something that was PBM oriented, but which was along the lines of a cross between Compass Games' Paper Wars or Wargames Illustrated would probably be something that could benefit PBM gaming. Plus, it would be professional looking and of a very high quality. It would also likely end up costing more than any PBM magazine that came before it, if a price tag was slapped on it. But a given price point is not, in and of itself, the determining factor in whether something PBM-related is worthwhile or not. Rather, a whole range of considerations necessarily factor into the decision-making process.

And Paper Wars' approach would be enormously difficult, if not outright impossible, to create something similar, but in a PBM vein. PBM gaming's development, on the game design end of things, is fairly stagnant. Not that Alamaze isn't making any changes, or that Middle-earth PBM doesn't have anything new planned in the East, or that Madhouse UK may never have something new coming down the pike. But issue after issue after issue, the PBM faucet will dry up, because new PBM game development simply can't keep pace with the frequency of a new PBM magazine publication - even if such a new professional PBM magazine were to only publish every few months.

Are the actual player communities of different PBM games, as far as those PBM games which have a player base that remains intact goes, going to suddenly begin churning out articles about their favorite PBM games? There is nothing in all of PBM gaming that is happening, currently, which I am aware of, that leads me to conclude that such is anywhere even remotely within the realm of likelihood. Possible? Sure. Like? Nope! And how do you, how does anyone or any group, publish a new quality professional PBM magazine without that happening?

Just because PBM gaming is a hobby interest of mine does not mean that I have never ran any business-oriented aspects of PBM magazine publishing through my mind. Randy Ritnour focused upon the capitalism aspect. There's certainly nothing wrong with publishing a paid/for-profit professional PBM magazine. But how do you make the math ad up?

If it's a capitalist model, then who fronts the initial money? But beyond that, how many would subscribe, if a purchase or paid subscription model were to be incorporated into it? Besides Richard Weatherhead, that is. Would any PBM company purchase ad space? I know that Steve Tierney would - because he told me not so very long ago that he would, and we weren't even discussing a new professional PBM magazine. It's nice. It's flattering. It's encouraging. It's even uplifting. But. . .

It all still comes back to the math, and to the numbers, and to the projections.

What price point would the current PBM market bear? And would it be sufficient, whatever that figure is? With such a greatly reduced overall PBM player base, compared to decades back, how do you make the numbers add up and work, without some sleight of hand?

And even if achieved, initially, how do you make it sustainable over a long period of time?

How big would the staff be, and what would the outlays to pay them be? And if they don't get paid, then you begin to move away from a pure capitalism model, don't you?

And when you round up your staff, how do you ensure that they will actually adhere to submitting articles in a timely manner for publication of each and every issue? To be certain, there's plenty of people in PBM gaming, currently, to churn out a ton of PBM material on a week-in, week-out basis - but that doesn't mean that they're actually doing it, or want to do it.

Content generation is easy, but commitment and following through are the hard parts. Herding cats is a cakewalk, compared to trying to herd a collection of individuals to routinely contribute PBM materials for publication. It's no mere coincidence that PBM magazine editors routinely beat the PBM bushes, to try and stir up some contributions for publication. And this was in established PBM magazines.

And for the most part, PBMers don't tend to share stuff about PBM very much, now, if at all. Are they all of a sudden going to start sharing the word about a new professional PBM magazine? If so, what are the actual indicators of that?

Some people think that the Internet killed PBM. If anything, the Internet helped to keep PBM alive. If the Internet has been trying to kill off PBM gaming, then it's sure been taking its sweet time about it. Of course, I could ask, "Which internet?"

Today's Internet? The Internet of ten years ago? The Internet before then? If we're gonna charge the Internet with the murder of PBM gaming, then let's at least indict the right Internet.

PBM companies have websites. They have e-mail accounts and e-mail addresses. They have minuscule social media presence. In this day and age, the Internet is video crazy. Is PBM gaming video crazy? How much effort do PBM companies and PBM GMs put into the video aspect of the Internet? Is the accurate figure approximately zero percent (0%)? How does minimal effort, with regard to critical aspects of the Internet, equate to the Internet being what killed PBM? Come on, people. Help me to make sense of it all. What am I missing?

Tell me, what PBM company is the Internet leader? What's the best example of a PBM company that demonstrates a mastery of the Internet? Since its inception, the Internet has long since proven and demonstrated that it changes far faster than the PBM industry can keep up with. Is it the Internet's fault that PBM can't keep up?

And how do you convince the PBM industry - an industry which doesn't tend to invest in its own infrastructure, it's own online presence, and any real advertising of substance - to support a new professional paid PBM magazine that the PBM Industry figureheads, for the most part, likely wouldn't even read or subscribe to?

And if the PBM industry would actually coalesce behind and support a new professional PBM magazine, what is that proposition predicated upon? I don't recall the PBM industry really throwing much in the way of support behind Jon Capps' attempt to publish a paid PBM magazine?

What recent evidence is there, if anyone out there reading this knows, of the PBM industry that exists, now, coalescing behind anything, behind any industry-wise initiative in modern times? For the most part, do they even tend to communicate with one another? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly? Once a decade?

People grew older. Priorities change. Time continuously grows short. Motivation is lacking. Inspiration is absent. Money is tight. Growth is minimal. Tell me, what am I wrong about, where any of this is concerned?

And in this PBM environment, how do you make a commercial/capitalist paid/paid subscription PBM magazine both work and flourish?

For the most part, PBM companies haven't really "shared the word," so to speak, about the last several PBM publications that came down the pike. No mention on their websites or in their forums or in their Discords. Some did, but the majority of them didn't (and still don't). Which is fine and dandy and purely a matter of choice, but if past is prologue, recent years do not bode well for a new professional paid PBM magazine. The great irony in this is that those best suited to, and most capable of, writing articles about a given PBM game are the players of that PBM game. Or said another way, the most persuasive voices about any PBM game are those who are the biggest fans of those games. Thus, the potentially most powerful tools of PBM advocacy remain on the sidelines, and a new professional paid PBM magazine coming into existence won't automatically fix this silence conundrum.

The current world, the current reality, is a whole different paradigm than what used to exist. There are different forces and different dynamics in play. Consider advertising, for example. How expensive is paid advertising in other magazines, now, compared to twenty or thirty years ago? Do any PBM companies in existence, now, advertise regularly, anywhere on the planet? If so, where? I'd just like to see the ads.

What were some of the least encouraging responses to the recent PBM survey question of, "How would you describe PBM gaming?"

Lethargic. Antiquated. Dying. Flatlined. Small and getting smaller. Dying. 

Yeah, more than one person said, "Dying."

I think that this is a good stopping point. Let's just let all of that sink in, until the next issue.

Happy reading and happy gaming!

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos


I would like to take this "moments before publication" moment to thank Vincenzo Falcone and David Aldag for what was waiting on me at the post office last night (Monday night - 01/15/2023). David sent me a nice Happy Holidays card. It had been a while since I had last heard from him, and it was really nice to hear from him out of the blue, like that. At least I know that he hasn't frozen to death, yet, way up North where he chooses to reside.

Vincenzo sent me a Christmas present - a nice box of tasty chocolates! I would say that I'm not sharing, but my son struck quick and hard, and proceeded to gobble down the very first piece out of the box. The scoundrel! Why is it that whenever a box arrives from afar, my son is like a buzzard circling around?

To David and Vincenzo, I thank you both, gentlemen! Trying to reach Vincenzo via e-mail has proven to be virtually impossible. Along with the card that he sent to me, David Aldag said, among other things, "I have been trying to read your PBM bulletin you put out and hope to find the time to start some of the other ones that are still running." By that, he means that he hopes to find the time to start playing some of the other PBM games that are still running. I know both Vincenzo and David from the Hyborian War community of players - which is also how I know that damned Wayne Smith, recipient of the coveted Silver Sow Award Safe Driver Award. Great fellows, all three!

And always remember, feel free to send in PBM ads for your game, if you have any, or just write in and toot the horns of your own PBM games. This standing invitation is open to all PBM companies and PBM GMs. Also, if you miss one issue, don't sweat it. Just send something in for the next issue. It's all good, in that regard.


"The hardest thing to describe about play-by-mail gaming is the intensity of the experience. You start out wondering why any sensible person would pay three dollars to play a game, but within weeks you are haunting your mailbox, waiting for your next tum. When you are under attack, or you have just sent off a tricky maneuver, and you are waiting to see what happened, the suspense is tremendous. Will you survive? Will your plan work? Where’s that lazy postman?"

- Kevin Kelly

Signal: Communication Tools for the Information Ages

A Whole Earth Catalog

Play-By-Mail-Games article


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GTac Options for Showing New Information

Name / Description

CargoAvailable Number of empty cargo bays

CargoMissles Number of missiles in cargo bays

CargoPI Amount of Pl in cargo bays

CargoPV Amount of PV in cargo bays

CargoShips Locations of all "cargo" ships

CeaseFire Locations where a Cease Fire occurred this turn

CeaseFireAge How many turns ago was a cease fire last seen here?

CeaseFireRecent Locations where a Cease Fire occurred within the last few turns

ChartOrders Ships that currently have Chart orders

Charted Charted star systems

ColonizeOrders Ships that currently have Colonize orders

Colonizing Systems you are colonizing

Colony Known Colonies

Combat Locations where a Combat occurred this turn

CombatAge How many turns ago was combat last seen here?

CombatRecent Locations where a Combat occurred within the last few turns

Coordinate All galaxy coordinates (XX-YY w/o the "-")

CoordinateXX The XX portion of the XX-YY coordinate system

CoordinateYY The XX portion of the XX-YY coordinate system

Destinations Ships already enroute to other destinations

Destroying Systems you are destroying

Developing Systems you are developing

Enemy All systems currently owned by other players

Fleets Locations with more than one ship

HangarsAvailable Number of empty hangars

HangarsUsed Number of hangars in use

HomeWorld Known Home Worlds

LastSeen The turn # of most recent information for a star location

Mine All systems you currently own

MyColonies All your colonies

MyCombat Locations where I was involved in a Combat this

MyHome Your Home World

MyPC Your Production Centers

NewChartOrders Ships that are just being given Chart orders

NewCharts Locations you are just sending to be charted

NewColonizeOrders Ships that are just being given Colonize orders

NewColonizes Locations you are just sending to be colonized

NewDestinations Ships just being moved to new destinations

NewDestroys Locations you are just sending to be destroyed

NewDevelops Locations you are just sending to be developed

NewScoutOrders Ships that are just being given Scout orders

NewScoutRoutes Locations you are placing on a scout route

NewScouts Locations you are just sending to be scouted

NewSentryOrders Ships that are just being given Sentry orders

NewSentryRoutes Locations you are placing on a sentry route

NewShuttleOrders Ships that are just being given Shuttle orders

NewShuttleRoutes Locations you are placing on a shuttle route

NoneOrders Ships that currently have no orders

Owner Last known owning Empire number

PI PI stockpile

PIUnspent PI stockpile not yet spent in current orders


ProductionCenter Known Production Centers

Recent Turns Number of turns to be considered as "recent" turns

SSD Individual ship SSDs

ScoutOrders Ships that currently have Scout orders

ScoutRoutes Locations already on existing scout routes

ScoutShips Locations of all "scout" ships

Scouted Locations that were Scouted this turn

ScoutedAge How many turns ago was this location scouted?

ScoutedRecent Locations that were Scouted within the last few turns

SentryOrders Ships that currently have Sentry orders

SentryRoutes Locations already on existing sentry routes

Ships Locations of all your ships

ShuttleOrders Ships that currently have Shuttle orders

ShuttleRoutes Locations already on existing shuttle routes

Stars All star systems in the galaxy

This Tum The current turn #

ToOrders Ships that currently have To orders

TotalSSD Total SSD of your ships at each location

Unclaimed Locations that are not known to be actively claimed

UnderAttack Locations where your system was Under Attack this turn

Unowned All systems that nobody (that you know of) owns

WarShipSSD SSD of warships at each location

WarShips Locations of all ships with weapons and engines

ZOC Empires' apparent "zones of control" (use ZOC=1 for your empire)

* GTac is a player assistant program for Galac-Tac.

"These discussions are fun - I wish some other empires would leap on in here!"

- Davin Church

GM of Talisman Games
galac-tac channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord

PBM Chaos Editor's Note: In spite of Davin's previous lamentations about not having any time, he apparently was able to find some time or make some time to participate in and to listen to discussions about Galac-Tac and its latest game to start, Galaxy #113. Separate from all of that, Davin Church has proven himself in recent weeks to be a reliable answerer of questions pertaining to Galac-Tac. He definitely takes time to try and answer questions about how to play Galac-Tac, or how to do this or that in GTac, the player assistant program for Galac-Tac. It has been interesting to observe Davin Church's increased degree of active participation in Galac-Tac discussions, particularly in the Galac-Tac channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord. As others show more interest in the game, Davin shows more interest in the game, also. It's one of the more encouraging signs that I've encountered in all of PBM gaming, of late.

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Alamaze Games Currently Filling
Game # Turn Interval Players Signed Up Players Still Needed
2 weeks
5751 48 Hours 10 2
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GSTZ is a Diplomacy zine from Stephen Agar, intended either for someone who wants to play Diplomacy at a slower pace or who wants to complement their online Diplomacy activity with participation in a zine community and an occasional dip into the UK Diplomacy Archives.

The infamous Stephen Agar also recommends

The Cunning Plan is the cunning handiwork of the cunning Neil Duncan, an ongoing collection of cunning Diplomacy zines that began way back in the cunning year of 1992.

Issue #1 of The Cunning Plan was a paltry four pages, but the most current issue, Issue #299, tips the scales at sixteen pages - that's four times as cunning as the first issue!

On Page #2 of Issue #299, Neil Duncan even confesses to a moment of madness. Readers of PBM Chaos should probably trespass visit Issue #299, and see what this madness is all about!

NOTE: That's Neil Duncan on the right.

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Play By Mail Facebook page
Responding to news that a new Star Fleet Warlord will soon start.

PBM Chaos Editor's Note: No doubt, Paul Franz of Franz Games will salute your loyalty to the Star Fleet Warlords cause, Sean.

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Galaxy #113 News From Galac-Tac

(December 25, 2023)

Turn #1 for Galac-Tac galaxy #113 has now been processed, and the players are off and running - running and gunning - in pursuit of glory and victory! 

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* The Galac-Tac channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord awaits your visit!

Currently Active Galac-Tac Galaxy Statistics
 3 regular galaxies are currently in progress. 
The next approaching due date is January 19, 2024.
18 solo galaxies are currently in progress.
Galac-Tac 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

Galac-Tac: Galaxy #113 - Turn #1

Image description

Next turn due for Galaxy #113 on Sunday, January 21

Charles Mosteller

Thus begins the Chronicles of Galaxy #113, from the perspective of the Sentinels of Time. The intention is to continue these chronicles until and unless my empire is destroyed in Galaxy #113.

Turn #1

Galactic Statistics

# of Production Centers: 0
# of Colonies: 0
# of Combats (last turn): 0
Average Percentile: 100th

The term "Galactic Statistics" is not mentioned in the Galac-Tac Rulebook, nor is it mentioned in the Introduction to Galac-Tac, nor is it mentioned in the Galac-Tac Quick Start Guide.

Basically, these Galactic Statistics are statistics that are calculated for all empires in the galaxy/game. The statistics listed in this section of an empire's turn results include more than just your own empire's statistics, but your empire's statistics are included within the overall totals for the entire galaxy - which is all of the empires in the game.

Empire Valuation: 100th percentile

Empire Valuation is determined by breaking down your empire and everything in it to its basic value, including ships, systems, and other resources. The empire with the highest value is considered the leader, and every other empire’s valuation is expressed as a percentage based on the leader’s value. Hence, if you're at 85%, your Empire is worth 15% less than the current leader. You still do not know if you're in second place, or last. More than one player may be at any particular valuation percentile, including 100%.

SOURCE: Galac-Tac Rulebook - Page #4

NOTE: On Turn #1, all empires in the game will have the same valuation - 100th percentile. This figure will change as the game proceeds. The higher your empire's valuation number, the better. You want your empire's valuation to be high, not low. Low means your empire is behind some other empire(s), though it may or may not be in last place.

Action Information:

CEASE FIRE: Enemy ships sighted at 01-75 (current actions aborted): Encountered 1 ship from Wyvern Supremacy of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Enemy ships sighted at 91-93 (current actions aborted): Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Enemy ships sighted at 92-84 (current actions aborted): Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Enemy ships sighted at 92-90 (current actions aborted): Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 1 SSD

NOTE: As all players in Galaxy #113 start with the same ship types, galactic data banks record that all four of these encounters involve contact with Scout Ships of 1 SSD size.

Standard Size Designation: The SSD is a means to measure the size of any given ship in the game. It is used to determine the cost of the propulsion units for a particular ship and the construction delay time. The formula used for figuring the SSD is given in the next section.

SOURCE: Galac-Tac Rulebook - Page #9

Image description

A map of where the Sentinels of Time encountered enemy ships on Turn #1.

Action Information:

CEASE FIRE: Enemy ships sighted at 01-75 (current actions aborted:aborted): Encountered 1 ship from Wyvern Supremacy of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Enemy ships sighted at 91-93 (current actions aborted): Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Enemy ships sighted at 92-84 (current actions aborted): Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Enemy ships sighted at 92-90 (current actions aborted): Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 1 SSD

Note: A search of the PlayByMail.Net Discord for the search term "Wyvern Supremacy" yielded the following data record:

Image description

Accordingly, the likelihood of the Wyvern Supremacy being played by Undeadlord is deemed to be a very high probability.

Note: Jon Capps' Talisman Consulting Discord user name is Galan. 

Accordingly, the likelihood of Galan being played by Jon Capps is deemed to be a very high probability. But it could also be that someone else has decided to create an empire in his honor.

Note: Based upon discussions in the galac-tac Channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord with PBMer Pax, other empires believed to exist in Galaxy #113 include:

Thraan Syndicate
Nadirian Hegemony

Number of stars charted by the Sentinels of Time on Turn #1:


Stars failed to be charted on Turn #1 due to enemy contact:





Number of new ships built by the Sentinels of Time on Turn #1:


Now comes the hard part. Encountering other empires' ships on Turn #1 - talk about finding yourself quickly tossed from the frying pan of uncertainty into the fire of possible imminent attack, Galaxy #113 has clearly turned into Davin Church's way of punishing us all (me perhaps more than others).

But say what you may about Talisman Games' honcho-in-chief, it is exceedingly doubtful that he hand-selected these other Galac-Tac players' individual ship orders. Fortunately, playing a race of machine intelligence, I enjoy the distinction of not being swept over by fear, unlike some of these other players who are no doubt shitting their PBM pants, right about now.

If that is Jon Capps playing that empire called Galan, then we're all in for a very rough space ride, as he was the guy who programmed Galac-Tac originally, wasn't he? No margin of error in sight, as events begin to unfold no sooner than we got started in this Galaxy #113.

Where's Genny White, when you need her?

Thus far, it appears that there's at least six players in this particular game of Galac-Tac, but I've no clue as to what the upper end of the player possibilities might be. Fifteen is the max for numbers of players in a game of Galac-Tac, I think - but did Davin succeed in getting that many players to sign up for this game?

Hopefully, these other players aren't coordinating against me, already. But you just. . .never. . .know. Besides, if they had ever seen me play any of the solo games of Galac-Tac that I tried my hand at, they would definitely realize that if there's a real threat out there to their empires, it such as heck isn't me.

On the one hand, in Galac-Tac, you want to quickly grow your empire's economy, but on the other hand, other empires visiting your Turn #1 galactic picnic bodes ill for my chances for a smooth, clean start. You know how it goes. There's always somebody in the mix who is just gonna start shooting.

So, do we all just ignore one another's ships, and proceed apace with charting starts and colonizing them, in order to begin growing our fragile starting economies? Or do we start building warships, right out of the gate? and because none of us likely know what the others of us are going to do, that makes the correct decision all the harder to arrive at.

Encountering other empires' ships is not the same thing as knowing where their respective empires' homeworlds are at. I've heard of Lost in Space, before, but perhaps we should start calling it Clueless in Space.

Win or lose, victory or defeat, you - the readers of PBM Chaos - likely have no better place to turn to, in your bid to learn what all is happening in Galaxy #113 of Galac-Tac.

Why allow yourselves to be deluded by the forthcoming propaganda that these other space-faring empires will soon be spewing forth? Unless, of course, they fully intend to maintain a veil of silence, beneath which they will scheme and plot the doom of entire races.

The worst thing about it all is not that I've run headlong into more than one other empire, but rather, just knowing that my grasp of the basics of Galac-Tac is already strained.

Meanwhile, that damned Pax is out there - somewhere - using the GTac player assistant program for Galac-Tac to create all kinds of fancy maps for the game, as if he is some kind of modern day Leonardo da Vinci cartographer. Pah!

Clearly, the balance of power is not in my favor. And on top of that, here I am providing details that other players do not labor under. Alas! 'Tis for a far greater cause than mere empire and conquest.

As long as I control the levers of propaganda, then truly, even the death of my entire empire cannot silence me.

If at any point along the way, you feel an itch to give Galac-Tac a try, then a word of advice to the wise among you. Go ahead and create yourself a player account over at the Talisman Games website, and create one or more solo games of Galac-Tac to practice and to play around with, just to get a better feel for how to issue turn orders, and the different kinds of turn orders that you can give.

A special game of Galac-Tac will begin forming in the not-too-distant future, so a little practice upfront might imbue you with the confidence to enter that game, when the time comes.

And on that note, the whir and the clicks of the machines of the Sentinels of Time shall continue to process the information that my empire's Turn #1 results brought me.

Do be sure to stay tuned for my next installment, which should, hopefully, appear somewhere around Issue #33 or Issue #34, since turns for this particular galaxy only process once every two weeks.

Sentinels of Time Quote

"War is imminent."

Eressea image ad

Eressea is a multiplayer turn-based nation-building 4X fantasy game with hundreds of simultaneous players and thousand of individually controlled units.

* The Eressea Discord currently has 181 members.

Paper Mayhem

"The Informative PBM Magazine"

A PBM Magazine From The Year 1986

Issue #20 - September & October 1986



David Webber

Staff Editors: Bud Link and Chris Derbacher, Jr.


Tim Trumbo - Front Cover

Tim Edwards - 9, 15, 31, 38, Back Cover

Kevin Siembienda - 37, 39, 41




The Ever-Expanding Universe of Takamo
- by Mike Schied

D-Day, H-Hour in World Campaigns Part II - Logistics and Threat Analysi
s - by R. Randall Webb

Landlords: A Game Where Planning is Everything
- by John W. Kelly, Jr.


Winning at Landlords - by Michael Horn


Special Project: Pacific Conflict Part I - by John Kelly and Mike Scheid


Midgard: Battle Reports - by Charles R. Day



Review of Computer Boxing or "You Could be a Contender" - by Dan Menefee


Origins 86 - A View From the Exhibitor's Booth - by Mark Stiffler


The Adventures of Brollachan and Grunt - Chapter 6 - by John Kelly and Mike Scheid

PBM Activity Corner

PBMA Awards

PBM Bulletin Board



Company Commander
Heroic fantasy
Out Time Days


D-Day Part III
Pacific Conflict Part II
Report on GENCON


The Continuing Adventurers of Brollachan and Grunt and Much More!

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PBM Chaos Editor's Note: Issue #20 of Paper Mayhem magazine is 44 pages long, from front cover to back cover.

PBM Did You Know?

Did you know that the Takamo rulebook is only 50 pages long?

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Player curiosity is flooding The PBM Maze!

Once more, it's time to check in on how our PBM Maze "volunteers" are faring, as they wind their way through an enormous maze.

Will any of them find an exit? Or are they all doomed to die a watery death, thanks to one of them unleashing a flood within the confined spaces that this maze affords?

Is there any hope for any of them? Is there hope for all of them? Will it turn out to be survival of the fittest? Or survival of the luckiest?

Player Stefan, the first of all players to enter the PBM Maze, has reached a yellow square. He waits and he waits, but nothing seems to happen.

Player 2, Lubos Comor, struggles to recover from getting overwhelmed with the onrush of water into the maze. Instinctively, he flees! Close to drowning, he somehow manages to swim past the deepest flooded area, and then continues to struggle as he makes his way to a part of the maze that hasn't flooded, yet.

Lubos' Comor's life bar drops two more bars, before he managed to escape the flood - for now!

Water continues to gush into the maze. How much of the PBM Maze will Comor Lubos' early curiosity cause to end up under water, entirely? But are the other maze participants even aware of the danger that such curiosity unleashed can mean for them all?

If the water as 'turned on,? then perhaps it can also be "turned off?" But will any dare to try?

Peter H., the mysterious Player 9, has triggered the opening of some hidden doors. Where these new passages way now lead to is anybody's guess? Will this aid him in finding an exit? Or they just just new tricks that the PBM Maze uses to deceive and mislead?

Maze wanderers would do well to not delay in sending their turn orders in for the next issue. Missed turns can result in life bars dropping.

It would be a mistake to assume that the Narrator of the Maze will warn them that a new issue is about to publish.

Who will The PBM maze claim as its first victim?

And who among them will be the first to discern strategic advantage?

Players already signed up for The PBM Maze

1 - Stefan

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Starting Position - 1

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Ending Position - 1

4 - Jim Smith

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Starting Position - 4

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Ending Position - 4

7 - Jef Tonelli

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Starting Position - 7

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Ending Position - 7

What dire misfortunes await those who dare to enter

The PBM Maze?

Is Richard Lockwood destined to die from getting lost in
The PBM Maze?

Who will find their way out of the thing called

The PBM Maze?

2 - Lubos Comor

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Starting Position - 2

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Ending Position - 2

5 - Undeadlord

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Starting Position - 5

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Ending Position - 5

8 - mdhender

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Starting Position - 8

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Ending Position - 8

10 - Richard Lockwood

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Starting Position - 10

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Ending Position - 10

3 - Trachyte

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Starting Position - 3

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Ending Position - 3

6 - java

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Starting Position - 6

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Ending Position - 6

9 - Peter H.

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Starting Position - 9

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Ending Position - 9

The PBM Maze is brought to you by PBM Chaos.

There were ten who started in The PBM Maze.

There are ten still left alive in The PBM Maze.

This turn, things happened in

The PBM Maze.

What will happen,

next turn, in

The PBM Maze?

What are those strange noises occurring in

The PBM maze?

Will anyone get eaten alive in the PBM maze?

Austerlitz image ad

"@PlayByMail ... by the by, you had posted to Facebook about SFB Online recently, and I mentioned needing to buy the rules again before I could jump on there? I ... kind of went overboard.

Basic, Advanced, C1, C2, C3, R1, R8, Tactics, and Cadet Training. All at once. That, plus a big 3-ring binder and a thousand page protectors for it all ... yeah, um, four hundred dollars later ... O_O hahahaha!"

- Pax

pbm-general-chat channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord


PBM Chaos Editor's Note: Meanwhile, four hundred dollars later, you're no closer to victory in Galac-Tac Galaxy #113. I'm pretty sure that everyone who plays Star Fleet Battles Online doesn't drop such a wad of cash like one does a mic drop, if what they want to do is to play Star Fleet Battles Online. You're doing things the hard way, Pax - but I can't fault you for your enthusiasm. Who knows? Maybe I'm more persuasive than I seem to be, at times. Or maybe you're just under the PBM spell. Be sure to keep me apprised of how your pursuit of Star Fleet Battles goes.

Green Sun: Rise & Fall image ad

Game fiction, from the Green Sun: Rise & Fall universe, taken from the personal journal of Counsellor Erdeni, of Khasag.

Day One

I suppose I ought to keep a personal log of the events here at the Ethingol’Ger in the Ethingol Depression, though I wish they had given this place more inspiring name. Thankfully the dome will keep the worst of this desolate place at bay.

The journey to the Ethingol’Ger was not as stressful as the induction program had suggested it would be, though the environment is as alien as we had been forewarned. Anyway, I have been assigned my own quarters, though there is room for six in here, I guess until the second wave arrives, I will have it to myself, a small luxury I know I shall soon have to surrender. The place however feels bare, we were limited to a small quantity of personal goods we could bring with us and in this large space, they make very little impact and bring little cheer. At least there is regular communication with home, family and fiends, even if everything has to be recorded in advance of the batch transmission.

I am surprised that everyone else on this level of the accommodation facility seems so young, at least compared to me. I guess my counselling skills were enough to get me the place in the Project Nuudelchin. I don’t mind my fellow residents too much, but I don't think they have fully understood what lies ahead of them, too many seem to think it is like a game show, with the last one to be evicted winning some sort of prize.

While everyone else is still settling in my time is my own, though once the reality of the situation fully dawns upon the other residents, my services will be in demand.

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Judicious Use, Black Holes, Star Formation, and the Paving of PBM's Streets

Charles Mosteller

It's been a strange week. I find myself in a much different place from where I thought that I was gonna be, this time a week ago. But the chaotic nature of life in the PBM lane means that you really must be flexible and prepared to rebound from whatever you encounter along the way.

Which means that I have spent some time, very recently, pondering such things as what constitutes a judicious use of my PBM time, and how does the PBM gaming scene remind me of star formation and black holes?

While it may sometimes seem as if I have an infinite and unlimited amount of time to devote to things PBM-related, the truth of the matter is that I don't. And even though this is the beginning of a new PBM year, I really don't have time to waste on a whole lot of PBM-related stuff that I find adds no real value of consequence to my life. Accordingly, the sifting of PBM wheat from PBM chaff is a necessary part of my overall PBM process. To each, their own - and I embrace that philosophy for myself, also!

Last night (Sunday night, 01/14/2023), I somehow ended up on various websites browsing articles about black holes. PBM Chaos is, of course, more of a general PBM type of digital publication. Sure, I have my own personal favorite PBM game (Hyborian War), but PBM Chaos tries to cover and to advertise a lot more in and across PBM gaming than just that one game.

The more popular PBM games kind of remind me of black holes, in that they tend to suck in all (aka the majority) of active PBM gamers, and they can be voracious in their appetite, in that regard. But this is a normal part of the natural order of PBM gaming. It's a feature, not a flaw.

These black holes of PBM gaming aren't really the problem, even though they may, at first, sometimes appear as if they are a big part of what's wrong with play by mail gaming. It's not that PBM has too many black holes in it, but rather, the actual reality is that PBM has too little star formation (new game creation) currently taking place within it. In other words, PBM gaming needs to put more games in the gaming. Options matter. That people gravitate towards PBM games that they like, that's PBM's equivalent of gravity, if you ask me. It truly is an integral part of the natural order of PBM gaming and the PBM scene.

If I went by the historical record, as far as which PBM company or GM that I feel would be the most likely to create a new PBM game, then on that basis alone, my gut instinct tells me that KJC Games would be the one most likely to bring a new PBM game to the market, out of all of the possible PBM candidates.

But the historical record seems to have diminished substantially, in recent years, in some regards. When was the last time that KJC Games brought a new PBM game to market?

Of course, in fairness to KJC Games, I could just as easily ask, when was the last time that any PBM company brought a new PBM game to market? KJC games is still in business, and it still has a number of active, paying PBM customers, at present. But in the old days, KJC Games was arguably the best example of a PBM company willing and able to advertise. Plus, they also had what may well have been the best PBM ads in the entire history of PBM gaming. I love some of their PBM ads, even to this very day.

But that was then. What about now?

Now, it's a lot more difficult call to pick who I think would be most likely to bring a new PBM game to market. Maybe none of them, if I'm being totally honest with myself. Maybe PBM's time has passed, entirely. But never say never, as the old saying goes. Have faith. Have hope. Seek out possibilities, rather than anchor one's self to impossibilities.

Being an American, I would love to say that I feel that PBM's best chance to bring a new PBM game to the market lies with an American PBM company, but my gut instinct is telling me that's crazy to even think like that. Nope, I am far more inclined to believe that a genuine new PBM game, if it is to originate anywhere at all with an existing PBM company, then the Olde World is where it's most likely to breathe the first breath of life. And for me, that means the UK. RSI is busy doing Duel2 face-to-face tournaments.

Rolling Thunder Games saw Russ Norris retire. It's not so much a question of experience or capacity, but rather, it's more a question of sheer will (and willingness). What other American PBM companies are likely to be prime candidates for launching new PBM games anytime soon? Currently, it's looking more and more like Elon Musk will land a man (or a woman) on Mars, before the Americans will ever lead the PBM race, again, as far as the launching of new PBM games goes.

Star formation - where will any new PBM games, if there are to be any, ever again, come from? They will come from either PBM companies or PBM GMs. In the present PBM universe in which we all live, I would give the nod (and the advantage) to some sole GM, one that is not a part of any PBM company. Creating a new PBM game requires an investment of time, energy, and resources. Or said another way, it's an inherently risky proposition - and established for-profit companies do not like to incur risk (not unnecessary risk, anyway).

Neither do individuals unassociated with any company, but if I had to bet on one or the other, I definitely think that betting on an unattached individual would be the wiser bet of the two.

Over and over and over, I run such things through my mind. Ironically, the high cost of just about everything, these days, what with the inflation-that-is-not beast driving prices ever-higher (or so the perception goes), creates a riskier environment for some. Me? I see this very same environment as an opportunity waiting to be exploited.

"But you're just saying that, Charles."

And why am I just saying that? Because I have a PBM publication to sell? Oops! That's right. PBM Chaos is free. There are no issues of it to sell. But what was it that I said, back on March 28th, 2011? "My role in the grand scheme of things is not to keep the play by mail industry from going over the edge."

If PBM gaming self-destructs, so be it. Whether slowly or quickly, if PBM's ultimate fate is to die and be forgotten, so be it. I can report on it dying at least as well and at least as easily as I can report on it surging back to life, or just biding its time until something better comes along. Writing is writing, after all, and writing will endure, whether PBM gaming endures or not.

So, why is an inflation-wracked economic environment an opportunity for new PBM growth?

Well, for one thing, if everything else seems higher, cost-wise, then PBM gaming doesn't stand out as being unique, as far as what it costs to play. Does that make sense to you?

When I ponder original form play by mail gaming, the kind where envelopes and postage costs are part of the equation, the key to keeping postage costs at a manageable level is to maintain a disciplined approach to turn results output. Or said another way, what can I get, or what can I do, for the price of a single postage stamp?

Back when I was writing actual, physical letters at different points over the last couple of years or so, generally speaking, I could mail four pages (which equals up to eight pages of text or output, if both sides of the paper is utilized) with a single postage stamp.

Now, lots of turn results for existing PBM games yield far more pages of turn results than that. But what we're discussing, here, is the creation of new PBM games. Yes, yes, there's still other costs to take into account (supplies, labor, and various other "stuff" that businesses have to contend with). But at least the PBM industry no longer has to worry about advertising costs, huh? If you don't advertise, then there's no advertising costs to contend with. And when an industry ceases (or largely ceases) advertising for an extended duration of time, then you can bet your bottom dollar that said industry is already behind. How is the PBM industry going to dig itself out of the holes that the PBM industry dug for itself? It sure as hell wasn't the Internet making the decisions for the PBM industry. Individuals within the PBM industry made those decisions - for better or for worse.

In case you didn't catch it, that's an attempt at humor, in light of the PBM industry's current model of abandoning advertising. Oh, sure, maybe there's some sparse, scattered PBM advertising that still takes place, occasionally, in the PBM universe. But whatever vestiges of PBM advertising that still remain, it's nothing even remotely approaching what it was in the old days. But then again, that was back when the PBM industry was gung ho, and not nearly as complacent as it has "evolved" to be.

Evolved, of course, means "by choice." The Internet doesn't tend to reward silence. It tends to amplify noise. The Sound of Silence makes for a really nice song, but silence doesn't tend to make for an effective advertising or marketing tool.

After all, you either choose to advertise or you choose to not advertise. Advertising, the same as always, is but a part of the overall price of doing business. And commercial, for-profit PBM companies are engaged in business, right?

But to bring new PBM games to the market requires an investment of time and energy and resources. It requires research. It requires different processes. PBM gaming is like NASA, you know. It forgot how to get to the moon. If forgot how to take gamers to the PBM moon.

Of course, if I'm wrong about this, then I invite any and all PBM companies across the entire PBM industry to prove me wrong. If it's true that you can't make money in PBM gaming, anymore, then why are there still a number of PBM companies in operation?

You see, in the old days, an entire industry - the PBM industry - sprung up around the underlying premise that people liked to play games. PBM games, after all, are turn-based games. They've never been an entirely new species of entertainment. Rather, their initial medium of delivery was what "felt" and "seemed" new. Just look how many years/decades that it took for the postal medium to begin to be exploited as an opportunity for commercial game entertainment. It's not like the postal service was created, originally, for the purpose of being a medium by which games could be played. Where there was a will, though, there was a way.

In the old days, back during the golden heyday of PBM gaming at its height, PBM customers were treated to entertainment delivered, if not to their doorstep, then right to their mailbox. Just curious, but what do Amazon and many companies throughout the world do, today? They deliver all kinds of things to people's doorsteps, or in many cases, to their mailbox (either directly or through proxies). These days, it's cutting edge business to embrace such an approach.

But wait!
I thought that the whole "mailbox thing" was obsolete? What's going on, here? Uh, I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but convenience never went obsolete. And prices going up? That's actually not a new or recent thing.

And it is in this current environment of mailboxes being utilized to grow all kinds of businesses, PBM gaming (which beat them all to the punch by making bucks by harnessing the power and opportunities of mailboxes) can't make bucks, anymore, by harnessing the very thing that they mastered and excelled at decades ago? Does that note strike anybody else as odd?

Rick Loomis figured out early on that a mailbox isn't just a mailbox. It's a portal. Loomis used mailboxes as a gaming portal. If memory serves me right, it took his future competitors a few years to figure out what he had already learned and knew. These days, mailboxes are portals for all kinds of different stuff. Even young kids, these days, have strong awareness that mailboxes aren't just and only for mail. They are portals of convenience. They are like smartphones and other forms of computers, in that regard - but mailboxes are portals of convenience for physical items. While people may spend lots of time in the virtual medium, these days, it isn't as though the physical medium has become obsolete or gone extinct.

And technology? Oh, technology is always changing. Technology can also be a strange horse to hitch your wagon to. It's been changing since the dawn of time. How do you deal with that? By adapting, of course. By improvising Not by ceasing to conduct research. Not by ceasing to develop new products. Not by pricing yourself out of the market. But of course, it can be helpful to actually know and understand what your market actually is. From what I can tell, the PBM industry doesn't really understand its products, much less it's market, anymore. At one time, it did. What happened?

The Internet happened? Talk about beating the same old dead horse.

Embracing technology in half-assed ways is not progress. It's not advancing. Eliminating advertising isn't a sure-footed path to securing the future. When in doubt, go back to the basics.

The Internet didn't kill PBM. That's just scapegoating to cover up an industry's own self-inflicted failures and shortcomings. The Internet isn't even capable of killing PBM. The Internet isn't some PBM terminator. What other form of gaming did the Internet supposedly kill, also? Or was it only PBM gaming that was negatively impacted by the Internet's arrival? The Internet has never been a technological bogeyman. It's a tool. It is a multi-faceted tool. It is also what's known as a force-multiplier - unless you're utterly clueless about what all that it's capable of.

But then again, what do I know?

Well, I know how to create new digital PBM publications out of thin air. Does your PBM company know how to create new PBM games out of thin air? I know how to shift expectations on PBM publication frequency, compared to what PBM readers had previously grown accustomed to. I know how to adopt a new model of advertising, one that reduces costs across the board. In some instances, I even seem to be able to learn that some PBM companies are ignoring people who want to become paying PBM customers. I know how to routinely generate PBM-related content. Heck, I even know how to create new PBM ads at zero cost. And since I share knowledge of these things with the PBM public at large, it's not as though PBM companies can't do at least some of the same things.

But like I said, what do I know?

I know that it can sometimes be hard to grow your numbers. I know that sometimes - many times - budgetary considerations are very real things. I know that not all advertising works (but some does). I know very much what it's like to do things while being short staffed. I grasp what it means to be "cost conscious." I also know that many PBM companies spend less time trying to get the word out about their PBM games than myself and others spend trying to get the word out about those very same PBM games.

I also know that the entertainment business, today, is hyper-competitive. Furthermore, I also know and realize that the gaming sector of the entertainment business, overall, is a very profitable sector. Additionally, I know that people still use the postal service in today's day and age. Also, I know that print is not dead. An awful lot of people still actually read, in this day and age, here in the 21st Century.

When the Internet first appeared, what happened to all of those dollar signs that were in PBM companies' eyes? RSI, good old RSI, still does face-to-face tournaments with an old PBM game. This is a regular thing - and has been for a very long time. How many other PBM companies do something similar like clockwork, like they do, where face-to-face gaming (which is an in-person gaming model) with PBM games is concerned? I'm not talking about just getting together, every once in a while, and talking about gaming, but rather, getting together on a regular schedule more than once a year, and actually facilitating and enabling face-to-face gaming between PBM gamers? Does RSI possess some secret knowledge that other PBM companies in the PBM industry don't have access to? What was the last appearance of a PBM company at a gaming convention? There used to be PBM conventions, but no more. Is this what the PBM industry calls "progress?

There's at least one other thing that I know, and that's that the PBM industry paved its streets with excuses. You can't grab the bull by the horns by not grabbing the bull by the horns.


"Something I would appreciate is a list of free software to run various pbm-games. I know I've stumbled across at least one on GitHub, but now I can't find it. Stuff like this: https://esmshub.com/esms-tools/"

- Puckohue

pbm-programming channel of the PlayByMail.Net Discord


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Write to PBM Chaos at

[email protected]

Coming Next Issue

Another New Galac-Tac Article

More PBM Navel-Gazing!

Some Hyborian War Tips

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