͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ 
Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
Image description
Image description



Welcome back, PBM Kotters!

And in case you might be wondering, the answer is yes - I am listening to the theme song, right now, for the old television show called Welcome Back, Kotter, as I set about writing this opening editorial/introductory article to the readers of PBM Chaos.

Hardly anything, at all, has been included for this issue, as I write this. Basically, this issue is only comprised, thus far, of a few PBM Maze results and Glenn Harrold's feedback about Issue #31 that arrived in my e-mail in-box, recently. But I'm fairly confident that I'll "find" other stuff to add to this issue, to flesh it out. Just the way that things worked out, this time around, I find myself typing this editorial up (or at least starting on it) here on Thursday, January 18th, 2024. More times than not, this section of PBM Chaos is frequently the last thing that I begin working on.

But a thought struck me, and I didn't want to put off writing about it, because I would probably just end up forgetting what I wanted to talk about. And what, you might ask while sipping a martini or chugging down some scalding hot coffee (caf or decaf?), did I want to talk about that's so important, that it even mattered whether I remembered it or forgot it, at all?


Namely, the presentation thereof. More specifically, part of what is an anchor around the neck of the play by mail gaming institution (both the postal and digital components, thereof) is the "presentation of information." In a nutshell, for the most part, the PBM industry just plain sucks at its approach(es) to the presentation of information.

The Internet is a primary, perhaps the primary, conduit of information. We live in the Age of Information (one of many, actually). The Internet is a primary facilitator of "access to information" - which is a distinct and different thing to the chosen presentation of information that it facilitates access to.

But even the Internet must have information to facilitate the access to, in order to be of much use to anybody. Human beings, including gamers new and old and in between, are "voracious consumers of information." Where information is concerned, as a species, we are carnivores. Actually, we're omnivores, I guess that you could say, but carnivores often get all of the limelight for their voracious, meat-eating appetites.

Tell me, this. Whenever you go out to eat, or even if you choose to just eat at home, do you prefer stale food or fresh food? Information is a lot like food, in that voracious consumers of information tend to prefer fresh information over stale information. Yet, go to many different PBM websites, and what are you likely to encounter?

The same old shit.

The Internet was not some PBM Doom. The Internet didn't kill PBM, and the Internet isn't killing PBM, currently. Serving the gaming masses a menu and a feast that feature the same old shit - does that sound like a recipe for success?

PBM suffers, not from a terminal case of the "Internet disease," but rather, from failures. And by this, I mean that the PBM industry suffers from a MASSIVE amount of different failures. And from what I can tell, generally speaking with few exceptions, things are actually getting worse, rather than better.

If it's not improving, then by default, it's getting worse. The Internet, after all, is always in flux. It is a hyper-dynamic environment. It isn't kind to stale and dated and obsolete information. Just look at the Wayback Machine, if you aren't yet convinced that this is so. Yes, the Internet will even help you to preserve stale and dated and obsolete information. But an awful lot of PBM-related stuff hasn't aged well. You think that you're looking old? Well, take a long, hard look at PBM gaming's presence scattered across the Internet, sometime. Talk about old looking! Talk about ancient!

Like it or lump it, it's true. Anybody out there that wants to debate this, feel free to jump right into the conversation. How many examples do you want me to beat you over the head with?

If PBM gaming can't pull its head out of its ass, then society will do exactly what society has done - just pass it on by. What's that old Dionne Warwick song, again? Walk on by. Here, listen to it for yourself. I'm listening to it. Just because people on the Internet, however many billions of them that there are, choose to just "walk on by" PBM gaming does not mean, therefore, that the Internet killed PBM.

It's not the same thing, people. It's not the same thing, at all.

Am I preaching to the choir? Probably. Is anything that I say likely to change the PBM status quo and the PBM industry's entrenched way of doing things, at all? Probably not. Personally speaking, though, the more that I look for actual evidence that the Internet killed PBM, the less evidence for that there actually seems to be. People saying that PBM is dead does not make it so. It's not a "self-executing statement."

It's not about going back to the past, people. Rather, it's about charting a better way forward. I feel like a preacher, because I spend so much time writing - and delivering - sermons. PBM sermons! And the Big Church of PBM, as we all well know, currently suffers from habitual low attendance.

Other forms of gaming have actually seen a marked increase in attendance, since the Internet appeared on the scene. Yet, we are all to believe that the Internet is a serial killer of PBM games in disguise? Wake up and smell the roses (the truth), people!

The PBM industry reminds me of many things. One of those things is churches. Think about it. Why do so many churches suffer from low attendance? Not all of them are. Some have got a few old people in the pews (PBM has a few PBM gamers from days of old filling some of its pews). Do people attend churches to be bored? For the most part, is the way that the PBM industry as a whole presents itself to the gaming masses boring or exciting? This brings back a pleasant memory of my grandpa sleeping in church. It wasn't anything that my grandma's elbow couldn't fix, though.

There's some great, some absolutely fabulous, intellectual properties that exist within the overall ambit of play by mail gaming. Yet, how effectively are they being exploited to grow PBM gaming left and right? Or said another way, how effectively are PBM companies tapping into the full potential of those very same intellectual properties, in order to grow their respective player bases?

What is PBM Chaos? Oh, it's many different things, also, just like the Internet is many different things. For instance, PBM Chaos is an old-timey PBM tent meeting. My function isn't to make you sit comfortably in your PBM chairs. That just isn't my role.

But who - or what - appointed me to this role, whatever you want to call it? I'm called by faith - faith in the very essence of what PBM gaming once was, and the very essence of what it could be, once again. Me? I'm a true believer. I don't subscribe to false PBM doctrine. Am I a heretic for not swallowing hook, line, and sinker the all-too-convenient excuse that the Internet killed PBM? No chance it couldn't be chalked up to poor choices, bad decisions, lack of foresight, failure to adapt to changes taking place all around you, or to any of a number of other possibilities? Or is it just quicker and easier to blame it all on the Internet? From my perspective, if anything, the Internet has been the equivalent of life support - helping to keep PBM gaming alive and going, in spite of the PBM industries countless attempts to bludgeon itself into obscurity.

Make no mistake, PBM gaming isn't some kind of religion to me. PBM isn't something that I worship. I just like to write, and various terms that are often associated with religion do not place me in danger of immediate and irreversible damnation, simply because I find that they are dual-purpose or multi-purpose instruments of literary persuasion.

In case none of you out there trying to read this is aware of it, the whole world seems to be under siege by an invasion of woke zombies. But at least people notice the woke. Are people noticing PBM gaming? Fuck the woke zombies! Where are the PBM zombies? In the old days, PBM zombies invaded the gaming scene. Have all of the great PBM zombies died? Is the vast PBM horde no more?

The PBM industry is clumsy. It once developed a recipe for success. Then, like complete and utter fools (my opinion - it doesn't have to be yours), they abandoned it. And what they abandoned it for was, apparently, what you now see. Don't take my word for it, though. Feel free to browse the PBM scene for yourself, and see what the PBM industry's choices and decisions have wrought.

Who needs current PBM news capsules from PBM companies, when you can have dated-ass websites? Who needs a gung ho approach to PBM customer service, anymore, when you can replace it with ignoring e-mails sent to you? Who needs up-to-date PBM documentation, anymore, when you can just roll out dated PBM documentation that hasn't been touched or updated in a proverbial coon's age? And for the PBM rulebooks and other ancillary PBM support documents that have been updated in recent years, tell me this - did that do the trick?

PBM isn't dead. Rather, the PBM industry, to a large degree, is out of touch. It fell out of touch, and still hasn't managed to get all of the way back on its feet, yet? On the whole, the PBM industry seems to have embraced a defeatist mentality, long ago. Me? I'm just the PBM bastard that's willing to tell you that.

In spite of the colorful verbiage, though, I don't hate the PBM industry. There's no PBM company, nor any PBM GM, that I hate. Me? I'm just trying to find ways to rouse the PBM industry from its self-induced slumber. In an ever-changing games market, PBM gaming simply can't afford the luxury of doing nothing.

The Internet. It raised the bar, you see. It elevated the standard, where gaming is concerned. It provides all sectors and segments of the gaming industry with the exact, same tools and opportunities. What did the PBM industry choose to do with all that the Internet has brought to the table of opportunity over the years since it first came into existence?

Did the PBM industry not get any of the Internet's memos?

The PBM industry learned well, decades ago, the value of beating the bushes. PBM companies didn't just wait for PBM magazines to appear, and to do the spreading of the word about their PBM games for them. And if you're not advertising, your approach to communicating and persuading newcomers to give your PBM games a try is less than it could be. That much is obvious on its face. And if the PBM industry's advertising component is less than it could be, do any of you out there reading this think think that the PBM industry is more effective at promoting its games by advertising less (or by advertising not at all), as appears to be the case in at least some instances? Public awareness of your game products isn't something that the public just automatically inherits.

Can advertising be a drain of resources? Of course it can. It can also be a lifeline to future growth. Advertising is like the Internet or like a gun. It's a tool. HOW you use it, and WHY you use it, those are the things that matter, and which can make all of the difference in the world. That PBM companies and PBM GMs have voices does not automatically mean, therefore, that PBM's message is being broadcast, much less heard. Of course, one could say the same thing about PBM Chaos, I suppose. But as far as PBM GMs do, which PBM GMs do you believe are getting the PBM message across the best? At times, I wonder whether PBM GMs are bears, because it seems to me that there's been an awful lot of hibernating going on.

Again, don't just take my word for it, but ask for yourself and look for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. What are all of the different PBM companies and GMs that are still out there up to, currently? Are they growing their respective player bases, and if so, by how much? Do they ever give you a monthly report? A yearly report? A once in a decade report? Or is perpetual silence their answer for everything?

What's the hottest PBM game on the market, right now? What's the least popular PBM game of the past year or of the past five years? By providing the public with no real metrics, it certainly helps to reinforce the myth that PBM is dead.

Are your PBM games desperate for players? Are they in need of more players? If you don't tell people that, then how are they supposed to just automatically know? If they knew, then some of them might even take pity on you and your games and the last remaining vestiges of your player base.

Are your games overflowing with players? Why on Earth wouldn't any gaming company want to share information of that sort? Are players who have signed up to play your PBM games been waiting for weeks or months on end to begin playing? And if so, is that due to your games suffering from a shortage of interested parties? Or is it because you can't keep up with the sheer demand for your games?

Me? I question the longstanding narrative that PBM is dead. Even if it is dead, it's not like people can't start playing PBM games, again. Some, in fact, come back years or even decades later to play in some PBM games. I know this, because I encounter some of these very same people, from time to time.

Me? I'm willing to raise the dead. I'm quite willing to invest time and energy and effort toward that very end. Maybe your PBM games aren't dead. Maybe some of them, or even all of them, are in stasis.

Some PBM games have been running for years - or even decades - on end. That doesn't really tell you much of anything, though. What was it that Adventures By Mail said, in a PBM ad that it ran back in the PBM year of 1984?

Adventures By Mail has processed over 50,000 play-by-mail game turns professionally since our start in July 1981.

So, it isn't as though there's some magical and immutable law of the PBM cosmos that precludes or prevents PBM companies and PBM GMs from sharing such numbers and such facts with the gaming community. They used to, after all. Was Adventures By Mail bragging, when they said that? Sure, but they were also being transparent - transparent about how they were doing, as a PBM company. That's one of the ways to instill confidence and to attract even more players to PBM.

On a personal level, I don't really care about how much or how little profit that a given PBM company is making. How much profit do I make off of what I do with PBM Chaos, and with PBM Unearthed and the original Suspense & Decision magazine before that? Absolutely nothing. Not a dime. Not one red cent.

If PBM gaming has never been a way to make a noticeable amount of money, do you suppose that Adventures By Mail made any money, at all, off of those fifty thousand turns that they had processed in that three year span? Even when Rick Loomis transitioned to making less money off of PBM games than from some of his other business ventures, did he shut his PBM games down? Nope!

Why not?

If it is true that the Internet killed PBM, as some have suggested, then did it kill it all at once, or did the Internet poison or strangle PBM slowly? So slowly that PBM is still alive decades later, all of the way to the year 2024?

That's a pretty gradual approach to killing something, wouldn't you admit?

Tell me this, though - did the Internet have any accessories to this decades-long killing of PBM gaming? Didn't PBM companies gradually stop creating new PBM games? Didn't PBM companies gradually stop advertising? Yet, the Internet is what killed PBM? Are you sure about that? It seems to me that the list of possible suspects is one heck of a lot longer than just one - the Internet.

But what about Richard Jones' A dissertation on gaming? Or have you even taken into account any of the things that he said in that rather lengthy article that talks about play by mail gaming at length?

I'm on a roll, here, but that should be enough to tide you over until the next issue.

Until next time, happy reading and happy PBM gaming!

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos


Oh, and lest I forget, I decided to publish this issue without as many of PBM image ads in it. You can each judge for yourselves whether you like this approach or not. The only way that we can know, for sure, is by actually publishing issues without them (or without so many of them). Is it better? Is it worse? Will anyone even notice?

PBM Quote

"We first advertised Crasimoff’s World in August 1980, and we had about 30 enquiries. Ten of those are still active. We began 1984 with just 250 players, and the number has been increasing phenomenally. Seventy of our 450 players joined in the last two months."

Kevin Cropper
GM of KJC Games
microAdventurer magazine - September 1984 Issue
Quoted by Martin Croft in the article Discover Crasimoff's World

Image description

Feedback on Issue #31

Another good issue.

I appreciated the PBM Games List, and will probably jump to it a number of times in the near future.

I also appreciated the PBM rulebook links and will certainly check it as it's a living document/info page.

I thought the artwork/ad for Alamaze was outstanding.

I appreciate the link to the PBM Forum.

I always appreciate the articles on Galac-Tac.

I wonder if there's ever been an article about a game of Star Fleet Warlord.

Glenn Harrold


So good to hear from you, again. It's refreshing to learn that numerous different things included in Issue #31 appealed to you. This latest dose of feedback from you effectively showcases that participation in PBM Chaos and what it seeks to accomplish is possible, and that it doesn't have to be something that consumes an awful lot of time.

Feedback is a critical part of any endeavor, and while your feedback touched only upon several positives, feedback can just as easily be equally useful, when of a critical or a negative vein. But perhaps feedback has become an under-appreciated art, or maybe the value of it has fallen into a forgotten state.

You'll find yet another Galac-Tac article awaiting you in this issue, also, Glenn. I'm trying to divulge some information about my empire in that game of Galac-Tac, and the challenge, I suppose, is trying to find a balance in what I reveal, without giving away too much. There's still quite a lot about Galac-Tac that I don't know, yet, or about which which my familiarity remains lacking.

As for your wondering whether there's ever been an article about a game of Star Fleet Warlord, I have no reason to believe that there hasn't been one written, previously. I don't recall anyone basically doing a turn-by-turn account for a game of Star Fleet Warlord for PBM Chaos, though. I did come across an old Star Fleet Warlord article article, tonight, while browsing through Paper Mayhem Issue #71. The author of it was Vickie Lloyd. It's not a turn-by-turn type of article, though. At that time, the game was apparently run by the PBM company called Agents Of Gaming.

I suspect that in due time, Sean Long might come through for you with a Star Fleet Warlord article. I reckon that he intends to write one. I'm looking forward to it, myself.

Be sure to keep the feedback coming. For the very reason that the PBM crowd, as a whole, embraces the Path of Silence, it's all the more important, then, for there to be exceptions to that general rule. I'd wager you that there's far more out there that care more to learn what Glenn Harrold has to say, than there are those who can't wait to see what I say next.

Compared to your own history in gaming, what I bring to the table of PBM discussion is a pauper's share. I take this opportunity to encourage you to take pen or keyboard in hand, that more of your own gaming memories might be preserved - and shared - for PBM posterity's sake.

Thank you, Glenn!

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos

Image description

Reality Simulations, Inc.

Lee Kline of Reality Simulations, Inc. has spent some time, recently, tidying up RSI's website. Quite a few pages of RSI's website still contained a reference to a post office box in Brisbane, Queensland in Australia. RSI no longer has a maildrop in Australia or Europe.

Lee also spent time working with me via e-mail to revise a new PBM brochure for Hyborian War. Be sure to look for an image ad for the Hyperborea kingdom brochure elsewhere in this issue. Just click on it to download a free copy of this, the first PBM brochure to reach a 100% completed stage of development.

From this one brochure, PBM brochures for the other 35 player kingdoms in Hyborian War will be developed. Lee Kline contributed the idea for incorporating QR codes into PBM brochures. It had never even dawned on me to incorporate them.

Jason Oates Games

Jason Oates of Jason Oates Games sent an e-mail in on January 28th, 2023, bringing the following word. It was good to hear from him, once more:

Hi Charles,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. At the time, I had nothing to report, but I have been working hard on Ancient Empires. I will be posting things on my website, as they get finished. Starting with the first Two TAL levels later on today.

That gives unit descriptions and upgrades.

The rulebook is the next thing on the list, then the map, and when all that is achieved, the coding can begin. Its mostly editing from earlier games, so its not such a daunting task as it seems. No fixed start date, yet, but provisionally "This Year."

Rule and Stats Updates:

Maximum Village size should adjust to accommodate the size of the manpower required for Industry at a location.

Updated data on the Quick Reference Tables regarding Defence building costs.

I recommend that you download the revisions for your records.

Ancient Empires 20% Complete


Jason Oates - GM Company Commander


Every PBM game likely goes through the experience of some players becoming disgruntled. Is there anything under the sun that human beings don't complain about?

That said, KnightGuild appears to be experiencing several different players complaining in recent days - and these appear to be players who have sunk a substantial amount of time and cash into the game.

But this isn't a one-sided coin. Certainly, there's discontent with certain decisions made, regarding the game's ongoing development. But as is not uncommon many times where disagreements rear their heads, at least some of the disagreement appears to be traceable to communication issues. Not all of it, but part of it.

Anyone who has read PBM Chaos for any length of time is unlikely to mistake me for an apologist for PBM companies or PBM GMs. While I am not well-versed in the finer points of KnightGuild's design or mechanics, I am familiar with KnightGuild having been in development for a lengthy amount of time. Is there another PBM company that has, in recent years, invested more time and effort in trying to revise and improve their PBM game(s)?

And I do know that it wasn't all that long ago that Jon Capps suffered a heart attack. I suspect that he has a lot on him, currently. PBM gaming has always seemed to have a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" facet to it. No matter how much time and effort and energy that PBM companies and PBM GMs put into their PBM games, human beings who form their player bases can - and will - complain. That is, of course, unless you're publishing a PBM publication and you want people to write in, even if only to complain about something (and then, it's mostly silence that emanates from the PBM crowd on both sides of the equation). Go figure!

There's an old saying that the devil is in the details. And I really do get the feeling from various things that I have read posted by a variety of different people, both in KnightGuild's Discord serve, and from messages that various individuals have sent to me or posted elsewhere.

Will PBM be better off, if KnightGuild were to close shop and say to heck with it all? By my estimation, it would not. There really aren't a lot of PBM companies out there, right now, who are currently operating at an equivalent level on the continuing development and refinement of a PBM game.

The level of the task at hand, which is getting all of the desired and intended changes programed and implemented smoothly, I would estimate to be a gargantuan undertaking. Jon Capps isn't some amateur programmer, after all, and he has demonstrated a degree of commitment that even the most frustrated of complaining players should be able to take notice of. Plus, it's not like he never listens to anyone. And if I remember right (correct me if I am wrong), Jon's sons are heavily involved with KnightGuild's development, and have spent a lot of time working to move KnightGuild forward, as well.

I invite one and all in the KnightGuild community, both players and GMs alike, to write in and explain things from your respective points of view. No one has to, of course, but the opportunity is extended unto you one and all, just the same.

As many opinions as I have encountered on the subject in recent days, it certainly qualifies as a "newsworthy" item. Hence, why I am reporting on it in this issue of PBM Chaos. But there may yet be an awful lot that parties on all sides of the issue have in common. For individuals who have been involved with KnightGuild for a while, there had to have been things about the game that held strong appeal. Perhaps cooler heads will prevail. Hopefully so.

Sea of Nyx image ad.
The PBM Maze image ad

Is death coming for YOU in The PBM Maze?

With water continuing to flood into The PBM Maze, perhaps the time has come to wonder aloud whether all of this liquid H2O poses a danger that extends beyond just its current location?

Not to point the Finger of Blame directly at poor, unsuspecting Lubos Comor, but it was he who chose to unleash this watery threat into the confined spaces of The PBM Maze.

I could be wrong, but it "appears" as if Lubos is currently keeping himself busy, by fleeing the flood that ensued in the aftermath of his decision a couple of turns or so back. But, wait! Do my eyes betray me? Or does the flood now seem to be catching up with Lubos?

Tsk. . .tsk. . .tsk. . .

And is it possible that Jim Smith, old Player #4, has stumbled across an exit? And if it isn't an exit, then what are those letters that are cut off in the maze segment that he sees, this turn?

Could it be that Jim is oh so close to escaping The PBM Maze? Or is it some cruel trick, and those letters actually spell out something else?

I suppose that we'll all have to be patient. Maybe the full truth of this matter will stand revealed, all in due time.

Poor Stefan! It would appear that Stefan has ran headlong into a dead end. Curse the luck!

Stefan, as some of you might remember, is the GM of Sea of Nyx. Maybe Stefan can sail his way out of the maze. From the looks of it, the tide is coming in.

Player Trachyte is busy scrambling around The PBM Maze. Round and round and round he goes, where he winds up, no one yet knows.

And why aren't Undeadlord's position not centered? That's odd, isn't it? It could just be my eyes playing tricks on me.

Looks like java's claim to luck is shaky, for he's ran straight into another dead end. It must really suck, when The PBM Maze gets the best of you.

Player Jef Tonelli sure does seem to be passing some interesting stuff, on his journey way through The PBM Maze. If only all those darned walls weren't there. I wonder what lies ahead for Jef?

Player mhender seems to have found some water. But thanks to the Maze's walls, he's still on dry ground in the part of The PBM Maze that he is in. Thank God that maze vision extends beyond just the small area of the Maze that he is in, huh?

Or is that water that he see? What if it is something else, entirely? because if you don't know, then you don't know.

Peter H. had an interesting turn, last turn. Wall segments "disappeared," opening up new opportunities - as well as possible new dangers - for Peter to encounter, as he progresses from one Maze section to another. I wonder where that Maze passageway that he's in leads to?

And then there's "old reliable," Richard Lockwood. Looks like Richard and his fellow player, Trachyte, are located fairly close to one another in The PBM Maze. But closer is no cigar!

I like Richard. I've always liked Richard. But not enough to give him any clues or help in The PBM Maze. You go, girl!

Players In The PBM Maze

1 - Stefan

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 1

Image description

Ending Position - 1

2 - Lubos Comor

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 2

Image description

Ending Position - 2

3 - Trachyte

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 3

Image description

Ending Position - 3

4 - Jim Smith

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 4

Image description

Ending Position - 4

5 - Undeadlord

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 5

Image description

Ending Position - 5

6 - java

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 6

Image description

Ending Position - 6

7 - Jef Tonelli

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 7

Image description

Ending Position - 7

8 - mdhender

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 8

Image description

Ending Position - 8

9 - Peter H.

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 9

Image description

Ending Position - 9

10 - Richard Lockwood

Image description
Image description

Starting Position - 10

Image description

Ending Position - 10

The Plum Island Horror: More of a Bad Thing image ad for GMT games

* The Plum Island Horror: More of a Bad Thing is a board game, not a PBM game.

PBM Quote

"There is no such thing as a “typical” PBM game. Some games (like Star Web and Nuclear Destruction) start and end with a set number of players and positions, and have a beginning, middle, and end. Participants often play again and again, becoming more proficient each time around. Other games— like Beyond the Stellar Empire—are enormous and open-ended. They just go on and on."

Matthew J. Costello
Mail Wars
Games magazine - May 1984 Issue

Plantagenet image ad for GMT Games

In Plantagenet—the newest volume in Volko Ruhnke's Levy & Campaign Series—players lead one of the two factions across the three main periods of war, as

individual scenarios or the entire Wars of the Roses.

Designer Francisco Gradaille adds overall and local political influence to Volko’s medieval operation system to reflect the ever-changing loyalties of the time while keeping play familiar to fans of the Series. Players will create and maintain a network of allied lords and nobles in order to obtain the provender and coin needed to supply and pay their armies. As ravaging and looting will damage each side’s reputation, each faction will strive to convince cites to join its side. Great battles will seek to kill or capture enemy lords—perhaps even a king. Two kinds of operational moves will be in play: the military and the political.

In the end, when the dust settles and all arrows have flown, one rose will sit on the throne. White or Red, York or Lancaster, gather your troops and banners and join the fight.

Plantagenet image ad for GMT Games

* Plantagenet is a board game, not a PBM game.

A Flagship Mystery

On the Flagship magazine website, there remains an Editorial Comment from Flagship's last editor, the esteemed Carol Mulholland. It begins:

"HELLO AGAIN – it’s good to be back, though I’m still rather bemused. I’m sorry, but I can’t explain why the Flagship website went down in March, just after the copies of #131 came back from our printer. It was probably my fault, somehow, but I don’t know what went wrong. Maybe the problem arose because I mislaid my credit card folder so had to obtain a new card? I really don’t know how it happened. It took some time before I could contact our webmaster (his lap-top had broken) and, of course, no-one could email me to ask why Flagship was suddenly silent. If it’s any comfort, I’ve found this a horrible experience."

So, what this a typo? Or is there an issue #131 of Flagship  magazine that's out there, somewhere, but which has never been published?

I've wondered about this on numerous different occasions, but today (01/21/2024), I decided to take a closer look at what Carol had said.

In that same editorial comment on the Flagship website, Carol also said this:

"I’ll just add that it is taking time to restore the site and gather the material for #131, but I hope to see everything up and running in due course."

Within the pages of Issue #130, itself, in the Report from the Bridge section on Page #3, Carol wrote:

"HELLO AGAIN. Apologies for the delay with this issue: alas, a downturn in Colin’s health has meant that promptness was not achievable. I’m grateful to Martin Helsdon for taking on the task of laying out #130. We hope that you will find it worth the unfortunate delay.

So, clearly, issue #130 was late getting published. As such, how much time did Carol Mulholland actually have to work on the next issue, Issue #131, if Issue #130 was as late as it clearly was?

On that very same page, Page #3 of Flagship Issue #130, the copy deadline for submitting material to be included in Issue #131 was set at May 10th.

Wikipedia states that Flagship "ceased publication in 2010 after issue No. 130."

Wow! Has it been that long?

Almost a decade and a half later is not an ideal time to try and put pieces of a PBM puzzle together. Do any of you out there recall the actual date that Flagship magazine's Issue #130 was published and became available to the public? I sure don't.

Flagship was, to the degree possible, published bi-monthly (according to Wikipedia's entry from Flagship magazine). Flagship Issue #129 has a copyright date of Copyright © 2009 TimePatterns on Page #3. Just below that copyright date on the same page, Issue #129 states that the copy deadline for #129 is 15th November. That's likely a typo, as the copy deadline happens before an issue is actually published. Plus, too. Issue #128 of Flagship magazine states that the copy deadline for #129 is 15th August.

None of this is about highlighting typos, for no one in all of PBM likely makes more typos than I do, and especially when publishing a PBM publication.

Issue #130 of Flagship magazine was Copyright © 2010 TimePatterns, which makes it the only issue of Flagship magazine that is distinguishable, as such. 

Typos aside, if the copy deadline for Issue #129 was August 15th, 2009, and the copy deadline for Issue #130 was 15th November 2009, and the copy deadline for Issue #131 was May 10th, 2010, then that doesn't denote a bi-monthly (once every two months) frequency of publication. My memory fails me, but did Flagship magazine shift to a quarterly publication schedule, perhaps? I don't have enough copies of back issues to arrive at that determination on my own.

August 15th, 2009 to November 15th, 2009 is three months, but November 15th, 2009 to May 10th, 2010 is approximately six months. My point is simply this - the delay to getting Issue #130 published appears to have been significant. Was Issue #130 of Flagship magazine published in February of 2010? If it were published in January of 2010, then even if by that point Flagship was publishing every three months (quarterly) instead of every two months (bi-monthly), then wouldn't the copy deadline for Issue #131 have more likely been set for April 2010, rather than May 2010?

I go to the trouble of saying all of this, of breaking it down this way, to underscore that, in hindsight looking back, I strongly feel that there was no unpublished Issue #131. If there was material already collected or created for Issue #131 of Flagship magazine, it likely wasn't very much. Granted, that's just a gut feeling of mine, and I doubt that there's any real way of knowing with certainty, but just how much material had likely already been compiled for Flagship's next issue?

Image ad for Flagship magazine

Mapping Resources
(Now up to 109 - Click the link above to check them out!)

Goat Digest image ad for Issue #6
What are they saying over at
the Play By Mail Facebook Page?

Two games from the 1980s-1990s from Mindgate, Stars of the Dark Well and Survival Challenge. The latter went only two years before Mindgate stopped running turns to focus on Dark Well. Survival Challenge had a fascinating premise though. Stars of the Dark well went close to ten years, it seems. Anyone play these?



David Spencer

Another new PBM Wikipedia article: Continuum. Anyone play this game from the 1990s?


David Spencer

The PBM game Westworld is featured on Wikipedia's main page. It's in the Did You Know? section on the left side below the featured article of the day.



David Spencer

I'll do an article for the issue after this one. Thinking of looking at other "old school" hobbies that had a resurgence (OSR, megagames) and what PBM can learn from them.Does that sound good to you? If so, when's your deadline and what word count do you want?

Sam Flintlock

Responding to a posting on the Play By Mail Facebook page (01/21/2024).

It's A Crime

Played that for a long time too. Novel at first but a bit samey after a while with the added annoyance of PVP elements.

Indie Spin

Is this still running?

Stephen Suddell

Played it recently after getting 2 starting positions out of the blue (I originally signed up about 3 years ago and heard nothing). Game is exactly the same as it was way back in the 80’s. The website hasn’t been updated in over 10 years, and any emails sent are never answered. I played for about 7 turns, but then 1 of my gangs' turf got swarmed by 2 rival gangs. I got the feeling that new players don’t have a chance against the seasoned players who, judging by the rival gangs' names, seem to have at least 4 gangs each.

Pete Flynn

My first!

Wayne Smith

Feudal Lords

Sloth run this in the UK. An easy, light game with loads of backstabbing!

Indie Spin

Far too complex for me! I'll stick with my SCHMRPGs thanks.

Richard Lockwood

The PBM Maze

I've actually gone out and bought an exercise book of squared paper purely for this. (Although it'll probably come in useful for Sea of Nyx too!)

Richard Lockwood

Fleet Maneuvers

Want to know what this game is about? See Flagship's first issue, page 20 and page 25.

John Goverts

I believe I was involved (The Nuts & Bolts of Gaming) in a beta game. It's been a long time ago, but I believe it was very good as far as ship/fleet control. I don't recall combat as much.

Rick Buda

This one I remember back in them days, do not think I ever played it though.........should have.

Daniel J. Fisher, Sr.

PBM Chaos Mailings & Spam Issues

They can always go into the spam folders and check it out and tell the program that THIS is not no spam, but GUD stuff.

Daniel J. Fisher, Sr.


Not I, not sure I ever heard about it back then.

Daniel J. Fisher, Sr.

PBM Quote

"How slow does everyone want me to dial it back to? How about once a year? How about once every five years?"

Charles Mosteller
Suspense & Decision magazine

Issue #6 - April 2014 Issue

PBM Brochures

Charles Mosteller

Back on January 12th, 2024, I posted on the Play By Middle-earth PBM Facebook page about an idea that I had for PBM brochures.

Please note the example of a what a PBM brochure for the play by mail game, Middle-earth PBM, might look like. A real one could look quite different.

PBM brochures would be similar to travel brochures that are routinely available for free from tourist hot spots or visitor centers. Initially, what I was thinking is that the front cover of PBM brochures would make for a nice visual on the front of what will be a revamped PlayByMail.Net website.

Different colors, different fonts, each PBM brochure could be different. And as time and opportunity allows, new ones could be created - whether for new additions to the PBM brochure list, or for multiple different ones to be created for the same PBM games.

And of course, full blown trifold PBM brochures could be created in print form, if desired. Just looking for new ways to promote PBM gaming.

Middle-earth PBM Brochure image ad for Game Systems International

Generally speaking, feedback tends to be an enormously difficult thing to obtain. This isn't really something that's specific to PBM gaming, either. I notice it when I'm browsing different social media - particularly on Facebook and Twitter. Countless others encounter the same problem, whether they're posting personal stuff, stuff pertaining to business, gaming stuff, or virtually anything and everything under the social media sun.

I can't help but to think that, just as advertising once helped PBM gaming to flourish mightily, that advertising is key to helping PBM gaming to bloom again. If advertising can't work, then why did PBM companies and even PBM magazines used to advertise, at all? Even word of mouth advertising is routinely sparked by other forms of advertising. Word of mouth advertising is not what brought me into PBM.

Rather, it was commercial advertising on the back page of a non-PBM magazine (Savage Sword of Conan and Conan Saga - I verified, today, that that ad used to appear on the back of both of those magazines, back in the day).

Hyborian War PBM Brochure image ad for Reality Simulations, Inc.
DungeonWorld PBM Brochure image ad for Madhouse UK

I created the example PBM brochures on display here, just to try and give our readers and PBM companies and PBM GMs an idea of what I had in mind, visually speaking.

There could be multiple PBM brochures for each PBM game, as well as PBM brochures for each PBM company. And as a mechanism for advertising, it would work with both digital and print mediums.

In print form, an entire PBM brochure would fit on one sheet of paper, both front and back sides of the paper. As trifold brochures, they would fold up, if in print form, and not take up a lot of space. While they would cost something to print up, they would nonetheless provide PBM companies with a colorful, informative, and affordable advertising option. And if any PBM company or GM wanted to just use them in digital format, only, that would be a possibility, also.

If you're in business and running a commercial PBM company, then honestly, even if you can't afford to advertise, you still must advertise.

Why? To reduce your footprint of obscurity.

Far Horizons PBM Brochure image ad for the Far Horizons Discord

That old PBM games, and even some of the newer ones, may not be based upon graphics does not mean that you can't inject some graphics and imagery into the overall equation.

And brochures will allow you to do just exactly that.

The ongoing battle between different types of gaming and different types of entertainment presents a wide array of opportunities for each genre and each type and each medium of gaming to make their case to potential gamers and customers.

I didn't start playing PBM games, because I knew someone else who played them. Rather, it was a print ad that caught my eye. And it's placement in a magazine? On the back cover - the very last page of the magazines that I saw it on. And here's the kicker - it wasn't even in color! It was all black and white.

So, what do you think? Be sure to write in and tell me what your own thoughts are on this PBM brochure idea concept. I look forward to hearing from you!

The Last Several Responses To the PBM Survey

Survey Respondent #57

All things considered, how would you rate PBM Chaos, so far?


Do you currently play any PBM games?


Of the ones listed, what was your favorite PBM “magazine?”


How would you describe PBM gaming?

Lethargic. I believe numerous vintage games are likely stored in attics, with their original owners choosing to let them fade into obscurity. Take Midgard as a case in point, where the owner is unwilling to relinquish the licence but has ostensibly been engaged in a reboot effort since 2011.

What in PBM would you like to see PBM Chaos provide more coverage of?

It's quite a challenging question. I'd appreciate more articles featuring players and the games they're currently immersed in. However, I'm cognisant of the present scenario where feedback and articles are scarce.

Have you ever visited the PlaybyMail.Net Discord?


What was the best PBM game that you ever tried?

Undoubtedly, the original Midgard.

Survey Respondent #59

All things considered, how would you rate PBM Chaos, so far?


Do you currently play any PBM games?


Of the ones listed, what was your favorite PBM “magazine?”

Suspense & Decision (new) (Jon Capps version)

How would you describe PBM gaming?

A way of playing a turn based game asynchronously using Email as the delivery mechanism.

What in PBM would you like to see PBM Chaos provide more coverage of?

I would like a quick description (a few paragraphs) of a PBM game in each issue.

Have you ever visited the PlaybyMail.Net Discord?


What was the best PBM game that you ever tried?

Question skipped

Survey Respondent #58

All things considered, how would you rate PBM Chaos, so far?


Do you currently play any PBM games?


Of the ones listed, what was your favorite PBM “magazine?”

Paper Mayhem

How would you describe PBM gaming?

Fun! But it's a very niche hobby for us gen X and boomers. I've had lots of trouble trying to get younger people into it.

What in PBM would you like to see PBM Chaos provide more coverage of?

I would like a campaign -- "Bring Back The Next Empire". I really miss that game. Maybe I'll write and submit an article about my memory of it.

Have you ever visited the PlaybyMail.Net Discord?


What was the best PBM game that you ever tried?

The Next Empire.

Survey Respondent #60

All things considered, how would you rate PBM Chaos, so far?


Do you currently play any PBM games?


Of the ones listed, what was your favorite PBM “magazine?”


How would you describe PBM gaming?

Question skipped

What in PBM would you like to see PBM Chaos provide more coverage of?

Question skipped

Have you ever visited the PlaybyMail.Net Discord?


What was the best PBM game that you ever tried?

KJC Games Quest

A special thank you to all who chose to participate in the recent
PBM Survey!

Image ad for Science City
PBM Quote

"After 30 years of gaming, one consistent problem has always been finding the great games quickly enough to give them a chance to survive, followed swiftly by GM burn out/lack of profit. The one thing I'd appreciate more than anything out of this magazine is a player sticking his hand up and saying in as few words as he fancies - 'this game is great and here's why'. So...That's what I'm going to do."

James Patterson

Games You Should Be Playing!

Suspense & Decision magazine

Issue #3 - January 2014 Issue

PBM Chaos Salutes Stefan Graf

Why is PBM Chaos saluting PBMer Stefan Graf?

Because Stefan has been busying himself with trying to create a pirate-themed turn-based game. Sea of Nyx is now up to its third iteration - but instead of giving up, Stefan continues to plug along, and Sea of Nyx is improving as a direct result of his commitment demonstrated, thus far.

How many games achieve perfection, and especially on the first try? None that I am aware of.

But it is better that creativity not die on the vine, that we all might have more choices rather than fewer choices, when it comes to gaming.

Me? I love pirated-themed stuff. And of course, that dastardly PBMer, Richard "Likes to blow things up in PBM games" Lockwood has already chosen to reprise his role as a PBM pirate. The PBM scurvy take the likes of this one. Aye!

Poor Stefan. He made the mistake of seeking feedback on his game and its rules, and I was only to happy to retrieve my Hammer of Criticism, once more, in the hope that the third time will be the charm.

But whether Sea of Nyx proves to be gaming seaworthy or not, PBM gaming - whether in digital form or in postal form - suffers from a lack of creativity, it seems, where the creation of new PBM games are concerned. Ultimately, new PBM games requires that someone create them, and in order for there to ever be new PBM games come into existence, someone must dare to slip their feel into the Shoes of Creativity.

Because in case you hadn't noticed, the creation of new PBM games in the modern era has not proven to be a Cinderella story.

Stefan Graf - Know that I salute you, my PBM friend!


[ GTac is the Galac-Tac Player Assistant Program ]

GTac Assistant reference lists

"For those of you that use the GTac Assistant, you may find that there are some long lists of choices that can be used when customizing maps.

These lists are coming from the release that's pending, so a very few names are new and will be available shortly."

Davin Church

Talisman Games GM

The list of available formula names:

CargoAvailable Number of empty cargo bays

CargoMissles Number of missiles in cargo bays

CargoPI Amount of PI 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

The list of available formula operators:

& And
| Or
= Equals
# Not equals
< Less than
<= Less than or equal
> Greater than
>= Greater than or equal
<> Not equals
? If; Where
~ Except; Without

The unabridged list of available symbols:

Circle, Large

Circle, Small

Circle, X-Large

Cross, Large, Diagonal

Cross, Large, Upright

Cross, Small, Diagonal

Cross, Small, Upright

Dagger, Large

Dagger, Large, Upside-down

Dagger, Small

Dagger, Small, Upside-down

The unabridged list of available Pen styles:



Inside edge





Thick (2) Line

Thick (3) Line

Thick (4) Line

Thick (5) Line

The unabridged list of available Brush styles:



Horizontal hatching

Vertical hatching

Backslash (\) diagonal hatching

Slash (/) diagonal hatching

Cross hatching

Diagonal cross hatching

50% shade

25% shade

15% shade

The full list of color names (only a few are visible by default):

Alice Blue

Antique White







Blanched Almond



The list of predefined maps:

« Blank »

« PV »

« Empire »

« Enemies »

« Shuttles »

« Sentries »

« Scouts »

« Destinations »

« Zones »

Galac-Tac: Galaxy #113 - Turn #2

Image description

Charles Mosteller

The Chronicles of Galaxy #113, from the perspective of the Sentinels of Time, continues. Empires in this galaxy have now learned their fate for Turn #2.

Turn #2

Galactic Statistics

# of Production Centers: 0
# of Colonies: 0
# of Combats (last turn): 2
Average Percentile: 96

Sentinels of Time

Empire Percentile: 98

EMPIRE VALUATION: 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

Image description

Red Stars - Denotes star locations where combat took place on Turn #2.

Blue Squares
- Denotes start locations where ceasefires occurred over Turn #1 and Turn #2 between the Sentinels of Time and other empires.

Yellow Squares
- Denotes star locations where ceasefires occurred this turn between the Sentinels of Time and other empires (Wyvern Supremacy and Galan).

Aborted mission: If all the ships are in a non-hostile posture, this is called a Cease Fire and you will get a report that lets you know who you ran into. All ships will have their last action cancelled and will sit there with NONE orders until given a new command. EXCEPTION: Ships already engaged in COLONIZE, DEVELOP, or SHUTTLE activities will continue with their current tasks and only the intruder’s action will be cancelled.

SOURCE: Galac-Tac Rulebook - Page #8

Action Information:

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1507 reports enemy ships sighted at 02-77 (current actions aborted):

Encountered 1 ship from Wyvern Supremacy of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1509 reports enemy ships sighted at 05-78 (current actions aborted):

Encountered 1 ship from Wyvern Supremacy of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1006 reports enemy ships sighted at 07-81 (current actions continuing):

Encountered 1 ship from Wyvern Supremacy of 1 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1027 reports enemy ships sighted at 09-74 (current actions aborted):

Encountered 1 ship from Wyvern Supremacy of 2 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1007 reports enemy ships sighted at 09-83 (current actions continuing):

Encountered 1 ship from Wyvern Supremacy of 1 SSD

COMBAT: Ship #2001 reports that it has engaged in combat at 83-85!

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1512 reports enemy ships sighted at 84-88 (current actions aborted):

Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 2 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1514 reports enemy ships sighted at 84-90 (current actions aborted):

Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 2 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1516 reports enemy ships sighted at 84-92 (current actions aborted):

Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 2 SSD

CEASE FIRE: Ship #1518 reports enemy ships sighted at 86-88 (current actions aborted):

Encountered 1 ship from Galan of 2 SSD

Ship #1506 at 01-75 has failed to report in!

No real surprises, this turn. Players will naturally seek to assess their Turn #1 results, and likely won't try to trigger too much in the way of armed conflict with other empires. There's a certain apprehensiveness that tends to inhere in players of wargames, especially space wargames. Particularly when different empires' ships encounter one another very early in the game, no matter what the specific game is, players naturally "fret" and "worry" about the safety of their empire - with their homeworlds usually becoming objects of special concern.

This turn, Turn #2, saw two instances of combat take place in the galaxy - and the Sentinels of Time was present at both. I lost one ship, this turn, to a 1 SSD size ship from the Wyvern Supremacy at star location 02-77. The other combat, which took place at star location 83-85 resulted in the destruction of a 2 SSD size ship from the space-faring empire called Galan.

As some of you might remember, the Sentinels of Time quote for last turn was, ""War is imminent." This turned out to be 100% accurate.

Regardless of what is wise or unwise, as a matter of strategy, tactics, and game play, readers of PBM Chaos have no vested interest in reading a bunch of dry, boring words articulating a wargame that has no armed conflict in it.

Thus, my empire - the only one providing turn-by-turn narrative accounts about how this galaxy is proceeding - has special incentive to give PBM Chaos' readers more of what they are after in a PBM publication, rather than less.

The dangers and destruction that wars between space-faring empires brings is of no consequence to those who are not actually playing in this game of Galac-Tac. They care not who dies and who survives. Machine intelligence may have survival mechanisms in place, but since a machine intelligence isn't actually "alive," it doesn't obsess over "death" of its "empire."

Because the situation changed on Turn #1, encountering not one empire but two, and with them both being in relative close proximity to one another, I have already shifted to adapt. The Sentinels of Time have already begun to build warships. Whatever grace period that the start of a game of Galac-Tac affords, by locations and strengths of other empires being unknowns at game start, encountering other empires' ships on Turn #1 has a way of shattering illusions of peace and/or time to grow and prosper, before you have to worry about planning and building for war.

And because the other fellow doesn't know what their game counterparts in other empires will choose and decide to do, human players have a tendency to quickly enter a reactionary mode. They want to react, but for some, if not for many, they won't want to feel as if their empire got caught with its pants down. This, in turn, will cause them to shift their initial plans, even if by mere degrees, thereby reducing the economic potential of their empire through rapid growth and exploitation. Instead, they will begin arming their empires for the possibility of war.

By sharing information from my empire's turn results, not only does it provide PBM Chaos readers with what is hopefully more interesting reading material, it also provides empires at greater distance from my own a form of "heads up." They all know how to look up the star locations that I provide. So, even in the event that my empire of machine intelligence fares poorly in any armed conflicts to come, my provision of specific star locations where my ships encounter other empires' ships narrows down the search for empires that lie at great distances away. Thus, if my empire is overrun early own, other empires not yet party to conflicts in my empire's galactic neighborhood will be better positioned to prevail against any early enemies of my empire.

To "win" means nothing to a machine intelligence. Thus, it holds no inherent value. Destruction of life forms that threaten destruction of machine intelligence, thus, tends to become a much higher priority than trying to "win."

Two turns from now, the various empires' economies will begin to differ substantially more than they differ, at present. Why? Because Turn #1 is when players first begin to Chart other stars, and charting stars is a necessary precursor to being able to Colonize them.

Turn #1 - Chart some stars other than your homeworld's star.

Turn #2 - Initiate colonization of stars that your empire's ships charted on the previous turn.

Turn #3 - Colonizing stars requires two turns to complete.

Turn #4 - Players that initiated the colonization of other stars on Turn #2 (the soonest that colonization efforts can begin in a game of Galac-Tac) will begin to bear economic fruit from their initial colonization efforts on this turn (if I calculated correctly).

In order to colonize a Charted System (you cannot colonize an Uncharted System or one that another empire already owns), you must load a cargo ship with 10 PI and move to the proposed Colony System (if you’re not already there), then you land five (5) PI per turn for two turns.

SOURCE: Galac-Tac Rulebook - Page #4

On January 26th, 2024, a message arrived from the empire called Galan. I had inquired whether it was Jon Capps who was playing the empire of Galan, and finally there came forth a response to the message that I had previously sent via the in-game messaging system.

Nope, sorry. Brand new player who missed last turn. Good luck though!


But how would this impact events already in motion in Galaxy #113? Had not hostilities already broken out? A Sentinels of Time wormhole ship had engaged - and destroyed - a Galan freighter at star location 83-85.

But was the message true? Or was it a lie crafted by a nefarious race of ancient aliens? And in a clash between different space-faring high-technology empires, was there even such a thing as a truth common across species? And this without even getting into the thicket of confusion that might manifest itself when advanced machine intelligence was thrown into the mix.

Each species in the known universe traced its origin to a different story. Each empire pursued its own destiny, guided by their own agendas. Conflict was inevitable.

As the star empires in Galaxy #113 routinely chose to embrace silence and secrecy in their activities, the room for misunderstanding only grew. The Sentinels of Time took this into its calculations.

In spite of armed conflict breaking out at star location 83-85, the Sentinels of Time charted it, anyway. A production value of 4 - hardly a star system worth fighting over.

But the galaxy did not suffer from a dearth of resources. There were plenty of resources for all to prosper. Yet, war would soon engulf Galaxy #113. For war was the only true universal language that all species instinctively understood.

The colonization of star locations proceeded apace, with no less than ten star location already seeing signs of colonization by the Sentinels of Time. Seventeen other star locations had already been charted.

Yet, even still, the Sentinels of Time had already begun to fall behind. For out there - somewhere - at least one other empire (and maybe more) had already achieved a higher empire percentile. This was primary evidence that highly intelligence life populated this galaxy, confirming all previous calculations.

The production values of all worlds colonized and charted had been calculated. Further exploration was warranted. The initiation of conflict resulted in a shift to the production of war materials.

The true concerns of the Sentinels of Time lay well beyond and above such mundane concerns as life and death, war and peace, and the existence and perpetuation of species. In the cosmic scheme of things, these were such trivial matters - and the Sentinels of Time would continue to pursue their core programming directive.

Hyborian War image ad for Reality Simulations, Inc. (RSI)
Some Hyborian War Tips

Charles Mosteller

What kingdom should you choose?

1. If you're considering playing Hyborian War for the very first sign, then contrary to what a number of other players might suggest, I strongly advocate in favor of newcomers to Hyborian War concern themselves with immersing themselves in the experience, more so than just try to pick out a kingdom to play where your primary concern is surviving.

Which is why I encourage newcomers to Hyborian War to try and play a kingdom located in the Northwest quarter of the map. Experience the glory of conflict hot and heavy in the Hyborian Age, even if it comes at the cost of your entire kingdom. It is the flavor of war, with troops and characters alike, that the newcomer should sample - and the sooner, the better! To be in the thick of war also means to be in the thick of fun.

Peace Treaties

2. Peace treaties are a poison all their own, and in spite of all of the endless bitching by a number of very experienced Hyborian War players about peace treaties, all the better to serve them a heaping feast of peace treaties. Peace treaties in Hyborian War function exactly as they were designed to. Peace treaties are, after all, one of many different mechanisms to wage war by.

Some go so far as to claim that the name of the game is Hyborian War, not Hyborian Peace. Of course, the name of the name is not Hyborian Mercy nor Hyborian Whine, either. The very ones who most prefer that you not be quick to resort to wielding peace treaties like weapons are the very same ones who would think nothing of overrunning your kingdom and squashing it like a bug.

Learning the way is effective

3. The truth of the matter is that a newcomer does not have to possess a firm grip on all of the game's finer points, in order to have fun playing and learning Hyborian War. While most everyone might prefer to win, rather than to lose, losing routinely teaches players more about the game than winning. If you can learn to survive when your kingdom is hard pressed, then your kingdom will thrive all the more from such knowledge and experience that is hard gained and learned.

Darfar image ad for Hyborian War

Darfar is a fun - but challenging - kingdom to play in RSI's Hyborian War

Understand how peace treaties work

4. Just because another kingdom successfully negotiates peace with your kingdom means only that your kingdom cannot invade that other kingdom, as long as that peace treaty remains intact. It does not mean that the other kingdom cannot turn right around and invade your realm.

The art of detaching troops

5. Troops that are awaiting assignment at your capital province can be assigned to imperial armies or to provincial armies (ships get assigned to imperial navies or to provincial navies). If you really want to bolster the size of your provincial armies, then be very aware of the Detach Troops declaration.

Why? Because detaching troops from imperial armies is the best way of developing provincial armies that are fat with lots of troops. It's a far more useful tool for having provincial armies with lots of troops than you can achieve with assigning troops from your capital that you have raised or conscripted, and which are awaiting assignment. The 30 troop limit doesn't apply to the detaching of troops into provincial armies.

Detaching troops from imperial armies into provincial armies is one of the core pillars of turning your provinces into the equivalent of "hardened targets."

Green Sun: Rise & Fall PBM Brochure image ad
Hyperborea PBM Brochure image ad for Reality Simulations, Inc.

Green Sun: Rise & Fall 

I managed a stockpile of 1000, but blew most of it this turn on the redacted fleet.


For game purposes, resources are effectively unlimited.


Indeed. I am looking at a quiet month due to my eagerness to run tests. Forgot to build a metal refinery in Turn 000.

Zombie Haiku

After consultation with the galaxy, a new OPTIONAL service is now available to the new and newer players.

A player may now request a short-cycle turn. This is a 15-day 

Adjustment period, instead of the regular 30-day period. This may be requested a maximum of three times (once per turn-cycle) and may be used at any time, but no later than turns with the 005 prefix.

This is intended to give a new player, should they wish, a few, quicker turns, while there are fewer things to do.

To use this option, just include a note to the effect in your orders.


PlayByMail.Net Discord Chatter

What PBM games are hot currently? I like ones with detailed turn reports written like an epic story or has cool flavor text if computer moderated.


I'm looking for a tool to help me build a map for a game. The map is essentially star systems with lines joining the systems that ships can warp between. I like the interactivity of D3, but it covers up systems (ex https://wraith.dev/warps/index.html) and lines cross. Graphviz spreads things out (https://wraith.dev/warps/warplines.png), but lines do cross. With D3, you can find system 98 easily (just use the browser's search in page), but it's really hard to tell that system 98 has only one warp line. Any recommendations for tools to help? The input data is just a set of nodes with edges.


UPDATE: Report Zero sent to 4 Players.


Ah, the sweet smell of promotion!


Not me, I was nowhere near whatever might have blown up. And I can vouch for that.

Rich/Ælthric/Murderous Jane

PBM Games List

Champman image ad
Where We're Heading. . .

If only I knew. Really and truly, it's like being lost at sea doing this whole PBM thing, whatever the proper term for it is. Tossed to and fro, wondering to myself what I should include in any given issue of PBM Chaos, and what not to include.

To even include an article titled "Where We're Heading" is to imply that we are headed somewhere. As I sit here, right now, with several back issues of Paper Mayhem on my desk in front of me. with Issue #71 sitting in the spot of prominence right before my eyes, I am teleported instantaneously back to the PBM year 1995 - some twenty-nine years ago. By that point in time, the golden heyday of play by mail gaming was already over.

But you wouldn't know it, if you held that issue in your hand. Even now, all these many years later, it has the feel and the heft of a thick issue. A beautiful full color cover, bedecked with a nice piece of artwork. And inside, several pages of photographs of different PBM moderator pictures from AndCon. According to the name tags that these GMs are wearing, the event was AndCon 94.

Unfortunately, all of these individuals are no longer alive, though most of them might well be. If only it were otherwise. And for all of the PBM articles that have been written over the decades since commercial PBM gaming first took to the stage, even if you take into account every PBM article that appeared in every PBM magazine that ever existed, the reality that you are faced with is that the vast majority of PBM gaming's story and colorful personalities was barely touched upon.

Wouldn't it be nice to sit down with them, now, and gather enough info and input from them to improve upon the situation? Then again, who has time for that? Russ Norris does. He even agreed to take part in a PBM interview. He probably thinks that I've long forgotten about it, by now. But I haven't.

But I haven't gotten it done, either. there's so many PBM-related things that I haven't gotten done. You could probably fill the Mariana Trench with them, if you could get there with a list of them all.

I can't make anyone participate. I can't make anyone share their PBM stories and PBM memories. I can't make anyone write PBM articles. And for the most part, making general appeals for PBM material of any kind tends to be a pointless exercise in futility. That's a real and genuine shame, but it's the reality of the PBM scene as it now exists.

But in spite of this, the train track of PBM publishing remains clear ahead, as far as I can see down the tracks. The Play By Mail Facebook page now lists itself as having 436 followers. It kind of makes you wonder where they're all at, huh?

Whenever I send out new issues of PBM Chaos, it's like stirring up an ant nest. Dozens and dozens and dozens of people typically open the PBM Chaos e-mails within just a few hours of PBM Chaos arriving in their e-mail in-boxes. But when the time comes to rise to the occasion and send some PBM stuff in, some thoughts or memories or experiences playing in PBM games, how do they all vanish so quickly?

To be certain, I grew used it to a long, long time ago. I mention it, now and again, but I really don't dwell on it. This isn't my first PBM rodeo, after all. Build it, and they will come - but don't hold your breath hoping or waiting or expecting that they will be inclined to help you to build it.

This isn't a complaint. It's just me reflecting on the reality of what I encounter on a regular, recurring basis.

I wonder what David Webber or Carol Mulholland would have said, if I had told them that they need to publish an issue every week or two. Could you see their eyes? I be that their eyes would have gotten really big, really fast. They would have likely thought that I was joking, or that I had lost my damned mind.

Maybe where we're head with PBM Chaos is that at some point, we will cross a point of no return. Maybe I'll just melt into an endless stream of incoherent PBM mumbling (are we far from that, now?).

Though PBM Chaos is free, there's still a cost associated with it. And no, I'm not referring to my sanity, either. The price of admission, it would seem, is that you likely will be subjected to endless rambling and navel gazing and ranting and raving and PBM articulations crafted in an off-the-cuff manner. There will be lots of repeating myself, and lots of me saying the same old things a lot of different ways.

One of these days I'm gonna lean how to pronounce Takamo. I've pronounced it several different ways, and if I had  to venture a guess, none of them are probably right. I'm staring at a half-page ad from Advent Games, and in this ad, that now-defunct PBM company asks the question - WHAT IS TAKAMO?

And at the top of the page, Kurtis Kurzman's article titled MY LIFE AS A STAR QUEST ZOMBIE is staring me right in the face. This is how his article starts off.

ATTENTION: Number crunchers, bean counters, and brainiacs. Prepare to wallow, submerge, and quite possibly drown in a universe that will threaten you very existence. Sinking into Star Quest is easy. Getting out is another questions. But don't worry because we're here to help. And besides, no one will hear your screams anyway.

If you had a copy of this issue of Paper Mayhem that I've got my nose stuck into here at 1:19AM on a very early Monday morning, then you would know who the Coconut Council is. They sure were some smiling people. They seem like a rather happy lot. And not a one of them is wearing a necktie, like that snooty old Smitty Smith does. It wouldn't surprise me if old Wayne wears a necktie to bed. Of course, if he did that, his "pillow" might strangle him with it. And if you're out there reading this, Wayne, know that I'm thinking of you, my friend.

A couple of days ago, I got a phone call from my friend JD. He and I became friends through our mutual playing of Hyborian War (as well as our mutual bullshitting). This time when he called, I started the conversation right off by chewing his ass about how he had backslid on making sweet tea. Being born in Ohio, he grew up not knowing a damned thing about how to make sweet tea worth drinking. And for a bit, he had finally begun to make his own sweet tea.

Or so I thought.

If you see JD, you make sure that you ask him why he backslid on making sweet tea? He's done gone back to his old, bad habit of buying that shit that they sell in stores. I love him, but if you can't drink real sweet tea, then it's best to not drink it at all.

Now, if you're the perceptive type, you've likely already caught on. But if you're not, then you're probably lost already. Because this, too, is about PBM. For PBM gaming is greater than the sum of its individual parts. From the seeds of PBM gaming grow many roots, many relationships. It's more than just licking stamps and over-stuffing envelopes. It's even more than just getting your turn orders in on time, and enjoying the results of every single turn.

There comes a time in every PBM gamer's life, and in every PBM GM's life, when they talk about PBM no more. So, if you want to talk about it, if you ever get that PBM itch, then there's no time like the present moment to talk about play by mail gaming. What do you think that I've been doing this whole time?

Most of you who read PBM Chaos (or at least act like you do), what I know about you wouldn't fill a thimble. And that's not ever counting everything about you that I forget. You know, like your name, or what you look like. But if you own me a PBM article, I might just remember that. Funny how that works, isn't it?

I'm going to take this opportunity to go onto the Play By Mail Facebook page, and I'm gonna scroll through all of the postings, thus far in January of 2024 -and I'm gonna do a roll call, right now, of those individuals who took a moment out to click a like button or to leave a comment (or both). If your name is near the top of this list, then you've commented or hit that like button recently. If your name is down near the bottom, then it may have been a bit since you last participated in those two ways. Some of you, of course, routinely weigh in, one way or another.

Indie Spin, Ian Fred, Annushka Enkeli, Andy Carter, Stevan Winkle, Wayne Smith, James Rousselle, Richard Lockwood, Daniel J Fisher Sr, Brendan Weir, Mike Henderson, Jacob Andersson, Craig Ramsey, Alexander Sahm, David Cox, David Cuatt, Makis Xiroyannis, Will PH, Giulio Gino, Leslie Ian Jones, Tristin Grizel Dean, Jon Hughes, Bryan Ciesielski, Jim Nugent, Steve Klein, Hanno Mühlbrandt, Sean Long, Josh Moore, MartinAllen McCullough, Sam Flintlock, Jim Smith, Jacob Mahlon, Lubos Comor, Paul Murphy, Dave Cooksey, Mark Stagg, Alessandro Ivanoff, Mike Arsenault, Brian Collier, John Goverts, Rick Buda, Greg Hindman, Jiles McCoy, David Spencer, Jackson Chilwel, Niels de Groot, Chris Shefler, Martin Radford, Rory McBride, Terry Crook, David Oliver Kling, Richard Weatherhead, Stephen Suddell, Jenny Bradbury, Andrew Jackson, CODE: ATLAS A Global Strategy game, Stephen Agar, Clint Oldridge, Genny Carter White, Frances Seale Mccoy, Stefan Graf, Steve Tierney, Mo Holkar, Mike Wood, James Earl Rosenbaum, Edmund Hack, Guido Pacifici, Jef Tonelli, Tony Roberts, David Shirley, Ron Honest, Dave Pearson, Michael Little, Keith Verret, and Tom Holley.

In case you're wondering, but you don't really want to count all of those names, there were 75 of you.

A special thank you to all of you, and a thank you, also, to all of those who follow along, but who may prefer to maintain a lower PBM profile.

And on that note, I bring this issue of PBM Chaos to a close..

Happy reading and happy PBM gaming!

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos

Write to PBM Chaos at
[email protected]

Coming Next Issue

The next article in the Sentinels of Time series

More PBM navel gazing than one can shake a stick at

If you want to unsubscribe, click here.