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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Top Ten Ways to Get a Scenario Rejected

10. Make your scenario too big for people to actually play, such as maxing out the command rating for five different empires.

9. Make sure your scenario just isn’t interesting or fun.

8. Make sure your scenario is so unbalanced that there is no way for one side to win.

7. Build a “trick key” into your scenario, some simple thing one side can do (and the enemy cannot stop him from doing) to automatically win, such as disengaging on Turn #1 and scoring the “appearance money” points you get just for showing up.

6. Write a scenario that is just a BPV battle, or is just SG2 with no special rules or situations.

5. Write a scenario where carriers don’t have their escorts because you think that the escort requirement rules are silly.

4. Don’t pick a year for your scenario, just select ships, weapons, and political situations from all over the timeline and roll them into one battle.

3. Write a scenario that is historically impossible.

2. Write a scenario without a hook, or anything else to make it catch our interest.

1. Write a scenario that is “the first time they saw a ____ and boy were they surprised!” (Hint: both players read the scenario and nobody is surprised. Rarely, someone can write rules to account for a surprise, but like we said, it is very rare.)

(c) 2005 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #31.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


  Steve Cole's thoughts on traveling to Mars.
 I have, of late, watched a lot of Mars Society videos on YouTube (there are dozens, all worth a watch) and can see a lot of frustration and exuberance in the speakers.
1. NASA isn't going to Mars, even if it says it is. Their whole culture is geared toward what the vendors want to sell to the government and there isn't any short-term profit in Mars. There is also the problem that whatever program is started by one session of congress or one president often doesn't survive into the next one.
2. I have heard talk of a Mars Flyby mission, sending people on a year-long trip to drop by Mars without landing. (They might orbit a few days.) The point is that dragging along everything they will need to land, stay some period of time, and take back off will require a much bigger and more expensive space ship. This mission seems worthless to me. They cannot accomplish anything from orbit a robot probe cannot do, and it would have to be very risky and frustrating for the astronauts. Everyone remembers the first man on the moon; nobody remembers six earlier people who flew past it.
3. The single key point about Mars is the gravity, which is 38% of Earth. Nobody knows, and nobody has tried to find out, what happens to the human body with prolonged exposure to gravity of that type. We know that a year in zero gravity causes no end of medical problems, but would 18 months (the planned stay) in 38% gravity destroy a human body or would the human body tolerate it fairly well? We could find out with an orbital centrifuge (and 18 months of a few astronaut lives) but nobody is even planning that kind of mission. The problem is that once you spend six months en route (maybe faking gravity by spinning the ship with an empty rocket stage on the end of a wire) and land on Mars, you don't know if 18 months in 38% gravity is going to leave you capable of climbing back into the rocket ship at the end.
4. Olympus Mons is so high that it extends out of the atmosphere of Mars. Someday, tourists will take a train to the top of it so they can say they have been in outer space.
5. While we're talking about Mars, let me take a moment to discuss the current robot rovers. These things were not expected to last very long because it was expected that dust would cover the solar panels. As it happened, windstorms wiped off the dust and the rovers continued for years. What I don't understand is why they weren't designed with "solar panel wipers" that would wipe the dust away?

Monday, May 22, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 14-20 May 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects.

The weather this week was cool.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #53, blogs, Federation & Empire SITs (he finished the latest update cycle), and other projects. Stephen and Leanna took off a couple of days to drive to Denver and adopt a new Bengal cat, Zephyr.


Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #53, quality control assembly and shipping, and the LDR Master Starship Book. He started work on the Star Fleet Battles Module R3 update and the Kzinti Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away a porcupine.

Jean worked on the GURPS Prime Directive revision, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,806 friends), managed our Twitter feed (223 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Monsters over Frallia

BATTLE #19: Fralli vs.Just about Everybody

Stephen V. Cole, USS Texas

MONSTERS: Ice Monster, Ancient Space Dragon, Moray Eel of Space, Death Probe, Juggernaut,

550 Administrative Shuttlecraft


"Somebody out there doesn't like us!" the Fralli Field Marshal exclaimed as he began the briefing. "We have six monsters bearing down on our planet, one from each direction. Star Fleet has pulled out the defense squadron 'for maneuvers' and the Federation Police have sent the local cutter to enforce handicap parking at Texmex. We're on our own.
"We have considerable forces available, but unfortunately, all of them are administrative shuttles," the Field Marshal explained. "At least there is some good news; we have five hundred and fifty administrative shuttles. So listen closely. Some of us are going to die, but most of us are going to look good.
"And looking good is what this is all about!
"We will divide our forces into eight squadrons," he explained, "each consisting of a carefully calculated number of shuttlecraft. The first six will each move outward to engage one monster; the last two will constitute a final reserve here at the planet itself.
"The First Squadron, with 80 shuttlecraft, will engage the Juggernaut," he directed. "Charge that thing head-on, timing the attack to arrive nearly at the end of a turn about 100,000 kms from the planet. He may have phaser-4s, but he can only kill a few of us at a time. The rest, probably about 70, will fire point-blank into his forward shield. That will generate about 265 points of damage, enough to score about 90 points of internal damage, enough to kick his teeth in! That should leave the Juggerhulk a flaming wreck tumbling toward our sacred planet. After that pass, send all of your shuttles back to the planet for final defense and leave the flaming wreck to the Seventh Squadron.
"Eighty shuttles assigned to the First Squadron leaves 470.
"The Second Squadron, with 200 shuttlecraft, is assigned to engage the death probe. Again, attack him head on and fire at point-blank range near the end of a turn about 100,000 kms from our planet. He will kill about 20 of your shuttles, leaving 180. Those will score about 700 points of damage, enough to leave him wrecked, blind, and bleeding! Then send all of your shuttles back to the planet and leave the stumbling wreck to the Seventh Squadron.
"Two hundred shuttles assigned to the Second Squadron leaves 270.
"The Third Squadron, with only 30 shuttlecraft, will engage the moray eel," the Field Marshal explained. "Your mission is not to destroy the monster, but only to delay him. Have one of your shuttles fire at the monster each turn. The moray eel will then turn to strike at the shuttle, destroying it. All you have to do is keep him busy for seven or eight turns, enough time to kill all of the other monsters. At that point, you can let him go and follow him back here. Once he arrives, we¹ll have enough shuttles from the other squadrons to score 880 damage points in a single volley, after which, teams of  a dozen shuttles can each score 44 points to trigger another death roll.
"The shuttles assigned to the Third Squadron leave 240.
"The Fourth Squadron, with 10 shuttles, is assigned to meet the metamorph and slow him down by a turn or two. I want to you slap his face and leave his cheeks a burning red! With any luck, you will buy me just enough time before the last of you die horribly in a burning wreck of a shuttlecraft.
"The metamorph should get here pretty fast, and we'll pay with the lives of you brave pilots for the information we need about his weapons and defenses. We need 880 damage points to kill it, which we can generate with a massed volley by about 240 shuttles. That should not be a problem as we'll easily have more shuttles than that here to meet him and give him a bloody nose and two black eyes!
"Ten shuttles assigned to the Fourth Squadron leaves 230.
"The Fifth Squadron, with 40 shuttles, is to engage the ancient space dragon," the Field Marshal explained. "I want you to twist his tail and poke his eyes. Just piss him off, and maybe -- just maybe -- he'll take time to kill you all before he comes to the planet. That should get him here right after the metamorph is killed, and the combined shuttles of the First and Second Squadrons can fire a massive blow to rip his ears off!
"Forty shuttles assigned to the Fifth Squadron leaves 190.
"The Sixth Squadron, with 100 shuttles, will move out to engage the ice monster. This is the hardest one to kill, so you will move out first and engage about 150,000 kilometers from the planet. Your mission is to keep the ice monster busy in a whirlwind of a dogfight for at least five turns. Given the rate at which he can kill your shuttles, you should make it, but score some damage while you're at it. We need you to wear him down, since he's the toughest monster to kill, needing 2,200 damage points. Assuming you lose about 10 shuttles a turn, you should be able to score at least half of the required amount before he gets bored and comes to the planet. I need you rip his hair out and break some of his teeth! I need you to delay him to the point that he arrives after the metamorph and dragon are killed. When you let him go, follow him back to the planet, firing every turn at whatever range you can. We need every point. We should have well over 200 shuttles left here when he arrives, maybe even 300, and with those we will need only two turns to break his neck!
"Once that happens, the Third Squadron can let the moray eel loose and it should flyright into our phaser-3 barrage.
"One hundred shuttles assigned to the Sixth Squadron leaves 90 to be divided between the Seventh and Eighth Squadrons.
"The Seventh Squadron, with 60 shuttles, will remain here at the planet as a final defense. They'll engage whatever monsters arrive in the order of their arrival, as reinforced by the returning shuttles of the First and Second Squadrons. Your job is to gouge their eyes out!
"The final 30 shuttles of the Eighth Squadron will be prepared as suicide shuttles at all available base facilities. These will be my final weapon, sent to kill whatever is left.
"But whatever happens, this is going to get ugly!"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Steve Cole's thoughts on the game industry in general and on ADB in particular.
1. Steven Petrick has been doing his series of Master Starship Books, and I do the graphics for them. Each ship has a unique picture, which means I have to take the basic hull art and then add or delete greebles (phaser bumps, tractors, hatches, mine racks, sensor dishes, etc.) to create the specific ship variant. The way we did the first few was that Steven Petrick would write up instruction sheets and I would do a few at a time. He would then check them, mark fixes, and wait for me to correct them. The problem was that I kept forgetting to do them, or worse I would lose the handwritten instructions he had spent hours creating. When we did the Lyran book I told him to bring his instructions and sit down in my office and we'd just do them. It took about four afternoons, not all in a row, but they all got done. The LDR book took three afternoons (half of the total hours) because they mostly involved just changing the size of the phaser bumps (one pixel for phaser-3, two pixels for phaser-1/2/G) and adding the LDR emblem. (We added the emblem because otherwise the differences were all but impossible to see.) We're certainly planning to do all future books on the new "do a lot of them at once" concept. I do have to limit the hours because my eyes start to hurt and I get nervous and jumpy, the same thing that happened in high school when I built a three-foot sailboat model for my mother, grandmother, and all three of my aunts. My mother had to limit how many hours I spent doing tedious work.
2. When we took the Starline 2500s to mail order only, it was because the economics (those things are expensive to make) forced us to do this. The price was already high and once we knew the actual production cost we'd have had to raise the retail prices several dollars per ship to keep them in the wholesale chain. It was a tough decision, but we had to make it and still feel we made the right decision. A mail order site called up because they wanted to sell the ships and could no longer get them from the wholesalers. I really had no interest in selling to him as we were barely making a profit on them when sold to mail order and there was no reason to give him a share of that meager profit so he could compete with us. He insisted that we would make more money because he sold to markets we did not. Dubious about that, I said I would consider doing it at a "short discount" which means less than the standard 46% off of retail we sell other products to retailers. After carefully checking the numbers for a day or two I said I could give him 5% discount, and he could raise the retail price for his customers. He balked, demanding 35% as a "short discount" so that he could make a profit. That would mean we'd lose money on every ship we sold him, so I suggested that I might go to 10% (and was thinking maybe I'd settle at 15%). He continued to demand 35%, which he needed in order to undercut our price and take over the market from us (which he thought was a swell idea). I suddenly found myself asking "Am I just trying to make a deal so that I can feel good about making a deal?" and decided that, yes, I was doing just that. I went back to my original number sheet, checked the figures, and told him that I really didn't need to do a deal with him at all. When making deals, you have to be VERY careful that you're just counting the emotional satisfaction of making a deal as one of the tangible benefits. In the cold logic of the conference room with the budget director and the marketing director, it's possible to come up with a discount that makes sense. On the phone with a pushy competitor, it's too easy to get talked into a discount that makes no sense at all.
3. More than a decade ago, we needed a new piece of equipment. There was a $5,000 version and a fancier $6,000 version. Mindful of the bank balance, we decided to get the plain-Jane version. After a year of using it, we knew that the other $1,000 (for automated features that would have sped up the production process) would have been worth it. We came up with a brilliant plan. Sell the nearly new machine for $4,000, come up with $2,000, and buy the fancier and faster machine. We ran a classified ad on the game industry discussion board. The only interest came from a company owned by some friends. (Dozens of companies are; game publishers tend to think of each other as colleagues not competitors.) They offered to buy the machine, but wanted to pay $200 a month for 20 months. After a moment of reflection, I said no, it was cash or nothing. There were no end of reasons for this. First, we needed to cash and were not in the business of loaning money. Second, if they didn't pay, we didn't have the resources to collect the money that a big equipment manufacturer would have had. (More than a few friends in the game industry owe us money we'll never see.) Third, if the machine stopped working, they'd want us to fix it or would stop paying for it, and we had no control over how they used it. In the end, we never sold the machine, still use it, and have gotten quite used to its inefficient non-automated functions. Turns out, we bought the right machine in the first place. We have always used it just a few hours a week; the fancier automated machine would be worth the money to someone who used it several hours every day.
        4. Back in 1979 when we were getting the final fixes made to the SFB Pocket Edition rulebook, there were five or six people sitting at the table. One announced that his father had read a few pages and said we needed to remove most of the times the word "of" was included since it wasn't really needed; for example, "Thanks for all of the help" as opposed to "Thanks for all the help." He insisted that this was "the way real books are done by real publishers" and that we had to comply or look like idiots. I was annoyed, had a lot of real rule fixes to make, but made a few of the changes and ignored others. Much later I came to realize that this is the matter of "writing style" and that there are a lot of correct and acceptable styles. Owning the company, I'll use my own, thank you very much. Many a staffer, playtester, and commentator has been told "Never rewrite for style; leave that to me."
   5. Our SFB scenario "The Creature that Ate Sheboygan III" is a tribute to an SPI game called The Creature that Ate Sheboygan.

Monday, May 15, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 7-13 May 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects. We released the new format of Communique and Hailing Frequencies on the 11th.


The weather this week was nice. This was the week of the annual company picnic, a local business show where we get bushels of chocolate and office supplies.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with three new entries and an update.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #53 (fiction), F&E SITs (posted new LDR, Seltorian, Jindarian), blogs, art for Jean's RPG books, placeholder art for the Kzinti book, and other projects.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #53, quality control assembly and shipping, and the LDR Master Starship Book.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. Stephen and Leanna celebrated the 40th anniversary of their engagement with a trip to a local mystery escape room (they did not get out).

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away a racoon.

Jean worked on the GURPS Prime Directive revision, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,804 friends), managed our Twitter feed (224 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Top Ten Reasons for the Paravians to Go to War with the Rest of the Galaxy

10. A translator-error at "First Contact" when the commander of the Federation Marine brigade, Colonel Hiram Sanders, invited the Paravian delegation to "Join him for dinner."

9. What the Vulcan "Hand-Salute" means in Paravian.

8. The Romulans have all the really cool bird-ship names.

7. All the other empires' fighter-jocks laugh at the "Thunder Duck."

6. To compensate for the plasma torpedoes making the QWT look so ... inadequate.

5. One too many "Why did the Paravian cross the galaxy?" jokes.

4. The inevitable tragedy every time the Paravians met one of those "Oh-so-compulsive" cat species.

3. "But Wing-Commander, the Seltorians just looked so yummy!"

 2. The tragic results of inviting the new Tholian ambassador to tour the climate-controlled hatchery.

And, the number one reason for the Paravians to go to war...

1. One word -- Omelettes.

-- Contributed by Stephen J. Schrader for Captain's Log #30 (c) 2004, ADB, Inc.