about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Sunday, June 30, 2013

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Andy Vancil for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the play-by-email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the online game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a retired real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers and volunteers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including John Berg, Howard Bampton, and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by email or BBS or Forum or our page on Facebook, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself general business matters:

1. Recently, the heating and air conditioning plant for half of the building went out and had to be replaced, which cost ten thousand dollars. Fortunately, there was that much in reserve because that's how we run ADB. I had a chat with Joel, the graphic guy, about it, and he was shocked to learn (as we all had to) that buying a major thing (refrigerator, heating and air conditioner, car) does not mean you'll have one for the rest of your life. They only last so many years and then you have to buy a new one. A young couple getting married and buying a house needs to plan their budget to account for the replacement of major-cost items at inconvenient intervals. When we bought the first Kyocera (those babies cost about eight thousand each) I didn't really realize that in five or six years we'd be scrapping a worn-out printer and buying a new one. At least Leanna did and had the money on hand to replace that when it happened.
2. One of the business TV shows I enjoy is CAR LOT RESCUE about the consultant who goes to failing car dealerships and saves them from bankruptcy. (As with all business shows, it usually comes down to a failure of leadership.) One owner didn't want to be "mean" and remotely turn off the cars of customers who did not make payments. One owner thought that customers arrived on his lot ready to buy a car and he did not need sales people, just some pretty girls to smile and keep the customers company. It seems to me that working on a car lot is a job for a "car person" who likes talking about cubic somethings and horsepowers and ratios and stuff. (I hate that stuff not least because I cannot make sense of it, and I'm an engineer!) One trick the consultant made them do was to shuffle the cars around the lot every day so that it looks like new cars have arrived even if they haven't. (I think the lesson there is that running a retail business is WORK and every day you blow off the work is a day you make less money.)
3. I found another couple of business shows about tow trucks. (One show was in Canada, the other in California. Both focused on mountain roads and bad weather.) Some of the things I noticed included: A tow driver got on a crash site and only then discovered that another driver had borrowed key tools. Why did he leave the yard without inspecting his truck and knowing that he didn't have something important? One tow company owner made sure that he got all of the best-paying jobs for himself. That may be cash smart, but it really upset his employees who had little respect for a boss they considered to be a thief. One driver got onto a crash site and observed that she had not been trained to handle that particular type of situation. Why didn't her boss have a training program?

4. If I ever appeared on Shark Tank, the first part of my presentation would be: "Kevin, you are dead to me. I won't accept any offer you make and frankly don't even want to hear it. Please don't interrupt anyone else making an offer."

 5. I keep seeing in Bar Rescue that bartenders have to learn to make a cocktail in less than a minute. Why not mix the most popular cocktails ahead of time by the gallon and have them ready and pour them into an ice shaker when somebody wants one? I mean, do the liquor and mixers get stale? Or is it the show-biz performance of mixing the drink that really counts? I don't drink or go to bars so I really don't get it.

6. It upsets me (a lot) that spammers abuse common courtesy to the point it has been driven out of email correspondence. The other day, someone in the office got an advertising email about tracking our truck fleet using GPS. He took a moment to advise them that they were obviously contacting the wrong company. The problem is that they now know that the email address they  used (his) is a valid address and that he opens all of his email if the subject line is even remotely clever enough to avoid screaming SPAM! So, they can now sell his email address for many times what a generic address is worth.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Star Fleet Trivideo Schedule, pt. 1

7 pm:

FED2: As the world HETs. Dave Morse stars.

KLG3: Iron Chef. Kemmerell yells "Bam!" He does it a lot.

ROM4: Gladiator Pilot: Rypeckius, a disgraced pilot, battles his way to a showdown with the Praetor.

KZN5: Dust in the WYN. Historical documentary. Garth Getgen narrates the story of the Usurper¹s well-deserved death. Three hours.

GOR6: Guiding Plasma; soap opera, Jeff Williams stars.

THL7: Extreme Engineering. Moving a planet.

ORN8: Gorn in 60 seconds; starship thieves take a dare.

(c) 2003 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here:

We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Trade Between Galaxies

This is Steven Petrick posting.

The Star Fleet Universe has been in publication for more than thirty years. This has allowed it to develop a long and varied history, and one that has been guided by a single hand giving a very stable consistency.

As with most things, consistency can be both a blessing and a curse.

We value input from our customer base, but what is suggested has to blend with the universe's history, the known characteristics of the various empires, the reasons they do things.

This sometimes means that an idea can be proposed, and seem reasonable, but not be supported by the universe's existing historical background. We can (and sometimes do) try to get around this by publishing "conjectural" or "unbuilt" designs, but many of our customers do not like us to do so, preferring "real" (in the sense that they are actually built) ships.

This puts us into a balancing act, as we need to serve our customers or we will not be in business. This means that sometimes something will be done that does not appeal to me, but which seems to be of interest to our customers. And sometimes something I would like to do cannot be done because the universe history will not support it.

Some customers are more interested in expanding the boundaries than they are in actually playing the game(s) of the universe. And there is some divergence. An example is the Federation DDF. In Star Fleet Battles there was never more than one ship of the class and it was destroyed before the General War began. In Federation Commander the ship is available all through the game's history. Federation & Empire may allow Federation players to build more ships of the type in their own campaigns even though there was only one. The universe does expand and evolve, with the Klingon F6 and Federation FFB both going from "only four" to multiple production and variants in the last few years. And the Romulans have a ship that was done as an unbuilt variant, but then accidentally included in a historical scenario resulting in a change in its status from conjectural to real.

While ships are able to move at "warp," there are real game limits on how far they can reasonably get. The costs of moving further become prohibitive in a real sense. In a very real sense "trade" between the Magellanic Cloud and the Omega Octant with the Alpha Octant would be literally impossible. While the expense of waging war leads to a campaign to the lesser Magellanic Cloud, it is cost prohibitive to trade with the Magellanic Cloud. Freighters are slower than warships (for reasons of economy) and the turn around and time spent moving to and from the Magellanic Cloud (much less around "the Void" to reach the Omega Octant and return) would drive up the costs of any goods to the point that only extremely rare items (and thus in very low quantities) could compete with "local production." Mining dilithium crystals in the Orion Enclave for shipment to the Federation Capital would beat even the richest strike of such crystals imported form the Omega Octant because of the transportation costs.

So, as much as some players want a vibrant trade between these three locations, economically it would be too expensive. The distances are too far and too time consuming for tourists.

Basically there is not going to be "trade" between these three regions until a much faster warp (like that of the Andromedans in deep space) can be developed. And such is unlikely in the current milieu of the Star Fleet Universe. And thus Federation (or Klingon, or Romulan, or what have you) warships are unlikely to be involved in "local disputes" or even "major wars" between the indigenous peoples of the Omega Octant or the Magellanic Cloud (and vice versa).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is now up and running, and we’re finding a lot of new faces who haven’t been around the BBS or Forum. We have pictures up of ADB, Inc. staff, links to many of our videos, snippets of information, and interaction with our fans. Jean Sexton is the main voice you will hear on our page on Facebook. If she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask one of the Steves and ferry the answer back.

All that is left is for you to "like" the page for Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf.

Many people on our page on Facebook have not been on our BBS, so perhaps our new outpost on Facebook will become the place for those who want to keep up with current events without the intense atmosphere (and flood of information) found on the BBS. If you are very busy on a given day, checking our page on Facebook would tell you quickly if something important has been announced. The page also has its own art galleries, plus a place where you can post a review of our products. It also has discussions where you can link up with fellow gamers.

We've also added a Twitter feed which you can follow at https://twitter.com/ADBInc_Amarillo.
 Be sure to follow us for a quick look at what is going on!

We hope to see you there! For Facebook users, be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.

Monday, June 24, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 17-22 June 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was the traditional decompression week after Origins. We unpacked the convention stuff, made sure it was ready for next year, and packed it away. The returned inventory was counted and sales calculated. The weather this week was relatively pleasant. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked on Origins Reconstitution and caught up on months of unanswered email.

Steven Petrick worked on Origins Reconstitution and started serious work on SFB Module C6. 

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Jean managed our social media (Facebook is up to 1627 friends and our new Twitter profile ADBInc_Amarillo has 37 followers), proofread an ePack for e23, and did some marketing.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On Moving and Working and Origins

Jean Sexton muses:

Many of you know that I moved to Amarillo nearly two months ago. I had never lived outside North Carolina in my entire life, so moving to Texas has been quite an eye opener. I naively thought prices would be nearly the same for major things such as car insurance, food, and utilities. There’s been sticker shock on some of it, but I’m still happy with the move.

There’s also been the change in climate. Many of my allergies have vanished for now, because fewer of the things I’m allergic to grow here. My weather sense has gone somewhere east; I don’t have a feel for what will be happening anymore, so storms surprise me. That should change as I get more used to the land.

Retirement has not been “retiring.” I’ve been working fairly close to full time since I arrived in Texas. It’s been interesting as ADB and I have been defining my job. We knew there were things I would do when I got here, but we are discovering more tasks that I can take on and free up both the Steves and Leanna to do more job-specialized tasks such as game design and accounting.

I am taking on more marketing duties and trying to learn more as I go. Hailing Frequencies is moving to my side of things. Rangers and convention support are also moving to my side of the office building. I’m really excited about it. I want the world to know about our great games.

Origins Game Fair was a chance to let more people know about us and our games. I loved giving away our postcards and meeting all sorts of people. Some were currently playing our games, some had played our games long ago and were interested in getting back into games, and some had never heard of us. Some had brought children and were buying them their first miniature to paint. Others decided to try Federation Commander or to get back into Star Fleet Battles.

The booth was quickly set up due to the F&E guys descending upon the van and unloading it in one fell swoop. Ken Burnside helped Steve Cole and me set up the booth. As usual, the F&E crowd made sure I had food and drink (Dan Knipfer was instrumental in arranging that) throughout the con. Colleen Knipfer and Charles Chapel spelled me in the sales booth at times and Charles made sure I got my first Origins swag (purple dice). Bill Stec created a true “Purple Pen of Perdition” which Steven Petrick tried to hide as he was worried about it being used to thump unruly Steves. (Bill also ran several ACTASF demos.) Ryan Opel made sure I had a proper throw rug for Texas -- a lovely cowhide! Thomas Mathews, Roger Rardain, and Mike Filsinger helped with making sure that Steve Cole got where he needed to be. And as we closed, the entire Knipfer clan helped us pack up, letting us leave in record time.

It is that feeling of family that refreshes me for the year. If I get tired or frustrated, I remind myself of the SFU family that needs me to do my part and I can carry on. Many times members of my extended SFU family offer words of encouragement or post something that will make me laugh. I am glad that I moved so that I can do better work for ADB and serve our customers even better. I thank you all for being the special people that you are.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by email or by post is an alternative to playing face-to-face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "SitRep" (Situation Report) to the players via email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FC or SFB PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

Prime Directive games can be played by posting on the Forum. The GM of the game gets players, approves their characters, then sets up situations for the characters to face. It takes a bit longer because the players are not sitting around the table, but it also allows people who are spread out across the world to play.

Players of all our games are expanding the frontiers of playing long distance. Some are trying chat, some are adding webcams to that, many are trying out VOIP so as to get close to a face-to-face experience.

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Friday, June 21, 2013


Steve Cole reports on the Top Ten Pranks we played on Jean during the Origins 2013 road trip.

You have to understand two things. First, Jean is a naturally trusting person and believes anything told to her unless it's obviously wrong. Second, Steven Petrick and I have been together so long that one of us can make up an entirely new story and the other one can accurately describe the end of it, having only heard the first half. We never planned a prank in advance, but made them up as we went along.

Honorable Mention: DEATH OF THE FRALLI: This one happened in 2010 and was not part of Origins but the story deserves telling. When we got PD20M Federation ready, we printed a special copy in which the pages describing the Fralli species (who are legendarily ugly and I tease Jean about them all the time) were replaced (ah, the glories of print on demand) with specially rewritten pages describing how the ugly Fralli were hunted for sport and eventually made extinct when their planet was destroyed. Jean actually believed we had rewritten the original text and that thousands of books were in stores saying this.

10. DOUBLE OCCUPANCY: When we got to the motel at Joplin the first night, I went inside to get the two rooms. I came out with keys and Steven Petrick asked me if the room cost was reasonable. I said "We saved half of the cost of Jean's room. I booked it double occupancy so she'll be sharing with some other lady." I said this knowing that my head was beyond Jean's reach, but not knowing that she had picked up an empty Coke bottle to throw away after we got out of the car. The bottle made a resounding "thunk" on my head. It was never clear if Jean had believed what I said or if she was just expressing that she didn't think it was all that funny. After that point, Jean used "the whanger" any time we acted up, which was a lot.

Honorable Mention: DO-DAH: Not really a prank, but it was pretty funny. I was driving east on Tuesday and wandered a bit to the side and hit the rumble strips. Jean got upset about my bad driving. I then began to sing "Camptown ladies sing this song" and hit the rumble strips for the "do-dah" part at the end of each line. Jean quickly employed "the whanger" to stop this from continuing.

9. SAINT LOUIS BY MORNING: The biggest city on the route is Saint Louis and traffic there is legendarily bad. During the first trip (in 1999) we took a very long bypass to avoid the city on the way there, but on the way back missed the exit and went straight through town (at 2am) and it was all but deserted. In 2000 we determined we'd get there at 2pm on the way east and decided that we would try going straight through. While there is a lot of traffic, it's not THAT bad, and we now do that every time. We reach the city on the return trip (going west) at midnight so that's not an issue either. Anyway, we told Jean on the way up that she had to ride in the front (navigator) seat through Saint Louis because she was scheduled to drive the 11pm to 1am shift (through Saint Louis, to the hotel we stay at in Missouri). She was terrified but agreed to do it so long as I rode in the navigator seat to guide her (as I had in Nashville, Memphis, and Oklahoma City during her move to Texas six weeks earlier). I said that I planned to be asleep, and Steven Petrick said he also planned to be asleep. Jean said she would hit me to wake me up any time she wanted company, which would be every mile. Jean was not told until Sunday night that Steven Petrick always drove that shift and planned to do so again.

8. GOING COMMANDO: The very first prank began before we were even a block from the office. I told Jean that it was an Origins tradition to not wear underwear on the drive (to avoid bad luck) and that we hoped she had understood this and would participate. Jean questioned Steven Petrick, who refused to confirm or deny what he was wearing. Jean clearly believed the story but said she refused to participate. At the first rest stop (still in Texas) we told her it was the last chance to avoid bad luck, and again she refused. At Origins, we mentioned the "tradition" to the guys in the next booth, who instantly confirmed it. "Everybody knows that" said one of them and "we never do" said the other. Jean was outraged that "you're all in on it!"
7. COUNTING COUP: On the road home on Monday (the last day), I invented a "traditional game we always play" of "counting coup on trucks." Steven Petrick instantly played along. I told Jean I would maneuver close to the truck we were approaching while Steven Petrick leaned out the window to hit it with something. Jean apparently believed this as she loudly and firmly prohibited the game from being played.

6. THE BEAR THAT WASN'T THERE: At one point, in a conversation about something, I said "Jean wasn't paying attention; she didn't even see the bear." Jean of course asked "what bear?" and was upset we had not pointed it out. Steven Petrick confirmed that a bear cub had indeed been in a pen by the side of the road, and that the bear cub was the pet of an Indian tribal chief on one of the Oklahoma reservations. Jean fully believed this until (a few pranks later) she suddenly asked "Was there really a bear?" and we had to confess. Later attempts to convince Jean we had seen a buffalo and a mountain lion were not successful (other than attracting the attention of "the whanger.")

5. HOT PURSUIT IN INDIANAPOLIS: Jean hates areas with lots of traffic and spaghetti highways since her home area has neither. When we set up the three-driver shift system, I kept my traditional cities (Indianapolis and Oklahoma City) and Steven Petrick kept his (Saint Louis and Columbus). Approaching Indianapolis, Jean (checking the maps on her Xoom) remarked that we would surely take the loop around the city. Knowing from experience that there was a lot more traffic on the loop than in the center of the city, I said I was going "right through the middle of town like a wildcat with a fire under his tail." Jean remarked that there was no reason to drive in that manner. I did in fact drive right through the middle, but periodically remarked that we were being followed by police cars (which Jean could not see because "they are hanging back, waiting for us to do something.") Without missing a beat, Steven Petrick pointed out the "unmarked police car" that was just ahead of us. Jean asked how we knew it was an unmarked police car, and I mentioned that the tailpipe was non-standard and obviously meant that the car had a larger police engine. At one point I did a double-take in the rear-view mirror and said "Crap! I didn't mean for THAT to happen" and convinced Jean that some maneuver I had just done had caused an accident. She later required convincing that no such accident had happened.

4. THE RADAR DETECTOR APP: At one point during the "hot pursuit," Jean asked how I knew I had evaded the police car that was chasing us. I remarked that the radar detector was no longer going off. Jean said that the rental car had no such detector. Steven Petrick then picked up my smart phone from the console between the front seats and said "Right here." I said that I had a radar detector app for my smart phone. Jean furiously tapped on her Xoom and declared that there was no such thing. I said, "My smart phone is a G5, Jean" and she said, "There is no such thing." Steven Petrick and I then burst out laughing, saying "We didn't work in military intelligence for two decades without making friends in the right places." Jean acted like she believed us (and we're certain that she did), but later insisted that as she had never seen the phone light up or heard it vibrate so she had not really been fooled.

3. THE CHICAGO SEVEN: We passed several intersections with highways leading to Chicago. Jean asked if we could "run by Chicago" to see a friend. Steven Petrick and I said no because it would be five or six hours out of the way. When Jean pursued the matter, Steven Petrick said "We cannot go to Chicago. We agreed in court to leave town and never come back." Jean demanded an explanation, so we hinted broadly at some "incident" which had been "covered up" on the condition that we never set foot in Chicago again. As we passed a prison in Illinois (where, as I did every year, I pretended to "wave to my (imaginary) homies" who are incarcerated there) and Jean became convinced that this was all too true.
 2. MUNICIPAL COURT: It was Wednesday morning and we were having breakfast and discussing the plans to set up the booth and get the events started. Jean asked what the schedule was, and I asked Steven Petrick, "What time do we have to be at municipal court?" Jean responded, "WHAT?!" but Steven Petrick responded, "Three-thirty," without missing a beat. Prompted by Jean, we explained that we had gone for a walk at 2am that morning, helped two gamer girls unload their car, gotten involved in "an incident", were questioned by the police, and that a traffic ticket one of us got in Columbus five years ago and surfaced but was (incorrectly) not marked "paid." We said we had to go to court and straighten out the "complication." Jean kept asking about the incident with the girls until it was past 3:30 and obviously a prank.

1. FLAMING ARROWS: The greatest prank of all happened in later afternoon on the first day as we were headed east out of Oklahoma City. I know the road well (it's my usual driving shift) and I knew I was approaching the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation. I warned Jean that we'd be going through it at 95mph (when the normal speed limit is 75mph). She demanded to know why. I said that because of a lawsuit between the tribe and the state, the state would not enforce the traffic laws on the reservation and the Indians were prohibited by treaty from doing so. Jean pointed out that just because there were no police to give tickets was no excuse to go 95mph. Steven Petrick and I then both gave the same reply "We have to go that fast to avoid the flaming arrows." I explained that the Indians were upset over the fast cars and launched flaming arrows over the highway to scare drivers into slowing down, but that this had the opposite effect. At that moment, we passed an area of a recent grass fire and Steven Petrick said "See?" Jean questioned us closely about the flaming arrows and I insisted that the Indians really did aim to miss the cars but occasionally hit one. Steven Petrick said one had broken his window seven years earlier, with the flaming warhead landing in his lap and burning him. Jean demanded to see the scar but Steven Petrick insisted that it was in "a non-public area" and Jean began to believe that it might be all too real. I had (over a few minutes) bumped the cruise control down from 75mph to 70mph and when we passed the Sac and Fox sign I "gunned" the engine up to 75mph and announced we were going 95mph. Steven Petrick leaned over as if to look at the speedometer and said "95mph confirmed!" and Jean started screaming (and praying). We were at dinner an hour later when we told Jean we had in fact never exceeded the speed limit of 75mph and that there were never any flaming arrows. She Gibbs-smacked us both.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Missing The Personal Connection at Origins

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Origins is over. Once more the trip to and from has been completed and no harm has befallen the ADB, Inc., officers.

The major problem was that we spend the year looking forward to the event because it is one of the rare times we get to actually see the people we work for: You, our customers.

While overall we can, as a business, regard the last week as a success, from the more personal standpoint of having a chance to speak with people we have come to know over the years, it was pretty much less than satisfactory.

Yes, I got to connect with the judges (although both Paul Franz, who could not make it this year due to family obligations, and Mike Novean were missed). There were few others in attendance.

I hope that next year I will be able to see more of you, as that connection, exchange of face to face conversations, is part of what keeps us going, of what makes the trip worthwhile.

Sure, with Jean handling some of the driving this year, even with SVC's and my bad legs, the trip was much easier on us. (Although much thanks to everyone who helped with SVC's wheelchair and a special commendation to Mike Filsinger who most often acted as the engine for the chair, and Dan Knipfer for making sure it was there.) Making the trip easier is  not the same as having contact with our players.

I hope to see you guys next year, you were all missed on a purely personal level, and I hope the lack of attendance did not signify significant problems (as with Paul Franz and Nick Blank, among others) in your lives.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 9-16 June 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of the Origins trip. Jean and the two Steves left on Monday June 10 at noon, the earliest departure ever, driving to Joplin on Monday night and reaching Columbus very late on Tuesday. The Steves pranked Jean repeatedly on the trip, e.g., convincing her that Indian tribes would fire flaming arrows at the car when crossing their reservation in Oklahoma. Jean responded by inventing "the whanger" which she used to smack the skulls of the Steves in the front seat when they acted up. It was great having Jean in the car as this cut down on the amount of driving the Steves had to do, but when she was driving she kept trying to stop at antique malls and Cracker Barrel restaurants.

Origins was good as we saw a lot of old friends, bought a couple of new zombie games, made valuable connections to new production sources, and made the sales quota despite a smaller crowd that just would not spend money. The fire in the building on Wednesday at least made this year memorable. The show is clearly changing (and not for the better) with more and more booths being non-gaming stuff (t-shirts, sculpture, jewelry, art, costumes, backpacks, and whatever else).

Tournaments are dead at Origins, and board wargaming might as well be dead (except for F&E). We will probably shift to non-tournament miniatures events next year. We had more people show up to play GURPS Prime Directive than show up to play SFB and FC combined. GAMA is selling cheap Saturday tickets to non-gamers to artificially inflate the numbers without helping game sales, but this does tend to attract more non-gaming booths.

The weather this week was pleasant, except for huge thunderstorms Sunday night that caused major damage; the roof of the ADB Building sprung a minor leak. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on e23 this week was the old TFG game ROBOTS!

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Jean also managed our page on Facebook which is up to 1626 friends.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Find New Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four war gamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).

These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then you can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-ins every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.

Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some 5,000 players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than a local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.

Friends of our page on Facebook can post to see who is out there. Not a friend? Become one here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see http://www.starfleetgames.com/links.shtml for suggestions).

If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a Star Trek club in your home town, show them Federation Commander or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their email address and left these in the windows of their cars who got emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander online with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $5 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Steve Cole muses: On Friday, 15 February 2013, I slipped in the shower and broke my leg. This inspired several thoughts.

1. I knew when my foot suddenly moved that something BAD had happened, but I thought it was a torn ligament or tendon. Turns out it was the large bone in the lower left leg that had suddenly crushed and developed a vertical crack. People in show business say "break a leg" because it's bad luck to wish people good fortune and I can certainly understand that a broken leg is not something you want. I might comment that, near as I can tell, I did nothing "wrong" or unsafe, and nothing I had not done a thousand times before in the same spot. Statistically, every now and then, doing the same thing results in a problem.

2. The big problem with my broken leg is that being as fat as I am, I can barely stand up with two good legs without using my hands on some solid surface. With that broken bone, standing up was (for the first two weeks) a major operation involving both hands, something really solid, a lot of pain and screaming, and often someone to help. In theory, I could just sit still for three months and it would heal, but in reality a human animal has to get up now and then for something (going to work or the bathroom). Laying motionless doesn't cause pain. Standing up to get in and then out of a wheelchair (and doing it again when the reason for getting up is attended to) meant (for the first three weeks) being in pretty serious pain for most of an hour. My leg also swelled up during that hour and the swelling stayed around for a while. (Fortunately, this situation pretty much ended in three weeks. After that, it was just annoying that my leg didn't work right and getting up and down was a bother.)

3. The person really hurting in all of this is Leanna, who had to take over all of my household chores, help me stand up and sit down, and wait on me hand and foot (bringing me anything I could not reach, which was just about everything) for the first two weeks. I have promised her a major present as compensation and she wants a new refrigerator. I have no idea how people who are not deeply in love and totally married survive in this cold, cruel world. I have tried to make things easier for her, delaying requests that just don't matter. When I noted her having trouble tying my shoes, I suggested we buy a pair of velcro shoes which at least eliminated that one tiny inconvenience for her. The big problem is her picking up the wheelchair and getting it into the car. One of the guys does that for her whenever possible, and I have figured out a way to brace against the car and use my one good leg to help lift it. We eventually bought a second wheelchair (one at the house, one at the office) so that she didn't have to load and unload it.  As time went on, and I got a little stronger and the pain and swelling a little less, I could manage to get my own shoes and socks on (Leanna cheered the first day I was able to dress myself), and to feed the cats. (Leanna had to take over my duty of cleaning their litter boxes as I cannot reach that far down from a wheelchair.)

4. The medical industry is pretty good about broken bones. They've seen plenty of them and for them it's just no big deal. You usually don't even get to see a doctor on the first pass as a cheaper physician's assistant or nurse practitioner can do everything a doctor can do. That includes a prescription for pain pills, a general examination to make sure your leg isn't turning funny colors (meaning broken blood vessels or blocked circulation, which results in a real doctor walking into the room), X-rays, an appointment to get an MRI (which can detect torn ligaments and tendons and some breaks X-rays cannot see), and an appointment with a specialist. The specialist in my case only sees patients two days a week (he does surgery the other days) but there was really nothing that a few days of waiting hurt. On the second trip, I saw his assistant, not him, and his assistant took the time to tell me a lot more about my knee (including the future surgical replacement of it if I should live another decade).
5. I posted some stuff on the BBS, FC Forum, our page on Facebook, and the industry mailing lists, but my point was to warn publishers to have a plan for "key man down" and to explain to customers and others why I wasn't at my desk. I did appreciate all of the good wishes from everyone. I still wonder if the one thousand people who "liked" the announcement on our page on Facebook regarding the fall were sending good wishes or happy I was out of the office.

6. The doctors gave me pain pills but frankly they didn't do much and the pain pretty much quit after three weeks. If I hurt, the pills don't make the hurt go away. I did some (painful) experiments and found that the hour of pain that results from a bathroom expedition goes away just as fast without the pills as with them. So, I'm not going to risk getting addicted to them. I broke the small bone in the same lower left leg back in 1969 by falling off a roof (while working). Somehow, that did not hurt as much as this. I never took any pain pills for it and the pain was gone by the end of the first two hours. I was on crutches for two months.

7. Being fat, we had to get a heavy-duty wheelchair, which won't go through most of the doors in my house. So moving from my recliner to the shower involves getting up whenever I come to a door, going three or four feet on crutches, and then sitting back down once Leanna folds up the wheelchair, gets it through the door, and unfolds it again. If you're building a new house, insist on three-foot doors everywhere instead of the standard 32-inch bedroom and 24-inch bathroom doors. Many builders already use these wider doors because seniors really need them for their walkers. We ended up buying a narrower wheelchair for the house (the doors at the office were plenty wide). Learning to drive a wheelchair without scratching up the woodwork is a real challenge. After my leg heals I will have to hire a painter to come repair the stained door trim scratched by the wheelchairs.

8. The doctor said I'd be fine in 8-to-12 weeks. I made the trip to North Carolina after 10 weeks, and wasn't really fine at all. After 15 weeks, I can walk, but slowly, and not much in any give day. Physical therapy helps as I have to strengthen the muscles, but I'm still spending most of any given day in the wheelchair and am having to arrange to have a wheelchair brought to Origins. That's going to be no end of fun.

9. The change in mobility has forced me to learn new ways to do things I have done for years. (Muscle memory is not my friend.) I used to get in a car by balancing on one leg while the other one went into the car. With a broken leg, that no longer works, so I have to sit down in the car and then somehow hoist my legs over the door sill. I simply cannot get into my own (lower) car and have to drive Leanna's Honda (which is higher, and we pretty much have to stick together anyway).

10. I felt seriously annoyed, hurt, and inconvenienced by the whole affair. Then one day at lunch I spoke briefly to a military veteran who had lost both legs in Afghanistan. That established a sense of perspective.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

We have a lot of free stuff on our website. Let me point you to some of the most popular things. Doing this in alphabetical order we start with Federation & Empire. They have play aids and countersheet graphics here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#FNE

Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the Federation Commander game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

But that's just a start. Commander's Circle has lots of free resources such as various formats of the Master Ship Chart, Ship Cards, the current and back issues of Communique, scenarios, and playtest rules. If you register, then you can find other Federation Commander players.

Prime Directive players can find a treasure trove of play aids, including medals, insignia, maps, the timeline, and lots of other goodies to spice up a game. These can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#PD

Star Fleet Battle Force
has new cards and play aids as well. These are located here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#SFBF

Star Fleet Battles
players have the Cadet Training Manual and Cadet Training Handbook. These were done as a way to get players into the complicated Star Fleet Battles game system. You can download them for free here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/CadetTraining.shtml Also available on the same webpage are lots of SSDs for the game.

We have wallpaper for your computer so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Don't forget Hailing Frequencies, our free monthly newsletter. Covering all our games, you can read back issues here: http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html Don't forget to sign up to get the link delivered straight to your email box each month. You can "opt in" here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

There are many historical documents which are available for download. Maps, deck plans, assorted graphics, and much, much more can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/historicaldownloads.shtml

Browse our master index to find all sorts of interesting information: http://www.starfleetgames.com/masterindex.shtml

As you can see, you could spend days browsing. We hope you enjoy what you find.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Answers to the Top 10 Questions that a Starship Captain Never Wants to Ask, Q10

 10. "You're using one of the seeking weapon control channels to steal pay TV?

Sir, we need the fire control and tracking computers to unscramble it so that seemed like the easiest way to feel them the signal. If you'd prefer, the engineers can probably rig up a secondary antenna in the next hour...

David Kass
(c) 2002 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. Captain's Log #25

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Steve Cole thinks out loud about the just-completed Captain's Log #47.

1. Doing an issue of Captain's Log is like doing a fill-in-the-blank puzzle with about 60 pieces. You have the problem of actually finding, recruiting, or creating the pieces, but you also have the problem that you aren't really sure what size the pieces are until very close to the end. So if somebody asks if there is room for something, I probably don't know until it's too late.

2. We start with an Excel file we call the workbook. It lists every article we think we're going to have, or at least a general category. (As time goes by, we may add or delete entire lines.) The workbook is organized by chapters (History, Commo, FedComm, SFB Scenarios, SFB Tactics, SFB Database, Venues, Call to Arms, F&E, Shipyard). The first column is "Concept" and that means we're planning to have an article on a certain subject and we guess it will be about that many pages. The point is to "rough in" the general idea of the layout of the book; the first guess is never very close. Some things are almost routine and rarely change in size (e.g., one page of SFBF cards, one page for awards). Other things may be a complete guess (such as a promised victory article or the main fiction story), and tactical papers will usually be as big as we can make them (although these days that rarely means more than one page per game system).

3. In selecting what goes into the workbook's concept plan we face competing priorities. Every game system needs its fair share and sometimes the staff for that system is campaigning for more pages as department heads want to print some big chunk of playtest stuff for their next product. Authors want to get their item into the book. We want to provide coverage for as many empires as possible, which means making sure that non-Alpha empires get into the book somewhere.

4. The standard sections are fairly straightforward, and we just do them (or tell the relevant staffer to do them). Smaller outside content (e.g., tactical primers) isn't much of a problem, but we do have to recruit such things. Our department heads usually have no problem at all getting their page or two done.

5. The bigger sections are where the challenge comes. These include fiction (we never know what's going to show up), "Victory" (which can be any length and seem to always be late but are very popular), Battle Groups (done by enthusiastic readers who want to show off their skills), and the F&E scenario or playtest pack (which is very popular with F&E players but usually comes in fairly late and no one can ever predict how many pages it will take.

6. There are some medium-sized pieces that take some thought and planning but which are important to the presentation. Steven Petrick does "Monsters" and "Update." These might be three or four or five or six pages each, and even he doesn't know what size they will be until they are actually finished. The four FC ship cards are easy to do once somebody selects the idea. The 12 SFB SSDs are a little trickier since this includes a package of four, some submissions from the FC Forum and BBS, and ships that SFB players want. The Starmada, F&E Q&A, and ACTASF sections are done by qualified and dependable staffers, but these can vary a little in size from 3-8 pages. (At least these guys get their stuff in early enough we can nail down just how many pages they will take.)

7. The total page count remains the big mystery until very late in the process (this time until four days before we went to press). When you consider that the fiction could be 10-30 pages, Battle Groups could be 10-20, Victory could be 6-15, the three medium sections could total anywhere from 9-20, Monsters could be 4-6, Update could be 3-6, and so forth, you realize that early in the process we don't know if we're going to have space for something that somebody wants to add. Some things get done, then bumped to later issues. Some things get grabbed and shoved into empty spots. If you ask us two or three weeks before press time if we would have time for something you want to write, we don't know. We'll all but certainly tell you to go ahead and do it as we can build it into the plan for the next issue.
8. We tend to use the SFB Scenario section as the accordion. If some article turns out to be a page short, we move the extra page to SFB Scenarios. If some article turns out to be a page or two long, we take pages out of SFB Scenarios. Over the last two weeks of the process, that section varies every day, sometimes reaching as many as 18 pages or as few as six. That used to be no problem as we once (a few years ago) had dozens of unpublished scenarios on file, but these days, we don't have any scenarios on file and we often have to create scenarios on the spot. That's not necessarily a bad thing (it is usually the only way we have scenarios using the new ships in the issue). The problem here is that until we nail down the exact page count we cannot work on the whole section. SFB scenarios tend to be large (1.5 to 2.5 pages) and we may use a totally different set of scenarios to create a section that is nine pages compared to one that is 10 pages, and yet a third combination to make an 11-page section.

9. Then it comes time to actually do pages. Actually, the process is dynamic and many pages are "done" a week or more before we have any idea how big other things will be. Steve Cole (me) does almost all of the page layout, not because he (I) wants to, but because nobody does it better. Thinking like an engineer, the mission is to get all of the parts to fit into the package. As each page is finished, it is printed out and/or PDFed and sent for review. Every page goes to Jean Sexton and Steven Petrick (and I read most of them again, even if I wrote them or laid them out). Some pages go back to the author, and others go to selected staffers. Sooner or later those "mark ups" come back to me. (They are color coded. Purple ink means Jean, green means Steven Petrick, blue means staffers.) I make the corrections, tell it to print another copy of that page, and put the mark up in my out basket. Sooner or later, Jean "marries up" the mark up and the new print and either marks it "ok" and puts it in the "finished" stack, or marks something else (maybe a correction I didn't see or did wrong, maybe something new) and gives it back to me. This process repeats until we have 144 "ok" pages.

10. A complicating factor is page numbers. Each chapter is a separate file, and until we know how big other chapters are, we don't know what page a give chapter starts on. So many of the first pages to get to the "ok" status have the wrong page numbers, and those have to be caught later. That happens when we get the final missing pieces, define a final page count, and "lock" the page numbers. All of the chapter files are updated to show the correct starting page, which probably changes most of the page numbers. One the book is "locked" I do the table of contents and somebody checks it against the "ok" pages and brings me anything that just has to be reprinted.

11. Something else that happens are "alibi marks." Say we have ordered a piece of art, but it has not arrived. If the page is finished, we put a black block on the "OK" page extending off the edge. That tells us that page is "obviously" not finished. Alibi marks are used for no end of things, including tactical paper ranks (which cannot be done until the book is locked and all of the pages of tactical papers and articles are done), something waiting for a staff decision, campaign ribbons for the issue itself (as we may not know if a given article will be in it or not), or something we need to update later. As we get to the end of the process (sometimes after all of the articles come in, and sometimes before they do if some article is very late) somebody pulls the "ok pages with alibi marks" out of the book and brings them to me to create or find the missing material.

12. Then we finally have 144 finished pages, all marked ok, none of them with alibi marks. (Well, we hope all of that is done before we do this next bit or it gets complicated.) We then have to run the spell check on each page. (This was done earlier in the process as part of creating the drafts, but edits often install misspelled words.) Because the page layout software has such an awful spell checker, we have to export the text back to Word and test it there. That (amazingly) produces about 50 misspelled words and about 30 other changes that get discovered in the process.
13. Then I have to create the PDF. This is straightforward. I just get all of the settings right, then open each chapter, export a PDF, and string them all together into one document. This is complicated by the fact that (due to some software issues) the two pages with Excel charts (the SIT and the MSC) have to be done on another computer and inserted into the book then. Once we have the PDF, we print it out, and at least three different people turn through every page. Sometimes we see an alibi mark that nobody missed, and we go back to fix it. (That's why we use the big black blocks.) Rarely, we see an issue with layering (the white background of a picture may extend over some text). Usually, somebody notices something wrong that has never been noticed before. Once in a great while, the software did something wrong and part of the PDF is corrupted. All of that is fixed.

14. Then we start printing books, binding them, and shipping them. While that is going on, Steve Cole creates the large print edition, which goes back through step 13 and 14. We also have to create the supplement.

15. Once all of that is done, we start on the FLAP list, updating the indexes and website and catalog and everything else to reflect the new issue.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the e23 and DriveThru RPG websites. So far on e23, we have released a lot of stuff for Federation Commander, including the Revision Six Reference Rulebook, the 72 ships from Federation Commander Briefing #2 (divided into six packs of 12 ships and a separate rules pack), and more than a dozen Ship Card Packs. Our ebook PDFs are in color and high resolution. PDFs of most books are searchable (older Captain’s Logs are not).

The way e23 works, once you buy a product, you can download it again for no cost if you lose it or if we upload a revised version of that edition. Thus, the people who bought Reference Rulebook Revision 5 were able to obtain Reference Rulebook Revision 6 for free (and to download it again when we discovered we had accidentally left out rule 4S).

We must note that these products are copyrighted and are not to be uploaded or passed around to your friends. Doing so is piracy, a criminal act, and may result in us deciding not to offer any more PDF products. We have already uploaded many Starmada, Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, and GURPS Prime Directive products We have created a new page that allows easy access to our PDFS for sale on e23. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

Our Prime Directive PD20 Modern books are sold as ebooks exclusively through DriveThru RPG.

So check them out! Many people like the fact they can search our rulebooks for a keyword and find everything that pertains to that issue. Others like the fact they can carry around multiple books on one device. Some Ship Cards are available exclusively through e23. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Steve Cole reports on OPERATION FETCH:

For the last two years, we've been planning for the time when Jean moves to Amarillo and takes up a full-time desk in the office. Due to some tedious circumstances involving an ex-boyfriend who did not want her to move, the operation took on aspects of a secret military mission. This ex-boyfriend as been very-very-ex for several years but refused to take his changed status seriously. He still thought that he was a part of her life and could tell her what to do and when to do it. A big part of the plan was to avoid disabusing him of this notion and avoid him realizing what was going on. (When we did Captain's Log #46 which had an article about Jean's full-time duties in Amarillo, we sent him a copy in which that one page was replaced by an article explaining why she had decided to stay in North Carolina.) To be fair to the ex-boyfriend, we don't know if he would have become violent or caused trouble of some sort, but there is no "undo key" for life and no matter how slight the chance of something bad happening, finding out that there was going to be something bad was too great a risk.

1. We had to load up her stuff in one day (while the ex-boyfriend was at work) and get out of town before he realized she was leaving the state. That meant she could not use a normal moving company (which just would not schedule things that way), but had to rent a truck and do it herself. That obviously required help, and in the end, there was only one solution: Steve P and Steve C had to be there to supervise the loading and drive the truck back to Texas while she followed in her car. Even worse, things had to be "packed" into boxes before they could be "loaded" into the truck. That took more time and caused a lot of confusion.

2. Getting ready for the move took Jean over a year. Like all Americans, she has spent a lifetime accumulating stuff and moving meant leaving half of it behind. That involved a combination of selling stuff, giving stuff away, and planning to just abandon other things. The whole point was to get the stuff in her house down to an amount we could pack and load in a few hours. She rented a storage building and began moving to it things she wanted to take with her, but which she would not need (or at least could do without) while in North Carolina. (For example, her winter clothes went to storage in late March.) We could then load the storage building stuff the previous day.

3. The plan was, like all military plans, written backwards from the point of the main move, that being the moment late on a Thursday afternoon that she left North Carolina for good. (It had to be Thursday because if we left on Friday, there was a risk that the ex-boyfriend might chase her down the highway. As he had to go to work on Friday, leaving Thursday night pinned him in place.) So it was decided that on Thursday we would load everything in the house and on Wednesday we would load everything she had in storage (something he would not notice due to a pre-scheduled maskirovka operations). The original plan was that we'd spend Tuesday inventorying what had to move and planning how to get it all done. Over time, however, the sheer volume of stuff to be moved meant we had to do the survey on Monday so that we'd have Tuesday to deal with anything the pre-written plan could not handle (such as renting a second truck, or a trailer). That meant Steve and Steve had to secretly reach North Carolina on Sunday night. As the drive was over 24 hours of rolling time, that meant two very hard days of driving and no margin for error. In the end, Steve and Steve decided to leave Amarillo at noon on Friday, which would in theory get us to the target at noon on Sunday. If everything went well for the first 80% of the drive, we'd take a few hours to see some Revolutionary War battlefields that were conveniently next to the highway and still get there by dark. That actually worked out quite well.

4. Jean rounded up a couple of SFU friends and some local non-SFU friends to help load. This was good (we had labor on site when we needed it) but was also bad (the crew was not a unit but a gang of individuals, none of whom took orders from anyone else and all of whom more or less loaded whatever looked like it needed loading). A detailed plan written ahead of time collapsed because Steve C had a broken leg (he spent all but one hour in a chair, packing stuff into boxes) and Steve P (who had blown out his knee) spent his time sitting down sorting things to be packed. All of that meant that some minor items were accidentally left behind and some things that should not have gone got loaded (both being subject to tedious prisoner exchange negotiations).

5. The plan for the drive home involved three people, Jean's car, and the big truck. The theory was to rotate drivers (Steve Cole taking every third shift in each vehicle). As it worked out, Steve C simply could not handle the big fully loaded truck, leaving Steve P to drive the entire route by himself. Jean would not allow anyone else to drive her car. This required heroic 12-hour days of driving, far beyond what anyone should be asked to do. (Steve C got demoted to being Jean's radio operator and in-flight stewardess. He was bored out of his mind.) The other choice would have been to stop for long breaks and take an extra day to get home. It's arguable that we should have taken the extra day in the name of safety.

6. We debated endlessly whether we should have done the operation in July. It would have been hotter, but we would have been over the injuries and would not have had the Origins pressure. That said, however, Jean's personal safety and psychological health was the top priority. The ex-boyfriend had announced plans that would have reduced Jean to a virtual slave. Jean had, by February, fixated on the idea that "May 2nd and I'm out of here!" and it would have crushed her to be told to wait two more months.

7. Leanna played a key role in the mission, even though she stayed home. She had to keep the office open, but she also had to get Jean's apartment rented and get the stuff Jean had sent ahead moved over there. Leanna had the guest room in her house ready for Jean and graciously invited Jean to stay over two weeks while getting her apartment (into which the over-full truck was emptied all too hastily) in livable condition.

8. There was one "Seinfeld moment" in the operation. Jean assumed that Steve C (who packed most of the boxes) knew to label each box as to what was in it (or at least what room it came out of). Steve C (me), having received no instructions to label the boxes, did not do so. This meant that Jean had over two hundred boxes stacked randomly in her new apartment without any idea what was in each one. Worst of all, the bolts that held her (disassembled) bed together were in a plastic kitchen container inside an unmarked box inside another unmarked box. While Steve C remembered what the box looked like, nobody had told Jean or Steve C that the box in question had been placed inside another much larger box. So, after Jean futilely opened every box of the type described without finding the bolts (and resigned herself to sleeping on the floor) she accidentally found the bolts in a random box she opened two weeks after moving.

9. During the drive to Texas, we kept the vehicles in contact by using the two-way radios we bought for Origins years ago. Yes, it seems silly to use radios when cell phones have been invented, but it can be tricky to dial and answer a cell phone while driving a very large truck, and the radios meant that the people in the car could talk to the guy in the truck without such bother. This was critically important during the one hour when Steve C drove the truck, as he couldn't see out of it very well and didn't realize that he was driving with the right side tires on the shoulder. Jean was horrified to find that she had been assigned the radio call sign "Swamp Rat" but then decided that she really did like it.

10. In the end, a lot of things went horribly wrong, but did not affect the success of the trip. The car Leanna rented for the one-way drive east turned out to be far smaller than she thought, and the Steves had to leave home 80% of the packing supplies they had prepared for the trip. (By dumb luck, the things they did bring -- tape and bubble wrap -- were the things in the shortest supply.) It started raining before the end of the first day and rained continually until the afternoon of the last day, with the only break in the weather coming on the day we loaded the stuff out of the house. Pre-arranged helpers backed out at the last minute, but were quickly replaced from Jean's expansive circle of friends. In the end, luck was with us, and the ex-boyfriend did not even suspect what was going on until we were out of state, and somehow Jean and Steve P managed to drive 26 hours (22 of them in two days) without falling asleep or having an accident. I strongly suspect that angels were watching out for all three of us.

Monday, June 10, 2013

This Week at ADB, Inc., 2-8 June 2013

Steve Cole reports:

This was a furious week as we pushed to finish Captain's Log #47 and get ready for Origins at the same time. The weather this week was a little cooler. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.  

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #47 and pretty much nothing else until it was finished on Wednesday night, then did the PDF on Thursday so production could begin. Then he threw himself into getting ready for Origins.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #47 until it was completed Wednesday night, then worked on Origins preparation and did a little work on Module C6.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and processed orders for pickup at Origins.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, helped prepare for Origins, and managed customer service.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1617 friends), proofread Captain's Log #47, and helped get ready for Origins. While she had run the booth for the last four years, this was the first time she actually got to pack the "booth box" and she didn't agree with the way SVC had been packing it since 1999 because "things change."

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download wallpaper with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Big monitors, small monitors, we have something for nearly everyone. 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, even 2560 x1600. If you need a different size, we'll see what we can do to fill that desire.

If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Going to Origins

Steve Cole reports:

Monday, we leave on our 14th trip to Origins as a exhibiting manufacturer (and my 31st in a variety of capacities).

A ton of work goes into getting ready for Origins, although Steven Petrick and I have done it so many times (from a checklist used many times before) that we could get ready for the show in our sleep. When we get home, we repack all of the Origins stuff "ready to go next year" because we know that the time after Origins is calm and the time before the next Origins is going to be chaos. The displays are all packed away ready to load in the car, and we evaluate the sales each year when we get home and write the list of what to take next year before the "after Origins list" is done.

This trip will be different as it will be the first time Jean goes with us. We'll have a different booth display and take no older backstock products so as to make room for her. Having a third driver will be good as Steven Petrick and I are starting to show the signs of old age on those long driving shifts. Why Jean thinks we need to take her GPS is beyond us; we know when we get in the car where we'll be using the restroom four states down the road the next day. We stop at the same places every year for gas, food, sleep, and "rest."

Origins is always the focus of the company's year as it is the only deadline that cannot be pushed. We usually go to Origins with three or four new products, but this year will only have one (Captain's Log #47) due to my injury this spring, the computer crash that wrecked Module C6, and the trip to rescue Jean from North Carolina. In a way, that will be sad, as for the first time we won't make any profit on the trip (we should more or less break even) but Origins is not about money. (We found out in 2012 that the economic impact of not going is zero. Everybody bought by mail what they would have bought at the show.) No, Origins is not about money.

Origins is about COMMUNITY; it's about getting the staff together to discuss the new products and new directions. It's about getting the customers together to hear their thoughts about where we need to go. It's about seeing what other companies are doing. It's about asking our competitors for information on new sources and manufacturing methods (including how to get Tribbles published). It's about talking to other manufacturers about the industry in general. It's about helping new manufacturers get started right (or get out of self-made disasters). It's about seeing old friends we have seen once a year for over three decades. (I have many times talked about conversations I have had that lasted decades, and every year as we walk into Origins we pick up the dialogue at the exact point where it paused 359 days earlier.) Deals are made, bread is broken, and ideas are born. We can get more done with the staff at one table in one hour than by a thousand emails over an entire month.

Origins is, very much, Brigadoon, a magical village composed of people who like games. The village appears once a year for one magical week. We all have two lives, the mundane life we live at home with jobs and relatives and yards and families and taxes and chores, and then the wonderful life we live one week at a time once a year. That is the life I enjoy the most. A life where I don't have to explain what I do for a living or that I do games but not computer games or x-box games. A life where nobody thinks I made the wrong career choice. A life where every game publisher in every booth knows every problem I have faced and we think of each other as brothers, not as rivals.

We hope to see you there, at our Brigadoon. Stop by and visit.

Friday, June 07, 2013


There you sit,
Working hard, a smirk on your lips, lips, lips.
Pulling legs,
Cheeky boss,
I’m coming for you, you, you.

Feelin’ that you’re smart
Within your mind.
This can’t go on.
One leg of mine … is too long.

I am… gonna hurt you
Wipe that … smirk right off you.
One Gibbs… will remind you
How I felt
When you pulled on my leg
If you… do not feel it,
I will… soon repeat it.
You know, I don’t like it,
When you joke,
And when you pull my leg.

Phony books…
Sent the Fralli to doom, doom, doom
Distance is…
No longer safety for you, you, you.

If you must tease… I’ll hurt you bad.
You’ll never sit in peace,
Take care my boss,
Or Gibbs you get.

I am… gonna hurt you
Wipe that … smirk right off you.
One Gibbs… will remind you
How I felt
When you pulled on my leg
If you… do not feel it,
I will… soon repeat it.
You know, I don’t like it,
When you joke,
And when you pull my leg.

You still pull my leg
I really don’t get it
And if you do it again
My Gibbs will not miss
No - No - No

Apologies to Journey.
Filksong copyright (c) 2013 ADB, Inc

Thursday, June 06, 2013

How Not to Get into the Game Business

Steve Cole writes:

I constantly see things on industry mailing lists and in my Email where people want advice on entering the game business. The best advice I have is my free book which you can find at www.StarFleetGames.com/book as a nice multi-chapter PDF.

In one recent case, an individual wrote to say: "I just lost my job and have decided to be a game designer for a living. I need a stable income of $4,000 a month. How long would it take me to get there? Three months? Six?"

I laughed and cried at the same time. For one thing, I don't make $4,000 a month now and I've been in the industry over 30 years. (A few years I have made that much, barely, but not in the current market.) The sad fact is that except for the lucky three or four, game designers won't ever make that much. Worse, you probably cannot make a living as an independent game designer at all, since game publishing companies were (99% of the time) created to publish the owner's games because no other company would publish them.

In another case from some time ago (I'm going to blur some facts here so that nobody can tell who I'm talking about), a young game enthusiast decided to quit his day job and focus his full time efforts on game design and publishing. His wife said that she would allow this only if he "brought home" a paycheck of a defined amount each month. He had some money from an inheritance which was separate property and his wife allowed that he could use this. Well, he went through the nest egg, borrowed money from savings without telling his wife, maxed out the credit card he got for the business, and then got two more cards (those offers in the mail) without telling his wife and maxed them out. All the time (his company lasted 18 months and did a dozen products) he was "bringing home" the required paycheck. His company was making a profit beyond expenses, but not enough to cover the paycheck, but the paycheck continued because (a) his wife insisted and (b) he was sure he would start making more sales any time. One of the credit cards was a $5,000 cash advance spent on advertising (which produced few if any new sales). Every month, he wrote that paycheck but came up short elsewhere. He had established credit with the printers and with the companies that sold him advertising pages so he ended up deeply in debt to the printer and to advertising publishers. Worse, his first product (which sold well enough) ran out of print, but it was going to cost $20K to reprint it and the dwindling rate of sales (nowhere near as good as it had been 18 months earlier) would not support the debt load, but he "had" to reprint it to avoid looking like a company on the way out. Finally, with no more places to borrow money and creditors threatening legal action, he took the case to his wife for a home equity loan. She, of course, had no clue that his company was $40K in debt (for which he was personally liable) or that most of the family savings account was gone. It's a wonder she didn't kill him or leave him, but she did force him out of the game business immediately. He sold out for what he could get and applied that money to the debts. Moral of the story, if you are married, make your wife a part of every business decision and do not keep secrets from her about family money.

In another case (actually, there are four or five of these I have seen, all about the same), an enthusiastic game designer who knew nothing about the industry but was sure his game was the next big thing got a home equity loan, printed thousands of copies of his game, and THEN (and only then) asked other game companies how to contact stores and wholesalers to sell his game. He had no clue what size the market was (few games sell over a couple of thousand copies) or who the wholesalers were or what it would take to get them to buy (some now demand that you pay them $500 for advertising before they will carry your game) or even what the discount structure was (which meant that his cost per game was fairly close to the 40% of the retail price he had printed on the games). Moral of the story, learn as much as you can about the industry before you spend a dime getting into it. GO READ MY BOOK FIRST.

I see lots of gamers who think that running a retail store, and on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A Return To Normal Soon

This is Steven Petrick posting:

The first six months of this year have lived up to the dreaded curse of "13" (it being 2013). Computer problems, injuries (some mysterious, some not so much), and operational interruptions have all conspired to disrupt the smooth flow of products from conception to completion.

We are now in the Origins Crunch, and despite it, we have managed to complete Captain's Log #47, if not much else. Once past Origins, with a functioning computer system (if one that is somewhat clumsier) on my desk and no expected interruptions should see a return to smooth operations.

First, however, we have to survive Origins.

In one sense having Jean Sexton here will make that easier. SVC and I will not do all the driving, Jean will handle some of that task, which should (in theory) cause all of us to arrive somewhat more rested. We have already begun discussing which parts of the trip will be left to Jean. Mostly we have chosen those parts where (from past experience) we know there will not be much traffic and good driving conditions. I will, of course, as usual, handle the majority of the "city driving" where we hit the most congestion. SVC will, however, adhere to "tradition" and handle the "passage of Rolla, Missouri." He is the expert there, as most years when we go through Rolla I have usually passed out. (So much so that the year I woke up while we were driving through Rolla I was actually shocked by it.)

We are all, at  this juncture, looking forward to the trip and seeing old friends and acquaintances, as well as meeting new ones.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

On Retiring and Moving and Working

Jean Sexton muses:

Many of you have read about my retirement from the library at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. I had worked there all of my professional life, save a few months as an intern at Chowan College (now Chowan University).  When I started, card catalogs and printed indexes were the normal ways for finding books or journals that would answer a question. When I left, the card catalog had been replaced with an online version and indexes were searchable across years by using multiple keywords. One of my biggest challenges was convincing students that just because they found something via Google didn't make their information accurate.

Am I sad about retiring? I miss the people very much and I miss the easy access to information. However, after 30 years, it was time to try something new.

Many of you have read about Operation Fetch, which moved me from Red Springs, North Carolina to Amarillo, Texas. The situation in North Carolina wasn't pleasant with the place I lived being broken into frequently and a landlord situation that made working for ADB difficult. I prefer to think more of what I moved to: a new job, a new place to live, new friends, and a new start.

Moving was a challenge for me as I'm a homebody in many ways. I tend to land somewhere and to stay there. I moved in such a hurry that many of my boxes didn't get marked, so each box is a surprise! Some that I had packed at leisure are marked and I'm tackling those first. I keep making progress by reminding myself that the elephant got eaten one bite at a time and if I unpack a box or so a day, then I will eventually run out of boxes. (I hope that unwatched boxes don't breed like bunnies!)

One thing that is slowing down the unpacking is that I am working as a full-time employee at ADB, Inc. I can finally do my work for ADB in a calm and neat environment with people who understand that getting out Captain's Log may take long hours of uninterrupted concentration. They may think I'm a tad odd for wanting to check every change, but they humor me to a point -- perfection is something rarely found and if I've made Captain's Log #47 perfect, but it comes out in September, then I did it wrong.

So what are my plans? To finish proofreading Captain's Log and then get ready to go to Origins. There I will burn the candle at both ends and collapse when I get back to my apartment. After that? I need to get cracking on Traveller: Prime Directive and taking over the Rangers. I need to learn everything there is to know about Kickstarter so I can work with the Steves to bring you games you'll love, but don't know you'll love. I want to keep fixing healthy meals for the folks at ADB so that we "live long and prosper" while bringing you games that you enjoy. I want to bring laughter to the office. I think if I can accomplish all of that, then we'll be better able to give you the games you want and enjoy.

Retirement? I'm way too young to retire! Come along with me for the ride in my new career.