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Old October 25th, 2004, 05:51 PM
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jappel jappel is offline
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Some nasty RL stuff forced me to put the game on hiatus back in June, and it never restarted. However, I thought there might be interest in a wrap-up from the GM's perspective. The following are from my original messages on the TML over the last week. - John

First of all, I'm glad the players had fun, though as Matt pointed out, the job of CINC wasn't very interesting most of the time.

Second of all, I'm sorry that RL events forced the initial hiatus which has grown into supsension. Part of this was a loss of some of the game data from the latter turns, despite having *three* copies of most of it; a bizarre trifecta of adverse events there I won't trouble you with, other than to mention that one copy appears to have accompanied my previous car to the "auto recycler". The losses consisted mostly of my GM-level files - the actual combat results for the last several turns, my message index, some other files. I *do* have two copies of all game communications and hope, when circumstances permit, to clean up the logs and post them on the game site graciously provided by Mr. Glenn.

Third, while I was able to run the game, it was a blast. I hope to try it again sometime.

The game rules were the standard Fifth Frontier War rules as printed, with the known errata, modified and extended by myself with some input from the players. The rules mods and extensions may be found here:

A little about the tools and process I used. All communication between the players was via e-mail to me. IN fact, until these recent posts, no one but me knew just who filled what position. Everything was fully double-blind to the players. The only real-time information they had was about the system they were currently in. Everything else they knew came from messages from either other PCs or from NPC garrison or squadron commanders. Communications lag was enforced. Two players in the same system could communicate in "real-time" (via me), but otherwise messages propagated at J4 (with a single J6 route for the Imperials and a J5 route for the Zhodani).

A brief note about the couriers. I decided early on not to track individual couriers directly simply to cut down on the housekeeping. Instead "vritual couriers" of a sort were employed. Every PC communication put into the courier net was logged in an index, with an individual file for each fleet of all messages sent. I used a simple spreadsheet for the index and plain text files with ----- separating messages for the fleet comm log (I212log.txt, for example, contained all messages sent by the Imperial 212th fleet). Each turn I checked to see if the message had reached the destination or recipient by simply looking at the origin and the jump-speed of the message, tracing a path on the star map, and seeing if it would have arrived. As some of the fleet commanders discovered, rapidly advancing fleets could easily wind up a jump or two ahead of messages.

Why the speeds I chose? I didn't assume an unlimited supply of max-speed couriers for either side. I based this on my (possibly
incorrect) reading of the stats of the Fleet Couriers in CT Supplement 9, Fighting Ships, which gives the Imperial fleet couriers J4; that formed the base speed. Each CINC was able to choose one fleet which got a virtual pool of max-speed courier ships. I hand-waved the Swordies and Vargr, figuring they would be able to acquire by means fair or foul a few J4 ships for messenger duty.

A note for anyone who contemplates running a similar game: keeping track of the comm traffic is the single most time consuming task for the GM. Nothing else comes close. The combat for a single turn, even a busy one, never took more than an hour, but the handling communications took a minimum of two hours and as many as four for a single turn.

To avoid having to keep the map set up for the months involved, I explored the options and settled on Cyberboard (, a freeware product that fills the same niche as Aide de Camp. Cyberboard is expressly built to facilitate PBEM play; Ghufran Syed adapted the Japanese gamebox file (the virtual map, charts and counters) and I kept the game set up on it. Each turn was saved as a separate file. I didn't use the built-in die roller, relying instead on my trusty ASL six-siders and die glass or the dice bot on the #Lonestar IRC channel.

In the next week I'll try to post the surviving gamebox files for each turn on the game website, so Cyberboard users can load them up and see the GMs-eye view of each turn.

- End Part 1 -
John Appel
Homebrew TU Heretic
Somewhere in MD, USA
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