STAR FLEET BATTLES

INPUT GUIDE- CL27

INPUT GUIDE: CAPTAIN'S LOG 27

E-MODULES: A GALAXY OF YOUR OWN

    Players seem to have liked Modules E1 and E2 and we'd be interested in printing E3 and E4. We don't have any of these galaxy designs on hand at this time, but wouldn't mind seeing some of them. We don't intend to design E-modules ourselves; we have other things on our list of projects.

    What made E1 and E2 popular was that they were packs of new races, new ships, and new technology, so it would be logical to presume that any other E-modules would be of similar format. Such things as "packs of new Fed and Klingon ships" and "packs of new scenarios" might be published but not as E-modules.

    A general note on submissions is that lots of players send us memos raving about the cool module they are going to do, but very few of them finish or submit their projects. So don't take it personally if we don't spend a lot of time talking with you about your module because we have spent a lot of time with other people who dropped the project halfway through, wasting a lot of our time. When you have a reasonably complete package of materials, close enough that we could finish it if you disappeared, we'll spend more time talking with you about the details.

Test Your Galaxy In Combat

    One aspect of such submissions (and many others) is pre-submission playtesting. You are welcome to do this and should do it. Having a buddy "read it over" is not enough; have total strangers TEST IT IN COMBAT. Emailing playtest packs to selected individuals is the normal procedure. (Putting it on a web site means we would probably never publish it as everybody interested already got a copy for free.) It is important that before ADB Inc. spends time on your project that you have already proven that it works and is reasonably complete, and only playtesting can do that. Don't be surprised if more than half of those who offer to playtest never report, or send incomplete or superficial and fairly useless reports. That's pretty much what happens when we send things out. Do not send things to members of the SFB staff as we need them working on more urgent projects that we assign from here. Be careful of the mental trap in which designers are so proud of their creation that they ignore playtesters who say it doesn't work. Remember the old Jewish saying:

If three men say you are a jackass, go buy a saddle.

So You Think Your Galaxy is Ready to Test?

    There is a chicken-and-egg problem in projects of all types, but with bigger projects (such as a package of 3-5 races) this problem gets astronomical. The problem can be defined like this. If you don't have Steve Petrick read and comment on your package before you do your own playtesting, then you may very well be wasting your playtesters' time on something that will be rejected automatically when it arrives. But if Steve Petrick spends a lot of his very limited and therefore valuable time reviewing and fixing your project then that time will be wasted if you never finish the project or if your playtesters conclusively prove that it is never ever going to work. And don't take it personally, but over the last 15 years, more than 2/3 of the things Petrick has done preliminary work on never actually came back as finished pieces.

    The best compromise we can find is for Petrick to do a very superficial review just to see if you have hit upon some landmine (e.g., you do a whole package of ships from Babylon 5 and they're not within our license and we can never publish them), but not a full rules review. Steve Cole has to ride herd on Steve Petrick's time to make sure he doesn't spend entire weeks getting somebody's E-module ready for outside playtests and let a Captain's Log be late.

What do we want?

    We are often asked "what are you looking for?" and we return this question with a blank stare. We don't know it until we see it. If we had a cool idea, we'd do it ourselves, not tell the next guy who walks in the door to do it for us. (Although, sometimes, rarely, SVC does just that on the BBS.) We want to print projects that fit within the universe, make players say "I gotta have that!", and don't cause us years of pain and anguish dealing with logical or background inconsistencies.

One Way to Get it Done

A formal procedure is impossible to define, but a good one might be this:

  1.     You send an Email that is no more than a page long. You tell us your idea. We tell you if we're interested. We might give you a few pointers.
  2.     If we're not interested, you can put it on your web site, or revise and resubmit; see #1.
  3.     You write up a reasonably complete draft of two or three races, including no more than a couple of ships for each race.
    (Warning: Your first draft will NOT work and will require major changes to SSDs, so don't invest a lot of time doing 40 SSDs before anybody has even read your rules. One cruiser and one destroyer are enough to test anything, so don't do any more until you get past the first tests.) Use the rules templates from CL#23. Test it yourself, test it with a friend in your group. Test it against Seltorians and Andromedans (who probably visited your galaxy as well as our own). Test it with tournament rules (your cruiser should be tournament class) and with Commander's-level rules.
  4.     Petrick reviews the rules and background. SVC gives the background a once over. You get a memo describing problems with either. We'll either tell you that we're interested or that we aren't. Remember, however, that any lack of enthusiasm in our reply is not personal, but just because we've looked at so many of these things but so few have been completed. Warning: this step will be scheduled for a day within 30 days of receiving your pack.
  5.     If you don't like our ideas, discuss them with us or simply forget about having us publish it, and put it on your web site under the established policy. If you can live with our suggestions, then fix the draft and resubmit. Once you get something that is cleared, you can start recruiting playtesters and ask for a BBS topic.
  6.     Compile your package with two or three races, their key rules, and two ships per race. Send it to two or three playtesters. Get reports. (If you don't get reports, get more playtesters.) Fix their problems. Send Petrick a memo regarding the problems and your solutions so he can warn you if you missed something. Repeat this step until the playtesters have no problems. THEN do another dozen SSDs and any special rules and test those.
  7.     Send the whole package to ADB Inc. Be warned that we will have to test it again, and that publication will take 5-6 months from the time you submit a complete package. We cannot even schedule it for publication until our blind playtest crew, who have never seen your galaxy before, tell us it's ok. If they say it's not ok, then we may fix it ourselves and retest it, or we might send it back to you to be fixed and re-tested. Just remember that any fixes we tell you to make are not optional suggestions, but what is required to see publication. If you disagree with our changes, then either discuss them with us and try to find something we can all agree with, or give up the idea of publication and put it on your web site. Once the blind testers give it the ok, we have to give at least 90 days warning to the wholesalers and stores (who want 150 days), and your E-module would have to be slotted between regular products already on the schedule.
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Updated 19 November 2004