How To Tell If You’re A Hobby Old Fart

by Cal White

I recently received the following letter from one Ronald J Newmaster which I feel bears closer inspection. Ron writes as follows: “Here’s a discussion topic I’d like to see introduced to the NORTHERN FLAME readership. It has not been discussed anywhere that I’ve seen.

“Although to this date, I have never completed a single FTF, PBM or PBEM game of Diplomacy, I feel that I am no longer a Diplomacy “novice”. I’ve read extensively: the requisite Gamer’s Guide to Diplomacy, several Diplomacy World anthologies, numerous back issues of Diplomacy Digest by Mark Berch, and even a couple of years worth of back issues of Graustark by John Boardman. With that as a background introduction, here’s the question:

“When is a Diplomacy novice no longer a novice? What rite of passage exists within the hobby to engender the sense of having arrived within the newcomer and acceptance to the new peer group? Sailors get dunked when they cross the equator for the first time; hunters have their shirttail clipped or are “blooded” with their first kill; virgins…well you get the idea. What signals the new plateau for the Diplomacy player in terms of skill, game expectations, even “presence” within the hobby?

“Can you challenge the old farts who comprise your readership to remember when they weren’t? Can they recall when they ceased being a young Turk and became an old fart – and more importantly, can they write about it?”

After reading the above, I realized that there was no real milestone that is traditionally held as a “coming of age” in the hobby. You either were a novice or you weren’t and the line of demarcation was not at all clear. With this in mind, I came up with the following “quiz”. See where YOU stand…


  1. Have you ever survived a game to the end?
  2. Have you ever won a game?
  3. Have you gotten your first full Calhamer Point?
  4. Have you made your first SUCCESSFUL stab?
  5. Have you ever had a game orphaned on you?


  1. Have you ever GMed a postal game?
  2. Have you ever GMed a postal game to the end?
  3. Have you ever published your own zine?
  4. Have you ever folded your own zine?
  5. Have you ever made the Top Ten in the Runestone Poll?


  1. Have you ever written an article on Diplomacy?
  2. Have you ever had your article published by someone else?
  3. Has anyone ever reprinted one of your articles?
  4. Have you ever been published in Diplomacy World?
  5. Have you ever had an article nominated for a hobby award?


  1. Have you ever held a hobby office?
  2. Have you ever been involved in a real “feud”?
  3. Have you ever been nominated for a hobby award?
  4. Have you ever WON a hobby award?
  5. Have you ever been mentioned in Diplomacy World?


For every YES answer, give yourself 1 point. Now add 1 point for every DipCon you’ve attended up to a total of 3. This is your final score. See the chart below to see how you fared.

0-5: Better re-read the rules just one more time to make sure you REALLY understand the “support” order.

6-10: Congratulations! You’re no longer a novice! At this point, you’re probably scanning the zines you get for your name before anything else.

11-15: Definitely NOT a novice. People you have never even heard of are attacking you in games simply because of your “rep”.

16-20: Hobby old fart, first class! You don’t even need to play the game anymore!

Over 20: Beyond old fart, approaching turbophreak. Might be time to see how the kids have grown these past twenty years!

Reprinted from Northern Flame #29, June 15, 1991