Posted by: NiTessine | February 1, 2017

Bedroom Wall Press/CAIR Offer

Continuing in yesterday’s theme, the gentleman John Berry of Bedroom Wall Press is making a similar offer. All their products have been priced at Pay What You Want at DriveThruRPG, and all proceeds will go to support the Council on Islamic-American Relations’ legal action against Trump’s racist fuckery.

The offer is valid until the Muslim ban is overturned.

Bedroom Wall Press’s products include the sci-fi dungeon crawler Hulks and Horrors and the urban fantasy game Arcana Rising. My favourite is the Arcana Rising supplement Welcome to Neuro City, which is set in the Åland Islands, of all places.

Posted by: NiTessine | January 31, 2017

Lamentations of the Flame Princess/ACLU Offer

Jim Raggi over at Lamentations of the Flame Princess is offering a deal, giving a free book to anyone who donates $50 or more to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Donate here: http://www.aclu.org
Choose from here: http://www.lotfp.com/store/
Email all the info here: lotfp@lotfp.com
It’s good from January 29th through the end of February or until 500 books have been given away.
You can donate even if you’re not an American or in America. They could use a hand. Also, there are some splendid books available, such as the eerie Carcosa, the grisly Tower Two, the sublime Red and Pleasant Land, and the exhilaratingly weird Broodmother Sky Fortress.
Posted by: NiTessine | January 12, 2017

D&D and Timelines

As a word of warning, this article is a work of highly pedantic nerdery to a degree that I feel such a warning necessary on a role-playing game blog. It is also of questionable use.

I have always been fascinated by the idea of the living campaign world, a place where things happen independent of the player characters, where history moves on even when there’s no party of adventurers to witness it. The 90s AD&D scene feeds right into this: Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, and all the other campaign settings occur in the same multiverse, connected by the Spelljammer and Planescape settings, and brought together in its own way by Ravenloft.

The potential of crossovers raises the inevitable question of timeline correspondence. Where do the timelines cross? The major settings were heavy with metaplot, none so much as Forgotten Realms, and to a certain mindset, it’s relevant to know what’s going on in Waterdeep when the party of kender steps through the portal.

One reason this is such an interesting thing to study is that as far as I can tell, the designers and developers at the time did not coordinate for this and what little data can be harvested from the gazillion sourcebooks of the AD&D era is often vague and contradictory. The work of assembling a coherent canon is an exercise in cherrypicking your sources. I, for instance, choose to ignore anything in Ravenloft that would contradict other stuff because the Demiplane of Dread plays fast and loose with time anyway. However, others have trod this ground before me, such as Paul Westermeyer, whose Spelljammer Timeline research I use as a base for my own study. There’s also a timeline converter app largely based on it, though I have one quibble with it. I’ll come back to that.

We can pretty reliably state that Dragonlance’s 358 Alt Cataclius corresponds to Forgotten Realms’ 1361 Dalereckoning through the Spelljammer novels Beyond the Moons and Into the VoidBeyond the Moons is mentioned to occur about five years after the War of the Lance, and Into the Void, according to Dragon #196 article “Novel Ideas”, is set in 1361 DR. The novels follow one another and are set within a relatively short span of time.

Greyhawk can be connected to that through the first Wizards Three article in Dragon #185, “Magic in the Evening”, which describes the meeting of Dalamar, Elminster and Mordenkainen in Ed Greenwood’s living room. It’s set right after the events of the Forgotten Realms novel The Parched Sea and before the Greyhawk adventure Vecna Lives, set in 1360 DR according to “Novel Ideas”, and Common Year 581 according to Adventure Begins, respectively.

As a side note, though there is no point of connection between the world of Warhammer and Forgotten Realms, I do seem to have notes from around 2002 about a character who crossed over from a D&D campaign I ran in Old World to another campaign that took place in the Forgotten Realms

There are also points of connection for Birthright, Dark Sun, and Planescape out there, but they’re less relevant because the metaplot is not nearly as strong in those. Same for Mystara, though the points of connection are tenuous. Eberron is floating free to my knowledge. I may someday trawl the material for that, but for the time being, it’s less interesting to me.

What is interesting to me is, of course, Golarion. Of course, as the setting of Pathfinder RPG, it’s not an official D&D setting. However, it shares an interpretation of the same cosmology and the points of connection exist and are clearer than those of many AD&D settings with one another.

This ties in with my quibble above. The converter application ties the timelines of Earth and Mystara with the note “This vague link is provided by the official TSR document “Chronomancy and the Multiverse,” which placed Diane de Moriamis’ home time in around the year 1600.” However, what the document actually says is “Averoigne could be part of a magical Europe around A.D. 1600 in HR4 A Mighty Fortress, and this wizardess could be met at various times through Earth’s history prior to her move to the world of Mystara.” That’s a lot of “could”, especially for a time traveller. We also could disregard it and take a closer look at how Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms tie together – in Ed Greenwood’s living room, clearly meant to be in the present day at the time of writing, 1992. I thus posit that the Earth equivalent year to 1361 DR is 1992 Current Era.

From here, it’s just a skip and a hop to Golarion. The Reign of Winter adventure path happens in the year 4713 AR, the year when Queen Elvanna should be stepping down from her throne in Irrisen. Its fifth adventure, Rasputin Must Die! takes place in Siberia, in 1918. This is explicitly reinforced in the foreword to the fifth adventure of Strange Aeons, What Grows Within, which was released to subscribers while I was writing this post, where James Jacobs states “After all, if you do the math that we’ve established, the implied year that Strange Aeons begins in (4716 AR) does in fact correspond to the year of 1921 here on Earth…” Therefore, Golarion’s 4713 AR = Earth’s 1918 CE = Dragonlance’s 286 AC = Forgotten Realms’ 1289 DR = Greyhawk’s CY 509.

This does set Golarion very far from the “current eras” of most of the other settings – a good sixty years before the War of the Lance kicks off, Drizzt Do’Urden isn’t going to be born for another decade, and Oerth is going through the era of relative peace just after Iuz the Evil has been imprisoned by Zagyg the Mad. Back in AD&D, they were all happening more or less at the same time.

Then, the current year in Forgotten Realms is sometime in the late 1400’s by now, the newest timeline for Dragonlance I have ends at 419 AC, and Greyhawk only goes up to CY 598, when the Living Greyhawk campaign ended. Oh well.

Meanwhile, I do see the rationale for making the corresponding point in Earth’s timeline in 1600. Early Modern Era is roughly the level of the most advanced technology in Forgotten Realms. However, the game also has a history of bringing characters from strange places to the then-modern Earth. In Dragon #100, we can find the adventure “The City Beyond the Gate”, which takes a party of adventurers from Oerth to London circa 1985 to hunt down the Mace of St. Cuthbert. The D&D adventure Immortal Storm is set in 1980’s New York City. The Wizards Three meet not in a medieval castle but a Canadian librarian’s living room. It’s the crossover where D&D meets urban fantasy, where the high-level adventurer gets to be a fish out of water in the face of firearms. It’s where things get weird. London in 1600 is just a smaller Waterdeep, but London in 1985 is unfathomable.

Also, you know what is in 1918? The first entry in the timeline for Masks of Nyarlathotep, that’s what.

masksrajattu

Posted by: NiTessine | January 10, 2017

My Play History, at the Finnish Museum of Games

mph_2017

The Finnish Museum of Games opened at the Vapriikki museum complex last week. It was a crowdfunded project, and its mission statement is to showcase the history of Finnish games in all their forms. The core exhibit consists of 100 different games deemed relevant in one way or another. A surprisingly big portion of them are role-playing games or larps, and many of them are playable at the museum.

I will write up a larger report of the museum from a role-players point of view next week. I should have a pretty good feel for it then, since I will be spending my entire Thursday there, the complete opening hours.

This is because I got involved with a university course on the game studies side where we created the first temporary exhibit of the museum. The course was run by Annakaisa Kultima and Jaakko Stenros, who also blogged about it. It opened today and runs until February 10th, and it showcases the experience of playerhood through our personal histories as players and gamers. It’s called Minun pelihistoriani, or My Play History. There are thirteen of us from various backgrounds, and in addition to the texts narrating our histories and the objects that contextualize them, we’re present in the flesh. Each of us has a couple of days in the calendar when we’re sitting in a chair and chatting with visitors, perhaps even playing a game with them.

My dates are Thursdays January 19th and February 2nd, and Friday, February 10th.

It’s an interesting concept, and I feel we’ve made a hell of an exhibit for one hell of a museum. The folk at Vapriikki grok how to run a museum and make it interesting in a way I’ve rarely seen, and I go to a lot of museums. They use space in interesting ways, and the experience goes beyond just walking around and reading plaques. There are things to touch and try out for yourself. It’s how a museum should be done.

I will report on how things went once the month is over and done with. If you’re out and about on the dates above, come and say hi.

All the texts in the museum are available in both Finnish and English. Entry is 12€, 10€ for the unemployed or 6€ for students and kids. Children under 7 get in free.

Posted by: NiTessine | January 9, 2017

Another Year!

So, that was 2016. May we never see its like again.

Okay, gaming-wise it was not a bad year. Gaming-wise, 2016 was a remarkably good year, I think both personally and on the level of the hobby at large.

We saw a number of fine Kickstarters fund: ConanDelta Green 2nd EditionPugmireThe 7th Sea 2nd EditionUnknown Armies 3rd Edition, and the Swedish Tales from the Loop. From Finland, we’re getting Sotakarjut and Astraterra 2nd Edition.

Additionally, unless I miss my mark, Lamentations of the Flame Princess delivered the last of the adventure modules from that one serial campaign so many years ago – Towers Two, and Broodmother Sky Fortress, and they were worth the wait.

Other cool stuff came out, like Hood from Myrrysmiehet, the Hell’s Vengeance and Strange Aeons adventure paths from Paizo, and the anniversary edition of Curse of the Crimson Throne, with impeccable timing as our party is next embarking on the last part of the campaign.

In play numbers, our Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign advanced by ten sessions, our Reign of Winter by 11. My Legacy of Fire reboot got one game in, and then there was a bit of Pathfinder Society, a Vampire: The Masquerade session that one of the players reported on, and some playtesting of various things.

I finally broke down and bought the D&D 5E Player’s Handbook. It looks like a solid game, though it of course does a thing that I already have a game for and its product support is tumbleweeds. If I ever run Paizo’s Second Darkness adventure path, though, I might convert it to 5E just to see how that goes – it’s in 3.5 and would need to be converted anyway.

So, what’s up for 2017?

The convention season of the year kicks off for me in February with the larp conference Knutepunkt in Norway. I’ll be attending the Week in Norway as well as the conference itself, but I have no responsibilities beyond good behaviour. Have to relax at least at one convention.

I should probably note that in mid-February there’s also Valocon in Jyväskylä, but I doubt I can make it.

Following that is Tracon Hitpoint in March, where I just shot off my program suggestion mail – a very important thing since the program division head has been telling me they’ve got an hour scheduled for me anyway and I’d rather not talk to a chair for 45 minutes. We had the first Hitpoint in 2015 at a school, but the convention is moving up in the world and is taking over the Tampere-talo conference centre. Apart from being bigger and better-suited for actually running a convention, this is nice for me since I can see it from my window. The venue will also host the comics festival Tampere kuplii two weeks later. In late May, I can probably be found in Uppsala for Kontur.

Ropecon 2017 is in late July, and stays at Messukeskus. Two weeks later, the venue will host Worldcon 75. Finally, in September, Tampere-talo will see Tracon 2017.

Whew, that’s going to be a busy year. As for upcoming releases, I hope they’ll include most of the Kickstarters I listed above, the majority of which aren’t yet out with full products. Though it’s a computer game, I will note that Torment: Tides of Numenera is set to launch in February. It is the spiritual successor of the venerable Planescape: Torment, a game so good it basically killed computer games for me. In August we should be getting Pathfinder‘s science fantasy cousin Starfinder.

As for gaming, we’ll be finishing both Curse of the Crimson Throne and Reign of Winter soonish, and I would expect my Legacy of Fire to wrap up before the year is out as well. We’ll see what will be run after that. I have received requests for Vampire: The Masquerade, and I’d like to have at least one adventure path running, but we have nothing solid yet.

And that’s what 2017 looks like to me. I’m probably overlooking something, there are things I’ve forgotten and things that never drew my attention. Please, let me know!

 

Posted by: NiTessine | December 7, 2016

RPG Novel Talk, Pathfinder Stats for LotFP, Stuff

Time for one of these again!

I really have been up to a lot this year.

I had two program items at Ropecon this year, they were both filmed, and they are also both already up on YouTube.

First, there’s the Astraterra presentation with Miska Fredman. The sound quality is a bit wonky, unfortunately.

And then there’s the talk I did about the game novel now and then. I am very happy with both the presentation, though the structure kinda breaks down towards the end, and the video itself, which has clear sound. It contains the filthiest things ever published about Space Marines. I also observe who’s the biggest sex symbol in all of D&D. In between the funny bits, I tell why these novels exist and also what they’re good for.

Meanwhile, Lamentations of the Flame Princess has released Jeff Rients’s Broodmother Sky Fortress to rave reviews. The Pathfinder RPG stats in the PDF version are my work, as were the PF stats in the previous Towers Two and Forgive Us.

While Towers Two is probably the weirdest writing project I’ve been part of – I’m pretty sure I’m the only game designer on the planet who has had to figure out how to mechanically express a man literally vanishing up his own asshole – Broodmother Sky Fortress was the most fun to design. There’s an entity in the adventure that’s so powerful it made no sense to stat it up at all in the low-powered, old-school LotFP system.

Pathfinder RPG don’t roll that way. My creation, which took five hours of crunching numbers, is no match for the Great Cthulhu, but is quite capable of ruining the day of your average 20th-level adventuring party. Solo.

Finally, I’ve gotten involved with PlayLab!, a webzine by the game studies folks at the University of Tampere, and until the end of the spring term will be producing game reviews, popular articles about research papers, and a few other things for them. Thus far, out are my review of World of Warcraft: Legion and the Finnish tabletop role-playing game Praedor. A longer article about College of Wizardry is forthcoming.

Posted by: NiTessine | December 4, 2016

College of Wizardry 10, or, “I want to go back”

Last Monday, I returned home from the larp College of Wizardry, tenth of its name. Physically, at least. Mentally, I haven’t yet, not really. Emotionally… time will tell.

If the concept is not familiar, CoW is a Harry Potter -inspired larp for 135 players, played at Czocha Castle in Poland and organized by the primarily Polish-Danish team Dziobak Larp Studios. Unlike the boarding school of Hogwarts, the Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a university-level institution, where the students are adults and have already graduated from one magic school. Not Hogwarts, though – the CoW larp series started out as a Harry Potter spinoff, but the serial numbers were filed off after the third game. The family resemblances remain, but it is its own thing.

First thing out of the way, when I say “Czocha Castle”, I really mean castle. It was built in the 14th century, is accessed by a bridge, and features both dungeons and secret passages. Like, actual secret passages. While at least one of them is dead obvious by the marks on the floor in front of the bookcase, I cannot get over how cool it is to move a bookshelf to reveal a stone staircase beyond.

The characters are both staff and students – Headmaster, professors, janitor, and juniors, sophomores and seniors. The students are sorted into five Houses. There’s the coldly intellectual and ruthlessly pragmatic Faust, the tight-knit and secretive Molin, the diplomatic and honourable Sendivogius, the artistic and bohemian Libussa1, and Durentius, whose motto is “valour and diligence” but who are really the party house.

The game is set at the beginning of term, starting with the students marching over the bridge into the castle on Thursday evening and ending with the Grand Opening Ball on Saturday night. In between, there’s two full schooldays, a few student parties, the Sorting Ceremony, and lots of drama, relationships, duels, and demon summoning. As students do.

Staff and Students, Living and Dead

The characters are handled differently from what I am used to in Finnish larps. We had the option of either writing up a character ourselves or taking a prewritten one. I opted for the latter because I was aware of constraints on my time, and because I wanted to see how they’re executed. The character was formed of a series of elements. There was their unique background and personality bit – in my character’s case, his mother was from an old and respected Hexblood family, but had married a Mundaneborn, which my character resented and had moved to his grandparents as soon as it was possible – and a number of boilerplate elements like House, what school he’d gone to before coming to Czocha, what was his year of studies, an extracurricular club, and his Path. The paths were Artificer, Healer, Guardian, Curse Breaker, Cryptozoologist. All of the material except House, year, and Path were just suggestions that you could edit, adapt, discard and change at will.

Charles Duke. No smiling.

Charles Duke. No smiling.

The characters were written to be gender-neutral, with a first name initial and a surname. It is thus that Charles Duke, Sophomore of House Faust, student of the Guardian Path, graduate of Stenøya Trolldom Akademiet, and member in good standing of the Alliance for Reclaiming Magic, was born.

Some readers may have twigged on to what was not included in the above – contacts. Those you had to figure out for yourself, and for the avid player, there was ample pre-game available online in the formation of relationships, friendships, acquisition of friends and enemies. People used Facebook, Google+ hangouts, Google Docs, and a special social networking site set up just for the larp, Czochabook.

Or then you could just skip that and show up at the larp. There were pre-game workshops for Path and House, where we figured out a bunch of contacts, how we think about one another, and generally who’s who and what’s what. This worked to a degree, though it’s still on the player to figure out what they want to do in the game and come up with plot. This is not a bug as such, just how the system works. It’s also entirely possible to go through the game just attending class and playing a student in as close to an everyday life it’s possible to have in a school for witchards. There’s also the race for the Czocha Cup and the acquisition of House Points, which offers additional structure and motivation to attend classes, answer the Professor’s questions, do homework and generally come up with stuff. It’s of course up to your character whether they care about all that. Mine was ambivalent; House Faust had won the past six House Cups, and Charles thought such a long streak would breed resentment in the other Houses and complacency in Faust, which would weaken them all as well as the whole of Czocha, where his deepest loyalty lay.

Learn from Your Elders and Learn from Your Peers

So, how’d it go for me? It was a learning experience. Point one: I should’ve engaged in the pre-game. I had a lot of real life going on and deadlines up the wazoo and back again, but I should’ve squeezed in something. The thing is, Charles was written as a kind of a dick. He was Hexist – that is, prejudiced against those with Mundane blood – hated werewolves, and was active in the A.R.M., which was the conservative political club. Additionally, he was House Faust, who have more than a little of the Slytherin in their DNA. Just showing up and playing a dick is problematic, because if everyone else’s character thinks your character is the online comment thread in the flesh, they have no motivation to drag you along into wacky student hijinks, and a lot of your game is going to be brooding in the corner. To my mind, it would’ve required preparing some contacts, both for like-minded characters and a few with a history of mutual antagonism just to keep things interesting. In the end, Charles was much less of a dick than I’d figured him; traditionalist, conservative, utterly humourless, polite and formal.

Another reason to do the pre-game would’ve been to get a better feel for who the character is before being thrown into his shoes and forced me to prepare with more depth. I could’ve figured out the elements which I needed to jettison earlier, and generally been farther along in the process of developing Charles into a person by the time I needed to embody him. Having a history tied to people at the school would have made me answer quite a few more “whys” of his past and personality than I did.

I did have one contact set up before the game; my mother played Assistant Professor Laura Ulfred, my character’s aunt, but we had very little contact during the game beyond her threatening to dock House Faust points if I did not ask my date for one more dance during the Grand Ball, fifteen minutes before the Book of Points was closed for the evening.

House Faust, incidentally, won the House Cup by one point, 536 points vs. Libussa’s 535. The victory was made of the Faust’s Fireball Dragons victory, so many extracurricular activities, homework essays, clever answers and questions in class, trespasses we got away with and such small moments. That one point made it special. Everything we did mattered.

One thing about having a game with so many players is the variety of experience. My genre was comic fantasy, to the point of being harassed with a cube-shaped rooster named Cockblock. I’m reasonably sure that was the experience most players had (comic fantasy, not Cockblock – though that bird got around). However, there were also dark, tragic, and even epic plotlines played out. Two characters died on Saturday night. I think there is room for it all as long as the plots are inclusive. The original source material gets both dark and epic at times, occasionally at the same time.

Magic Will Flow Through Your Hands and Your Heart

So, witchard school. Lots of magic thrown around. Magic in a larp is always slightly tricky since you can code a spaceship navigation system, you can simulate beating people up by beating people up, and you drugs can be so realistic people will wonder for years afterwards what they actually were, but magic doesn’t exist in the real world. Hence, the need for rules. In College of Wizardry, they were delightfully elegant: the target decides what the spell does. Most of the characters were still students and students’ spells didn’t always work as intended. It was always helpful to inform the recipient what you were trying to accomplish, like “Imma set your hair on fire, you werewolf-lover! FUEGO!” This rule was coupled with the aesthetic of “Play to Lose” – it’s more collaborative and usually gets you better story. Of course, this was more or less only relevant when dealing with attack spells, like in duel situations. My character wasn’t so much as threatened with violence, though did end up witnessing a very dramatic one between the gentlemen Rayford Elton and Raiden Grim.

Most of the spells cast were during class, mostly testing stuff on one another. This ranged from summoning the spirits of the dead inside one’s classmates to prank spells like “vox animalis”. There was also a chapter on common basic spells in the student handbook. The Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry Student Handbook, incidentally, is a 559-page faux-leatherbound book that was included in the price of the ticket. It’s also available as a free PDF, as is the Von Schlichtwald Grand Bestiary. There’s also the out-of-character Book of College of Wizardry 4-6, which is a work of documentation. I know they are working on a series of other CoW books, both in- and out-of-character. For a bibliophile such as I, this is a very exciting game.

Reading them was by no means necessary to play, though it did deepen the experience. Still, out of the six teachers Charles had, two noted that the book was useless and one declared it should be burned. The fourth, Professor of Alchemy, on Friday mentioned he hadn’t actually read what the book said about alchemy. The following day, he had studied it and said it was actually quite good, but we should not feel bound by the printed word, so how about each of you pass this book around, tear out a page, and burn it on a candle.

The classes were a big part of the game. While you could skip them (and I did, once) without losing points, they were very entertaining. In Demonology, we summoned spirits of mischief and interrogated angels. In Necromancy, we summoned the spirits of the dead. In Mind Magic, we first simulated different fears and the second day, to offset the heaviness, Professor Nikandros had drinks and prank spells for everyone.

Oh, and in physical education we did knife blocking techniques. The second day, Professor Ikonomopoulos graded the bruises.

Two points for Faust.

Two points for Faust.

You know you’re in it when your sparring partner is the only guy in class who had separate gym clothes2.

Of course, there was also homework. I am fairly sure I have written less material for real-life college courses than I did during College of Wizardry. My favourite was an essay about consent and mind magic.

Listen to the Tide of the Centuries

We also summoned so many demons. There was an excellent NPC system in place. If you needed NPCs, like summoned demons, angels, visiting parents, investigating Guardians, drunk alumni, or harpies, you could go into the NPC room, explain what you needed, what kind of scene it was for, when, and where, and then you’d get the appropriate NPC in the appropriate time and place to do its NPC thing. The results were impressive. So. Many. Demons.

On the topic of drunk alumni, there was an interesting cultural difference to how alcohol is handled in Finnish larps, where in my experience it’s typically “not until the afterparty” or at least strongly limited. Here it was “bar’s open after the classes” and afterwards some of the teacher players remarked that this was the first time the teacher’s lounge wasn’t a drinking club. I didn’t see any disruption because of drunken players. We were all there to larp rather than get liquored up. Some did sleep a little late but that may also have been due to past-curfew rituals in the dungeon. Faustians, I would note, were generally early risers3.

In general, apart from some kitchen hiccups and a certain confusion about our bus from Tegel Airport, the game was extraordinarily well organized. Stuff that needed to happen happened. Information was delivered. When schedules shifted, as they sometimes did, new ones were distributed with such smoothness I barely registered anything had happened. Conveniently, in the setting, magic was not incompatible with technology and I could carry a mobile phone with me. A lot of stuff ran on schedule and knowing the time was important.

Raise Your Wand to What Lies Ahead

Three days is a long time to live in the skin of another person. You discover stuff about them. For instance, Charles was a much less terrible dancer than I am. The game also stuck around for a while, and the morning after I’d returned I first spoke to my girlfriend in English before realizing I’m not in the castle anymore. For a couple of days, I couldn’t really accomplish much beyond gluing myself to the Facebook groups and going “I want back” in Google+ Hangouts. Straight off the plane, it was hard to relate to non-players. This text is already my fourth longer piece about the game, and there’s a fifth one coming, maybe even a sixth.

There’s something magical about the whole experience. I wouldn’t necessarily call it bleed since my character had the emotional range of a dead cod, but afterwards I had all the feels. There’s a sense of community, a feeling of shared experience. Together, we created stories. We made friends. Hearing the Hymn of Czocha, sung both at the beginning and the very end of the game, makes me misty-eyed.

Whether Charles Duke will be returning to Czocha is still up in the air. I think there’s still a good story in him, and it is not dependent on really any other specific characters from CoW10 being present. I might go for a midterm game with him. For another term-starter, perhaps something else. We shall see.

I know that I am returning. The 11th and 12th games are sold out, but the rest of next year’s lineup will be released on December 16th. It may not be cheap, but I like eating noodles.

stuff


1 I only figured it out now. Libussa was founded by the mythical hero Libuše, who founded Prague. IN BOHEMIA.

2 As a point of order, we did a brief OOC negotiation on how hard we’re going to play this and concluded “let’s just do this”. The same repeated on Saturday with another player, on whom I had both reach and weight, but who happened to have self-defence training. I limped for half the larp.

3 Leading to the breakfast table exchange “Why are all the Faustians up so early?” “It’s the nightmares.” My best line in the game and I don’t think anybody even heard it with everybody else talking. Oh well.

Posted by: NiTessine | November 29, 2016

Bcon, Barcelona

A while back, I had the delight to visit Bcon, in sunny Barcelona.

Predictably, the day after we left for Spain, where it was still t-shirt weather despite all the locals wearing parkas and shivering, the Stark words came true and two inches of snow got dumped on Helsinki. Coming back was a bit of a shock.

The convention was three days long, and the roster of guests of honour was most respectable: Johanna Sinisalo, Richard Morgan, Andrzej Sapkowski, Aliette de Bodard, Rhianna Pratchett, as well as the unknown-to-me Péter Michaleczky, Enrique Corominas, and Rosa Montero.

My Spanish is just about sufficient for basic survival and my Catalan is nonexistent, but fortunately a lot of the program was English and everyone I needed to have an actual conversation with spoke good English, both within the convention and outside it in the city.

The convention’s “main area” was the dealer’s room, which featured a bar as well as the local vendor Gigamesh peddling off stuff that was apparently taking up inconvenient storage space at prices which could only be lower if they had been paying me to take the books away.

My convention experience, as is usual, was rather coloured by occupying the Worldcon 75 table. I did have time to catch a few program items, such as “The Failures of Futurology”, a discussion of what we failed to predict. There’s apparently a largish passenger airplane in existence whose in-flight entertainment system is hooked up to the internet through a satellite link, and shares hardware with the computers that actually keep the plane in the air, which is so remarkably short-sighted I’m not sure it works even as a technothriller plot point. There was also reminiscing about the late Stanislaw Lem, a worldbuilding panel where Andrzej Sapkowski made a splash at the start by declaring the whole endeavour pointless, and other interesting things.

But don’t take my word for it. Impressively, they streamed the whole convention program and it is now available on YouTube.

Apart from the above, I recommend Political SF, as well as anything with Adam Roberts, Richard Morgan, Johanna Sinisalo, Charles Stross, or Aliette de Bodard.

Another cool thing was an English-language edition of the Polish fanzine Smokopolis, with short fiction and a history of the Polish role-playing scene. It was later made available as a free download.

Barcelona itself is a beautiful city, and I recommend it as a travel destination. For the geek, there’s the science fiction and gaming store Gigamesh and its sister shops in the same city block. It is also an old city, and a sense of history and oldness oozes from the cobblestones in the older quarters of the city, a warren of streets and alleys it’s easy to get lost in and inspired by. On the newer side of things, there are the truly outlandish Gaudí buildings, such as the cathedral Sagrada Família, a work in progress since 1882, and Casa Batlló, or “the House of Bones” as it’s also known. Gaudí’s dreamlike architecture unlike anything I have seen in that scale. It feels like something from Sigil or Tanelorn or Amber instead of the real world.

I have traveled much this year. While Bcon may not have been my favourite trip of many, many rewarding wanderings, Barcelona has become one of my favourite cities.

I mean, look at this thing. Casa Batlló, photo by Wikipedia user Amadalvarez, CC BY-SA 3.0

I mean, look at this thing. Casa Batlló, photo by Wikipedia user Amadalvarez, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Posted by: NiTessine | October 26, 2016

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s been quiet here. It’s not that I’m not gaming or writing, it’s that I’ve been writing so great many other things, and there’s only so much time I am able to spend at the keyboard.

The most important of those other things is the English translation of Astraterra, a project that morphed under my feet into the second edition of the game. Look for it in the first quarter of 2017.

Earlier this year, we also had the larp conference Solmukohta, on the Helsinki-Stockholm ferry. The pre-event highlights included End of the Line, the first official Vampire larp under White Wolf’s new management. Along with Mika Loponen and Kaisa Kangas, I also edited the two conference books, Larp Realia and Larp Politics (free downloads). I think they’re pretty good books, all thanks to our writers, and it was a pretty damn good con, at least for me. Conrunning on a boat was a calculated risk and could’ve gone south in so many ways, but the team pulled it off and the feedback is mostly positive. Next year, Norway.

In late 2015, we premiered the gaming convention Tracon Hitpoint in Tampere, a younger cousin of the anime and gaming convention Tracon. Hitpoint is dedicated solely to games. It skipped 2016, but will be back next year. I’m not organizing anything beyond the obligatory few gaming sessions or a presentation, since my conrunning energy for 2017 is directed at Worldcon 75.

Worldcon 75 is hitting Helsinki next year, and I’m the games program head. It’s going to be the culmination of a project I’ve been part of since 2013. I’ve travelled four times to the United States for it. I’ve worked for it in London and Stockholm, and will be adding Barcelona to that list next week. I’ve manned the convention’s promotional table at countless conventions. There’s a huge amount of time, money, and energy invested in it, and I’m looking forward to its fruition.

Oh, and I’m still trying to graduate.

Anyway, I will try to update this a bit more frequently, since two updates in nearly a year is just sad. I am currently playing in Pathfinder RPG campaigns Curse of the Crimson Throne and Reign of Winter, in their fifth and fourth books respectively, and will be doing big postmortems on those when they’re done. Likewise, I am resurrecting a Legacy of Fire campaign I originally started in 2009 just so I can finish the damn story. Finally, I have a one-shot of Vampire: The Masquerade scheduled for research purposes in a few weeks. There’s also going to be a report on the Barcelona Eurocon as well as some reviews, one of which has been in draft form for over a year after the WordPress editor ate half my work and really should be posted, especially since I got a free PDF out of it. Finally, I have a game of my own in the works. More on that later.

Posted by: NiTessine | August 6, 2016

Ropecon 2016, or, “I’m taking this year easy.”

We had a Ropecon again last weekend! Woo!

As my sole reader from last year will remember, the convention had to finally depart, after 18 beautiful years, the non-Euclidean fever dream that was the Dipoli Conference Centre. We found expansive new digs at the Helsinki Fair Centre, which, if nothing else, would have room for us to grow. There’s a new conference wing that suits convention style programming well, and big, huge exhibition halls where we placed the miniature gamers, card gamers, the dealers’ room, the boffer fighting, the archery range, and the wrestling show. Those all fit into a single hall. I’ve been in smaller aeroplane hangars. For the first time in my recollection, the dealers’ room was not cramped.

We all wondered if Ropecon can make the transition or if it would be disfigured by the barren expo halls. I think it survived just fine. Some things changed – the green parks of Otaniemi have been replaced by the office park that is Pasila – while others remained the same. While the card gamers finally have enough oxygen, the air quality in the tabletop gaming rooms was as musty as ever.

Our guests of honour this year were the excellent Ross Watson, whom I’d met before at Tracon 2013, and the rock star Claus Raasted, who was originally a Ropecon guest of honour ten years ago but since then pretty much changed the face of larp so we figured we could have him back.

I keep saying “we”. I haven’t had an official position at Ropecon for some years now, but old habits die hard. Like the habit of Ropecon veterans of asking me to do “just this one small thing”, which is how I wound up on two different awards juries this year. I assume it’s punishment for my admittedly smug advertising of how I’ve kept my duties light.

The first thing on my plate was a Pathfinder Society scenario on Friday, #7-22 Bid for Alabastrine. It was my kind of scenario, in that it required the PCs to be proactive in attaining their goals and was designed for solutions other than killing everyone. Actually, killing everyone would be a Bad Thing and probably not possible. I also liked how as a social scenario with as little combat as possible, it still left the barbarians and other heavy hitters something to do. The game went well, running only a hair under the four-hour time slot, with a crew of three beginner players and one more experienced one.

My Saturday morning program item was “Game Novel Then and Now”, a two-hour look into the history and meaning of role-playing game tie-in novels. It ties in with an article series I wrote for the Loki blog a couple of years back as well as my MA thesis. Game novels are a fascinating topic that basically nobody writes about, the Scribe Awards habitually overlook, and academia barely acknowledges. I’ve been delving deep into the weirdness of late, and brought back things of great interest, some of which I’ll post about soon.

Finally, on Sunday, I had a presentation with Miska Fredman about the English translation of Astraterra. The translation is more or less done and we should have the IndieGoGo campaign up and running in the near future.

Typically of me, with a full plate of programming, I didn’t actually get to see much. The things I did see were the postmortem of Solmukohta 2016 – went reasonably well, we learned a great many things, larpers can be difficult customers – and the first half of the vaunted Pokémon musical. The costuming was top-notch.

As for the rest of the con, some things went well, some did not. The poor availability of food has been discussed elsewhere to exhaustion already – of the something like 22 restaurants in the Fair Centre, a total of five were open during the con, and only the burger joint and the prohibitively expensive hotel restaurant (also the only place serving alcohol) were open beyond lunch hours. This was apparently due to the company running the show colossally misunderstanding the demographics of Ropecon, which I think is a bit rich at a venue that hosts conferences, conventions, expos and fairs of every type.

Anoher thing I thought could’ve been done better was the ticket queues before the con opened. We could’ve done with opening another one or two ticket counters to shorten the lines. This, though, was mostly a bit clumsy. For proper failure, look at Rio Olympics.

Overall, though, it was a good convention. The criticisms are things that stick out because they didn’t work, while the capable work often goes unnoticed because smooth running does not draw attention to itself. Despite the move, despite the loss of the green spaces and the non-Euclidean architecture, it still felt like Ropecon. Ropecon is more than just the walls at weird angles and though they housed us well, the soul of the event is in the people, and the people came. It was home.

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