Roundup of News

Just a short update, rounding up some news of interest…

Yesterday, Paizo Publishing released v.2.0 of their Pathfinder RPG‘s Alpha playtest version. Get it here. It is good. I talked about the Pathfinder RPG back when the first Alpha came out, and it still looks very promising. It’ll also presumably be the most playtested roleplaying game around when it’s released in 2009.

Meanwhile, Wizards of the Coast has announced that they’re still considering whether to take part in GenCon Indy, while the event registration is already open. The following is copied off the front page of EN World. Since I can’t link directly to the news item, I will reproduce it here.

Here is a brief FAQ concerning your questions:

Q: Why are there no D&D or Wizards events on the schedule posted for Gen Con at http://www.gencon.com?

A: Wizards had not submitted a schedule of events by the Gen Con deadline. Since we hadn’t submitted our own schedule, none of our events are in the official Gen Con schedule at this time.

Q: Will Wizards attend Gen Con in 2008?

A: As you may be aware, Gen Con is currently in chapter 11 bankruptcy. Wizards’ plans relative to Gen Con are dependent on the course of proceedings in US bankruptcy court. While we hope to participate in Gen Con, we must await further proceedings in the bankruptcy matter before we are able to confirm our plans.

Meanwhile, they’re also messing about with the Game System Licence, which may or may not be available at some point in the undetermined future. The current deadline they’ve set themselves is June 6th, the same time the 4th Edition rules are supposed to come out. There’s also been some confusion about the contents of said licence, which may or may not include a clause that prevents a company using the GSL from releasing anything under the Open Gaming Licence. There should be a clarification on this one by the end of the week.

Yesterday saw in fact two interesting game releases. The other one was the second printing of Stalker, Burger Games’ roleplaying project that suffered more delays and unforeseen setbacks than Bridge Over Svartjet. It’s based on the science fiction novel Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky and Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s movie based on the novel. I’ve got my copy, and it looks good. I may be reviewing it here in the coming week, depending on how time allows.

The shop I bought my copy from is the new Puolenkuun pelit in Tapiola, Espoo, incidentally. They stock RPGs. Not much, but some. Also, miniatures. And board games. And it’s right along my commute. They opened up on Saturday. I also picked up a copy of Arkham Horror and Games Workshop’s new 25th Anniversary miniature, Harry the Hammer.

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Shit Saturday

In Living campaigns, there exists an interesting and a bit strange phenomenon.

Living campaigns are based on pre-made adventure modules distributed by a central authority, in Living Greyhawk’s case the RPGA. This means there are a limited number of adventures available at any given time.

In Living Greyhawk, character advancement is tracked by a special form, the Adventure Record, that is unique to each adventure. They track the acquisition and expenditure of experience points and gold, as well as any permanent curses, favours and conditions that may apply to a later module. ARs are a decent way to accomplish this; the Dungeons & Dragons Campaigns that RPGA also runs work on an online character tracker system, which, like pretty much every other online application or computer program that Wizards of the Coast is somehow responsible for, sucks ass.

ARs also have the coat of arms of the locale they take place in. These are cool.

This gives rise to a certain spirit of completionism, where some players feel driven to play every module available. Characters need to get to certain levels to play certain modules, module series must be played to their conclusions, and so on. It’s a lot like Pokémon, really, except the monsters are less cute.

Occasionally, though, you run into a module that is exceptionally bad. Or even several modules.

How to Cope with the Suck

There are ways to deal with bad modules. One way is to unsuspectingly play one and only during the game realise that the writer must have been high or drunk or stupid. This is not recommended, and to this day I hold a grudge against Maya Deva Kniese and her module TSS5-02 Seeds, for costing us a good player. In its megalomaniacal length of over a hundred pages, complete lack of encounter maps and concepts like the text “Immortal” on the chest of an earth elemental, an amorphous creature, to signify it must be beaten unconscious because you can’t kill it, this is the worst adventure module I have ever read, for any game system or campaign.

Another way is to just run them as fast as possible, generally together with a module that’s actually worth anything. This works, but tends to feel unsatisfying.

And then, yesterday, there was Shit Saturday.

It was an event that originated from an ill-considered promise to run the module COR6-17 Something of Value, by Sam Weiss and Rick Miller. It’s probably the second-worst module I’ve seen in Living Greyhawk. It’s incomplete as written, mischaracterises a number of canon NPCs, represents all authority figures as Keystone Kops contrary to their earlier portrayals (and to the guidelines of good writing in general), is one big railroad without any reasonable explanation and worst of all, is written in an adversarial fashion, for a game of DM (or in this case, module writer) versus players. This never results in good gaming. However, the encounter design didn’t actually take into account the capabilities of player characters at the module’s levels. The big bad is a glass cannon who gets his surprise round and then dies miserably.

In a refreshing change of pace, though, I couldn’t spot any glaring stat block errors. There’s something to be said for using stock Monster Manual content. Additionally, it seems that several NPCs in the module are caricatures of prominent users at Canonfire, a Greyhawk fan site that both I and the writers are members of. They’re not entirely flattering.

Anyway, I promised to run it after having erroneously ordered it from the scenario database some time previous (I confused it with COR6-20 Shades of Grey, a very good module). Upon reading it, I concluded it’s crap, I didn’t want to run it and that the group would not want to play it. Except they insisted.

The idea of Shit Saturday was then formed, and the suggestion was made that a selection of known bad modules would be offered on a Saturday, along with cheap beer.

The solution worked admirably, and much fun was had, despite the modules.

The other modules we ran were both work of one Tim Sech. They were COR6-12 Calm Before the Storm and INT7-04 Ritual of the Damned, a pair of modules that, like the rest of his work that I’ve seen, are playable but not enjoyable and do not quite follow the rules of either English grammar, basic logic or Dungeons & Dragons.

The good thing here is that neither of them has a plot as such, and therefore I can’t spoil it. There are just railroad tracks that lead to weird places in defiance of common sense and geography – among others, a scene where the party first walks some 70 miles to a river. At the river, they meet a sea captain and his large sailing ship. Yeah, no idea why or how they’re there. The party is expected to return with the ship, because it’s “more comfortable and safer”. However, by ship, the journey would be nearly 2000 miles, some half of that through enemy-controlled territory. The encounter stats are also wonky, and barely a sentence of module text goes by without a typo, a grammatical error or a stylistic mistake.

INT7-04 Ritual of the Damned is significant in other ways as well. It, along with its equally execrable predecessors, INT7-01 Ambition’s Folly, INT7-02 Trial by Fire and INT7-03 A Dead Man’s Job, is part of the introductory series distributed to retailers with the WotC retailer’s kit. These are the first Living Greyhawk products to see print in many years, and they’re crap.

I could write a better adventure in a day, and, indeed, have (and no, I don’t deem it good enough to be distributed in public). They’re illogical, badly structured, again grievously misrepresent canon NPCs, and the writing is barely intelligible. It occurs to me now that none of the four credit an editor or playtesters. It can be an honest mistake, or they really weren’t edited or playtested. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if the first drafts were the final ones.

Here’s a selection of the immortal prose of Tim Sech, completely unedited by me (or anyone else, for that matter):

“A letter, with big bold inscription states ‘Open Immediately’ on it, has been sent to you each of you with the seal of Aramis on it.” – The first boxed text of one of the modules. It certainly sets the scene for the rest of the adventure.

“By the looks of it he appears to be built like an ox […]” – The Head of the Department of Redundancy Department.

“If the [enemies] are captured they refuse to speak and if coerced only speak lovingly but very vaguely about their master. They do not know who he is, but it is clear of his hold over them.” – Considering even the DM isn’t told, I don’t think it’s clear at all.

“Hello there! Humanchi says his hello as well. He wanted us to get a ‘feel’ on your thoughts about a few things but we would rather just beat you to a pulp first.” – You have bad honour against me. Now you will must die.

There are others. Ritual of the Damned, especially, reads like the Eye of Argon. For some reason, the modules also fluctuate between referring to gold crowns and golden orbs as the currency of Greyhawk, but that’s a minor detail. (The latter would be correct, however.)

As stated, though, these all became quite agreeable in the proper state of inebriation.

The Root of the Problem and its Solution

I feel the quality of RPGA has been steadily declining over the past couple of years. The good adventures, when we get them, are still awesome, but there are less of them. The bad ones are getting worse, and they’re getting more frequent.

Part of this is likely because quality takes time. You need to concentrate and think about what you’re doing when crafting a complex intrigue in the vein of Chris Chesher’s and Greg Marks’ Rallying Point for the Bright Sands or an open sandbox like Jason Bulmahn’s Key to the Grave, or a great epic such as Pieter Sleijpen’s Broken Chains series or Pierre van Rooden’s Trust or Treason series. Stuff like Sech’s Core Introductory modules can be farted out in a matter of hours.

Also, I think there’s been a failure in quality control. I don’t know exactly whose job it is to make sure that Core modules aren’t complete drek. Judging by the results of their work, I’m not sure they know either. At that level, people get paid for their writing. RPGA should have an expectation of quality, but it evidently does not.

Public reviews of modules are not available due to the fear of spoilers and there is no centralised website to host them all. Nyrond.org is the best we’ve got, and it’s not much. Without actual, verbal criticism, the stars have no context. Module writers get no direct feedback and there’s very little public discussion of adventure releases except when they’re either something truly hideous or utterly magnificent and worthy of an ENnie. The system lacks transparency, which allows low-quality material to get through again and again.

RPGA now has a chance to change that, with the advent of the Living Forgotten Realms campaign. The system can be retooled from the ground up. Demands of quality must be stricter. At the very basic level, plots should make sense, the rules items should follow the rules and the module text be written by someone literate.

In LFR, one would also hope that the writers retain creative freedom. While I am sure that with the brand recognition comes a pressure from the above to cater to the largest audience, one should never write for the lowest common denominator. A campaign of cookie-cutter dungeon crawls would drive away those players who like their stuff with a bit of depth and would get boring for the rest sooner or later. With the 4th Edition Forgotten Realms being what it is, care should be taken to keep what few players there will be left. Especially the ones who also write modules, unless they’re planning to start paying professional rates. The North Europe Point of Contact has already stated he is disinclined to write adventures, and there appears to be some confusion with our Event Coordinator as well.

It does not bode well. Unless RPGA pulls its head out of its ass and quick, I see little hope for its future.

It’s a pity. It used to be fun.

Where to Find Online Games

Someone asked me for this after my last posting, so I’ll just list a few places here where I’ve previously played online.

IRC

Most of my IRC gaming I’ve done on the network Otherworlders.org. There are a few channels, such as EN World’s official channel #dnd3e, which I moderate, and #realmsofevil, where one can hope to find an online game. They will be mostly D&D, though I am aware of at least one user running Shadowrun.

Another place where I’ve gamed on IRC was the MagicStar network, where I suppose the channel #rpgnet, RPGnet’s channel, would be the best place to find an IRC game.

Both network homepages have guides on how to use IRC, if you’re new to it.

OpenRPG

OpenRPG, as I stated, I use solely for playing Living Greyhawk. For organising games, there are two Yahoogroups, LG Europe Online and Online Game Day. The activity has dropped since the announcement of the campaign’s ending, though. Many games are also organised via Warhorn.net’s Adhoc Online Gameday event site. Most of the games take place on the Blackstar server, and in the evenings it can pay off to just go sit there in the lobby and see if a game forms.

Forum Games

Though I don’t do these myself, I can recommend EN World’s and RPG.net’s forums for those who like this kind of thing. Most every gaming forum has a place for these, though. Some of them are active. Others are not. Roolipelaaja’s play-by-post forum hasn’t had a single post, ever.

MUDs

Finally, there are MUDs, a dying breed of games. Mudconnector, I suppose, is as good a place as any to get started. To play a MUD, you’ll need a MUD client program. ZMud is what I used, but I can’t seem to find a free client there now. For the MUDs themselves… well, FaerunMUD is gone, but Arantha and Rauvyon persist. Tell them Dyvnal sent you, for some blank stares. There’s also Aardwolf, but that’s about as much a roleplaying game as World of Warcraft is. Then there’s also BatMUD, which I’m not personally familiar with but is positively ancient and still going strong, which must count for something. It’s of Finnish make, but the language in the game is English.

WoW

And then there’s always World of Warcraft. I’m on Scarshield Legion as Kronth the tauren druid and on Dunemaul as Arrindor the blood elf warlock. You’re unlikely to ever be able to catch me there, though, since the damn thing keeps crashing my computer.

Online Roleplaying

Today, I’ll be talking about online roleplaying games.

Not MMORPGs. I consider the term a misnomer, because you’ll be hard-pressed to find any actual roleplaying even on a roleplaying game server with most of their ilk. Also, the graphic user interface is an inherently limiting feature, which goes against one of the most basic things that RPGs mean to me. In World of Warcraft, my character can’t climb a tree, for example. I can /emote it, sure, but the character will still just stand there beneath the tree, looking vaguely lost. Though I enjoy World of Warcraft (and to a lesser degree, enjoyed EVE Online), I would not call them roleplaying games.

Not play-by-post games, either. I’ve tried them, and concluded that they move too slowly for me to retain interest and stay inside the game. Also, there doesn’t seem to be an elegant way to involve the rules, and there are strange and imaginative ways of producing unbiased dice rolls for the GM to view, all of which are overly clunky. The alternative is a storytelling freeform thing, but I don’t do freeform and the ones I’ve followed have had the unfortunate tendency to devolve into purple prose riddled with Mary Sues, stories with six main characters locked in a passive-aggressive mortal combat for the limelight.

No. When I roleplay online, it’s on IRC, OpenRPG or, in the distant past, a MUD.

IRC

IRC, Internet Relay Chat, is the easiest of the lot, though poses certain problems with certain games. It’s a text-based medium, and in many ways identical to a face-to-face game. Just slower. With a good dicebot script, you can do all the regular dice, plus weird stuff like d39, for example, in pools or all counted together, with bonuses and penalties. I’ve seen a deck of cards for Deadlands, too, and a One-Roll Engine pool script that calculates the roll’s height and width for you.

Private messages are a handy feature of IRC that facilitates secret conversation between the Game Master and players, which is a big plus. You can pick your fellow party member’s pocket without everyone deducing it was you based on that slip of paper you gave the GM. (Now they can deduce it based on you having the highest ranks in Larceny, Pick Pocket, Sleight of Hand or whatever.) Out-of-character chatter can be directed to its own channel, to keep from cluttering up the game channel. It’s a good system.

The major shortcomings are the general slowness of the game – a snail’s pace compared to tabletop – and the lack of a proper battlemap for more tactical games like Dungeons & Dragons or Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. However, I’ve played several campaigns of D&D over IRC without great problems, other than the strange tendency of the party’s clerics dropping like flies. I don’t think that’s tied to the medium, though.

OpenRPG

The second, and my current medium of choice, is the free software OpenRPG. It’s basically a chat program with a built-in dice bot, character sheet support, and a whiteboard that may be overlaid with a battlemap grid or used to display images for the players. It’s still buggy as all hell, however, but when it works, it’s the best way to play D&D online. I’ve been using it to play Living Greyhawk over the net. Unfortunately, the majority of the player base is American, which leads to many games starting at three o’clock in the morning.

The character sheet (or monster sheets, or scenario boxed text, or whatever else you want to pester the players with) is a little thingy where you write down your characters skills and abilities and whatever you may need to roll for, along with a short dice code. Then, when needed, you can click a button on the sheet and it sends the text and the dice code to the game table and rolls dem bones.

For example, “Melee attack: can of whoopass [1d20+9], damage [1d12+10]” would come out as “Can of whoopass [1d20+9] -> 28, damage [1d12+10] -> 18”. The DM or the player can then give descriptive text for how said ass is whooped.

When OpenRPG works, it’s great. The rest of the time, it keeps eating all my nodes when I shut it down and every time I play a new game I have to rewrite my character sheets. But then, I don’t play online all that often. Like IRC, OpenRPG has that inherent slowness compared to actual tabletop gaming. Your average Living Greyhawk module is supposed to run about four hours, so I generally schedule at least six for any play on OpenRPG. Recently, many groups have moved to using Ventrilo as a supporting software, which speeds things up a little.

MUDs

Here’s one for the old school…

For those not aware, MUDs, Multi-User Dungeons, are the text-based predecessors of today’s MMOGs. Some of them, such as Aardwolf, are entirely hack and slash and killing mobs for xp and loot. Entertaining, yes, but not really roleplaying.

Despite the name, not all MUDs are dungeon crawling. However, the structure of the world is composed of separate rooms, be they a stretch of city street, a bit of the forest, or a 10′-by-10′ room with an orc guarding a pie. The one I devoted most of my time back when I had the time to devote was called FaerunMUD. It’s no longer active, after a cease and desist from Wizards of the Coast in 2001, but it did spawn a pair of spiritual successors, Rauvyon and Arantha. I deny responsibility for the Nurminen gnomes of Arantha – the name was given by a friend of mine, Lari, a fellow Finn who originally introduced me to FaerunMUD around 1999. When FaerunMUD turned into Rauvyon, we got to keep our characters, and I continued until Rauvyon went offline in 2002. It returned later. I did not.

FaerunMUD was based on the AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset and set, as one may have guessed, in the Forgotten Realms. The clunky AD&D system was quite bearable even after the release of 3rd Edition. It’s easier when the system is hidden and the computer gets to do the rolling.

On FaerunMUD, and Rauvyon after it, roleplaying was heavily enforced. Killing other player characters was allowed, but you had to write a 500-word, in-character mail to the admins about the event and its motives. It was an automated system that sent the requests whenever you attacked and killed someone in combat or with a spell, but me and Lari created a precedent by killing someone with poisoned tea. I’m slightly proud of that. Also, whenever a character levelled up past level three, the player had to write an approval text, a piece of in-character fiction going over what the character has been up to since the last level-up, and his hopes and dreams for the future. The rest of the player base would vote yes, no, or skip on the approval. If it passed (50 yes votes in a week’s time, I think), you could continue levelling. If not, you had to rewrite it and wouldn’t earn xp until you were approved.

The system is a bit harsh, looking back at it, but it did have its advantages. It was a living world, easy to immerse oneself in. It felt like the Forgotten Realms, and there were a number of cool player characters there. For one thing, there were elves who weren’t played like pointy-eared humans. There were heroes and villans and people in between, from the literally baby-eating evil of the drow Drinlith or the cold, conniving mind of the witch Nacinthe to the exemplars of law and good, Stromgren of Waterdeep and Lawrance, blind paladin of Tyr.

Ah, those were the days. This, however, brings me to one of the things I perceive as advantages of a text-based online medium over a face-to-face game.

The Pros

The first advantage, which is a purely personal thing, is that it’s easier for me to get and stay in character on a text-based medium. It’s probably partly because I’m a writer by nature – just look at the size of this entry – and a bit shy in real life. Online, it’s simpler for me to find and maintain the voice of a character with those ten seconds longer that I have to think through my word choices.

Of course, the experience is also one step detached from a face-to-face game.

The second one pertains to the poisoned cup of tea I mentioned earlier. I’ll relate you an interesting anecdote relating to the subject. It’s a stunt that Sampo Haarlaa, a Living Greyhawk module author and Triad member and the Point of Contact for our Living Forgotten Realms region, pulled a while back in a series of Living Greyhawk sessions over OpenRPG. The modules played were part of the Blight on Bright Lands plot arc, which includes a couple of the finest modules released for the campaign.

The Tale of Avrian and Gardakan

Avrian is a half-orc, a fighter and a ranger, with a grim demeanour and a knack for hitting things with his trademark halberd. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he is very cunning.

During the recent crisis in the desert domain of Bright Lands, Avrian worked for Rary, called the Traitor by some, who rules the desert and its tribes from his tower in the Brass Hills. Opposing Rary was the paladin Karistyne, backed by the archwizard Tenser, a mortal enemy of Rary’s.

For those keeping track, Rary is neutral evil while Tenser is lawful good.

Most other adventurers in the region were allied with Karistyne. Pesky do-gooders. However, the goals of Rary and Karistyne coincided – both wished to gain possession of certain powerful magical items, such as the evil scimitar Bane of Itar and the warhammer Goggorddu.

Avrian saw no reason to disclose all his allegiances when he joined a group heading into the ruins of Utaa to retrieve Bane of Itar. The party’s leader carried a powerful magic item that would whisk them and their prize magically back to their employer once it was recovered.

The ruins were dangerous, home to a variety of enemies. In the end, the heroes prevailed, and Avrian, being the physically strongest of the party, picked up the Bane of Itar, which sapped the very life force of all but the vilest of men who attempted to wield it.

Surely, it affected even Avrian, though hardly as much as he was letting on.

The artifact claimed, the group huddled together with their leader, who activated his magics and sent the party miles away back to their employer.

Except for Avrian, who had refused the magic. Teleportation spells do not work on unwilling targets.

When, hours later, the party’s leader had managed to have himself teleported back into the ruins, there was no Avrian and no Bane of Itar – only a set of footprints leading into the desert.

The rest of the party were not to be stymied by this setback, and directed their energies toward acquiring the warhammer Goggorddu. The party’s makeup was, of course, slightly changed on this next errand. Avrian wouldn’t have been accepted even had he been found. Instead, a human warrior named Gardakan, with a backpack full of javelins and a sword at his waist, joined them.

The party again set out, overcame tremendous adversity and recovered the powerful warhammer. No teleportation magics were handed out this time, and they had to make their way home by the conventional means – trekking across the desert. Goggorddu was carried by Gardakan, a physically strong individual.

On their walk home, the party was accosted by a small cavalry force loyal to Rary. Combat, naturally, ensued. Gardakan began by downing a potion. The label read “Bull’s Strength”. He also picked another bottle into his hand, and then, at the dramatically appropriate time, suddenly soared into the sky. Ten meters of height he gained, discarding his sword in the process. Then, he drew from among the javelin shafts of his backpack, a familiar-looking halberd. Finally, he removed his helmet, dispelling its illusionary magic, and shifting his form and visage into that of a familiar half-orc.

“It is I, Avrian!” he announced, before quaffing the second potion, turning invisible, and flying away with Goggorddu.

——————

The tale above is true, for the most part. I may be off on some details as I wasn’t present, but that is pretty much how it went down. It’s a masterpiece of deception, plotting, and intrigue that enhanced the game for all concerned and would’ve been quite hard, if not impossible, to pull off in a regular game.

The layers of deception are many. Avoiding the teleportation was easy – a private message to the DM saying “I’m an unwilling target.”

Pulling the wool over the party’s eyes the second time was harder. Firstly, I believe his public sign-up was done under an assumed name. The DM was, of course, mailed with the real personal details and an outline of the plot.

The character of Gardakan was announced as a human fighter, as opposed to the half-orc fighter/ranger that Avrian is. I think Gardakan was also said to be a level lower, possibly to account for his slightly decreased combat performance when not wielding the signature halberd so easily connected to Avrian. The helmet was, of course, a hat of disguise. Even the name Gardakan was carefully considered to arouse no suspicion and create the image of a casual player out just for fun.

With the potions at the end, he stated on the public channel “I drink a potion of bull’s strength and pull out a potion of cure light wounds“, while privately messaging the DM of their true natures – a potion of fly and a potion of invisiblity, respectively.

This kind of intrigue and deception is great when it works out in a roleplaying game. I should know, we played that series in the same way. In the last five adventures, not a single one went by without at least one juicy double-cross. Really, it’s one of the most fun things you can get in a roleplaying game.

While it can be accomplished in a face-to-face game, the other players will still know something is going on because you and the GM will be passing slips of paper back and forth. They can read expressions. They can choose not to use metagame knowledge, of course, but the awareness will affect their playing and they must take an extra step back from the character to think what their character would do were he ignorant that the other character is up to something.

Online, all those problems are removed. The medium does have its own shortcomings, no disagreement there, but in this one area, it is easily worth it.

Keeping Busy

Keeping busy. Work, deadlines, studying, more deadlines, gaming, trolling on the RPGA forums…

I felt I should do a short roundup of news, just to show this blog yet lives.

Last week, the second edition of Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures was officially released, in the form of the Dungeons of Dread set. The rules, in my opinion, dilute the tactical depth of the first edition in removing morale and fog of war, and instead make it a D&D Lite. Additionally, the new miniatures include some of the ugliest, most hideous things I have ever viewed. See for yourself. The ultramarine blue Grick is my favourite. They’re not all Assface, though, and a couple of them are actually pretty nifty, like the Eye of Flame. Here, our local game store came to the rescue and started selling single miniatures. I got a vrock.

In other news, the interactive Swedish tv-show Sanningen om Marika won an International Emmy for Best Interactive TV Drama. The Finnish larp organiser, game writer and who knows what else, Mike Pohjola was one of the minds behind it, and apparently got to geek out at the red carpet in Cannes. He’s going to be completely insufferable now. The former Ropecon guest of honour and Swedish larp writer Martin Eric was apparently the art director. He is also responsible for the most trippy piece of Ropecon programming I’ve witnessed. In any case, congratulations!

To me the most interesting piece of news is that after gods know how many years of blood, sweat, toil, tears, and delay after delay, the Finnish game designer Ville Vuorela finally got his science fiction roleplaying game Stalker out of the door. All 17 copies of it. Printing trouble. Then it had to be fixed some more, and edited, and as of now we still don’t know when the final printing will hit the shelves, but it is good to know that it’s finally done and we’ll get our mitts on it soon. In the meanwhile, the writer himself is recovering from antibiotics poisoning. Get well soon, man.

Finally, Fantasy Flight Games got their Dark Heresy website up and running. The corebook, sold out in a record time back in January, is marked “Coming soon…” YEAH!