The traditional New Year’s post follows.
2012 was an interesting year to be a gamer, at least from my point of view. My personal list of most interesting things from last year:
Finnish Games Released in English
Not one but two Finnish role-playing games saw their release in English. The first one, translated by yours truly, was Burger Games’ Stalker. It combines an elegant diceless system with a setting packed with a remarkable amount of Soviet dystopianism, considering it’s set in present-day France. I’ve yet to see a negative review online and I’m not sure I’ve yet seen one that didn’t give it top score. Had I been asked to pick one Finnish RPG to see release in English, this would’ve been it, even before I got contracted to translate it.
The second one, which looked like vapourware for the longest time, is Valley of Eternity from Vagrant Workshop, a game about heroic penguins and mystical antipenguins fighting for survival in the harsh Antarctic, inspired by spaghetti westerns an Conan the Barbarian. It’s a weird game, but it takes itself seriously and manages to carry it off, keeping its themes of heroism and tragedy to the end. The rules are lightweight and pretty traditional. Here’s my review.
PhD in RPGs
It was also a fascinating year for those of us who pay attention to the academic side of things. The University of Tampere has been a hotbed for that this year. First of all, the Hypermedia Lab hosted the Role-Playing in Games seminar in the spring. I was fortunate to attend and though to my knowledge – and I’ll admit I haven’t been paying as close attention as I should – none of the papers presented have yet seen publication, some of them will eventually make it to the International Journal of Role-Playing.
Incidentally, its third issue was released just on New Year’s Eve, making it also 2012’s news. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read it, but there’s one article by Karl Bergström, “Creativity Rules. How rules impact player creativity in three tabletop role-playing games” that focuses on D&D 3.5, Pathfinder RPG, FATE and World of Darkness, and looks very interesting.
The main event of the year, though, were the PhD defences of Markus Montola and J. Tuomas Harviainen in the autumn. Despite being highly theoretical and academic, they are surprisingly accessible to a layperson (Montola’s probably more than Harviainen’s), and I recommend taking a look.
D&D Next Announced
Well, that happened. I still haven’t had the opportunity to play it, but I’m not going to deny being mildly interested.
Promotion to Venture-Captain
This also happened. Last May, I got an e-mail from Mike Brock, the Pathfinder Society campaign coordinator, asking why am I not volunteering as a Venture-Captain already. My explanations were brushed aside and I was given a load of PDFs and four bright red polo shirts, and have been coordinating Pathfinder Society in Finland with my trusty Venture-Lieutenant Jussi Leinonen ever since. We had a “state of the nation” post up on Paizo.com last month, and play numbers are at an all-time high.
The campaign is now well into its fourth season, and developing in interesting ways. With the newest batch of scenarios, player actions will have an effect on the storyline, and there’s a promise of more on the way. Exciting times. The scenario quality has also taken a jump since the early days and I haven’t found a single stinker in the third or fourth seasons.
Kickstarter and IndieGoGo look like they’ve changed the game for good on how RPGs can be published. Mike Pohjola’s Myrskyn sankarit, Jim Raggi’s enormous crowdfunding efforts, Hillfolk, Pathfinder Online, Reaper Miniatures’ Bones project, the list goes on. I’ve received a pile of fascinating games that I otherwise might not have found or might not even have been made through crowdfunding services. Incidentally, the second kickstarter for Pathfinder Online is still running. Regardless of one’s interest in the MMO (I’ve already given my soul to World of Warcraft), one should note that as a side offering, they’re producing The Emerald Spire, a megadungeon with levels written by such esteemed authors as Erik Mona, James Jacobs, Frank Mentzer and Mark Rein·Hagen. MMOs come and go, but books like that are seldom seen.
I find myself in the same position I did a year ago. There are few things in the pipeline that I’m really excited about at this time, but I expect that such things will roll around in due time. . The industry seems to be doing pretty well, and I know that cool stuff will pop up sooner or later. There is, of course, the Vihan lapset project from Myrrysmiehet, the promise of another doctoral dissertation on RPGs, a Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG. Then, of course, there’s Ropecon 2013, the 20th of its name, which ought to be good. Awesome, in fact. There’s also a Tracon coming up in the late summer, where I’m serving as a RPG consultant.
So, let’s see what the year will bring.