It’s a Trap! A Deep Dive into RPGs at a Museum

As I mentioned before, the Finnish Museum of Games recently hosted a large exhibition on role-playing games. Titled “It’s a Trap! – Role-Playing Games in Finland”, it ran from October 2018 to early January 2019. I went there a lot over those three months, and on the last day, I had my trusty potato in hand and photographed the whole thing for documentation purposes.

Since I’m a crap photographer and my mobile phone’s camera isn’t all that hot either, not all of the photos were salvageable, but here are the ones where you can tell what you’re looking at.

The welcome sign. Note the unfolded icosahedron.

The floor was laid out as a classic dungeon map.

Explanations of the floor were provided to minimise casualties.

The information plaques organized, on the lines of BECMI, into Basic, Companion, and Expert levels. Note also the wardrobe with wizard robes, elven cloaks and witches’ hats.

A closer look.

A look through the door of the main exhibition space.

The original D&D booklets donated to Ropecon by Frank Mentzer back in 2011.

A bit on history. The chest was used for an escape room game played at the museum after business hours.

It’s a hefty chest.

In the summer of 2018, a Tampere gaming group wrapped up their D&D campaign. Then they stood up, took a step back, and photographed the table as it lay. It was then recreated in the museum. It’s hanging on the wall, by the way. Also, those pizza slices kept falling off.

A map on the wall, from the pen of Miska Fredman.

The paraphernalia showcase. There’s a Cthulhu statuette from someone’s home campaign, Alter Ego’s songbook with the nerdiest lyrics, and a hardcover print edition of a World’s Largest Dungeon campaign log, among other things.

On role-playing games as a creative inspiration.

As is only right, the space was dominated by a large gaming table. There were blank character sheets for a number of games, dice, and pencils available. I did witness a couple of games played at it.

A small library cart with a selection of games to peruse and play.

Design notes and campaign notes for the games Rapier and Tähti, and from the archives of Myrrysmiehet.

A showcase of D-oom Products and Aulos, a card-based storygame by Karoliina Korppoo.

History begins here. On top left, Nousius is an obscure fantasy game, ANKH features early Petri Hiltunen artwork and was available everywhere, and on bottom left, we have Dada Publishing’s adventures that are nowadays available as free PDFs.

On the right, we have the character-naming sourcebook Mikä hahmolle nimeksi?, the RPG about nonmilitary service Syvä uni (vaiko painajainen?), Malnoth, the system-agnostic fantasy setting Sateenkaarten kaupunki, the Biblical fantasy RPGs Kuninkaiden aika and Anno Domini 50, as well as the youth-education game Steissin yö.

The other half of that wall. You can almost see on the far left panel the mid-90s, Hiljaisuuden vangit, an alt-historical RPG about resistance fighters in a totalitarian Finland after Germany won WW2, and THOGS.

On the middle panel we have the late 00’s and early 10’s, and the system-agnostic Somalia sourcebook Punaiset hiekat, Chernobyl mon amour, the penguin game Valley of Eternity, Vihan lapset, Hood, and Strike Force Viper.

On the nearmost panel we come to the present day, with games like Pyöreän pöydän ritarit, various OSR publications, the Slavic fantasy Noitahovi, and a couple of Pathfinder adventures from the pen of Mikko Kallio.

There were also various character sheets on display from across the ages.

The Risto J. Hieta showcase. He designed the first Finnish RPGs and is still active, nowadays almost averaging one game per year.

More games!

Going through this shelf by shelf, on top here we have Zombie Cinema in its VHS box and the pirate card game Hounds of the Sea. On the lower shelf there’s Bengalia, an educational RPG about developing countries.

A selection of books from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, such as the first printing of Death Frost Doom.

The Praedor shelf. Praedor is one of the few role-playing games in Finnish that actually has product support.

The other games from Ville Vuorela. There’s Stalker, the musketeer game Miekkamies, the postapocalyptic Taiga, and Mobsters. In the back you can see other editions of Stalker, Praedor, and Taiga.

On the left, Miska Fredman’s work, such as Astraterra, Sotakarjut, Generian legendat, and Heimot. On the right, Mike Pohjola’s stuff such as Tähti, Star Wreck, and Myrskyn sankarit. It’s annoyingly not really visible here, but there are two English editions of Myrskyn sankarit present, the abortive Heroes of the Storm that ran into a trademark issue with Activision-Blizzard, and The Age of the Tempest that you can actually buy.

RPG translations were big in the late 80s and early 90s. Here we have Paranoia, Cyberpunk 2020, and Twilight: 2000. There were also some Finnish originals published for T2K.

Mechwarrior, Shadowrun, Traveller 2300 AD, and Macho Women with Guns in the immensely grotty-looking Finnish edition.

RuneQuest was big in Finland. Like, D&D big. Even bigger.

RuneQuest still has a devout fanbase over here that puts out the occasional fanzine, translation, or sourcebook.

On the left, MERP and Rolemaster. On the right, Stormbringer, Primetime Adventures, Call of Cthulhu, City of Itra, and Unelma Keltaisesta kuninkaasta, a collection of Danish scenarios.

BECMI. Well, we never got Immortals. Apart from RuneQuest, that red box was one of the big gateway drugs. The translation is infamous.

A word on moral panics and corrupting the youth.

Early gaming magazines and role-playing articles and columns from other magazines, such as Risto J. Hieta’s column “Peliluola” from the PC mag MikroBitti.

The Conan magazine was an early source of information for role-players in the 80s. Also here are a few of the print catalogues of the Fantasiapelit game store chain.

Some more gaming magazines. Magus ran for 50 issues and is the longest-lived Finnish role-playing magazine.

Roolipelaaja is the latest attempt, folding after a few beautiful years. If I still have readers from that long ago, I was a contributor for the latter half of the magazine’s run.

When the writer makes a reference to a classic Finnish rock song, the translator has no recourse but to make an obtuse nod toward Philip Roth and beat a hasty retreat. This is about character sheets.

There’s a lot of gamers out there. We don’t know how many, but it’s, like, a lot.

A map from Jim Raggi’s home campaign that he drew back in the mid-1990s. Wonder that he still had it after all those moves.

The wall of faces. Game designers, con runners, publishers, store managers, translators, and just gamers.

The rest of the wall. Because of reasons, the bottom right-hand corner picture is at the time of writing in a large (these are A2 portraits) IKEA bag in my living room.

There was also an explanatory booklet for the portrait wall. Juhana is top middle in the first picture, if you’re curious. The other page visible is not Juhana’s, but the second page of Jori-Minna Hiltula’s entry. They’re to the left of Juhana.

There was also interactive multimedia. The other monitor had a selection of 90s TV clips about RPGs, while the other one had a display of character sheets collected at Ropecon in 2017.

And that’s all, folks. We’ll see when we can get an exhibition done on larp.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s