What’s up in the world? Award things, larp in Palestine, Sotakarjut!

The award season is upon us!

In addition to the Diana Jones shortlist I mentioned earlier, we now also have ENnie shortlists. First of all, I would like to note that Broodmother Sky Fortress, for whose PDF version I wrote Pathfinder RPG stats, picked up one of the Judges’ Spotlight awards. I’m pretty sure the win has jack to do with the PF stats, and everything to do with Jeff Rients’s insane visions, Ian MacLean’s art, and Jim Raggi’s uncompromising attitude toward quality. So, congratulations to Jeff! It was fun to write for!

Lamentations of the Flame Princess has a strong selection of stuff up for vote. Other things to look out for are 7th Sea’s second edition rules, and Free League’s Tales from the Loop. If that one doesn’t win Best Interior Art, there’s something wrong with the world. Voting for the ENnies runs from July 11th through 21st.

Also, it’s now nine days until the voting for the Hugo Awards closes, and I need to read one book per day to make it. Doable. It’s open only for Worldcon members, but there’s still time to pick up a membership, download the voters’ packet of something ridiculous like 30 books this year and lament about how you have to eat and sleep and work and can’t just read all day and night.

In other news, Sotakarjut is finally out. It’s Miska Fredman’s military sci-fi role-playing game about human/pig hybrids with Hans Zenjuga’s gorgeous, atmospheric artwork. It’s a bit of Revelation Space, a bit of Starship Troopers, a hint of 3:16 Carnage Among the Stars, a smidge of Aliens. I playtested it a long time ago. The system is very crunchy and looks fairly robust. Of course, at this point in time, it’s only available in Finnish. Now that it’s out, the next edition of Astraterra and the wrap on its English translation are next on the slab.

And finally, a group of Palestinian larp organizers are raising funds to take their organization to the next level, develop their practices and to be able to do more. The group includes people who ran Halat hisar in Finland, and they are doing impressive and important work in an area of the world that needs it. I threw them a bit of money, and you should consider doing the same.

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.

My Play History, at the Finnish Museum of Games

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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.

My Ropecon Schedule

Finland’s premier gaming convention Ropecon is right around the corner. I’ve lately been swimming in the deep waters of Worldcon organizing and am not part of the concom this year, but I do have a number of scheduled appearances.

On Friday, at 18:00, I’ll be running the Pathfinder Society scenario Bid for Alabastrine. Here’s the blurb for that.

A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1–5. Decades ago, the merchant nation of Druma anticipated a wave of migrants and built the city Alabastrine to accommodate them. The mass migration never happened. Always seeking a return on investment, Druma recently began auctioning off control of the city to the highest bidders and wealthiest entrepreneurs for five years at a time. The next auction begins soon, and the powerful Aspis Consortium gold agent Myrosype—an enemy of the Society responsible for countless Pathfinders’ deaths—is poised to take control of the whole city for her own nefarious ends. The Society has secured a few invitations for the PCs to attend the auction. Can they disrupt the event’s delicate politics in order to stop their rival, or will the Aspis Consortium gain an unassailable stronghold?

It was assigned to me, but looks right up my alley. Intrigue and mystery that punishes players who think only with their damage dice.

What I consider as my main event for the convention is at 11:00 on Saturday morning, Game Novels Then and Now. It’s a two-hour presentation in English, about the phenomenon of the role-playing game tie-in novel, about its history, idiosyncrasies, and reasons why you should or should not read them. I’ve been reading game novels at the pace of about one per day for the past week for this.

Ropecon is home to many sorts of games. For better or for worse, these games have consequences where you can’t impact the outcome – novels. From Dungeons & Dragons to Settlers of Catan, from Magic: The Gathering to Necromunda, these novels come by the thousands. Come hear about the unpublished tales of Drizzt Do’Urden, a Warhammer novel that isn’t Warhammer, and a series that needs to be deciphered with a flow chart.

And finally, on Sunday at 11:00, I have Astraterra: An adventure RPG for all ages with Miska Fredman, who actually wrote the thing. I just translated it. This is about the game’s impending release in English, where we discuss the game, the work, and what happens next.

There’s also a list of stuff I am interested in seeing but due to scheduling conflicts, my body’s need for food and laziness will probably miss until they are posted on YouTube:

  • The release presentation of Juhana Pettersson’s role-playing game Tšernobyl, rakastettuni (Chernobyl mon amour), which I helped proofread. This is at 18:00 on Friday, same time as my game, so I will miss it.
  • At 23:00 on Friday, there’s a screening of Mike Pohjola’s heavy metal musical 1827, about the Fire of Turku. I saw it the last time it was screened at Ropecon and rather enjoyed it.
  • “So you went to work in Japan”, by Joonas Kirsi, Saturday from 12:00, overlapping my presentation. Joonas is an excellent speaker, and here he discusses what work life in Japan is really like, based on 18 months of personal experience.
  • “All the Mistakes We’ve Made”, by Massi Hannula Thorhauge, Claus Raasted, Riikka Böök, and Jukka Seppänen. This has become a traditional thing, where a bunch of larp organizers tell about a mistake that was made in running a larp, now that they can laugh about it, and what can be learned from it. This is right after my thing, so I can make it!
  • Unless, that is, I go see Tuomas Pirinen’s “Creating Chaos”, where the Games Workshop veteran discusses creating Realms of Chaos for Warhammer, and what Chaos is and how it works.
  • At 15:00 on Saturday, Jukka Sorsa talks about his new beginner RPG, Hood, based on the Robin Hood mythology. I playtested it way long ago, and I rather like it.
  • At the same time, there’s Massi again with “Solmukohta 2016 – How did it go?”, where she offers a postmortem on the Solmukohta larp conference. I was there and on the concom, so I kinda know what happened, but I am nevertheless interested.
  • Following from that, there’s Jaakko Stenros discussing the Finnish Game Museum and its role-playing game and larp exhibits. I crowdfunded the project as well as donated a load of material to the museum, so I am somewhat intrigued by how things are shaping up.
  • At 17:00 on Saturday, Juhana Pettersson talks “Blood, Sex, and Techno Music: The New Vampire Larp”, which is about the new Vampire larp by White Wolf Publishing. I played in The End of the Line back in February, and am quite interested in attending Enlightenment in Blood next year in Berlin.
  • Sunday at noon, shunted from his usual spot late on Saturday, is Esa Perkiö giving us yet another lecture on a horrible element of history and its use in games. This time, genocide. He’s a tremendously good speaker with relentlessly grim topics, and I’ve enjoyed every one of his presentations.

I may also try to play a game.

Cons Ahoy! Ropecon and ConQuesT and Tracon, Oh My!

May has begun, and the convention season is kicking off in earnest.

Next week, from Friday the 15th through Sunday the 17th is Ropecon, the eminent gaming convention in our country, now for the 22nd time. It is atypically in the spring, since our conference centre Dipoli is getting renovated into office space and we’re forced to look for new digs. (Look for an announcement at the con!) The Finnish Pathfinder Society will be out in force once again. This season’s multi-table spectacle is Legacy of the Stonelords, kicking off at noon on Saturday. I’ll also be running a table of We Be Goblins! on Sunday, but apart from that I’ve kept my schedule fairly clear. The pre-convention party coincides with my 30th birthday, too…

I’ll have a scant few days to recover from Ropecon before I must hop on a plane, and head to Kansas City, Missouri, for ConQuesT. My job there will be to represent the Helsinki 2017 Worldcon bid. Yes! I am crossing the Atlantic in order to tell America what an awesome convention we would put together! Since I am aware that many of you will probably not be coming to Kansas City just for the pleasure of hearing me bloviate, I’ll put together a larger post about this soonish.

I will also be saying hi to George R.R. Martin, who’s following me to Finland a month later for Archipelacon, June 25th – 28th. I’ve signed up to talk about something, but I’ve yet to hear back from them if they want to stick me on a panel or what. Archipelacon is unfortunately sold out, but if you’re one of the lucky ones to have scored a ticket, come and say hi.

Later in the year we’ll also have the Tampere Role-Playing and Anime Convention Tracon in early September, its spinoff gaming convention Tracon Hitpoint in late November, and of course in August, Sasquan, the Spokane Worldcon. I am as yet uncertain if I can make it there. It’s awfully far away. Am trying, though.

This looks like the rest of the year’s conventions for me, though there’s always other stuff that comes up. I’d have liked to get to ConFuse, in Sweden, but turns out I’ll be in Salzburg watching opera. Unicon in Riga, is another possibility that’s been bounced around and would also be remarkably cheap to get to.

Some New Releases of Interest, News, Conventions

It has been a while, but it is not because I’ve vanished off the face of gaming. It’s at least in part because I have been writing elsewhere. One of these elsewheres is the International Journal of Role-Playing, whose fifth issue just came out and has a couple of pages of Mika Loponen and I giving the 2012 history book Playing at the World a very critical look.

Our dynamic duo is also responsible for editing the book for released for next year’s Solmukohta (or Knutepunkt/Knutpunkt/Knudepunkt) larp conference. That rabbit hole got really deep really fast. It is traditional for the larp conference to publish one or more books for the convention. These are collections of articles about what the Nordic larp scene has been up to in the past year, ranging from academic papers to photoessays.

This year’s Knudepunkt is going to be in Denmark next month, and the first one of their two books came out recently, the Nordic Larp Yearbook 2014, which takes the concept of Nordic Larp and limits it to material just from the past year.

On the convention front, the Finnish flagship RPG convention Ropecon is moving this year from its customary late summer location to May 15th-17th, due to Dipoli’s renovations. There is no word as yet about 2016, though people are hard at work on it already. For this year, the theme of the convention is Journey, the call for programming has gone out, and Michelle Nephew has been announced as the first guest of honour!

After Ropecon, June 25th-28th, we have the science fiction convention Archipelacon, in Mariehamn. It’s a small-scale, understated affair of only about 800 guests, and like its predecessor Åcon, the guests of honour are little-known up-and-coming authors who can use the exposure, like George R.R. Martin, Johanna Sinisalo and Karin Tidbeck.

Finally, there’s going to be Tracon, September 5th-6th, which will have some gaming stuff as usual and I’ll be present, but at this point things are still up in the air so there’s nothing specific to tell.

And even more finally, there’s the one where I’ll be doing more than just talking or running games, Tracon Hit Point. We don’t know when (late 2015)! We don’t know where (Tampere)! We do know it’s going to be awesome, and there will be more information once we have managed to generate it!

New Year, New Tricks

So, that was 2013.

For Worlds in a Handful of Dice, it was not a particularly remarkable year. I managed to pen a total of mere 15 posts, mostly convention reports. The year’s main event seems to have been in February, when I reported about Laborinthus, my peculiar find in a Zurich game shop. Reddit found it and showed up in great force.

The conventions were largely the reason it was so quiet over here. Between Ropecon, Tracon, and a third non-gaming event, I had way too much on my plate and came close to a burnout in the spring. I managed to muddle through Ropecon, had fortunately very few responsibilities for Tracon, and then had another annoying load of metaphorical bricks come down on me in the autumn, leading to me blowing a number of deadlines and generally not getting a whole lot done.

The year’s gaming was mostly Pathfinder Society, which has now reached sufficient autonomy that it barely needs my intervention to continue and grow. I also ran a game of Stalker late in the year, which I thought went rather well and drew my attention to an interesting fact about the system: it is possible for the GM to keep it entirely hidden from the players if they so wish. There was additionally a session of Paranoia XP, my first since the 90’s, which I shall not talk about any further. I played some Lamentations of the Flame Princess, too, and did some Myrrysmiehet playtesting. Alongside the Pathfinder Society campaign, a friend of mine started running Curse of the Crimson Throne, which is about one session away from wrapping up the first book.

I also larped for the first time in April. I am happy with both the experience and the blog post, partly because of the excellent photography of Tuomas Puikkonen.

The gaming world at large, then?

Well, Myrrysmiehet came out with the GM book for our game Vihan lapset. My contribution was primarily editorial, and I am very happy with the game. We also released Lännen maat, a role-playing game about the Egyptian afterlife, written by Risto J. Hieta, the Father of Finnish Role-Playing. The Glorantha Association of Finland released their translation of HeroQuest, which is also a very solid piece of work. There’s also Melidian, the spiritual successor of the elfgames Rapier and Elhendi. This is the only time you will ever see me use the term “elfgame”, by the way. I make an exception for games where you explicitly play only elven player characters. Tracon also saw the release of Lohikäärmeliitto, an OSR-like curio, and late in the year, Burger Games produced the free PDF of Crimson Rovers (scroll down a bit), a game about exploring and colonizing Mars. It’s in English, by the way. There was also the usual pile of Lamentations of the Flame Princess products, such as Vincent Baker’s The Seclusium of Orphone and his charmingly titled Ropecon scenario Fuck for Satan.

Paizo ran the open playtest for the Advanced Class Guide. While I am not strictly certain of the necessity of adding yet another pile of base classes to the already teetering tower, the hybrid class system seems to be a good way to do it. It limits multiclass dipping, and some of the ideas seem fairly clever. I am not fond of the hunter being married to their pet, though.

This year, I shall endeavour to have a higher rate of actual content-to-hamsters. Thanks to being involved with the Helsinki in 2017 Worldcon bid, I will also be digressing to that side of the fandom more frequently. These Hugo Awards are utterly fascinating…

News from the North

There have been a few interesting developments in the past month or so on the fields of academia and Nordic larp.

First of all, the fourth issue of the International Journal of Role-Playing was released back in September. The issue contains five articles originally presented at the Role-Playing in Games seminar back in 2012. There will be more articles from the seminar in issues to come.

Incidentally, one of the articles from the conference, ‘Threesomes, Waterfalls, and Healing Spells: The utility of magic, fantasy, and game mechanics in erotic role-play in World of Warcraft’, saw daylight this summer as a chapter of Ashley O’Toole-Brown’s PhD thesis.

The articles in this issue range from an ethnographic study of problems in role-playing communities (or the Drama Llama Paper, as I like to think about it) through a literary analysis of rulebooks and how they affect the formation of narrative in role-playing games all the way to edu-larp. It’s a fascinating smörgåsbord of different ways to study gaming.

Also, the larp PanoptiCorp was played this past spring in Denmark. It’s a Nordic-style larp about an advertising agency that takes all the clichés about ad people and dials them up to eleven. The larp was first run in 2003, and Juhana Pettersson discussed it in a column about it back then. It is worth reading. This time, Cosmic Joke made a fifteen-minute mini-documentary about the game, apparently as a part of a larger, feature-length documentary. Here you go!

It could maybe have more Claus Raasted talking, but then, I like listening to Claus Raasted talk. He has a pleasant voice.

For the parts of the audience who read Finnish, the player Jonne Arjoranta wrote about it for LOKI.

Swedish RPG Extravaganza! Drakar och Demoner Free Online

Yeah, I’m still alive, just terribly, terribly busy. But noting that is not the purpose of this post. This post’s purpose is to note that the Swedish RPG company Riotminds has released what looks like most, if not all, of the Drakar och demoner (or “Dragons and Demons”) back catalog as free PDF downloads on their website. So, if you think that a Swedish-language fantasy game in the spirit of RuneQuest and Dungeons & Dragons might be your cup of tea, head on over. The file for the “Jih-Fun” book of Samuraj looks to be broken, though.

This is a laudable deed. The old editions are basically abandonware at this point and with a language area as small as Swedish there’s not much to be gained even by PDF sales. This kind of accessibility makes things easier for us ludologists, chroniclers and historians of games, collectors and geeks.

For the record, I have some Swedish, but the most that can be said about it is that it’s there. It’s much the same thing as with my French, really. By the way, hi there Reddit. With time, effort and a dictionary, I can make sense of things.

I also own one Drakar och demoner rulebook in hardcover (sixth edition, I believe), but have never gone to the bother of trying to decipher it. Gorgeous book, though.

Thank you, Riotminds.

D&D PDFs Are Back, and Other News

A couple of days ago, Wizards of the Coast brought D&D PDFs back on sale. They pulled them originally something like four years ago, after the decision that selling PDFs leads to PDF piracy, which equals lost sales, which can be rectified by making sure that the wealth of already-released D&D PDFs was only available illegally. No, I don’t get it, either. Indeed, the decision’s arrant stupidity made me so angry at the time I made me decide not to buy a single thing from WotC until they brought the PDFs back. This was not hard, because it was at the beginning of the 4E era and in the absence of PDFs, they didn’t really sell anything I particularly wanted to buy, either.

I may also have demanded an apology for the travesty, but I understand if that’s not forthcoming. I was pretty mad at the time.

Now they’ve finally decided to rejoin the rest of us in the 21st century. The PDFs are back at OneBookShelf, and even people who’d originally bought them got their purchases returned to their downloads, which I thought was nice. They’re now available at D&D Classics, as subset of the same webstore that operates under the titles of DriveThruRPG and RPG Now. They’re not all there yet, but it isn’t a bad selection for a start. Also, if the free B1 In Search of the Unknown they’ve got up is any indication of the quality we may look forward to, it’ll be worth the wait.

It’s a professionally-done PDF. Clean scan, quality OCR, fully copypastable. The pagination matches up and the bookmarks are all there. The text comes with some unnecessary line breaks, but I can live with that. Commendable job, all around. I can’t really fault the pricing, either. As a nice touch, most of the product pages have a product history, which are written by Shannon Appelcline and Kevin Kulp.

Like said, the selection isn’t comprehensive yet and they lack stuff like all of Dragonlance, but what’s there is the good stuff. For instance, they have one of my favourite gaming products of all time, Uncaged: Faces of Sigil, which is how NPC accessories should be done. Unfortunately, their Deities & Demigods doesn’t appear to be the original, with Cthulhu and Melnibonéan mythos. Then there’s the historical reference series, which, like most things 2E that didn’t have to do with the ruleset, are awesome. There’s The Sunless Citadel, whence comes the only lovable kobold in the history of the game, Meepo; often imitated, never bettered. Craploads of 1st-edition and basic D&D adventures, too.

So, here’s me saying something nice about WotC for the first time since December 2007, when I first playtested Dungeons & Dragons 4E.

Incidentally, WotC also sells novels as ebooks on Amazon, nowadays.

Rock’n Loud at IndieGoGo

There’s a new Finnish RPG project on IndieGoGo. It’s called Rock’n Loud, and it’s about the life of a rock band, exploring themes like power chords, drug addiction, groupies and black leather. I don’t yet have a really good feel of the content, but pledged for the PDF copy just on the merit of it being Finnish, and music being an underexplored theme in roleplaying games (the only other RPGs about musicians that I can think up now are Umlaut, Tähti and the d20 minigame published in Polyhedron, “Hi-Jinx”).

There’s not much out about the game yet, but I am optimistic.

Me, D&D Novels, on LOKI

I just started an article series on LOKI about gaming tie-in fiction. It’s in Finnish, which may not be overly helpful for most of you, but if you want, I can recommend a good self-studying package. I foresee writing quite a few followups to it. Despite the picture, I am not condemning them all, but seeking the about 100 good books that according to Sturgeon’s Law should exist underneath the mound of crap.

In other news, I spent a few days in Zurich a couple of weeks ago and picked up some fascinating gaming products in strange and foreign tongues. There will be at least one photoessay forthcoming once I can wrangle the time to do something about it.