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 Come hear about the unpublished tales of Drizzt Do’Urden, a Warhammer novel that isn’t Warhammer, and a series that needs to be deciphered with a flow chart.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.

Ropecon 2015: End of an Era

Last month, from 15th through 17th of May, was Ropecon 2015. This is not the usual time for Ropecon, but our venerable venue Dipoli went under renovations after the con. It will be turned from a conference centre into offices. Ropecon 2015 was the last convention ever held in what used to be the best conference centre in the Nordic countries.

It was our 18th time at Dipoli, and my 19th Ropecon. My schedule was light, since my main things were judging the scenario competition, which was done before the convention, and organizing Pathfinder Society, which was done way before the convention. I also had one scheduled game, but for some reason I’d put it in the Sunday morning death slot, when everybody wants to sleep late. This time even moreso, since the preceding evening was the Last Night in Dipoli. There were a lot of sunrise shots from the beach on my Facebook feed in the morning.

Me, I spent most of the convention catching up with friends, watching some panels, and on Sunday, taking a lot of photos on my mobile and putting them on Facebook, reminiscing about the good times and bad jokes we’ve had in that building. They say it was designed by the Great Cthulhu, and that there are no straight angles in the building (false, the upstairs rooms 21-26 are all rectangular). It’s an architectural masterwork by Reima & Raija Pietilä.

In eighteen years, Ropecon has had time to grow into the shape of the venue. Next year we’re at the Helsinki Fair Centre, same place we’re trying to get the Worldcon. We’ll see how that goes.

Here, then, some memories of Ropecon.

Room 25

Room 26

Here’s Room 26, one of the upstairs rooms, the second-largest of our program rooms. There are five of them, and numbers 25 and 26 are big enough to be used for lectures. The rest are gaming rooms. Room 25 was also where I first took the stage and talked into a microphone at Ropecon. That was back in 2007, when my first book Roolipelikirja was released. It was co-written with Kaj Sotala. Heidi Westerlund (Säynevirta, as of last month) interviewed, Jaakko Stenros (PhD, as of last month) tore us a new one in his review in Roolipelaaja. I would surmise people have come upon the scene in less controversial ways, but I persisted, started writing for Roolipelaaja myself, and today count all the people involved good friends.

Room 22

Room 22

There’s a weirdass loft in Room 22. I do not know what its original purpose was. The ceiling is too low for you to be able to comfortably stand up there, the stairs are very narrow, and it’s actually fairly small. One year, I think around 2010, some kids locked themselves inside to get drunk and scribble on the walls. We were not amused.

Room 22 was used for a variety of purposes. At one point, it was occupied by Arkenstone Publishing. Then it was used as the game demo area for playtesting and new releases. A year or two into my tenure as the Master of Game Masters, it was turned over to tabletop role-players, and stayed as a gaming room until the end.

James Edward Raggi IV, at Kaubamaja

James Edward Raggi IV, at Kaubamaja

Continuing down the 20’s corridor, you eventually come to Hall 4. Hall 4 has also had a variety of functions. Originally, when the con came to Dipoli, it housed Kaubamaja, or the Dealers Room as it would be known anywhere else (I can only assume the Estonian name for a shopping mall was used because of a mid-90s ad campaign for a Tallinn shopping centre that ran on Finnish TV, and then it stuck, like so many other in-jokes).

Here, we see Jim Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, proudly flying the banner of the OSR.

The chaos of Kaubamaja

The chaos of Kaubamaja

Kaubamaja, as you can see, has always been cramped. There’s small-press game designers, one or two larger game stores, some booksellers, and crafts people. Prominently visible here, at the back of the room, is the booth of the t-shirt vendor Genrewear, who’s also the traditional supplier of the convention’s t-shirts.

Hall 3

Hall 3

Here’s Hall 3, moving out of Kaubamaja and towards the stairs. Hall 3 used to host the card games before they moved outside Dipoli to the student restaurant Täffä a couple of years back.

Hall 2

Hall 2

Hall 2, home of the miniature games. They’re one of the few constants, and occupied this place the entire 18 years we were here. This is actually where I started. As a wee lad of 12, at my second Ropecon ever, I showed up with a backpack full of badly painted orcs and goblins to get my ass kicked at the Warhammer tournament. It was a ritual that was to be repeated a couple of times over the next few years, until I had to face the facts: I’m utter crap at Warhammer. At least my painting improved over time. Just this spring, I dusted off my army and took on a friend’s dwarves, resulting in a full rout of my army in about three rounds.

In 2004, I happened to wander into a Living Greyhawk game session run by this Sampo Haarlaa guy, and I am still on that path.

Con's vendor table.

Con’s vendor table.

This is the convention’s own vendor table, located in the great stairway from the Festival Lobby. This is where they sell the con’s t-shirts, pencils, embroidered patches, badges, dice… Back when I started in the concom, the RPG signup sheets were placed here, where they’d been since 2006 or thereabouts, moved there from beyond the info desk to make way for… this vendor table.

Yes, that is an Iron Throne made out of boffer swords. It was used for the Game of Thrones burlesque. No, I do not have photos of that.

Larp desk.

Larp desk.

Larp desk, just down a short flight of stairs from the vendor table. In my time, 2009-2012, the larp and RPG desks worked in unison here, but the first thing that my follower Patrik Renholm did was move both the RPG desk and the signup sheets into the Takka/Poli/Palaver corridor. The noble profile at the centre is Atte Iiskola, former LARP admin and one of the team that’s kept the desk running for far longer than I’ve been around.

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RPG desk

And here’s the RPG desk, my former bailiwick, in the Takka/Poli/Palaver corridor, so named after the three large gaming rooms it leads to. The desk is now run by Arttu Hanska, who took it up two years after me and is apparently continuing next year. He is not in the picture – the suspicious leers from behind the desk are those of his henchmen, tech students of distant lappeen Ranta.

The Takka/Poli/Palaver hallway

The Takka/Poli/Palaver hallway

The hallway itself. Stairs go up to Luolamies (Caveman. That’s the actual name of the room, not something we came up with.). Way at the back, you can see the door to Takka, which has been the domain of organized play campaigns since 2005. First there was Living Greyhawk, which was replaced by Pathfinder Society. The dude waving at the camera is Janne, one of our GMs.

Palaver

Palaver

Charlie Don’t Surf, played in Palaver. This is one amazing campaign. Eero Juhola has been running it at Ropecon for 20 years. It’s a tactical RPG about the Vietnam War. Amusingly, due to the earlier date of Ropecon this year, the campaign’s current duration is very close to that of the actual Vietnam War. The system they’re using is some kind of unholy mixture of Phoenix Command, Twilight: 2000 and loads of loads of homebrewed material. It’s very realistic and very lethal. I’ve never taken part. Should, one of these years. Originally, Charlie’s home in Dipoli was the Cone Room, off Cone Lobby, but it was driven from there to upstairs Room 23 by the first-aid centre. The first-aid centre was then moved to an office next to the Cantina door a couple of years back. I am not actually sure what the Cone Room has been used for these past few years. Children’s activities, possibly.

Takka

Takka

We come to my domain, Takka (fireplace room). Currently in progress is the seven-table convention special Legacy of the Stonelords for Pathfinder Society, watched over by Overseer GM Atte Kiljunen. The black-clad gentleman at the centre, facing to the right, is my colleague Aleksandrs Zdancuks, the Pathfinder Society Venture-Captain for Latvia. The GM at the table, with his back to us, is the Espoo Venture-Lieutenant Mikko Rekola. The green shirt on the left is the Oulu Venture-Lieutenant Markus Hyytinen.

Takka has been the home of organized play campaigns at Ropecon since 2005, when Sampo Haarlaa managed to gather together enough GMs for Living Greyhawk that it was easier for the Master of Game Masters at the time to just point us a pile of tables and tell us to schedule our stuff by ourselves. This year, Arttu Hanska stopped counting tables and just gave us the whole room.

Pathfinder Society memorial wall

Pathfinder Society memorial wall

The chronicle of the slain as it stood at the end of the con. For a convention that scheduled three sessions of the Bonekeep meat grinder scenarios and a multi-table special, pretty decent. Most were, of course, raised.

Luolamies

Luolamies

Leaving Takka and going up those stairs we saw earlier, we come to Luolamies. Back when we moved into Dipoli, Luolamies was unavailable to us. Then, for some reason or other, it was opened up one year and Kaubamaja promptly moved in. In 2013, the card and board games shuffled around a bit, relinquishing Hall 4 for Kaubamaja, and tabletop role-playing games got Luolamies as their big, open gaming area. Previously, this had been in the Cone Lobby, but those tables were now entirely occupied by the new Experience Point, an expansion of the demo room idea, that now runs the scenario contest, short introductory games of different types, and playtest stuff.

The name Luolamies, Caveman, comes from a secret student society (think Skull and Bones except less wanky) that apparently occupied the room for a time. Dipoli is in the campus of the Helsinki University of Technology (actually located in Espoo and nowadays part of the Aalto University of How Not to Reorganize Higher Education), and the tech students are very big on their own brand of student culture, which is steeped in tradition. Also, vodka.

The Info Desk

The Info Desk

The Info Desk, located in the Cone Lobby. This is the nerve centre of Ropecon, open around the clock, staffed mostly by experienced, senior conrunners. Visible behind the desk are, among others, former Ropecon chair Jouni Sirén and one of next year’s chairs, Tuukka Jakola. Behind the Info Desk is the actual Dipoli information office, whence conrunners may summon Dipoli’s employees to open doors they don’t have keys for and commit other deeds that as mere customers we’re not allowed to do.

The two gentlemen on the left behind the desk are wearing blue vests, marking them as Troubleshooters, or convention security. According to the law and the police department, we need to have a certain amount of licensed security people on staff. This requirement is wildly out of proportion for Ropecon, which averages about one security incident per year.

The Business Centre

The Business Centre

The Treasurer dwells in the Business Centre. It’s an office opposite the Info Desk. We’d been in Dipoli for 14 years by the time we found out about it, and it’s not visible on any public floorplans of the place. We’re pretty sure that the non-Euclidean geometry of the building gave spontaneous birth to the room.

The Cone Hall

The Cone Hall

The Cone Hall, now home to the Experience Point, before that for the longest time occupied by tabletop role-playing games. This is where I played my first convention game in 2004. It was the Living Greyhawk module NAE4-01 The Living and the Dead, by Juha-Pekka Saarinen. The GM was Sampo Haarlaa, later member of the Principality of Naerie Triad and eventually Point of Contact for the Dalelands Triad in the short-lived Living Forgotten Realms campaign.

The storeroom

The storeroom

The storeroom, where we put all the stuff we need during the convention so they’re out of the way and nobody will steal them. Also in the picture is Logistics admin Juha Sihvonen.

The backroom

The backroom

The backroom is a refuge for the convention’s staff. This is one of the two places where missing staff should be looked for. It is also a place of utterly terrible jokes and coffee. Also a good place to follow the Troubleshooter radio traffic during the graveyard shift, when everyone is tired, not much is happening, and they start making their own amusement. There used to be a count of how many times boobs are mentioned during the night, but the practice has since been discontinued, for obvious reasons.

Keltsu

Keltsu

The other place to go looking for missing staff, affectionately called Keltsu, after Kaljakellari (Beer Cellar), a name the restaurant has not had in the entire time we were at Dipoli. It’s been known as Cantina since at least the mid-90s. They serve beer that’s not exactly cheap, pizza slices that aren’t exactly good, and also actual food off an actual menu. Keltsu is where you go have deep conversations about the nature of role-playing games, catch up with friends, and relieve stress. Indeed, some veterans of Ropecon do not actually buy a ticket anymore, they just show up at the Keltsu terrace and hold court there for the whole con! Sadly, this practice will also have to be discontinued.

The Auditorium

The Auditorium

The Auditorium, here between program items. We like to clear out the room for a couple of minutes so the AC has time to work. That’s not so much an issue in May, but in our usual time slot at the height of summer, hot rooms full of people have led to people fainting. In 2011, I moderated an adventure-writing panel here with Frank Mentzer, Erik Mona and James Edward Raggi IV. The next year I returned with the Alternate History panel (video in Finnish). I moderated the panel, featuring Minna Heimola, Teemu Korpijärvi, Joonas Katko, Mikko Heimola, and Hannu Kauppila. The Auditorium is Dipoli’s biggest room for speech program, and it’s also where all of the guest of honour speeches are.

Klondyke

Klondyke

The Klondyke room, here featuring Sami Koponen talking about how the gaming scene needs YOU! Klondyke is the third-largest program room in Dipoli. Last year, I did the Guns, Germs, and Tea panel (video in Finnish) on the British Empire with Joonas Katko and Teemu Korpijärvi here.

Helsinki in 2017 bid table

Helsinki in 2017 bid table

The Helsinki in 2017 Worldcon bid was also represented at Ropecon. On the right, former Ropecon chair Mika Loponen.

The Cone Door

The Cone Door

You’ve probably been wondering about the Cone that keeps popping up in those location names. It’s this thing. If you push a button, it will open and close, and it’s lit up at night. The Cone Door is one of the three doors of Dipoli and the only one that isn’t open during the convention. It’s only used for logistics, since it’s the one closest to the storage room and it’s relatively easy to get a van there.

The closing ceremony

The closing ceremony

And here, an exceptionally poor shot of the closing ceremony, hosted by Ines Lukkanen and Aarne Saarinen. Those are space whales, up there. Space whales are cool.

So, there it is, my chronicle of Ropecon. It was a very relaxed convention this year, at least for me. I had the time I needed to catch up with friends and say properly goodbye to the place we’d called home for eighteen years. Next year will be very different. I am confident that it will still be a good convention, since at the heart of the convention are the people, not the venue, but things will change. The Fair Centre’s sensible architecture cannot hope to capture the wild and weird spirit of Dipoli.

Ropecon is the only place where I can wear a goblin.

Ropecon is the only place where I can wear a goblin.

It has been fun.

To end this overlong photoessay, here are the first things that the documentation team has managed to get edited and released from this year’s convention: the post-con interviews of our guests of honour Michelle Nephew & John Nephew and Jason Morningstar & Steven Segedy, as well as Jason Morningstar’s lecture on GMless design and play.

Ropecon 2014 – The Same Old Song and Dance

Last weekend’s convention, with a fortnight of breathing space (yeah right) after Finncon, was Ropecon, 21st of its name.

This year, I’d taken on a lighter slate of duties, refusing a con committee position in favour of focusing on Pathfinder Society. In practice, this resulted in organizing and supervising a 34-table slate of Pathfinder Society games, including overseeing an eight-table Siege of the Diamond City special, and participating in two different presentations. I was still less busy than during my con com years, though.

The kill list of the weekend's Pathfinder Society games. Photo by Jukka Särkijärvi.

The kill list of the weekend’s Pathfinder Society games. Photo by Jukka Särkijärvi.

Friday was the busiest part of the con for me. I had to get the Pathfinder Society games going with seven GMs starting in the beginning slot, do both my presentations and in general get attuned to the convention.

The first part of that was the easiest, really. The GM desk, under the leadership of Arttu Hanska, was helpful and energetic in a way that I can only hope it was under my management, and made its new placement in the Takka-Poli-Palaver corridor work. Had to do some wrangling and one game started late, but all the first-slot games eventually went off, all the GMs got their paperwork in order and I could head off to do some final planning for my first presentation.

Well, I say my, but in reality, there were three of us. Along with Teemu Korpijärvi and Joonas Katko, we had a 105-minute talk about the British Empire, its reasons and history, and how those elements might be adapted for use in roleplaying games, titled “Guns, Germs and Tea”. Teemu talked about exploration and seafaring, Joonas talked about warfare and famous battles, while I discussed colonialism on the ground and how “the evil empire” is really a tautological phrase. It apparently went rather well, we got a lot of positive feedback, and it should be up on YouTube at some point for you to enjoy and me to curse every pause and “um” that I mumbled into the mike. Here’s a link to our slides. They’re in Finnish, but the bibliographies at the end should be useful for everyone.

Following on the heels of the British Empire, there was our presentation about the next really evil empire poised to dominate land and sea, Myrrys.

Myrrys

So, last year I started working with the small Finnish game publisher Myrrysmiehet. Myrrysmiehet is the outfit behind such games as the pirate-themed storygame Hounds of the Sea, the concept games LGDS and Swords of Freedom, last year’s Lands of the West (Lännen maat, written by Risto Hieta) about the Egyptian afterlife, and the most recent and ambitious project, Children of Wrath (Vihan lapset), a bleak, dystopian science fiction RPG about a world taken over by totalitarian aliens, who keep the population illiterate and easily controlled. It runs on the Flow system used by Stalker. This year we also released another one of Risto Hieta’s games, The Agents of Mars (Marsin agentit). In addition to myself, the Myrrysmiehet were Ville Takanen and Jukka Sorsa.

Then there was this another Finnish small game publisher, Ironspine, comprising the gentlemen Miska Fredman and Samuli Ahokas. They are responsible for making such games as the space opera Heimot, the occult action game ENOC – Operation Eisenberg, and the fantasy parody Legends of Generia. Most recently, they produced the frankly gorgeous family RPG Astraterra that got everything it asked for and more in its recent IndieGoGo and is, in my view, the prettiest role-playing game product to have been released in Finland.

There’s also this third outfit called Ironswine, guilty of The Fly (Kärpänen) and most recently the most awesome RPG in the history of awesome RPGs, Strike Force Viper. It’s a postapocalyptic action RPG set fifteen years in the future, after the Fourth World War, in 1999. The relationship between Myrrys and Ironswine is hard to define and slightly embarrassing for all concerned, so I’m not going into that right now.

Anyway, it so happened that the gentlemen of Myrrysmiehet and Ironspine alike took a weekend retreat to brainstorm games and playtest new material last winter, and the idea was floated that we should merge.

No, not like that, you perverts.

The idea was deemed to have merit, and looked good even once we’d sobered up. Our philosophies in game design are similar, there was a history of cooperation, and surely five guys can get more done than two or three. We then spent a while drafting plans and talking a lot, and made the final announcement at Ropecon.

Purveyors of fine role-playing games and terrible humour.

We also discussed our upcoming products. We have plans to release everything in both English and Finnish, starting with the Astraterra English translation which I’m raring to get my hands on and should be out in time for December. Also upcoming is Robin Hood, another family RPG, which is another short-term goal. There’s also a bunch of long-term projects whose priorities are subject to change as whim and mood takes us, but among those are Ville’s deckdrafting card game The War which is beautiful and atmospheric and has solid mechanics and just needs a crapload of playtesting so that the damn Conclave stops winning all the damn time, the second edition of ENOC which Jukka Sorsa and I are provisionally focusing on once Robin Hood is done.

There’s also those Ironswine dudes who are kinda suspicious and I really don’t trust, but they’ve got a game called Sotakarjut that I’m really, really tempted to translate as War Pigs, and Strike Force Viper, which has been pegged for further development.

More information forthcoming as stuff gets done. Once we have something to sell in English, we’ll be opening a DriveThruRPG storefront.

The Rest of the Convention

The last of my real duties at the convention was overseeing the Siege of the Diamond City Pathfinder Society special scenario, which we ran for eight tables. The job of the overseer GM in a special is easier than it sounds – it is just about keeping track of time, calling act breaks as they occur, and tallying results as they come in. It did require me to stay in the game room for the whole of the third act, though, which was slightly inconvenient and I must remember to draft myself an assistant GM for next time. The sweltering heat, associated requisite fluid intake and the resulting bathroom logistics were a thing. Fortunately, at least I had the foresight to request a microphone. Last year’s module had me shouting myself hoarse.

Siege of the Diamond City in full swing. Photo by Jukka Särkijärvi.

Siege of the Diamond City in full swing. Photo by Jukka Särkijärvi.

I must say, I thought the scenario went quite well. In my view, it is thus far the best of the multi-table specials released for the campaign, featuring interactivity between tables and level ranges, a suitably epic plot, and a chance for every table to affect the outcome. As it stood, the valiant and resolute Pathfinders emerged overwhelmingly victorious against the demonic horde.

Well, I thought that was the last of my duties. Remember that Finncon report from two weeks ago? The one with the dancing? Well, the editor of Conteksti, the Ropecon conzine, was in the audience, and decided to do a comic strip. The strip, for those of you unable to read the lines of anyone except Jim Raggi, features a bunch of Finnish game designers and publishers discussing the state of the horse, interrupted by the appearance of an Astraterra crowdfunding backer benefit of a flying galleon and my song and dance show.

Note: This is not an actual Astraterra backer benefit, nor will it be.

After it was printed, there was only one way things could end. I expect the video of the closing ceremony will be out around a year from now. That is the length of my reprieve.

All in all, I deem it a very successful Ropecon (as does the treasurer – at 3,933 visitors, we fell 13 short of breaking the record). I had fun. I met all the old friends I never see anywhere else. I got some books. I even had time to play games. I got my ass kicked in a sumo suit.

Me in a sumo suit, during a rare upright moment. Photo by Peksu Järvinen.

Me in a sumo suit, during a rare upright moment. Photo by Peksu Järvinen.

However, as all good things, it had to come to an end, and as ended Ropecon 2014, so ended the convention’s time at Dipoli. Probably. The Dipoli conference centre, famously described by guest of honour Jonathan Tweet as a building designed by Cthulhu, has been the home of Ropecon for over fifteen years. The convention has taken on the shape of its venue, and the surrounding businesses have adjusted themselves to accommodate us and profit from our presence. Seriously, the grocery store next to Dipoli has a clause about working nights solely because during Ropecon, they’re open around the clock.

And now, they’re renovating it. The renovations will begin sometime next year and will likely take it off our hands for the next two years. After that, we are not sure if the venue is still suitable for our needs or if changes will be wrought. It is time to look for a new home. We do not yet know where it will be, but we do know that it will be somewhere. Ropecon will happen in 2015, and 2016, and all the years to come.

And now for a smattering of links.

What I did not have time to do was talk a lot with the guests of honour, Privateer Press’s Jason Soles and Luke Crane, he of Burning Wheel and other roleplaying games. Fortunately, for that purpose we had interviewers and intrepid cameramen. The GoH interviews were the very first things from this year’s convention to be edited and uploaded to our YouTube channel. The noise in the background is the convention’s afterparty.

 

My Ropecon Schedule

Ropecon is starting this Friday. I have a few program items that I hope I’ll be able to talk my way through coherently despite the sweltering heat.

On Friday, apart from puttering around the Pathfinder Society gaming area (in Takka, same as previous years):

  • 18:00 – 20:00, Klondyke: Along with Teemu Korpijärvi and Joonas Katko, I’ll be talking about the history of the British Empire from one Elizabeth to the other, how the Empire came to be, what happened to it and how all its myriad wars and crimes are excellent fodder for role-playing games.
  • 22:00 – 23:30, Room 26: With Ville Takanen, Miska Fredman, Samuli Ahokas and Jukka Sorsa, we will be discussing the present and future of our two gaming companies, Myrrysmiehet Oy and Ironspine, our games (especially the new Ironspine release Astraterra, which is absolutely great) and our future releases.

Additionally, I am doing the usual Pathfinder Society thing, helping games run smoothly and overseeing Saturday’s seven tables of Siege of the Diamond City, a game for up to 42 players. Overall, we have 34 tables of Pathfinder Society at Ropecon this year, mostly Season Five scenarios.

Apart from that, I may be reached either behind our sales table in Kaubamaja, hawking our wares, or in Cantina, enjoying a large pint of refreshing beer. There’s also a non-zero chance I will try and catch a program item I’m not participating in, such as one of the following:

  • Saturday 11:00 – 13:00, Auditorium: Our guest of honour Luke Crane expounds on the topic “How to write one to two books a year and not die”. This is relevant to my interests.
  • Saturday 20:00 – 22:00, Auditorium: Esa Perkiö, one of the most gifted lecturers we have at the convention, talks about yet another fascinating phenomenon of our world and how it may be applied to games. This time, slavery.
  • Sunday 10:00 – 12:00, Auditorium: If I’m awake at this ungodly hour, there’s Joonas Kirsi discussing the historical court intrigues of Japan. The reason he talking at this ungodly hour is that he’s good enough to be worth it.

See you there!

Ropecon 2012, Saturday and Sunday—36-Man Game Sessions and Heavy Metal Musicals

As stated, Ropecon Saturday was a far better day than Friday. Most of my critical duties had been discharged, so I could kick back a bit and actually enjoy the convention.

The biggest thing for me on Saturday was probably Blood Under Absalom, the 30-player Pathfinder Society event. It’s a feature peculiar to organized play campaigns, these big convention events with many tables running a single game session simultaneously. We had five table GMs and the overseer GM, Stefan, and the tables were packed. I think we could’ve accommodated one more table GM, at least. Something to consider for next year. Unfortunately, I had other duties and could not participate, but I popped in now and then to see what was up. Only three character deaths in the entire session, for some reason. They, at least, were some of the high-level Tampere characters who occasionally need to be reminded of their mortality. They all got raised, of course.

My view on PC death in organized play campaigns is that 1st-level characters are cheap and especially the iconic pregenerated characters, Valeros, Merisiel, Kyra and Ezren, are utterly expendable and even the softest GM has no need to play nice with them. First-time players are an exception and especially inexperienced ones probably shouldn’t be slaughtered in the first encounter, but nobody should be immune.

Personally, I netted 15 permanent PC kills in my first month as Venture-Captain, all levels 1-3, including two TPKs. I swear I did not do it on purpose.

In the evening, I moderated a panel on alternate histories. I am still not sure if it was good or not, but I hope people were entertained. I only knew two of the five panelists personally, and it turned out rather more academic than I anticipated. I know it was recorded and it will make an appearance on YouTube at some point in the indeterminate future, so we can see if it’s actually coherent.

After the panel, the auditorium was taken over by 1827 – The Infernal Musical. It was a heavy metal musical that ran in a theatre in Turku last year to packed audiences, and we were treated to a DVD recording on a big screen, telling the tale of the Great Fire of  Turku. The musical uses classic metal and hard rock songs instead of original compositions (well, there are two of those, one by Mr Lordi), so there was no fear of the soundtrack being ass. Personally, I’m a great fan of metal and a sucker for musicals, so I was an easy audience.

Remarkably, 1827 also has a good book, the most underrated part of a musical. I saw Rock of Ages last night, actually, which provides a perfect point of comparison, being another musical that uses classics instead of an original soundtrack. Indeed, the two even utilize some of the same bands. The film worked well as long as it didn’t try to have a story, because it was inane even by the standards of a genre where the plot is generally regarded as an afterthought and an excuse to belt out a couple of power ballads. 1827, by comparison, was, you know, actually written, instead of just sort of invoked from some sort of morass of the generic. Okay, I guessed the ending twist well in advance, clued in by the fact that it was a Mike Pohjola work (the reason we got the screening in the first place), but I had great fun on the way there, even when there was no Iron Maiden playing.

There were nods towards Finnish history, including the obligatory send-ups of famous Finns of the time (such as Archbishop Tengström of Turku, who turned out to be one of the villains of the piece and a Satan-worshipper, who at the end of the first act sacrifices the Russian Commandant Sinebrychoff to his Dark Lord; and the evangelist preacher Paavo Ruotsalainen, played as a Yoda-like figure). There were roleplaying game references (one of the heroes of the piece is basically a D&D barbarian). There were puns (including the obligatory joke about the fact that the fire started at the Hellman house).

Unfortunately, that probably was the last time the entire musical will be seen anywhere in public. A novel is in the works, but it just won’t be the same.

After the musical, I went to play my only gaming session of the convention. At this point, it was around 1 a.m., and I kept falling asleep during We Be Goblins!, as one by one our hapless goblins died. Full TPK, but I am told it is not unusual in that module. The bits I remember were fun.

Sunday, then, was mostly just wrapping up the convention. I didn’t really have anything to do besides handling the Game Master loot event and wander about for something to do. This was unusual, since traditionally my Ropecon Sundays have been hectic and panicky because of the scenario writing contest and determining and announcing the winners. This year there was no contest, so no panic. I could relax and sort of not completely stress out. It was refreshing.

After that, it was just the Guest of Honour dinner, the Monday afterparty and the con was a wrap.

We’ll see about next year, but I’m probably handing over the GM desk to a follower and moving on to other challenges in con organization. What they will be remains to be seen. It’ll be the 20th Ropecon. Big deal, that.

Ropecon 2012, Monday to Friday—Tag-Team GMing and Beating Up Children to Relieve Stress

Ropecon, for me, begins on Monday. While the doors of Dipoli do not open until three o’clock, Friday afternoon, the preceding week is full of preparation, promotional events, briefings and running around in a panic. I have a terribly bad habit of immersing myself into a convention—any convention—fully, mind and body, which makes it next to impossible to focus on anything else while this is going on. Ropecon week began hot on the heels of Finncon, which led to an 11-day convention, which was tremendous fun and utterly exhausting.

On Monday and Tuesday, we made badges. Every member of the convention staff gets a personalized badge, from the coat check people and logistics haulers to the game masters and panelists. These badges have to be made, all half a thousand of them. Then there are the badges we sell (at €1, excellent profit), which we also need a few hundred of to supplement what didn’t get sold the preceding years. Every year’s badges need new (bad) jokes, which someone has to come up with. This year’s jokes mostly revolved around Game of Thrones, I think. “We do not shower” and its Finnish equivalent “Me emme kylve” were the funniest, but I am also partial to “Hear me roll”. All this is traditionally accomplished during the Monday and Tuesday evenings before the con.

In addition to badges, this is the time when we also print and laminate new signs. This year, we manufactured signs for the staff dormitories that read “Don’t Screw Here”. This has been a problem in past years. It isn’t that our staff is bumping uglies during the night—they’re mostly young people and such behaviour is not only healthy but inevitable—but that they do it in a place where it’s guaranteed to disturb other people’s sleep in pretty much the most awkward manner possible. In this case, said people need to be well rested and working customer service in the morning. You can get your exhibitionist jollies in the woods. It’s the goddamn Otaniemi, nobody cares.

Of course, the beast with two backs still made an appearance in the staff dorms. We’re thinking of arming the dormitory overseers with cattle prods next year.

On Tuesday, we also had a promotional event at the Sello library in Espoo. I was there to run some tabletop RPGs, but the demographic present turned out to average five years old, far more interested in our other attraction. The logistics and PR had conspired to acquire a stack of 50 child-sized latex swords from Denmark, which were a tremendous hit with the kids. Literally, really. I managed to run one game, mostly featuring library employees, while the rest of the time was spent dueling hyperactive hobbits. I am not sure we got a single paying visitor this way, but at least the kids had fun. Their parents looked very grateful that we provided an outlet for the excess energy of their offspring, too. We had our other guest of honour, Larson Kasper, hanging out with us.

On Wednesday, the other GoH, Peter Adkison, arrived in Finland. There was karaoke. We went to this bar called Swengi. The evening was going nicely, until one of the GoH handlers blurted out that “this evening is going nicely, there hasn’t been a single moron on stage yet”, which was a cue for the universe to rain on our parade. Immediately the table group next to ours became boisterous and noisy, and a guy climbed up on stage and began to bleat out Britney Spears. We beat a hasty retreat after that.

On Thursday, we had the big staff briefing meeting at Dipoli and then the pre-convention sauna event. At this point I had some fairly impressive stress levels going on (Especially since I pretty much never stress about anything. Some would argue this includes things I should stress about.), since I still had a pile of paperwork to get ready for the convention. I finally got everything written up at an ungodly hour on Friday morning, after which I proceeded to Dipoli several hours before the convention opened, and proceeded to use up around a ream of paper at the info desk printer, as well as significantly contribute to the death of its ink cartridge on Saturday.

Oops.

Anyway, the convention Friday was pretty much a blur for me. I ran around a lot and ended up dehydrated, tired and hungry. Gave Jim Raggi a lift home in the evening. My only game mastering during the convention was also performed on Friday, when Mikko, our venue admin and a Pathfinder Society GM, had urgent business in the middle of his session. I tag-teamed with him and kept the players entertained and the game running while he worked his mojo elsewhere. Good thing I’d run the scenario before and was familiar with it.

I know it’s a bit strange that the Venture-Captain doesn’t run anything at the biggest con of the year, but, being also a member of the organizing committee, I simply didn’t have the time. My Venture-Lieutenant Jussi Leinonen was one of the main organizers. Then, Tracon is coming up next month and I’ll be running  games there. Their RPG admin, in turn, was the head GM for Saturday’s big Blood Under Absalom game… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Fortunately, I got all the game masters present and accounted for during Friday and after a night spent sleeping in the back seat of my car in a sleeping bag, Saturday dawned rather more agreeable and I started getting into the spirit of things. But that is a story for the next instalment.

Ropecon 2012 – Back in the Saddle Again

Well, Ropecon is coming again. The chief organizers – Heikki Ahonen, Jussi Leinonen, Eino Partanen and Jukka Seppänen – were announced last month. The dates have been declared as 27th to 29th of July, 2012. We have even confirmed our first guest of honour, Peter Adkison, formerly of Wizards of the Coast, nowadays of Gen Con.

And yeah, I say we. The composition of the organizing committee has just been announced, and I’ll be reprising my role from 2009-2011 as the Master of Game Masters. I’m looking to introduce a few final improvements to the GM system at Ropecon and training my henchmen to the best of my ability. This is the last time I’ll be handling this particular job at Ropecon, at least for the time being.

I’m also looking for a subordinate to handle the scenario writing contest, since I’m starting to have credibility problems even in my own eyes.

I’m looking forward to working on Ropecon again. While I doubt anything can top this year’s con, we will do our very best. We’ve got an excellent team (as far as I know – some new faces in the ranks). We even have all three intelligent bears on the committee. We shall rock mightily.

Ropecon 2011: Sunday & Monday – How Grown Men Cried

Sunday was pretty busy for me. In quick succession, I had to administrate the Game Master loot session, moderate the panel on scenario writing, and then speed away to the closing ceremonies to hand over the prizes.

The GM loot I’ve explained in previous years, but basically, it’s a session on Sunday where all the  Game Masters  who returned their feedback forms get to come and pick gaming items out of a big pile we bought from a local game store, in an order decided by reading the entrails of a munchkin.

Then there was the scenario contest panel.

The Scenario Writing Contest

The scenario contest entered its third year with a format change. I figured that since we’ve got Frank Mentzer and Erik Mona showing up and locally, James Edward Raggi IV, we’ll probably never have as much oomph when it comes to writing modules in the same room at the same time.

So, I decreed that the modules be written in English, using a system under the OGL. I expected the participation to rise by a few modules, up to ten.

We got fifteen.

Also, we put them up for download immediately. That page is yet to be updated with the winners and the names of the anonymous writers, but I can tell that Sampo Haarlaa won first place with Hallowed Be Her Name, the second went to Niilo Paasivirta with Trouble at Troublewater, the third to Tuukka Tenhunen with City of Scorpions and the Player’s Choice Award was taken home by Satu Nikander’s Together We Shall Triumph.

The Player’s Choice thing is a change from past years, when the players decided all the winners. This year, the judges did that and the Player’s Choice was there to motivate people to run the modules. It did not entirely work and there were too few contest modules run for my tastes, but if the writers themselves can’t be arsed to run their own games, they mustn’t want to win all that much.

So, on Sunday I did a panel about module writing with the aforementioned judges. It went reasonably well, though I made the decision that the panel be more generally about scenario writing than about the specific scenarios. There were too many of them, I didn’t want to offend people whose modules weren’t quite as good as the others, and I didn’t really want to spoil the winners. I am not entirely sure if this was the right call, but we did get interesting conversation and comments out of it, so it could not have been entirely wrong, either. Specific criticism from the judges will be forwarded to the authors privately.

photo

From left to right, that’s  me, Erik Mona, James Edward Raggi IV and Frank Mentzer.

However, I won’t be doing this next year. While I do seek to continue in the position of the Master of Game Masters for one more year, I’ll be farming  the task of running the scenario competition to someone else, if for no other reason then because I know all the winners from this year personally, some of them I count good friends indeed, and I think there are about four people in the contest who I didn’t know at all previously. Even I can’t take myself as credible contest-runner at this point, even though I have the judges’ own lists to verify that indeed, I did not play favourites.

The Crowning Moment of Awesome

Then it was time to speed to the closing ceremony, where I gave out the scenario contest awards, other people gave other awards, and so on.

Then the Guests of Honour Frank Mentzer and Erik Mona took the stage, and gave their thanks.

Frank also gave us something else. He pulled out this folder he had, and produced a number of small, light brown booklets. Every gamer in the audience held their breath.

Then, Frank explained that he was giving them to Ropecon, since we did not, amazingly, have copies of our own.

The booklets were the Chainmail rulebook, the original D&D rules booklets, and Supplement I: Greyhawk, by the hand of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, from the mid-1970s. The applause was thunderous, and grown men wept, I included. I was rushed, on the spur of the moment, up to the stage to accept the relics. My knees were shaky, my mouth was dry and I think I was hyperventilating. When I got down, I had to hand the books over to the chief organizers and sit down, lest I fall.

People I had never met came to me afterwards to tell me how touched they’d been by Frank’s generosity.

There was something magical about that moment.

They’re not shrink-wrapped first printings and they’re far from mint condition, but they’re how all this began. Three little brownish booklets in a Lake Geneva basement over a decade before I was even born. Without them, there would be no Ropecon, no Worlds in a Handful of Dice, no RPG.net, no EN World, no Forge. This would be a poorer world.

We have a safe ready for the books, and a display cabinet for future conventions. They will be placed on display to remind everyone of how this started, of the origin point of this amazing variety and richness of different roleplaying games so different from one another that the term itself defies a single definition, and of Frank Mentzer’s generosity.

https://i2.wp.com/spike.kapsi.fi/minishowcase/galleries/Ropecon_2011/IMG_1951.jpg

Monday, and the Second Shock

On Monday, after the con, Frank ran interested organizers a game. It was genuine, 1974-style dungeon crawl, where we made it out of the town and into the first room of the dungeon before we managed to botch everything and rouse an ogre that ended up smashing our other fighting man’s face in.

That fighting man, our security chief’s character Dinker, was the last of Frank’s fatalities during the convention. I am told that his final tally ran up to well over 40 during the revolving-door dungeon crawl he ran on Saturday.

Then, after the game, once we’ve cleared the table, Frank bid me sit back down. Then he opened the copy of D&D Rules Cyclopedia that he’d had lying on the table, and asked what I want him to write in my book.

I am still a bit stunned.

In Summary

Personally, this has been the best Ropecon yet. While I will always strive for it, I’m not confident it can be topped. Things may be organized better, the Cone Hall is a noisy place to play and the database has its hiccups, but in the end, it’s the people that make the con. The players, the Game Masters, the organizers, the guests of honour, the attendees, everyone.

It’s hard returning to normal life after such an event. The atmosphere of a good convention is intoxicating. These are my people. “My tribe”, to use the words of Randy Waterhouse, brought together by a shared interest in games, stories, funny  dice and latex elf ears. At Ropecon, I can walk into the bar at any time and find a table of friends to sit down with and talk about games over a pint. This year, we had people from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, New Zealand, Latvia, Netherlands and Spain just showing up on their own dime to run games, play games, and talk about games. Even though online, on forums or the blogosphere, we may have our differences and disagreements, at ground zero Ropecon, the sense of community is palpable.

And the guests! The gaming scene is blessed in that though its celebrities are often busy people, they are also accessible, approachable and friendly (as long as you don’t wax too poetic about your character), and gracious even when things do not go quite as planned. They speak the same language and don’t send weird rider documents. This is different from the guests of honour in many other conventions, and I don’t think we’ve acknowledged sufficiently how lucky we are in this. Though Frank Mentzer amazed and moved us like never before, I would extend my gratitude to all of our guests of honour, past and future, for their part in the awesomeness that is Ropecon.

Thank you, everyone. See you next year.

Ropecon 2011: Friday & Saturday – How I Got My Ass Kicked by a Sandwich

I think I have now recovered both physically and emotionally from Ropecon 2011 and can write about it.

The con was held this last weekend, and was the product of some nine months of work. It was all sorts of draining. As it happens, it also became the best convention ever, at least for me personally. There was a lot going on, so I will split this report into two parts.

I once again stepped into the boots of the Master of Game Masters, responsible for scheduling the tabletop offerings of the convention and assigning them tables. This year, 80 Game Masters from four different nations stepped up to offer some 165 sessions of roleplaying games in three different languages. That’s a good deal more than previous years. While there were the  usual cancellations and not every game found sufficient players, I think there were still over 150 sessions that went off. The number of GMs includes our esteemed guests of honour, Frank Mentzer and Erik Mona.

Among  the more curious sessions were the scenarios from the collection Unelma Keltaisesta kuninkaasta ja muita tanskalaisia roolipelejä (Dream of the King in Yellow and Other Danish Roleplaying Games). It’s a big, fat bastard of a book from the Society for Nordic Roleplaying. I participated in the making of the book as a translator for one of the introductory essays. As it says on the tin, it’s a compilation of 12 Danish RPGs meant to be played in a single evening – about two to six hours, depending on the scenario. I’ll be writing about it in more depth sometime in the distant future when I’ve read it and perhaps played a few of the scenarios.

The most interesting scenario by far in the book is “Slaaraphenland”, a fantasy scenario inspired by Warhammer Fantasy. It’s got a cake mechanic. Other than that, it’s freeform. There’s one cake for each player, sliced into six parts, and every time a character gives in to temptation, the player must eat a piece of cake. It was run three times during the convention, and each time to a full table.

I sorta hoped I’d have time to play it, but for naught. Though I had a solid complement of henchmen to work the desk in my absence, all the sessions were either at inconvenient times for me, or on Saturday.

Because on Saturday, I got my ass kicked by a sandwich.

The Galactus

There’s this Finnish indie RPG publisher and importer called Arkenstone. This year, they were selling sandwiches in the con area.

One of the sandwiches in their selection was the Galactus. You had to specifically ask for it, for it was not on the menu. It was said to include the kingdoms of plants, animals and minerals alike, and it was too large to fit on the plate. On Friday alone, it claimed four of the brave eaters who tested their mettle against it.

So, obviously, I had to try it for breakfast.

I was not intimidated by its admittedly impressive bulk that concealed within four different kinds of meat – including bacon. Courageously, I put the Conan soundtrack on from my cell phone and began devouring, washing it down with mead in the way of a proper Northman.

I managed two thirds of the monster before I concluded that if any more of it went down, it’d all come up. I performed a tactical retreat, packaged the remains away and rolled off.

Didn’t have to eat anything else all day. Couldn’t have eaten anything else all day. Finished it off in the evening, over 12 hours later. Tasty, but man.

Kings of Absalom

I played two con games, and the first one was on Saturday. It was a Pathfinder RPG session called Kings of Absalom, run by Erik Mona.

It was, I think, the best game I’ve ever been a spectator to. The group’s teamplay left a lot to be desired, and the gnome bard Izahh ran off to do her own thing while the rest of the party – the rangers Sam and Arendius (me), the alchemist Doctor Anthrax and the rogue Blackbird fought fell foes. Izahh’s antics also managed to raise the alarm and brought forth a bunch of hardy foes who managed to take us by surprise.

So, there I was, backing out of a room in a fighting retreat, and immediately get squashed by a guard I didn’t know was there. I later stabilize at -8, while the rest of the party engages in a running battle with a total of eight different enemies. One by one, they go down – first Doctor Anthrax, then Sam, then Blackbird. Sam dies, the others stabilize. Izahh is the only one left – and then, with luck, tactics and a loose grasp of the spell selection rules, manages to escape the foes and throw a bunch of compliant slaves at them while she tries to figure out this spell scroll she found. A scroll of lightning bolt, to be specific.

All through this, the initiative count goes “Blackbird does nothing, Arendius does nothing, Doctor Anthrax does nothing, Izahh!” We all chanted it in a chorus, as the tension ratcheted up and the slaves fell one by one to the guards and Izahh botched a Use Magic Device roll after another. Then, finally, a 16 – on the dot. The lightning bolt killed the last remaining slave and all but one of the enemies. The enemy, with three hit points left, charged the gnome. Izahh, at this point, had four hit points.

What ensued was the most pathetic duel in all history. They whiffed two thirds of the time, and Izahh chipped away her foe’s hit points ever so slowly, one at a time. Finally, at 0 hit points, it attacks one last time before keeling over dead. In accordance with all rules of art, it hits and deals four points of damage.

Izahh, staggered, managed to find a potion of cure light wounds (on my character, incidentally) and soon thereafter lifted all of us to our feet. And that’s when we ran out of time.

All in all, I spent about half the game out of the action, which I wasn’t entirely happy about, but it was a fun game, which is a testament to Erik’s ability as a game master. He managed to keep the game fun even for those of us who were out of the action for hours real time. Erik was also generally a great guy to be around, and I found myself agreeing with him in pretty much everything. We even share the same affinity for urban areas.

Also, I now have a signed Pathfinder Core Rulebook with the dedication “Arendius does nothing…”

Swag

They released a crapload of new Finnish games at the con. There’s the rules-light Pyöreän pöydän ritarit (Knights of the Round Table); the Somalia sourcebook Punaiset hiekat (Red Sands); Unelma Keltaisesta kuninkaasta ja muita tanskalaisia roolipelejä; the fantasy games Noitahovi (Witch Court), Generian legendat (The Legends of Generia) and Bliaron; the fly RPG Kärpänen (The Fly); and Yhteys (The Connection), a prelude to Vihan lapset (Children of Wrath), which is coming out later this year.

I bought all of these except Bliaron, and will be discussing them on the blog once I’ve read through them. Punaiset hiekat seems especially promising.

Unfortunately, the one thing that did not get released was Stalker RPG in English. Finishing it for printing  has taken longer than anticipated, but it will come out, eventually, and when it does, it will be good.

Also, I received, as a gift, Ravenloft 3E.

The entire Ravenloft 3E. All of it, as far as I can tell (with the exception of the core book and Masque of the Red Death, but I had those already). I may be reading and discussing them as well (If I ever get around to finishing that Planescape readthrough… I’ve got a post in the works, honest!). I have awesome friends. All in all, I carried about 25 different books away from the con.

There’s also one other thing I received, but that one I didn’t get until after the con, and will be discussed in tomorrow’s post, because it is that awesome.

News, Updates, Self-Aggrandizement

There are many things afoot right now in the local gaming scene.

For one thing, Ropecon is approaching, and the Game Master signup is open.

New Releases

Also, there are intriguing new game releases on the way. The Society for Nordic Roleplaying finally announced that book of theirs, Unelma Keltaisesta kuninkaasta ja muita tanskalaisia roolipelejä (“Dream of the King in Yellow and Other Danish Roleplaying Games”). The link is in Finnish, but even if you don’t understand the lingo, the cover image is worth the click. It’s a collection of 12 one-shot roleplaying games from the Danish convention of Fastaval, translated into Finnish. There’s high fantasy, there’s drama, there’s Lovecraftian horror, a few things that are apparently inspired by Warhammer, and two of those weird games with a designed goal of making everyone involved feel terrible, The Journey and Fat Man Down.

I proofread The Journey’s translation. Even that was an experience I could’ve done without. I discussed the game and its ilk back when the first issue of Playground came out, and, well, damn.

But it’s far too easy to focus on the negative or the weird. Most of the modules in the book are (probably) excellent and suitable even for people whose tastes run to the more traditional. There’s Guernica, a romantic action game about the Spanish Civil War. There’s The Ark, an epic fantasy scenario, and there’s a Warhammer murder mystery set in a community of halflings.

Okay, there’s also a Warhammer thing called Slaaraphenland, where there’s apparently some sort of cake-eating mechanic to simulate the corruption of Chaos. As in, the players eat cake. I have not read the scenario myself, but I am very curious about this one.

While we’re on the subject of weird things, Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Grindhouse Edition came out. I have not yet studied it in depth, but the art… man, the art! It is a beautiful game in its own quirky, off-putting, face-eating way. I understand the production values are also higher than last year’s Deluxe Edition, but I cannot comment yet as I only have the PDF. There’s also a minor contribution from me in this work, a short essay on H.P. Lovecraft and his works in the Tutorial booklet.

Also, according to Burger Games, the English version of Stalker is on the way. Has been on the way for a while now. Might even be out at Ropecon. Who knows? Some other Finnish games that may or may not come out during 2011 are the fantasy RPG Bliaron – Kalthanien perintö (“Bliaron – The Legacy of the Kalthans”), a sci-fi horror game from Myrrysmiehet called Vihan lapset (“Children of Hate”), something really strange-sounding from The Society of Nordic Roleplaying named Tsernobyl, rakastettuni (“Chernobyl, My Beloved”), another fantasy game called Noitahovi (“The Witch Court”), a third fantasy game called Generian legendat (“The Legends of Generia”) from Ironspine, and finally, Punaiset hiekat (“Red Sands”), a sourcebook for gaming in Somalia. There’s also a rumour from last year that an English-language version of the Finnish penguin roleplaying game Ikuisuuden laakso (“Vale of Eternity”) is in the works somewhere. I reviewed it for Roolipelaaja back when it came out in Finnish and quite liked the game. Four stars out of five, that one. If they ever get it out in English, I’ll translate the review and post it here.

Of course, this is the RPG industry and a handful of the above have already missed one release date. I’ll believe it when I own it. As a consolation to any dejected game designer, if you publish a Finnish RPG, the only ways I won’t buy it is if I get a complimentary copy or they sell out before I can get my hands on it. And I’ve got one of the 18 extant copies of L.G.D.S. I’m good at getting my hands on games.

Me Looking Foolish on Camera

The worst has happened. Turns out that Tracon last year filmed their presentations and panels, including that one about horror in RPGs that I was involved in and posted about. The videos are now in YouTube. There also appears to be another presentation about interactive programs at conventions from Concon a couple of weeks ago that I am also involved with. It is a small blessing that they are in Finnish and none outside our borders may comprehend my shame. However, there’s also good stuff for those who grok the lingo – a presentation on managing con workers, another on managing con security and a one from Tracon about politics in RPGs. The practice of recording convention program is a good one, I think, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen any English-language con programs on YouTube. Does anyone know better?

Planescape

Also, it was my birthday recently. I got Planescape. I mean all of it. There’s a largish cardboard box in my game room at the moment, which contains six different boxed sets and roughly 30 sourcebooks and adventures (everything released under the setting’s label plus a few extra, like Warriors of Heaven and Die, Vecna, Die!). Mint condition. some of the modules are still shrinkwrapped. Only things missing are the Blood War trilogy of novels and Pages of Pain, which I figure I can survive without. There’s also a first-release copy of Planescape: Torment, which makes it my third or fourth copy of that game.

I’m mostly telling this to brag, but will likely discuss some of the material in the coming months. It remains one of my favourite settings, even if my feelings towards the system of AD&D 2E itself are rather cool.