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At last! I don't know if you've realized this but Brazil is far away. To add insult to injury, to get to Joao Pessoa, you must first fly past the damn city and all the way down to Rio or Sao Paulo. Then you board a domestic flight into Joao Pessoa. But since the distance between Sao Paolo and Joao Pessoa is roughly the same as the distance between Helsinki and London, it is a nearly three-hour flight back the way you came! On our way out there, watching the intercontinental flight I was on pass Joao Pessoa once more, I almost lost my cool. Now I am home, my nose full of dried blood and I am coughing up the atomized lining of British Airways passenger seats. But I also have a pretty good tan.
Joao Pessoa is right at the eastern tip of Brazil
and roughly 1000 kilometers south of the equator.
Although it is the third oldest city in the
country, it is now mainly a tourist attraction
with its 40 kilometers of beach. The rest of the
city is a jumble of shiny new high-rises, a really
nice beach boulevard and what matches Dresden
after a visit from Sir Arthur Harris (look it up).
Like all Internet Governance Forum conference
sites, Joao Pessoa is something of a shopping
window for what is otherwise a third-world
country. Unlike the previous IGF sites, though,
the tourism here is mostly domestic and nobody
speaks English. Nevertheless, between Leena's
smidgen of Italian and my smidgen of Spanish, we
somehow managed to get by.
There is really nothing there but the beach. If
they had put some effort into their old city
(Centro Historico), they might actually have
something really cool to show you but for now,
they are leeching off one of the world's natural
wonders and filling the coastline with hotels and
tower blocks. With that said, it is truly an
amazing beach. Easily the best I've been on. I
thought Nusa Dua Beach on Bali was nice but Joao
Pessoa takes the cake. It is not coral or volcanic
sand but river sand brought in by Paraibo River.
It is stone hard when compacted, airy and soft
when not and when you are walking at the
waterline, it feels like velvet under your feet.
Really, really nice, although some people think
the brownish water close to the shore is dirty. It
is not, it is just "smoky" from all the loose
On top of the perfect sand, the water has just
the right temperature, it is relatively clean
because the river doesn't have much industry along
it, the waves are perfect, the ocean is turquoise,
the palm trees are swaying in the gentle breeze
and unlike in Bali, the wind brisk and dry enough
to save you from the 30+ degree heat. In short,
Joao Pessoa's beach is a natural marvel and easily
the best I've been to. The beach boulevard isn't
bad by any definition and whatever horrible things
I am going to say next, I did learn to love
caipirinhas. And even beer, because these people
are masters in serving it cold.
Second, the Argentinians are right about
Brazilian cuisine. It is fucking horrible. Really,
Silvio Berlusconi should have sampled some of this
before he badmouthed Finnish food. Then again, he
might not have survived it and it was touch and go
with some of the conference guests. The Brazilian
Kitchen is based on the idea of having a mountain
of lukewarm starch and some really badly prepared
meat or fish to go alongside it. They have no idea
of seasoning and their sauces are few and far
between. They don't really grasp the concept of
hot food either and therefore lukewarm portions
with pockets of cold fluids trapped inside is
completely normal. This is a recipe for disaster,
especially with seafood.
I appeased the Cod Spirits with a
formal apology and they let me off with a
warning (several, in fact, but they were all
short). It was a lucky escape. And when the
Brazilian chefs do cook some protein, they aim for
a hardness of 8.7 on the Mohs scale (slightly
under Corundum). This is the first time when I've
actually felt like going into the restaurant
kitchen myself and cooking my own food. Because I
can do it better than these people who are paid to
do it (or paid to kill me, which would explain a
lot). They have a particularly vile dish called
"Carne De Sol", which is what happens if I
overcook and over-salt a steak and then leave it
on the kitchen table overnight. They are very
proud of it and have even named restaurants by it.
On the way back, I had Chinese chicken wings
in Bridge Pub on Heathrow airport in London. And
I could have sworn it was the best chicken I've
ever eaten. But it wasn't. It was just the first
piece of chicken in almost three weeks that had
a sauce, seasoning and hardness below 5.0 on
I must give credit where it is due: In my books,
Fatia deli is right up there with the
International Red Cross. This humble establishment
has taken upon itself to save dying foreigners in
Joao Pessoa with their savory sandwiches and
delicious cakes. It must be a charitable
organization because the prices are so low. This
is the place that will keep you alive if you find
yourself lost in the Brazilian Zone of Culinary
Anomalies. Your second option, albeit a pricey
one, is Ageda
De Alfredo. On the surface, this
fancier but homely restaurant claims to specialize
in Portuguese food. Personally, I think it is a
cover story. They are really a secret operation by
the government of Portugal, attempting to
re-establish sovereignty over Brazil by reminding
the locals that all their chefs have fled back
into old country.
If I ever return to Joao Pessoa, it will be for
the beach and Fina Fatia. There is nothing
else there. But the next place I am about to visit
is Tampere. At least they have Tracon
Hitpoint next weekend.
Reading my own text now three months later, I have to say that for the most part I like what I see. The Impostor Syndrome usually hits me pretty hard when talking about my own stuff but once I reworked chapters 1 and 2, I have had no major complaints. Sure, there is a tweak needed here and a rewording needed there, while opaque references and word repetitions abound. But that was to be expected. Beyond those, this is exactly the kind of stuff I really wanted to write. It's me on paper, warts and all. Having a superb editor could still kick it up a notch but for the most part, if you ask me to write fantasy, this is what you'll get. I am a pulp writer, plain and simple.
So, what is Snakedancer?
It is a fantasy novel written by a roleplayer for a roleplaying audience. Anyone interested in pulp fantasy or or Grimdark will get a kick out of it (damn, it is difficult to keep up with all these new sub-genres). I've never written a novel with a female protagonist before but in Snakedancer it happened. I just couldn't imagine the story without a 14-year old girl at the heart of it all (eat shit, Sad Puppies!). Actually, the idea to do that was born long before the Hugo controversy. The original inspiration was a character made by the young daughter of one of my Verivartio players. For some reason, I found her somewhat girly idea of an "adventuring princess" intriguing and ended up sort of using her character idea, although "praedorized" to a frankly brutal extent. There is also another old player character in the main cast, all the way back from LootEm (2001-2003). I left him almost untouched and asked for the player's permission to use him for my own narrative ends. Finally, there are hints and subtle references to all my Praedor RPG experiences over the past 15 years.
I remember how in the beginning I thought my choice of protagonist would force me to write teen- or YA (Young Adult) -fantasy. Back then, everybody and their cousin was either making RPGs for children and beginners, or at the very least talking about it, so I guess it felt appropriate. Naturally, as soon as my virtual pen hit the paper, my pulp and grimdark instincts reasserted themselves. I managed to fool myself for quite a while by thinking that Tarzan of the Apes is also considered youth fiction. And it is, hands-down, the most brutal book I've ever read.
It's been three months since the completion of the alpha manuscript and I am all out of excuses. Snakedancer is very, very violent, with borderline fetishistic portrayals of battle injuries. Nor does it shy away from human sexuality, although my distaste for writing explicit sex scenes (see Juhana's works for that) applies here. The story digs deep into the dirty laundry of city state politics and intrigue and whoever ends up being the editor, I hope he lets me keep most of the exposition. I love depicting how religion and society are intertwined and the societal models of Renaissance are emerging from the religion-ordained feodalism of post-civil war Jaconia. I love using the supernatural or fantastical elements at first as if I was writing horror and then push the whole thing into self-destructive overdrive. I LOVE it when things spiral out of control on an epic scale. I just can't help it.
As you can tell, I really like Snakedancer. I hope you will find it as fun and interesting to read as I did to write. On the downside, The Book of Secrets now pales in comparison with this tome. Snakedancer contains more information on its respective corner of Jaconia than I could fit in a shelf-meter of RPG supplements. It may lack the rules and algorithms but those are dime a dozen anyway. Unless Petri uses his veto and Snakedancer is canned at the last moment, it will officially rewrite a bunch of location-specific stuff in the rulebook. I regard world comic as sacrosanct but everything else and in this case the location texts later in the same chapter, is fair game. Now some of it is about to get an expiration date.
In Facebook, someone in the Finnish roleplayers' group asked for roleplaying games with emphasis on non-violent challenges and solutions. Stalker RPG fits the bill. Praedor RPG does not. And I am proud!
Before we start, I ask that you rise for the Anthem of Taiga! The original RPG was typed to this soundtrack. Looking at the world today, it has aged very well.
All done? Right. Welcome to a tour inside my head.
This is the world, or more specifically, the Nordics. Just a few years from now. It's not all Wildland but a million square kliks of it is still plenty. Down south, Wildlands tend to be islands left in the eyes of a web of centrals and free zones stretching along autobahns. Here, the centrals and free zones are themselves islands in the sea of violence and anarchy that's Taiga. It covers most of the Fennoscandinavia and all of Karelia and Kola. The two notable exceptions are Sweden south of the Stockholm Moat, everything across the Baltic and the Kingdom of Norway, which are usually not counted to be part of Taiga. Gulf of Bothnia almost cuts the whole thing in two but there is still that one million squares of dry land to muck about. Assuming you ignore quite a few lakes and marshes in that count.
Even after the collapse and the pre-quarantine exodus to the south, most estimates put the headcount at 21 million or more. Most of them live in big heaps we now call Free Zones and that have population densities approaching pre-collapse Hong Kong. Hell, the Stockholm Moat alone has like 2 million respectable citizens who are all doing their best not to notice the roughly 9 million units of "demographic surplus" glaring at them through the fences. But no matter how you slice it, there is like four or five million heads unaccounted for. The dark woods outside the windows are the best bet and while maps might seem empty, the terrain certainly isn't.
Drawing lines is always a bad idea in the Wildlands but to get a grip on Taiga, I've split it into choice cuts like it was a slab of beef. Each region has its own color, peculiarities, opportunities and hazards. But before we go on, I need more inspiration from the original Taiga soundtrack.
Welcome to the Stockholm Moat! The southernmost corner is also the most populous. Stockholm Moat is the name for the city of Stockholm and then a series of bases, smaller centrals, walls and watchtowers stretching westward along the Mälaren Lake and whatever other suitably wet and deep waters it comes across. It ends only at the Norwegian border and south of it lies a cruel mockery of the Sverige Folkhemmet. Whether or not the EU/EG retained so many of the old rituals of Swedish democracy out of spite is anybody's guess. They would also love to extend the Baltic Quarantine right along the Stockholm Moat but don't have a boot big enough to put down such an eye-wateringly large metropolis like Stockholm and all its Free Zones. And while lands south of here are not considered to be part of Taiga, Gothenburg isn't exactly smelling like a rose either. There aren't any centrals north of the Moat on this side of the Gulf but settlements close to the moat usually cooperate with the local authorities in some shape, way or form. Standards of living decrease towards the north but so does population density, unless you hug the coastline.
Western Coast Road doesn't say much. It is actually the E4 road, running along the coast to the north and is a lifeline of trade, politics and technology. The biggest towns on the coast are almost like Free Zones, albeit without centrals and the effect of the road extends deep inland along the many east-west sideroads. Unfortunately, it also also feeds powerful bandit tribes hiding in the interior. While the coastal towns have militias big enough to defend themselves, the interior is split into poorly defined and often hotly contest gang turfs, with armies of motorized thugs living off loot and tribute extracted from smaller settlements along the E16 and E45. The town of Mora has become neutral (or even holy) ground for the tribes and simultaneously the largest, wildest bartertown anywhere in the southwest. Tribal leaders meet here and sometimes hold a ting, a conclave of tribes called to resolve big disputes or external issues. Occasionally, even representatives from the coastal towns are invited. And the reason for that is...
Neosalem! Fittingly, the very first neo-state to be born in the post-collapse power vacuum is a basket case! Founded by radical religious sects and armed to the teeth by former army officers, the former autonomous region of Jämtland is now a crackpot extreme theocracy, officially governed by Archangel Michael himself! Real power rests with the Council of Prophets but their religious ceremonies with esoteric and hysterical qualities lead to frequent mob rule. Neosalem is pushing towards the Gulf and exacts a tribute of supplies and slaves from defeated settlements along the way. Its geopolitical ambitions are contained to the Slave Coast for now, but preachers from Neosalem can be encountered anywhere in Taiga. They are trying to entice people to come serve them on their own volition, while murdering preachers and priests from rival faiths and sects. This may all sound insane but on the other hand, the Neosalem nuts have built the most stable and orderly post-collapse society in all of Taiga. The EU/EG has considered moving against it but so far Neosalem acts as the most potent counter to any other power centers that might be emerging.
And now it is time for another blast from the past.
Slave Coast extends to the east and north from Neosalem. It is basically a medley of subservient settlements, defiant coastal towns with strong militias, anti-Neosalem guerrilla groups doubling as bandits, slave camps for the mines and factories, hideouts for escaped slaves and so on. There are also isolated strongholds and Bunker Nut sanctuaries, whose founders often hail from the same sects that now make up Neosalem, but who either did not accept or fell out with the rule of Archangel Michael. All this serves to make it an even more dangerous territory than the south, as a pass from one faction quite often means suspicion or hostility from others. There are ugly scenes as settlements abduct travelers so they would not have to hand their own people over to Neosalem. The chaos of the Slave Coast continues north for over two hundred kilometers, all the way up to a barrier even Neosalem does not dare to cross.
Firewall is the new name for E10 highway and the parallel railroad running from Narvik to the end of the Gulf and the base of the Northern Axis. It is a vital supply route to the Corporate war effort in the Arctic and runs via Kiruna, the largest and only stand-alone Corporate Colony in all of Taiga. There is a lot of traffic, much of it military and anyone messing with this route or the corporate outposts along it can expect a swift and merciless response. The local settlements got the message and many of them have some sort of dealings with the corporate states, much the same way as settlements close to Stockholm Moat have with the authorities down south. Local settlements are also a source of cheap labor, which has been further swelled by escaped slaves from Neosalem. The Corporate States detest Neosalem but the theocracy is careful to avoid provocations. Still, the Firewall marks the upper limit of Neosalem's military influence in the north.
North of Firewall lies huge stretch of howling wilderness and windswept fjells known as the Wolfcorner. It is thought to be uninhabited apart from some nomadic Sámi who've returned to the old ways, but given the size of the area and the lack of roads (the old dirt tracks are being swallowed up by nature) who can tell? The locals who sometimes visit trading posts along the Firewall or the Salute speak in whispers about black helicopters, steel doors hidden into cliff sides and pockets of Scourge. The mutation-inducing ailment wreaks havoc on flora and fauna alike. While most creatures chimerized by the Scourge are too strange to live, there are exception and these are taking a heavy toll on reindeer herds and the occasional hunter. Here be monsters. Even the wolves fear them.
And this concludes part 1 of the Taiga V2 Road Atlas. We've covered the western side of the Gulf of Bothnia (yeah, I know, Sweden). I am skipping Norway for now because King Haakon's forces have closed the mountain passes and the kingdom has flipped the bird to EU/EG, while chumming it up with the Corporate States. The royal house is a significant shareholder in many of those. Norwegians are suspicious of EU/EG and actively hostile towards Taiga, so while there is some smuggling, it's less common than you might think. We conclude with a beautiful ballad that depicts my complicated relationship with Taiga. It wasn't part of the original soundtrack, though. This is way too modern for that.
No, I am not promising I will ever
publish the damn thing. Much depends on Chthonian
Highways (which actually means "underground
highways" but apparently Miska's road warriors
prefer driving above ground), the Mad Max
meets Cthulhu Mythos RPG that Ironspine is
about to release. While there are certainly enough
room two non-selling post-holocaust RPGs in Finland
(he is doing CH in English so he might get good hits
from abroad), there is no point in having two games
of the same genre unless they are so distinctly
different it'd be like comparing Praedor and
Myrskyn Sankarit (both are Fantasy RPGs but
that's where the similarities end).
As a side note, now that OSR has
hijacked the "Old School" -label, what the heck am I
going to call the non-level-based games of the late
80's and early 90's I am so fond of? You know, stuff
like the original Runequest, Stormbringer,
CP2020, Shatterzone, Legionnaire... These are
the games I found my groove with. I have nothing
against the OSR scene and I do applaud their
enthusiasm, but let's face it: the original D&D
was crap. It is beyond me why anyone would want to
recreate that "look&feel" but maybe it is a
phase that all roleplayers have to go through.
Or maybe this shit is cyclical just like
trouser width, so if I suffer through this for a few
years, my kind of games are going to have a
renaissance of their own.
That said, I am not actually making
those kinds of games anymore. Praedor RPG
was one and I love it to bits, but as Stalker
RPG and the Verivartio campaign for
Praedor show, I've grown lazy in my old days.
In FLOW, I abandoned my old school of thought in RPG
design in the favor of what I was actually doing
when running a game. In short, if I was going to
have these house rules and abstractions anyway, why
not make them the game system instead? On top of
that, getting the player personally involved,
invested and immersed in problem solving was such an
important part of the Stalker RPG gameplay that I
maintain that a dice-based system would killed much
of the appeal. Still, I wish I hadn't called it a
diceless game on principle. Dice have their uses,
even if the challenge resolution system would have
been without them. Not using dice in random anomaly
and artifact generation was just stupid of me.
Despite all my abstractions, I do use
dice when running the Praedor RPG and never
felt the game was less immersive or involving for
it. Dice make the job of the Gamemaster a lot easier
in action-heavy sequences with lots of random or
just plain uncontrollable variables, such as combat.
In Stalker RPG, killing someone is a big
deal and carries all the emotional impact of a
murder. Praedor RPG is a pulp-fantasy
roleplaying game with plenty of casual combat (read:
remorseless killing without deep moral or dramatic
implications). I expect Taiga V2 to be
just as violent, in and outside vehicles. State your
strategy and the GM gives you some dice to roll.
Roll them and hope it is your enemy that dies in the
flaming wreck instead of you.
Stalker RPG has the best
character creation system in the history of
roleplaying games and I want to keep it. Basically,
I still want a system so close to FLOW that I can
switch back and forth between diced and diceless
resolution on the fly. Hence, FLOW/EBB. Maybe I
should include that dual resolution system into the
actual rules as well: Actions are resolved with EBB,
Problems are resolved with FLOW... and players would
be going insane trying to draw a definite line
between the two.
Speaking of players going insane,
post-holocaust is one of those number-crunching
genres where most games expect you to count fuel
consumption, food, water etc. This usually means
managing a dozen constantly variable stats. Fair
enough, but I'm too old for that shit. So, with
apologies to genre purists, Taiga V2 is going to
take the abstractions of FLOW even further. After
all, while times are bad, Taiga is not a desert and
has way more people in it than your average
post-holocaust hellscape. Sure enough, people are
starving to death out there but it is an unlikely
fate for our nomads. And finding water isn't really
an issue. There is usually more than enough around
and it takes years for toxin build-up to have an
For me, tabletop RPGs are an
interactive extension of literature. I want to focus
on immersion, story and whatever else used to be the
good stuff because all the terminology got scrambled
by the theory discussions. So to skip the tedium and
bookkeeping, there are three resource-based stats
for each character: Loot, Ammo and Fuel.
Loot is your basic cash.
Virtually all trade in Taiga is barter but the
closest thing to cash are the immediately useful but
hard-to-get small luxuries of the modern world:
painkillers, condoms, bars of soap, razor blades,
rubber bands, wet wipes, make-ups, wound plasters,
cue tips and so on. It is stuff we take for granted
but yhat is actually pretty hard to come by in a
failed post-industrial state (and already in many
developing countries). The basic unit is one plastic
bag of the stuff (one large item if you are lugging
it around yourself).
Using one Loot per month keeps you fed
and watered. Use another and you can afford a roof
over your head wherever you go. Add a third and you
can afford to drink, gamble and do casual cash
purchases to your heart's content. A fourth makes
all this as luxurious as can be in the admittedly
harsh circumstances of Taiga. On top of all that,
you can use Loot as cash to buy real gear or
weapons, or to trade it into points in other
resource categories with the right kind of merchant.
Basically, you hoard this stuff in your trunk, then
cross it off at a certain rate and neither the
player nor the GM has to worry about living expenses
and small fry ever again. Of course, if you don't
have enough, you better find some or give up some of
the benefits. You can usually trade your ammo and
fuel back into loot at a halved rate, assuming you
find the right kind of merchant.
Ammo is... well, I thought long
and hard about this one. The original Taiga had an
ammo-based economy just like in Metro 2033.
That's what you still get in the Facebook version.
However, the sad truth is that except for some very
specific circumstances, neither FLOW nor EBB
measures the expenditure of ammunition in any way.
All the rules I could have given on ammo consumption
were completely arbitrary (something like # of
enemies + 1D10). So instead, this resource covers
anything non-explosive and smaller than spears. You
have a fight with guns or bows, or anything using
small-caliber projectiles, cross off one point of
ammo. Two, if you are using an automatic weapon (not
using automatic fire is an option and makes an
assault rifle just a rifle with bad range and less
penetration). And taking an extra handicap for
conserving ammunition can actually make 1 point of
ammo last indefinitely, even if it's for arrows.
Ammo weight is negligible (within reason).
Fuel equals one Jerry-can of
flammable liquid. Each is a large item and can go
off like a bomb, so you usually don't carry them on
your person. Driving around town costs nothing but
if you really need to move and/or fight on wheels,
fuel consumption for that game session is equal to
your vehicle's Thirst (family car 2, big lorry 5).
Pour in that much and you don't have to worry about
it. Skimp on it and you'll have a sidequest trying
to find more to get wherever it is you are going. I
know this is a gross over-simplification, like a
point cost for having the use of a vehicle during
the game session. But after writing that ammo stat
it doesn't feel so bad anymore.
I feel like a Forge author, but
narratively the resource stats give me everything I
want. Supplies are an element in the game,
they do have immediately obvious applications,
their commercial value is easy to appreciate
and they are important enough for players to
keep an eye on them. They act as rewards and finding
more in a pinch generates additional gameplay.
Besides, when your wheels crash and burn, all that
loot and fuel goes up with it. If your nomad manages
to jump clear, I'll let him keep his ammo and
whatever great was on his person. But it is a major,
possibly devastating economic hit.
It all depends on what I find in the Chthonian
Highways demo pdf. If I deem the games to be
too similar to each other, I am still going to make
Taiga V2, pictures and all. But the only people in
the world who are going to get one are myself, Leena
Romppainen, Jaana Wessman, Mikko Matvejeff, Markus
Drake and Juha Kangas. And the artist,
of course :)
I played Witcher 3 with the "new game
plus" option right up to the point where the main
plot began to overtake the open-world aspects of
the game. I was very happy with the story I
created on my first playthrough. Now that the
exploration part of the game was more or less
over, didn't feel any need to revisit that. Until
comes out, I'm afraid my total on Witcher 3
will remain at a quite respectable 150 hours. That
is a lot of mileage out of a single game and it
was good stuff, I assure you. However, I needed
something new to play, felt a little
post-holocausty and was bitterly disappointed by Bedlam,
which I had supported in Kickstarter. Mad Max
-game had been pretty much panned by critics but
it did score well with the users, so I thought
what the hell and bought it.
It has been a strange drive so far.
I should loathe this game. The story is not so
much bad as it is completely non-existent and
functionally irrelevant. The bad guy, Scabrous
Scrotus (I kid you not) stole my car and beat me
up. In return, I sank a chainsaw blade into his
skull and have killed hundreds of his goons and
wrecked dozens of his cars since then. I kind of
feel that we are even. Everybody else in this
completely dysfunctional setting is either badly
written or dramatically irrelevant. Having really
loved the towns in Rage,
I was hoping to get a little of that same vibe
here. Instead, friendly outposts are boring and
uninspired as hell! This doesn't really feel like
a world that is lived in or has a history. Nobody
can look at this place and call it "home". Such
things are usually deal-breakers for me when it
comes to Open World games. For heaven's sake, I
was willing to put up with Far
Cry 4's travesty of a story only
because I felt sympathetic towards the civilians
and interested in their culture. Here, there are
neither real civilians nor a real culture to speak
of. The movie had both, so I wonder what went
Then something strange happened. I couldn't stop
playing and was constantly looking forward to
playing it some more. After failing everything I
traditionally care about in open world games,
Avalanche Studios has nailed something else. It
took a while for me to put my finger on it but
then it clicked. This is not a game! This is a
stress tool! This is the perfect combination of
popping bubble wrap and relaxing in a Japanese
For gameplay, the game lets you do two things.
One, go into locations and beat up bad guys. Two,
take on enemy vehicles and destroy them. There are
variations of these themes like taking out enemy
bases Far Cry-style, or chasing down convoys or
scrap transports. The rhythm-based melee combat is
very repetitive, but I like it more than the
disorganized chaos in Shadows of Mordor,
for example. In short, it is simple enough system
for me and if Witcher 3 had the same kind
of dodge, I'd play it two difficulty levels
Driving and car combat tie the whole thing
together. You drive across a vast desert (it
really looks like a desert but again, the desert
in the movie had more variety and color). You can
ram stuff, hit them with your shotgun (ammo is
*very* limited), harpoon stuff and pull them apart
with your car. You can also outfit flamethrowers
to the sides and explosive-tipped spears. The game
world is vast but so barren it is easy to render,
giving excellent framerates across the board. The
world also has this strange soothing quality to
it. Like looking at a gigantic Japanese stone
garden and perfecting it by removing blemishes,
such as your enemies. Any changes you make
persist, so it doesn't really feel like a bullshit
world game, even if I know it to be one.
I have to say the level of repetition here is
almost hypnotic. It is all about staring at a
Japanese stone garden whipping past the cockpit
and popping bubble wrap, repeating an essentially
pleasurable physical and sensory task over and
over again, until you no longer care about the
task, but only the uninterrupted flow of it. Stone
garden, bubble wrap, you. Stone garden, bubble
wrap, you. There is nothing else. Nothing to care
about. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to plan.
Nothing to expect. Just a stone garden, some
bubble wrap and you. This is not Mad Max.
This is Meditation Max. Or better yet, Zen
Mad Max is not a great game by any means.
It is also really poorly documented and you have
to look plenty of things up on the Internet. Like
where to open the fucking map (it is TAB,
actually). And could someone tell me why I
interact with everything using E (or NUM8 in my
case) but then there is a completely different
button for entering my vehicle even though I must
be pressing my forehead to the side window when
doing it? The game looks competent enough but
compared to the visuals of the movie, the art
design must have gone wrong at some point. There
are also some bugs and the overuse of
mini-animations for simple tasks makes everything
The story really is completely vaporous and the
protagonist is the most boring person ever. While
this is also true of Max in the movies, I think
the game would have been better served if it just
told somebody else's story from the same world.
Just like Fury Road did, in fact. Finally,
I know some people love the storms but while they
are fancy, I still prefer to drop by some
conquered base and wait for it to pass. They are
stunning when approaching you but visually boring
when you are inside. They also last way too long
and the bonus scrap flying around inside them
is... oh, just give me emissions from
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. any day.
On the plus side, "popping the bubble wrap" is
nice, the world is large enough for meaningful
vehicle use (looking at you, Auto Assault)
and the graphics are a Japanese stone garden. I
know the melee combat has been panned by critics.
I kind of like it but would still have preferred
shooting. Bonus points for the harpoon. Penny
Arcade got it right when they said Mad
Max was the best fishing game ever. It is
really fun to use the harpoon in unorthodox ways,
like pulling snipers off their towers or enemy
fighters off the fortress walls. Also, fist
impacts and car crashes have a nice visceral feel
to them. Yet, the difficulty curve is uneven and Juhana
warns of two major difficulty spikes ahead. That's
a pity, especially since the game doesn't have any
difficulty settings. Tsk tsk.
Final Rating: +2
I liked Mad Max a lot more than I thought
I would. However, it is controversial and even the
publisher doesn't seem to have too much faith in
it (using it to advertise an energy drink). For
me, Mad Max will help in contemplating
contemplate Taiga V2 and it tides me over
until Fallout 4 arrives (I will be in
Brazil then, damn it all to hell!)
If you are a big fan of the post-apocalyptic
genre, and especially if you have missed the car
battles, this game is for you. It is nowhere near
perfect but has no rivals in this regard. The rest
of you should wait until it hits the bargain bins.
Unless you are really stressed and need Zen Max,
the almost hypnotic digital stress drug from
You expected me to blog about the
prime minister's speech, didn't you? The problem is
that I don't subscribe to the same reality as he
does and besides, what was he going to say? That his
policy was all bullshit and chips and he is now
sorry? Economics are an article of faith and I've
chosen to follow different prophets. Besides, I am
not an economist myself, so I have to take my
Priests of Mammon at face value, tempered with the
oh-so-reliable gut feeling. So there. I don't think
the situation is what he thinks it is and I don't
think the best means of recovery are what he is
suggesting. But then again, he is the prime minister
and I am a disgruntled voter. Not of him or his
party, thank the elder gods. Time will tell who was
right. Or probably won't, because there will be just
as much dissent over the reality of the results,
even when everybody has the same statistics.
Okay, enough! The Finnish
econopolitics are giving me a headache.
I've done quite a bit of stuff with Praedor
RPG lately. My long-running Verivartio
campaign is slowly approaching its end (or would be,
if a certain player would deign to partake in the
next session date selection...). I also finished the
first draft of Käärmetanssija manuscript in
July and have been sitting on it ever since, waiting
for further test reader feedback. Unfortunately, my
test readers have shit to do, so I'll start my own
editing round soonish. But it definitely needs a
harsh editor from the outside or I'll drown the lot
of you in unnecessary exposition. Also, I want to
remove all references to saints from the Artantean
Church and replace it with a cult of martyrdom since
that is more in keeping with what actually happened
to the cult during the Jaconian pre-history.
Then there is the Book of Secrets.
It was originally going to be a witchcraft
supplement but I've reduced the role of witches and
added a whole bunch of other secret skills, talents
and tricks, sometimes bordering but not quite
crossing into the supernatural. I've been told Praedor
RPG is not fantastic enough but the Book
of Secrets should go a long way in fixing
that. I am hoping... no, I am certain that it will
come out next year as well, as part of the great
There is a lot of other
Praedor-related stuff going through my mind right
now but I want to save most of it for the Tracon
Hitpoint presentation. However, there is
one thing I am not going to cover there. Petri
Hiltunen owns Praedor and everything happens
with his permission and license. He gets half of the
RPG sales profits and has creative veto over the
other stuff. That has never been an issue, though.
What does make me feel strange is that there are
other licensees working Praedor properties as well
and since Petri has long insisted on there not being
a strict canon (not unheard of; for example, the
canon for Donald Duck comics is surprisingly
loose in many respects, while extremely tight in
some), everybody is kind of doing their own version
of Jaconia. They are not worlds apart because the
source material is the same and I try to make sure
my works don't explicitly conflict with those of
Erkka Leppänen. Still, it feels weird that even on
the production side, Jaconia can be pretty much
whatever you want it to be.
Well, this one is mine.
Venturing into the territory of my upcoming presentation, compared to the wave of Finnish roleplaying games Praedor RPG inspired, it still stands out. Also, looking at the games those authors wrote after learning their craft, nothing has changed. There isn't anything quite like it in the Finnish RPG scene. The closest competitor would have been the Finnish translation of Chaosium's Stormbringer from Ace Pelit but that has been long out of print. And now everybody is making OSR titles or games for children. Nothing wrong with that but in a scene full of Sunday morning cartoons, Pixar science fiction and OSR heartbreakers, Praedor RPG stands out more than ever before. Somehow, that makes me even more proud. It is a roleplaying game of blood, sex, guts, and mud. It is the Game of Thrones, the Elric Saga, the early Conan stories and the Witcher novels all in one. It is a roleplaying game for adults and makes absolutely no bones about it. Brutal! Lethal! Sinful!
And that is my fantasy.
Well, everything seems to have gone to hell
lately, doesn't it? Taiga
V2 is practically writing itself out
before my very eyes. My apocalypse was never
nuclear. It was an erosion of society and more
importantly, trust in the society. Population
broke up into competing fragments under the
combined pressure of overpopulation, climate
change and a financial crisis. That's the new
holocaust. In reality, overpopulation and climate
change are not immediately solvable problems
either but financial crisis exists first and
foremost in the mind. It is marketed as an
objective reality by the government and as a
purpose-built fiction by prominent economists in
the anti-austerity camp. I don't know what the
truth is and I doubt anyone does. What I do know
is that these issues are dividing people like
never before. We are questioning each others'
subjective realities and it is getting every bit
as vicious as the atheist-fundie arguments used to
be. For me, the model of the Nordic Welfare State
is the best of all possible societies. I don't
really care where the money for it comes from. If
we really can't increase the taxes on the rich, I
recommend we invade Norway. The Finnish
Self-Defence Force could use the exercise.
On a related note, we entrepreneurs ought to stop
whining! It's true that we don't have the same
benefits and protections as employees. However,
the trade-off is that we stand to make more money.
It was always a risk and if we are unlucky or shit
at what we do, we struggle and then the lack of
protections bites us in the ass. However, we took
this chance knowingly and shouldn't expect the
rest of the society to take pity on us or make
sacrifices for us. We dug this pit in the hope of
finding gold on the bottom. It is not anybody's
fault if it fills up with mud every time it rains.
As holes in the ground go, it is not a bug. It's a
As for A, we have created a system where those reaching us are probably the most cunning, ruthless and well-off of the bunch. It is like in those movies where you have people killing each other for sport. Now the winner gets to apply for an asylum and we are surprised they are all killers? Also, I fail to see how drone strikes against boats moored in the ports of North Africa will change this. Even assholes are innocent until proven otherwise and we ought to help those we can, including the thousands of infiltrators ISIS has promised to send along with them. We are not ISIS, are we? Will there be problems because of this influx of desperate, traumatized and rootless people? Yes! More crime? Yes! Volatile elements within the society? Yes! Should we pay more attention to the integration of migrants? Yes! But the consequences of not helping them are something I am not prepared to live with. I write pulpish villains into my stories. I have no interest in becoming one.
In fact, I am fed up with this Winter War -induced bullshit of defending your homeland against all odds. For the record, we lost the Winter War and God (of any denomination) does not grant victory based on good or evil. Our national myth about a "defensive victory" in Winter War was born out of relief of "not having the shit kicked out of us quite as badly as it could have been". I wish the veterans were still around in larger numbers to talk some sense into these fuckers. Or maybe it is the fate of all such lessons to be forgotten and we really need a new war and new generations of broken minds and bodies. I don't know what the proponents of the desperate defense expect to happen? Syrians are caught between the hammer of ISIS and the anvil of their own murderous government, and don't even get me started on the splinter groups. I cannot fault them for leaving since they are pretty much escaping from Mordor.
By the way, one thing I like about ISIS is that not since the Nazis (and possibly Khmer Rouge) has there been a group that so completely deserves all the hatred, contempt and dehumanization we can dish out. They are the orcs of the 21st century! They are Isis-hai!
As for B, our way of life, it takes six beers and
the rugged wisdom of a gas station bar drunk to
explain what our way of life is. Besides, our own
government is doing more to kick that house over
than a million refugees could. But my interest in
history also makes me look at these events in a
wider context. Did we really expect our way of
life to survive indefinitely? Did we expect
history to end with us? That the human
civilization, or even the Finnish Nation, would
suddenly become frozen in time? The world was very
different when I was a kid and watched alarmist
documentaries about nuclear war on TV. It was
again very different when the Soviet Union fell
and I was in high school. Now we are entering the
post-Internet Era and everything is different
again. It is not going to end there. It is not
going to end, period! Future historians will see
the current crisis as the opening shot of the
Global Water Wars and the greatest migration of
people in history as certain climate belts become
inhospitable and are depopulated. Up here there
will be a multicultural society whether we like it
or not. What we can do is to try to make it look
more like Star Trek than Taiga.
Whew, that's enough politics for now. I wrote
this text to sum up my frustrations over all the
crap I've had to read on Facebook over the past
few weeks. Not everybody in my circle of friends
shares my views and usually that's a non-issue.
However, our differences tend to become more
marked during hard times such as these.
Fortunately, my blog doesn't have a comment
section so there will be no endless and ultimately
fruitless arguments. You know where I stand. Don't
agree with me? Feel offended? Well eat shit and
die! I am over forty and just as entitled to my
entrenched biases as you are. That said, fuck
Saudi-Arabia and the Gulf States. Fuck them all
Curiously, the increasingly nightmarish reality
has worked wonders for my brutal escapist fiction,
namely the Praedor RPG. The manuscript of
Snake Dancer is now complete, waiting for
the pens and axes of proofreaders and editors. The
Book of Secrets is making good progress and
I just need to secure the last few deals for art.
It really looks like we'll have a Praedor RPG
supplement as part of the great Praedor Bonanza of
2016 (new comic book, two novels).
To conclude on a happy note, Tracon
X was great. Of course, roleplaying
games remain a small sideshow compared to the
anime hulabalooza but it was well organized,
vibrant and served a fair number of people. I ran
two sessions of Praedor and ended up running the
first half of the adventure to the first party and
the second half to the other. I still plan them
way too long. Anyway, Tracon was such a
pleasant experience that I've decided to attend Tracon Hitpoint
as well. I am planning to run both a session of
Praedor and a session Stalker there, and give a
Praedor-themed presentation called "15 years of
Jaconian adventurers". After all, Tracon
Hitpoint is on November 28th and 29th.
Praedor RPG turns 15 just a week later, on
December 8th. Three more years and the game can
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