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29-Aug-2004: Things are shaping out well

Just finished the combat system for Stalker. It is slighlty smaller than that of Praedor and gamemaster has a lot of influence over it, especially when making defensive moves in a firefight. It will probably get blasted by critics but such is the fate of firefight rules everywhere.

Outside Burger Games, little birds of majatalo.org tell me that there is a space opera game in the making, with at least decent production quality. Two established publishers have or are about to release roleplaying games, the definite Kalevala setting book Roudan Maa is out and Arkkikivi.Net is doing its best to translate non-conventional RPGs, some them reputedly ingenious, into Finnish. The Finnish RPG writing scene has come back from the dead. I don't know if I really had any big part in making that happen, but I like to think so.

I am feeling sad. True, I set up Burger Games to inspire others to make this happen, but it was so nice and easy to gain fame and glory by writing RPGs when there was virtually no competition. Now... well, I might be a decent gamemaster, but I doubt if I am the best game writer out there. I am no longer The Fool who writes his own games. We have a Festival of Fools and I am one among the many.

Looking past Stalker gets ever more difficult. I have contemplated on starting a magazine for the Finnish RPGs, doing a dedicated Roudan Maa version of Praedor (I asked Wille about this and he went off like fireworks, I'll wait for him to land), doing a bit of work on a science fiction idea I have, writing a new version of Miekkamies or turning Burger Games into a book publishing label (hardly). And there is, of course, the option of closing the door and turning off the lights. I am now working on games full-time. Maybe it would be good for me to find a non-game hobby.

No, you can't tell what I am going to do by this entry alone. Maybe the old cycle with start again: fooling around for a couple years; getting struck by an inspiration, writing a game regardless of its chances in the market and then when it is half-way finished, contemplating future here at the blog, finding it difficult to believe you would ever make a game again.

23-Aug-2004: In-game Fiction

It is crap in most RPGs and it seems that mine is no exception.

< clumsy piece of fiction deleted >

22-Aug-2004: I Have Returned

...although you probably never noticed I was away. I was in London for five days, which is the full extent of my summer vacation this year. I like London. It is hideously expensive, but big enough to have all kinds of interesting stuff there. I bought a hooded jacket, like those used by rappers, and I am thinking of getting a picture taken where I am wearing it and hold out my hands in that rheumatic pose that all rap singers do in their videos.Yo! Respect!

I saw magic mushrooms being sold at Camden but was not tempted. I saw some more magic mushrooms being sold at Camden and was tempted. I also got a couple of flyers for tattoo/piercing joints and decadent rock clubs, but unfortunately chickened out on the first and did not have time for the latter. Actually, I'd like to get a tattoo now that I am old enough to dodge accusations of teen-age rebellion.

Everything in London is expensive, but on the other hand, with such a vast customer base their second-hand goods selection is something beyond my wildest dreams. And four quid for C&C: Renegade wasn't bad, and I haven't even seen Soldiers of Anarchy being sold in stores over here. Besides, subway wall ads for Max Payne 2 were cool to look at. Games are my reality.

But now I am back in this small country on the edge of the world. And I have some bad news for you:

Praedor-novel will miss its September deadline and most likely Helsingin Kirjamessut in October as well. It is now targeted for Christmas sales, which may or may not be a good thing. Personally, I am devastated. I was so looking forward to the publication that having it delayed by a whole season feels like the end of the world for me. But the world did not end. There is still a work day tomorrow.

14-Aug-2004: I, Demosthenes

First it was suggested I give a presentation on mobile game design at Assembly'05. Now it has been suggested that I give a presentation on storytelling in mobile games at Mobile GDC in United States next March. I bet five euros that someone asks me to give a speech about something at Helsingin Kirjamessut. Sadly, nobody wants to hear about roleplaying games. Or Stalker. Anyway, getting to do a presentation at GDC means a trip to the United States. While I am an old badger who does not like leaving his cave, I would like to see at least some part of the 'States before retirement.

Speaking of Stalker: In truth, if I began working Stalker right now, I would be tempted to make it a supplement to Joutomaa. Anything deriving part of its inspiration from Raid can't be all bad. Tempted, yes. Probably I would not because I like tampering with game systems, but I already think Joutomaa game system, whatever it is, could easily be a viable alternative to the (probably) heavier Praedor-derived system I have in mind.

I am going to playtest the Stalker system soon. Another cruise to Stockholm is coming up and I promised participants another session of Operation: Half-Life, but I hope to get the Stalker system playable so that we can use it instead of O:HL (which in itself is a prototype of Stalker). The name of the adventure is "Return to Black Mesa". Two years have passed since the Black Mesa disaster. The nuclear explosion destroyed surface structures and collapsed much of the installation, but the facility is vast. Pockets of underground tunnels, laboratories and store rooms remain, filled with objects and data the Man-In-Black does not want anyone to get their hands on.

However, different corporations and arms of US government and military have been recruiting specialist teams. Using Las Vegas as their base, they dash over the desert to insert the teams in ventilation shafts, exposed elevator pipes or just cracks in the ground, in the hopes that they find something. And so our merry bunch of adventurers with mercenaries (fighters), security specialists (thieves) and researchers (mages and healers) descend into monster-infested corridors in search of treasure and classified data (magical scrolls)... oh wait, have I heard this before? Oh how I love the idea of a science fiction dungeon romp.

You can do that in Stalker too but it is not the point of the game. Stalker is about a dystopian society and how it breaks down around the zones. It is about new species, microecosystems and human communes no longer bound by our laws or views. Finally about the zones themselves, about travelling outside this world in more ways than one.

10-Aug-2004: Piece of Crap

I've had it with this piece of crap called Doom III! I am not playing it a second a longer! If this is the future of computer games I am glad I am in the mobile business where the hardware is still years away from allowing such idiocies! Doom III is the most obnoxious, over-hyped piece of bloatware I've ever come across, and it is the first FPS I am not going to finish after I started. Not even by cheating! I don't care what the story is! I don't care what happens to the character! When I can't identify with an FPS or third-person-shooter character, you know the game is crap. Far Cry buried this turd long before it came out and Half Life 2 will bury it over the next few months. Unfortunately the name "Doom" will ensure ID good sales. My only hope is that enraged Doom I & II players tear the developers apart at next convention. Oh yes, some computer games do stimulate violent behaviour if they are bad enough. Although I have a principle of buying the games I play pirate copies of, I am not going to buy this one unless I am given a 50% discount of the box and a chainsaw for chopping it to pieces.

So what's wrong with Doom III? It has beautiful graphics, but I can't see them because the playfields are so dark (to hide the fact that the engine dies trying to show anything beyond 30 metres). Monsters attack mostly by surprise at a point-blank range (this what they call suspense). I've seen BB guns that do more damage than some of the firearms here and my home flashlight is way superior to the 2700AD military issue. There aren't very many monsters, and they are all dull grey in colour, in a mostly dull grey environment. I don't know what the framerate is, because of the disco-style lighting making everything look like 1 FPS when the lights go and off. The non-windable audio recordings in the PDA are a drag and the plot is a Judeo-Christian mod of Half-Life, a MUCH better game.

Ten years, hundreds of man-years, millions of dollars and a license to kill for, and all they could come up with was THIS? Come on ID! Far Cry buried this turd long before you squeezed it out, and Half-Life 2 does not have to be much of a game to bury it again in just a few months. Go play the original Doom and try to learn something! Like the joy of blasting 5 zombies to hell at once with a sawn-off!

Whew! That concludes our view into the electronic gaming for today.

On a better note, I got some more information on Joutomaa from Markus Montola. Joutomaa is a roleplaying game about modern-day Finland and on being Finnish, portrayed in the not-so-noble spirit spirit of Kaurismaki movies, Levottomat, Häjyt, or Raid (the last one does it; I'm definitely buying this game). Juhana also intends to give more than 100 pages of gamemastering instructions on how to roleplay Joutomaa, but thinks the instructions are applicable for all roleplaying. I don't believe him, but we'll just have to wait and see. Finnish roleplaying is moving from speculative fiction to social criticism.

With Johnny Kniga behind Myrskyn Aika and Like behind Joutomaa, Burger Games remains the only Finnish indie RPG publisher.

Final note: Go see the new Harry Potter movie. I liked it a lot.

7-Aug-2004: Assembly is Over

For me, that is. The action continues into Sunday evening, but the seminars are over so I am not going. It was an astonishing event with awesome sights, sounds and speakers. Farbrausch with their .kkrieger game and Werkzeug tool really made my jaw drop on Friday, and today I lost it again watching the winning 4Kb demos. 4 kilobytes, 4 measly, constricted kilobytes, and they can do really cool music with 3D scenes generated from the music or walking mechas! Geniouses, the whole lot and no one was talking about game theory. Not even the Air Buccaneers guy from Ludocraft (a game development institution for the University of Oulu). I wish the RPG scene had the same kind of attitude.

I also talked to a lot of people there, friends and strangers. After listening my glowing account of the seminars, a friend of mine suggested I give a seminar about mobile game design at Assembly'05. I responded that I might not be a guru enough to do that, but we'll see. I already know a lot of stuff I (and my employers) would like to communicate to prospective game developers and by this time next year I will have one-and-a-half years of work experience and 10+ designs under my belt. It might be enough to validate me as a speaker. We'll talk about the guru part again after 10+ years.

Well, so much for Assembly. Now it is back to the roleplaying games.

With mixed feelings I announce to the world that Juhana Petterson is writing an RPG called "Joutomaa" for Like publishing. That is a good thing. Now for the bad: I know nothing about Joutomaa. NOTHING. Not even the genre. But a person much closer to the game theorist circles than I am commented on his blog that he chatted with Juhana at Ropecon. Here is a direct quote from his blog:

"His game is going to include huge sections on how role-playing should actually be done."

Well, well, well. I certainly hope this isn't as bad as it sounds.

In my mind, it is perfectly acceptable to give instructions on how roleplaying should be done in any specific roleplaying game or setting, especially if that instruction comes from the author himself. I hope this is the case. But if someone suggests that there is a single superior form, method or approach to roleplaying that should be forced upon the entire scene, I will pull the trigger. Let's all hope it was just bad wording on the blogkeeper's part.

6-Aug-2004: Shameless Advert

My employer bought me a ticket to Assembly and even allows me to count the hours spent there as working time. I have only had one run-in with Assembly before, back in 1995 when both Assembly and Ropecon were at Messukeskus. Now Assembly is at Hartwall Areena and I've never seen anything like it. The arena filled with computers is an awesome sight and even the music isn't too loud (Assembly veterans recommended that I buy earplugs, but either my hearing has already gone bad or Assembly has turned down the volume from earlier years). I don't understand what they are doing at Areena and why they have bothered to drag all that heavy equipment with them, but I am glad they did it and sad that I don't keep a camera with me.

What I (and my employer) am interested in are the seminars. Yesterday we went to see "Best of 64Kb Demos" and woohoo! They were astounding! We also listened to a presentation on 3D acceleration for mobile phones, which is not as dumb as it might seem, since it would enable mobile vector graphics games (see Another World for Amiga 500 for what can be achieved using vector graphics in a 2D game). I am for any and all improvements to mobile hardware that would make them better game platforms, because that means more freedom and options for me as a mobile games designer. I guess if you are into computers and stuff, Assembly is something you should visit at least once. I like the seminars, a lot of people seem to like the huge LAN party on Areena floor and the sales booths for Coolputer and other companies are also quite cool.

Now for the shameless advert I promised:

I am working for Sumea Interactive (now part of Digital Chocolate). It is the leading European mobile game developer/publisher and with Digital Chocolate on board that may become true for the entire world. Sumea is recruiting, so if you live in Finland and ever wanted be in the games industry, this is your chance. We are looking for a variety of types and the official wishlist is here:


Those of you with experience of the field already know that wishlist is just that: a bunch of wishes. You can get recruited even if you don't meet all of them. Nobody has prior experience from mobile games so what counts here is interest. It translates into willingness to learn new things and apply them in practise.

You might be asking yourselves why am I so excited about Sumea as to provide free advertising space for it? Do I get a recruitment fee? Nope. But I am one of those who have always dreamed of working in the industry and I know there must be more. I sometimes get to chat with people who lament that they want to get into games business but can't find the opportunity or opening to do so. The opening is right here and I am communicating it to you so that I never again have to feel frustrated when someone with superior technical and IT skills says he envies me.

So what it is like to work for the games industry?

Well, no job is all fun and games (pun intended). Some tasks are more interesting than others and a program is a program is a program as far as the programmers are concerned. What is cool here, and actually an improvement over computer game industry, is that we really get stuff done. Where as computer and console game developers work on a project for years, production cycles in mobile games are just a few months long. It is an incredible feeling to get a game done and have it shipped out and marketed all over the world. I started in March and have three games out already. With computer or console games the release date would still be a couple of years away.

If I got to decide what kind of games Sumea would make or I got to work on, the product portfolio would be quite a bit narrower. Fortunately I am just one voice out of many and working with genres I have previously disdained expands my mind with new concepts, perspectives and understanding of what makes gamers tick. It is important to realize that the audiences of console/PC and mobile games are different. There is some overlap, but less than most people would think. In console and PC games, you stop whatever you were doing to play the game. Playing the game is the objective of your leisure time allocation.

Mobile games are time-killers. You don't stop what you were doing just for the sake of playing a mobile game (ok, Mafia Wars excepted). Mobile games are played to alleviate the boredom of waiting for the buss to arrive. Or when sitting in the train. Or during a recess at school. It is all well and good to make absorbing games and have huge game ideas (my pet fault) but the above imposes restrictions on game complexity, learning curve, how easily you can start and stop playing the game, the length of multiplayer sessions and so forth. In essence, mobile games must be easily started and stopped, instantly learned, work well in a small screen and with awkward controls and must not rely on you as a player to remembering anything of the last game session you had. That does not mean that there could not be continuity, but the structure and progression of the game must be clear and straightforward. Furthermore, without the technological arms race that plagues PC gaming, we mobile games people actually have to think what we are doing.

In short, working for mobile games industry is fucking great! Join up!

5-Aug-2004: Out of the Box

Sorry for a somewhat messed up entry. It is late in the night, I am thinking about a hundred things and this entry was more motivated by the need to write, rather than of having anything worth announcing. It is like chatting with someone; although poor on response, I get to chat with all of you who are reading this.

Events in my circle of friends made me think about the essence of blogging and the styles and motives people have. Uncharacteristically, it was not me who triggered the events: in fact, they have nothing whatsoever to do with me. The question why people write blogs is best left to psychiatrists, but to my experience there are three distinct styles. One is the diary style where the blog author is essentially keeping a diary open for public access (which often leads to conflict as people tend to write sensitive stuff in their diaries). Then there are freelancing columnists, like me. My blog is both an announcement board and a column, written with full awareness that it is a public media. Although I am not adverse to pissing people off, I don't write about deeply personal issues, or stuff that could harm my interests (like criticising my employer or confessing that I have fetish for tracked vehicles). Finally there are reporters, who choose a narrowly defined topic, such as their experiences on ballet exercises, and stick to that.

In truth, we all deviate from our chosen style according to mood and events, but I believe that a sincere attempt to maintain a certain approach or style can be discerned in the writings of each and every blogger. I can't imagine what the diary types are thinking though; isn't privacy and private confessions to a papery non-entity the whole point of keeping a diary? Some twisted form of emotional exhibitionism, perhaps?

Stalker game mechanics run into a crisis after another and it is mostly because of the boundaries within my head. Despite being an advocate of setting-specific game systems (as opposed to generic rule systems), I started to write Stalker as a modern-day reskin of Praedor, with essentially the same rules system. Well, Praedor does not aim for realism. It aims for recreating the look and feel of one particular genre: pulp sword & sorcery. Stalker is not of that genre so the obvious conclusion is that it can't work. For some amazing reason it took me six months to figure this out.

The base mechanic of rolling a number of dice decided by roll difficulty remains, as do the target number range bands, attributes and so on. However, firefights require a different set of values for the combat system, and the desired firefight effects, deadly as they are, call for a revised damage system, where shock rolls (people fainting or dying after shooting themselves in the foot) and bleeding play a bigger role. This in turn alters the desired damage ranges, which in turn alters something else... you get the picture. I have to re-design a big chunk of the game system. Since I detest the idea of having more rolls in the process, I am contemplating dropping the hit locations, or doing away with damage rolls with some alternative mechanism. But that means I have to think outside the box created by the popularity of Praedor's game mechanics.

28-Jul-2004: My exhibition sucks!

Someone might think it ridiculous to take roleplaying and my performance as a gamemaster so seriously, but roleplaying is my art (thanks, Lyn, I'll make that my new slogan). My problem is that the current exhibit sucks. I've built my reputation with massive, narrative campaigns. Unfortunately campaigns like that require an *idea*. Plot is malleable, responding to character actions and player desires, but the *idea* isn't. And if it does not hold, it takes everything else down with it in a vicious cycle, starting with my own motivation.

It is happening to my current Praedor campaign. I am losing sight of the original story and focus because I no longer find it interesting. That makes it easy for other things, like work issues, to interfere with the running of the game. I can't even hold on to my own plans anymore, descriptions of events and locales become hazy and careless, and I can't bring the NPCs into life. Bad gamemastering, and it is all my fault. Roleplaying is my art, but this exhibition sucks.

Players are tolerant. They'll settle even for a mediocre game, or at least they did not threaten me with violence today.

They should have.

26-Jul-2004: ...no fun but what we make

Ropecon is over. Gone. Finished. Closed down, cleaned up and locked away for the next year. I was there, of course (and so were roughly 3300 other people, if we have to get into details) and for me, Ropecon 2004 will go down as one the best Ropecons ever. I've rarely had this much fun.

To all who come whining that Ropecon was boring there was nothing for them to do, I can only say this: There is no fun but what we make. Participate! Go listen the speeches or play the games! Make a fool of yourself at the boffer tournament field! Dance! If you go into an event with 3300 people and just mope around hoping that an angel descends from the sky and casts a spell to make you happy, you are sorely mistaken.

I participated a LOT this year. I gave two presentations and listened to several others. And there was chatting with Wujick, meeting Markku Jalava and Petri Hiltunen, hanging in the staff room with my ear to the ground on latest rumours... By the way, warm congratulations to a certain friend of mine and her as-of-yet unnamed little daughter, who, after listening the noise of Ropecon for a while, decided to come into this world and see for herself what all the racket was about. Unfortunately her plans were ruined when her mother went to a hospital instead of giving birth in the Ropecon staff room.

Ropecon openings have been short and sweet for a while now, although the audience could still use a lecture or a demonstration on the use of garbage cans. Roudan Maa presentation by Wille Ruotsalainen was great and I can only marvel at how he has not only gleaned information from Finnish folklore, but also processed it into playable form. That latter part can be very difficult even with completely fictional settings.

Then there was "Introduction to theories of roleplaying styles". Apart from the muted voice and occasional stuttering of the two presenters, it was fairly good and enlightening, even for a non-theorist like me. However, I can only wonder why anyone would bother to think about any of that stuff more than five minutes. None of the theories really lead into any conclusions or improvements, but were either empirical descriptions of reality, or attempts to establish a philosophical game system for real-life and real-culture phenomena.

After this presentation, I feel that roleplaying theories are a pseudoscientific discipline justifying its existence by researching itself. Not roleplaying, but the very theories themselves. This is done by maintaining an intense but essentially fruitless debate on the findings which leads into further rounds of self-research which provide fuel for further discussions that prompt further rounds of self-research and so on. Like a rowboat with just one oar, but they keep rowing faster. I sure hope they get a kick out of it.

Keltsu had decent pizzas. Bloody expensive, though.

My Saturday began with a half-hearted attempt to watch Dragonbane, but as ambitious as the project is, somehow the presentation felt like like a burst balloon. Come on guys, little enthusiasm on your part would have rubbed off to the audience as well. After quarter of an hour (and nearly losing consciousness), I spotted eight people already snoring in the auditorium and fled. Where is the fancy AV stuff? Where is the red-hot soundtrack? Where is the sense that you guys are talking about something really big and unique in the history of Nordic live-action roleplaying and you are proud to be part of it?

When the Dragonbane boys finally left the auditorium it was my turn. Accustomed to Praedor drawing in big crowds, having just 200 people in the audience to hear about Stalker felt a little discouraging. Although I have been commended on the presentation, I actually botched it. I could not hold on to the structure of the presentation and it fragmented and finally fell apart. If any of the listeners are reading this, I offer my sincere apologies for being so incoherent, and hope that you got at least something out of it.

Saddened, although somewhat consoled by the many questions I was asked, I then went to do a bit of shopping and returned two hours later to hear Mike Pohjola's "After Myrskyn Aika". Presentation format was very cool. It was an interview, with Stenroos asking sometimes quite sharp-edged questions about how literary and roleplaying circles regarded the game or if Mike felt like a misunderstood artist. It was a good piece and definitely worth my while.

Wujicks speech was a big positive surprise. I don't agree with everything he said but some of the points he made were quite interesting and perhaps even useful to me in my day job (which is designing games for mobile phones). Top scores for that. On top of it all, Americans are usually superb, if rather loud, orators. I've often been surprised by the quality of Ropecon's guests of honour and I did not know anything about Wujick before this con. Except that he is the author of Amber. Unfortunately, he also dissed the idea of doing games based on someone else's IP and me, the author of "Praedor" (IP by Petri Hiltunen) and "Stalker" (IP by Boris Strugatsky) roleplaying games felt pretty low.

Around this hour I noticed that "Stone-With-Interest" had appeared on Information Desk. It was a very friendly, if somewhat heavy piece of igneous rock and I gave it a couple of hugs. On Friday evening a certain Info Worker had offered to give me a couple of hugs as part of the Information Desk service (very good service indeed). Unfortunately I am not a big fan of physical contact, but I do appreciate the offer. Thank you.

My big moment in Ropecon turned out to be the presentation I had offered as a filler to a cancelled program slot. "Gamemaster's Jaconia" was an intense experience. The room was packed, it was hot as hell, AV gadgets were a pain in the ass, my mouth was dry and my throat was sore... and boy, did get off the ground or what! All this Praedor stuff I had in my head that was not really something that you could spit out as part of a game session, it just suddenly exploded out of my head! That rocked! I rocked! I hope the audience felt it rocked too and walked away feeling they really got something from the presentation. Something new and useful for planning their own Praedor adventures.

As for the rest of the night, I have only heard nasty rumours about a certain piece of programme Lacking confirmation I won't go over it here.

Sunday was my day off. Shopping (buying a life-sized plastic skull piggy bank), watching boffer tournament, chatting with my younger cousin and taking a peek at Risto's "Gamemastering School, part II". It got too hot for me to say there, but it seemed like a good piece of work. The powerpoint slides are in the web somewhere (he gave me the URL but it is in my workplace computer). Unfortunately I did not get Golden Dragon this time either and there are probably still a couple of people in front of me.

Ropecon 2007 at the earliest, I fear.

That was my Con. I had a lot of fun, which was good, and blew my diet, which was bad. I am still trying to recover from the latter.

18-Jul-2004: Reading Astra

Last week I bought Astra: Roolipeli kauhun takaa (transl. Astra, RPG from beyond horror). It is a horror RPG from Nordic the Incurable, the pioneer of early Finnish pen&paper RPG industry and according to the box it was published in 1991. Wait a minute... that is 13 years ago! Sheesh, I am old! Anyway, it is a boxed set like most Ace Games releases of the time tended to be, but the game core is a 100-page rulebook with colour covers and line-art interior. Old timers like me probably recognize the style of illustration from Claymore magazines.

Like most Finnish game releases of the day (Miekkamies in 1994 was no exception) the production value is low. Illustrations are scarce, disorganized and simplistic. The 100-page rulebook does not really give a setting to chew on, just rules and a brief introduction into Mirnaphado Mythos that forms the basis of the game's supernatural elements and monsters. Many have commented this game Cthulhu Lite. In my personal opinion the atmosphere of the game is markedly different. Besides horror, there is also defiance. The game presents fighting the monsters as an option: something which would be suicidal in Call of Cthulhu.

I picked up Astra for two reasons: firstly I'd like to own all the major Finnish RPG releases before they are lost to the mists of time, and secondly because I am writing something of a horror game myself. Although I label Stalker as a science fiction game, in many instances it plays like a horror game and could actually be called a hybrid of the two genres. Nothing wrong with that.

Stalker is a strong brand but that brand also carries some problems. The Finnish copyright law says it is legally possible to do a derivative work based on the literary work of another without the permission of the author (read: according to that I wouldn't have needed to ask Boris Strugatsky's permissions for Stalker RPG), I do perceive moral problems, public relations problems and possibly legal problems with the legal systems of some other countries in doing so. I avoided them with the author's permission for the rulebook, but what if I want to expand the product line?

I am not good at writing supplements. There is some kind of a mental block that makes me resist the idea, as all of you who have followed my struggle to get something new done for Praedor must have noticed. When a game is done, it is done. The inspiration has been poured onto the paper and shipped forward into the (hopefully) waiting arms of the consumer. The idea has left my head. It is no longer there. Although I come up with new stuff for Praedor all the time, I feel no need to share it with public. After all, you all have your own ideas of the setting and whose to say my ideas are better than yours? I amazed myself by writing a Praedor novel; but then again, a novel is a different and a far more limited view of the setting than the same page count of supplemental material would be.

Stalker is going to be a great game and I've received so many questions, comments and suggestions for it that I honestly believe that I might get the whole print run of 200 games sold within a year of the release. Perhaps some libraries will be interested in it as well, if I already have a little name for writing the novel (provided that Jalava changes the order of author names in the book cover). But what then? Even if I wanted to, I could not make any further commercial releases to the brand without consulting Boris Strugatsky again. That is going to get awkward. Either Stalker remains one of the kind product without even theoretical follow-up books... or the first supplement, if any, is an alternate setting for the game, one that can be expanded, tweaked and taken apart at will.

I might actually do it. I have a setting idea I was going to use in a PDF release and it translates neatly into a 100-page book. More importantly, it would be completely mine to trash, smash, tweak and squeeze. Or write novels about. Supplements don't sell, not even by my standards, but who knows... maybe I'll do it anyway.

14-Jul-2004: Little Piece of Bone

I've just got an injury penalty of +1D to all physical and mental tasks. I went to the dentist to have an infected piece of bone dug out of my upper jaw. Short operation but not exactly painless. Ouch. If something as small as this is enough to make me squirm, I can only imagine what a sword blow feels like. Maybe the most realistic combat system is one where nobody can do anything...

Roudan Maa now has now a web discussion forum nnd I was delighted to find conversion rules for Praedor under "Pöytäpelisäännöt". Written by none other than Wille Ruotsalainen, the author of Roudan Maa himself! I am honoured.

Unfortunately there are no magic rules yet, but let's be patient about it. I don't know anything about the sales of Roudan Maa but I hope it will do good, especially with Ropecon coming up.

It is an appalling injustice that the publication of Roudan Maa does not get more attention in mainstream media. I think that from the viewpoint of culture and scene identity, Roudan Maa is the most significant Finnish RPG release to date. And no, it won't be eclipsed by Stalker or the franchise we are building around Praedor. I just wish the production quality of Roudan Maa was better (read: more money, more illustrations and more pages), but this is a start. Maybe there will be future editions that are thicker and more lavishly illustrated.

By the way, did you know that an official Stalker soundtrack exists? The movie "Stalker" directed by Tarkovsky is the official Stalker movie on many levels, not least because the script was written by Strugatskis themselves. Music for the film, mostly strange electronic ambient by then all-new synthesizers (but without the teensy whining typical of Western synth music), was composed by Eduard Artemyev. He has recently released a record called "Solaris, The Mirror, Stalker" with music pieces from all three films and a composition honouring the late film director Tarkovsky. Excellent tunes and aurial backgrounds for your Stalker game sessions.

In a related story, the Ukrainian game developer GSC is also planning to release the soundtrack of their upcoming S.T.A.L.K.E.R -shooter game on CD. Whatever we think of the game (and I think it will be a great game and will get it when it comes; it is just the name I am uncomfortable with), the music playing on the background of game trailers is nothing short of awesome. It won't be "official Stalker" like the Artemyev CD or my roleplaying game, but nevertheless highly recommended.

9-Jul-2004: Ropecon'04

I have been to every Ropecon, from 1994 to this one. I have never paid my way in. In the first two Ropecons I was a GM, then I was a worker and finally a member of Conitea in 1997, 1998 and 2000. From then on I have been part of the programme, giving presentations on my games and games publishing in general. This year is no exception. Sudden cancellations opened up another slot for me, so "Gamemaster's Jaconia" will take place. Just check the Ropecon website for Saturday's programme.

So, what will I do at 'Con this year?


15:00 Showing up, probably with a car and a younger cousin.
17:00 Opening ceremony. Never missed that one.
19:00 Wille Ruotsalainen gives a presentation on Roudan Maa, the hottest item in the Finnish scene this year.
21:00 Bored to death at "Introduction to Taxonomic RPG Theories"
22:00 Fled the earlier presentation and barged in on another, "Secrets of Gamemastering by Nikodemus Siivola", which has gone on for an hour already.
23:00 Hanging around, eating, heading back home at some point.


10:30 Showing up too late to catch the whole Dragonbane piece.
11:45 Throwing the Dragonbane people out of the auditorium.
12:00 Stalker-presentation by yours truly
14:00 Socialising, dodging LARPers, getting lynched by Finnish game theorists.
16:00 Mike Pohjola's Myrskyn Aika presentation from start to finish.
18:00 "Basics of World Creation" by the guys who did the EAD live-action game.
20:00 "Gamemaster's Jaconia" by yours truly.
22:00 Hanging around, socialising, laughing at Speculative Games.
23:00 Heading home, unless something really interesting happens.


11:00 Showing up. Feeling numb. Asking if the Troubleshooters have larped a tank again or if there were orgies in the ladies' toilet.
12:00 "Gamemastering School, part II" by Risto Ravela. I always enjoy these.
14:00 "Ancient Finnish Religions", in case I experience a shamanistic awakening.
16:00 Trying to sit through "Beyond Role and Play".
17:00 Failed. Went to have lunch.
18:00 Closing ceremonies
20:00 Heading home, sad but satisfied.

That's about it. What are YOU going to do?

By the way, the earlier URL to the art gallery of Jani Hämäläinen was outdated. The current URL is http://elfwood.lysator.liu.se/art/j/a/janihoo2/janihoo2.html Check it out. I am using his illustrations in the Stalker presentation. They are too cartoony for the final publication, but I still like them a lot.

7-Jul-2004: Minor Update

The problem with a blog is that you have to come up with something interesting to write every once in a while. I thought about ranting against game theorist dogmas or Mike's Nordic Tradition of Roleplaying, but dropped the idea after it was pointed out to me that I was the only one taking them seriously. A bad case of imaginative mind combined with a poor sense of humor. One of my more typical shortcomings.

There is not much point in writing about Stalker either, as you are all about to get a presentation of it at Ropecon. Well, the latest Stalker news is that the character creation 3.0 is moving forward after I dropped all character classes and profession-based nonsense. Stalker character classes... damn, what was I thinking?

I thought up another programme item for Ropecon called "Gamemaster's Jaconia", where I would have explained how I deal with the many locations and cultures of Jaconia in my campaigns and what kind special locales and other cool stuff I have placed in different parts of the world. Unfortunately the Ropecon programme table is already full, so no dice this year. Of course, buy me a cola at Keltsu and I might talk about them to you.

Ahh, Ropecon is coming. Home at last. Although most the gamers are too young, immersionist, gamist, serious, casual, eager, lazy, whatever, to my liking, Ropecon is my ideological home. It is my annual Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. And what do I do there? Nothing much. Hang around. Listen to some presentations (Mike's Myrskyn Aika presentation is going to be an interesting one), check out all sorts of weird stuff at Kauppamaja, and talk to people. Soak up the atmosphere, recharge my creative batteries, that kind of stuff. Unfortunately, I am also aware of the trouble organisers go through to make it happen. Looking at the smooth-running event and calm professionalism of the on-site organisers, you would not believe the chaos that spawned it.

Some of you might still remember that I also design games for living. Right now I am caught in a limbo between projects that have been launched and are well underway, and crises that are constantly about to happen but never do. I am on four projects and still have time to spare. I've been using it to come up and write down new game ideas. I can't tell you what they are, but the design process is a shotgun fired at the management. You fire a buckshot and some of the pellets actually penetrate. Unfortunately they have a principle of accepting only one idea out of ten for production. I can't claim that all my ideas are that good, but still I think that a lot of good ideas, from me and others, get dropped.

Praedor is the first and foremost fantasy brand in Finland. What other Finnish fantasy setting can boast with three comic book albums, a roleplaying game, a novel and a t-shirt? I hope you will like the novel because success would get me another publishing contract. I am already fleshing out a story called "City of Bones". Another concept infesting my mind is a war game of the civil war of Jaconia, the apocalyptic battle between Sorcerer Kings and the allied forces of the Wizard's Council and the Mortal Lords. I would just make the rules; all figurines would have to be adapted from existing product lines by other companies. There are hundreds of Warhammer figurine product lines. Some of them must be applicable.

3-Jul-2004: Immaterial Property

Imagine there is something that everybody has been doing since year one. Then a bunch of intelligentsia come up with a fancy name for it and claims it as theirs. Instead of walking, we have George's Walking, or eating gets replaced by Tannenberg School Tradition of Ingesting Nutrients. Then they can be proud that anyone with an inkling of sense is doing "their thing" instead of crawling on their stomachs or starving to death. Does that seem right to you? Didn't think so.

But enough of the Finnish RPG scene.

My extensive network of spies just reported to my horror that some libraries have listed my upcoming book as the work of Petri Hiltunen. This is probably because the pre-release announcement by Jalava says "Petri Hiltunen & Ville Vuorela: Praedor -Aricin miekka". Petri and I have agreed that the names should be in opposite order, so that lists complied by clueless libraries would list it as my work. I also hope to get the misleading working title changed, but that is not as important as the names. If the book goes down in history as Petri's work and not mine, I will go ballistic. It would be like claiming that every piece of AD&D inspired fiction ever was written by Dave Arneson.

I've ordered two games via mail. One is MERC:2000, a mercenary supplement to Twilight:2000. I've been considering a cyberpunk mercenary campaign for years (Badlands) and would like to see how such controversial topic has been handled before. Another purchase is Price of Freedom, a game from the 80'ies where the Soviets have invaded United States. I've been playing a PC game called Freedom Fighters where you fight against the Soviet occupation of Manhattan, and decided to take a look at Price of Freedom upon stumbling into it at Amazon.com. Worth a laugh, if nothing more.

26-Jun-2004: Emptiness

Midsummer's Day, partially overcast, dry, reasonably warm. Now that my excitement for having finished the book has subsided, I feel empty and melancholy. No ideas, no inspiration. The voices in my head are silent, the sceneries in my mind play out as if in slow motion and show only desolate plains and featureless skies. I feel like I have an obligation to write something but no inspiration for doing so. At the moment, I couldn't care less about Stalker.

It will pass. I've completed a number of game books in my life and know it just takes a while for the train to get up to speed again. I will sink my teeth into Stalker in a week or two, and probably re-write the whole character generation system. What in the world made me write a class-based character creation system for a modern-day game? Was I drunk or something?

About the Ropecon presentation: The game begins with a 30-page introduction into the world of Stalker. This introduction will be the basis of my presentation and I will be using a PDF-file of it. There has been no decision on who will illustrate Stalker and what the graphical style will be like, but Jani Hämäläinen has kindly drawn a handful of Stalker-related illustrations on the promise I buy him a beer at Ropecon. They were meant for a Stalker adventure and are probably too light and cartoony for the actual rulebook, but I like them. Since the adventure won't be ready by Ropecon, I used them as temporary illustrations to liven up the PDF screens. You'll see them there.


Note to myself (but it doesn't hurt to share this gem of wisdom with you): Update your opinion on people every once in a while. Times change, they change and most importantly, you change.

24-Jun-2004: Book closed!

Today was the deadline for the Praedor novel, and yes, I made it. Actually I could have declared it final much earlier, but since I had almost a month left I used it by submitting it to different editors (one of whom insists on being called something less formal, like a test reader, but don't let that fool you: she is an editor). Luckily the two spare-time editors I had are damn good ones. But today, at exactly 14.30 East European Time, the final version of the script was submitted to the publisher. It is not coming back. The writing is over, completed, done with! There may be some sessions with Petri as we try to figure out what various places look like, but other than that I am free!

Observation: As some of you might have noticed I have a serious self-esteem problem as a writer. It took five people (six if we count the publisher) two months to convince me that something I wrote as a work of fiction and not as a game was worth more than the paper it was printed on. To my surprise, it worked. Right now I think the book is quite good and definitely something that stands out from the mainstream of modern fantasy. One critic is all it takes to throw me back into the pit of despair and artistic self-loathing, but right now I am feeling fine and thinking that converting my GM'ing style into a literary style might actually work. If Jalava approached me about another book, I'd probably say yes, but I don't think they are going to do it before they see the sales figures on this one.

I wonder how much non-D&D fantasy novels sell in the first place? Do I have any hope in hell to get more out of this than my preliminary fee?

23-Jun-2004: Interview

I was interviewed by Risingshadows.Net about my new book, unfortunately in Finnish. The direct URL is too long to be posted here, but go to http://www.risingshadows.net and then to Artikkelit. It is right there, under the name of Ville "Burgeri" Vuorelan haastattelu.

22-Jun-2004: Fates Worse than Death

Fates Worse than Death just came in the mail. It is 300 page softcover cyberpunk roleplaying gamebook written by Brian St.Claire-King. You can read the RPG-Net review from here:


In my personal opinion, it is incredibly refreshing (and very inspiring) to see a near-future RPG that does not focus on technology but on people. Set in what is practically a post-holocaust Manhattan (holocaust brought on by social and political collapse, culminating in the Freedom Wars where a group of idealists tried to establish a city state along the lines of socialist utopia in New York) Fates Worse than Death present a cyberpunk world where gangs and post-industrial society communities are not a menace to the society; they ARE the society. While the game does have its fair share of future technology, including cybertech, the focus has shifted beyond technology and into the societies and communities they create. The game system is a bit too complicated for my tastes (and a throwback to the super-detailed systems of late 80ies) but other that, I am impressed.

The book is over 300 pages long with tightly printed text and very little images or margins. The amount of content here is absolutely massive. From what I could see future technology and even network operations were well thought out, as well as the influence and structure of the post-information-age society. With little tinkering this setting could be turned into a global dystopia where all information is instantly available to everyone, but there is absolutely no way of controlling it, enabling different factions to spread their message at will. In combat, the emphasis of using brains instead of brawn and superior firepower (not that many people in the setting even own a gun) was very cool. I don't like psychic powers in what aims to be a realistic setting, but that is just me.

While FWtD is not the monumental post-information-age dark-future RPG I have been waiting for, it is not too much off the mark and certainly by the best call so far. Hell, I am even tempted to try running the game myself, even if it is almost certain I could not make the intercommunity relations work right and keep the events sufficiently low-key.

20-Jun-2004: Marvels of Necessity

I am looking at the world map of RISK 2210AD boardgame, a futuristic version of the original RISK. It is a full-colour map printed on folding plates instead of paper, meant to act as the playing board during the play. With vivid colours, it outlines the near future Earth of the year 2210. How on Earth can I put it up on my workroom wall without making holes in it?

Graphically, the political colours and borders of the map appear to be superimposed on a futuristic satellite picture of Earth. You can see the lights of big urban concentrations and how the eastern seaboard of US and North-West Europe are massive megalopolises. Artificial islands, landfills or floating platforms extend them out into sea. There are vast bridges stretching from Scotland to Iceland and then to Greenland, or linking the islands of Java Cartel together. There are underwater colonies built on Mid-Atlantic Ridge and other known seamounts.

The state borders and names seem tell me a story. How on Earth could have Lesotho united the whole of Southern Africa into a vast empire unless there has been a destructive war that decimated the other governments of the region? Is Enclave of the Bear just east of Urals perhaps an anarchistic state founded by a more eccentric warlord and thus a leftover from a great internal strife that tore modern-day Russia into pieces? What is the political history behind the move that made Scandinavia break off from EU and form its own federal state? The map tells me a story and I have no way of knowing if its true, or even if the map makers have really paid any attention to the world development. Nevertheless, I love it and would like to make a science fiction/mecha game out of it.

Everyone who has ever tried to invent a near-future or semi-future setting has ran into the problem of designing a world history from the current date to the setting. It is very difficult to develop a history that would feel "right" or "realistic". People tend to start over again and again, until they the get fed up with the whole concept, throw in the towel and go back to fantasy settings. But realism is not really the problem. The history of 19th and 20th century was such weird shit that no one would have believed in 1799. It feels realistic only because we A) can see how historical developments have molded the present and B) we have no alternative but to believe it, at least in the grand scale of things because of the excellent documentation.

Looking at the RISK 2210AD map I get a funny feeling that the people who drew it did not give a damn about "realism" as they were aiming for a balanced and interesting playing board. And in doing so, they have actually scored better than me or most other setting designers. They just drew the bloody map, put some names on it and that's it. Much like we are born to a certain place and time in history and have to deal with the world as it is, no matter how stupid or unlikely. Now that I have no choice as to what the game "present" is like, I actually can see or imagine patterns and chains of events that shaped our world into that of RISK 2210AD. I only need to flesh them out on paper and I'd have a setting. Unfortunately RISK is both copyrighted and trademarked.

Moral of the story: Start by making a cool map. If its cool enough, the setting details and history will come to you by means of divine inspiration. If they don't, draw a cooler map.

18-Jun-2004: Praedor: Modern?

As much as I enjoy the infinite trust some people have in my ability to design rule systems, I must say I was somewhat taken aback by a request for vehicle rules to be included in Stalker, on the grounds that a high speed chase was bound to occur at some point. Ok, I can see the rules in my head: maneouvrability factor for all vehicle, off-road factor that reduced penalties for off-road travel, speed increments, loosely defined range bands and their effects on various combat-related issues. Vehicle damage system with its deep wound equivalents...

No. The resulting rules would be immensely complex, heavy to use, likely to encourage abuse and rules lawyering, be a bitch to keep track of... and by saying all this I am digging my own grave. Complex rule systems sell. Page after page of critical hit tables sell. Wannabe-realistic system on vehicle-based combat would sell. It is not "Stalker" but yes, it would sell. I took up Stalker as a game concept because I thought it would be cool, not to make another super-hit like "Praedor". Which, contrary to my earlier reports, is still selling at the rate of 1-3 copies per week. The fourth (can you believe it?! fourth!!!) print run of the game is now running low. Something I thought I'd never see.

Customers don't see it that way. Quite a few people bought Praedor because they liked the rules and now expect Stalker to provide them with an equivalent ruleset for modern or near future play. Rules for firearms, explosions, vehicular combat, all the fancy little high-tech gadgets in the world, you name it. Like I was publishing a Praedor-analogue of D20 Modern. I am too old to care about precise rules for car chases or vehicle damage in a non-military/Mad Max -game. When gamemastering, I make that stuff up as I go, based on common sense and on how well players score in their Driving skill rolls. The rest would just bog me down.

In the early nineties it was fashionable for every game to have precise vehicle combat rules, like the scene was still recovering from Roadwarrior (1984). But for Stalker that kind of stuff is "out of focus", if you know what I mean.

17-Jun-2004: More Info on Stalker

My Finnish readers will probably be delighted to know that in preparation for my upcoming Stalker presentation at Ropecon, I have written a long explanation on how I interpret Stalker as a setting and a roleplaying game. It replaces the old "Stalker roolipelinä" section on the game homepage, but if you must have a direct url, it is: http://www.burgergames.com/stalker/selitys.htm

My apologies for any spelling mistakes. It is a prototype text and will be edited in the near future (and there may be content changes after Ropecon when I hopefully have some grasp of what people are interested about in Stalker).

In any case, the way I see and treat the zones is likely to be a divisive issue. Every science fiction fan probably has an opinion about it and I have a feeling this entry will generate more email comments than any other before or since.

13-Jun-2004: Abrupt Changes

Ignore the "Market Saturation" entry. Fantasiapelit just ordered some more Praedor books for me, so apparently they are still selling them somewhere (as an alternative fuel for Finnish coal plants?). Well, more dough for me (and Petri) so I am not complaining.

Jalava got back to me about the book. They ok'd it, but wished for changes that would glue the first two stories more tightly together. It is a wish, not a demand, but I'll try to comply by adding three or four new paragraphs into the beginning of the second story. Besides, Hiltunen loves scenes that would make memorable pictures and the original beginning of "Old Dog" short story was not one.

Other than that, no news. Even the current topics on most of the roleplaying/fantasy forums are dead boring right now. That is summer for you.

09-Jun-2004: The Gamemaster's Burden

I just finished a session of Praedor, where the players are on the islands of Inland Sea, participating a meeting of a pirate clan known as the Red Seagulls. The king of the clan has died and the pirates, a motley collection of vagabonds, cutthroats and the mysterious Island Folk are preparing to elect a new one. Some intrigue, some dialogue and lots of adventure. It is a bit more railroaded than I would like, but the characters don't have a strong agenda of their own, so until the group comes up with one, they need to be issued quests. Perhaps I am too democratic in my approach to group creation. There is no clear leader (although one usually emerges after a while) and while they all have individual goals, they have no group goals as of yet.

At the end of the session, Jari (one of the players, playing his second campaign with me as the gamemaster) asked me where I get my ideas from and how is it possible that wherever in Jaconia they go, they always find all sorts of fantastic and strange things lurking beneath the surface (this time quite literally). Jari does not read blogs, so he probably wont get this until referred to by a friend, but now that I've had a moment or two to think about it, I'll try to give an answer.

Frankly, I was stunned by the question.

Ideas. Coming up with things. It is what gamemasters do. It is why we have them. In pen & paper games the gamemaster is the world. Why would be bother with one if he could not present a fantasy setting in an interesting way? I've often talked about "otherwhere", going into the place I am describing and trying to convey the players an impression that they are there. The world IS there, all around me and to some extent all around them. They can look anywhere and do anything without falling into gaps in the world. If they ask something, I can just look around and tell them about it. It applies not only to scenery, but also to people and cultures. You can't document everything about a culture but you can make logical guesses. I always try to insert little local details and colour, in this case different styles of dress and variations of spiritual outlook.

As for the strange and fantastic things: in a fantasy setting there are strange and fantastic things, right? That is where the name comes from. Just like there is local variation in geography, people and culture, there are local variations and curiosities in the "strange and fantastic things". I like Jaconia for various reasons, but one of them is that there are two layers to this setting: Mundane layer of a low fantasy setting that works along the lines of the real late medieval and early renaissance/Chinese societies, and a high fantasy layer of wizards, ancient magic, forgotten ruins and the power behind the world's very existence and survival. Me and Petri did not include a magic system for a reason: we did not want to "explain" the magic, to give away the mysteries that power the world.

That mystery is part of the comics the setting is based on. It must be there or else the setting isn't Jaconia. In my variations of occult event portrayals, I try to show different aspects and methods of magic. There is no single underlying "truth" of magic but a vast universe of different approaches and ideologies regarding the supernatural. Some of them true, some of them false and some of them just plain misunderstood.

Why can't I bring myself to write these ideas down and into supplemental material or prewritten campaigns? Because ANYBODY can come up with all this! It is what gamemasters do! They don't do anything else!

I don't like doing work that is ultimately futile, or concerns something that every gamemaster worth his salt should be able to cook up on his own. And I also don't want to establish a canon of "proper Praedor". There is no fate but what we make and this is no larp where the idea of the world has to be identical for every participant. I am doing my stuff and you can hopefully read about it in the novel or experience it in my games. Other gamemasters are doing theirs. And that is the way it should be.

05-Jun-2004: En Berömd Författare

Back when I was in high school, we had to write a Swedish essay on what would become of our classmates. One of the girls wrote something like "Ville ska bli en berömd författare", which means a "famous author". I beg your pardon for any spelling mistakes; it has been a while since I've last written anything in Swedish. At the time I wanted to become either a scientist or a teacher, but it seems that she was right and I was wrong. I don't know about the "famous" part, but here I am, sitting and waiting impatiently for Jalava's comments on my script.

As you probably remember, I set out to write a collection of short stories, but my friends who've read them through insist that it is a novel. Although divided into stories, they argue that none of the stories would actually stand on its own without the others. But hell, if it really is a novel, so much the better. I've always wanted to write a novel. Now it seems like I might have written one by accident. Actually mr. Jalava warned that it might take until next week before he can get back to me on it, but burning with anxiety. After all, the guy runs a pretty successful fantasy- and science fiction publishing house, so if it is good (or bad), he ought to know.

In a relatedy story, Risingshadows.net awarded me the titles of "Kirjailija, game designer" and somehow changed my standing in forum hierarchy. I am little fuzzy on the details but thanks anyway. For some reason roolipelit.net does not acknowledge my username and password although I have registered there. I would not mention this, but someone wondered why I didn't comment the wrong Praedor homepage URL there. I did, under the name "Vieras". Roolipelit.net news services is nice to have but I have too many discussion forums to watch already, so maybe I just won't bother with that.

I went to see Day After Tomorrow for the second time, this time with my parents. My mother likes anything smacking of conservation so it is no wonder she liked it. But that my father, a retired geologist of some renown liked it too, was a bit surprising. He put it this way: "Earth's crust is from 50 to 300 kilometres thick. Compared to Earth as a whole, the rock between us and hell is thinner than the skin of an apple.Very small changes can turn Earth surface hostile to life. It is commendable that the people behind DAT have had the guts to portray the insignifigance of Humanity in the face of nature". So good grades for the attitude, somewhat lesser grades for the movie itself, although he thought the effects, especially the tornadoes, to be awesome.

03-Jun-2004: Market Saturation Point

Mike just asked me what is the rate of Praedor sales and I told him some figures from early spring. Today I got some new figures from Fantasiapelit in Helsinki and we are down to 1-2 copies per month. That is practically no sales, so we can say that the market saturation point for Praedor is about 600 copies. By now, everybody who wants the game or has any interest in fantasy roleplaying games in general probably has one. All further purchases will be incidental, made on a whim, or as gifts. Unless the sales pick up when the novel is published, there is really no point in making new print runs, even if the present print run would happen to run out.

Out there in a big wide world there used to be a rule that a supplement sells 1/3 of the main rulebook. Finns are notoriously bad at buying roleplaying game supplements (unless they are weapon catalogues) so the ration is more like 1/5. That would mean a little over hundred copies of the supplement. I hope this trend can be turned around so that the novel sells 2000 and the RPG sells 1/3 of that, because that would mean about 100 copies more being sold. Not really a bargain. I wonder how well Myrskyn Aika is doing? With initial sales of 1500 or more, it should be in its second print run by now.

By the way, here is the Finnish review of Roudan Maa that I promised (review by Petteri Hannila):

Olen saanut käsiini ennakkotilaajana Wille Ruotsalaisen tekemän suomalaiseen historiaan ja mytologiaan pohjautuvan fantasiaroolipelisupplementin. Näin opus mainostaa itseään:

'Tämä on matkaopas Roudan maahan, sankareiden aikaan ja paikkaan, mytologiselle viikinkiajan suomenniemelle. Siellä kalevalaiset sankarit ovat vielä kerran valmiit vyöttämään vainovaatteet ja puolustamaan perheitään ja peltojaan hiisiä ja kalman kauhuja vastaan'.

Kyseessä on siis lähdeteos, joka ei sisällä kytköksiä mihinkään roolipelisäännöstöön vaan sisältää ainoastaan tietoa.

Ulkonäkö ja koko
Kirjanen on pienempi kuin osasin odottaa, vain reilut 60 sivua, ja painos on vaatimaton (itse asiassa ensi silmäyksellä teos muistuttaa ylipaksua magusta). Kustantajana on ollut ropecon ry ja ensipainos on mitä ilmeisimmin varsin pieni.

Kuvitus on kauttaaltaan tyyliin sopivaa ja kuvia on kohtuullinen määrä. Sisäkanteen on piirretty laaja kartta, joka sisältää hurjan määrän paikkoja ja on selkeydessään kohtalainen. Valitettavasti pienemmät kartat kirjan sivuilla ovat enemmän tai vähemmän suttuisia. Mieli tekisi jostain saada Roudan maan kartta suurena värillisenä versiona, jos sellainen olisi mahdollista.


Kirjan ohuehko sisältö on täytetty varsin jämäkästi asialla, kirjanen on jaettu seitsemään lukuun.

Ensimmäinen luku käsittelee erittäin lyhyesti (sivu) maan historiaa ja kehittymistä siihen pisteeseen missä seikkailut alkavat. Historiaa voisi varmasti olla enemmänkin, toisaalta teoksessa oletetaan että kalevalan tapahtumat ovat olleet tosia ja että ne ovat tapahtuneet vain n. 40 vuotta sitten.

Toisessa luvussa kuvataan eri kulttuurien (lähinnä kalevalainen ja lappalainen) elämäntapoja (aineellista ja henkistä kulttuuria). Luku on erittäin hyödyllistä asiaa ja valottaa elämän arkiasioita ja antaa varmasti pj:lle tiukan tietopaketin pelimaailman elämästä.

Kolmannessa luvussa kuvataan alueet tarkemmin aina alueen yleisestä kuvauksesta ja mielenkiintoisista paikoista kyseisen alueen tärkeimpien henkilöiden kuvauksiin. Mielestäni tällainen esitystapa on erinomainen kun sivuja kuitenkin on melkoisen vähän, PJ:lle annetaan paljon virikkeitä ja mahdollisia seikkailuideoita.

Neljäs luku keskittyy kuvaamaan haltijoita, hirviöitä ja eläimiä joita Roudan maan maailmassa riittääkin. Hieno yksityiskohta näissä on muikean oloinen suomen kielen käyttö, otuksia on aina tarvaksesta pököön ja kolsiaisesta koukoon. Otuksista on annettu riittävät kuvaukset, eivätkä ne tunnu irrallisilta muuhun maailmaan nähden.

Viidennessä luvussa käsitellään seikkailujen taustaa, lähinnä puhutaan elämän vuosikierrosta (mm. vuosittain pidettävät juhlat), kerrotaan mäkilinnoista ja vaihdantataloudesta, sekä esitetään kohtuullinen varusteluettelo vaihtohintoineen. Listalla pääsee varmasti alkuun, mutta vaihtohinnastoon PJ:n on tutustuttava jonkin aikaa ennenkuin sisäistää systeemin täysin. Jotkut vaihtohinnoista tuntuivat myös hieman omituisilta.

Kuudes luku on omistettu taikuudelle ja maailmankuvan käsittelylle. Siinä kuvataan Roudan maan asukkaiden käyttämän taikuuden perusperiaatteita, epäkuolleita ja emuuja (eläinhenkiä). Luku päättyy varsin pitkään listaan erilaisia maagisia esineitä. Lista on sen verran kattava että se antaa PJ:lle hyvän käsityksen ja mahdollisuuden keksiä omiaankin.

Seitsemäs luku sisältää liitteitä, maininnan puhutuista kielistä, eri alueiden arvioituja asukaslukuja, kohtaamistaulukoita, tapahtumia ja seikkailuideoita. Luvun (ja koko kirjan) päättävät pitkähkö lista esimerkkinimiä sekä erinomainen puolentoista sivun mittainen lähdeluettelo josta varmasti löytyy jokaiselle kiinnostuneelle jotain luettavaa.

summa summaarum

Kalevala-roolipelaamisen lähdeteos on täällä, eli tämä pesee mielestäni suppeudestaan huolimatta ANKHit ja ultima thulet mennen tullen. Tekijä ei ole jäänyt niukkojen historiatietojen kanssa arvailemaan vaan on käyttänyt hauskasti mielikuvitusta täyttäessään aukkokohdat ja muuttaessaan muinaisesta suomesta seikkailemiselle otollisen paikan.

Ei niin hyvää ettei jotain pahaakin. Sivujen pieni määrä tuli jo mainittua. Tämän lisäksi joitain termejä ei selitetä kunnolla ja lukija joutuu etsimään selvityksen näille sanoille muualta. Tämän lisäksi pienet kartat ovat harmittavan suttuisia ja lähes käyttökelvottomia. Suuressa (sisäkannen) kartassa on paikannimiä rutosti enemmän kuin mitä tekstissä selvitetään. Mitä ilmeisimmin lisää materiaalia on pöytälaatikossa vielä odottamassa.

Loppukommenttina: jos kalevalan / muinaissuomen maisemissa seikkaileminen kiinnostaa vähänkin, kannattaa tutustua tähän opukseen. Teos tulee myyntiin ainakin ropeconissa ja hinta lienee jossain lähellä 15 euroa.

There you have it. My apologies to non-Finnish readers, but Roudan Maa by Wille Ruotsalainen is in Finnish so you couldn't have made head or tails of it anyway.

01-Jun-2004: Here we go!

I'd like to say the Praedor book is done but I don't know what "done" is anymore. Petri has read it through. Folks at Jalava Kustannus called me today and told me they want to read it through. It has been through one editing and one machine-assisted proofreading run. It will probably be proofread some more and without machine assistance and Jalava might want some alterations to the story. You never know. So it is done and complete, but not off my hands yet. I can't wait.

There is a new column by Mike Pohjola at RPG.Net. He talks about publicity, it is effects on sales and identifying yourself as a roleplaying book author rather than a game designer. I can only envy the level of publicity he is getting, but on the other hand he handles it much better. If Finnish RPG production scene must have a face, better his than mine. He is more photogenic and while I disagree with his theories and Schools, that is good stuff to throw at journalists. I am much too close to the stereotype of an introverted geek and usually put my foot in my mouth whenever I say something in public. Still, I am seething with envy, not just of his publicity but of all the little things that make him so well suited for this 15 minutes of fame.

In his column he argues that promoting himself as a roleplaying book author instead of an RPG designer has been a major publicity success and merited him lot of the attention usually given to published authors. It is probably true. I am about just as famous within the scene, but outside it nobody gives a damn what I do (ok, I got a job because of it so that is not completely true). Maybe becoming a real author with the Praedor novel changes this but I have my doubts. Loads of fantasy are being published already; why would anybody pay any attention to one more book?

In all honesty, I identify myself as an a roleplaying game designer and not a roleplaying book author. Maybe I could use the word "author" if I had a completely own setting but I haven't had one of those since Taiga. While I have added loads of new content to Jaconia and Stalker, it does not affect intellectual property rights. Jaconia belongs to Petri, Stalker to Boris. They have let me play god in their world, but it is still THEIR world.

I can't say for certain what is behind Jalava's interest in Praedor but the educated guess would be that they are trying to establish their own a Finnish fantasy brand, with no overseas financial entanglements and no need for translation fees. I hope the book fits the bill, because if it does, there might be demand for more. I still have something like 40+ years to live so finding something sensible to do is a priority. Writing pulp fantasy and roleplaying games while listening to heavy metal and sipping coffee-cream liqueur does not sound too bad.