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ferron 31-Aug-2016: You Did It!

You did it! You fucking did it! I just received an order for my third box of Salaisuuksien Kirja and have just half a box left! That is 170 copies sold in 33 days (although the actual delivery for this box is at Tracon next weekend). I already promised you Kirottu Kirja if Salaisuuksien Kirja covered its costs. We were there three weeks ago. Now we are making a small profit, which will be split between Petri and myself. As I explained in the last entry, I am more than happy to pay royalties to Petri. First, the very existence of royalties means we're doing something right. Second, the more interested he is in Praedor, the better for all of us Praedor fans. :)

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about. What I do want to talk about is you guys just blowing my mind. 170 sales may seem paltry compared to the 1300 of the main rulebook but hey, in 33 days and in Finland?! Supplements don't sell here, not unless they are weapon and equipment lists! But Praedor RPG exists in this strange goo-goo-land where the main rulebook is still selling after 16 years, the supplement turns profit after a month and I get publishing deals for 458-page hardcover novels. In the end, that is all thanks to you guys. Yes, you right there! And you! And you two! You on the left! The pair of you on the right! And the three who sit in the back and try to make themselves invisible! You are all fucking awesome, did you know that?

I am not writing RPG stuff for profit and hence my own work has no cost. This is something I do to pass the time between now and the grave. Covering my production costs is always my primary goal. It determines whether the project was successful or not. Making profit so that I can give something to Petri or the Strugatsky estate is my secondary goal. Selling out the print-runs so I don't have the boxes lying around is my tertiary goal. With Salaisuuksien Kirja we are already at stage 2 on day 33. It was time well-spent and to my surprise, I found that I like writing supplements; going into detail on something that has been glossed over before and yet keeping the project scope so small that you actually have the end in sight. That does not happen with the 200+ page rulebooks. Not until you are really close to the end.

I already promised you a second supplement if I covered my costs. That will be Kirottu Kirja and the damn thing has sprouted wings in the last two days. I still have 70 pages to go but a good start is absolutely crucial in getting these things rolling. Think of a snowball rolling downhill and you get the gist of it. The Borvaria Adventure Cards are also in the works and will be ready by Ropecon 2017. There is also a small chance of a third supplement, or if Käärmetanssija is well-received, maybe a new Praedor novel. Enthusiasm is contagious and while I am really nervous about your reactions to my novel, I am genuinely glad that you guys are looking forward to it (and say so).

To quote Lise Myhre (the author of Nemi), it takes a lot of guts to create something out of nothing and claim it has value. This is why artists tend to have low self-esteem when it comes to appraising their works. Or, to quote Phil "Philty Animal" Taylor, the late ex-drummer for Motörhead: WE ARE ARTISTS! WE ARE SENSITIVE AS SHIT!

It shows in Salaisuuksien Kirja, by the way. There is a fair bit of errata for it but even the layout seems anxious, nervous, like I was afraid that you wouldn't find it worthy and kept packing more and more into it. I am much more relaxed now that I am writing Kirottu Kirja and to be fair, I think it also looks better if you ignore the images. Speaking of errata, Salaisuuksien Kirja also has one critical flaw I will curse myself about for the rest of my days. It is on page 36. I made this table of how demonic possession alters characteristics and it involves a shitload of calculating by the GM based on the demon's Might. What I should have done is to have all the characteristics be either the witch's own or equal to the demon's Might, whichever is higher. And if the demon is doing something it has an innate understanding of because of its arcane properties, we will use either the Might or the witch's own skill value, whichever is higher. Changing characteristics do change their respective sub-values but that's it. There is no need for bullshit tables and hard-to-track equations. I really failed you there. I am sorry.

Well, that was a bit of late-night rambling. In conclusion, I am really glad over the reception of Salaisuuksien Kirja and the enthusiasm you have shown for Käärmetanssija, and Taivaan suuri susi for that matter. It is inspirational, contagious and encouraging. And that's the profit I am after. 

ferron 27-Aug-2016: Snakedancer is here!

It is finally here. Käärmetanssija came out on Thursday and the pre-orders are, hopefully, already in the mail. Käärmetanssija is my new Praedor novel, although you could say that at 453 pages it is more of a tome. You could fit all previous Praedor novels and anthologies, Vanha Koira, Kirotun maan kulkijat and Kirotun maan ritarit between its covers. However, Käärmetanssija doesn't feature burly men in armor. No, wait, kind of does. But primarily it tells the story of Nejah, a girl barely into her teens, who abandons her noble origins and becomes a thief, a spy, a dancer and the key to a conspiracy that rocks the city-state of Galth. The steps of the snakedance will take her from the slums Galth to the shadows of Borvaria. 


So what do I think? First of all, it shares the outward look & feel with Petri's Taivaan suuri susi and we are finally establishing brand rules for Praedor stuff. I don't expect everyone to start using that blue leather texture but having the text "Praedor" on the cover and sporting the dragon-ouroboros logo in a visible place are must-haves from now on. I have always wanted Praedor to become a huge Finnish fantasy brand that invites cooperation, much like Glukhovsky did with Universe of Metro 2033. Anyone can offer stories to be part of the Praedor franchise. Then Petri determines if they cut the mustard (quality of writing, interesting story, respectful of both the features and the boundaries of the setting). If they pass, probably with some requests for revision, we (Petri, Erkka and myself) can help the aspiring author find a publisher. And thus the franchise will grow.

As for Käärmetanssija itself, I like my story, I like my characters and I like the places it takes us to. Still, opening the book on almost any page, I always find something I wish I had worded differently. Maybe the editor should have been sterner with my adverbs but then again, flowery language is something I am known for even as a Gamemaster. Part of my brand, I suppose, whether I like it myself or not. The proofreader has taken out all the commas I had been using for artistic pauses, so I admit some of the sentences appear a little convoluted now. Damn you, Finnish grammar! I much prefer the English rules of punctuation where comma placement is more art than science. Also, when I wrote the script I worried that the paragraphs were too short. Now I think they might be too long. It didn't bother me in the sample PDF but on paper it is more of an issue. Oh well, I choose to trust the experts on this.

I hope you like it, because if you do, there might be more coming. And whether you like it or not, don't forget to check out Petri's Taivaan suuri susi as well. It changes the world and from this moment on, the official date in all Praedor RPG material is upped to 520 V.a, right after the events described in that album. Besides, I really like how the world and its politics are slowly coming into focus, not to mention that the comic includes one of the longest stretches of Borvaria Petri has ever drawn :)


After kicking my Witcher 3 -habit, I began replaying Fallout 4 in Survival Mode (plus a couple of mods). I really, really like it. It is like a whole new game and the geography fear and attrition works. I think the designers originally planned the game to be played like this, because this just... works! Add +1 to whatever rating I gave Fallout 4 before if you are playing it in this mode. It reminds me of how vivid and interesting Frostfall, Cloaks of Skyrim and iNeed mods made Skyrim. Not to mention Item Degradation, which finally did away with the "too much gold" issue. Or the need to become a blacksmith whatever your chosen role.

But back to FO4. The Survival Mode adds the need to eat, drink and sleep. Using meds like stimpacks and radaway now has health effects, like making you need more fluids or more vulnerable to disease (there are a few different kinds) for a while. They also work very, very slowly. The game is only saved when you sleep on a bed, a mattress or one of the grimy sleeping bags you might find in the wild. Of all the needs, I'd say sleeping is the biggest bother and I got an infection from sleeping in a bad at Dugout Inn. There is no fast travel at all but if you are going deal with settlements, I recommend modding some exceptions to that. Now you need to plan ahead, taking care of your crafting, planning your routes and avoiding fights you don't need. Friendly settlements and farms are suddenly vital temporary bases for the exploration of their surroundings. For the first time, I have begun fortifying the most important ones and arming the settlers with guns looted from dead foes.

It all clicks in the place. All the pieces, the crafting, world design... They first designed this gem of a game. Then they willfully ruined it, stripping out all the essential, immersion-heavy features. Fucking casuals.

Now, if only there was a game mode with a better main story...   

ferron 14-Aug-2016: "Let's Do This"

I didn't say that. Petri Hiltunen said that. And with that, Borvaria Adventure Deck and to a lesser extent "Kirottu Kirja" became a joint effort by me and maestro Hiltunen himself. The deck is the first Praedor RPG product since the actual rulebook to have both of us working on it, producing new material. The deck pictures will also form a part of Kirottu Kirja but it will have other illustrators as well. Free or grossly underpaid illustrators, as usual.

I just told a prospective illustrator that I could agree to about half of his fees, but there was nothing wrong with them, really! They were quite reasonable, competitive and certainly well-earned! I just can't match even half-way decent offers without my unit costs skyrocketing! This is the downside of doing such small print runs! At the time of writing I don't know what the artist's response will be. "Go forth and multiply", however expressed, would be a perfectly understandable reaction. 

I am forever grateful to the illustrators of Salaisuuksien kirja: Juha Makkonen (woohoo!), Marko Laine and Aapo Luoma. A good deal of that was done for free (Makkonen and Luoma, while I did pay a modest fee for the cover art and rounded it up for some additional B/W work on the side), carried out in exchange for recognition and a chance to work on a legendary franchise. Well, legendary within the Finnish RPG scene. Come to think of it, the whole Praedor RPG line is pretty much based on exploiting illustrators. I have had the privilege and honor to pay Petri several thousand euros in royalties over the years but as of yet, the value of art in the main rulebook is far from covered. Of course, back then we didn't really expect there to be any profits to share.

Thought making and publishing additional Praedor RPG material was going to be all fun and games, didn't you?     


ferron 04-Aug-2016: Keeping My Word!

Ropecon. Ah, Ropecon. Ropecon. Ropecon! Ropecon! ROPECON!!!

Honestly, after all the heartache in the family, my physical aches and bone fractures and the various pulmonary health issues over the spring and summer, Ropecon felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Although I was stuck in a wheelchair, I was so happy I could have cried.

My thing.

My scene.

My tribe.

I might have some complaints on ticket distribution, wheelchair accessibility, food and whatnot but who cares! The new venue was good enough, the programme was amazing and the people were wonderful. I should really pay more attention to the guests of honor. Ross Watson was the author of Rogue Trader RPG and an awesome guy all-around. I am very glad to have met him. That said, I do not wish to belittle Claus Raasted's importance to the scene but he is mostly known for his LARPs and that's what he was there to talk about.

Furthermore, coming to Ropecon when you are releasing something new is always special. This time it was Salaisuuksien kirja, the long-awaited first official supplement to Praedor RPG. It sold so well there that Fantasiapelit ordered a new box right after the event. I have now covered my costs with margin to spare. In just four days. Four freaking days! With a supplement to a roleplaying game that came out 16 years ago! The reality does not make any sense! I promised in Facebook that if I sold over 100 copies, I'd drop all pretense and start working on Borvarian tarot (henceforth known as the Borvaria Adventure Deck) and the supporting Kirottu Kirja (lit. "Cursed Book") supplement. Well, now it is official. Barring death or the fall of civilization, both will come out in Ropecon 2017.

Anyone out there with drawings of epic ruins, ancient treasures and adventurers doing mundane adventuring tasks in their desk drawers? This is your chance to be be part of the Praedor franchise. The previous entry had some ideas for the broad topics of Kirottu Kirja but I would be especially interested in seeing praedors do what they do best and portrayals of completely mundane activities in epic settings. A very Praedor thing to do.

Drop me a line, if you are interested.  

I didn't see much of the programme at Ropecon but what I did see was top-notch, from Montola's Passion & Industry panel, to Fright Night and Miska's product presentation on Sotakarjut. I took part in the Passion & Industry panel, hosted the RPG layout design panel and finally gave the Gods of Jaconia presentation on Sunday. I hope you liked them. I also exchanged cards with Ross Watson, had him sign my special edition Rogue Trader RPG and gifted him with a copy of the English-language Stalker RPG. He keeps a blog, btw. I am waiting to read his impressions from Ropecon. I am sure we old hands all remember Kovalic's comic about Ropecon in Dork Tower. 

Next, a shout-out to Miska Fredman, my colleague from Ironspine. I am already a fan of Astraterra (which I gamemastered to highly age-diverse group of players during my visit up north) but now he has come up with something that has immediate applications for Praedor RPG fans:

Random Dungeons

He is drawing bad-ass dungeons from various genres and has released some of them in a Dozen Dungeons booklet that you can buy from drivethrurpg.com. More importantly for me, his Patreon account includes a patron level where you can  use his dungeons for commercial purposes. I am so going to do that and you can expect to see his works in Burger Games products from now on. They are all licensed under Creative Commons, so I obviously won't have exclusive rights to any of them, though. Still, they are fucking great and the man has real talent. Miska also sent me that kick-ass ad banner you can see above. I still haven't figured out where I am going to put it. For now, it is going to hover near the top of my blog.  

Other interesting publications encountered in Ropecon include but are not limited to a full version of Roudan Maa (+4 for the maps, +2 for the rest as the world-building feels like something is lacking) and Hood, the long-awaited children's roleplaying game from Jukka Sorsa. It looks nice enough and knowing Sorsa, I am sure the system works beautifully. I just can't help feeling that there is an inherent conflict with Myrskyn Sankarit because of the subject matter (green-clad rebels in the deep woods and shit).

Finally, I ran into a strange OSR apologist who insisted that Praedor RPG was just a version of old D&D (I've seen the type before: had I pressed him, he would have claimed every adventuring-based RPG ever was a D&D clone). I told him how I had become enamored with the problem-solving gameplay of Stalker RPG and wanted to bring something like that into the Praedor RPG monster fights with Kirottu Kirja. He immediately exclaimed that OSR games were all about that already. Yeah. Suuuuure. And had I told him I was looking for a cure to cancer, he would have said that OSR games have found it already. Far be it from me to curb anyone's enthusiasm for RPGs but don't rub it into my face quite so hard next time, eh?

All in all, a wonderful Ropecon. I approve.     

ferron 16-Jul-2016: Why Me?

Just because I am a drama queen doesn't mean I would have nothing to complain about. Three things happened this week: Salaisuuksien Kirja came out of the printers, Ropecon published its programme and I got a diagnosis for my sore knee: the lower end of the thigh-bone is fractured, probably after being bashed against the shin bone from some jolt. I've been hobbling about with it for half a month, so no big deal, right? Orthopedic did not agree and now it is "no walking" for about a month, except for dire emergencies or dragging myself along with two crutches instead of one. This was, of course, four days before I was going to leave for the deep woods and canyon lakes of Kainuu. Now it is no waterfalls, no epic woodland paths, no raging rapids, no rock paintings and no deep lakes surrounded by wooded cliffs. Whether I go or not, it is all about sofas, books and what's on the telly.

I hate my life.

No matter what happens, I will be attending Ropecon. Possibly in a wheelchair but I will be there. Boxes of Salaisuuksien Kirja will also be delivered there somehow; I am not the only one with a pair of hands around here. I won't be attending Assembly this summer though, apart from watching some of it via Internet. At Ropecon, I will hold two events: Roolipelien taitto on taito sinänsä -panel at 21.00 on Saturday evening and Jaconian jumalat (which doubles as the unofficial release event for Salaisuuksien Kirja) at 13.00 on Sunday. These two I will attend. Prior to my diagnosis, when I still thought I might be able to attend Ropecon with just the a walking stick, I was also planning to attend:

Fri, 18-19: Käsikirjoituksesta kirjaksi
Fri 19-20: Sotakarjut - tieteisroolipeli
Fri 20-22: Roolipelaajan peruskoulu: Kaaoksen ja järjestyksen välissä
Fri 22-23: Historian suurimmat hirvittävyydet
Sat 11-13: Game novels then and now

Sat 13-14: All the mistakes we've made
Sat 14-15: Seikkailijoiden kilta -roolipelin esittely
Sat 15-17: Hood -roolipelin julkaisu
Sat 17-19: Roolipeli ideasta kirjaksi
(Sat 21-22: Roolipelien taitto on taito sinänsä)
Sun 10-11: Age of the Tempest
Sun 11-12: Astraterra
(Sun 13-15: Jaconian jumalat)
Sun 15-17: The Hero's Journey

But that was then. Now it might be that I will settle into some corner of the social spaces and move only when I must. If I have an electric wheelchair on loan from the city of Vantaa, or someone is helping me move around, I might attend some of these events. But should you host one and not see me there, please don't take it personally.

It is not all about complaints, though. I have resolved to both make the bloody Tarot cards and write another Praedor RPG supplement, come hell or high water. If they don't sell, I'll roast sausages over the book pyre or something. Regarding the Borvarian Tarot, Petri wanted to do it in color and I preferred B/W, but then began to have doubts. The price difference between the two is negligible and I can't really blame Petri for wanting to bring Praedor into the modern age. There is a poll on Facebook on whether or not the cards should be in colour. Let's see what my core audience thinks.

Now, the Borvarian Tarot should be perfectly usable without Kirottu Kirja (lit. The Cursed Book) and vice versa, but there will be synergy benefits to using both. I have sort of figured out what the cards will be and have just started to type out Kirottu Kirja, the GM's guide to Borvaria and praedor expeditions into it. At the moment, I am planning to use the content flow already found in Salaisuuksien Kirja: information + rules + bestiary (if applicable) + adventure, followed by another I + R + B+ A on some other major topic. Maybe someone will convince me it is a bad idea but for now, here we are. The planned topics are as follows:       

  • Planning the expedition: The reasons, the perks, the goals, the equipment. New stuff, new alchemy perhaps, new ways to keep your pack mules alive and blow your hard-earned gold on better weapons and armor (weapon and armor breakage included!). Plus, an optional rule on how wild carousing afterwards can yield even more experience points from the expedition. Stalker RPG has a chapter very much like this one as part of the Player's Book. In retrospect, Praedor should have had one as well right from the beginning.


  • Borvaria as a setting: What is it like, what you can or cannot do, what kind of terrain, obstacles, hazards and opportunities there are and so forth. Wild magic probably needs it own sub-chapter. And there will be treasure tables. Everybody loves treasure. Even I as the GM love treasure!
  • Monster Gallery. I once planned to write a Book of Monsters (Hirviöiden Kirja) but it is better this way. Every monster type present in the Borvarian Tarot is covered here with stats and typical variations (ultimately, all nameless are unique beings). This section will also include GM instructions for running monster-themed battles and how monsters can be a cerebral challenge as much as physical. But should you choose not use your brains, there are rule changes aimed at giving the monsters their teeth back (tried and tested house-rules in my games). They'll will test your character. To the limit.

It is all stolen art here but you get the point. Those three chapters should be enough content for 74 pages, which would make Kirottu Kirja just as big as Salaisuuksien Kirja. Currently, the Finnish RPG industry norm seems to be 16 pages but hey, that's why there is Burger Games. And Praedor still has easier rules than certain games intended for beginners... Writing and running Stalker RPG has profoundly changed my views about Borvaria and monsters. With the Borvarian Tarot and Kirottu Kirja, I intend to bring some of that spirit over to Praedor as well.   

ferron 06-Jul-2016: Future Plans

"We deserve a rest." - Geralt of Rivia in Blood And Wine, as he breaks the fourth wall and turns to look straight at the camera.

Farewell, Witcher 3.

It took me 210 hours to complete the main plot, a reasonable amount of side quests (not nearly all of them) and both of the big DLCs, Hearts of Stone and Blood And Wine. And it was a magnificent experience! I am humbled by the level of writing, the attention to detail, the believable locations and cultures, the sheer beauty of the world and finally by the mind-bending volume of it all. If CD Projekt Red, a relatively obscure and smallish developer from Poland can put out something like this, what's the fucking excuse for the rest of the industry? While Witcher 3 had its flaws, overall I rate it a masterpiece. It is probably the single best computer game I've ever played, a feat made even more incredible by the fact I don't really like third-person perspective, the controls were clunky on a PC and the enemy scaling goes completely off the rails if you do any side quests.


In short, whatever complaints I might have, the good outweighs the bad by such a huge margin that you could fit several excellent games into it. And for once, for once, we have a game where the ending does not suck. Especially in Blood And Wine, which intentionally positions itself as the epilogue to the Witcher franchise and its characters. I got the best possible ending and still had tears in my eyes. I will miss this world and I will miss these characters like dear friends. And more importantly, I will be a lifelong fan of this franchise, no matter what kind of twat Sapkowski is in the real world (some harsh words from Polish fandom...). Maybe I'll return to W3 one day, when I've forgotten enough of the plot... assuming that something so superbly written and dramatic can ever be forgotten. For me, Witcher 3 is the high-water mark of videogame writing. I've never seen better and I don't know if anyone is even trying to match it.

But the adventure is now over. I am needed in Fallout 4 and its large world-expanding DLC Far Harbor. If it is anywhere as good as Point Lookout DLC was in Fallout 3, I am in for a treat. And when that's done and dusted, Doom.


Finncon happened over the weekend in Tampere. It was good, although I did get my usual "I am an imposter and everybody else here is a real writer" -moment. My apologies to the guests of honor but I really had no idea who they were. I was focusing on Praedor, grimdark and fandom development. Listening to the panel about grimdark, I also tried to figure if Käärmetanssija fits the bill. Kinda does, kinda doesn't. You'll be the judge. Then there was the Praedor panel with me, Petri and Erkka, and the big question being what is it like to develop creative content and even books based on someone else's work. Obviously, I love it all things Praedor. However, two important things happened that'll shape the future of Praedor RPG.

We were asked about our future plans and I said that while coming up with ideas and inspiration for novels is beyond my control, I was planning to do the Borvaria Tarot... and a full-sized supplement to go with it, under a working title Kirottu Kirja (lit. "The Cursed Book"). The supplement would focus on Borvaria expeditions and support the use of Borvaria Tarot. It would also include all the new monster tweaks I've been wanting to make. Ultimately, its fate depends on the reception of Salaisuuksien Kirja, so we'll have to see. If nobody cares, why would I care either. In case someone does care, my original plan was that both the tarot and Kirottu Kirja could come out by Christmas. This is now looking unlikely.

The second thing that happened was that Petri became interested in the Borvarian Tarot, which is really great (you would love a Praedor CCG with Petri's art on the cards, wouldn't you?) but threw my scheduling out of the window. It also tore open some content issues I had already decided and you know the drill: what Petri wants Petri gets. What I have to do now is to sit down with the maestro and agree what the Borvarian Tarot is and will look like. Then, I will design the cards on paper and once that's done, use that plan as the framework for Kirottu Kirja. And while I am typing away, Petri will draw the card images and in a perfect world they will all be ready at roughly the same time. Or that's the plan. You know what happens to plans, don't you? 

Petri also went public with the news that there is a Praedor videogame in the works. I already knew that but to my knowledge there isn't anything visible to show for it yet. I am not involved in the development in any shape or form but I am told they are trying to do something in the vein of Telltale Games (Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands). More power to them if that's true. For his part, Erkka told he was writing a script for a Praedor graphic novel drawn by someone other than Petri Hiltunen. That would be a first. So what can I say? Turns out my plans for the future are the dull ones!


Jos ennakkotilaat sekä Käärmetanssijan että Taivaan suuren suden Arktisen Banaanin verkkokaupasta, syötä koodi PRAEDOR ja saat 5% alennusta. Etu on voimassa kesän ajan.


ferron18-Jun-2016: Kolmen valtiaan tarina

Oi ilon päivää! Yksi Petri Hiltusen Praedor-tuotannon hienoimmista kokonaisuuksista on Kolmen valtiaan tarina -nimellä tunnettu kokoelma, johon myös kuuluisa Leijona ja perhonen -tarina kuuluu. Petri on laittanut kyseiset sarjakuvat nyt kaikkien saataville ilmaiseksi. Jokainen joka ei lataa niitä itselleen ja nauti on mätämuna.


Edelleenlevitys ei ole ainoastaan sallittua, vaan myös suotavaa.

ferron 16-Jun-2016: The Borvarian Tarot

It is a rainy night outside. Sleep escapes me. I get a lot of that these days and before you ask, no, I really don't want to use melatonin. While it does make you fall asleep, it won't help you stay asleep, so I wake up again and again, only to fall asleep again. The end result is this annoying roller-coaster ride through different levels of awareness.

Well, since we are here and The Book of Secrets is being reviewed by Maestro Hiltunen, I decided we could talk about The Borvarian Tarot. As you may know, tarot is a deck of cards with highly symbolic images on it. Originally, it was a medieval card game and some records of the original rules still survive. It is more famous as a tool for divination, though. Cards pulled from the deck at random would tell your future, past and whatever else the diviner can come up with. Most tarot decks have 74 or 54 cards. The Borvaria Tarot is going to have just 50 cards in it, but they are double-faced, so there are effectively 100 cards in the pack.

This is not the first time the idea of using cards to assist the gamemaster in improvising adventures in Borvaria has been thrown around. I had contemplated building a map of out randomly chosen pieces (as in some board games) and in Efemeros #2, Sami Koponen presented a system of mapping Borvaria with hex graph and drawing four playing cards per hex to determine what was in it. I thought it was an interesting concept but too complex and removed from the game itself. And I really wanted to be rid of the hex paper.  Still, credit where credit is due; without Efemeros #2, I probably wouldn't have kept the idea somewhere on the back burner.

Years later (well, last year, actually), I ran into a computer game called Hand of Fate. To cut the long story short, *that* is how I wanted to run my Borvaria expeditions. Instead of rolling from tables and filling in map grids, I would throw down a card: That is the location lying before the adventurers. They could still turn back but if they decide to enter and explore, two variables come into play: Hazard and Treasure.

All the cards in The Borvarian Tarot are two-sided. On one side there is a location and on the other a hazard, ranging from various types of monsters (and dice rolls to indicate their number) to Wild Magic, spoiled supplies and collapsing structures. Each location has a Hazard rating and when entered, I draw that many more cards and flip them to see the hazards the characters will have to deal with, one way or the other. There are very few strict rules about it. We are roleplayers, after all, and if Stalker RPG taught me something, it was to trust the GMs. After all, the whole point of The Borvaria Tarot is to help the GMs imagine and improvise as adventurers roam the endless ruins. If they can do it from bullet points or numbered dice table entries, they sure as hell can do it from card pictures.

Once the hazards have been resolved, those cards go back into the deck. The location stays on the table and the adventurers may now look for treasure (not all locations have Treasure Ratings). I am using a simplified way to do treasure rolls in my own games and that system would be codified into a rule with The Borvaria Tarot. It is simple enough: I tell the players they found e.g. 4N worth treasure. They roll the dice and that is the gold worth of what they've recovered. For every "6" they rolled, they also found something special from the "Treasure Items" table in the rulebook. Sometimes finding the treasures might require PER-rolls, or the players only get to roll some of the T-rating dice and can add more only if they do well in their search.

It is not perfect but it is "good enough".

Note that the deck is not taking a stand on how any particular hazard should be resolved. Maybe they leave poisoned bait for the monsters to gorge on? Maybe they make a human effigy and hide bear traps inside? Maybe they create a distraction to lure it away, or frighten it away with mirrors. The cards do not care. Nor, if the location drawn was "Acidic Swamp" or "Crumbling Wall", will the cards care how exactly the players plan to cross it and move about. If looking at the picture gives them workable ideas, so much the better. The hazards will then strike somewhere along the way.  

As a side note, my players in the Land of Bitter River(s) have resorted to ingenuity and cunning to defeat powerful monsters. Facing a huge toad-like creature that tried to grab them with its tongue, they mounted a bear trap onto a shield and lured the creature into attacking it. It did and the bear trap clamped down onto its tongue, with the shield still tied on. It weighed the tongue down and prevented it from grabbing anything. Having thus neutralized the monster's most powerful attack, they promptly hacked it into pieces. This is the kind of play that borders on the FLOW way of figuring out an actual solution to the problem at hand. And I love it. When and if I give the Praedor monsters their cojones back with the Book of Monsters, I am so going to make them over-powered with special attacks to promote this kind of problem-solving. If you can figure out a counter to the special attack, the monsters don't seem so tough no more. 

But I digress.

As a rule of thumb, moving through or exploring a location in Borvaria takes 4 hours. With 24 hours in a day, there are 8 hours of daylight, 4 hours of dusk twilight, 8 hours of night, 4 hours of dawn twilight and the cycle repeats itself. Draw an extra hazard card during the twilight and two during the night. Of course, if the camp site was well-chosen, the characters might be able to ignore the nightly hazards (problem-solving!). And once the characters have explored a location, they can decide which direction to go, north, south, east, west. Or perhaps diagonally?

They go to that edge and the GM draws another location card, laying it on the table before them. They can choose to move onto this new location (resulting in a new hazard card draw), stay where they are (looking for a place to camp for the night, perhaps?), or retreat into an already explored location that is on the table (still 4 hours per move but no hazard draw, unless a significant amount of time has passed). Remember that proceeding onwards from a location that is clearly an obstacle travel requires that the characters resolve not just the hazards but the obstructing nature of the location itself.

While hazard cards are returned to the pack, location cards stay on the table and the map keeps growing until the gamemaster runs out of cards. By then, it might be the time to turn back, or agree that they have a relatively safe mapped route back to where they came from. Then all cards are removed from the table, the deck is shuffled and the first new location is drawn, starting the map-building anew. Or maybe the gamemaster has brought more than one deck at hand and thus never runs out of locations. *wink*

I am currently exploring the production options for The Borvarian Tarot. Getting the cards done is a piece of cake but getting them packaged in a sensible, sellable and re-usable way is not. Plastic wrapper is useless after opened, so we need sleeves or boxes of some kind, even if I have to load the cards into them by hand. Should these issues get sorted out, The Borvaria Tarot is a go and Stalker RPG just might receive something similar next year.


ferron 09-Jun-2016: The Dice Are Cast

I am nervous. The Praedor IP belongs to Petri Hiltunen. Burger Games (or, "me") holds a license to publish Praedor-related roleplaying content under a profit-sharing deal. Petri retains the creative control, or rather a veto, over everything. I am not the only one with a license to create Praedor-themed content (Erkka Leppänen and the myriad authors of Kirotun maan kulkijat spring to mind) but Petri has said he keeps me on a shorter leash than others. This is quite understandable as my writings and the Praedor RPG have quite a bit of weight when it comes to defining Praedor canon.

As a rule, I submit all my commercially published Praedor-related material to him for approval and if he says no, it is not coming out, no matter how much money I paid to the cover artist (not that much, but you get the point). He has now received the final draft for Salaisuuksien Kirja. I am climbing up walls. What if he vetoes it? What if he thinks the entire concept of Holy Rites goes too far, or that there can be no mechanical benefits from them because of reasons? As supplemental material goes, The Book of Secrets is pretty extreme, challenging some of Praedor's core concepts in a devious, round-about way. It is also big. My colleagues are releasing 16-page adventure supplements (I still think it is a missed opportunity that Miska didn't make Mutkia matkassa a weapons catalogue for Astraterra) but the Book of Secrets is 74 pages of content. Roughly 80, when all the extras are included.   

In truth, an all-out veto is unlikely. Petri has certainly vetoed concepts, descriptions and themes before but he has never vetoed a full body of work. The most likely result is a list of comments and change requests, which I will follow. Still, I am worried about the Holy Rites. Praedor has a rather unorthodox view of the divine powers (for a fantasy RPG, at least) but I've seen what religious fervor can do in our world. Certainly it can do all that more in a medieval setting where the vast body of the faithful is far less educated. I also consulted an actual theologian on what kind of symptoms... eh, phenomena were typical of extremist and fringe group religions.

But Ville, you are a hardcore atheist? What can you know of religious fervor?

Well, like it or not Christians, but the center of Christianity on Earth is not Jerusalem. It is Rome, or more precisely St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. If you are a Catholic, that's your Mecca. If you are a Protestant, that is the very thing your whole protest revolves around. And if you are a Greek Orthodox, pretty much the same thing except it began 500 years earlier (and if you are Coptic etc. who gives a shit?). It was a fascinating place to visit but the other visitors were just as exotic and fascinating to me. Especially this one guy, who I thought was Hungarian, don't really recall why. All of a sudden he fell on his knees, started swaying and babbling, which I now think was "speaking in tongues". The symbolism, size and vistas of the Basilica simply overwhelmed him. I watched as the Swiss Guard helped him stand up and led him away. I don't think the man even noticed them.

Kiev Pechersk Lavra in Ukraine is not exactly St. Peter's Basilica but as centers of religion go, it comes pretty close. Ilya Muromets is buried there! Yes, that Ilya Muromets. Right alongside Nestor the Chronicler! The cave complex underneath the monastery is full of dead people in glass-covered coffins and bursting at the seams from old black-clad grannies carrying smelly candles that eat up all oxygen. I saw one of them kiss a dead guy, or rather, the glass cover over his face. Then another. And the third one licked the damn thing with obvious passion. Suddenly, like sharks smelling blood, all these old crows converged on that coffin and what happened next I do not know. This sudden rush left just enough gap for me to get the hell out of there. Mass hysteria, visions, speaking in tongues, trance states, amok, pain suppression, self-induced metabolic control... fascinating stuff.

Mystical experiences and expanded consciousness lie at the heart of all religions. This is easy to forget when you live in a country with a state-controlled Lutheran Church and where the formalized rituals have been taken as far from their shamanistic origins as possible. Jaconians don't have this problem and take their religious myths, mysteries and sensations at a face value. To a medieval person, the experience of the "holy" and the presence of the spiritual are tangible things, even if modern players wonder what the hell these people have been smoking and where you can get some. But our skepticism does not make the experience any less real, or even life-changing for the faithful.  


I've seen ghosts. Twice. But I don't believe in them.

I have also had wings on my back and seen a swarm of severed arms swim through air like fish through water. Don't believe in them either.

ferron 04-Jun-2016: Land of Bitter Rivers

Actually, I am still undecided if I am going to call my Praedor campaign Katkeran Virran Maa (singular river) or Katkerien Virtojen Maa (plural river). The first one sounds better but the latter is more accurate, since the southeastern corner of Jaconia, with the formerly great city-state of Emith and its vassal states of Seres and Japas, has two rivers running through it: the mighty Arkes and the smaller and more distant Vilian that runs along the edge of the world.

Both rivers flow from the ruins of Borvaria and carry with them poisonous currents and whatever monstrosities have fallen into them. While the barrier between the worlds in the Wasteland of the Wolf prevents the creatures of the arcane from crossing on their own, they can still be carried by the waters or be left stranded on something that floats on it. The evil waters also bring in plants and flowers from the unnature of Borvaria and while the poison has laid waste to the formerly rich farmlands surrounding the rivers, some of the hellish herbs have taken root. 

During the age of the Sorcerer Kings and even the early mortal monarchs, the eastern lands were every bit as rich and densely populated as Holrus or Galth today. They were part of the mighty realm of Emith, the fiefdom of the Sorcerer King Palak Velador, also known as the Beastlord. Palak eagerly experimented with all things living and his legacy of monsters and mutants lives on in the Southern Woodlands to this day. When the Sorcerer Kings finally fell on year 0 V.a, the First-King Valiar Mada handed out Emith, Japas and Seres as prizes to his victorious generals. Unfortunately, their dynasties lasted scarcely two centuries.   

At that time, a complex system of ingenious pumps, canal locks, flood barriers, walls and dikes kept the rivers from pushing into the canals and poisoning the lowlands around them. By the end of the second century, this system was already crumbling for the lack of sufficiently skilled engineers. The final blow came in 212 V.a. when hordes of Raycor The Vagabond King overran the eastern kingdoms. Former rulers and their scholars were either put to the sword or driven into exile, extinguishing what little was understood of the river controls. Understanding the danger and not willing to see his freshly-won prize spoiled, Raycor himself attempted to manage the rivers but his misguided efforts did more harm than good. In any case, his life was cut short by a traitor's blade in 230 V.a.

Raycor's successors could not have agreed on the color of an orange and what little labor there remained was decimated by the Great Blight of 305-312. Left on their own, the bitter rivers broke their banks and poisoned their shores. Death toll from the famine defies comprehension and the once-verdant lowlands of the east had to be abandoned. Thus the great prize of Raycor's conquest was forever lost and without their farmlands, the eastern kingdoms became shadows of their former selves. While the upper valleys and steeper terraces remain cultivated, they can support but a fraction of the former population. The landscape has became dotted with ruins, abandoned villages, collapsed aqueducts and pyramids of skulls commemorating failed slave uprisings.

Today, the Eastern Kingdoms are ruthless and uncivilized martial societies, where warrior-elites claiming to descend from Raycor himself rule over an impoverished mass of Jaconian serfs, slaves and others declared both unfree and unfit. Bearing arms is a symbol of privilege and lineage, and permitted only to the free-born, or "those whose ancestors were never slaves". Jaconians, both from within and outside the kingdoms are all considered slave-born. The free-born have the power of life and death over them but killing slaves means having to compensate the owner, which has kept indiscriminate killings in check. 

The eastern kingdoms are hostile to their neighbors, raiding them for supplies, cattle and slaves, particularly breeding-stock. Some smugglers ply their trade across the rugged highlands of Rear Piperia or the trackless wilderness west of Seran River, but there is no real trading. Outsiders found in their lands without a letter of safe conduct from the local lord are usually dragged off in chains (or killed outright if they are Wasteland Nomads). Members of the Mountain Tribes are considered free-born, though, even if they hail from the Western Mountains.

Eastern rulers are also suspicious of each other, although Hargon, the High King of Emith, has sought to strengthen the ties to his troublesome vassals by marrying off his children to the lords of Seres and Japas. For Hargon is old and ailing in a society that appreciates strength over wisdom. Besides,  successions in the east have always been messy affairs...

So, this is the setting of my Praedor RPG campaign Land of The Bitter River(s). In many ways, it is like describing the Dark Ages Europe soon after the fall of Rome but it is also heavily influenced by feudal Japan, with the insanely martial culture, strict caste divisions and twisted sense of honor and duty. The adventurers include two Jaconians (slave-born), two members of the Mountain Tribes (freeborn) and one Wasteland Nomad (kill-on-sight). Acting as an entourage to a very young sorcerer seeking his family's lost legacy in their ancient homeland, they have so far been doing favors to the local lords to obtain letters of safe conduct. Unfortunately, the nomad had to enslaved to them so that the warrior-elites would not kill him outright. Also, the letters alone have not stopped disdainful free-born from trying to pick fights with the sword-bearing Jaconians. A duel with wooden sword  escalated into a night-time attempted mass murder and it has finally brought them to the door of Olgur, the king of Seres.

So what's happening in your Praedor RPG campaign?   

You can now pre-order Käärmetanssija from Arktinen Banaani. And the content of Salaisuuksien Kirja is now ready. I am just waiting for a couple of pics from Hiltunen himself.
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Salaisuuksien kirja
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Vanha Koira
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Stalker RPG
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Ville Vuorela - The Hollow Pilgrim – A Stalker RPG
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