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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.
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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:
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.
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
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
Fri, 18-19: Käsikirjoituksesta
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
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
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.
"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
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
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.
TÄSTÄ!!! (34MB Zip)
Edelleenlevitys ei ole ainoastaan sallittua,
vaan myös suotavaa.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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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