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21-Jun-2018: Book of Shadows, Again

Whoah! It's been seven months since the last update. Facebook and Praedor.Net are eating into my blogging energy and they are also hogging all the news. The good news, that is. Ever since my father passed away, I haven't felt like sharing the bad news.

Anyway, Book of Shadows just went to printers and is officially coming out at Ropecon 2018. There will be a release presentation which doubles as a press session for the future of Praedor overall, and on top of that I will interview Sakari Peuranen, the author of the excellent Uponneen Jumalan Uni -novel. And that is all I can say, really. There will be a really important announcement in the release presentation and once that's out, maybe I can talk more but for now, *zip*.  

So now what? Well, the only piece of news is that my French partner Le Loutre Roliste has been drumming up noise for the approaching launch of the French edition of Stalker. I am impressed by what they've done it but it remains a fringe game, so if they keep putting it on hold until they have enough pre-orders we are going to be waiting for a while. But I hope the latest promise of it being out this year would be true. Praedor is getting preferential treatment at least until it does.

11-Nov-2017: Assassin's Creed Origins

For some reason I wrote this review straight into Facebook. So here we go again, for all concerned...


17 hours in and I can say that I like this game a lot. It is a good game, even a very good game. But it is not a great game. It looks gorgeous and the setting, Ptolemaic Egypt, the last cultural gasp of pharaohs and mummies, is fascinating. I've never seen better water, the city of Alexandria is a close rival to Novigrad for the most impressive game city ever and the world graphics as a whole are varied, interesting and impressive. The action-rpg playstyle may turn off old AC fans but I am not one of them and while the open world has a slight MMORPG-feel to it, it does enough things right and dynamic to crawl out of that particular ditch. Well done so far. And the parkour feels smoother than in other ACs I've tried.

The open world is massive and almost imperceptibly divided into levelled zones like an MMORPG map. You can cross the borders freely, though, so the zones mainly help you find levelled content and enemies. There is also plenty of variety. Light jungles, epic seashores, rugged mountains and beast-infested wetlands abound. Sand deserts make you hallucinate if you stay there for too long but I love the desert nights. But the most impressive element of all are the towns and villages. If they've got the looks even halfway right, we are looking at the most important educational tool for casual archeology ever devised. And they have done a good effort in including all the trades and industries of the time, as well as the divisions between a Greek upperclass (set up by Alexander the Great) and the Egyptian lower classes. As for Rome, they are only starting to creep into the picture. Read some history.


Unfortunately AC:O is no Game of Thrones when it comes to writing and characters. Bayek is not bad by videogame standards but I would have liked a more drama-driven approach to the world. Now many things out there are just minigames to acquire crafting resources. And while I can live with hunting for skins, having to become a murderous bandit with a body count eclipsing Dzenghis Khan just to get some fucking wood is imbecilic. Please, give Bayek an axe! And let me dig some mines instead of these poor merchant's skulls! Killing and looting merchants and their escorts for crafting and drakhmas is effectively the grind of this game. I don't mind killing in videogames but I need more reason than that! Now I just feel like the bad guy! We, the medjay, are supposed to protect order and civilization!

That said, the dynamic combat was a welcome addition but its controls are a mess, especially if you are on mouse and keyboard and have to configure keys yourself (the default controls allow multifunction buttons but custom controls do not!). Luckily, you can always play on Easy and the game becomes forgiving for not doing all the combos and overpower moves the in-game hints are always frothing about.


Then there is the paywall. Having bought the Deluxe edition, I started out with a couple of legendary items and it soon became obvious I was never going to find anything better. So rather than explore the world in hopes finding something better, I am just grinding for drakhmas to get my shit upgraded to my level. That money grind is the second half of the overall grind in this game and there is plenty of it. The game is frugal with its coin, because it also constantly pushes the store into your face. I could, you know, just buy the fucking drakhmas. And if I did, I might also afford some of those cool outfits the tailors are selling. Or try my luck with lootboxes... sorry, hekata chest, for just 3000 drakhmas a pop.

I've only once had a total of 3000 drakhmas in this game so far. The storefront and that annoying superkid merchant can go drown in the Sea of Reeds for all I care.

So, lots of cool stuff but you have to grind your keyboard to dust to get all the crafting goods and money you need in the process, eh? Well, let me tell you about the unicorn. Yes, a fucking unicorn. I liked the game's stylish, almost philosophical low-fantasy approach to Egyptian magic and the supernatural and then that lootbox kid gives me a fucking unicorn as a quest reward. With neon-coloured sparks for hoofmarks. And it is way better than the horses in the game, so my serial-killing banditry really needs the My Little Pony. A fucking unicorn!

If anyone has seen my immersion, tell it call me every once in a while at least.

So, my overall rating for Assassins' Creed: Origin is +2. I play and I like it. With some tweaks it would have been an easy +3 but with the unicorn... no. Now, the setting has ample potential and while playing fast and loose with history, they get enough things right that my inner historical fiction fan is giddy with joy. If they had gone for a more simulationist approach with the world and more character-driven dramatic writing, we'd be in Witcher 3 territory and I'd be singing its praises. But as it stands, it represents several steps into the right direction for the AC brand. But it just isn't there yet.

11-Oct-2017: Käärmetanssija nominated!

Biting my fingernails! Every year, the Finnish Tolkien Society hands out Kuvastaja Award to the best Finnish fantasy novel of the previous year. Käärmetanssija has made it onto the shortlist with four other novels published 2016. It is not going to win, of course. Everybody else on the list is a real author and their works are loaded with high culture and poignant societal commentary. I am a fat old geek writing pulp-influenced sword & sorcery adventures and my only societal merit is that Käärmetanssija passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors.   

No, I haven't actually read them, why do you ask? (I will now).

In truth, I am beyond honored just be included on this esteemed list. Praedor fans and maestro Hiltunen might be forgiving towards my literary efforts out of support and friendship, but by valar, the Nazgul in the Finnish Tolkien Society sure as hell won't be. If the Ringwraiths really think Käärmetanssija has merit, even someone as afflicted by imposter syndrome as I am will find it hard to argue. 


30-Sep-2017: How To Skyrim

Bethesda just announced the Skyrim Survival Mode in its Creation Club. It can be yours for just 15 bucks or so, or for free if you partake in the beta but the resulting version upgrade borks some mods. Frankly, the more I learn about it, the more I feel like I have been playing a superior version of it for years. At the time of writing, I have played 1941 hours of vanilla Skyrim and 415 hours of Skyrim Special Edition, for a total of 2356 hours. I am now going to tell you how to Skyrim properly. Trust me, I know.

First, play it on a good PC and go for the Skyrim SE. Then sign up for nexusmods.com and download the mod manager. You have to run Skyrim once before you can start modding it, as it generates the .ini files on the first start-up. Make sure you got all the official DLCs. Being left-handed, I move with arrow keys, sneak with Del, use with End, jump with PgDn, sprint with Shift, access favorites menu with Enter and shout with Home. Sheathing and drawing weapons is mapped onto Backspace. Tune down the music and effect sounds a little. Add general dialogue subtitles.

One of the perks of playing Skyrim SE is not having to use most of the graphic mods. If you pushed the default options to maximum, the engine does a good enough job. As someone who lives in this bloody climate, I can also confirm that most graphics mod authors are not from here and have no idea what these latitudes should look like. Also, weather mods are completely pointless, the net result being that they just add more rain. I've also given up on lighting mods. I do use Realistic Water Two with the distance LOD edge patch but make up your own mind about that one. The other two visual mods that spring to mind are Skyrim Flora Overhaul (finally somebody knows how tall trees are) and Static Mesh Improvement Mod (small details make up the big picture).

Now, the heart and soul of Skyrim is EXPLORATION. Never use the fast travel, if you can help it. Don't disable it, though. Sometimes it is the only way to debug a quest, relocate a companion or reset a cell. Bethesda's QA promises are a joke and you should not believe them about Creation Club either. If you persist in roaming the world, there are interesting places, events and vistas to be had that are not on the compass. Also, I can feel my blood pressure dropping when I am just roaming the wilds of Falkreath. The necessary exploration mods are: Campfire, Frostfall and iNeed (basic version, the extended is buggy). Backing them up with Winter is coming cloak mod and Cooking in Taverns is recommended.

This  package of mods does everything and more than the upcoming Survivor Mode. It applies the effects of cold, wet,  dark and windy, as well as hunger and thirst. Now you have to pay attention to where you are going and some places become genuinely hard to reach. If you are venturing outside civilization, pack food, firewood and make sure you have a fur tent and water bottles. Apart from Falkreath and the Eastmarch volcanic area, all of Skyrim is freezing at night, so when the Sun starts to set, make camp and get a fire going. The Frostfall mod even gives you some new perks for being an outdoorsman. And make sure you are wearing furs (although at some point I always cheat and use Inspect Equipment -power to make my fancy magic armors equal to furs). Also, hunting becomes relevant. Venison  + potato + leeks + salt equals venison stew, my favorite.

Curiously, there are bits and pieces of world design in Skyrim that make me feel that cold and wetness were originally meant to be important parts of the game. All that strategic positioning of ice floes, fords, rocks in the streams and so on is completely irrelevant if you play without Frostfall. And there is too much fun and interesting exploration challenges to be had with it for it to be a coincidence. Whirlwind Sprint Shout is the explorer's best friend. Followed by a good axe to chop deadwood with.

Immersive patrols and Immersive Citizens - AI work wonders to make the world feel more alive. Patrols from opposing factions fight each other and try to capture fortresses, which brings home the fact that there is a war on.

Relationship Dialogue Overhaul is also recommended because these cardboard-NPCs were originally meant to be much deeper than they are now. Many mods also require the Unofficial Skyrim SE Patch but I don't know if it really changes anything. There are still plenty of bugs to be had.

Amazing Follower Tweaks helps to get at least some mileage out of your idiot tag-along monster baits. Skill listings are especially useful since some of them just have the wrong default equipment.  No spinning death animation finally applies ragdoll effects to Rieklings. And whoever decided to give them their default spin death animation should get his head examined! Immersive armors makes your character look more interesting by adding tons of new gear to make and wear in both light and heavy armor trees.

The second cornerstone of my fantasy experience is COMBAT. Skyrim's combat is often called poor and it is, especially in the beginning. Only when you get the perk that slo-mos power-attacking enemies when blocking does it get better.  But with mods, you have options. Wildcat combat mod with Realistic Damage Plugin make enemies smarter and life interesting with a universal damage modifier of 2.5. Bandits wielding two-handed weapons can now single-shot you and mages are to be feared. Enemies also apply every mean of attack in their disposal. If it has a magic sword, it will fight with it.

This makes things more difficult but also much more interesting. Pulling back, making feints, ambushing, circling and locational damage *matter*. The game also remains enjoyable for longer, since even at high levels getting surprised and surrounded is likely to end badly. And as for dragons, boosting your magic resistance negates much of the breath but the bite, THE BITE!!! Killing a dragon before level 10 is a true feat.

SkyTEST Realistic Animals and Predators is the cherry on top. Bears have cubs, wolves have packs, deer have herds and carcasses float down rivers because the big-ass mudcrabs can cut a sabrecat in half. The big losers in this arrangement are the slaughterfish, but fuck them! 

In Skyrim, STORY was always the weakest link (although I did not know at the time what kind of inane drivel they would write for Fallout 4). It's deficiencies are beyond any single mod to fix. Immersion and quest mods can help but the real difference is making lemonade out of the lemons.

Don't do everything. Instead, decide that this character is a knight at heart and he is going to be a Companion and a Dawnguard member. Or this guy will be spell-wielding thief, and so on. By voluntarily bypassing sometimes large sections of the content your story experience of the game is going to be much better and more coherent. However, this is really difficult to do if you are playing for the first time and the idiot game has no option to discard quests.

This was the original secret to my playing, long before finding Frostfall & Co. I would create new characters, give them new backstories and then focus on only certain aspects of the world and the game. That way Skyrim gave me a much better character immersion and story experience than most other contemporary games. By the way, you can kill the whole Dark Brotherhood when they first reach out to you. Everybody. For a mountain of gold.

Then there some mods that expand the experience beyond Skyrim. Falskaar is probably the most famous but I kind of fell out with it. On the other hand, Beyond Skyrim - Bruma is great and Beyond Reach is good. Bruma mod recreates the province of Bruma from Oblivion in Skyrim and it is AAA quality from top to bottom. I can't wait for the other Beyond Skyrim mods to get finished and ported over to SSE.   

Then it is onto BALANCE.

Finally, and this is going to be controversial, I am using Uncapper. This little thing lets you edit the deep balance of the game. I have capped my skills at 150 but halved my level progression rate. On the other hand, I get two perk points per level. This has the advantage of allowing you to specialize early on, so that the storylines still have meaningful things for your young warrior, wizard or thief to do. But promise me that if you use this, you will also refrain from using the enchanting-smithing loop. It is a game-breaking exploit and I can't wait for Loot and Degradation mod to come out and make it go away.

Here are not all my mods. I am running 54 at the moment. But these are the ones that make my gameplay experience what it is.

As for my own adventures, I am at level 39 and have just finished off the Volkihaar vampires. I have Serana as my companion and dragon bone & scale sherpa. I now intend to hunt down all the dragon seats in Skyrim before moving on to Bruma. Eventually,  my character will travel to Solstheim and taking out Miraak will be the final chapter in her story. But all that is still roughly 200 hours away.

23-Sep-2017: Out Of My System

Rovers... I've long thought about a scifi RPG set on Mars, combining frontier glamour, gold prospecting, wild west anarchy and cyberpunk themes with some hard science and realistic planetology. As you know, this idea was called "Rovers" by the roving exploration vehicles currently on Mars. It is a roleplaying game of "wheeled adventurers" on the freshly colonized Red Planet, trading, exploring and troubleshooting their way into fame and riches while great corporations and Indie settlements stake their claims and prepare for the colonial wars to come.

Life in a dome.

And instead spaceships and space battles, it all hinges on rovers, the vehicles, the ability to traverse the vast expanses of desert, wasteland and unfathomably deep canyons separating the would be powers of the future. Without them, Humanity would be stuck inside domes, bubble tents and caves. And much like in mecha fiction, the vehicle with its idiosyncracies is as much part of the party as the player characters are.

Here is a rover. 

In my first iteration of Rovers, which was actually playtested, I went too far with the idea of terraforming Mars. This time screw it, if you step outside without a suit your blood boils and on a bad day you can cook eggs with cosmic radiation. Any plans to drop a comet for seeding the atmosphere are decades away. So the rover, with its thick hull of Martian metals (no problem in lower gravity), is also your shelter from the cosmic elements.


Otherwise, the setting would be similar. There was a wave of early Mars colonization by nation states and International Cooperatives. Then a financial, political and ecological collapse on Earth removed them from the play. Instead, Earth is now ruled by The Cartel, a world government of powerful corporations. Some Martian colonies submitted to the authority of the Cartel but many did not, becoming the Indies, short for Independents. As the existing infrastructure on Mars was about to be seized by Cartel loyalist, Indies packed up and left, dispersing into hundreds of new colonies and outposts throughout the Red Waste, which is basically all of Mars outside the northern polar plateau.

Xenolith deposit

Then the Xenolith Rush happened. Fossilized remains of ancient Martian life were found in Valles Marineris, deep in the heart of Indie territory. Besides the scientific value of knowing there once was a varied and sophisticated biosphere on Mars, the so-called cryptogenes extracted from the xenolith samples have unlocked entire new possibilities in genetic modification and bioengineering. As they cannot be copied or reproduced, they have become priceless and in some cases unique. There is a gold rush of sorts going on on Mars and it is centered on the Canyon.

Greetings from The Cartel

The Xenolith Rush has even split the Cartel. Red Corps invested heavily on Mars and run the infrastructure on the northern plateaus and much of the space traffic. For years, they were free to do as they liked, free from Earth intrigues. Now, following the Canyon Rush, the Blue Corps, effectively the rest of the Cartel, demand that the Cartel as a whole should take over the corporate effort on Mars, thus ensuring everybody access to xenolith prospecting. Red Corps are having none of it and tensions within the Cartel are mounting.


So what would you do? Prospect for xenoliths? Go hunting for bounties in bandits and claim jumpers? Make a mint ferrying basic goods across the Canyon that the mining camps just can't live without? Partake in the corporate intrigues for a complete planetary take over, for or against? Build a sandcastle?

21-Sep-2017: Praedor RPG Is Gated!

After several false starts, Varjojen Kirja (lit. "The Book of Shadows") finally got underway, starting with an overview of Jaconia's "shadows" in rough chronological order. "Shadows" are how Jaconians refer to instances where their mundanity and the world's eldritch past cross paths. The peasants might not know the origins of the nearby ruins or the name of the city apparently buried beneath their fields, but if it is old and dangerous it is a "shadow". Praedors explore them on occasion but this is Jaconia, and while all praedors are adventurers, not all adventurers are praedors. Come to think of it, one of Petri's earliest Praedor-stories, "Barian", shows perfectly the invisible line between your average sellsword and an actual praedor.   

However, one thing is now obvious: I can't write VK without constantly referring to Kirottu Kirja (lit. "The Cursed Book"). The previous supplement was such a massive step forward that there is no going back. Unless the rulebook itself gets updated one day, all future supplements will refer to the rule changes and tables presented in KK. Praedor RPG 1.1. + Kirottu Kirja equals Praedor RPG 1.2 and the previous versions are not supported.

Even with its alternate character creation system, Varjojen Kirja won't be such an epic leap forward. That said, I'll do my best to make it interesting and entertaining both to read and to use in play. But unfortunately you are going to also need Kirottu Kirja to get the full mileage out of it.

The first supplement, Salaisuuksien Kirja (lit. Book of Secrets), is helpful but not mandatory.

Another emergent feature in Varjojen Kirja is the support for Praedor seikkailukortit (lit. "Praedor Adventure Cards"). The most obvious application are the adventures in the Ruins of Warth, even if particularly lush Location Cards need a bit of re-interpretation. However, Danger Cards are applicable almost anywhere with very few changes. That said, they are by no means mandatory.

Which Kirottu Kirja pretty much is.


If you feel that the adventure or scenario you've had in your desk drawer since January 2001 or something would be a perfect fit for Varjojen Kirja, contact me and we'll see if you are right. My standards are high and my rewards are modest (and often paid under the counter for maximum shadiness). But hey, Praedor RPG is a Finnish-language tabletop roleplaying game. If you are doing this for money, boy are you in the wrong line of business!

10-Sep-2017: Kritiikkiä Käärmetanssijasta

Bloggaan suomeksi, koska nyt puhutaan kielestä ja sanankäytöstä. Tapasin tänään Traconissa erään Käärmetanssija -fanin, joka kehui kirjaani vuolaasti. Yksi asia kuitenkin tökki ja hän esitti rakentavaa kritiikkiä: pahisten sukupuolitetut loukkaukset Nejahia kohtaan, eli 14-vuotiaan tytön kutsuminen "lutkaksi". Minä puolustauduin Jaconian patriarkaalisilla asenteilla ja sillä että tällaisella loukkauksella haluttiin heittää Nejahin sukupuoli vasten hänen kasvojaan. Jos Jaconian avoin ja piilevä misogynia sai lukijan tuntemaan itsensä vaivautuneeksi, sen parempi. Loppujen lopuksi Nejah selvisi vähillä seurauksilla sukupuoliroolien rikkomisesta, sillä minua ei kiinnostanut kirjoittaa siitä sen syvemmin.

Mutta tänään esitetty kritiikki sukupuolitetuista loukkauksista jäi vaivaamaan minua ja pohdin sitä paljon kotimatkalla. Ne sopivat mielestäni tilanteisiin ja ne sopivat niiden roistojen suuhun jotka sen sanoivat, mutta olisiko minun sittenkin pitänyt jättää ne pois? Sisältyykö niihin nykylukijan näkökulmasta sellaista painolastia, joka muuttaa sanojen merkitystä? Tätä minä mietin ja ensimmäinen joka huutaa "SJW:t pilaavat fantasian!" saa kirveestä.

Kysyin puolisoni Leenan mielipidettä asiaan, ja hän kertoi ettei ollut kiinnittänyt asiaan huomiota ja piti esitettyä kritiikkiä omituisena. Se oli minunkin ensireaktioni ja voi olla, että se oli ja on edelleen oikea reaktio. En voi kirjoittaa roisia aikuisille suunnattua fantasiakirjallisuutta jos varon jokaista askelta. Mutta mitä mieltä te olette?

01-Sep-2017: Book of Shadows

Winter is coming (sorry, I've been binge-watching Game of Thrones) and you may have noticed I have not started a new Fall-specific blog page yet. The pace of my blogging has slowed down and doing a separate page for just three entries felt of pointless. So I am writing into the old .html file for the time being. 

I went to GamesCom (a really large game industry event and consumer expo with 350000 attendees) recently with a pneumonia. Came back with the same, go figure. Not a bad pneumonia, mind you. I'd call this just a bronchitis because it lacks the hallucination-inducing fever spikes of 40+ degrees (my measured best is 40,9 degrees). However, the official diagnosis says pneumonia on the account of some noises in my lungs. This meant that walking between the vast halls of Koelnmesse often resulted in me hanging onto some railing while gasping for air (Ventoline to the rescue!). Still, I was properly impressed by the size of the event. GamesCom is truly a feat of strength from our industry.


But I can't figure out why people are willing to wait in line for two hours(!!!) to play 15 minutes of some unfinished crap that's going to come out in six months anyway. It's a kind of "emperor has no clothes" thing and I felt like shouting it at their faces. But if they realized how fucking pointless it all is, such 350K people consumer expos would have no reason to exist, would they? And don't get me started on the complexity of the ticketing. Only Germans can come up with something this complicated. Christ on a bicycle, I wish all conventions I went to were more like Ropecon. Except that at a Ropecon I wouldn't have been able to sit down with Richard "Lord British" Garriott and talk about game design. Damn, nothing is ever simple.

Richard Garriott  

Richard Garriott on the left, my junior but invaluable colleague Aleksander Nikulin in the middle and my ugly mug on the right.

Now, I am back. While Space Nation keeps me busy during the days, Praedor - Book of Shadows keeps me busy in the evening. The project is still searching its shape and format. All these false starts are frustrating but no work is wasted as they get me thinking. In my mind's eye, I am already looking up at castles and towers built so high up in the Western Mountains that the air is too cold and thin for mortals. I am already passing my hand over arcane runes carved onto a riverside cliff, now so worn by time that even sorcerers could not read them. Still, their magic is real and monstrous beasts and unnamed deep water fish are drawn to the waters around them. Jaconia wasn't born, it was made. These leftovers of its creation emanate enough power to make those gifted (or cursed) with Second Sight sick.   

Shadows of Jaconia are places magic, danger, history and sometimes treasure. They are usually leftovers from the untold millennia the world was ruled by Sorcerer Kings and their immortal minions. Whatever wars, crises and upheavals shook the young world have been forgotten by mortals and even present-day sorcerers can recall only whispers and echoes. But the places are real and draw in treasure hunters and would-be adventurers. Becoming one carries none of the same social baggage as becoming a praedor but it is from this crowd of bandits and tomb robbers that some of the best praedors arise.

So what do I want out of the Book of Shadows? I want to unleash Jaconia as a fantasy setting and show the doubters and naysayers there is plenty of colour and adventure to be had even in a world without orcs. And that Praedor is not really a low-fantasy setting but pure-bred Sword & Sorcery, where the pulp-fantasy roots and the more complex and conscientious present forms of the fantasy genre meet. I really don't want to use the word "grimdark" but it is not entirely out of place here.

So, what is there, between the covers? This is still very much a work-in-progress list but the current plan is as follows:

  1. Overview of Shadows
  2. Portrait of the Jaconian Adventurers
  3. Alternative (and faster) character creation rules
  4. Alchemist and scholarly character
  5. Adventuring gear revisited
  6. Shadows of Warth
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  7. Haunted Hills
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  8. Devil's Walls
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  9. Cloud Realm
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  10. City of Kings
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  11. Hostile Waters
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  12. Marshes of Dusk
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  13. Lost Cities
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  14. Circles of Creation
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds
  15. Glow of the Copper Mountain
    1. Rules
    2. Adventure
    3. Adventure seeds

Yes, it is a long list and includes a fair number of adventures. When I had some in the Book of Secrets, I was told nobody wants them. When I left them out of Cursed Book, I was asked where the adventures were? Make up your mind, people!

Once I have sorted out the version 1.2. stuff (character creation alternatives etc.) I am going to start writing about Warth. If that takes up half the book, so be it. I'll just drop some of the other locales to keep the timetable manageable. The release deadline is Ropecon next year, which means I have to get everything into print by late June or very early July. The printing press did a good job with Cursed Book. I just hope this time I make fewer mistakes in preparing the materials. It was a bit of a clusterfuck the last time around.

In related news, I was e-interviewed for Roolipelitiedotus and the results are now out there. If you have any further questions, come see me at Tracon on 9.-10. September. 

16-Aug-2017: Seikkailijoiden Kilta

It's been a few busy weeks since Ropecon but I finally got to reading Seikkailijoiden Kilta (transl. Adventurer's Guild). SK is the latest entry in the growing list of Finnish tabletop roleplaying games. It is a 140-page softcover book, slightly smaller than A4, with color covers and greyscale interior. The font is large and the whole thing makes a fairly quick read.

For the record, I really wanted to like this game. I have long hoped for a  fantasy alternative to Astraterra without the... creative math that plagues Heroes of the Tempest. On the surface and from what I managed to hear of the release presentation, Seikkailijoiden Kilta fits the bill.

Seikkailijoiden kila

My optimism took a hit as soon as I started reading. There is no division between player and gamemaster content. The book opens with a description of the adventurer's guild (a multinational institution that explains away the role of professional adventurers in this setting).

But then it goes into full World Book mode and spills the beans on ancient history, monsters and even powerful artifacts. Not only is a good deal of that best left to the Gamemaster, the reader won't get into the rules until page 68! And character creation until page 94! I am a big fan of world-focused RPG design but this is ass-backwards.


Going to back to the world of Saranea, it is an archipelago surrounded by the Outer Sea that no one has managed to cross. At the center lies the Realm of Vaults, the ruins of an ancient civilization where monsters and magic now run rampant. Obviously, the characters are supposed to explore it and loot the treasures. Fair enough, feels like home already.

It is surrounded by the Random Encounter Isles... sorry, the Islands of the Privateers that the adventurers have to pass through to reach their hunting grounds. And on the outside, facing the Outer Sea, lie four kingdoms, conveniently located at the cardinal points of the compass, each with a distinct identity and culture.

Saranea is a very much purpose-built world and while there is a fair amount of backstory, it still feels artificial to me.This is a shame, because my early Earth Sea -vibes from this setting felt really, really good. Also, if you are getting strong Astraterra flashbacks from the map, trust me, you are not alone.

And one more thing: Finnish RPG authors, please, please, please, put some scale indicators into your maps! It is not that hard! And anyone suggesting that the GM can decide the scale by himself (*cough* Bliaron *cough*) deserves a spanking.

Now, it is page 68 and we get into the rules. The game uses the full D&D set from D4 to D20 and the basic roll is D20 against one of eight attributes with values ranging from 2-12 for beginners, and up to 25 for veterans. There is a level system (one per adventure) and for every level you can distribute 4 points into your attributes. Fair enough.

What I don't agree with is how the game deals with difficulty grades. An Easy Roll has no modifiers, so a super-talented beginner with an attribute value of 12 has 60% chance. A Challenging Roll has -5 to the value, so the odds drop to 35%.

I belong to a school of design where a difficulty grade means what it says. Easy Rolls are not worth it unless the degree of success has a clear and demonstrable effect. Most rolls made when adventuring would be Challenging or worse but having to apply a modifier to what is effectively a "Default Roll" feels clumsy.

On the other hand, the difficulty grades are not really explained anywhere so... meh. The author also commits the cardinal sin of using examples with very poor odds and then allowing the character to succeed most of the time. Such  examples are not representative of gameplay and can be misleading.

Curiously, character classes (or "calling") are described in the rules section rather than in the character creation. Combat may feel simplistic to some but it works and earns bonus points for not having an initiative roll. I hate those. Deadliness is low to moderate and dead characters can usually be brought back to life at some cost to the rest of the party.

Magic appears workable as well, although listing the spells only as a table at the end of the book feels cheap. It is mostly element-based, with Spirit as the fifth element. It all concludes with a multi-page adventure and several pages of tables for weapons and stuff.

I'd rather have all those tables in their respective sections of the rulebook and then again at the end of the book. All in all, the end feels a bit abrupt, as if the author had ran out of time, money or patience.  

The book is easy enough to read but the grey splatter textures sometimes jump at you. Art style is cartoony, with a strong homemade anime feel. I am not a big fan of that style but images depicting events and locales are nice, even if they were clearly meant to be shown in color. Unfortunately, there are also many, many portraits of characters without background or context.

Oh well, you either like Picasso or you don't.

Seikkailijoiden Kilta is not a bad roleplaying game. It just isn't a particularly good one. I am sure it works great with the author as the gamemaster but despite its mechanical difficulties, I found Heroes of The Tempest way more inspiring (as Hornankattila shows).

The same setting would probably work just as well or even better with, *sigh*, some OSR rules. The pacing of content reeks, as if the author has been writing notes for himself rather than a coherent set of instructions for an uninitiated reader. Fortunately, being a quick read, a persistent reader is rarely completely confused.

Well, there you have it. The author is no fool but this is very much his "first roleplaying game". I fear that he will be discouraged by poor sales, hangs up his sword and we will never hear from him again. Because if he persists, creates more content, takes in feedback and develops a coherent vision of what he wants the game to be and for whom, Seikkailijoiden Kilta 3.0 could be awesome. 


13-Aug-2017: Worldcon75Worldcon75

The largest speculative fiction conference in the world, Worldcon, has just concluded in Helsinki. In theory, it covers science fiction, fantasy and horror in all mediums but there is, admittedly, a strong legacy focus on literature. Still, with 600+ shows, panels and presentations there was bound to be something for everybody. The program palette was quite good this year. Unfortunately, I had to skip most of it because I was, and still am, struggling with bronchitis. But sitting around, soaking the ambience and talking to people both strange and familiar almost made up for it. Also, this was my second Worldcon and I've also been to six Eurocons, so I already knew that pacing myself was important. Worldcons are five-day events and by day four, you could see the battle fatigue settling in the crowds.

Puolenkuun Pelit asked me for something to sell at Worldcon and I brought them a batch of ten English-language Stalker RPGs. To my delight, they sold seven of them as well as a bunch of Praedor stuff and I have to commend their attitude throughout the whole thing. As their customers crumbled over the days, the sales staff at PP stand never wavered. They were as smiling and fresh today as they had been on Wednesday.

For most intentions and purposes, Worldcon75 was a great success. We are still waiting for the final numbers but with 6000+ attendees it is already one of the largest Worldcons ever arranged (update: around 7100 visitors, second largest Worldcon ever). And it was smoothly organized, too. Everything worked, everything was more or less on time and the fact that they ran out of room on Wednesday and had to implement a strict quota of day passes was not really their fault.

Because Christ on a bicycle, people! Me and others have been ranting about this event for years! The original allotment of meeting rooms was based on tickets sold beforehand. Then half as many of you barge in on the last moment and stand around wondering why you can't fit into the rooms! This is precisely the kind of event where you are supposed to book your tickets well in advance and anyone who asks why they weren't told this deserves to get slapped! That extra space from the exhibition halls could be made available this quickly to alleviate the problem is a miracle of organizing.

I was a little miffed that parking passes for the whole event were not sold to the public (although I managed to weasel one on the account of being an programme participant) but otherwise I have no complaints about the arrangements. A great event by all accounts and my Praedor presentation for foreigners even had a grand total of one foreigner in attendance. You can see the slides here. So far a great job and we (myself and Leena) have already booked our tickets for Worldcons 2019 and 2020, held in Dublin and New Zealand, respectively.

Special thanks to all of you who came to me asking for a signature or to tell me that something I wrote (mostly Käärmetanssija) was great. That is the true reward for being genre author in Finland. People like you (and to a lesser extent events like this, which is why we tour them every year) that allow me to overcome my imposter syndrome and write fiction in the first place. Without you, I wouldn't be here either.

Also, congratulations to Johanna Mustapää for winning an award in the Masquerade for her beautiful, practical and comfortable "Farrignian Court Dress" cosplay.

Farrignian court dress

But then...

As great as the event was, somebody also let an elephant into the room and I suspect the loxodonta is going to stay there for quite a while. Most of the foreign guests probably never noticed it. However, in my circles the incident was impossible to miss and I fear it will be the one thing for what this Worldcon will be remembered for.

I'll let professor Frans Mäyrä explain what happened.

I am not a larper but I was shocked and disappointed by the decision as well. For the Nordic Larp crowd, and Artante knows they are well represented in the geek circles around here, this was a slap in the face. Some have already sworn off Worldcons altogether and I don't blame them. But for the choice of medium, there go I. It was a stupid decision, it was the wrong decision, it was a royal fuck-up and I expect the Finnish organizers will be explaining their actions in future scene events until they are blue in the face. A just punishment and hopefully a shot across the bow for the future. What is the point of having a globe-trotting event if the local manifestation of geek culture and expression cannot be demonstrated there? You'd be left with something like this year's Eurocon. And trust me, you don't want that.     

Well, that's it. Next year, Worldcon is in San Jose, USA. I won't be attending but then there's going to be two in a row. My next event is Devcom/Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. It's all work, of course... Now who do I have to kill to ensure that my cough goes away by then?

 Praedor 31-Jul-2017: Ropecon 2017

Yes, it has been months since my last entry. My father passed away on March 25th, after a long struggle with cancer.  We were close and I was devastated. It sort of... brought everything to a halt. I didn't have anything to say.

Dad, 1941-2017
Paavo Kalervo Vuorela (1941-2017)

Everything dies and yet life goes on, with or without you, or anyone who would mourn your passing. Before I knew it, it was Summer, my next Praedor RPG supplement Kirottu Kirja came back from the printers and Ropecon, the largest independent tabletop and LARP gaming convention in Europe, was here. So I returned to Messukeskus and found out that I had no idea where everything was. Last year I was there in a wheelchair and now my mental map of the place was way off.

I had a lot of things going on in this Ropecon. Kirottu Kirja, the Praedor RPG supplement about Cursed Lands and all their horrors was written while the whole drama with my dad and his cancer was unfolding. It took me to some pretty dark and terrible places and I hope some of that has rubbed off onto the text. It is a 92-page hardcover book and I tried to keep the hardcover aspect of it a secret until this week. It didn't really cause much of a stir but what little feedback there is has been positive. You can get it from any major retailer of hobby games in Finland. Just follow the links on the right.

Praedor Adventure Cards finally became available as well (Pelikrypta), doing double duty as a large-scale mindmap of Borvaria and an improvisation tool for the gamemasters. Human ability to perceive patterns on random things is nothing short of amazing. I did a quick demonstration of its use in Keltsu Nova and the obviously random terrain felt complete logical to me: "okay, this Poison Grove is here because fluids are leaking from the Sewer Entrance to the north and emptying into the river, and the entrance was obviously revealed because of this Crater which also left this entire area being Tilted..."

Henkilön Leena Romppainen kuva.
As you can clearly see, there is an affluent area of well-preserved ruins along the river to the right but then the ruins become poorer and harder to traverse. Through great effort, our adventurers manage to penetrate the Poison Grove and bypass the Sewer entrance, only to find themselves at the edge of an Acidic Swamp. With rapids from the swamp blocking the way to the west, they returned to the ship at its hard-won anchorage just off the Poison Grove...

My both programme events were on Friday. I gave the release presentation for Kirottu Kirja and chaired the great 2-hour Praedor panel with myself, Hiltunen, Erkka and Jaakko Alamikkula, i.e. the thus-far published Praedor authors. Both of these events were packed, there was a sales spike of our books immediately afterward and the RPG stuff was absolutely flying off the shelves. If you were there, odds are that you spotted me doing a restocking run between my car and the stands of my retailers.   

Restocking run
Yes, I am ugly. But fortunately Kirottu Kirja is looking great.

Kirottu kirja

Well, now you know what I've been up to. Barring any other deaths in the family, I'll try to update this blog more often in the future. There is lot to talk about, both about my writings and those of others.

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Kirottu kirja
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Praedor seikkailukortit
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Salaisuuksien kirja
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Vanha Koira
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Stalker RPG
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Stalker RPG
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Ville Vuorela - The Hollow Pilgrim – A Stalker RPG
                Novel: New Roadside Picnic #1, e-kirja
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