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Talk28-Feb-2014: Old Shanghai

First and foremost: the fact that Eero doesn't like the kind of RPGs and adventures that I like is not rantworthy. It is not even news! This has been the state of affairs for as long as I've known him and if he suddenly told me he has had a change of heart I'd be more suspicious than delighted. Really, if I launched into a tirade every time someone somewhere says something cross about my games or disagrees with my gaming methodology, it would be a full-time job! As well as an infringement on their right to free speech. So while having a voluntary spy network is cool and all, take it easy guys.  

So, to the issue at hand. The culprit for my recent medical problems turned out to be a rotten piece of bone embedded inside my upper jaw (a leftover of an ancient dental procedure). It had infected the tissue around it and began to form a cyst. Eventually it might have become a tumor but we caught it in time. The operation itself was a rather hardcore. The dental surgeon went into my upper jaw through the cheek, sawed open the bone (that sound is going to haunt me for the rest of my days) and then began prying out the piece or pieces of bone. I was bleeding profusely in my mouth and while the nurse did its best to vacuum it up, I must have swallowed a fair bit of my own blood in the process. Of course, they had numbed half my head for this but I could still feel something. And now it is growing more sore by the hour despite my constant overdosing on painkillers.

But odds are that they got it. For the next two weeks we'll heal and observe: if there are more infection-related complications, the infection has spread beyond the upper jaw and I'll be seeing a bone specialist. But for now, fingers crossed, at least when I am popping panacod and tramadin out of the pill discs with them. Damn but this pain is sharp. It's like someone applied a flame to my jaw. Commands instant attention. And it is swelling up a little as well. Lucky for me, I have round cheeks even at the best of times. Next morning: Oh gods, it feels like he went through my cheek with a battle axe.

On a more positive note, the Stalker novel has been progressing by leaps and bounds. It is drastically late, of course, and my publisher is well within his rights to turn it down. But it will get done and I will publish it somehow. I am a pulp writer, so I don't expect it to win a Nobel Prize for literature. But I hope I can spin an entertaining and perhaps even a little exciting yarn for the Stalker fans out there. For good or ill, they deserve it :)

Another piece of good news is that I am planning to add a third roleplaying campaign to my calendar. And why not? My work schedule for the Spring looks fairly easy, I've been enjoying playing pen&paper RPGs more than I have done in years and when playing with people of my age getting them to agree on two game sessions in a month is already a struggle. So, with three campaigns, or rather, one campaign (Verivartio) and two adventures, at least I get about four game sessions a month, even if it is with different games.

The impetus for a third campaign came from an old friend who, like many in my generation, has been struck down by the terrible disease of having offspring and is losing her marbles in the crossfire of parental and work duties. She is a fan of urban fantasy but I don't do mixing of mythology and the modern age very well. Then I got to thinking; what kind of a mix I would do well and bang! There it was! Shanghai 1934, the pulp adventure version complete with sorcerers, ghosts, Nazis seeking the relics of the Aryan superculture and non-human nations trying to blend in with the human society using magic and guile. I could use Mobsters as the rules system, modified with the magic system I am writing for Praedor.  

I am surprised at how excited I am about all this. I haven't gamemastered Mobsters in any shape or form for years and years but my love for the pulp is undiminished. Although Shanghai has no shortage of gangsters, the characters in this adventure won't be gangsters themselves. I haven't decided yet what exactly they will be.    

24-Feb-2014: Yeah...

I've had this strange debate where I blog and the other party comments by email. And right now I'd like to say that I never claimed D&D wouldn't have a theme. I said it sucks at it, just like it sucks with everything else. But frankly, all that seems a tad inconsequential right now. I am going under the knife this week and depending on what they find, the other party may have to keep up the debate all by himself in the near future.

I was scared absolutely shitless by the tumor they found in my upper jaw... was it two years back? Can't be arsed to check. Anyway, right now there is a problem in the exact same spot on the opposite side of the jaw. Could be a cyst within the bone, could be another tumor, could be a fucking fast-food drive-in. Could also very well be the explanation for the near-collapse of my health last fall and this winter, as the infection within the bone keeps leaking bacterial toxins and infectious residue into my blood. For once, my shitty lungs might not be the culprit.

So far, the two tumors dug out of me have been serious but benign (even on a good day they are horrible things eating away at the bones of my skull; on a bad day they are cancerous). Of course, the doctors at Eira Surgical Hospital bungled the last removal but I hope the people in the waiting/recovery room were at least entertained watching me shake and drool bloody foam. I have no recollection of it beyond entering the room and starting to feel bad. The emergency operation that followed was quite hilarious as I could hear panic take hold of the surgeons and nurses.It was their fault to begin with; somehow the morons missed the artery feeding blood into the tumor and didn't shut it. So it kept pumping at a decent pressure and filled both the incision and my cheek cavity with hot oxygen-rich blood. It was literally being squirted through their needlework.

They did eventually get it lasered shut and I spent the next five hours getting morphine shots and pressing ice into my face while arguing with nurses about the risk of a facial frostbite. The pains were such that I couldn't have cared less if my face had fallen right off.

Good times.

Now I am considering having my head amputated and thus getting rid of all these problems, pains and sleepless nights once and for all. And the antibiotics. Oh gods, the antibiotics. If a vampire bit me right now he'd spit the blood right out. This must be my sixth prescription in as many months.  Whatever energy I have left I've poured into work, so there is not much progress on other fronts, I am afraid. I've also played roleplaying games any chance I've got because truly, I want to get the fuck out of this reality. Any escape hatch is welcome, even if it's just for a few hours. 

By the way, I have finally stopped using Frontpage Express as my html-editor for writing my blogs. Some recent Windows update seems to have finally killed it for good, so this entry has been written with Seamonkey Composer. I am also thinking about moving my blog to some commercial blogging service at the start of the spring. So you'll finally get your fucking RSS feeds.

I just hope I'll be around to keep blogging.


23-Feb-2014: Oh Woe

Hi there, Ville. Short time see often?

At least you have the sense not to run away. You know there is nowhere to run to. They all know that but you'd be surprised how many still try it. Oh why am I here? Come on, after years of sending you postcards, wouldn't you think it was high time for me to visit you in person again? Sort of person, since I am not really a person, am I. But we ought to be old friends by now and you've felt my touch before. This time I am just letting you see me as well and I know that you like what you see. I know everything. You once mentally dressed me up as this girl you had a crush on back in the first year of high school. White gothic, you called it. You were such a geeky poet back then. Of course, nothing came of that crush and she didn't have the brains to match her looks anyway. Yet the image stayed with you for all these years, especially after you discovered that Neil Gaiman had thought of something similar in his beloved Sandman comics. Of course, Gaiman went for the traditional goth look his audiences knew and loved. Your tastes were a little more special. Art nouveau goth, really.

And it is good. I have no real shape, form or personality beyond what you give me but all people give me one. I am that big of a deal, often the  biggest deal of all. So people come up with all these rules, causes, reasons and rituals that are supposedly affecting me one way or the other. And don't pretend you are any different! You are a die-hard atheist and a skeptic but you are just like the rest of them. Only you don't accept their dogmas on me, so you have come up with your own rituals, such as blogging about me in the dead of night. Or calling our brief previous encounters "postcards". How quaint. Especially from you, who hates sending postcards to anyone and grumbles when Leena makes you do it while traveling abroad.

Gosh, your workroom is a mess! I am not going to sit on that black mushroom you call a guest chair. I prefer to sit on your computer instead and don't worry, I am weightless and won't block the air intakes. So this is what you do all day? Pour your heart and soul into that machine and nothing comes out but hot air? I see you are not looking at me. There you go, Mister Skeptic, you know I am not there. Yet you also know that I *am* there and are afraid to look! My sweet Ville, I am a very, very real thing. It's only your illusion me that is not real, in the objective sense of the word.

But then again you, of all people, you gamemaster extraordinaire, should know that it is the subjective reality that matters. You can't really experience anything beyond the subjective, can you, since being experienced by you makes it subjective by default. And anything subjective is also malleable. Remember that time when I came to see you in a hospital? You had wings big enough to fly with and flapping them sent down a cold breeze that you could fall all through the blankets. I felt it too, my dear. Did you do it for me? Just to lift my skirt a little, perhaps? Give me a Marilyn Monroe moment? Hah hah hah!

Here you go, dreamer! A kiss. A peck on the cheek. Left cheek, to be precise, right below the cheekbone and just above where that gap is in your teeth. A little touch of me so that you won't forget. Oh, don't be angry, I know you don't like being touched unless you have a great deal of trust in the person who does it. Very few have ever had that license. Very few indeed. But I have it. You gave it to me when you first drew breath and what am I if not trustworthy? I am the most trustworthy thing there is. I know all your secrets, right down to the vilest dirt and I keep them all! Forever! When I promise I will see you again, you know it's true. In fact, of all the predictions ever made about your future this is the one you yourself believe in with absolute conviction.


You used to romanticize our encounters when you were younger. I miss that. Unfortunately age, grey hairs and the thousand little pains have cured you of that. Now I fill you with dread. Such a pity. Well, at least you have let me keep this form. That was very kind of you, for I like it and few have ever pictured me in a positive light. This shape is very pretty, a mixture of the morbid and the ethereal. It's beautiful, unearthly, and a throwback to the late 80ies fashion. A heavy metal dreamgirl, if you don't mind me saying so. I bet if I showed you a picture of the girl you took it from, you'd be shocked at the difference. She was nowhere this perfect but unlike creatures of flesh, I grow more beautiful with time and one day my beauty will take your breath away. Perhaps even make your heart skip a beat.

Until then, I'll send you some more postcards. I just wish you wrote me back.         

19-Feb-2014: Okay, It's Cyclical

Yes, we've come a full circle. I was just asked what's so bad about the RED BOX D&D game system. What is this, 1986 all over again? Well, just keep on playing the OSR games. The rules hangover you'll get after a few years will drive straight into the arms of Old Skool. Then you will proceed to storytelling games, then we get the LARP boom that ends with the RPG theory/manifesto period and the Second Coming of Forge. Once that party is over and the hangover has set in, you'll be doing OSR 2.0 and then it is back Old Skool... I'll probably live long enough to see the scene go one more full circle at this.

Not I nor anyone else can answer the question "why the D&D rules are bad". You can have good games and great experiences with practically any game system. Pen-and-paper roleplaying games are a human-powered hobby and we shouldn't over-emphasize the importance of rules. I maintain that a good rule system is one that makes everybody's job easier and thus helps players and gamemasters to focus on the shared imaginary space of the adventure and the resulting shared narrative. You can achieve that with almost any rule system or even with no rules at all. And for me, everything else is secondary. Good systems are just more effective in enabling this.

However, I can answer the question "why do I think the D&D rules are bad". I am assuming this is what the asker really wanted to know, so here we go. D&D rules system is an illogically derived collection of arbitrary numerological bullshit that does a piss-poor job at modelling anything it's supposed to model and it doesn't matter if you are going realism, atmosphere, speed or character differentiation since they all suck (that last bit is effectively crippled by almost any application of a level system). And since it so arbitrary even in the things it does, it has no tools whatsoever for doing anything that is in any way outside it's particular box. Its inflexibility regarding genre realism or setting nuances is fucking legendary! This is a big part of why many of the OSR titles are also sorely lacking in the setting department. Why would they bother, since the rules/setting synchronization will be shit anyway?

By contrast, here in Burgerverse the setting is the roleplaying game and the purpose rules is to be a toolset for getting the most out of the Otherwhere Experience. If you are not going for Otherwhere, or world immersion and its mixture of genre expectations and absolute freedom, you might be less bothered to play through a pre-determined path of adventure modules while wearing a numeric straightjacket made out of frozen stupid. But in that case I would have to ask you why the hell are you playing pen-and-paper RPGs and not computer RPGs in the first place since they do the exact same thing except much better! And speaking of settings, Vornheim has been recommended to me by more than one OSR fan. I bought it, read it and lamented the fate of all the trees that were cut down. Voi turska, what the hell is wrong with you people?

Maybe it boils down to your sources of inspiration and how they shape your expectations of the hobby. My interest in roleplaying games is literature-based and draws on all the usual sources from the usual authors. Playing or gamemastering roleplaying games means leaving this world behind and entering another, just as you leave behind your real identity and become the character you want to play. And I want to go and explore, experience epic things and face down harrowing challenges, just like the fictious heroes that got me started on this. If that "another world", the setting, isn't there, then for me the game isn't there. I won't buy a roleplaying game if it doesn't have a setting and more often than not what I am actually buying *is* the setting, with the rules hinting at the intricacies of genre realism and how the author thought of them. So, setting, and those parts of the rules which are unique in creating the desired tone and causalities for the genre, are the game for me.

Gary Gygax, and by a somewhat unfair extension the OSR authors in general, do not see roleplaying games this way. The original D&D is an individualized take on a miniatures-based wargame. The rules basically track the progress of a single figurine to become a powerful figurine by removing other figures from the board. The game system is inherently agnostic regarding the figurine's personality, background history or future goals. It doesn't mean that your character couldn't have them but unless the gamemaster goes out on a limb on this, anyhing beyond the choice of alignment is just wasted ink. Ditto for the world and hence the focus on dungeon-specific challenges. As a game, D&D was out of its depth the moment somebody thought about going to the tavern for a pint. It is obvious that the current generation of OSR aficionados is getting something special out of that kind of play, something that more setting-oriented and, well, lets call them genre-simulationist games, can't give them. I have no idea what it could be but then I don't listen to rap music and I love to hate the modern ballet, so each to his own.

I can only wish that your tastes were closer to mine. And by the look of things they will be, in a few more years :)

17-Feb-2014: The OSR Nostalgia

Somebody going by the nickname JJKM at Pelilauta wanted to point out that labelling a trend "nostalgic" is subtly derisive and triviliazes the experiences and achievements of the trend adherents. He is 100% correct, at least as far as I am concerned. I am calling the OSR trend "nostalgic" because otherwise I can't for the life of me understand it. For me, watching it has been like watching otherwise perfectly sensible people decide to crawl on all fours even when perfectly good bicycles are available. The only explanation I've received is that OSR gives a more "raw and original experience" than the more modern (say, from the mid-80s onwards???) roleplaying games.

Now, I can't make a rational counter-argument to a completely irrational claim, so calling OSR nostalgic is basically my way of throwing up my arms and saying "o tempora, o mores". Whatever the reason, the OSR trend is definitely a thing and apparently going strong. I guess you can make anything work with a superb gamemaster and good players, so if that's the reason, kudos to OSR adherents for being really good at their stuff. I hope that will eventually carry over to other types of roleplaying games as well.

By and large, I think the OSR games and particularly their rule systems are inherently abhorrent (I love the way the Lamentations of Flame Princess approaches the fantasy genre, though) but what do I know? Maybe it is the Forge thing all over again? Or maybe the players who became interested in Forge games precisely because they offered an alternative to the "modern games" have now moved on to OSR because whatever their flaws, the OSR titles do outclass the Forge titles by a wide margin.

I am speaking subjectively, of course. This blog is part of the Burgerverse and that's how things looks from here. I can't decide what people like or don't like and the age of manifestos (i.e. forcing others into liking the same things as you) is long over. If these people are enjoying themselves more this way, the more power to them. I am just hoping these things are cyclical and thus we should get back to the games I like in about 4-6 years. Thus, I shall return to this topic sometime in 2020.

In other news, I am seriously contemplating moving this blog to a commercial blogging service. Apparently it still has a few readers (let's see if they all ragequit now since I didn't like OSR games) but 80% of all feedback are requests for an RSS feed. I once tried adding one but couldn't do it and I think that is something the commercial blogging services do by default. Any suggestions on what blogging service I should use?

06-Feb-2014: Overcomplicator

Come April, my primary roleplaying campaign Verivartio for Praedor RPG is going to be two years old. Where the heck did the time go and how come we've covered only six months of gameworld time in two freaking years? Not to mention the fact that I began this campaign because I was inspired by the script of Petri's next Praedor comic book. Well, I am still inspired by it but it has been two years and the comic still isn't here, so the NDA concerning the primary plot is in effect. Yeah. We've done stuff. For two years. You know. Stuff. Anyway, these big campaigns, lasting for months or years, are why I play roleplaying games. They are shared journeys, experiences and adventures with groups of dear friends, with every emotion and elation made larger than life by its echo reflecting back from the other players. They are adventures to be had and memories to be cherished. I know that these days it is a kind of virtue to do short-term casual RPG shit but I am going to give that a pass.

Color me Old Skool.

That said, the writer's block I have with Miekkamies is both puzzling and annoying. It is masquerading as a design dilemma, drawing on my preference for clearly defined character activities in any given setting; praedors for Praedor, stalkers for Stalker, mobsters for Mobsters... but really, Miekkamies was written before I had come up with this rationalisation and I've been basically digging my own creative grave by trying to come up with a setup that would limit the role of adventurers into a specific field and enabling me to cal everybody doing it by a brand name. Now, I can sort of see someone like d'Artagnan or Rochefort being called "miekkamies" (swordsman) in a subculture-kind-of-way but the whole idea falls flat the moment I bring in the witches, or anything else outside the Musketeer box. Basically, the Baroque Fantasy genre supports the following themes:

  • Duels and Court Intrigue
  • Romance in every shape and form
  • Witchcraft, Witch-hunts
  • Demon-summoning, really complex sorceries
  • Alchemy, Magi-tech, some steampunk (Frankenstein's Monster)
  • Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts and certain other monsters
  • Dashing Highwaymen, Masked Avengers and Robed Assassins
  • Pirates and Treasure Maps
  • Exploring ancient temples and catacombs with traps & puzzles

In the original, I also threw on a layer of R.E. Howard on the setting: past ages of pre-human civilizations, their bestial descendants slowly inching towards extinction, contemporary gods resembling classic pantheons vs. elder gods straight out of Lovecraft's works and so on. Conan, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane... The re-awakening of magic heralds the end of an age, the changing of the rules and traditionally, a new power would rise to replace the old. But while the Delorian Empire did collapse during the Darkfire Year, there is still no contender for the Humanity as the dominant species in the Known World.

Hum, I am rambling. I guess what I am trying to tell myself is "shut up and do it", or "stop faffing about with the player role and instead write out the whole thing setting first, provide some guidelines for typical adventure parties and let the players sort it out". I want the main rulebook to support multiple theme tracks anyway, if not necessarily all nine listed above.

Damn, feeling all inspired and shit. All be writing the Stalker novel again tomorrow. And it's only a week to the next Rovers session...

04-Feb-2014: iRovers, latest


02-Feb-2014: A Ton Of Bricks

As a blogger, I have made something of a social media career of verbally shooting morons saying stupid shit about roleplaying games and the rest of the our shared hobby. Less so lately, though, since once people figured out they could present their findings as observations and sincere deductions based on those observations (as opposed to pushing them as the one true form and method of roleplaying and calling the rest of us ignorant idiots), I kind of ran out of ammo. I am still keeping the bolt greased and the barrel clean in case somebody hands me a juicy musketball with some gunpowder but I think it's been years since I last fired a shot in anger. While I sometimes agree on the observations and usually just politely ignore the resulting humbug of a deduction, every now and then some observer actually manages to say something that will hit me like a ton of bricks and makes me reshuffle my viewpoints. This is a good thing, which is why it is good to have observers around.

This time it was Marko Saaresto, a fellow Wirepunk partner and a prospective Rovers test player. He noted how exotic and refreshing it was to plan a character for a decidedly dynamic setting; i.e. a game world that is undergoing rapid and drastic changes. In Rovers, the Canyon Rush is bound to end within two or three Mars years. One way or the other the emerging society in the Canyon will be integrated into the larger Martian society and will perhaps become a catalyst in an interplanetary war or the downfall of the corporate hegemony that has overseen the terraforming project since start. Whether the characters participate in it or not, history is being made right before their eyes and the timeframe is very limited. I don't really want to make up my mind what direction the Martian history will take at this critical juncture but it might actually make a lot of sense for the gamemaster to determine the most likely outcome for his particular campaign and then map out the changes and major events leading to it, Mars Year by Mars Year (roughly two Earth years).

The first year saw the discovery, the news and the riots. The second year saw the full extent of the Canyon Rush and the establishing of the frontier societies now dotting the map. Third year is when the player characters come in and things begin to move in one direction or another (perhaps the direction is contested), fourth year is when everybody can see that the frontier lifestyle is coming to some sort of an end and finally, towards the Storm Season at the end of the fifth year, that end will come. The age of Roving is over and a that's missing is a Fallout-style epilogue of what happened to whom in the post-Canyon Rush age. If the players want to keep playing the Canyon Rush, roll up new characters and start over! It's a fascinating concept. Maybe I should outline a few possible endings for the Rovers Saga (take that, you fuckers at King.Com!!!)

It is true that roleplaying game settings are often designed to be fairly static. In Myrskyn Sankarit, the heroes can never really overthrow Zangavius, can they? Or in Stalker, I've actually made the Zone both more static and accessible to stalkers than it really was in the novel by having new artifacts spawn there, all the way up to the rim and thus maintaining the status quo. Praedor was locked onto the circumstances of the comics. In The One Ring, the world is locked in the stage between the Battle of the Five Armies and the Fellowship of the Ring. In Miekkamies, I never really thought about stability at depth. I basically describe the world and that was it. Nothing changing beyond the horizon. Funny enough, I thought I was following the great example of master R. E. Howard in how he formulated the Hyborian Age. Shining kingdoms stretching across the land like stars in the night sky and all that. I've even gone out of my way and implemented mechanics to enforce stability even when there should be none.

My biggest offence in that regard is Taiga. Post-holocaust cannot and should not be a static state of affairs. It is an intermediary stage between devastation and rebuilding and the overriding theme that makes or breaks post-holocaust fiction is the tug-of-war between having hope for a better future or succumbing to despair and apathy. All good post-holocaust movies have it. All Fallout games up to Fallout 3 have it. Even Metro: The Last Light shows spring creeping onto the ruins of Moscow. Curiously, Fallout: New Vegas doesn't have it, which is why I don't really see it as post-holocaust; the US West Coast is past that stage and civilization has returned in the form of the NCR, although the war between it and the Legion makes the setting definitely dynamic. For some reason post-holocaust pen & paper roleplaying games usually don't have it and instead assume that the state of anarchy on wheels goes on indefinitely. I am just as guilty as the rest in this.

I've been having an absolute blast with my latest Praedor campaign, Verivartio, and now I suddenly realize why. Jaconia is changing, in ways I cannot yet elaborate (Petri, damn it!) and the characters have been thrust into this transition. Even if they did nothing, history going to be made right before their eyes. To their credit, they've really thrown themselves into the thick of it. However, they clock is ticking (yes, Jaconian technology is sufficiently advanced), the situation changes week by week and eventually this window of transition and opportunity will end. By then, all that is to be done for the new world must be complete. It is a fascinating concept that lead to an equally fascinating process. It also kicked open a can of worms inside my head.

There is no use crying over spilt milk. Stalker RPG would have probably benefited if I had stuck to the novel a little more closely and instead of artificially perpetuating the Stalker subculture with respawning artifacts, the whole subculture would have been on the wane with increasing rewards as the outskirts of the Zone have been picked clean. Only lengthy and difficult expeditions deep into the Zone would still have any chance of finding something good. This process would of course imply that there is a point when the Zone is picked clean and the age of stalkers finally ends. For some reason, back in 2008 (Christ, has it been that long already?), I wanted the golden age of the Stalkers to last forever. I would probably decide differently now. Maybe these decisions reflect my real-life circumstances? Hmm. As for Praedor, such changes would not be mine to make. In retrospect, adding some on-going processes to the descriptions of the city-states might have been useful. But that's details and the comic books are the final arbiter anyway.

However, a potential remake of Miekkamies is currently on the table.

Since penning the original version, I have realised that Hyboria was anything but static. Aquilonia and the rest of the Hyborian kingdoms were waning, which enabled foreign barbarian kings. The kingdom of Turan conquered most of the east around the Sea of Vilayet. Eventually the fading of Hyborian Kingdoms would precipitate a Pictish invasion from the East, while the Turanian conquests would pave way for the Hyrkanian Horde. Caught between them, the old Hyborian world was crushed, eventually both devolving and evolving into the ancient world as the 1920s saw them. But in many ways, Howard was just as great a fan of the "diminishing of the world" as Tolkien was a couple of decades later. Even during the Hyborian era, it was precisely this fading of great powers that made room for adventuring heroes like Conan (and the first one who says "Red Sonja" in a Hyborian context is going to get slapped. Fucking Marvel).

Hmm, after that outpouring, a potential remake of Miekkamies is still on the table. The Arleonian culture is modelled from that of Europe around 1630.

So, what was going on in Europe at the time?

In summary, the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants had become so heavily politicized that the true objective was now limiting/re-establishing the power of Austrian Emperor in Central Europe. To this end, Catholic France (Cardinal Richelieu, no less) bankrolled the Protestant Champion King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in his fight against the Papists of the Catholic League, which was truly controlled by the Holy Roman Emperor and actively conspired against by the Pope it was supposedly fighting for. The whole sorry mess was supposed to end with the Peace of Prague in 1635. But then France (a Catholic country) decided the position of the Emperor was too strong and declared war on Spain (Catholic country) and Holy Roman Empire (Catholic ruler of a mixed bag). The war dragged on for another 13 years with Catholics killing each other and Protestants joining in just for the hell of it. Battles raged across the continent from Portugal to Prague, until the Treaty of Westfalen finally re-arranged Europe in 1648. By then, roughly a third of all population in Central Europe had been killed. The Swedish army alone is believed to have destroyed 2000 castles, 18000 villages and 1500 towns in Germany.

Sounds pretty damn dynamic to me. And Arleon needs a dose of that.

26-Jan-2014: Artistic Value

The tooth is fine. But the damn antibiotics are killing me. This is no joke. In the past, they've actually come pretty close to doing just that as the hospital records of Peijas can attest. Thankfully, I am down to my last pill. Tomorrow morning it will be over and I'm just hoping I won't keel over prior to that.

Besides a sudden burst of writing and inspiration concerning the Stalker novel, I've been working on iMiekkamies just for the hell of it and to study the feasibility of using profiles with the Praedor game mechanics. The main benefits of that are the longer progression scale and greater numerical accuracy. For example, instead of the five levels of profile mastery in Rovers, you'd have roughly 15 levels of mastery in iMiekkamies and the players I work with prefer receiving smaller rewards more often. I haven't made up my mind on attribute value integration into the profile values yet, though. Probably their starting value when acquired will be 5 and attribute values are not only rollable scores on their own right (e.g. Agility rolls replacing climbing and jumping skills) but also provide a bonus to be added to the profile value when the task falls under an attribute you are particularly good at. But we'll see.

I am actually having second thoughts about Miekkamies' viability as a commercial (read: printed) release. The whole thing is a hassle, it won't be a ground-breaking title in the same way that Praedor or Stalker were and getting enough good quality art would be next to impossible. How come? Think about it. Finland has plenty of people who've been drawing medieval fantasy for ages. But Miekkamies is set in the Early Modern/Baroque Era. Now, how many of the prospective fantasy artists have taken a crack at that, hmm? And how many of them would even know what I am talking about? And how much detail would be needed in the pictures to bring that point across?

I've been extremely lucky with the art in my previous premium publications. Praedor RPG was written and drawn on a proft-sharing basis when Petri had a dry spell with his usual orders. It would be impossible for him to make that kind of effort now. He has famously estimated that Praedor RPG has roughly 10K worth of art in it. I am overjoyed that the game has been a success, so I've been able to pay him at least something as part of our profit-sharing deal. As for Stalker RPG, all interior art was free and Hans Zenjuga and Jani Hämäläinen have my undying gratitude for that. But the real lottery prize was Tuomo Veijanen. I don't know what he was smoking but he drew close a hundred pictures for it on his own, many of them excellent and almost all of them poignant and useful. That's two lightning strikes already. As for a third, the odds are very much stacked against it and this is despite #praedor-channel's valiant effort with the Arleon maps that actually got the ball rolling in the first place. Just look what happened with my call for Rovers art...

By the way, has anyone else noticed how neoconservative Traveller: New Era really feels like in the post-G.W.Bush world? I did a quick re-read and it's fucking horrible! Star Vikings essentially bomb, sabotage and assassinate the native populations until they understand the innate superiority of the RCES democracy and adopt the same political and value system. And if the Reformation Coalition wasn't short-hand for a scifi-USA, I don't know what is. I still can't believe that GDW threw away the most sophisticated high-scifi setting in all of gaming (Third Empire) for this fascist turd. Even if the company was in its death throes.

In totally unrelated news, everybody and their cousin should pledge to Kingdom Come: Deliverance not only because it's cool as hell but to show the publishers that yes, we would like well-made medieval RPGs without dragons and wizards because we would like some fucking variety in AAA games for a change!!! And in our second news item, King.Com (the makers of Candy Crush Saga) should be boiled in oil and I am not going to touch any of their games ever again!


19-Jan-2014: iRovers

I put a question "should I keep editing my RPGs for paper format or start prepping them for tablets?". It sparked a lively discussion back and forth but the overwhelming gist of it was that defenders of the book format were mainly behind it for nostalgia, that "the book just has that something special", while every practical argument was on the eRPG side. The reason I asked in the first place was that Rovers is now 50+ A4 pages long and I was just about to take printout, when it struck me that these days I have a tablet, a Retina-resolution iPad Mini, that is perfectly capable of reading PDF files. Since I am running the game, the ipad can effectively replace all my rulebooks. In short, all non-dynamic information would be there, while I could still be buried in my poorly maintained stack of campaign notes.

I also fits my RPG writing style, although Rovers, being free and shit, does not really reflect that. When writing RPG rulebooks, I treat every spread of two pages as a slate of information. Everything I really want to say about a topic has to fit in there. Sure, you might continue with a few pages of exceptions, special rules as such, but take Praedor, for example. Attacking, in all its forms, is on spread 48-49. Defending, in all its glory, is on spread 50-51. Spread 52-53 has the attack/defence outcome tables and spread 54-55 has my take on special rules and unusual circumstances. The logic here is that rather than leaf through the book, all the information you might need on a particular topic is in the same, topic-specific place. This is why I tend to write my games with the same old venerable PageMaker 7.0 that I edit them with, because the layout is an integral part of that communication. Granted, the technology gap involved is starting to become a problem, but more about later.

To try out the feasibility of an all-tablet RPG, I present you iRovers, a version of Rovers squeexed into an iPad-friendly 4:3 format (the layout template is 24 x 18 centimetres). It works best with an Adobe Readetr; if Safari has a full screen mode when viewing PDF-documents I couldn't find it. Having a page-by-page view mode doesn't hurt either. It is not really representing the content layout I was talking about and has no links nor other frills. But it looks good, is pretty damn nifty to use and at least on a Retina display is very, very readibly. Credible sources tell me that it works fine also on a Kindle Reader on Android, although those things leave small black borders on top and bottom since the display is usually longer than in iPads. I will be running my test-game of Rovers with this setup. It really is that good, even though it is all wrong and edited to fit rather than to have all the information in the right places. And it is free, so what do I care, as long as it is a good game and since it is a relatively short rulebook, there is not much jumping around.

Enter iMiekkamies, a hypothetical remake of my 1994 smash hit Miekkamies that originally made my name in this scene. This would be a 200+ page monster with several parallel (if mechanistically as similar as possible) systems: Master Task Resolution System, Combat System, Witchcraft Rules, Faith Rules, Secrets of Old (the steampunk mechanics dating back to the illustrious 6th dynasty of the Delorian Empire). That is a loooot of stuff. I've often had this argument with my colleagues but frankly, any game that needs an index is badly organized and I am looking at you, Rogue Trader! If you need to know something related to combat, it is in the Combat Section. If you need to know something about the world history, there is a fucking whole chapter dedicated to world history you can go to, and so on.

That said, in an e-book, which is what a tablet-operated PDF ultimately is, the act of leaving through the book into different sections of it has to be made as easy as possible. The simplest way to do this is to have the table of content double as a main menu of content, enabling you to return there from every page in the document and then to go from there whatever content you wanted to look up. That said, the document would still form a single, continuous stack of... slides? I'd love a system where a single tap would bring up the content menu as a pop-up and the system would remember the page you were on if you dismissed it but that goes into app territory.

Then there is the second challenge. In a book, my basic information module is a two-page spread. In an ebook, it is a single page. Basically, every page in the game document would have to be able to present its content in a concise, easily absorbed manner without overflow to following pages without a suitable thematic break. Having a text referring to a table and then the table itself on separate pages would be something of a faux pas. An unavoidable faux pas on occasion, I am sure. In Praedor, this would mean that Close Combat would have been page 48, Ranged Combat would have been page 49, the tables could have been where they are... the point is that originally attacking was covered in a single spread and it did not matter if close combat overflowed into the second page. On a pdf-document, that would be bad.

However, as stated by Hans "The-Most-Efficient-Commuter-Ever" Zenjuga, the format would also enable me to use color decorations, color images and text highlights. That's a whole new ball game. And it would be awesome.

18-Jan-2014: Rovers v1_2014

A friend of mine has a theory that I'm a player character created for the Praedor game system with a 4-point flaw that all medical procedures conducted on me are +1D more difficult and mishap tables have double rolls with always the worst outcome being chosen. And it's true; I've never had a major medical procedure without the doctors somehow cocking it up and usually quite spectacularly. My mother suggested writing an autobiography of my medical misadventures but even I find that to be a too depressing subject. After all, many of the doctors meant well. On the other hand, if I ever become a dictator of the world, I suggest that all who worked for the University of Helsinki's Student Dental Care in the 90s get a ticket to Mars. I have my vengeful moments.

My current dentist (a private one), spotted a shadow in an x-ray of my upper jaw, at the base of an old root-canal treated tooth. This usually means an infection but with my history of benign tumors that couldn't be ruled out. So, through the tooth and into the jawbone he went, coming up against an undocumented metal screw somebody had put there in early Stone Age. With tools dipped in chloroform, he removed that, verified it was an infection in the bone and put in a medicinal filler to kill it off. Then he closed the tooth and sent me home to wait for further procedures in February. Three hours later I am in such a pain I feel like confessing every dirty little secret I've ever had. Unfortunately, it didn't end the torture. I went back to the dentist and had a surprisingly lively argument with them before they agreed to prescribe me any painkillers beyond non-prescription ibuprofein. No, this kind of pain is not natural and I am not going to tough it out! Fuck the Finnish Sisu if this is supposed to be how it is measured.

It's day 5 now and it still fucking hurts whenever I am not high on codeine (for some reason tramadol doesn't seem to work on it). By next Monday, it is going to be day 7. If think the screw removal fractured the bone and if it still hurts like this, I am going back there. I am tired of hurting, tired of being bathed in cold sweat even when I am not hurting and I am tired of having nightmares during the few hours of sleep I manage to grab.

On a more positive note, being high works wonders for creativity. I did something of a crunch on Rovers and converted it into A4 format. It is now playable and I am going to lay off it for a while, at least until we've played it a little. Here is the current version, in glorious A4. I'd really like to get some art for it but it is a free game, so the art needs to be free as well. Ruleswise I still want to include prospecting mechanics, some enemies and see if the strategic features of Mobsters could somehow be implemented here. If not, a shitload of more encounter tables for generating quick and dirty missions will do. Come think of it, I can probably rip those off from Traveller... I originally wanted to have Car Wars -style vehicle combat in the game and if this was a videogame, that'd be part of the core gameplay. However, it just didn't sit right with the roleplaying game setting. There will probably be some driving and vehicle damage rules just for the heck of it. I'll have to see how much vehicle combat the playtesting scenario will end up with.

The good folks at #praedor IRC-channel have been conspiring for years to make me return to Miekkamies, my original self-published Baroque Fantasy Roleplaying Game from 1994. Their efforts are bearing fruit. For example, knowing that I am sucker for old maps, they drew a couple of different versions of the old Arleon map. I took one of the base pictures and filled in the realms, nations and cities as I would place them today. Now remember, this is just a prototype by me. The actual mapmakers will finish it up and make it look all nice and inspiring. Of course, I am drooling at the sight of this already. The original Arleon map was 2000 kilometres long. I am going to increase the scale to 3000, making Arleon about the size of West Europe. The southern half are all Successor Kingdoms to the Delorian Empire. The north has been divided between the Relgian and Lavonian nations. The civilization ends at their borders, although there are pioneers from both nations in Marmark.

Heh, hurts like hell but I am feeling better about myself at the same time. Next, I am going to stop faffing about with the Stalker novel and write out the core adventure sequence. My build-up to it is shit but hopefully the story will work even without it and I can cannibalize the best bits. It is late so I don't even know if the publisher even wants it anymore. But I know that you guys do, so one way or another, it is coming out. In all its pulpy glory.

07-Jan-2014: Ponderings

Well, a bunch of Rovers characters have been created and I've been adding bits and pieces to the game documentation. However, writing about the Canyon settlements and the Bloom, I've been wondering if the rust-punk approach was the right one. Basically, it's going for the Tex-Mex scifi-western look & feel. Red sands, dust drifts and shit. The only thing missing are the tumbleweeds. Blooms, areas where xenolith influence took over terraformed life and twisted it into monstrous and alien shapes are small and rare, ghosts of the primordial biosphere that crawled into the Canyon to die a billion years ago. The main benefit of Rust Punk is that the characters are likely to become involved in community or even nation-bulding. A new Free Mars is about to emerge from the dusts of the Canyon, challenging the corporate hegemony on both Red and Blue Planet. Our rovers can be instrumental in shaping that emerging society. I am quite intrigued by this setup but really, is this what I was originally going for?

The other alternative would be to turn the xeno button all the way up to 11. In this option, the Red Corps have known for a long time that something inside the Canyon is making terraforming go haywire, turning it into a howling wilderness of alien and deadly lifeforms. Heck, maybe I should move the timeline forward a bit and have this happen when the million or so prospectors down there are already busy scratching rocks. Suddenly they find themselves awash in a freshly awakened alien biosphere with mutant predators fierce enough to take on cars. This setting would have action-adventure up the ass from the word go but the more mature themes would suffer. Frankly, it would turn the Canyon into a hell-hole that most of the million prospectors would want to flee no matter what the Red Corps would do to them back north. Of course, fearing biological contamination, the corps could seal the Canyon by building a wall across its mouth at Devil's Gullet. Kind of a "prison planet" or "penal colony" thing.

"Welcome to Absolom, where the killers are kings!"

Umm, no.

Even if it is a deviation from my original goals, the greater complexity of nation-building within the Canyon appeals to me more. But by going with it, I have raised the bar on how to make the actual adventure content work. For starters, I am going to browse through wild west story ideas and convert them into the Rovers setting. Then, provided that all my test players haven't walked out on me, new Rovers-specific themes and adventure seeds should emerge. It's worked before, with Taiga. Come to think of it, I thought Stalker was my revisitation to the themes of Taiga but considering what actually happened in our campaigns during the 90s, Rovers takes the cake.

Some things I would already do differently, though. Take the format, for example. Time and time again I have striven to produce another neat, compact fanzine-sized RPG like Mobsters. Well, it's an epic fail once more as Rovers outgrew the 64 A5 pages pretty quickly. My current system preferences: profiles instead of skills, extensive edges, flaws etc. do not really support the mini-booklet format. I think the next major change I'll be making to Rovers is to change it into an A4 book and forget all about Mobsters.

My next mistake was the damage system. In keeping with a simple logic and one-roll combat, I opted for Warhammer-style Wounds, except that you'll be receiving them instead of losing them. I should have gone for hit points of some sort instead. The wider numeric range would have provided more room to fiddle with. While that would also mean expanding combat damages into damage rolls, that is the one roll no player has ever complained about. It would also enable the use of armour rolls. Call me old-fashioned but I really loved that system in Elric/Stormbringer. Besides, the ability to customize your armour by adding almost whatever for a minor +1 bonus to the roll might be just what the doctor ordered for character appearance. Synth-leather trenchcoat + sturdy hat with built-in goggles + studded leather gloves and boots: Armour roll of 1D + 2. And since the encumbrance system is so liberal, go nuts, baby!

Some things do work and some other things I am eagerly waiting to test out. If the system of having profile dice instead of skill values works in the game as well as it does on paper, I know what I am going do for Miekkamies.


Nestori "Nuurori" Lehtonen has insisted that I review his roleplaying game Lohikäärmeliitto, promoted as the best Finnish RPG of 2013 by Eero Tuovinen. And yes, I've read it. Since you insist, Nestori, here we go. But remember, you brought this upon yourself. I thought Sami Koponen would have warned you or at least serve as an example.

Lohikääreliitto a compilation of what appear to be poorly tested house rules for the original Red Box D&D and the way the whole thing is written gives me the impression that the author is in dire need of psychiatric help. I wouldn't normally touch something like this with a ten-foot pole but if I must come up with something positive about it, then, well, at least it stands out from the crowd.

Since I don't want to bash a sick person, I'll bash the whole trend. Is there anything but nostalgia behind the OSR? For all its user-friendliness for beginners, as an RPG the colour-box D&D was a steaming pile of shit already in 1985 and hasn't gotten any better over time. Why the fuck would anyone want to emulate that? LOTFP is at least trying to innovate with an early modern setting (if it hadn't gone down the horror route some might actually consider it a competitor for Miekkamies), even though it shoots itself in the kneecaps by copying one of the least functional game systems ever invented. Granted, I have a soft spot for the D&D Cyclopedia rules but as for the rest... well, D&D may well be the ancestor of all modern roleplaying games (it's 40th birthday is coming on January 26th) but there is a reason why we are not using stone axes anymore. Or live in the sea.

02-Jan-2014: Growth Industry

Are an investor looking for a good game developer with a.. eh... "solid" track record of almost 17 years? Look no further, for Burger Games is here! We are a Finnish games industry giant at the forefront of the Finnish games industry boom. With 4910 employees and a third consecutive year of 100% growth in revenue, Burger Games is set to take the industry by storm! Now you too can become a part of this amazing success story by investing into Burger Games. Our vaunted BG-series stock comes in three primary categories:

Praedor RPG is for a conservative investor who wants tried and true performance in gold, gemstones and magical items. Launched well over a decade ago, Praedor has been one of the best performing stock in Finland, bringing together a like-minded community of investors of discerning tastes. The ownership of Praedor BG stock has also opened doors into other branches of the media industry, primarily comic books.

Stalker RPG Finnish is for a radical investor willing to take risks and break established patterns. Although a considerably more risky investment than Praedor, many of the Stalker investors would have it no other way and are currently enjoying rich dividends in space-time bending alien artifacts. Stalker RPG is not a mass-market friendly investment and is meant for investors who already understand the markets and have a firm grasp of their own goals and requirements. Nevertheless, coupled with the international launch, this stock series has become our most popular one to date!

Stalker RPG International made the groundbreaking Stalker RPG stock series available worldwide and has been making waves globally since 2012. Essentially similar to the Finnish version, the investor circles have a wider reach and the owning community is at times quite... colorful. Unlike other forms of stock, also virtual ownership is possible with Stalker RPG International.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your share, multiples if you like, and ride the wave of the Finnish games industry success!



Thus endeth 2013 and it really was the third consecutive year of 100+% growth, making it financially my best year ever. However, unless stars align themselves really well again, it is unlikely to be repeated. 2013 was a year of great professional triumphs and tragedies. Ascending glorious peaks and then falling down into ravines of despair. Even with all the money I made, 2013 was a zero-sum year for me because all I have to show for it is... money. None of the gains I thought I had made professionally proved lasting and losing prospects, especially such high-profile prospects as I did, is really tough on self-esteem. I could probably rationalize everything to be somebody else's fault but whatever the truth, I feel more than a little deflated right now. Ilkka Paananen has said that you learn more from a failure than a success. I've always believed that but right now I have to upgrade that belief to an article of faith.

Feeling deflated is also why the Stalker novel is late. I've never just plain missed a book deadline before but now it happened and I don't even feel as sorry about it as I ought to. I have to fix my ego before I can go on. Perhaps make a fresh start with it. This is why I threw myself at Crimson Rovers, or lately just plain "Rovers", when my work contracts ended. Although not quite finished, it is playable and the playtesting team just made their characters after I stuffed them with ham and Christmas casserole. I expect my Praedor campaign of court-intrigue and epic tales of fate to be soon accompanied by tales of just as epic action and antiheroes from the near-future Mars.

Here we go, a list of inspirational links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCDZMFL4FII

Making Rovers is therapeutic and it is already working. Also, having to explain things to other players for the first time really helped me take the world forward. For example, we discussed how the life in the Terraforming Colonies was pre-programmed from cradle to the grave as the Red Corps were running a totalitarian planned-economy state. The Canyon Rush was not just about getting rich but an outlet of resentment. Also, those fleeing into the Canyon took with them the machines, tools and materials they had worked with in the Project. It was a serious blow to the terraforming effort but a necessarily evil to kickstart the colonisation of the Canyon. Still, it made every wanna-be prospector a criminal and the only way out of the Canyon would be to strike it rich and pay the fines, or somehow bribe the Red Corp authorities to look the other way. I love it when a setting just keeps on generating more content by itself if you just sit down to think about it. It becomes this living, breathing thing you can explore as a Gamemaster, or even when all by yourself.

However, while I hope to keep playing Rovers for quite a while, I'll have to stop the development soon and get back to the Stalker novel. As soon as I feel better.

Time moves on regardless of how much I'd like to lament the past year. It looks like Serious Games are going to be the next big thing for me in 2014. I am now officially a partner in a start-up called IndustrySim and will be helping them to carry out their vision of a gamified processing industry simulator. It's all very adult stuff and will hopefully be balanced out with multiple edutainment projects for kids. And naturally, once Wirepunk gets out of its Christmas hibernation, we'll be kicking that ball forward as well. This summer I will be flying out to London for WorldCon and continue from there to Ireland for Eurocon (Shamrokon). I also hope to visit Istanbul sometime this year, just like I visited Bali last year on the wings of the IGF conference. I have been to Turkey before... hmm, well, 25 years ago, but that was just Alanya, a tourist trap on the south coast.

Let's hope that by the end of 2014 I'll be happy rather than swimming in money.

24-Dec-2013: Merry Christmas!

Or whatever Winter Solstice holiday strikes our fancy. Here is a present for all of you. It's not quite done yet but should run alright if you put a fission battery into it. Before you do, make sure the protective shell is intact or fission byproducts may leak out, contaminating enclosed spaces. The refineries at Candor Gate can replace the fissiles but coming up with new shells and plugs down here can be tricky.

Leakage is not much a problem with bikes, trikes and buggies, though.

17-Dec-2013: Rusty

After years and years with FLOW and its derivatives, I am clearly rusty when it comes to writing dice-based game mechanics. It is not enough to make a mathematically nice and balanced game system. It must also be easy to pick up and soon afterwards to tweak for your particular playstyle and needs. One of the core elements in making that happen is internal consistency and rule step triage.

Internal consistency means that at least most things in the game system are resolved in a similar manner. In Praedor, the core mechanic is rolling a number of dice and trying to score less than the target value. Almost everything follows this pattern and with the exception of the damage rolls, I am deeply ashamed of the few things that don't. In Crimson Rovers, the core mechanic is rolling Stat Value + XD6 and trying to score equal or over the success threshold. Stat values range from 1-10 and the number of dice rolled varies from 1D to 6D (up to five levels of character profile and one die for suitable cyberware). The dice are open-ended, so any 6s are re-rolled but since the number of dice is limited and usually 2-3, figuring out the totals should not be too much of a hassle. Target figures form a difficulty hierarchy in steps of 5. Actually, the system reminds of me of the venerable Interlock (CP2020) in many ways.

There are major differences, though. The game is much more heroic as higher profile levels and lucking out with 6s can occasionally push the results to absurd heights. Characters can start with as high profile values as 4D and with a stat of 6, that would mean an average roll of somewhere between 20 and 25 (Difficult and Very Difficult, respectively). Every additional level of difficulty cleared adds something to the result. For example, hitting someone in combat inflicts the weapon damage in Wounds but there is +1 Wound for every margin of 5 the attack roll succeeded. Because combat is based on action/reaction roll comparisons, high-powered characters would duke it out in their own league while owning hordes of henchmen and lowly redshirts on their way to the final boss. Hmm, that's videogame design seeping into my terminology...

The second major difference is the profile system in itself. Profiles are like abilities from Stalker RPG, fields of expertise and experience that form part of the character's past. Doing something that's in the core competence of the profile lets you use the full dice pool. If you are doing something that's related to the profile but obviously secondary to the main thing, the profile pool drops by -1D. If the connection to the profile is tangential but your explanation was good enough to convince the GM, the reduction is -2D. As long as any dice remain in the profile, you can still roll it. If not, it is recommended that you think of a different approach to the challenge (rolling at halved results can still be allowed if no profile-specific special knowledge is needed). Various bonuses may apply.

Where my rustiness shows is the way how I first mixed bonus and penalty dice with straight-up numeric modifiers. There was no way for the player to intuitively know which kind of bonuses would have been applicable in each particular situation. Also, I was setting myself up for a balancing trap because I could no longer keep track of the cumulative bonus/penalty dice during gameplay and thus ran the risk of characters frequently running out of dice. This would have broken the game, as circumstances where the character has no profile dice left to roll are meant to be both crisis points and guides on how a character with this particular mix of profiles ought to be roleplayed. Unlike skills, loosely defined profiles with their gradable effectiveness provide game-mechanical incentives for approaching the world and its various challenges in specific ways. After all, almost any profile is at least a tangential match for almost anything if the player can explain it from the character's point of view.

So, while everything was still numerically simple, it would have made it near-impossible to learn the system by heart and run it without constantly referring to various tables. For a game that would mostly be distributed as PDF, this would have been a major design flaw. So I revised the rules from the beginning, limiting dice to profile levels, cyberware bonuses and the usage of Karma points. Everything else would be handled with straight-up numerical bonuses and penalties and for the most part those would be either +/-3 or +/-6, depending on whether we are talking about minor or major modifers. This way there isn't really any need for a combat modifier list, although I do have one. Something good is +3, something really good is +6, something bad is -3, something really bad but not terminal is -6. My goal is that pretty soon players and gamemasters would be able to play Crimson Rovers with just the dice and the character sheets (although they'll want weapon lists and inventories, as always).

Other than finalizing these fixes, the rules portions are done and I finally get to move into fleshing out the Crimson Rovers universe in general and the Canyon in particular. I mean, look at that picture (courtesy of NASA) in the character sheet. That place is fucking huge! You could almost fit three Jaconias into that picture. Or the whole of United States!

12-Dec-2013: New Stars

There are new stars in the sky. Some of them flash across every few hours. Others stay put, loitering above the Canyon on areosynchronous orbit, watching all that dust and mist will let them see. There aren't that many of them but looking up I still feel the sky is crowded. Sometimes I wish they'd dip a little lower so Phobos could knock them right down. Folks say there's gonna be a war; not now, not tomorrow but certainly within our lifetime. Looking up, I have to agree. Those man-made stars are like angels of death looking down at the face of the God of War.

Phobos, "Fear", is damn bright tonight. It's going around Mars faster than we spin so it rises twice a day. Smaller than Moon was from Earth, it's kinda like a tennis ball compared to a football but on a clear and calm night like this there will be a few hours when it's bright enough to cast a shadow. That's an ill omen and rightly so: out here in the Wastes it makes little difference but if you are camping in the Blooms the critters will chew you socks off. Anything native goes crazy by phoboslight and I swear that goes for second-generation colonists too. I used to be in the militia up north. On nights like this they kept us real busy.

Not that the new stars would know. See, they just got here. From Earth.

The Cartel may act all-powerful but this time they are getting strangled by their own red tape. First, they gave off Mars to the five corps crazy enough to bet everything on the Terraforming Project. Next, the Canyon Rush happens and while the Mars Corps act all tough about rovers being outlaws, everybody knows the corporate elite is making a killing with relics and xenoliths. Yeah, you heard me. The Black Market and the law in this place are not just in their pocket; they are in the same god-damn pocket when you dig deep enough. I should know. I was the freaking law.

Anyway, this alien crap upsets the powers back on Earth and some other corps wanted in on the action. But the Mars Corps won't let them set up shop down down here and the Cartel can't go back on its own contract or all hell would break loose. Kind of its reason to be, you know? So the other corps set up shop in the orbit and that's the New Stars. Cartel spacecraft, fresh from Earth.

Sure, the Cartel says they are just sending envoys to the northern colonies with peace offerings but I hear they've got so many boots on the ground I wouldn't be surprised to run into a secret base one day. Stars know the Canyon has no shortage of secrets already. And stars only know what else they got up there! The Cartel says the ships are unarmed but I'll eat a live Crawlie if that's true. Right now everybody is watching, waiting, jockeying for position and making money hand over fist on alien trinkets on the side. Nobody has drawn yet but eventually someone will.

Yeah, some folks say there's gonna be war. I always thought it would be us rovers against the Mars Corps but looking up tonight, I know different. It'll be the Mars Corps against the Cartel, the Reds versus the Blues. Sooner or later we rovers will have to pick a side. I've already chosen mine but I'll have to get lucky first so I'll have something to fight for that day.

My oh my, the stars sure are pretty tonight!