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talk12-Feb-2016: The Great Praedor Year

So here we are. The great Praedor year of 2016 kicks off with the release of Kirotun Maan Ritari (trans. "Knight Of The Cursed Land") by Erkka Leppänen, the official #1 fan of Praedor RPG and a veteran author of short stories. His novel, superbly illustrated by Petri Hiltunen, is a collection of short stories on one hand but there is also an overall narrative arc tying them altogether, so I'd call it... hmm, an episodic novel rather than a collection of short stories. It's all in Finnish but that's why we Finns get all the coolest things, right? Click on any of the images to order your copy, complete with the author's signature.

Kirotun Maan Ritari  Valkoisen vuoren vanki kartano

It is not going to end there. I have no idea what part of this is public and what is not, and anybody on the Praedor FB page or the IRC channel is already well aware of all this but yes, Käärmetanssija ("Snakedancer") has found a publisher and will come out this year, with its launch aimed at one of the many national culture- and counter-culture events throughout the year. However, much of it is still under wraps, and I don't have any fantastic pictures to show you. Well, I do, but the publisher gets to do it first. For now, just go buy Erkka's excellent book and hone your swords for an epic year of Praedor.

Because it is still not going to end there! My work with Salaisuuksien Kirja, a long-awaited supplement for Praedor RPG, is finally bearing fruit and I fully expect to publish the damn thing sometime over the summer. Ropecon 2016 would be an obvious place but I rarely manage to hit such precise targets. But it is coming, at long last.  
And it is still not going to end there! Petri Hiltunen's long-awaited next Praedor graphic novel will come out and in doing so, carries the chronology of Jaconia forward a few years. And makes a really, really big mess of things. I love big messes of things, as my Verivartio players are well aware. For a Praedor fan, 2016 is going to be unbelievable! We authors are not any less excited. Never before in Finland has any non-digital creative franchise received this much support. In a single year, the number of Praedor publications is going to double, creating a solid body of material that future endeavors can be built on. The best and the biggest is going to get even better and bigger!

My hands are shaking! Literally, and not just out of excitement. These are withdrawal symptoms from writing Käärmetanssija. I've been asked for a sequel many times and indeed, there is more to tell, much more. But it all depends on whether the audiences can relate to such an unorthodox character and a mold-breaking story. We don't even know if all this extra support to Praedor franchise is worth it in the end. Maybe nobody cares about the big Praedor 2016. Maybe we've invited ourselves to a party no one else is coming to. But we're doing this, period. And then we will know.

Although I might need some more art for Salaisuuksien Kirja before it is finished...

talk13-Jan-2016: Verivartio Is Over

My long-running Praedor RPG campaign, Verivartio (eng. "Bloodguard"), is finally at an end. Nearly four years adventure, intrigue and black magic culminated in an epic finale and an outro, so that the players could settle their characters' affairs and say their goodbyes. Then it was over. All over. Verivartio took 73 game sessions to complete. Although we didn't get to play as often as I would have liked (that will happen when you are this old), the first withdrawal symptoms hit after about an hour. It is really, really hard to let go and face the fact that there is no next session. That there is nothing more. It was an epic tale and parts of it will surely make a great novel, but it is over.

Verivartio was originally supposed to be a playtesting campaign for a supplement supporting the release of the next graphic novel in the Praedor franchise. However, as that got pushed back by years, the campaign really took a life of its own. Unfortunately, I still can't go into the details since it was based on the events of an as-of-yet unpublished work by Petri Hiltunen. I got to see the script early on and its conclusion sets the stage where the events of Verivartio play out. I did try to introduce some semblance of spell magic into Praedor RPG and it was an abject failure. No big deal - that's what game testing is about. I just have to find another angle to the concepts and processes of demonic possession and powers.

My actual big regret is that the world-building material never got used. I sort of fleshed out one of the Jaconian kingdoms in fairly good detail but that goes into the desk drawer for now. There is some stuff I can use and they will go into Salaisuuksien Kirja ("The Book of Secrets"), hopefully concluded by this summer (I am aiming for Ropecon, obviously).

But all in all, it was a fantastic journey. I thank the players, Leena, Aki, Jari, Kristel and Vera, for coming with me. Our shared experience of Verivartio, the greater tale woven by our collective decisions, is a miraculous treasure that can never be taken from us. This is why I love these long, named roleplaying campaigns. Elric, Taiga, Hansa, LootEm... they are the reason why I do this. They are the reward that makes me play and otherwise engage in roleplaying games.   

In other news, after 120 hours, I reached one of the main storyline endings in Fallout 4. It wasn't bad but... meh. No companion quests, no multiple stages of end credits showing what became of this or that, no nothing. There are no really interesting NPCs or secondary groups in this game. But yeah, apparently the ending is just one of the four outro slideshows, depending on which faction you supported all the way to the end. From then on, you can keep playing with the post-apocalyptic Boston as an open-world sandbox. Woohoo. Even the climax of the plot will be essentially the same, regardless of your faction. There are no deep side quests revealing more information about the world, or bringing in new mysterious groups into the conflict. Also noticeable is the near-total absence of humor. In essence, we have a 1950's style post-apocalyptic retro-scifi world pretending it is S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Oh, I get it. The atrocious writing (and character design) in Fallout 3 was an attempt by this very same team to insert Fallout 1 & 2 -style humor into the game. This was, of course, a dismal failure. When New Vegas (by Obsidian) showed how it is done, they must have felt like idiots. So now they decided not to even try and hence the bone-dry atmosphere. But there is the one thing that the original Fallouts, Fallout: New Vegas and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy all got right: The sense of being part of an active, larger world, with both critical and casual inputs and outputs across the map borders. This, more than anything else, created so much immersion and Otherwhere for me, that I was almost willing to overlook the fact that vanilla Fallout New Vegas is not a post-holocaust game to begin with. 


What saddens me the most is this interview with Pete Hines, the PR and Marketing VP of Bethesda.

I like what we’ve done with the dialogue system … Because I don’t have the attention span for long dialogue!
Coming off fresh from Witcher 3, all I can say to that is "eat shit and die". Fallout 4 is not a bad game. Under any other name and brand it might even be a great game. But as Fallouts go, it is...

To close off with some better news, Petri Hiltunen is going to illustrate Erkka Leppänen's excellent novel Kirotun maan ritari. We've been given a teaser!

Kirotun maan ritari

It comes out in February and I expect everybody reading this to BUY it! And if you can't read Finnish, this novel is a great place to start learning!


talk05-Jan-2016: Promises

Lemmy Kilmister is dead and it really got to me. He died on December 28th, three days after his 70th birthday, from complications of a brain cancer that had been diagnosed just two days earlier. Mickey Dee and Phil Campbell, his bandmates for 24 and 31 years respectively, told the press Motörhead is now over. As it should be. It was Lemmy's band. It was Lemmy. I've never really mourned a star before but Lemmy's death got to me. He was a great songwriter, a great poet and surprisingly eloquent thinker. His anti-war and anti-establishment lyrics were my inspiration, while his raucous rock'n'roll tunes were my consolation. Motörhead has put out music in almost every genre there is and invented a few of them, like thrash metal. However, they always insisted they were just a rock'n'roll band.

Good evening! We are Motörhead! We play rock'n'roll!

Never again and the world feels shittier already. I originally thought of writing a full-sized obituary to Lemmy but the Internet is full of them, of course. So I'll just guide you to the first day of my Song Challenge Of The Week on Facebook. All in Finnish, I'm afraid.

Star Wars: Force Awakens was good, if not great. I saw it twice, once with my spouse and once with my parents, to pay them back for taking me to the Episode IV in 1979. I was five years old at the time. I have some friends and colleagues who liked the smoother aesthetics and epic fight choreography of the prequel trilogy, even though we all agree that writing was shit. However, I hated that look, was overjoyed to get my grimy scifi back and the sooner those wannabe-eunuch-shaolin-monk Jedis are forgotten, the better. SWFA was in many ways a revisit and nostalgia trip to the original Star Wars and while I hope that sequels find their own narrative legs to stand on, Force Awakens was good enough. And it was sorely needed; new fans needed a formulaic movie introducing IP and we veterans needed a nostalgia trip to bridge the old and new movies (and forgetting the god-awful prequel trilogy in between). The previous three movies took the magic of Star Wars away from me. Force Awakens gave something of it back to me.

I've now started playing Fallout 4 and for the most part enjoyed my time in post-holocaust Boston. However, this is not a computer RPG. I am not as disappointed as you might think, as I like first-person shooters with roleplaying elements, but I think being able to assume different kinds of roles in the game world is a requirement for a roleplaying game. Think Skyrim; there are many ways to play that game, allowing you to experiment and find both your own preferences and the happy surprises when experimenting outside the box. Fallout: New Vegas also allowed that to great extent.

Fallout 4 does not. You are who you are, locked in a specific story, and even Todd Howard was surprised to learn that somebody was even able to break the playstyle mold they had set up for the player. All you can really choose from are between four or so factions, which all either suck or are otherwise disappointing. Minutemen faction committed the old Skyrim sin; appointing me as their leader while sending me on casual errands all over the map and not allowing me to make any real decisions. I am regretting my alliance with them and if I could start over, I would tell them to fuck off.

Still, I am an exploration buff and the game certainly scratches that itch. It looks good enough, seems reasonably moddable, building outposts in your own pace is kind of fun and while I am a bit torn about the decision to remove skills from the game, in practise the loss isn't all that great. Maybe the loss of the FNV dialogue system was the most bitter pill. So, in the end, I'd rate FO4 better than FO3 but not as good as my modded FNV.

Fallout 4, final Rating: +2 (in general, +3 if you are into exploration)

I've finally handed the script of Käärmetanssija to Petri Hiltunen and he promised to look it over with a tighter comb, since I am a "co-author" (I've rarely had anything that beautiful said tome) and my decisions carry more canon weight than random Praedor-related scribblings by others. As a rule of thumb, Petri has the power of life and death over Käärmetanssija and if he says no, it'll go straight into the desk drawer. I am trying to hold my breath and bite my fingernails at the same time. But if the maestro shows greenlights the novel, I'll send it to "potentially interested publishers". And once it is out of my hair, it is time to really focus on The Book of Secrets, the first ever official Praedor supplement. 

talk21-Dec-2015: Hyvää Joulua!

Sarjakuvataiteilija Petri Hiltunen toivottaa hyvää joulua ja tarjoaa sarjakuva-albumit Asfalttitasanko ja Musta Tie ilmaiseksi jakoon.

Käytännön syistä Burger Games päätyi tarjoamaan palvelintilan ja kaistan, joten hyvää joulua minultakin! :) 

talk06-Dec-2015: Tracon Hitpoint

Happy Independence Day! What a perfect time to feel national pride, with an incredibly inept government on one side and idiots throwing Molotov's Cocktails at refugee centers on the other. It has become more and more difficult to tell real news and parody websites apart. Back in Brazil, one person in the Finnish IGF group complained about games being too addictive and that our young (or at least some of them) are losing touch with reality. I had to ask her if she had seen our reality lately? It is disgusting! Somewhere between pathetic and too horrible contemplate. Why would you want to touch something like that? So happy Independence Day, you lying ministers and racist idiots with matches. You sure make me proud!

On a much better note, I was at Tracon Hitpoint last weekend, a pure RPG off-shoot of the games-and-anime-fest Tracon held in September. I was very impressed and with 500+ attendees the organizers should be proud of themselves. Also, the guests of honor were great, the programme perfectly adequate and I even got an audience of twenty or so for my presentation about Praedor RPG being 15 years old. If I have to complain about something, and this is just nitpicking, the venue was too dispersed and made the event feel empty. If I had to guess the attendance by the number of people I actually ran into, I'd say about a hundred. Events like this really need hubs that attendees pass through and can take a look at vendor goods in the process. Oh well, next time.

The next event in the convention tray would be Alpha-Con, or A-Con at Otava Opisto, Mikkeli, in January. I am not planning to attend since it is in Buttfuck Nebraska, has a strong OSR focus and I have shit to do. Looking at the organizers, it seems that old the Forge crowd has now moved over to OSR and is happily beating their new drum. It's a major step up, because unlike Forge, the OSR games are not an inherently stupid idea. They are just RPGs I have little or no interest in. Besides, even I can't look at Lamentations of the Flame Princess and not feel respect. The OSR aficionados love to tell me they've brought buckets of new blood into the hobby. If so, great! I hope this new wave of gamers will eventually move into the kind of RPGs I like. After all, that is what happened with the original red box D&D.

Mike has come up with a new Myrskyn Sankarit supplement:

Raudan Laulu    

Raudan Laulu (transl. The Song of Iron) is a nice booklet. It has the fine distinction of being a supplement aimed at the players rather than the GMs and I consider it a compulsory purchase for anybody playing Myrskyn Sankarit seriously. It outlines the world in more detail, in particular the gods, introduces two new character archetypes and has a bunch of stuff to make your heroes somewhat more powerful and definitely more cool. It also looks gorgeous. Mike has found some really young guy with an amazing talent for strong-contrast graphics and apparently keeps him chained up in his basement. Slavery, it gets shit done. Raudan Laulu shares the best cover image award with Hornankattila and the interior is not too hard on the eyes either. You know my reservations about the Myrskyn Sankarit rule system but I have always liked the concept. Still do.

It occurs to me that Praedor RPG has actually simpler mechanics. As I said in my presentation, I regret some things in the rulebook and seek to right some wrongs in Salaisuuksien Kirja. But maybe my biggest failing was the Gamemaster's instructions in Praedor RPG. I sort of thought, at the time, that nobody needs to read about this stuff because it is intuitive. By comparison, I went all-out with the GM's instructions in Stalker RPG and people have been buying the game just to get their hands on that, regardless of whether they liked the setting or rules. If Praedor RPG could match that, it would be a great game for beginners (aged 13+). As it stands, even if the players are noobs, the GM benefits from knowing his stuff. By the way, here are my presentation slides from Tracon Hitpoint. Not exactly a match for the RPG manufacturing process outline presented by Miska. But he runs a factory, while I am a hippie artist.

I am currently doing my final independent edits of Käärmetanssija and then, probably within a week, it will go to Erkka and Petri for review, commentary and in Petri's case, approval. Once that has been sorted out (and probably in early 2016), it will be sent to the prospective publisher for better or worse. I've been putting Fallout 4 off to concentrate on my novel, so no comments on the game yet. I really hope my novel will be part of the 2016 lineout for the Praedor franchise but it is always possible that Petri vetoes it (it is his IP, after all), or the would-be publisher tells me to wipe my ass with it. We'll see. In any case, once I am done, it is Fallout 4 and Salaisuuksien Kirja all the way to the Spring, baby!   

Okay, Winter of 2015-2016. I am as ready as I will ever be. Bring it on!   

Stalker RPG
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Ville Vuorela - The Hollow Pilgrim – A Stalker RPG
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Vanha Koira
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