Monday, March 07, 2005

Turkish role playing


Well it was a saturday, it was incredibly hot and I was standing in a Games Workshop store in Istanbul. During most of my visit in Istanbul so far it had been cold for the season - still very warm for a Swede who thinks everything above zero degree Celsius outdoors is like entering a wet bathroom floor without noticing. But now it was well over thirty degrees and me and Seden was happy to escape into the the very typical air conditioned mall where Sihir ('magic') was cramped into a very diminutive room.

Comercially RPG is very small in Turkey, as far as I can understand it. I got my first perception of Turkish role playing from A Day at Castle Krachfeld, which is a very neat and to-the-point page about a one time LARP that was held in Istanbul. In addition to that the LARP was based on Kafkas very short story The Law - which, if I remember correctly is also included in the unfinished novel The Castle - and with very clear vision of the formalistic part of the LARP. Even if it might seem just a touch too bare boned it's very Nordic, if I may say so.

During my time in Turkey the feeling of need to find out more about the RPG situation in the country grew. At least I should find a shop if there was one in the whole of Istanbul. I have glanced through several Hungarian RPG books, without knowing a single word of their language. It is of course very important to know about RPG in different languages. (Yes you can feel it too) So I e-mailed one of the guys who were behind that Krachfeld thing and asked about places that sold RPG:s in Istanbul. He answered with a very friendly letter in which he gave me two names: Sihir and Kayie Kafe, both in Beşiktas district on the European side.

Well, through some internet work Seden found Sihirs whereabouts and we went there on a crowded bus - as always - crossing the Bosphorus by the first bridge and then into the center of Beşiktas . I guess only a very certain kind of person would understand my joy of standing in that extremely small store, half the size of my student room, filled with only Warhammer stuff. I haven't even ever played Warhammer, the only GW game I have played is Bloodbowl. At home I wouldn't have cared at all to enter the store, but now it was a sudden break in the exotism. There were two men in there. They explained that this other place, Kayie Kafe, now was closed, but after talking a while they mentioned a place called Gerekli şeyler - Necessary things.

Gerekli şeyler

A couple of days later this took us to a much smaller mall in a completely different part of Istanbul, which we found thanks to help from Sedens father. I must admit I don't remember which district, but it was among cars and people as always. Problem was the shop had moved. Seden talked with several people and strange enough a guard knew to tell us that the store had moved to a place nearby. More to the point; he said that it had moved to behind Teşvikiye mosque.

Teşvikiye mosque was just outside the mall and we went past it to what we grasped as behind, but to no avail. Seden talked with more people and as far as I understood the term behind Teşvikiye mosque was locally quite well defined to a certain street. We searched for a quite long time and I was now getting a bit distracted by the fact that I had spent so much of our common time in Istanbul at finding a place where RPG:s are sold. As a last measure we went into a pharmacy to ask the personnel. The woman who talked to us said she might have heard of this Gerekli şeyler, but didn't really... I could understand that. So we went out, we both wanted to get out of this extreme heat and Seden made a claim of the kind: "We will check this street only and then give up." I agreed.

A boy came running out from the pharmacy when we were only ten metres away from it. I guess he found it hard to talk to us when we spoke with the woman, but now he told excactly where to find these necessary things we were looking for. It wasn't very far, but we had not found it without him.

Then finally the store. They mostly sold comics, but had a shelf with american RPG and also the Turkish translation of D&D Players Handook. I guess I regret now that I didn't buy that book, but I will have the opportunity next time.

Conclusion and why Ravenloft?

In all this, in this description of my hunt for RPG:s for sale in Istanbul one little detail stands out as a really typical Turkish characteristic. The boy who ran after us to tell us about the whereabouts of the shop. That kind of incidents happens all the time when walking Turkish streets. Never be surprised and accept the help.

There are also other things I noticed. During the time in Istanbul we went through several bookstores and I saw a lot of translated RPG fiction books. And judging by their position in the store they sold really good. It was Ravenloft, Forgotten Realmes and other stuff. If they even translate the fiction, I thought, then they must translate even more RPG:s. Right? Not so. The guy I talked to in Gerekli şeyler said that Players handbook indeed was the only RPG book at all existing in the Turkish language.

When at home in Sweden I had to e-mail one of these companies that made these translations of D&D fiction, Ankira and ask if these notions really where true. He was a bit surprised by my letter he said and he said 'yes' and explained the reason for only translating novels and not the games themselves to be of copyright character. I couldn't really understand that. He also said that a company called Arka Bahçe planned to do game translations.

This about Turkish RPG.


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