Saturday, April 30, 2005

Beginning the journey between Blekinge and Atlantis: Blekinge and an aeroplane from Lanzarote

I have previously mentioned Från Atlantis till Blekinge (From Blekinge to Atlantis; Blekinge is a province in Sweden) by ASF, the former friform writing collective that these days is a company. I think I have treated the book as an artefact already; now it's time for the game evaluation - the holy grail of game reviews.

From Lanzarote to Göteborg

There are three full scenarios in book, three scenarios which have all been played in gaming conventions. In addition there is a small game called Plan 714 till Göteborg, which is played in les than 45 minutes. We played it in less than thirty. I arranged the game last week. Three of my players were from the Regula Falsi group, Jonas, Linnéa and Kristoffer. But I also tricked two completely new players into it, Elna and Oskar from my student corridor! They haven't done any kind of role playing, but since friform is more intuitive than sex I was sure it would work out great.

The game is very simplistic and leaves very little work to the game master. Two couples have had a common vacation to Lanzarote and are now on the plane heading to Sweden. If you have five player there is also an older man Bengt, sitting between the two couples. Each player get a character description of little less than one page, which they read before the game. I told the players to play on drama more than realism.

We put five chairs in a line on the floor in Linnéas living room and let them be cahirs in the plane and then just stepped on it. As always the first two minutes were a bit slow, but the players very soon found a good pace, reached a climax after maybe twenty minutes and a few minutes later I called it off.

The game worked very nice actually and I think everyone hit the spot of his/her character. We concluded after the game (but also guessed before) that one weak part of the scenario is Bengt. The game might run a bit tighter with only four players. Bengt has no relation at all to the other players, while the other four all have some relation to each other. He is also a bit hard to play. But Jonas did a really great interpretation of Bengt complete with answering questions just too many seconds too late, dropping things all the time and making the completely wrong comments. So his character worked out fine, but I suspect he was quite a bit of a speed bump for the problem solving between the two couples.

I really think everyone enjoyed themeselves. And I liked Elnas comment that night after the game: "I you only would stop calling this role playing, then you might actually get some grown ups playing this." That's a paraphrase, but that was what she meant. They do. In Norway.

From Adulthood to Blekinge

Under sommaren (During the Summer) is a scenario written by Gustav Edman (who by a sheer coincidence at the moment share apartment somewhere in China with a friend of mine). I arranged this scenario earlier this week with Jonas, Kristoffer, Linnéa and Anders as players. The pace is quite the opposite to the one above. I have never really done any role playing like, a few lajv-experiences might partly be a bit close, but no table top. The scenario is calm and sad, quite slow and very little story. There is a kind of emotional crescendo built into the game, but even this isn't too intense. After the game it seemed like everyone had peaceful and cathartic experience.

It's all about summers past. Five youngsters had these wonderful summers together. During semesters they had mostly other friends, but in the summers it was always these five. And they all knew that this was their best time, just hanging out together under the immense freedom of childhood summer. Over five years have passed, they have all moved away from the small town Älvsjö in Blekinge. Or rather four of them have left Älvsjö and one day they all get the message that their fifth friend has passed away. Mikael never left his hometown. He was two years younger than the other, but he was also a bit different. Retarded some might say. Let's just say he was different. But it really doesn't matter, because now he's dead.

The game starts when the four arrives to the small main square of Älvsjö. This game also gives very little work to the game master, since the almost the whole plot is already in the written characters. The character texts are three or four pages long and are very wellwritten both to keep the scenario together and to give a distinct different feel for each character. A nice touch is the significantly different language used in the part where the characters describe themselves.

The game is cut into eight scenes. I had actually some worries that my players might do completely other stuff, but led by the well written character text base they all naturally did what the scenario predicted. It was quite beautiful to see how the plot automatically evolved so nicely just by the players playing their characters and taking appropriate stuff from their background. It was really hard for me to see, while reading the scenario, that it would evolve so nicely. I'm quite sure this game has been played a lot of times and being subject to change in a long process.

Not all players would like this game, I'm sure. It could very well be seen as boring by many. It's slow and all drama is on an emotional level. But the scenario is really written to do and be these things and nothing else. I find it very hard to really criticize the scenario as such, then you would only criticize what it aims to be. Maybe I could think that it would be interesting to play the same kind of scenario with characters slightly less tragic.

We had a really nice time playing this and I really think this is worth a try for everyone. Friform as medication for your soul.


The two scenarios we have left (both much longer than Under sommaren) have I left to Jonas to read. I will really try to make him game master a scenario soon. Either one from the book or one from the old Friforms boxen from ASF, which Jonas has.

Friday, April 29, 2005


Sometimes things just go wrong.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Mytteriet - LARPing in sign language

When we participated in the submarine lajv U-359 last year we spent the night afterwards with a few Danes. One of them being Lars Munck, who played the captain in our game. He mentioned that in addition to the three games of U-359 they were going to run one more game in the submarine. Lars said he had created this game together with Norwegian larpwright Eirik Fatland.

It was a sci-fi game for deaf kids, held in sign language about a war in space between deaf and hearing. It sounds fantastic, right? I haven't heard about it since, (maybe it was mentioned once last weekend) but only now I saw Eirik Fatland's note about the game on his homepage.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

In i Evigheten

Last Saturday I went to my first lajv in almost a year. In i evigheten (Into Eternity) was organized by Fabel and took place in a castle-like place in Göteborg. Contrary to most lajv and roleplay creators Fabel is a company and at least has profit as a goal. If there really is any profit in their arrangements so far I don't know, I'm definitely a bit sceptic. But I really think this is the way to go. Not the only way, but one way that is needed as a compliment if we want the lajv scene to continue moving.

I arrived in Göteborg around noon together with Linnéa and Jonas. Before going to our hostel we roamed for a short while. We made a visit to sf-bokhandeln, (the Science Fiction Bookstore) were we got really stuck in a rpg discussion with this woman who is working there. I have yet to hear her name, but we talked to a her a couple of times at GothCon too, mostly for the reason that me and Jonas thought it was highly immoral that they they closed their shop so early at the convention. Long discussions about WoD is always an important ingredience in a well groomed life, even if you are not really much into it, like me. I kind of got the impression that this wasn't as obvious to Linnéa as to me and Jonas. In additon to very important comparisons (no irony) between old and new WoD I got tricked into buying Zonernas zoologi. A very nice Mutant book indeed. And I got it cheap. Linnéa bought Västmark. After this we went to a clothes shop called Shock. A lot of leather and hard rock aesthetics. Things I cannot understand. I will never go back.

After a hostel visit and some powernapping we walked to the meeting place. I was quite surprised that I recognized as many people as I did from earlier games. We got our roles quickly (especially us, since we were a bit late) and started to talk with the ones we were supposed to know before the start of the game. Soon we entered a bus and were given seats according to our characters.

The basic story behind In i evigheten is that serial killer has done four killings in Göteborg. In a quite unusaul study in witness pshychology at Göterborg University four psychologists gather around 40 persons that have been witnesses to one of the murders or at least have been in the the vicinity. These are the players, who are driven out by bus to the coastline. I won't say much more about game details, since Fabel plan to run this game again.

First I must say that the practical arrangements surrounding the game were terrific. Most things ran very smoothly, with only a few very small hickups. I think the content of the game surprised many of the players. While the homepage indicated a detetective/mystery sort of game, it developed more into a confessional drama with a lot of catharsis.

I really enjoyed the game and after the game my head has been full of ideas about roleplaying and lajv, as it should be after a good event. Maybe the best of all is that Fabel claim that they will try to produce two events like this per year. Since the amount of non-fantasy lajv is quite low this would be a very good addition to the Swedish scene. Many of the ones that already exist may also seem a bit pretentious (even if this might not be the case) and scare new players away. Fabel use the term 'plug-and-play' about their productions, with which they mean that they don't need extensive preparation from the players. This is not possible for all game concepts, of course. But when simplicity is possible; it's always the best option.

Later I will probably write snappier text with some organized notes about what was good and what they should think about when doing new productions. Now I just need sleep.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dragonbane postponed

On G-punkt one can read that Dragonbane is postponed until next year! No big surprise there, I think most people felt this was coming. Seems like they will split it into two, with a workshop and a prologue this year and the larp one year later.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

More wisdom from Zonernas Zoologi

"Domesticerade dumdjur

Utöver ulkbiff, heta doggar, knasaröv och tärnad kutaost kan en mängd utsöktheter framställas ur Skandiens dumdjur. Och då talar jag inte om de läckerheter som finns gömda i vildmarksmonstrens kroppshyddor; de som djärva äventyrare hembringar med risk för lem och livslåga. [...]"

RPG:s in Sweden

During GothCon me and Jonas talked about the publishing of traditional rpg:s in Sweden. Everyone who was interested in these games in the early '90s know that quite an amount of games and supplement books were published in that time. This was later followed by a grave decline, even if the quality of what was actually published increased. During the end of that decade I guess that the only big game in Sweden at that was Eon from NeoGames.

During this decade the output has started to increase and counted by pages todays output is enormous compared to the one twelwe years ago. When counted by quality, both in text and layout there isn't even need to compare. The difference is so huge that it's painful to even think of a comparison. What we noted at GothCon was that now the output even in number of books must be beyond anything reached before.

More books, while every book has five times the amount of text, most of them in hard cover (this is a quite sudden trend, visible also on the American market) and finally - after all these years - a nice layout is to be expected in rpg books!

Two games are definitely ahead of the competition at the Swedish market at the moment. Firstly, Riotminds Drakar och Demoner 6 is at least very beautiful and has made an interesting turn of the old Drakar och Demoner name towards Nordic mythology, although I haven't read it.

SecondlyMutant is just brilliant in all relevant aspects. I can't understand how these guys can produce so much and with this high standard. This weekend we went to Göteborg again to attend a lajv we dropped by the science fiction bookstore. I couldn't resist buying Zonernas Zoologi, not one of the newest Mutant releases. I'm not planning to play Mutant anytime soon, but the very special form of comedy, the wordplay and the imaginative world descriptions are definitely enough. Here are the ingrediences in a lovely recipe form the world of Mutant (for those who know Swedish).

4-6 normalstora BUKAR

1 duktig klump ärghanesvål
1/2 knasaröv
1 normalstor kraftpära
Ister av valfri sort
Några nypor havssalt
1 krus jolmsmör
1/2 krus hummelhåning
2 svarta pantzerlökar
1 hel spirlöksklyfta
10 torkade giftgröneblad
1 limpa torrt vitt gumsebröd

But aside of these two games there are a lot of new things that seem to be happening. Two years ago at GothCon Krister Sundelin sold his, then brand new, print of Västmark 3. A good game, as I have noted before, but the book as an artifact was quite disappointing, I remember. Bleak looking, with a boring soft cover. This year he sold Andra imperiet, which was hard cover with nice layout and manga all over! I was so close to buying it, only because of the looks. I probably wonät ever play it...but when I get a salary... He said because of EU he could now print it in one Abltic country, for the same price as before but with this much higher quality. Isn't globalization wonderful? (it is actually)

There is more. All what I have been writing about above are standard games, all owing everything to the American game industry. But it seems like other parts of the Nordic role pålaying tradition is slowly finding it's way out to the book market. In Finland we first had Mike Pohjola publishing Myrskyn Aika. It seemed a bit traditional I must say, but still, he is a strong voice from the more hardcore part of the larp-scene. There have also been a lot of talk about Draug (which Krister Sundelin actually was selling at GothCon). Both these were released not by a rpg company, but by a traditional book company. We still wait for the same thing to happen in Sweden. The young angry man of the Nordic Larp scene, Juhana Petterson is a bit less angry and writes much better these days. He seems to be getting a book published (read that column, it's very good). I really hope they get it translated to Swedish or English.

Recently, though, ASF published their book about Swedish friform (a genre sometimes called Finnish freeform, for stupid reasons). They printed this in only 1000 copies and have so far sold a few hundred. This is a nice and beautiful book, but most of all the first role playing book I have so far seen that is not about children's games. It really deserves a greater audience. Rpg with dice will never reach a large audience among adults, this kind of scenarios is so much easier (and more rewarding to play, I must say) to start with. I will write more about this in a later post.

The golden age of role playing is now. Promise.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


This should have been written a couple of weeks ago, but life and a general knack for living life in a worse manner than necessary led me here. But I'm not here to purge myself, I'm here to talk about games.

Since this life is about doing little and using the majority of the time to digest and talk about what you actually did, Jonas has already written about How we survived GothCon. Five of us went there and two returned without dying even a bit, which is a quite astonishing result after the typical Swedish horror friform session of the last night.

For us five this years GothCon was really about RPG.

Fem och slottsmysteriet
(Five and the castle mystery) was the third part of three in a series of rpg-convention adventures created for Västmark. I have earlier gamemastered the first adventure in the series - Faller snö växer sten - with a group that to a very large extent was the same as this time (only now I was a player) and must say that we found that one a bit problematic. Strange enough this scenario had some of the same faults.

But first to the good stuff. We all enjoyed playing it, most due to nicely created characters. They have without any doubt been the best part in both our Västmark-encounters. So good actually that Linnéa decided to buy the book (Västmark version 3, version 2 can be found free on the net). The cast is of a quite unusal kind for people used to american rpg:s. Four young girls and one boy were the adventurers this time. In the first episode only the four girls were present. A lot of roleplaying goodness was made between these, according to me.

But the scenario wasn't as good. We arrived at a castle, carrying a wounded knight. The lot living at the castle were a strange bunch indeed and as time went by you realized with an increasing certainty that a lot of things were wrong with our hosts. The worst thing in the old scenario - Faller snö... - was inability to interact with other characters, since they were all made stupid by a curse. A bit of the same problem was found this time, but as I understood it afterwards this partly was due to our gamemaster, who cut out some of the communication parts.

At the moment I'm not much into roleplaying with any kind of dice and I haven't accepted fantasy as an acceptable form of mind food during this decade. For being a game containing fantasy as well as dice it's really good and has quite nicely thematic mechanics. But it contains dice and fantasy, so it is definitely disqualified from my main brain food.

Bli snygg eller rappa på svenska (Get beautiful or rap in Swedish) was a scenario from the extremely strange Swedish countryside humoresque RPG Svenil. Some of us played a very successful scenario led by the main creator of the game two years ago at GothCon. Our GM this year was a much younger person, but as good. Actually he was very enthusing and energetic and without him we hadn't been able to find that typical Swedish Svenil atmosphere. Still, I must say I couldn't really get into the game. I can't really explain why, I guess I had some problems with my character.

Guzman is a immigrant rapper from the Swedish suburbs. Only that he is born not in the suburbs and his parents are actually from the Swedish middle class. He is also a quite bad rapper, but will now try to make money through a docu soap, where a fat Finnish man will be turned into a hardcore rapper.

There were a lot of fun stuff, but for me it was a bit over shadowed by the fact that I struggled with my character.

Snövit tomhet (Snow white emptyness) was this years friform scenario. I'm quite sure that these have decreased in availability during the last years and that is really a shame. This one was a traditional horror game with an expected everyone-dies-or-get-insane ending. Not very new, but a good solid game, even if I have a bit of a problem with this obsession about having scenarios being deterministic towards the death of all characters.

But it was definitely my favourite game of the three scenarios played. Me, Kristoffer, Anna, and Linnéa played men at 45 years of age special forces soldiers doing a repetition exercise in the Swedish military led by a very young girl, played by Jonas. To make things worse we got real ammo, real grenades and real everything. To make things even worse my character was a very unpleasent lawyer, working for Swedish Hells Angels and having a bad history of pedophilia. Why not throw us back to the 15:th century also.

A lot of fun it was. I have a lot of stuff to write, but that will have to wait until when it's not 2 in the morning.