Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Beloved Jakob

I have a small game for you. Beloved Jakob is what I call a conversational game. It's for two players and no GM. The game consists of three pdf files. Both players read the short introduction file. Then the players divide the two player files between them, read their character file and engage in a conversation. This conversation is the game.

Beloved Jakob is a very small game about goodhearted people, about the banality of happiness and what there is to be found in the space between them. It is also about Jakob, the beloved.

I wrote it in my Turkish exile, to be played over phone, but it can as well be played by two players in a room. The game is short and should normally be finished in less than one hour. It should also be noted that not only does the game treat adult subject matters, the issues of the characters are quite heavy even for the strong of mind. Do not read or play if you are sensitive or really don't understand why roleplaying should be about anything else than fun action.

Beloved Jakob exists in English as well as in Swedish. The pdfs which constitute the two versions can be found from the following links:

Beloved Jakob: Introduction, player text one (Mia), player text two (Lars).

Älskade Jakob: Introduktion, spelartext ett (Mia), spelartext två (Lars).

People I want to thank

Even for a very small game like this there are people to send thanks to. Having friends make things easier in general and much easier when they help you. So thanks Anna Hansson for playtest and feedback, thanks to Jonas Ferry for proofreading both the Swedish and English version and for a lot of proposed changes (of which I agreed with almost all) and Kristoffer Sjöö for proofreading the Swedish version.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


The New Big Thing in Swedish larp is Prosopepeia: Momentum. (Homepages here and here) This is the second installment, I won't talk anything about the first in the trilogy, but this years Knutpunkt book contains a long article about it. Let's just say that they are both based on the same concept.

First, Prosopepeia: Momentum is a research project as well as a larp. There are people who do funded research on pervasive gaming, which also happen to be right in the focal point of the Swedish larp community.

There are several important facts that put Prosopopeia apart from earlier larps. Most of these things have been tried out, but never in anything close to this scale.
  1. One basic idea seem to be that nothing during the game should betray it as a game. Even in game the research organization SICS is involved in creating the game. The game exist in game.
  2. You play yourself and your own reality is a part of the game. The game goes on for one month! During this time you should live your normal life as well as taking part in the game. The game is constructed in such a way that you always have the possibility of stepping out the game to take care of your life.
  3. To solve number 2. above the role you play is shaped in a rather unusual fashion. During the month of the game you get occassionally obsessed by a deceased spirit, who tries to make you act according to its will. When you are not obsessed (always finally up to the player herself) you can act as yourself. But it's definitely the player who is obsessed by the spirit, so the players own life become directly a part of the game.
  4. One important part of the game is that play will not only occur between players, (what we in Swedish call skarplajv) but also between a single player and people in town, who are not players. The players are encouraged to play while obsessed with strangers, family member or the people you meet in the supermarket. But since the the game events also in all senses happen to the player also all actions made by the player when not obsessed are in a way game play
I think these points should be enough for some controversy. The controversy has sofar been surprisingly small here, probably due to that these questions have already been discussed here. To add to it all the project is extremely expensive and (isn't everything these days) funded by a European Union project.

If I heard of anything like this from outside of the Nordic countries I would have been very, very surprised. Is this a sane presupposition?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The New Black: Roleplaying over internet

You get old, you get ideas, you get a job, you find new people you want to live with, you start hating your state, you get deported or even married.

All theses things are stuff that keep you away from roleplaying as you get older and life become more complex, but still more your own. I moved to Turkey, but can't roleplay in Turkish. Not good. But then: roleplaying over internet? Fullfilling? Feasible?

Two hings made me think of this right now:
  • Per von Fischer writes about an IRC version of Sorcerer on his blog Mørke Steder.
  • I did it myself earlier today.
Trials and tribulations of internet roleplaying

Ars Magica we play. Since sometimes last spring we have been playing an Ars Magica campaign through a chat client. We not used a regular client, instead the groups geeky genius and general lightbringer Kristoffer made a quite ambitious client for online Ars Magica play. I won't explain you its workings here, but the main idea is that each player has an own channel of text. The text in these channels is removed rather quickly, while the more important stuff is cut by the GM and copied into the ongoing story text flow. At first I didn't think I would enjoy this way of play, but it turned out to work fine. Hey, I'm not the genius, we havee other people for that. In addition the client has support for keeping and editing character sheets and several other things.

But there are problems. As one commenter noted on Pers game, mentioned above, the game often gets slow and even if the play is interesting it's easy to loos ones concentration. At least for me. Especially slowness as been evident almost all the time during this campaign. (The fact that one of us decided to start a polical career and paint his face all over his city instead of playing is of course also a problem).

As I wrote about in the ancient past my interest in nowadays in roleplaying is towards freeform and non-fantasy larp and after a personal doctoring thread at Ben Lehmans old blog (as opposed to his new) I was given the simulationist diagnosis. But I do feel that this way of play really fit much better with a Story Now goals. My insight into Story Now and narrativism is very limited, but I would definitely say that way are geared towards that kind of thinking by the channel of communication itself.

There is more to it than I will go into now. But one thing is the text itself, which makes it easier to detach from the characters to conentrate on creating story. Also, you have more limited time (play is slow) and since you lack the possibility of playing out scenes it just makes sense to spend energy on the bare bones of the story and discuss it in advance with other players.

Orpheus we play. Since several years we have an ongoing Orpheus campaign (you know that White Wolf game in a limited series of six books). During the last two years we have been spread out over an impressively large area. We are now discussing play over internet. Today me and Anna went ahead of the other players (and the GM!) and played out a couple of scenes over Skype.

I would call this Phone larp. Since it is. Before play we made up the external setting of two phonecalls that would be separated by one week and also noted some things about what we might talk about and which secrets we would tell the other (without telling the actual content of the secret). Then we played out the calls, wholeheartedly ingame of course. Between calls we had a short discussion.

The plot is as follows: my character suddenly disappeared from his girlfriend (Annas character) and after three days he finally calls her (first call). He gives a very bad explanation (a part of it being, "Do you remember this girl I have told you about? I met her again and we went to Seattle.") and then doesn't call again. A week later (second call) she has just almost, almost got killed, the world actually seems to be collapsing and she and everyone she knows are hiding from tens of thousands of entities in the streets of New York wanting to kill them more than almost anything else. Also, she just realized she is pregnant. And my character hasn't been adopted by her native American tribe yet. The horror.

So now their worst problem is how to get him adopted. Human psyches are funny things. Especially when they are not your own.

I would love other people experiences about all types of distant roleplaying.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Meanwhile in the Nordic scen

Well, Im in Turkey, but occassionally looking at what's happening at home. I can complain for hours that we have to few larps in Sweden. But I'm stupid. There could be more really interesting stuff, sure. But there are good stuff and my only problem is that I'm not there to take part of it.

Two things struck me recently. First we have the enormous project Dragonbane. A friend of mine just told me that directly after finishing his mater thesis he will go to Finland to help building the dragon during most of the summer. Please follow that link, if you haven't seen it. (The game will be in Sweden, but the dragon is built in Finland.)

Secondly, the book from the recent Knutpunkt gathering (annual nordic larp meeting) in Sweden.

Neither of these things are exactly my cup of tea, but they are still amazing things that happens in my hobby and I realized that I'm excited about it. I will definitely read most of the book. Some of it is definitely interesting stuff. But for me the most interesting that is happening in the Swedish larp-scene is actually Fabel. I have written about them earlier. At the moment I'm pissed that I can't join my friends on their game Vändpunkter.

On the other hand, tomorrow I will walk with the people I work with along the coast of the black sea for several hours and then eat and drink some rakı. I have lived like a kilometer from the Black Sea for several months and I have yet to go there. But tomorrow it is! Fuck roleplaying.

Monday, November 28, 2005

On immersion (popular these days)

I mentioned Gabriel in the last post and I will give you a quick and dirty translation of a fun passage from a blog post by Gabriel, about his interpretation of Istanbul. (Please note, dear readers, that my translation is slightly simplified compared with the original.)

For roleplayer and larpers immersion is a dear theme. But it's not only obscure subcultures that engage in honest and tiring games of imagination. Right now a global immersion practice is going on all over the world.

I wake startled, by a drum solo right outside my window. Turn on my cell phone. It's four in the morning. I listen to the drums and soon someone starts singing loudly. It goes on for a couple of minutes. I am surprised that noone stop the lunatic, but soon I fall asleep again. In the morning I ask Zeynep what was going on. It's Ramadan, the month-long moslem fast that goes on from dawn to sun down. During the day people don't eat and that's the reason to why they have to be woken up before dawn to have something to eat to be able to stand the coming day. Ramadan is a way of getting closer to god (imagine the presence of god), but it's also a way to understand how poor and starving people are leading their lifes. Even the most hardcore immersionist have to be impressed by this level of ambition.

Back again. Once more.

I'm not a very trustworthy man

This is my third, now-I'm-finally-back-text on this blog this semester. I hope it's true this time. Most of my world has been about moving to Istanbul, understanding my new job and other things related. Of course I have also started a new blog, İstanbul, Europa (in Swedish) about this new world that surrounds me.

I haven't been thinking this little about roleplaying in a lot of years. It might even be good for me to have a period like that, who knows. But now I am getting kind of used to life here in Istanbul and all these thoughts about the noble art of roleplaying have started invade my brain again. They have been quite helped by people that I have been in contact with lately. The larping Turk Alper Acik is one. Martin Svahn of Frispel fame is one. Gabriel is a third.

How I came to talk about roleplaying and learned to stop worry

I have only met one Swede since I got here. He is another. I have never met Gabriel Widing before, only heard about, like I know the names of most Swedish people who have somewhat similar taste in larps as me. We had a quite interesting conversation when we met down in Taksim. Regarding larping his main point was that to be interesting, to give something more than other types roleplaying already do larps have to give unusual experiences that aren't intellectual, but physical. He want games that puts into your muscles and flesh the reminscences of an experience, instead of in your brain (like the famous Norwegian game Europa or the Swedish Mellan Himmel och Hav).

I see now that I could say a lot about this, I won't, but I hope that I can return to that later.

This little corner

I probably won't write very much here for the time being; I don't know any roleplayer
here. But I will try to write something every week, at least.

And all roleplayer playing in Swedish or English, if you come close to Istanbul and feel that special emptiness in your belly that always indicates lack of some good old Nordic roleplaying. Or something else. Well, make contact. I'll be here for a while.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Swedish Freeform and the Forge

It struck me

One thing that has struck me many times is the similarities between the Swedish/Danish brand of freeform (admittedly the Danes seem to have developed things further than we up here, but we will do as the Japanese in the industrial revolution, trust me) and the narrative games from Forge-associated creators.

Even more frequently the differences have been on my mind. The differences are very obvious, but that makes the similarities even more interesting. Hang on I will get back to this in a couple of paragraphs.

There is this wiki

A couple of months ago Martin Svahn from FriSpel started a wiki about friform, the Swedish/Danish style of freeform roleplaying. Very recently debates have started to abound there, although still by a quite small number of people. A little while ago Olle Jonsson started a review section and started by asking for reviews of Jason Morningstars game The Shab al-Hiri-Roach. The game is obviously written in the Forge-tradition and was created for the Iron Game Chef competition of this year. An evidence of it's worth in those circles is what the big man himself, Ron Edwards has to say about it.

When Olle started the review page (in Swedish) he presented the game as a scenario and wrote that in Game Chef all scenarios have to fullfill certain criterias. What kind of comments this would sparkel wasn't very hard to figure out. Role playing discussion is a very reliable black box. "This game is not a scenario and thusly not friform" is a given tagline for the opposition.

Friform and everything about it

Firstly, what is this friform? As always there exists no good definition. Often the word (as freeform) is used about games where simply no dice or traditional game mechanics are used (I guess traditonal is a keyword here). Most people who actually dabble with these things beg to differ. This has of course been discussed at the mentioned forum (here, actually). The people at the forum represents quite different practices, but the wording that seems to please most people simply states that friform games are role playing games where the rules are constructed to fit the scenario at hand. An additon to this tells that dice could very well be used, if this for some reason is of great of importance to the story at hand.

Right, that is a loose definition, has there ever been one. But it's to my liking. To make you (I always picture myself writing to American gamers, although most of my readers probably are Swedes with more or less my own views) understand the practice of friform I will tell you a few more things.

We talk about scenarios rather than games. A scenario consists of a number of (always pre-created) characters and often a number of more or less pre-determined events or scenes. In many cases these scenes are quite well scripted. Some brands make use of a very physical style of play, where you really play with your whole body and never sit at a table, unless your characters do so. Your tool in this case is an empty room. Other brands have a more traditional table-top setup with a table between players, ontop of which handouts can be read during the game.

In most cases you are supposed to play one scenario only once. Vi Åker Jeep claim that their scenarios are good for playing several times. I believe them. It depends all on where in the game the interest is supposed to be.

Finally: Forge and freeform

I promised similarities. Well. The whole tagline for the Forge has been "Rules does matter", which should be interpreted as that rules should be made to fit the story and theme at hand. If you want to talk about war and forfeit; make rules about this. If your interest is domesticating animals; do rules describing this. All this is said much better by Ben Lehman in his most recent post. (Reading this is really a very good way to understand the Forge way of games.)

This way of thinking has resulted in very specialized games, (not all games emanating from the Forge are like this, but a great deal of them) where big parts of the game flow is predetermined. The characters are player-created, (in oppositon to friform) but the sort of questions asked to players and many of the the situations they are put in during play are detirmined by the game text (in opposition to most traditional table top games).

The play of The Shab al-Hiri-Roach is made up by a number of predetermined scenes, like Chancellor’s wine and cheese social and Homecoming football game, which is really more than enough to make it work as a scenario in friform. Around this you have mechanics to help to describe the characters struggle with evil roaches and the quest of gettin renown in science.

Just a little more

My usual view of all this (which I haven't really been addressing above, if someone ask I might do just that) is that friform and this type of narrativistic game have identfied many of the same problems in table top role playing, but have solved these issues very differently. In practical play friform and typical narrativistic play are usually further from each other than either is from ordinary table top. At least according to my experience and understanding.

It should be mentioned that the recent and on this blog already mentioned article shortly mentions these similarities (even if it doesn't say, I imagine the article to be written mostly by Tobias Wrigstad and Olle Jonsson).

BTW the game itself really intrigues me, although I have to admit I am seldom able to enjoy this typ of game mechanics. But it can happen. I would love to play the game, especially the theme with getting renown in the academic world has been very dear to me since I had some (admittedly small) experience of that last year. Friends, it's ugly.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Things to read

I have been away from this blog for a while, but I hope to start regular writing again from now on. As you can see below I have been trying to change the appearence of the blog. Mainly I thought a three column design with a floating middle part would be nice. But I just haven't been able to make it work.

Several of the versions of code I've tried have worked...almost. Everything has been looking fine, except for a severe mutilation in the first post. Some versions has worked very nicely locally, but been very skewed when putting them into Blogger. The conclusion is that I don't posses the CSS skill to create this for the Blogger envrionment. For now I have given up that.

Now it all looks like it did before and I'm back att producing text.

Playing with mother in law

Other people have been writing, though. Over at Yudhishthira's Dice Bradley "Brand" Robins gives it up on playing HeroQuest with his Mother in law in yet two posts. We are eagerily awaiting the finishing one. There are some good advice in there. Most of all it shows that non-gamers often are better role players than ourselves. It might be sad to hear. But that's how it is.

Ars Amandi

Jonas at writes about Ars Armandi experimentation. It's a method for simulation of sex in larps. Just so you don't think anything else: it's actually used, albeit seldom, here and quite well known. Also read the comments over at anyway.


The Swedish freeform group Vi åker jeep (We go by Jeep) has revised their text about their form of role play. I really enjoy their text at and I would definitely recommend anyone interested in rpg to take a look at it.

Swedish larps

What was supposed to be the biggest larp of this year will most likely be the biggest of next year. Dragonbane has been moved from 2005 Estonia to 2006 Sweden. The houses are being built as I write this. Interacting Arts has a few pictures of the houses to be, although these pictures should be quite old by now.

I was supposed to go to Moira, but my inability to live my life as efficiently as I should forced me to give my role to my friend Fredrik von Post less than two weeks before the event itself. It felt really terrible to do this and I will really try to avoid that to happen again. There are pictures available. It seems like people really enjoyed the larp. By the way, the Ars Amandi method was used there.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ugly me

I'm doing som experiments with the blog. Things might look ugly for a few days.

The current layout works in Explorer, but not inf Firefox. I will change to something else in a while, maybe a piuxel fixed verison. My CSS ability is not very great, obviously.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Scraps, pictures

Helena made a very nice page of photos from the lajv that told about in the last post. She is talented with that stuff.

Yesterday I was over at Jonas Barkås apartment and played a game of Illuminati. I never write about boardgames and such here, since it would feel like writing about what food I eat everyday (mostly pasta and salmon these days, by the way). But since I won, I will at least link to Jonas' post including a quite nice picture of us in silly hats. Jonas and me agreed that he really looks like one would imagine Abdul Al-Hazred to look like.

One of the more sympathetic pages about role playing is Places to go, People to be. I have read it to and fro for a couple of years. They are quite far from my main interest in role playing, but since they simply are good this doesn't matter too much. The amount of people who read my text, but haven't read their are probably very few, if you are one of those; check them out. And the name is great. I will start to believe in reincarnation just to be able to steal it my next life. (Because in that life I wouldn't be involved in rpg:s at all and thus noone would suspect me.) It's that great.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Systrarna Cederschiöld

Introductory notes about men and their scenes

Only a few months ago Jonas K. over at Jonas dagar turned down invitations both to lajv-(larp) and friform games just by saying he didn't like that type of play, admitting membership in the sprawling indie scene. Discussions continued after that in the same manner as in the last couple of years. Maybe the pace was a bit faster now, discussions took place at our and others blogs instead of at parties and in private forums. The audience (mostly silent and maybe imagined) makes you erase some of the really crappy things you want to write in the heat of discussion. The simple insights that bridged the gap was the following two things:
  1. Clarity. Nothing is more important than clarity of appropriate style of play in a certain game. Otherwise you put both friendship and fun at great risk.
  2. What kind of rewards you can expect to get from a game is very strongly dependent on the style of play. Players has to be aware of this and follow this.
I guess something like this has been invading Jonas head. Because a while ago he GM:ed a typical Swedish friform game (I have sadly not finished my text about it. Before I do that you have to do with his own.) and now he and Helena Ferry wrote a lajv. Seven characters, the writers included, played this little family tragedy last Wednesday in Jonas' and Helenas' apartment.

The game

Once there were four sisters Cederschiöld. But during twelve years there have been only three. The parents forbade anyone to mention the fourth in their presence. She should be forgotten. At 28 years of age Marianne feels it to be time to reconnect with her sisters and she invites them all to her apartment in a not too flashy neighbourhood outside of Göteborg.

The lajv began with a huge clash when the three sisters descended from high society to the world of Marianne and Roger (played by Helena Ferry and Jonas Karlsson, respectively). The steepest fall was the one experienced by the oldest sister Wictoria (played by Ingela Vretblad) and her husband Ernst Hjelmsäther (played by me). Wictoria hade married Ernst mainly to get a name higher up in the noble hierarchy.

Alice (played by Julia Klingvall) was the only sister with a traditional career, working as an achitect. Her husband Konrad (played by Jonas Liljenfeldt) leads a computer company, but seems to have different views on life than his wife.

Charlotta (played by Elisabeth Öberg) had made a somewhat unusual choice in life by living as a not very well paid artist. Neither Alice nor Wictoria are comfortably with this or that she seem to be satisfied with being single.

The above is a scetch of the starting point for the game. Everyone played just beautifully and each of the seven characters had an interesting part in the play. Jonas and Helena had on beforehand been very clear on what style of play they wanted. Accept other players ideas, don't block, be creative. In contrary to the common idea of creating a story line they had actively tried to rid their texts from story arc; wanting this to be created by the players during play.

I really enjoyed it, but had of course a few comments. Two things are of interest for in the context of this text.
  1. I think it would have been good with one or two common memories for the sisters. This isn't necessary, since the whole style of play was inviting to determing such things during play. But the sisters had very little discussion about their common past and I think it would be good to put some stress on that part.
  2. The game became somewhat static. Quite soon we found a role for each character and kept it there for the remainder of the game. I think very small measures could be used to create somewhat more drama. During almost all of the game we sat around the table. I think more things would have happened if just hosts had asked us to move to the sofa or move around freely with coffee. I personally was definitely lacking possibilities of talking to other characters alone.
It was great fun. I know that Jonas plan to put the whole game somewhere close to his blog, probably after a tiny bit of rewriting. Read it. Play it.

A coincidence in addition

Playing my characters wife was Ingela Vretblad. As it turns out she also visited Mellanrummet (see earlier post) and even played one of the four satanists. It was indeed very interesting to compare out different experiences and different takes on playing satanists in night clothes.


Now read more sides of the story. Choose if you want to hear the gospel according to Jonas or Helena (Helenas text is in Swedish).