A Game Per Year: Metamorphosis Alpha (1976)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

The front and back covers of the 1976 edition of Metamorphosis Alpha.

To be honest, my first choice for 1976 was the Watership Down -inspired Bunnies & Burrows, but I was unable to find a copy. Because of this, I went with my second choice, the scifi game Metamorphosis Alpha. Perhaps this was a good thing because this was a quite interesting game!

Metamorphosis Alpha differs from the games I’ve read so far in that it has a very tight, clear focus. It’s not a sprawling mass you can use to make endless campaigns but a clear package offering a definite experience.

The story of the game is that in the future, humanity sends vast colony ships to other planets. Since the voyage is so long, these ships with populations in the millions are like mini-worlds unto themselves. As always happens in these stories, something goes wrong. Radiation kills most of the people aboard and mutates many of the rest. As a result, onboard civilization collapses.

The characters are humans, mutants, animals or plants who have been born to this environment and set out to explore it. The game is a big sandbox which offers two interesting things:

1 – The ship. The game details the tools, the robots, the levels, all the things that you find as you explore the vast space vessel. Although the game is based on the classic model of exploring physical spaces, killing monsters and finding treasure, the treasure can now be an access band allowing movement from one level of the ship to the next.

2 – Character creation. The characters in Metamorphosis Alpha can be quite bizarre. A telepathic vine is a reasonable starting character, as is a hyper-intelligent armored bear. The radiation has mutated all the biological samples on board and they’re all playable. What’s more, the system takes a reckless approach to powers, throwing things like time travel around quite casually.

Like the games I’ve read so far, this one suggests one Referee (or Judge, as the game sometimes calls it) for a maximum of 24 players. (“More the merrier”, it says.) There’s a system where human characters can accumulate followers, meaning that the character group can get quite big. The example of play is between the Referee and the Caller, the leader of the player group.

Based on reading the game, it seems best suited for one-shots or short campaigns where the chaos of the setting is allowed to bloom, all the game systems and world elements interacting in sandbox-style blissful anarchy. Perhaps because of this, there’s no level system to account for experience. It doesn’t seem like the game would go on long enough to need one.

Reading this and the previous game, 1975’s Empire of the Petal Throne, I’m struck by the explosion of creativity around roleplaying games immediately after their inception. So far, it feels like there’s so many new ideas in every game.

A Game Per Year: Empire of the Petal Throne (1975)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

Empire of the Petal Throne is the world’s second roleplaying game, if Dungeons & Dragons is the first. It was first published as a manuscript edition in 1974, the same year D&D came out, and then in 1975 as a proper boxed set with maps and everything.

I’ve noticed a phenomenon where a roleplayer decides to explore the early days of the artform, just like I’m doing now. They read Chainmail, are confused by D&D’s first edition and fall in love with Empire of the Petal Throne.

This happened to me too. There’s simply something beautiful about it.

Empire of the Petal Throne holds the distinction of being the first roleplaying game with a proper campaign world, the world of Tékumel. It’s not content to be a generic fantasy roleplaying game but strikes out to make a unique artistic statement. Perhaps because of this vision, its strengths still shine through despite the archaic nature of its design.

The game’s designer M.A.R. Barker is a Tolkien-like figure, a university professor and scholar of ancient languages who invented the world of Tékumel long before the roleplaying game came to be. Like all good designers of fantasy worlds, Barker came up with invented languages which feature prominently in the game. At first, they make the game seem foreboding and difficult to grasp but you get used to their rhythms surprisingly quickly.

In a comment at the end of the game book, Barker says that a key part of his motivation for making the game was that he felt traditional fantasy worlds were boring. Why not have something inspired by the other cultures of the world beyond the European ones?

So what’s the story of Empire of the Petal Throne? What do you do?

The world is a science fiction / fantasy hybrid, a future where humanity has colonized an alien planet which has then suffered civilizational collapse. Because of this, there are humans as well as alien monsters and sentient beings. The great cities of the world have vast dungeons under them from earlier ages. In terms of style, the layered history of Tékumel brings to mind Medieval Arabia or India.

At the start of the game, the characters are foreigners who have just arrived at the city of Jákall. Because the local people are super racist, the characters are forced to do menial tasks, undertake dangerous missions and otherwise do things the locals don’t really want to do.

As their fortune and power grows, the characters become grudgingly accepted into local society, eventually building strongholds and amassing retinues.

The basic structure of the game where the characters explore dungeons, grow powerful and start constructing something is familiar from D&D but this time there’s a cultural context around it. There’s a lot of interesting worldbuilding as the game sets out rules for inheritance and even taxation (1% of character assets per month).

As a published game, Empire of the Petal Throne is complete in a way D&D is not. It provides a good picture of what you’re supposed to be doing, explains the mechanics of play well and even has an example dialogue between the players and the Referee!

As a side note, the game also features what I’m pretty sure is the first LGBT character in roleplaying games, Mnekshétra, the “Lesbian Mistress of Queen Nayári”.

Looking back at the history of roleplaying games, the position of D&D is unassailable. It’s the first roleplaying game. However, there’s something in the artistic vision of Empire of the Petal Throne which makes it seem much more compelling as a precursor to the kind of games we do now.

A Game Per Year: Dungeons & Dragons (1974)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

Cover of Men & Magic, one of the three booklets in the original 1974 edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

The first roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons in its original 1974 edition! For 1974, I actually had a choice between this and the manuscript edition of Empire of the Petal Throne, but I felt I couldn’t skip the game that started it all.

The original edition of D&D is strange to read because many of the conventions of how roleplaying games are designed and presented are not in place yet. My favorite is the way the text refers to “adding pips to the result of a die”. In modern games, you would express this like so: 1d6+1, meaning roll the die and add one.

This is a set of rules for the purposes of playing a game where each player controls one character, under the watchful eye of the Referee who runs the game. The characters explore dungeons and wilderness environments, kill monsters, find treasure and beat challenges. Or run away to lick their wounds and fight another day.

Reading the three booklets of the game, it feels as if the designers were collating rules notes for the use of their own scene. There’s no explanation of play culture so you end up guessing what it might be like based on small hints.

Some of those hints are quite confusing. At one point, it says that the optimum player/Referee ratio is 20/1.

At this point in its development, D&D doesn’t contain everything you need to play. It often refers to Chainmail, even in basics like combat. It also uses another earlier publication, Avalon Hill’s Outdoor Survival. Wilderness adventures in D&D use the other game’s map.

The basic assumption in D&D is that the Referee plans a dungeon (recommended depth: 12 levels) and the player characters explore it. They can return to the same dungeon over and over again and it can contain pretty much anything from a monster lair to a bowling alley.

When not dungeoneering, the characters build castles and towers. They hire people to work for them. These hirelings are expected to participate in adventures, so the adventuring party can consist of dozens of people.

Because the rules are so spartan, it’s fun to see what kind of things get an extended treatment. There’s a complicated system for enslaving dragons and even selling them. Another pet subject is intelligent magic swords that can take over their wielders. Rules for aerial and sea combat are also provided.

D&D clearly doesn’t describe roleplaying as we understand it today, but it’s also hard to see the specific outline of how it worked forty years ago. It feels as if to properly get it, you needed to be a wargames aficionado at Lake Geneva in 1974.

A Game Per Year: Chainmail (1971)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

The cover of the 1975 third edition of Chainmail.

There’s only one real starting point for a project like this, the original Chainmail miniatures strategy game from 1971. It’s not a roleplaying game at all but as a precursor for what came later its value is undeniable.

Designed by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perrin, Chainmail is a collector’s item nowadays. Embarrassingly, I had to start my project by cheating as I couldn’t find a PDF of the 1971 original. Instead, I read the 1975 third edition of Chainmail. From what I understand, it’s otherwise the same as the original except for a wider selection of spells.

Chainmail is a 48 page booklet of dense rules text. Despite this, it was surprisingly easy to read even for someone like me, with no familiarity with wargames. The simulation of medieval military conflict is the main subject of the game, with rules for engagements between units as well as exotic stuff like sieges and tournaments.

In hindsight, an important element of the booklet is the Fantasy Supplement, an appendix with extra rules for fantastic elements like magic on the battlefield. Chromatic dragons which later became a mainstay of Dungeons & Dragons are already present.

Still, Chainmail’s focus is on historical warfare. The foreword expresses the hope that the game would inspire an interest in studying history in the players. Some historical features, such as Landsknecht-soldiers seem to loom at least as large in the imagination of the authors as fantasy elements do.

Non-Digital: Itras by – the Menagerie

The Menagerie is a supplement for the Norwegian roleplaying game Itras by, created by Ole Peder Giæver and Martin Bull Gudmundsen. However, if you’re familiar with roleplaying game supplements, this is definitely something else. As befits the surreal nature of Itras by, the Menagerie calls into question the very meaning of expanding on a published roleplaying game.

I have a lot of love for Itras by. A highly literate yet light roleplaying game set in the dreamlike city its named after, the original core book played with mood and prose, guidance and suggestions much more than banal game mechanics.

In 2009, I acted as the publisher for the Finnish translation of the game, under the title Itran kaupunki. A key motivation for me to have the game translated was so I could read it myself. It hadn’t appeared in English yet and I didn’t read Norwegian. It proved well worth the effort!

The Menagerie is a feast of contributions from a large variety of different designers, writers and illustrators, all coming together to offer their own take on Itras by. In addition to being material you can use to run games, it’s also a masterclass in game design, peeling back the layers of decision-making that go into making any particular choice.

Perhaps the clearest example of this is Jason Morningstar’s article Itras by Without Itras by. In it, he goes through the deck of cards the game uses as a tool for inspiration and resolution of events. He demonstrates how it can be used in other contexts and what kind of effects different modifications create.

It’s also a wonderfully heterogenous book. Roleplaying communities have an unfortunate tendency to devolve into depressing little cliques who all hate each other, but the Menagerie boasts contributions from a highly disparate group of people, both geographically and in terms of design style. There are Norwegians and Poles, Americans and New Zealanders, Storygames alumni and OSR aficionados.

The book even includes complete games based on Itras by. An example is Grimasques by Banana Chan, a freeform game demonstrating that good design and focus on a single element of the Itras by world can produce something very clearly defined even in this surreal environment.

For me, two of the most affecting chapters in the book came at the very end. Martin Bull Gudmundsen has a beautiful personal essay reflecting on his own background, Asperger’s syndrome and the particular nature of surreal game design. He also wrote a short fictional text together with Itras by co-designer Ole Peder Giæver as an allegory about making a game like this, a suitable ending to a book full of strange wonders.

Non-Digital: Analog Game Studies vol. 2

I’ve read the second of the Analog Game Studies books in my quest to catch up on the series. You can check out the book here or read the articles here.

After the introductory first book, this second volume is where the series really gets going. It feels like in addition to being collections of articles about non-digital games, the series also engages in trying to define what “analog games” means. Reading this book, the divide into digital and analog games feels arbitrary, yet also necessary to carve out space for all the types of games that often get excluded from discussions of games.

The book starts strong with veteran boardgame designer Bruno Faidutti’s essay Postclonial Catan. In it, he subjects European-style boardgames to a postcolonial analysis, writing from his own perspective as a designer of Eurogames. To me, the interest of the essay lies in not just the analysis, but also on the design perspective on why Eurogames seem so full of national stereotypes, often cringeworthy.

In other articles, reading Anglo-American writers about Eurogames is strange because it reveals such deep cultural fissures. For example, there’s a critique of Eurogames like Settlers of Catan in that they avoid violence as a subject matter. This creates a false representation of history because when you remove violence from colonialism, for example, and reduce it to nothing but trade, you whitewash historical crimes.

This critique is obviously totally sensible! Yet the rule against war and combat is ingrained in me from my own childhood, from how my mother and father and the worldview I learned at home. The idea that family games should be violence-free is something that makes sense to me on a gut level. It feels shocking to read it being talked about so casually, as if it was just some weird European quirk.

Closer to my home field of roleplaying games and larp, there’s the article Out of the Dungeons: Representations of Queer Sexuality in RPG Source Books by Jaakko Stenros and Tanja Sihvonen. I’d seen it years ago at Ropecon in presentation form, but it was interesting to read it properly. Queer sexualities have been dealt with in roleplaying games in a messy, often weird way, and I remember some of the specific examples from my own roleplaying history.

The idea of roleplaying or larping with an audience has kept recurring in different contexts through the years, from art galleries who wanted art larp to be audience friendly to the modern phenomenon of roleplaying as a YouTube spectacle. There’s three excellent articles in the book which expand on this in ways that make me think our previous conceptions of the subject have been simplistic. These articles show that if you really want to do this, roleplay with an audience, there’s a whole art to it.

The articles are Moyra Turkington’s A Look Back From the Future: Play and Performance in Biosphere 2013, Sarah Lynne Bowman’s Connecting Stage Acting, Role-Playing and Improvisation and Lisa Quoresimo’s Joy and Meaning in Theater Games. What I especially like about them is the basis in actual experiences with this kind of work.

This is another great collection, well worth your time. The only real issue with it is that the articles were originally posted online, and a few contain references to illustrations or other features not included in the book.

Non-Digital: Slowquest and Roleplaying Game Culture

I was at the Helsinki Comics Festival recently, lured in by the promise of roleplaying game related indie stuff. The Australian illustrator Bodie Hartley was there with a series of little booklets published under the title Slowquest. They’re interesting because while they are not roleplaying games, they are most definitely roleplaying game culture.

My first roleplaying game was the red box edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I grew up steeped in roleplaying game culture and it has informed my practice as a designer. As a child, I read scifi and fantasy, went to cons and shook my head at the Satanic panic.

However, the actual toolbox of roleplaying games, the design concepts that make up the artform, don’t have to be connected to this culture. You can make and play roleplaying games even if you have never heard of Legolas or Shadowrun. I’ve seen this in practice on the larp side of things working with Palestinian designers, because the history of larp in Palestine comes from an NGO background rather than as an artifact of local geek culture.

My first book about roleplaying games, Roolipelimanifesti in 2005, was in some ways a reaction against the way I felt roleplaying game culture limited the design space of roleplaying games. In retrospect, it’s almost like teenage rebellion, a statement of identity against the stifling omnipresence of dragons and other genre elements.

In the years since 2005, I’ve made my peace with the culture around roleplaying games. This is good because now I can enjoy Slowquest, which is great! The main attraction are the two quest books The Goblin Guard and Meet the Wizard, choose your own adventure -style stories in which you navigate simple and funny adventure scenarios. They are simple and charming, like emanations from the collective subconscious consisting of all the cultural artifacts populating the world of roleplaying games.

Other booklets include the monster descriptions for the Swamp Goblin, the Mushrump and the Sentient Ooze. Another favorite is the booklet Some Wizards Volume I, a collection of wizards.

Non-Digital: Our History

Me standing under a portrait of myself and those of other Finnish roleplayers. Photo: Jaakko Stenros

The Finnish Museum of Games opened a new exhibit on the history of tabletop roleplaying games in Finland yesterday. It’s wonderful stuff and I expected the feelings of nostalgia revisiting all these old things brought me. But the real surprise was in how much there was I’d never heard of before. The exhibit takes an extremely comprehensive, diligent approach to its subject, and because of this even a veteran roleplayer who lived through the era will find something new.

Verald is the only Swedish-language roleplaying game published in Finland. I’d never heard of it before seeing it at the exhibit.

From a personal perspective, it felt strange to see parts of my own history move behind the glass of a museum exhibit. Sometimes literally, as I was startled to find a character brief I’d written for another player years ago on display. It was from the tabletop campaign Tähti by Mike Pohjola, later published as a book.

Other times, the maps drawn by hand on graph paper were not from my campaigns, but they could well have been. They’re from people who started playing as kids, often American fantasy roleplaying games translated into Finnish. It’s funny to imagine what those kids would have said if told that in a few decades, their squiggles would be museum-worthy.

Many of these relics are from people who would become game designers themselves, including James Edward Raggi IV of Lamentations of the Flame Princess fame who’s old home campaign maps are now on display.

Among the exhibited roleplaying game magazines, the most amazing find was the Floppy Magazine from 1987.

This list of “killed things” starts with “1 old person”.

Designer Mike Pohjola decided to be the first to break in the table at the center of the exhibit room by spontaneously conjuring up a Myrskyn sankarit game.

From a wider perspective, the exhibit is part of an interesting process where as we grow older, we become more conscious of our own history. We want to preserve it and make it understood. It’s wonderful that the exhibit is not only about the history of games as publications, but makes a serious effort to include the actual experiences of people playing roleplaying games.

This is especially important in Finland because the emergent play culture didn’t always reflect the cultures that produced the games we started with. A young kid in Helsinki or Kouvola automatically played D&D with different assumptions than the American designers who made it.

Non-Digital: Analog Game Studies vol. 1

I’ve worked a lot on tabletop games this year because of my involvement with Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition, and I developed a yearning for the kind of design writing about tabletop games that we have for larp in the form of the Knutepunkt books.

As sometimes happens, it turns out this already existed, and had for some time. I found the first two Analog Game Studies collections at Gencon, and just finished reading the first one, published in 2016. It collects the articles originally published online in the journal in 2014.

This is good stuff, and I’m happy to know that there’s already a few years worth more out for me to read!

From the perspective of a reader like me who’s interested in roleplaying game design, the highlights from vol. 1 are Jason Morningstar’s article Visual Design as Metaphor: The Evolution of a Character Sheet and Evan Torner’s Uncertainty in Analog Role-Playing Games.

Morningstar’s article takes a classic design question of the character sheet and goes through his own process in developing one for the game Night Witches. Torner writes about uncertainty from many different perspectives, using published games as examples. I especially liked the consideration of uncertainty created by other players, as that’s a design space close to my heart.

Other interesting articles include Nathan Altice’s The Playing Card Platform and Sarah Lynne Bowman and Evan Torner’s Post-Larp Depression. Both felt like the kind of baseline articles about a given subject that can now be referenced in a thousand articles in the future.

The last article in the book is Lizzie Stark’s The Curse of Writing Autobiographical Games, in which she writes about designing a game called The Curse. The subject is deeply personal and the essay is a wonderful, clear example of how difficult subject matter becomes design.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #28: Hot Girls Wanted – Turned On

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.

One of the protagonists of the Hot Girls Wanted – Turned On episode “Take Me Private”.

In episode five of the documentary series Hot Girls Wanted – Turned On, there’s a scene where a roleplayer introduces his regular camgirl of four years to his roleplaying game group. It’s an amazing scene, and the episode builds up the process leading to it so naturally that it feels inevitable. Tom has been Alice’s regular, and pays for her to fly to meet him in Australia. He feels like they have a relationship even though Alice is married. He wants her to meet his friends.

The episode is surprisingly human, and everyone in it feels like someone I could know personally. The nuances of the roleplaying group have been observed gently but sharply, and the same goes for the inevitable disappointments of taking the virtual into reality.

Larppia Europarlamentissa

(Tämä kirjoitus julkaistiin alkujaan Imagen saitilla olleessa Pikseliparatiisi-blogissani 5. 12. 2017.)

Olin viikko sitten Brysselissä mukana tekemässä larppia nimeltä Parliament of Shadows, joka pelattiin osittain Europarlamentissa. Taidemuotona larppi on vielä sen verran nuori, että monia asioita pääsee tekemään ensimmäistä kertaa. Näin tässäkin projektissa: Halusimme viedä larppia johonkin missä se ei ole ollut koskaan aikaisemmin.

Europarlamentissa on päivittäin eri euroedustajien kutsumia kulttuuritapahtumia, ja nyt ensi kertaa näiden joukossa myös larppi.

Parliament of Shadows pohjautuu Vampire: the Masquerade -roolipeliin ja toteutettiin yhteistyössä White Wolf Entertainmentin kanssa. Olikin hauska nähdä että vaikka mediayhtiö White Wolf neuvottelee Vampiren pohjalta tv-sarjoja, videopelejä ja muita suuria projekteja, heillä riitti yllättävän paljon aikaa 20 osallistujan kertaluontoiselle larpille.

Larpin tuotantoyhtiö on ruotsalainen Participation Design Agency ja sen pääsuunnittelijat ovat Maria PetterssonJuhana Pettersson ja Bjarke Pedersen.

Larpin aikana otettu kuva todellisesta pelitilanteesta. Pelipaikkana Europarlamentti. Kuva: Tuomas Puikkonen

Larpin aikana otettu kuva todellisesta pelitilanteesta. Pelipaikkana Europarlamentti. Kuva: Tuomas Puikkonen

Vampire: the Masquerade -roolipelin maailmaan kuuluu ajatus siitä, että oman tutun todellisuutemme varjoissa liikkuu vampyyreitä, ihmissusia ja muita hirviöitä. Todellisen ja keksityn yhdisteleminen on aina ollut olennainen osa Vampiren estetiikkaa. Päätimme tässä larpissa viedä ajatuksen äärimmilleen: Larpin hahmot ovat lobbareita, jotka työskentelevät salaa vampyyrien laskuun. Niinpä peli tapahtuu Brysselissä ja pelipaikat ovat sellaisia joissa lobbarit oikeastikin liikkuvat.

Osallistujien kannalta lähestyttävä vampyyriaihe salli mennä syvälle EU-lainsäädännön syövereihin. Lobbaussimulaatiossamme aiheena oli todellinen ETIAS-laki, ja pelaajille annettiin mahdollisuus perehtyä todelliseen lakitekstiin voidakseen pelata tähän liittyvät kohtaukset mahdollisimman uskottavasti.

Vaikka larpin tarkoitusperät eivät olleet opetuksellisia, useampi osallistuja huomautti tapahtuman jälkeen että lakiin ja EU:n toimintaan tuli perehdyttyä yllättävän perusteellisesti koska tietoja joutui itse käyttämään pelitilanteessa.

Toisen pelipäivän tapahtumat käynnistyivät Brysselin Riemukaaren (kuvassa) katolla. Kuva: Tuomas Puikkonen

Toisen pelipäivän tapahtumat käynnistyivät Brysselin Riemukaaren (kuvassa) katolla. Kuva: Tuomas Puikkonen

Maria Petterssonin suunnittelema ja organisoima Parlamentti-osuus oli larpin monimutkaisin ja vaikein osa, mutta pyrimme siihen että design-filosofiamme mukainen wow-meininki jatkuisi myös sen jälkeen. Larppia piti laajentaa Parlamentin ulkopuolelle jotta osallistujilla olisi mahdollisuus pelata vapautuneemmin. Parlamentin turvallisuusnäkökohdat asettivat larpille omat rajansa.

Muita pelipaikkoja oli mm. Brysselin Riemukaaren katto, Ratsuväen upseeriklubi, Euroopan hienoimmaksi aukioksi tituleeratun Brysselin Grand Placen ylle nouseva La Chaloupe d’Or -ravintola sekä Beursschouwburg-kulttuurikeskus jossa oli vain muutamaa vikkoa aiemmin järjestetty suomalaista alkuperää olevat feministiset kiroiluiltamat. Koska todellisessakin elämässä Brysselissä vierailevan lobbarin aikataulu on varsin tiivis, suunnittellimme larpin samanlaiseksi tykitykseksi tapaamisia ja cocktail-tilaisuuksia.

Todellinen eurokansanedustaja Miiapetra Kumpula-Natri vieraili larpissa pelaten itseään. Kuva: Tuomas Puikkonen

Todellinen eurokansanedustaja Miapetra Kumpula-Natri vieraili larpissa pelaten itseään. Kuva: Tuomas Puikkonen

Larppi kehittyy koko ajan mutta samalla ilmaisumuoto hakee edelleen paikkaansa kulttuurin kentällä. Institutionaalinen apu larpille on harvinaista, ja tämäkin teos syntyi yksinomaan osallistujien pelimaksujen ja vapaaehtoistyön myötä.

Tämän vuoksi olikin larppimme onnistumisen kannalta erittäin tärkeää, että sillä oli kahden euroedustajan tuki. Ilman sitä larpin vieminen Europarlamenttiin olisi ollut mahdotonta. Suomalainen Miapetra Kumpula-Natri ja saksalainen Julia Reda vierailivat kumpikin larpissa pelaten itseään. Näin larpin lobbauskohtauksien uskottavuus saavutti huippunsa: Pelaaja joutuu esittämään asiansa todelliselle kansanedustajalle, vaikkakin fiktiivisessä kontekstissa.

Larppi leikitteli lobaamisen sivistyneen ja asiallisen ja vampyyrien hämäräperäisen ja pelottavan maailman välillä. Kuva: Tuomas Puikkonen

Larppi leikitteli lobaamisen sivistyneen ja asiallisen ja vampyyrien hämäräperäisen ja pelottavan maailman välillä. Kuva: Tuomas Puikkonen

Itselleni Belgiassa ulkomaalaisena larpintekijänä palkitsevin hetki oli larpin purkukeskustelussa kun yksi paikallisista osallistujistamme sanoi: “Parasta tässä larpissa oli se, että sen kautta Brysseli näyttäytyi kauniina kaupunkina.”

Kuvaajamme Tuomas Puikkosen koko kuvasetti julkaistaan myöhemmin, mutta täällä on alustava otos.

Roolipelitapahtuma Ropecon nyt viikonloppuna, tässä kahdeksan täkyä

(Tämä kirjoitus julkaistiin alkujaan Imagen saitilla olleessa Pikseliparatiisi-blogissani 27. 7. 2017.)

Roolipeleihin, larppeihin, lautapeleihin ja keräilykorttipeleihin keskittyvä Ropecon-festari järjestetään Helsingin Messukeskuksessa nyt viikonloppuna eli 28.-30.7. Suomessa on kansainvälisesti tarkasteltuna poikkeuksellisen elinvoimainen ei-digitaalisten pelien skene, ja Ropecon on siitä oiva osoitus, sillä vastaavaa tuhansien kävijöiden tapahtumaa ei muualla Pohjoismaissa ole.

Olen itsekin mukana Ropeconin ohjelmassa, seuraavasti:

La 29.7. Sali 201, 13:00 – 14:00
Berliinissä pelattu Enlightenment in Blood on White Wolfin kolmas virallinen, pohjoismaisen larpin tyyliin tehty tapahtuma. Se kertoi vampyyrivallankumouksesta, jossa Camarillan ikiaikainen valta sortui. Pelin pääsuunnittelija Juhana Pettersson kertoo uudesta Vampire-larppaamisen aallosta, avaa pelin taustoja ja havainnollistaa Enlightenment in Bloodin tekemisessä käytetyn Larpweaver-ohjelmiston toimintaa.
La 29.7. Halli 5 Ohjelmalava, 20:00 – 21:00
Come and join Guest of Honor Monica Valentinelli and operations director Matt M McElroy from Onyx Path, as they meet up with WhiteWolf lead storyteller Martin Ericsson and game designer Juhana Petterson, for a talk about the world in which all of their careers entwine: The World of Darkness. The game industry and storyteller veterans talk about their love for the lore and share war stories from their respective careers. The talk is moderated by renown cosmologist, writer and role playing enthusiast Syksy Räsänen.

Tässä kahdeksan tärppiä ohjelmasta:

1

Kauhuaiheisten World of Darkness -pelien luova johtaja ja pohjoismaisen larpin veteraani Martin Ericsson puhuu Vampire: the Masquerade -roolipelin historiasta ja erilaisista tavoista pelata World of Darkness -pelejä.

Pe 28.7. Sali 208, 18:00 – 19:00
Vampire: The Masquerade was built on a combination of the classic Gothic vampire novel and the late 80’s / early 90’s literary ”punk” trend of injecting irreverent perspectives and socially conscious social analysis into stale fiction genres. But there is so much more to say. How does Vampires imagining of the undead, werewolves and monsters differ from those of legend and literary analysis? How far have literature and games strayed from their literary and legendary sources of inspiration and have they lost something along the way? This talk also includes hints on the direction we have mapped out for the monsters of the World of Darkness as they face the tumultuous changes of the 21st century.
La 29.7. Sali 208, 21:00 – 22:00
Gothic Punk, Personal horror, Blood Opera, Trenchcoats and Katanas, Indiana Jones with Fangs, Blood Porn, Modern Gothic, Progressive Power Fantasy, Gross-out-Bingo and even a PG 13 World of Slight Dimness. Vampire and the World of Darkness setting as a whole has been presented and experienced by it’s players in a myriad interpretations and styles of play over the last 3 decades. Join us for a talk on how all these often conflicting ways to play are (to various degrees) supported in the 850 book canon and the problems and opportunities this range of traditional play-styles and moods offer game-creators, communities and new players.

2

Trash-estetiikan tuomisesta larppeihin tunnettu taiteilija Vili Nissinen tekee jälleen Vili Nissinen Talk Shown.

Pe 28.7. Halli 5 Ohjelmalava, 19:00 – 21:00
”Klassikko jo syntyessään!”, ”Parempi kuin Sami Hedbergin show!” (Yleisöpalautetta) Tänä kesänä ”Vili Nissinen Talk Show” palaa Ropeconin lavalle törkytehtaansa kera. On aika jättää jälleen hyvät käytöstavat kotiin ja antaa palaa! ”Vili Nissinen Talk Show” on esitystaiteilja Vili von Nissisen kiihdyttävä ja viihdyttävä osallistava teos, joka ammentaa aiheensa yhteiskunnallista keskustelusta, internet-forumeilta, uutisista ja ihmisten tositarinoista. Muodoltaan teos liikkuu osallistavan performanssin, näytelmäroolipelin ja immersioteatterin rajapinnoilla rikkoen näiden taidemuotojen rajoja. Teosta voi seurata yleisön joukosta joko katsojana tai osallistujana. Lopputuloksena on hauska ja vapauttava kokemus. Perheen pienimpiä suositellaan välttämään ohjelmaa.

3

Kunniavieras ja pelisuunnittelija Monica Valentinelli puhuu uusien pelaajien tavoittamisesta.

Pe 28.7. Sali 208, 20:00 – 21:00
Gaming has grown by leaps and bounds in the past ten years. With the increase in RPG, LARP, card, board, mobile, IFF, and game publications, new players are added all the time. Whether they stumble into our communities or discover conventions for the first time, they are out there. How do we make new players feel welcome and retain them? In this seminar, Monica Valentinelli discusses tips and tricks to do just that!

4

Suomalaisessa ja pohjoismaisessa larppiskenessä on käyty pitkään tärkeää keskustelua siitä, miten sukupuolet ja sukupuoliroolit pitäisi huomioida larppeja tehtäessä.

Pe 28.7. Sali 207, 21:00 – 23:00
Keskustelua sukupuoliroolien ja sukupuolen käsittelystä liveroolipeleissä pelinjärjestäjän näkökulmasta. Tulisiko hahmokonseptin olla lähtökohtaisesti sukupuolittamaton? Voiko historiallista peliä suunnitella toisintamatta aikakauden tai aikakautemme tyypillisiä sukupuolirooleja? Saako sukupuolirooleista ja -stereotypioista sittenkin käyttökelpoisia työkaluja larpin tarinankerrontaan? Keskustelu pyritään käymään kunnioittavassa hengessä ja aiheen herkkyys tiedostaen. Panelisteina Janne Jurvanen, Neko Koski, Ami Koiranen, Jaana Takalo ja Niina Niskanen

5

Maija Hannula Thorhaugen vetämä virhekavalkadi on jo muodostunut Ropecon-klassikoksi.

Pe 28.7. Sali 208, 21:00 – 22:00
Massi and her fantastic guest speakers share their strangest, most magnificent and just plain disastrous mistakes in the name of designing more or less great games and events. By sharing our mistakes we all learn that failing is not the same as being a failure, it is part of designing. Let’s learn from our mistakes and laugh the shame away together!

6

Roolipelien ja larppien julkisuuskuva on oman kokemukseni mukaan Suomessa parempi kuin juuri missään muussa maassa, mutta meilläkin on silti vielä paljon petrattavaa.

La 29.7. Sali 201, 14:00 – 15:00
Nordic larp tunnetaan jo kohtuullisen hyvin maailmalla roolipelaajien parissa. Harrastajat tietävät, että larpit voivat olla taideteoksia ja niiden tekijöillä taiteellista kunnianhimoa. Suurelle yleisölle ajatus larpeista tai roolipelaamisesta taiteena on vieras. Aiheesta on vaikea kertoa ihmisille, sillä jo sanat larppi tai roolipeli saavat ihmiset ohittamaan aiheen, vaikka he itse asiassa kiinnostuisivat, jos vain tutustuisivat kunnolla. Aiheesta keskustelevat sekä keskenään että yleisön kanssa pelintekijä ja kirjailija Mike Pohjola ja toimittaja Jussi Ahlroth.

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Kunniavieras ja ruotsalainen larpintekijä Anna Westerling vetää Ropeconissa kaksi larppia, Robin’s Friends ja Summer Lovin’.

Pe 28.7. Larp-tiski, 17:00 – 19:00 (itse larppi la 29.7. 9:00 – 11:00)
About the beauty of friendship and the difficulty to communicate even though your intentions are good. What happens when your inability to see others suddenly leads to the realization that it’s too late? If you had the chance to do it again, how would you change it? A star, a producer and a caretaker – three close friends going away for a short holiday together to have the best time. But each character have their own baggage, and the weekend is pulled apart by quarrels. And in life you don’t get second chances.
La 29.7 Larp-tiski, 12:00 – 14:00 (itse larppi la 29.7. 16:00 – 18:00)
Sex – Awkwardness – Rock ‘n’ Roll Three girls, three guys and the stories about who did what and with whom during a big summer music festival. We will get the story as told by the girls, as told by the guys and then finally played out as it really happened. It’s summer lovin’ and tell me more. This scenario is not about finding your perfect partner, having amazing sex right away, and living happily ever after. It is a scenario about the uncomfortable hook-up in the tent, the grass in the ass, and the poor communication which leads to it all being awkward. But also about the nice feeling of making out, the thrill, the hope of something more, the fun and the laughter. What really happened during the festival? How did the dead gorgeous guy you hooked up with turn out to be your crappiest lay ever? Or how did you end up in the caravan with the girl you’ve wanted for several years, even though you shouldn’t have been there in the first place? At least according to your partner. Sex is a the main theme of this scenario, but you will not get physical with the other players above holding hands. Then the scene will be told through storytelling down to every nitty-gritty detail, both physically and emotionally. Just tell me more! By: Trine Lise Lindahl, Elin Nilsen and Anna Westerling

8

Diana Ostrat on virolainen larpintekijä, joka pelauttaa larppinsa Former Celebrities Ropeconissa.

Pe 28.7. Larp-tiski, 15:00 – 19:00 (itse larppi pe 28.7. 20:00 – 23:00)
They are the homeless, the hobos, the bums, the drunkards and outcasts. They have many names, and tonight, as each night, they have gathered around a fire to spend the night, eat, drink and tell stories. Once upon a time, they were celebrities. They were famous and happy. What mockery of fate has brought them here? What (the heck) went wrong? Each night, one of them tells their story. And the others listen, and hence become part of it. But one of them has a Ticket. A Ticket of Fortune. What if they win a million? Would the fortunate once more become a celebrity. And happy? Could they change their fate? Find long lost loved ones? Help their fellow unfortunates? Truth will rise, before the days are done. The game stresses upon storytelling-story-acting, immersion, characterization and emotions; the choices we make and things that “just happen” that happen to change everything. The (accidental) reasons behind one’s downfall. Nostalgia, and the dreams and hopes for one’s future.

Suomalainen roolipelijulkaisu toimii sikäli erikoisella tavalla, että oikeastaan kaikki pelit ilmestyvät kertarysäyksellä Ropeconissa. Tämän vuoden uutuuksia ovat mm. scifiroolipeli Sotakarjut, fantasiaroolipeli Seikkailijoiden kiltaPraedor-roolipelin laajennus Kirottu kirja sekä tarinankerrontapeli Tales of Entropy.

Kerrankin pohjoismaisen näköinen suomiroolipeli, nyt Kickstarterissa

(Tämä kirjoitus julkaistiin alkujaan Imagen saitilla olleessa Pikseliparatiisi-blogissani 28. 4. 2017.)

Aukema roolipelistä The Quick.

Aukema roolipelistä The Quick.

Pohjoismaisten dekkareiden kylmä maailma jossa jokaisen onnellisen julkisivun alta paljastuu jotain kaameaa yhdistettynä kummitustarinoihin joissa kuolleet kurottavat osaksi elävien elämää. The Quick -roolipeli tekijät mainitsevat innoituksen lähteeksi mm. Erik Axl Sundin Varistyttö-trilogian.

Suomessa on väkilukuun nähden yksi maailman aktiivisimpia roolipeliyhteisöjä. Meillä julkaistaan myös paljon roolipelejä, yleensä pieniltä mikrokustantamoilta. Olen itsekin osa tätä skeneä: Julkaisin viime vuonna roolipelin Tsernobyl, rakastettuni, joka ilmestyy tänä vuonna englanniksi nimellä Chernobyl, Mon Amour.

Suomalaisissa peleissä on harvoin mitään erityisen suomalaista tai pohjoismaista sisällöllistä tematiikkaa. Omatkin julkaisuni syyllistyvät tähän: Yksi sijoittuu Etelämantereelle, toinen Ukrainaan. Tämän vuoksi onkin ilahduttavaa, että tämän kevään näkyvin suomalainen pelijulkaisu The Quick ammentaa pohjoismaisesta trilleriperinteestä.

Peli on Kickstarterissa paraikaa.

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The Quickin valokuvakuvituksen on tehnyt Hanna Erkinjuntti.

Roolipeleissä on eduksi että peli sijoittuu osallistujille helposti hahmotettavaan ympäristöön. Tällöin osallistujien on helpompi itsekin keksiä peliin asioita. Tämän vuoksi genreaiheet ovat roolipeleissä suosittuja: Kaikki tietävät miten Mad Maxin tai Tolkienin maailmoissa toimitaan.

Pohjoismaisten dekkareiden muodostama Nordic Noir on siitä hieno genre, että se tunnetaan maailmalla mutta on samalla pohjoismainen. Onkin ihme ettei tällaista peliä ole tehty aiemmin.

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Sivu roolipelistä The Quick.

Tekijät Ville TakanenPetri LeinonenTeemu RantanenHanna ErkinjunttiJukka Sorsa ja David Thorhauge ovat kaikki suomalaisen ja pohjoismaisen roolipeliskenen veteraaneja. Suomessa ilmestyy paljon suomenkielisiä julkaisuja, ja onkin hauska havaita että harvinaislaatuisen pohjoismaisen aiheen omaava peli tulee nimenomaan englanniksi. Ehkä pohjoismainen teema tavoittaa yleisönsä myös Pohjoismaiden ulkopuolella.

Kickstarter-kampanja on tehty Tanskan kautta koska Suomen lainsäädäntö on joukkorahoituksen kannalta hankalaa.

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Lisää roolipelikirjan kuvitusta. Kuva: Hanna Erkinjuntti