Last Friday saw the publication of the fourth roleplaying game I’ve worked on in a major capacity. I can safely say that it’s also the most unusual game of my career so far.
Maa (that’s Earth in Finnish; the game is bilingual Finnish/English) got started last summer when the American sculptor Matthew Day Jackson began to organize an exhibition of his works at the Serlachius Museums in Mänttä, Finland. Talking with the curator Timo Valjakka, he decided that instead of an exhibition catalogue, he wanted to make a roleplaying game.
In a wonderful turn of events, both the museum and Valjakka decided to go for it.
The museum brought me in as a roleplaying consultant and to work with Jackson to make the game. The third core member of our team was the curator and arts writer Tom Morton who did world and story design and writing.
On Friday, Jackson’s exhibition opened in Mänttä and Maa the rolaplying game was released alongside it. The exhibition and the game are intertwined, with the exhibition existing as a prelude of sorts to the story of the game.
Maa is set a thousand years in the future, after humanity has wiped itself out. In our absence, the planet has healed and become paradise. Now, the last survivors of our species are crawling out of their antiquated bunkers, blinking into the light.
The question is, will humanity destroy the earth once again, or will we be able to evolve?
The player characters are Scouts sent out by the Family residing in a Bunker in what used to be Finland. During the game, they can explore the new world, meet its strange inhabitants and eventually meet their destinies on the Moon.
Jackson’s exhibition represents a museum built inside the Bunker, the sculptures strange remnants brought down from the surface by previous generations of Scouts. As you walk into the exhibition, whether alone or as part of a group, you’re asked to take the role of a trainee Scout and see what you can make out of the surface based on what you see.
Although the exhibition and the game are interlinked, the game is also a wholly unique experience on its own. Indeed, we designed it to be played like a traditional roleplaying game, with players and the Seer directing the action.
In the game box, you’ll get two hardcover books, a card deck, a map, character sheets and spherical dice handmade expressly for this game. The game’s system is based on color theory and the affinities, responses and emotions different colors create. In Maa, subjectivity is king as we each react to the colors during play.
Personally, this was a wonderful project especially because of the new ideas that resulted from this cross-pollination of the arts and roleplaying worlds, and also because as an institution the museum threw its weight behind it with such enthusiasm. It’s my hope that the story of Maa will continue, in one form or another.
If you can read Finnish, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat did a wonderful article about Maa. It was also picked up by Suomen kuvalehti and the Finnish roleplaying media Roolipelitiedotus.
At the moment, Maa is available as a limited edition of 200 copies signed by the artist. You can get yours from the museum’s shop for 299 €.