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After Myrskyn aika

by Mike Pohjola
Sep 22,2004

 

After Myrskyn aika

About a year after the publication of my roleplaying book Myrskyn aika, it's time to tie the threads of this column together. Take a look at what's gone on before, and face the future. Learn from past mistakes. It's time to say goodbye, and move on.

Year One

It was in August 3rd, 2003 when Myrskyn aika was published. It was something new, and probably one of the biggest media events in Finnish roleplaying history. Since then the international Solmukohta convention probably caught more media attention, and the huge Ropecons tend to get more and more limelight, every year, too. Which is good.

Now that roleplaying games are no longer a mystery and an abomination to the world of publishing, more will be coming. Like Publishing is getting Juhana's Joutomaa out probably in 2005 or something. Much more experimental than Myrskyn aika, and definitely not as genre. Which probably means it will be better, but won't sell as well, and thus wouldn't have worked nearly as well as a pilot.

Advance to level two

I meant for Myrskyn aika to be the first "Nordic style" roleplaying game, the first that would fully support character immersion and emotional realism. I said this in many interviews, and somer earlier columns. And that was, indeed, what I aimed at. But like with many first attempts, this one was not entirely succesful.

Jaakko Stenros interviewed me in this year's Ropecon, and we came to the realization that Myrskyn aika is, in its way, layered with secrets. I try to subtly move the readers to play in a immersionist way, instead of coming right out and saying that's what they should do. I include lots of themes that are supposed to appear through play, instead of having a seperate chapter in the game master's part, titled The Themes of Myrskyn aika.

The structure of the game is faulty, too. Nothing supports the player characters actually talking to each others, which is supposed to be the main content of the game. Instead, the game master might have much incentive to direct all the action towards fighting. Fighting against Imperial, fighting against the piira, fighting against the Silent Ones, fighting against the Eagle Knights...

While this can induce contemplation and emotion and the clash of ideals, it doesn't necessarily lead to it. The main concept is that in Myrskyn aika you play a rebel who fights against society trying to bring about change, and enlist new rebels. At the same time you're fighting against the other people in your group of rebels, trying to make sure your ideas are the ones that will prevail after the revolution. Why I didn't tell this to anybody, I'll never know. It should've been right there on page 3!

Currently all the tools and elements are right there in the book, but there's no recipe for how to use them. Many game masters have, of course, managed to create the kind of play I meant, a Robin Hood meets Star Wars kind of combo of melodrama, politics and adventure, but others have just played the game as some form of hack-and-slash.

While Myrskyn aika is definitely not the perfect immersionist roleplaying game, it's better than most fantasy RPGs in the sense that it at least doesn't actively hamper immersion. The world is detailed enough that the player can understand the character's life from cradle to grave.

Makes the world go 'round

The game has been selling well so far, which itself says nothing of quality. If in a couple of years people are still playing it, it's a good game. If in a couple of years people are still buying it, those who play are very vocal.

It's my understanding that the word of mouth on roleplaying games moves very slowly. If a person bought the book when it was published, they've maybe now read it, and have found a group to run the game to. In a year, maybe one person of that group will buy a book of their own. And maybe a year from that, they'll run it for another group. I hope the book's still in stores 2007, when someone of that group might buy the game.

Of course, the process might be faster with larps, but so far there have been very few of those.

Hollywood and politics

The style of Myrskyn aika is meant to be emotional realism, focusing on world-views and emotions. What came out is much too action oriented than I had intended. I've been thinking about a roleplaying game that would be closer to soap opera or political thriller. Maybe some kind of a roleplaying version of Sopranos or West Wing.

But writing a new roleplaying game for publication will have to wait as I'll focus more on my other writing. Right now, the most notable of these are a children's story book, a fantasy novel, and a screenplay.

The children's book is being read by a publisher, and the screenplay has a director but no producer attached, so nothing's official yet. The fantasy novel is the thing I'd be writing right now, were I not writing this column. It will have very little to do with Myrskyn aika, or any fantasy world you may know. No more info availabe on any of these, as they're all still projects in development.

Meanwhile, my journey into being a respectable culture personality is proceding. Just a couple of days ago, I was asked to take part in the municipal elections. If I agree, there's a good chance I end up in the city's Culture Council, even if I don't get elected. A strange way for things to proceed, considering the reason I can claim the title of "author" is having written a roleplaying game. Or maybe not strange, just unusual.

More funding for larps, if I get in, I guess. Provided I decide to run. Remember: with great power comes great responsibility.

Goodbye. Move on.

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