Recently I Have Been Mostly RPGing…

Unsurprisingly, my Great Adventure Game Project has not progressed as expected. Long story short, my little personal time has been spent on table top RPGs recently. The thing I have done for this project is that I spent some amount of Zorkmids on GoG summer sales and now I have pretty much a complete library of games for the project. Now I just need to find the time for playing them…

I have very little time for me time projects altogether and right after getting excited about adventure games, I got excited about table top RPGs again… What can I say, I’m easily inspired – too bad I don’t have the time to follow up on all of the inspirations.

A friend of mine set up an RPG discussion channel and I found some other general RPG communities as well, so I’ve been engulfed in inspiring table top RPG discussion. As a result, I’ve been getting up to speed on what has happened in the scene, since I was previously active.

As a result of the inspirations, I signed up with a Pathfinder game rolled by the GM. Some nicely grim and Lovecraftian elements to it. Maybe some dozen sessions done by now. The first big arch is going to be finished next session. Probably should see, where we head after that during the session as well. Been most excellent just to get to play a bit.

Rise of the Runelords

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As a result of not finding more games to sign up with immediately, I also ended up rolling up a Pathfinder campaign of my own. I haven’t been GMing in nearly 20 years, so I decided to go easy on myself and go with ready made stuff instead of rolling up my own. As I was pretty familiar with the rules having signed up for a campaign a few months earlier, as there’s an endless amount of ready made stuff for it, and as there must be a reason for its success, it was an easy decision to go with Pathfinder. After some browsing of the adventure paths, I noticed that the Rise of the Runelords adventure path had been re-released as an anniversary edition. One hardcover edition, way cheaper than buying the six piece paths individually, still in print, adventure path is still regarded as one of the better ones released by Paizo – another easy decision.

After some prep time and finding a group, we’ve now played through two sessions. I’m still finding my feet and so are my players, but thus far fun has been had. During the next session the story is shifting gears and the first major action of the campaign will be encountered. As this is D&D based stuff, the campaign is very combat oriented – down shifting happens only rarely and for short times. But railroading and high octane action is easy enough to GM, and as there are a few newbies in my group of players, it should be nice for them to get into as well.

Ropecon

Also went to Ropecon – a big Finnish non-electronic gaming event… or a scene event… Not sure, what it should be called and not sure, if it’s the biggest, but to me, it is the one and only gaming event of the year in Finland. I was able to attend only on Friday, but what a nice day it was.

Unlike most of my Ropecons, this time my schedule was very tight. After getting in, I headed straight for the table top RGP sign up desk to sign up for Fate Core Combat Academy GMed by Petri Leinonen. Got to do a bit of history by spending the first “etuilulippu” (priority ticket) in the history of Ropecon. Everyone was given one for the whole weekend to pick a game to attend with priority over others. I was going to attend only this one game, so obviously I used my ticket to make sure I got to the game. The game itself was an introduction to the Fate Core mechanics using a heavily railroaded scenario designed to introduce the mechanics one by one in a Star Wars setting. Petri has been running the scenario several times prior to Ropecon, but due to scheduling conflicts, I missed all the sessions previously. This time I got in and it was a fun ride. Unfortunately the game started some 20 minutes late due to the time it took to sign up people for all the games starting at the same time and as a result, we missed the ending of the scenario. That obviously was not the point of the session, but would’ve been nice to see, how things ended up, as even with this kind of rules heavy, story light session, Fate Core manages to set up exciting things in capable hands. It’s easy to fall into character and into the scenes of the story. It’s easy to be dramatic and to find usable things to do in all scenes with all characters. Had immense fun and got exactly what I was looking for – my mind is now racing with ideas about campaigns I could run with the system. Firefly and Star Wars are the top candidates for now, but we’ll see, when I’ll get to those. I’d like to start by getting the scenario material from Petri and trying to run that introductory scenario by myself, so I can use the scenario as a sort of Fate Core GM Academy for myself.

That took me well into the evening. After a quick snack break I headed to Roolipelaajan peruskoulu: Kaaoksen ja järjestyksen välissä (Roleplaying 101: Between Chaos and Order), a lecture held by Sanna Koulu and Pekka Hänninen. Basically they were going through what a player can do in various table top RPG games to make the game more interesting and fun for everyone. Basically the message was to introduce some order in chaotic games (sandbox settings) and to introduce some chaos in ordered games (amusement park rides). The things discussed have been bubbling somewhere in the back of my consciousness, but I’ve never really got them out into the open and under more scrutiny. Again my head went racing forwards. Some thoughts about steering my players towards some direction in the campaign I’m GMing and on the other hand some thoughts about improving my game in the campaign I’m playing in.

Altogether two nice inspiring bits of program. At that point I should’ve headed to sleep according to my regular schedule, but with all the thoughts racing through my head and with a lot of friends heading to the bar, I went for a few beers to relax and to meet up with people I see far too rarely. The new venue worked very well. Oxygen didn’t run out and despite the venue not being as intimate and as atmospheric, it still felt like Ropecon. Got to get to know the layout of the location a bit better, before I’ll feel at home there, but that shouldn’t be a big issue. The only complaint I have is that the table top RPG room assigned to Fate Core Combat Academy, there were over half a dozen other games running and the acoustics was not up to that – I spent a lot of time concentrating on blocking out all the phrases drifting to my ears from the other tables and we had to use a lot of voice to hear each other in our own table. That should be easy to fix though and altogether I have no wish for Ropecon to return to Dipoli after this first year in Messukeskus.

The Book that Sparked this Blog – Suuret seikkailupelit

So, I guess the first real post should be about the book that made me put up this blog in the first place – Suuret seikkailupelit.

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Suuret seikkailupelit by Juho Kuorikoski

Look how pretty it is. Just looking at the cover takes me back to dozens and dozens of warm childhood memories.

I actually asked my fiancee for Juho Kuorikoski’s earlier book – Sinivalkoinen pelikirja. I wasn’t even aware of Suuret seikkailupelit at that point. Sinivalkoinen pelikirja had run out from the bookstore, but the sales people there remembered the other book by the same author. My fiancee picked that up, despite being worried that I didn’t want that one, because I hadn’t asked for it. I am very happy for the Finnish gaming industry due to its recent success and the history does interest me, but my two favorite genres are adventure games and role-playing games. Both are underrepresented in Finnish gaming industry, so the book would’ve been just a nice curio read for me. Suuret seikkailupelit on the hand touches the deepest parts of my love for games, so my fiancee’s worries were very much unfounded. Best Christmas present in a long while. If Juho ever writes a book about the history of computer and video role-playing games, I’ll throw my money at the screen, if it helps me to have the book in my hands faster. A book about storytelling in games in general would be nice too – that’s the thing that adventure and role-playing games have in common. Just a few hints.

I remember playing some early King’s Quest and Police Quest games and Black Cauldron as a child on our first computer. Me and my brother didn’t know English very well, so we had a dictionary at hand. Still we ended up progressing through trial and error until we found the correct responses at certain situations without fully understanding what was happening or why something worked and something didn’t. A bit later we had Zak McKracken, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade and King’s Quest V. Our English skills had improved a bit, but at least I still didn’t understand all the events happening on screen. Despite the language barrier, we still spent endless hours on those games. I’m not sure, if we ever finished any of them except Indiana Jones. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that, when I fire up Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade again, all the actions required to finish the game will come from muscle memory.

In any case, those games and the feeling I had playing them have been burnt into my memory very deeply and encountering them again after a few decades brought me to tears. After bringing me to tears, I realized how many other great games were done during those times and even earlier with Infocom and Legend Entertainment. I’ve missed most of them, so as I said in my earlier post, I decided to fill in the gaps and play through the history of adventure games. Thus was sparked The Great Adventure Game Project and this blog.

For a long time we had the situation that our computer didn’t run the newer games. I ended up missing the latter part of the Sierra and LucasArts golden era except for a game here and another there that I played with some friends on their computers. Mostly I wasn’t able to finish them. I picked up on adventure games a again, when Telltale Games came into the scene. I’ve played a bit of Sam & Max and a bit more of The Walking Dead. Again, the book revealed to me that I’ve only scraped the surface though.

But I digress – I was supposed to write more about the book. It is difficult without mentioning the feelings that it brought up in me, but with that now behind me, I’ll try and say a few words about the book.

The book is divided into four parts:

  1. Text based adventure games and early graphical ones
  2. The golden era of graphical adventures
  3. The death of the genre
  4. The resurrection

The only thing about this structure that bothers me, is that although many of the text based adventures are given their own subsection, those subsections are not listed in the table of contents, so going back to check up on a single title is a bit difficult. I can understand that their handling is more cursory than for the rest of the sections and titles. They were put out by just a few companies and gaming was smaller back then. Many of the titles are out of release and can be only found in the murky abandon ware corners of the Internet – I bet even Juho had a hard time getting to know the titles from that era. The rest of the structure nicely supports the narratives that Juho builds. This occasionally brings slight confusion, because he breaks chronology in favor of the narrative structure. Luckily, I like stories more than chronology.

Juho has done an amazing job digging up the original designers and developers of the games and contacting them for interviews. He’s interviewed 40 people for the book, a few of them several times. The stories and feeling that the developers tell are the most interesting part of the book. Anyone can go and experience the games themselves, but it’s more difficult to find out the stories around the games – why did they get made, who were the people that affected them, why were some design choices made, where’d they get the ideas, etc. I like to read about the things surrounding the cultural products that I like, and Juho does simply an amazing job in bringing the industry and people around the games into life.

Reading the book took me first to my childhood memories of hours and hours spent exploring wonderful worlds and stories and then to the realization that there’s a lot more of those. Going through the games that I haven’t played, took me on introductory journeys into the adventures that I can still experience. Last but not least there was also the story of the industry and people in the industry – who doesn’t like a story of rise and fall and rise again, just look at Hollywood films and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a different story.

If you are into adventure games and can read Finnish, I urge you to buy the book and read it. I don’t remember that a book that has taken me so deep into my own memories and then into new exciting worlds in a long while, and it isn’t even fiction.

Besides, buying the book will give Juho more resources and motivation to write more of these. He just finished the crowd funding project for his forthcoming third non-fiction book about games, X-Com. There is not too much Finnish language books on gaming, so his one man project to fill that gap is commendable. Besides, he writes with a very readable tone that is both entertaining and informative.

Hello World

So this is a blog and I made this and now I’m supposed to publish stuff here…

Well, here goes. Hello World! This is me posting. I’m going to update this quite rarely, since I don’t have too much spare time on my hands.

Obviously, the title has little to do with the expected content. That’s because I couldn’t figure out anything witty about the expected content, so I picked something important to me. Maybe I’ll write here about turtles and slow life at some point, but that’s too personal for today.

The spark for this blog came, when my lovely fiancee gave me Juho Kuorikoski’s wonderful new book Suuret seikkailupelit as a Christmas present. I don’t have much spare time, but all of it was spent on that, once I’d picked it up. Unfortunately, it is (at least for the time being) available only in Finnish. Nevertheless, it tells the history of the adventure video game genre through the mouths of the people, who created the classic games of the genre, and goes through the most notable titles. I’ll talk about that more in a later post.

In any case, the book made me realize that although I’m a fan of the genre, I’ve missed nearly all of the classic titles or at least have not finished them. I just had to fill in the gaps and play through the classics, so I set myself a goal of playing through them. As writing is a way for me to make something a bit more real and permanent in my mind, I’ll write about the experience too. Kuorikoski’s penmanship moved me into embarking on the project. Who knows, maybe mine will move someone else.

From having a blog about an adventure gaming project, it was a short step to decide that the blog could have other stuff too. I already write quick book reviews in Goodreads and film reviews in Letterboxd, so those’ll appear here as well in the future. Obviously reviews about stuff not fit for those sites, and maybe some talk about my currently years long computer game development project that does not have a single line of code written down yet… Maybe writing about the development project will make me do something about it. Sprinkle in some more personal posts, if I feel like it.

That’s it for now. As I don’t expect to have a single reader at this point (I’ve told one person about this for now), I won’t bid my readers farewell.