This last part of my rpg history concerns the last five years or so. This stuff is probably pretty well-known to my friends, I’ve left much more documentation behind in the Internet and other places lately than I used to earlier. Still, it won’t hurt to list some of the gaming that feels particularly significant to me.
Here’s a list of links to the earlier parts of this narrative:
- Part #1 discusses my childhood and how I learned about roleplaying in the first place.
- Part #2 tells about my first cycle of roleplaying and my first real gaming group.
- Part #3 is about my quiet years at the end of the ’90s; it also discusses my experiments with larping.
- Part #4 tells of my university studies and how I got over my rpg-less slump.
The last part of my history stopped at 2003, and with good reason; after the Ropecon of that year my roleplaying was again obviously on-track: the Bextropolis campaign I wrote about last time was proceeding solidly and I was actively writing and reading games. I’ve never been very active in buying rpg material (never learned to rely on material culture in my rural youth, I might say), but I read everything the Internet had to offer at the time, and it was a lot – I knew the Forgean design precepts of games by heart even while I owned nothing but HeroQuest and Sorcerer in my game library (having left most of my games up north).
So while I was active in design and quickly becoming acclimated to the Forge socially, my gaming was simple, consisting of 1-3 sessions of my Bextropolis D&D weekly all through the winter of 2003-04. This changed when I accepted the post as the editor of Alterations, the rpg ‘zine of the university roleplaying club. At the time I was pretty interested in club activity and wanted to see whether I could do anything to make the rpg club a more active and interesting place. (Proved that I couldn’t, but that’s a different story.) A part of that was the notion that I’d demonstrate communal interest in roleplaying through the ‘zine with a special roleplaying event: I’d gather many people to play the same game to allow them to share in a common experience, perhaps bringing the club together a bit and giving the members something in common to chew over.
This shenanigan was relevant mostly because it made me contact Paul Czege, the designer of My Life with Master: MLwM was the perfect small, experimental and celebrated game for my project, so I asked Paul whether he’d allow me to distribute the game for free to the project participants to facilitate everybody playing the same game. In hindsight I’m pretty surprised that he graciously allowed this – Paul was probably smarter than me, he knew that this sort of thing is prone to reaping unexpected benefits.
So in 2004 I played a lot of MLwM in Helsinki, and I wrote my own game: my D&D homebrew had solidified enough for me to imagine that I might be able to write it down. Bextropolis was in many ways a very progressive campaign; it was head and shoulders above its nearest comparison, HeroQuest, which had earlier voided my superhero game with its superior method. With Bextropolis I wanted to make a game that was even better than HeroQuest in terms of system elegance and powerful tools for narrativistic adventure gaming. Ultimately another American designer, Clinton R. Nixon would again pre-empt me by publishing his Shadow of Yesterday, which fulfilled the design mandate of Bextropolis to such an extent that I ultimately couldn’t justify continuing my own writing project.
In the summer of 2004 we of course started our own independent publishing company with my brothers, Arkenstone Publishing. This was a direct consequence of my earlier correspondence with Paul, as our purpose in starting the company was to publish a Finnish translation of My Life with Master. This is not a history of Arkenstone, so I won’t go into details on that, but I should say that ever since then my gaming has been majorly influenced by my publishing and retail endeavours: Arkenstone retails foreign indie games in Finland, which practically means that I buy games that I like and play them and sell them. We’ve also translated a bunch of games, all of which I’ve ended up playing in large amounts – look at the Arkenstone oeuvre and you’ll see what I’ve been playing through the recent years.
An important consequence of all this has been a new change in the social environment of my gaming. Ultimately I moved out of Helsinki (ending our Bextropolis campaign) and back to Upper Savo because I decided to abandon my academic aspirations; my recent roleplaying experiences had convinced me that I wanted to be an artist, not a scientist (a rough dichotomy that has haunted me ever since my early teens). This of course meant abandoning my friends in Helsinki and finding new people to game with. Consequently I nowadays boast two different circles of gaming buddies: on the one hand I have the local teenagers whom I groom into gamers as necessary; we play boardgames and roleplaying games, often playtesting something for me or playing historically significant games to widen the horizons for the teenagers. On the other hand I have people such as Sami Koponen and Olli Kantola, to name a couple, who live in different parts of the country, but with whom I play whenever I have a chance. The latter I’ve met and grown friendly with largely due to my cultural endeavours in roleplaying: Arkenstone has brought me friends, in other words.
Aside from pointing at the Arkenstone oeuvre and my own game design projects (about which I’ve written in this very blog lately), I can’t really say anything very definitive about my gaming through the last five years. It has all been very rich and varied, to such an extent that there’s hardly a corner of the roleplaying field that I wouldn’t have trawled lately. For example, just this last winter I’ve been playing a lot of dungeoneering adventure and playtests of the new edition of The Shadow of Yesterday, the two of which are in many ways quite the opposite ends of the roleplaying spectrum. When I’m not playtesting something of my own, I tend to end up playing something other designers are working on; I like helping others, so I might as well play their games and give some feedback if I’m going to play something anyway.