Ropecon and new Finnish rpg products

Ropecon is the large annual rpg convention here in Finland, with some 3000-4000 visitors each year. I missed it last year due to Gencon scheduling, but this time around I again managed to participate.

Ropecon is the traditional time for Finnish rpg publication, and people usually hold publication lectures for their new products there. Around the beginning of the decade we used to get one new product per year from one or other rpg enthusiast, ranging from garage-creations to mainstream bookstore publications. This year we have something like 6-10 different products published here in Finland, depending on whether I count stuff published outside Ropecon as well; perhaps it’s the indie ethos or some such, but we’re clearly getting more rpg products than we used to.

Ropecon itself went fine from my viewpoint, although I’d like it if people had more time to stop and just talk there. The convention organization has finally accomplished my long-term project: a room specifically dedicated to demos, playtesting and other interaction of game designers coming to the convention. I found that this works very well in practice, not the least because I could just hang in one room for the whole convention and have all the interesting stuff happen right there. I hope very emphatically that this set-up will be retained in the future, with perhaps other designers spending more time on location as well. I met many newbies with questions, and people came there often to ask about designers or products they wanted demos for, which I couldn’t provide because some designers only visited to run their scheduled material.

But, products. These are the new publications I’m aware of:

  • There was Itran kaupunki, a translation of the Norwegian rpg Itras By (“The City of Itra”, more or less), designed by Ole Peder Giæver and Martin Bull Gudmundsen, published by the new “Nordic Roleplaying Association”, a Finnish society dedicated to cross-cultural rpg exchange between Finland and other Nordic countries. (I don’t know much about the association’s nature at this point, aside from the fact that it’s spearheaded by the same people who publish the Roolipelaaja rpg magazine, well-known rpg activists all.) I’ve mostly skimmed the game so far; I like the surrealist setting, but haven’t found any rules material yet – I’ve been told that the game has some sort of oracular freeform system. We’ll see.
  • Another game published by the aforementioned association was by its chairman Juhana Pettersson, by the name of Ikuisuuden laakso (“Valley of Eternity”). I skimmed most of this as well already, seems like a very specific fantasy setting coupled to simple adventuring rules set. The setting is an impressively low-profile fantasy about a penguin caste society in the Antarctica; the rules seem incoherent, I’ll probably need to examine the material in depth to figure out how the game works. My first impression is that it tries to be a simple introductory adventure game, but I don’t know how the setting plays to that.
  • E.N.O.C. is a new game by Miska Fredman, the erstwhile creator of Heimot, one of the more ambitious roleplaying games in Finland through this decade. I’ve still to read the game in detail, but the purpose seems to be to provide a compact traditional adventure scenario with quick rules all in one place; Miska calls this the “ready to play” concept. From what I’ve heard the game seems to lose my friends with the encumbrance rules and such, but I’ll have to look at it myself to judge.
  • Hounds of the Sea is a light, oracular pirate storytelling game from Jukka Sorsa and Ville Takanen, two Finnish rpg hobbyists. The rules are available on their website, the game itself consists mostly of a deck of cards. Very compact and nice-looking, I just fear that the guys don’t have enough distribution muscle for their large print run. I’ve read the game and can pretty much see how it plays; this might be the mechanically most robust design from this Ropecon, although it might suffer from oracular exhaustion at this point: we’ve had many similar games both here and internationally through the last couple of years. I’d have liked to sell the game at Gencon this year, as it’s published in English; maybe next year.
  • Efemeros #2 is the second issue of a journal headed by Sami Koponen. The last issue was a strongly Forgey thing with theory articles, while this one is a supplement for the most popular Finnish rpg ever, Praedor. The distribution model is very modest and feasible (insofar as Sami remains happy with his limited audience), and the product has already been judged excellent by most authorities; Efemeros might be the product with the most punch out of this lot, albeit with extremely narrow appeal.
  • I also got a look at not one, but several, product ashcans at Ropecon! The pirate guys above are creating a fantasy game, the good ol’ Witch Court is already at ashcan stage and there are not one, but two small companies pushing out boardgame releases here. Also, Glorantha people are considering a translation of the new Heroquest while also preparing a new issue of Zin Letters, their zine – major activity all around.
  • What else, what else… other things published this year in Finland include at least Aulos by Karoliina Korppoo, a minor game created as a part of her diploma work; Death Frost Doom (and other publications) by James Raggi, an immigrant old school gamer; my own World of Near, which will technically be revealed at Gencon, but legally published in Finland. Then there is the Finnish rpg magazine Roolipelaaja, still coming out regularly even if I don’t get it anymore for some reason. And I’m probably forgetting something or other here.

As can be seen, the Finnish rpg publishing scene is going through quite a renaissance here! I expect that most of these products will be frustrated by our small markets, leading to stagnated sales and little feedback; I urge the designers to look for international contacts and start preparing their translations; a well-made game is too good of a thing at this day and age to not make it available internationally. If it’s what it takes, I’ll personally reserve a Gencon booth for y’all for next year. If any logistical advice is required, I’m at your disposal.

(The above doesn’t quite go for those of you who want to seriously try to crack the Finnish mainstream distro, which I sort of smell from some of these products. It’s a fine endeavour, and one I would consider myself with the right product. Let me know if you need help with ideas or execution.)

Also, I need to write a separate post about our play experiences at Ropecon. It’ll follow soon after this one.

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