Crowdfunding a roleplaying game for kids

August 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m making an entry-level tabletop roleplaying game for kids. I started playing the D&D Red Box when I was 9, and so did pretty much everyone else in my generation. There hasn’t really been anything like that available in Finland, and from what I can tell, not really anywhere. (If there is, please correct me, but definitely nothing over here.)

Therefore I hope to publish a tabletop roleplaying game for kids 9-13 years old, and I’m raising money for it. Myrskyn sankarit (“Heroes of Storm”) is based on my earlier tabletop RPG, Myrskyn aika (“Age of Storm”) that was also the setting for the larp Dragonbane. Here’s the crowdfunding site: http://www.indiegogo.com/myrskynsankarit

The story is about a group of brave rebels who live in the forest and fight against an evil witch emperor, in the vein of Robin Hood, Star Wars and Knights of the Round Table. And yes, it will have lots of strong female characters, as well!

The initial version will be published in Finnish, but while I’m at it, why not aim for a bigger thing.

If I raise enough cash (and I think I will), I can publish this in Finnish. Hopefully we’ll get some supermarket distribution, but at least it’ll be available in all the gaming stores and the like. Now, after that, the translation into English won’t be too big a hassle. (I already have people to do that.)

But for all this to work, I need money NOW to pay for the printing, storage, postage, marketing and so on. I’ve just added a special international friendly “Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen” Perk for $75 that will get you a copy of the Finnish language box, a PDF of the English translation (if we get to that), and eventually a boxed copy in English or whatever your chosen language is (if we get to that). If the project doesn’t reach its funding, you won’t pay anything,

Here are the other Perks in English, in case you want to invest more!

We’ve already raised almost half of the money (in less than a third of the time), have 350 Facebook supporters, and yesterday the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo.com decided to honor us by having Myrskyn sankarit as one of the featured projects on their homepage! Please participate, and help spread the word!

http://www.indiegogo.com/myrskynsankarit

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Turku Manifesto in Polish

April 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

The Manifesto of the Turku School has been published in Polish as Manifest Szkoły Turku! The translator Oskar Mieczkowski was my host at Copernicon in Torun where I was the Guest of Honor last year. If you can read Polish, check it out here. Or read the Vow of Chastity here, and follow the comments, too.

Po tym, co do tej pory zostało tu napisane, łatwo domyślić się jakie są wzajemne stosunki pomiędzy Szkołą Turku a innymi szkołami myślenia o RPG – czyli pomiędzy Turkuistami a gamistami i dramaturgistami. Szkoła Turku walczy o bezpośrednie, ale też długofalowe cele eläytyjistów (immersjonistów) i symulacjonistów.

The English version and all the other Turku School texts are available here. The Manifesto has also been translated into French, Slovak, Russian and Italian.

The Manifesto of the Turku School is a roleplay-related controversial art essay focusing on character immersion.

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Solmukohta is awesome!

April 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Some thoughts and reminiscences from this year’s Solmukohta (Knutepunkt) in Finland. Solmukohta started as a conference/festival of Nordic larpers and has become a conference/festival of international larpers interested in the tradition of Nordic larp.

I’ve been a regular Knudepunkt goer since the third one in 1999. I haven’t missed a single event before last year’s one in Denmark. Which meant it was amazing to go back there this year when it was held in Helsinki.

This year apart from all the Nordics, I talked to people from Russia, Croatia, Israel, Germany, England, Latvia, Italy and the United States. On top of that I know we had visitors from pretty much all around Europe from Portugal to Latvia, from England to Bulgaria. So it’s really becoming international.

The editor of this year’s Solmukohta book States of Play, Juhana Pettersson, observed that ”Nordic larp” has become a tradition independent of the Nordic countries. So you can have Nordic larp in Mexico or Egypt. But you can also have larps in Finland that belong to some other tradition or remain more or less unaffected by that tradition. And that way you can even have Nordic larp being in dialogue with Finnish larp, and I guess my own Täällä Kirjokannen alla had quite a bit of that going on.

For me the whole experience started with the Nordic Larp Talks on Wednesday in Club PRKL in downtown Helsinki. You can see my talk titled How To Become a God, and all the others here.

Would you buy a used god from this man? Photo by Tuomas Puikkonen.

Next day all three hundred and sixty of us got on buses that drove us to the conference hotel Kiljavanranta next to some lake in the middle of the Finnish forest with some patches of snow left.

I ran two programs this year. One was called the Folk Fantasy Workshop, based on my article in States of Play (PDF). I gave a short presentation on the world in Täällä Kirjokannen alla, and then we started workshoping on taking each participants’ own country/nation/tribe/city/identity and turning that into a folk fantasy world. We had people from Sweden, China, Croatia and Russia present, and we had hardly gotten started when we already had to stop. The workshop might’ve been over ambitious, but I think the participants still made some interesting connections and maybe had some ideas they can later use for whatever they wish.

The other item was originally titled Contacting the Characters Within You, a self-help kind of approach to taking the roles and characters we carry around with us and using them for other things. Since the workshop was scheduled for Sunday morning, I had to rename it Hangover Yoga Workshop (and Contacting the Characters With You).

We started with twenty minutes of simple yoga exercises designed not to feel too bad for the hungover people, and wake everybody up a little bit. Then we started meditating on the characters we’ve played trying to identify five archetypes. The Good One, The Trickster, The Leader, The Shadow and The Brain. Not everybody had experience with all of these, but I think people sort of got the idea. We examined each one a little bit, and then chose two of them. Those two we made our own, trying to develop their physical language and put them on and off faster and faster. The idea was that the participants could learn to call on these characters in tricky situations in their ordinary life. For example a test might be very difficult for the participant in their everyday role, but putting on the role of The Brain might help them deal with it better. Different situations might require taking on different roles, and these sorts of exercises will hopefully help people to identify them better.

I think the workshop was a success since many people came to thank me for it later. I’m not an expert yoga master, either, but I think that went fine, as well.

One of the many highlights was being able to buy an early copy of Leaving Mundania from the author Lizzie Stark. I knew who she was since people had told me she visited last year’s Knudepunkt in Copenhagen. Leaving Mundania is a non-fiction book about larpers and the larp scene. It mostly focuses on larp in the United States, but the last chapter is titled Knudepunkt Blew My Mind. It was thrilling to read an excited outsider’s perspectives on the whole scene and the games we play and the the people we know. Of course, Lizzie’s not an outsider anymore.

She signed my copy ”Turku this!” Ironically, I accidentally left the book in the Turku School room (all the rooms were named after concepts in larp theory). So I really did Turku it. The next day it was gone. If you have it, I want it back!

The Pan-European tv drama / larp / transmedia experience The Spiral (formerly The Artists) is partly built by larpers, specifically Martin Ericsson and Adriana Skarped.  They showed us a sneak preview of the tv show’s trailer, which seemed really cool. Parts of the whole thing are made through a larp, as some sort of mocumentary. Difficult to explain, but you should totally follow it when it airs in September in several European countries including Finland. Or take part in the larp parts – it’s not too late!

Some players of The Spiral with game mistress Adriana Skarped in the middle.

The social aspect is very important in these events. Even though I went to bed quite early on two nights, I had a chance to party it out Saturday. DJ Hakkis’s 90’s gothic hits marathon was well appreciated! Also interesting discussions on commercial larps in Siberia, how Taoism relates to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin, politics in Israeli larps, German film funding, the great roleplaying theories of the day, capitalism and socialism in post-apocalyptic Swedish larps and lots of other great stuff.

There’s an influential indie roleplaying scene mostly in the US, but also internationally, that used to be associated with the forum The Forge. Over the years they’ve sent one or two ambassadors that usually get converted, but this time it seemed like there was a whole faction of these great people. Some came to preach, others to listen, but continuing this dialogue between ambitious clicks is very fruitful. The Swedish/Danish jeepform tradition is, I think, a sort of love/hate child between Nordic larp, US indie and Danish tabletop. The US indie crowd is discussing Solmukohta at the Story Games forum.

Ideas on jobs available for larpers because of their larping skils.

Some random notes  I made during the event:
“We have a special way of playing the post-death game.” -Alexey Fedoseev on Russian larps.
A StPetersburg game had in-game elections. If the conservatives won, the city was taken into history. With liberals, to the future.
Larps are not artificial, they are artifactual.
The Hollow Man Syndrome = there is no character, the player has to use their own experiences.
Read the book The Art of Curating Worship, a guidebook for Christian priests.

Solmukohta 2012 appreciation thread: http://laivforum.net/threads/20275-Solmukohta-2012-appreciation-thread!
Solmukohta talk on Twitter is here: https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23sk2012
My Nordic Larp Talk: http://nordiclarptalks.org/post/20957499776/how-to-become-a-god-mike-pohjola

A Finnish delicacy with an informative sign.

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Nordic Larp Talks and State of Play

April 11, 2012 at 8:48 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

If you’re interested in what’s going on in the fields of participation, interaction or roleplaying, I recommend spending this evening at Club PRKL in Helsinki or online following the webcast. It’s the publishing of the new Solmukohta journal States of Play followed by Nordic Larp Talks.

The doors open at 6pm, the excellent book States of Play is published at 7, and Nordic Larp Talks hosted by Johanna Koljonen starts at 8!

States of Play is edited by Juhana Pettersson and has dozens of really interesting articles on the design, theory, documentation and results of the cutting edge Nordic tradition of live roleplaying. My article Folk Fantasy deals with Täällä Kirjokannen alla and what I think might be the dawn of a new era in the fantasy genre. The book is also published as a free PDF.

Now, here’s some info on Nordic Larp Talks:

We are proud to welcome you to Nordic Larp Talks Helsinki 2012 – an evening of entertaining, thought-provoking and mind-boggling lectures about projects and ideas from the Nordic tradition of live action roleplaying games.

The talks are presented by writer, radio & television host as well as winner of the innovator category of this year’s The Swedish Grand Journalism Prize award, Johanna Koljonen.

You can follow the talks live streamed on nordiclarptalks.org Wednesday April 11th 8pm EEST or at the PRKL club in central Helsinki, Kaisaniemenkatu 4.

Speakers
Mike Pohjola – How to become a god
Johanna Macdonald – From stage to larp
JP Kaljonen – The interplay between player and man in the street
Jesper Bruun – Experimental Larp Design
Lizzie Stark – Playing in Graveyards: Terror collides with larp in New York City

My presentation, How To Become A God, deals with the history of drama from Dionysian rituals to reality television, and beyond, and how all of this relates to roleplaying. While doing that, I’ll also answer a puzzling point in Aristotle’s Poetics that’s been bugging theatre scholars for three thousand years.

See you there!

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Trailer for Son of Man

September 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

My autobiographical Jesus novel Son of Man will be published tomorrow in Finnish. As I’m writing this, the translation rights are still up for grabs, but in the mean time here’s a trailer for the book. If you represent a publisher or know of people who do, make sure you check it out.

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New Knudebooks online!

February 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

The roleplaying conference Knutepunkt 2011 is going on as I type. For the first time since 1999 I’m not attending, but I’ve written a short essay on one of the books. Yes, one of the books, since this year they had three books! You can download them all as PDFs.

Do Larp has manuscripts an blueprints for several recent larps, Think Larp has academic articles on larp, and Talk Larp has various rants and essays on larp. That’s the one I’ve contributed to.


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Nordic Larp is coming out!

December 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My friends Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola have been working for eighteen months on a huge photo book about the most ambitious larps in the Nordic countries. Nordic Larp will be published today Wednesday. I got my copy Tuesday afternoon, and it’s worthy of much praise!

The book has thirty excellent live roleplaying games from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Some games I’ve been involved in creating (Luminescence, inside:outside, Europa, PanoptiCorp, Dragonbane), in others I’ve been a player (Helsingin Camarilla, Ground Zero, The Executive Game, Hamlet, Zombie, Mellan himmel och hav, Silmäpuoli merirosvo), and all of them I’ve heard lots of good things about.

During the fifteen larp years in the book, the scene has deal with gender roles, society, cancer, Norway’s Nazi occupation, the mafia, nationality, insanity, capitalism, Shakespeare and the homeless, and adventure with vampires, dragons, steampunk spaceships, pirates and dead spirits that communicate through radio. Many of these in the same game.

My article In Prison With Kafka and Beckett is about inside:outside (2001-2002), a larp Eirik Fatland and I designed, and Irene Tanke produced, that was my first larp to be exhibited in an art gallery. The book has eight pages of text an Frode Dybvad’s photos for the game. While the pictures are good, many more articles are much more visual, since the originals were somehow lost in the Faroe Islands in Frode’s bag. (I think this accurately displays what a huge undertaking Stenros and Montola had in getting photos of some of the older games.)

Since a larp is an immediate work that cannot be recorded or reproduced, editing and publishing a book like this is a great deed for the whole culture. Without one the visionary live roleplaying games of old would remain only in the dimming memories of its participants and turn into vague stories told over proverbial campfires, but now they are documented with visual proof. With this book the history of Nordic larp is immortalized.

I obviously haven’t read the whole tome yet, but after browsing it, I can tell it’s full of interesting articles and brilliant photo pages. The book will be available online and in select bookstores, but you can also get it at the publishing party today on Wednesday, Dec 22th.

There will be four or five simultaneous parties held in Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, at least. The parties kick off at 19:00 local time. The Stockholm part fill be held in Betahaus (Skeppsholmen 30), and in Helsinki the location is Dubrovnik Lounge (Eerikinkatu 11). Locations for Oslo and Copenhagen will be announced here.

The parties are also connected to each other with a live stream. You can also watch the video online in real time, or take part by Tweeting (#nordiclarp). (I promise not everyone there dubs themselves a Social Media Expert!)

Welcome!

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The Golden Dragon!

July 25, 2010 at 7:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The main event of the roleplaying year, Ropecon, is just behind us. For seven years this is where the lifetime award Golden Dragon has been given to roleplaying luminaries, people whose games I’ve played as a kid, whose stores I’ve frequented and whose magazines I’ve read. In other words, I have quite alot of respect for these Grand Old Men of Finnish roleplaying.

Therefore I was both proud and humbled to receive the same recognition. In my thank you speech I was very touched but managed to speak for the future of the hobby.

A summary of the Finnish press release:

PmWikiMike Pohjola has been influential in the field since the mid 90s. His live roleplaying games have been played in cultural centers and art galleries. His publications include the roleplaying games Myrskyn aika (2003), Star Wreck Roleplaying Game (2006), and Tähti (2007). In addition Pohjola has published Sanaleikkikirja (2008), and the YA novel Kadonneet kyyneleet (2008).

Pohjola is also a founding member in The Company P, that won the International Emmy for Best Interactive Tv Service in 2008 for Sanningen om Marika. Right now he’s working on The Conspiracy For Good mega-project that premiered last Saturday in London. The Nokia-sponsored Conspiracy For Good is a project that combines participatory storytelling and gaming and lets players search clues with new mobile technology to progress in the story and help charities. The creative visionary of the project is Tim Kring, the showrunner of the tv show Heroes.

Thank you so much! It’s a really great feeling to be recognized by your own people in such a way.

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Ashterdam

April 20, 2010 at 10:24 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Because of the ash cloud I’m stuck in Amsterdam with my wife. The sun is shining and we don’t have to pay for the expenses, so it could be worse. But I’m still missing on lots of cool stuff.

A week ago I flew to London for a short work gig with The company P. On Wednesday evening I took a plane from Heathrow to Amsterdam, where my wife Elina and I took part in the EU-funded Languages Through Lenses short film workshop. Later this summer we’re going to make a short film based on our plans presented here, and we met some filmmakers from around the continent with similar plans.

On Thursday we found out about Eyjafjallajökull erupting, and on Friday the workshop was degenerating into chaos since everyone’s flights had to be reorganized. Our return trip was supposed to be on Saturday evening.

My intent was to leave Helsinki on Sunday morning and take the train to Turku, where they were rehearsing 1827 – Infernal Musical. I admit, the week was packed quite tight. This mandatory vacation has certainly taught me something about both flying on aeroplanes and being so damn busy all the time.

On Sunday the troupe in Turku read the book of the heavy metal musical for the first time, with what I assume was the final cast. Something like this is always a magical moment, and I hated to miss it. Especially since I’d only finished the script a few days before. The comments from actors and the rest of the crew have been very positive, and the project became much more concrete for everyone. I can’t wait to attend some of the reading rehearsals myself.

Funnily enough, while I was writing the text that eponymously takes place in the Turku Fire of 1827, I was thinking whether or not to mention the huge vulcanic eruption of 1815. It covered the entire planet in an ash cloud that resulted in a ”Year Without a Summer”. It was cold, crops were ruined, people were starving, European cities had food riots.

As a side note, four writers were summer vacationing in Switzerland in that year of 1816, but because of the vulcanic winter the weather was so bad they just stayed inside and held a horror story contest. Thus was born Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – A Modern Prometheus, and John Polidori’s ur-Dracula The Vampyre. Two of popular culture’s central figures were born vecause of the summerless year. Lord Byron taking part in the same contenst later wrote the apocalyptic poem Darkness about the that year.

I left the vulcano out of the dialogue, since I thought nobody would believe a vulcanic eruption could have such global consequences. Now I’m stuck in Amsterdam because Eyjafjallajökull is spewing ash into the atmosphere. From Facebook and cell phone I’ve managed to soak in some of the mood of the reading. Here’s a picture of the event. (The reading, not the eruption.)

On this weekend Sweden hosts Knutpunkt, where I was going to hold three programme items. A Jesus-themed larp called Messiah, a ritual workshop with Erlend Eidsem and assisting Martin Elricsson in the presentation. The first I canceled and the two latter will be taken over by the others.

Right now it looks like we’ll leave ’Dam on a night train to Copenhagen, change trains there or in Malmö, and arrive in Katrineholm near where Knutpunkt is being held. We’d take part in the Punkt’s last evening, continue from there with bus to Stockholm and take the ferry to Helsinki. If nothing goes wrong…

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The Turku Manifesto turns ten

February 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

It was published a day before, and I was selling them at a convention. When I gave Mika Loponen a copy, her burned it at the ash tray. Everyone was watching and cheering. ”Get them while they’re hot,” I yelled.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Manifesto of the Turku School. It is a roleplaying manifesto promoting character immersion as a player goal, and honest world simulation as a game master goal. It may be the most talked about thing I’ve written so far.

At the time the discussion on roleplaying theory was mostly centered around the question ”should there be roleplaying theory or is it ruining our hobby?” Some of tried to talk about the theory and practice of what we find interesting, and were blamed for ruining the fun for everyone, since you’re not supposed to take it too seriously, it’s supposed to just be fun. But is it good fun? What do you mean by fun? Is it fun to play something horrible happening to your character? Is it fun if the game master pulls everything out of his ass? Aren’t some kinds of fun better experienced if you really try to feel what the character feels, instead of just going through the motions?

In the summer of 1999 Norwegian roleplaying theorists Eirik Fatland and Lars Wingård wrote the Dogma 99, a ”Programme for the Liberation of LARP”. They argued that larp can be a meaningful medium for artistic expression and that you should take it seriously. We agreed on that. Then they went on to treat roleplaying games more as acting than as character immersion, and made the game master a linear storyteller instead of an interactive or multilinear enabler. I couldn’t stand for that, of course, and had to write the first part of the until then speculational manifesto. This became the Larper’s Vow of Chastity, published in the fall of 1999.

Dogma 99, like it’s Danish predecessor Dogme 95, contained rules that a game master could try out to challenge their way of making art. Most people understood the rules as something every game must adhere to according to the writers, and dismissed the whole thing. The Turku Larper’s Vow of Chastity did contain such rules, meant to be be obeyed when playing in a Turku style larp. ”I shall not speak out of character during a game”, and so on. Most people noticed that the player is also expected to follow the game master’s vision, and misinterpreted this completely assuming that this meant the character’s wouldn’t have free will within the game. I probably should’ve written it better.

Nevertheless, the Vow got lots of discussion, and I decided to go ahead with writing the Manifesto itself. The annual Nordic larp conference Knutepunkt was taking place in Helsinki that year, and there was a pre-party at (now celebrity journalist) Johanna Koljonen’s mother’s place. That was Wednesday 23rd of February, 2000. That’s where I first gave and sold copies of the manifesto that I’d written in the preceding couple of days, and picked up at the printers’ that morning. The title had a typo, since I didn’t know ”manifest” and ”manifesto” are two different things.

There was not yet a tradition for conference journals on roleplaying theory, so people were pretty amazed, and also amused. A copy of the manifesto was burned to protest its horrors. There was a panel discussion where Eirik Fatland and I duked it out. Later Eirik Fatland and I became fast friends, organizing many larps together, such as inside:outside and (with Juhana Pettersson) I Regret Nothing.

Next year and the year after that, people started writing their own manifestos in response to the Turku Manifesto and Dogma 99, and there was a Roihuvuori Manifesto, Meilahti Style, Bristol Manifesto, the Manifesto Manifesto, The Manifest Sunday, and dozens of others. Some were about roleplaying theory, some were parodies, most were descriptions of the writers’ own preferred styles without trying to force it upon anybody else. (Although then they’re not really manifestos, if I may say so.)

The manifesto creeps up every now and again in silly online discussions and such, and new people get angry at it. (Check out this one archived from 4chan!) Then somebody points out there’s a nice idea here or there, and the discussion turns into one of roleplaying theory. And occasionally somebody likes the text so much they want to translate it into their own language. So far we have Le Manifeste de l’Ecole de Turku in French, Manifest Školy Turku in Slovak, and Manifest Školy Turku in Czech. Today I’m publishing the Russian translation by Larnir Haigh. Enjoy!

I’ve since written some other articles that I view as part of the Turku School canon, and am working on my BA and MA theses at the Aalto University of Art and Design in Helsinki. They will deal with familiar topics including larps, rituals, Aristotle, Nietzsche and character immersion. The Turku School will live on.

I’m thinking of doing something cool about regarding the Manifesto at this year’s Knutpunkt in Stockholm. Any ideas?

And finally, to celebrate this anniversary, here are some more photos from 2000. Can you recognize all the current game researchers and bigwigs then in their blossoming youth?

Portrait of the author as a young man.

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