Fastaval, Mark Rein-Hagen, Bona the Robot!

April 14, 2014 at 9:55 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m going to spend Easter at the legendary Danish gaming convention Fastaval. (This is my first time, so forgive me, if I’m off on some details.)

Unelma keltaisesta kuninkaasta.

Fastaval is not your average convention — it specializes in incredibly tight auteur-designed roleplaying scenarios. A bunch of people run each scenario for players, not just the creator. There’s awards for best scenarios in different categories.

The Society for Nordic Roleplaying published a collection of these scenarios translated into Finnish a few years ago, called Unelma keltaisesta kuninkaasta ja muita tanskalaisia roolipelejä (A Dream of a King in Yellow, and other Danish roleplaying games. Edited by Kristoffer Apollo, Juhana Pettersson and Tobias Wrigstad).

Because it’s my first time at Fastaval, I want to get as much out of it as possible. I didn’t have time to offer my own scenario to be run there, but I will be running the scenario Stories from Bona: The Robot by Jesper Bisgaard, René Toft and Ulrik Høyer Kold. It is atmospheric sci-fi, inspired by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag’s images with automated agricultural machinery, giant satellites and rusty robot wrecks scattered in the Swedish wilderness.

In Stories From Bona: The Robot you play four children living in central Sweden backwater that take a stand against superior forces and lose. The scenario is melancholy rural science fiction for those who go back when they think about the future. It is quiet counterfactual social realism in large landscapes.

Simon Stålenhag: Decoy.

I’ll also be chatting with legendary Vampire: The Masquerade creator Mark Rein-Hagen about role-playing games, crowdfunding, and other interesting stuff. That’s at 16:15 on Saturday!

Special guest talk: Q and A with Mark Rein-Hagen and Mike Pohjola
Crowdfunding your game – How and why?
In the last few years published RPGs, card games and board games have discovered a new form of financing: crowdfunding. It allows designers to bypass the traditional channels of publishers, distributors and retailers and go straight to the gamers who get to vote with their wallets.Fastaval guest of honor Mark Rein-Hagen (Democracy Card Game and I Am Zombie) and Finnish rpg designer Mike Pohjola (Age of the Tempest) discuss their crowdfunded games, the how-tos and no-gos when funding games on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and alike. Audience participation welcome.

I’ll also have some special announcements about my beginner-friendly role-playing game Myrskyn sankarit (Age of the Tempest), and I’ll carry around an ultra-rare copy of the English translation. It’s not for sale yet, but feel free to check it out if you’re around!

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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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Awarded at Prix Europa!

November 2, 2010 at 9:30 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

The short film The Forest of Babel by Elina and me (produced by Pohjola-filmi) won at Prix Europa in the category Languages Through Lenses! The award gala was held at Haus des Rundfunks, and televised live in Germany. Present were just about all the European public broadcasting CEOs, Directors of Drama and the coolest creatives. Not bad 🙂

Watch the movie here!

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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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Year in Status

December 19, 2009 at 11:23 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A fun Facebook app made a collage of the status updates I’ve had over the year. Quite a nice collection, excluding the fact that I also got married somewhere in there 🙂

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Toilet graffiti from Greenland

October 26, 2009 at 3:53 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I haven’t yet posted any pics from our Greenland trip, but the last night we spent in a hostel… which had a toilet… which had a door… which had a picture scratched into it with a key. It’s probably the most brilliant graffiti I’ve ever seen.

kaiverrus0

kaiverrus1

kaiverrus2

But what is it?

kaiverrus3

kaiverrus_teksti_www

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The Pohjola Wedding 8/22/2009

August 27, 2009 at 6:17 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I got married this Saturday to my bride Elina Lindroos, and made her my wife Elina Pohjola. In a couple of hours we’ll be on our honeymoon in Denmark and Greenland, and can’t be reached via e-mail until September 10th.

Our wedding had a Kalevala theme, and was appropriately called The Pohjola Wedding. The color was purple. The amount (and quality) of congratulatory speeches surprised all the guests, not to mention ourselves. The ceremony itself happened on top of a hillfort by a judge and a shaman. We are really happy 🙂

Here’s a couple of photos (by Claus Raasted and Saara Malmila), more through these links:

http://www.clausraasted.dk/pohjolawedding
http://www.flickr.com/photos/henriblock/sets/72157622018650239/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaana-mari/sets/72157622129659180/

ulostulo

pohjolawedding8

pohjolawedding17

naiset

pohjolawedding13

riisia

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A literary prize for Kadonneet kyyneleet

June 18, 2009 at 8:53 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

About a week ago I visited the city of Varkaus in Eastern Finland. As part of their week-long children’s culture festival, they awarded the prize for year’s best young people’s book to my novel Kadonneet kyyneleet.

The winner was chosen by a jury consisting of six 10 to 12-year-olds. They read seven children’s and young adults books, and chose their favorite. Many adults had called Kadonneet kyyneleet too difficult or too dark for young people, but kids proved them wrong!

Grown up literature is divided into entertainment like detective stories and romances on one hand, and quality literature on the other. But many seem to think that bulk literature is enough for kids. Fantasy series and horse books. Kadonneet kyyneleet strives to be quality literature for young people, and it’s simply fantastic that it’s recognized as such. This is the only award in Finland given to a young people’s book by the readers themselves.

The event was touching: an eight-year-old sang accompanied by a piano, a speech from representatives of the local cultural board and the sponsoring paper factory, then the child jury got on stage, and revealed the winner. Then I got up, and was given a fruit basket and said a few words myself.

The money (3500e) will come in handy since I try to combine the lives of an artist, an enterpreneur and a student, three venues not known for their great wages…

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Knutepunkt, day five: Sunday

May 4, 2009 at 9:14 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Jaakko had convinced me to play Jiituomas Harviainen’s Prayers on a Porcelain Altar in the morning just after breakfast. It was the perfect thing to do in the morning with everybody tired and hungover.

The game was about a bunch of arrogant young actors the day after the entrance exams to the Finnish Theatre Academy. They’d partied heavily, and everybody had hazy recollections of what happened last night. A sort of murder mystery structure there (”Who slept with whom? Why am I bruised in the stomach?”), but just enough to give us something to play on.

The real core of the game was in the interplay between the characters. Nobody was feeling too great physically, everyone was nervous about how they did in the exams, trying to make others feel bad or just pick a fight for the hell of it. A great thing to play in this tired state of mind when everybody could just sit on the couches in nearly horizontal positions and slander others.

Harviainen had plugged this as ”a game where everybody is really hungover and nobody remembers anything about last night”, which had put me off for a long time, but it turned out to be quite meaningful and interesting. I’d heard someone had performed Faust in the previous day’s run, and gave myself permission to recite Hamlet. (Having done a piece of the same monologue in Klingon the previous night and now redoing it in more length in English gave it a slightly surreal context for me.)

All in all, a very interesting experience. Harviainen is definitely one of the foremost con larp artists I know of.

After the game it was time to pack our bags and get on the busses that took most people to Oslo Central Station and the rest of us to Gardaemon Airport. Our plane didn’t leave until seven so we had many an hour to spare at Peppes Pizza talking about larp and business and roleplaying and art and science and research and life and whatnot.

Tobias Wrigstad made two rapid-pace interview videos asking people at Knutepunkt what they thought was the cool. The One Cool Thing videos are on Youtube here and here. Apparently there’s lots of other similar videos from other cons, so I guess it’s some sort of indie rpg con trend.

Apart from the amazing Knutebook Larp, Universe and Everything, I got three other great books to bring home with me. One from Tronsmo was Lipstick Traces – Secret History of the 20th Century recommended by Martin to me some months ago. Claus Raasted had published a photo book about the larps he’d ran in 2008. It’s almost two hundred pages long with awesome pictures. And finally, I got a signed copy of Itras by, the Norwegian tabletop rpg set in the surrealist 20s. It’s being translated into Finnish even as we speek. More or that later.

I was a bit worried about being allowed back on the plane without my passport or any sort of ID, but fortunately I managed to talk the airport personnel into contacting Finnish immigration who gave them permission to let me through security.

All in all, this was a great Knutepunkt. Relaxed, inspiring, with just the right combination of heavy partying, sotto conversations, larping, rituals and theory.

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Knutepunkt, day four: Saturday

April 29, 2009 at 8:14 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I may have forgotten several key details about last night, including a strange improvised midnight quest with one master Daniel Krauklis. Also, I met a man with long fingernails and long blonde hair, whom the Norwegians had dubbed ”The young Mike Pohjola.” Nice fellow, so not exactly like me.

I had signed up for lots of programme Saturday morning, but slept through most of it, only waking up in time to attend the end discussion of Jiituomas Harviainen’s lecture where they talked about the differences and similarities between ritual and larp. A shame I missed it, but fortunately there will be articles coming up on the topic.

I woke Martin up, dragged him to lunch, and we started rigging up for our presentation. I’m not often hungover, but for some unknown reason that curse afflicted me this day. Head aching, nausea, confusion, all that good stuff.

The Knutepunkt practical arrangements were well taken care of, but I often noticed problems with the tech department. Sound cables missing, extension cords nowhere to be found, video projectors not set up in time, and so on. The guys working the tech were doing the best they could, but I think they simply didn’t have enough gear. Later in the evening I ended up borrowing my laptop to Erlend and Katri Lassila so they could show their films, that were apparently unplayable on the equipment at hand.

After everything was set up, we did our hour-and-a-half presentation, starting with Sanningen om Marika, and moving on from there. We created a sort of narrative around the fact that after last year’s Solmukohta we were just getting ready to fly to Cannes for the International Emmy Gala.

When we told the little tale of us sitting there in the gala, applying nail polish and flipping the passive media off, and winning the damn statue… people started applauding. That was  a real nice, warm moment. We, both of us, had spent so many years being the annoying guys in black, making outrageous claims and being accused for destroying the hobby by taking it in all the wrong directions, this was a great sense of community. No bitterness, no envy, just joy. (And rightly so, since we strongly feel this is the Nordic larpdom combining with traditional tv.)

Then we talked in length about Dollplay, and very, very, very briefly about two projects in the pipeline: The Artists and TEVA. To summarize: ”We can’t really say anything about these.” ”But maybe we can say which country it will begin in?” ”Well, it may begin in some individual country, or perhaps not.”

The last programme for me, apart from Erlend’s film, was a jeepform game in the style of talk show. The idea was to do a sort of ”This Is Your Life” kind of show with the audience improvising/roleplaying key points in the person’s life. It’s nice to make these kinds of experiments, but I didn’t really think it worked. It was just over-long impro theatre with no unifying plot, and no point.

After the programme there was plenty of hanging out, and visiting strange parties. The Czechs held a party in their cabin, serving foul tasting alcohol which I countered by bringing them some salmiakki. People sang songs from their native countries, which was surprisingly nationalistic for Knutepunkt, so I introduced myself as coming from the klingon homeworld. I was asked to sing klingon opera, but opted out playing a scene from the tragedy of Khamlet. (Jaakko approved, saying it’s much better in the original Klingon.)

Jukka and Hakkis ran two drinking workshops this year, instead of just the one. One was a secret drinking workshop, so I can’t really talk about that. The other one was a fifteen-minute port wine workshop (porttivartti) where we were joined by a really drunk and young Faroese first-timer, whom I dubbed Junior. He didn’t know who anybody was, which we found hilarious. Had we been less arrogant and drunk, we might’ve told him, but such was not the way of the Knutepunkt Saturday night.

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