Drakar och Demoner debatteras

Lagom till att det blir 30 år sedan Drakar och Demoner kom ut i sin första version, har en debatt om dess kvaliteter och betydelse kommit igång bland rollspelsbloggare, till exempel här , här, här och här.

Drakar och Demoner är en verktygslåda för gör-det-självare. Det var så jag tänkte när jag vidareutvecklade spelet 1985-89. Uppenbarligen fann strategin gehör bland svenska gamers. Ingenjören och byggaren har haft hög status i vår världsbild alltsedan John Ericsson och Gustaf Dahlén uppfann samhällsförbättrande nyttigheter på 1800-talet. Med Drakar och Demoners regler bygger man själv riken, rollpersoner, borgar, besvärjelser och så vidare. Ett mekano-kit för rollspelare? Jo, jag tror nog det. Jag var en entusiastisk mekano-pulare som barn. Sättet att tänka behöll jag när jag blev rollspelare 1977 och omedelbart började bygga egna spelregler, kampanjer och världar. När jag blev professionell spelkonstruktör tack vare lyckosamma omständigheter ville jag visa för alla gamers vilka fördelar denna designfilosofi hade. Det verkar som om jag lyckades och det har förblivit ett glädjeämne än idag, ett halvt liv senare.

The Experience of Being European (3)

About a month ago, I started writing about how being from a small country in northern Europe influences my writing. I enjoy creating alternate histories (uchronias) for the modern world in my games and stories. I start at some event in the past, let it have a radically different outcome than in reality and build a modified time line to an appropriate “now”. Interestingly, I often “delete” the American revolution of 1776, either by letting it not happen at all or by letting the rebels fail. This has not been any conscious anti-American strategy, but a handling of the flow of events in manner that I find plausible.

The rebellion in 1776 has been one of the most world-changing events — at least that I can imagine — in the past few centuries, because it led to the creation of a new continental state of the same magnitude as the far older Russia and China. This state has been able to handle macroeconomics in a far more constructive way than other two: its big population and enormous industrial base have influenced the course of modern world history significantly.

A North America without the United States would have been fragmented into several competing states or colonies with French, British, Spanish and Russian ties. None would have the “immensity” or the “go” of the United States. So when I posit alternate Earths, they tend to become more Europe-centered, more authoritarian and less advanced in technology than the original. Russia becomes a major benefactor in global politics, because it can exploit its hugeness better.

Whether it is fully realistic is hard to say, but to me it is at least plausible. The political ideas of 1776 influenced countries all over the world. The economic “pushy spirit” in the US has lead to innovations in all fields of technology. And the material resources of this huge state enabled the Western democratic nations to survive and outlast three authoritarian adversaries during the 20th century.

Facing the future as an author (1)

Two novels self-published this autumn. Both have received favorable reviews and the reviewers ask for more stories in the same vein. Cheering news indeed.

Yes, I want to go on writing and I have solid ideas for both the dieselretro world of Iskriget and the fantasy world Gondica. It is mainly a matter of how to organize my time, which currently is notoriously short. Three kids and a regular nine-to-five employment as a tech writer. (I started a new career during the autumn after having had only temporary employments after my return from Afghanistan in early 2009. So free time is in shorter supply than before whereas the family economy has gotten a nice boost by the paycheck arriving at the end of every month.)

Stephen King writes in On Writing about the self-discipline required by a professional author. Fredrick Pohl spoke of the same matter in his autobiography that I read many years ago. Scheduling is the main issue. If I would write one A4 page a day, that will mean 20-30 pages in a month. 150 such pages equals one novel, because I don’t do books the Robert Jordan way. (Actually I have been commended by reviewers for the deft use of 300 pages for telling an exciting adventure that other writers would turn into a multi-volume story.)

The Year Is 1896 and the Place Is … Mars

In 1989, the now defunct American game publisher GDW produced an odd role-playing game called Space 1889. A mix of ideas from Jules Verne, HG Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett and Percival Lowell: Earth-built ethercraft exploring the solar system, whose planets are as they should be in classic adventure fiction, that is Mars with canals and decaying civilizations, Venus with jungles, etcetera.

During the 1990s my game group ran on and off a lengthy campaign taking the adventurers to odd corners of the solar system, including a Doyle-ish London, an Oscarian Stockholm and a Tolstoyan Odessa. It was the most amusing RPG experience the gang has ever had. But when my kids started to arrive around the turn of the millennium, my priorities changed, I ceased to be gamemaster and the campaign went into limbo.

This December it has been resurrected. It is currently 10 November 1896 and the Czar’s cousin Grand Duchess Alexandra Ivanovna arrives at the Red Planet. Duke Gorklimskii (Иван Карлович Горклимский), Russian resident-commissioner in the occupied city of Gorklimsk, hosts a splendid reception for his distant relative. Old enemies lurk in nearby cities and we fear that the rabble-rouser Madwaan will ignite another Martian revolt against the hated Earthmen. This promises to be an exciting winter.

The Adventurer’s Origin (4)

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in a small rural community in southwestern Sweden. It is located on a tiny sliver of flat farmland between the sea to the west and a range of craggy hills to east, covered by an arid coniferous forest interspersed by lakes and bogs. To the north was the port city of Gothenburg, Sweden’s gateway to the Atlantic, bisected by a wide river.

In those lively years just before becoming teenager, I belonged to a gang of boys who explored this particular world on bicycles. We were adventurers, at least to ourselves, biking across the long suspension bridge at the mouth of the river and going down to the quays and warehouses on its north side. We went far into the forest to the military firing range where we gathered treasures in the form of spent cartridges. In that forest, there was also a deep clear lake into which we dived on hot summer days.

And as an adult, I see that these experiences have left deep traces in my mind. Port cities, oceans, ships, deep forests and slow rivers are recurrent in my creations, be they stories or games. The steamships of the Mutant RPG’s Pyri world, the cloudships of the Ice War world, Gondica’s Dire-weald taiga with its many rivers, the bustling spaceports of my Traveller campaign. When I wrote about Gondor for the MERP game, I put a lot of effort in describing the ships and navies of Pelargir and Umbar.

The Adventurer’s Origin (3)

I remember salt smoke from a beach fire
And shadows under the pines —
Solid, clean . . . fixed —
Seagulls perched at the tip of land,
White upon green . . .
And a wind comes through the pines
To sway the shadows;
The seagulls spread their wings,
And fill the sky with screeches.
And I hear the wind
Blowing across our beach,
And the surf,
And I see that out fire
Has scorched the seaweed.

–Frank Herbert