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.