Expert Nova: the next step

Recently, I published my new Swedish role-playing game Expert Nova at Lulu.com (link to the game in my Lulu shop >>>). Its is designed for real-world or science-fiction campaigns in the contemporary era (i.e. circa 1880 to 2050).

So far I have seen one review (it’s there at the game’s Lulu page); the reviewer awarded five stars out of five. I am eagerly waiting for the review in the Swedish game magazine Fenix later this autumn.

When I started working with Expert Nova in the late Spring, I made a mental survey of what role-playing games there currently are in the Swedish market. Half a dozen or more are competing the fantasy niche, each targeting a particular age or style segment. In the post-apocalyptic niche, there is one multi-faceted line, and as for space opera there are a few titles. But when I considered the contemporary/near future/near past niche, there was only one tentative competitor and it doesn’t resemble anything in my oeuvres.

In my gaming group (playing weekly or bimonthly since the 1980s), we have enjoyed several fairly low-key campaigns set in the 20th century, e.g. cops in Vermont 1931 or in Los Angeles 2003; freewheeling British intelligence officers in WW2; Soviet investigators of UFO phenomena in 1956; pulpish adventurers in 1930s Far and Middle East; and so on. So I made up my mind and wrote Expert Nova as a set of flexible rules for that kind of campaigns, using plenty of detective, spy and soldier tropes in its explanatory descriptions because they are familiar to the readers.

I selected Basic Role-playing 1D20 as my foundation for Expert Nova, because I know that system inside out, having used it creatively since 1979. But in Expert Nova I deviate from BRP’s common implementation by cutting the PC’s characteristics from seven to four (Push, Knack, Heed, Will) and reducing the number of skills to a score broad ones.

For example, the Soldier skill encompasses everything that a competent infantryman is trained to do: marksmanship, field-works, orienteering, spit-and-polish, instruction, first aid, swimming, etc. I want to enable the players to play competent characters that won’t get lost in an an adventure because their team lacks one narrowly-defined skill.

My current intention is to proceed with an Expert series by books, each dealing with a specific milieu or trope. Such a book is supposed to contain a setting with campaign advice for the game master, adventurer creation tips for the players, and an adaptation of the Expert Nova rules with setting-specific add-ons. Each book will be a complete stand-alone game.

During October I have jotted down several ideas and outlines. Some milieus came easily to my mind, such as an adventurous oldschool solar system (explanatory link >>>) or espionage in a Cold-War or a pre-Cold-War timeline. Below I outline three appealing settings:

  1. I have always been fascinated by uchronias, i.e. when history took an alternate turn at some point and thereby created a world different from ours. My academic background of political science and history often inspires me speculate on “What if?” settings. Currently I am spending a lot of key-board time working on an retro-style alternate Europe, a setting designed for crime-fighting, espionage and liberation struggles in oppressive, conservative societies.
  2. I have also outlined a 1990s science fiction setting, in which the adventurers will deal with mankind’s unenviable minor role in cosmos while coping with the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet empire. Yes, this proposition makes sense in context.
  3. I am considering a reboot of the world of Gondica that I created twenty years ago; it would entail an extensive revision and expansion of Gondica’s original timeline and backstory to create a milieu with airships, clockwork automatons, steamships and strange places to explore. I might perhaps derive inspiration from Conan Doyle’s professor Challenger adventures and Kipling’s stories. However, I have currently no idea what results my creative process might deliver in this case.
  4. Also, some people have suggested that I make an English edition of Expert Nova. Yes, I hear you loud and clear, and I have started translating the texts.

I have earlier described myself thus: “Anders Blixt is a machine that turns coffee into role-playing games”. However, available time does not match my relentless creativity, so I must prioritize wisely. General Eisenhower once said:

I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of “emergency” is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.

Therefore, I make no promises about this or that Expert book. Please have patience and stay tuned to this blog for future updates.

Traveller: Podcasting an oldschool adventure

Last week I was invited by the podcaster Red Moon Roleplaying to run A Hard Night’s Day (pun intended), a small Traveller adventure in my alternate Traveller universe Phoenix Terra. Here is the result.

Yesterday, the Far Trader Menelaos touched down on the polluted backwater planet Khuda (UWP C-653-777-6). In the evening, the chief engineer headed into to startown for some well-deserved leave. She did not return. This morning, the captain orders the suave executive officer and the burly cargo chief to locate her. What could possibly go wrong?

Looking Back at my 60 Years

Four weeks ago, I turned 60. When I celebrated my anniversary with my family, I made an upbeat speech that reflected on some tremendous changes of the world that I have witnessed: the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, the end of communist tyranny in Europe in 1989, the opening and transformation of Asia in the 00’s. When I turned 20 in 1979, I couldn’t have imagined the world of today – it has become an incredibly better place.
I kept my speech short, so I did not address the reflections below, but I think they are as apt, though at the individual level.

When I was 19 years old in 1978, I decided reject what others expected of me. Instead, I chose to pursue the academic subjects that my heart prescribed, even though they included obscure languages (Hebrew, Aramaic) and studying a semester abroad in the troubled Middle East. That decision transformed me by opening up unexpected great vistas. My memories of a numinous afternoon at Lake Galilee, a chill and misty morning in the Golan Heights and a vivid sunrise over the Moab desert as seen from the Masada summit remain sharp 35 years later.

Then, I decided to leave the university despite the offer of a place in graduate school, and instead get to work. No regrets there, because even though I have no formal profession, I have had a mostly rewarding professional life.

In the 1980s, the American author and rabbi Chaim Potok taught me the word entheos: the inner passion for a subject that makes you push on ardently to achieve mastery. Yes, I have let entheos guide me through life; yes, I know that I made the right decision for myself and for others during that decisive solitary bike ride – sanningens ögonblick – next to the sea in August 1978. That way I many years later found a spouse and we got three wonderful children who now are on the verge of adulthood. That way I also found many other unexpected boons, but since they deal with the fortunes of others, those stories are not mine to tell.

Since May 1977, the role-playing games have always been there: my persistent creating and developing magical worlds that others enter for adventures of the mind. Many, many times my heart has been touched by adults telling me what joy and strength they derived from my creations when they were teenagers. I never predicted that during my years as a full-time professional game designer in the 1980s, but apparently the entheos that I poured into my work reached out to and nourished many other minds.

This insight warms and strengthens me here at the gate to my seventh decade. The world may be like a narrow bridge, but I am not afraid – Vis mecum – and I am walking ahead along my chosen path with an intrepid and determined spirit.

A small clarification: I am not retired. I will keep on writing games and stories as long as my mind is sufficiently sharp. Lots of people want it and I love doing it.

I’ll develop Swedish Runequest


The Swedish RPG publisher Eloso has contracted me to translate the core parts of the new edition of Runequest and then adapt and develop the game and its Glorantha setting for the Swedish market, a task that will include a lot of creative writing. Glorantha is a fascinating world that has been developed by fans for 40 years. I have played a lot of Runequest over the years, written some small cults as fan material, and I’m now looking forward to return to that world with full force. May Lhankor Mhy teach me well.

This will be a multi-year venture. Here is a link to Eloso’s Swedish press release — link >>>

The Long Silence

I have written very little on this blog for the past two months. The reason is simple: I am terribly busy with private and professional matters. Hopefully the pressure will ease in April, and that ought to open a window of opportunity door for more blogging. Stay tuned, please.