Yuri Gagarin, 1934-68
In 1982, I wrote an Amber Zone adventure called Chariots of Fire for the American Traveller magazine Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society. To my surprise, American youtuber Seth Skorkowski reviewed it a few days ago, also adding some pertinent suggestions how a GM might run it.
Chariots of Fire — the title of the adventure is an intentional pun, because its plot deals with stealing two fire engines and get them undamaged across a troubled border. In 1982, I was 23 years old and a student of political science at Lund University. The adventure’s general setting is based on the 1970s Hollywood version of Central America.
Forty years ago, I began my full-scale academic studies: political science/international politics (plus some macroeconomics, classical history, and modern languages). I remember my first lecture: the history of political thought, chapter 1, Plato & Aristotle. Great lecturer, Dr Gunnar Falkemark, whose first sentences grabbed my full attention. He made me realize that I had found my proper academic track.
And that way, my life changed for the better. Three semesters of pol-sci turned out to be serendipitous when I, four years later, became a professional RPG designer. Thanks Dr Falkemark and my gaming buddy Pär-Adam Claus who suggested that I take a close look at political science: “That subject ought to suit you.”
Phil is a youtuber who mostly discusses various classics, such as plays by Euripides or novels by Mishima and Coetzee. I was therefore astonished when I recently discovered that my dieselpunk spy thriller The Ice War got a favorable review by him.
Spoiler alert: Phil reveals all major plot points in this review.
You can buy The Ice War as an ebook or a paperback at Amazon — link >>>
- Mio, min Mio: In late spring, Eloso will launch a cooperative family boardgame based on Astrid Lindgren’s classic fantasy tale Mio, min Mio (Mio, my Mio). I fell in love with that book when I was seven or eight. The game is produced in four Scandinavian languages. However, I am involved merely as an occasional play-tester; my Eloso efforts are dedicated to our role-playing games.
- Swedish Call of Cthulhu (SCoC): I have completed Vårvindar friska (Cool Springs Winds), the third episode of my trio of mini-adventures (pamflettäventyr) dedicated to the seasons. They take place in the Gothenburg region in 1926-27 and relate to Hultsby village where I grew up in the 1960s.
- Basker Blå: An African campaign setting for the Swedish horror RPG Chock: Åter från graven. In January, I was busy making background research and setting “the stage”, that is, jotting down notes on what I am going to write about and why. I use a mix of tropes from American horror movies and weird/semi-horror Swedish television series. The player adventurers are supposed to be UN peacekeepers, journalists, relief workers, or scholars that work in the fictitious African country Atlântida in the aftermath of civil strife and economic collapse. My intention is to finish writing this setting during Q1.
- Swedish Runequest (SRQ): Jeff at Chaosium and I have agreed that SRQ will be a different product from the English-language game. The region of Talastar is assigned to us and we will create a setting that resonates with Nordic gamers: deep forests with ruins and dangers, chaos monsters from Dorastor, tricky relations between the barbarian Orlanthi and the overbearing Lunar Empire (inspired by the interaction between the Germanic tribes and the Roman empire in the I-III centuries AD). SRQ is a uniquely Swedish adaptation of the game, that is, I will rewrite its rules according to Swedish traditions and compile Talastar-specific material from many sourcebooks while adding new stuff. The setting’s focal point is the town of Oxhuve (Oxhead). My intention is to write SRQ during 2021 and Eloso will do an SRQ Kickstarter in the autumn.
- Outreach: On hold because of my many other commitments.
- The Expert Series – a teaser: Yes, I am doing some preparatory work for another game in my Expert series. I will publish pertinent details later in 2021. Stay tuned.
Olle Sahlin, grand old man of Sweden’s gaming, SCA, and Tolkien communities, quietly passed away in his sleep on January 9. He battled serious illness for many years, and yet he kept on going to hobby events in his wheelchair.
Olle’s many friends are running a GoFundMe fundraising for the benefit of his widow Karolina and for making a digital archive of his huge photo collection that covers forty years of our hobbies. It’s a good cause. Link >>>
In early January, we in the Eloso team coordinated with Chaosium and set our 2021 production schedule. I have two major tasks on my hand:
- In January and February, I’ll write the Basker Blå (Blue Beret) campaign module for our Swedish horror RPG Chock. It’s late 1980s. Swedish and Finnish UN peacekeepers are stationed in the fictitious West African country Atlantida, monitoring the truce between the parties of a recent civil war. In the shadows, cruel creatures are feeding on the misery caused by the fighting.
- I’ll spend the rest of 2021 developing Swedish Runequest. We’ll make a unique version, putting our piece of the action in a Gloranthan region eminently suited for Swedish RPG traditions at some distance from Dragon Pass and Prax. Therefore, I’ll select, translate, revise and create backstory, cults, cultures, and new character backgrounds to fit our needs. I’d guess that Swedish RQ will comprise two books, 250-300 pages together, that is, sleeker than the Chaosium edition.
- Eloso’s revised priorities made me put Outreach in the backburner for Q1 and Q2. But rest assured: we have brainstormed how we will develop that game.
- Also, I’m busy preparing a new Swedish title in my Expert RPG series for production in 2022.
Here is my elevator pitch for the Expert Outreach setting. The game will use an adapted version of the Expert Nova rules.
The Zakharr, alien invaders, crushed and chained humanity, and exploited and wrecked Terra for almost a century. But suddenly their empire crumbled as a strange plague killed them all. Who arranged this fortunate calamity and why? Nobody knows.
It’s now AD 2203. Forty years have passed since Terra’s liberation. We humans are busy building a new future in the ruins of the past, surrounded by the remnants of an advanced alien society.
Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to participate in the rebuilding of our civilization by exploring interstellar space, by unravelling the mysteries of the Zakharr, by liberating fellow humans enslaved on distant worlds, and by thwarting the hostile schemes of alien species. You will be a small actor in a huge arena. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something to save our species from extinction.
But keep in mind, the galaxy is a dangerous place.
- Expert Outreach: I have designed a quartet of xenos (alien species) that the adventurers are likely to encounter on faraway worlds. Lennart Larsson is my indispensable sounding board; a straight-forward and sharp-eyed veteran gamer that spots clichés and weaknesses in my texts.
- SCoC: I am working on a trio of interconnected short adventures (pamflettäventyr), tentatively called Tre årstider (Three Seasons), that take place in Gothenburg and the rural district south of the city.
- In September, I completed the autumn episode Charons lur (Charon’s Bugle) that takes place in October 1926.
- In October, I started developing the winter episode En vanartig gosse (A Disobedient Lad). It’s December 1926 and the police investigators return to an old crime scene to check strange goings-on that might be connected to the events of episode 1.
- There will also be a spring episode, tentatively named Vårvindar friska (Chilly Spring Breezes). The story-line skips to March 1927, when the ice breaks along the coastline south of Gothenburg.
- Chock: I have outlined Basker Blå (The Blue Beret)*, a setting located in Atlantida, a fictitious West African country, during the second half of the 1980s. The United Nations has dispatched a multinational peace-keeping force, including a Swedish-Finnish infantry battalion, to monitor a shaky armistice in a civil war. The adventurers can be blue berets, journalists or relief workers; regard of which, they will soon get entangled in the malevolent schemes of foul beings from the Beyond.
In the autumn of 2019, I spent an extended weekend in Latvia, one of Sweden’s neighbors across the Baltic Sea. However, when I grew up during the Cold War, we regarded Latvia as “beyond the event horizon”, one of many nearby countries enslaved by communist tyrants and off-limits to people from democratic Europe.
When I walked through Riga’s central park, I spotted memorial stones — listing a name, a date, a profession — at the exact locations where civilian Latvians in early 1991 had been killed by Soviet soldiers that the Kremlin had dispatched to reassert its rule. Next to the the city’s grocery market, I encountered a museum dedicated to the sufferings in the Riga Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation.
In many places in Europe, such memorials and museums are a part of everyday life. Here in Sweden, they are not. Is Sweden therefore an abnormal European country? Probably. Our ability to dodge out of the way of 20th-century tyrants spared us much misery, but it also made us partially incapable of sensing the price of liberty and the horrors coming from losing it.