Podcast: Writing the Kin-strife sourcebook for MERP

Twenty-five years ago, I masterminded the creation of the sourcebook The Kin-strife for Iron Crown’s game Middle-earth Role-playing together with a bunch of creative Swedes and Americans.

The Kin-strife deals with a civil war that wracked Gondor about 1,600 years before the events in Lord of the Rings. Gondor suffered ten years of bloodshed and tyranny as the usurper Castamir deposed the rightful king Eldacar by armed rebellion. However, Castamir failed to hold on to power, and the exiled king staged a successful counter-rebellion and reclaimed the throne by killing the usurper in battle. Our book, about 200 pages long, explains in depth what Gondor is like in those tumultuous years and how to run several types of campaigns there.

Today, The Kin-strife remains a much appreciated sourcebook and, a few days ago, the podcast Red Moon Roleplaying interviewed me about what is was like to write it. Listen to our discussion at Red Moon’s web page (link >>> ) or in this YouTube video.  (And here is a blog post from 2011 about the MERP Kin-strife project — link >>> )

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Podcasten Bortom: Jag blickar tillbaks på mina 40+ år i branschen

Summary in English: I have been interviewed in a Swedish podcast about my 40+ yaers in the RPG business.

Robert Jonsson har intervjuat mig för sin podcast Bortom Bortom. I avsnitt 62, inbäddat nedan, berättar jag om hur jag började med hobbyn och tar er med på en resa igenom min karriär där världsskapandet är den röda tråden. Jag berör bland annat rollspelen Drakar och Demoner, Mutant 2, Partisan, Gondica och Wastelands.

Finding Intangible Gold

Stan Lee, I stand right next you:
I have been a professional game designer for 33 years. Meanwhile my fluffy hair has turned sparse and grey, and my once sprightly stride has grown heavier and slower. Every now and then people in their thirties and forties approach me and thank me for stuff I wrote in the 1980s and 1990s. They say that during their teens, they found so much joy in my games. Their words hearten me by proving that my hard work at the office (nope, creative writing is not an easy chore) was, is and will be time well spent.

Encounter in Jotunheim

In the Norse pagan legends, cosmos is layered in many adjacent worlds. Men live in Midgard (Middangeard/Middle-earth), whereas the gods live in Asgard above mankind.

The giants live in Jotunheim (Giant-home), a dangerous untamed world beyond the wild river Ifing. Most are settled in farmsteads under the leadership of a chieftain. Some giants are great warlocks that excel in illusions. Many stories tell about interactions between gods and giants, and occasionally a shrewd giant outsmarts a god. Therefore mannish adventurers must tread carefully in Jotunheim.

In the 1990s I was commissioned to write several Swedish Norse-themed role-playing products: Ansgar (an educational RPG about the first German missionaries to pagan Sweden around AD 830) and two sourcebooks and one adventure for the Viking RPG. Both publishers initially wanted only material based on real-world Scandinavian history.

After a while Viking’s publisher also asked me, Magnus Seter, and Mats Blomqvist to write a fantasy sourcebook based on Norse legends: Saga. Among others things it included spell-chanting, rune-carving, undead, elves, dwarves, divine favor, and visits to legendary worlds. However, when we had completed our texts, the publisher went bankrupt and aborted the project. (You can read more about the Viking RPG in Swedish here — link >>>)

The picture above by Eytan Zana at DeviantArt perfectly captures the mood of the Jotunheim section of Saga: crows at the carcass of a fallen giant. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

For those of you who know Swedish, here is Magnus Seter’s Jotunheim text on page 18 in a PDF file of issue 24 of the Sverox gaming magazine — link >>>

Post-human Earth

When man vanishes, what will Earth look like? I worked with two post-apocalyptic role-playing games in the 1980s and 1990s: Mutant and Wastelands. They each introduce settings in which the current civilization has been destroyed, resulting in two dissimilar game worlds, the grim and serious Wastelands Europe and the less serious Pyri Scandinavia.

However, after watching this video, I realize that my background research was insufficient, particularly in the Wastelands setting. For instance, there would have been extensive problems with the plentiful hydroelectric power stations in northern Sweden: cracked dams, flooded river valleys, and swamped riverside towns.

Jag får årets Rollspelsdrake

Summary in English: I have just received the annual Dragon award for excellent accomplishments in the Swedish role-playing hobby.

Dagens riktigt goda nyhet kommer från föreningen WRNU.

“Rollspelsdraken är ett pris som utdelas av föreningen WRNU till personer som gjort utomordentliga gärningar för den svenska rollspelshobbyn. Juryn består av medlemmar på rollspel.nu. Syftet är att visa uppskattning för personer som bidragit positivt till vår hobby och att ge dem ett erkännande för deras insatser.

Tidigare pristagare:

2012 Gunilla Jonsson och Michael Petersén
2013 Fredrik Malmberg
2014 Tove Gillbring och Anders Gillbring
2015 Åsa Roos

Rollspelsdraken 2016 delas ut till Anders Blixt.

Juryn har beslutat att tilldela Anders Blixt Rollspelsdraken år 2016 för hans insatser inom rollspelshobbyn. Sedan Äventyrsspels guldålder under 1980-talet har hans flitiga penna producerat åtskilliga betydande verk, däribland Drakar och Demoner Expert, Mutant 2, oräkneliga Sinkadusartiklar, rollspelet Gondica och mycket annat. Anders Blixt har varit en ständig källa till förundran och inspiration, vägledning och kreativitet och därför har vi funnit att han är en värdig mottagare av årets pris.”

The lost Mordor campaign book


During the 1990s, I was involved in the production of three thick Gondor-related campaign books for Iron Crown’s Middle-earth Roleplaying (MERP) game, something I have blogged about earlier (link >>> ). There were other such projects on my mind, but they never materialized because the RPG industry in the US and Sweden was faltering in those days. Iron Crown perished in 2000 and with it the MERP game.

Today I received an inquiry from an Swedish gamer about one of those unrealized projects — my Mordor campaign book. However, it is not easy to put together what the project was supposed to result in, because twenty years have passed and no notes have survived. I have to rely on my memories of a handful letters (snail mail in those days) and faxes exchanged with the Iron Crown staff.

The basic idea was to portray Mordor during the centuries between the Witch-king’s conquest of Minas Ithil in 2002 (the end of Gondor’s Watch on Mordor) and Sauron’s return to the Dark Land in 2942. That was an era, at least as I saw it, during which Mordor lacked a centralized despotic power. Instead, several servants of the Shadow competed (and occasionally cooperated) to create an industrial and agricultural infrastructure that Sauron would be able utilize for a war against Gondor whenever he chose to regain his throne.

The player characters were supposed to be undead/deathless people working as foremen, spies, and engineers for one or several of the top-level Sauronic servants. The campaign would start with these servants moving into a depopulated and unguarded Mordor around 2020 and it would run for decades or centuries as orcs were enticed/forced to immigrate, fortresses rebuilt, mines excavated, smithies erected and slave plantations around Lake Nurn established. See the campaign as a set of hard-boiled colonization ventures, intermixed with power-play as different servants vied for their Mirkwood-based Overlord’s graces. There would also be diplomatic missions to southern and eastern lands to re-establish the old Sauronic influences and secure the supply of human slaves.

I had written a Shadow adventure in the 1980s (for the Swedish Sinkadus magazine), in which the two player characters were deathless sorcerers in service of Dol Guldur. Khamûl sent them on an espionage mission in Rhovanion after the Great Plague. That had given me a taste for writing more “creepy stuff” for MERP. However, my Mordor project petered out already at the outline stage because of Iron Crown’s economic woes.