Creativity Meets Corona

In January I published Expert Nova, English Edition, an English version of my RPG for contemporary adventurous campaigns. It is a straight translation with an additional  chapter on campaign design the Swedish way, with They Came From the Sea!, a “1950s monster movie” setting in a cinematic Australia, as a hands-on instruction.  The game is illustrated by my adult daughter Elin, who is an art & design student. You can buy the game at as a softcover book (64 pages) at Lulu (link>>>) and as a PDF at DriveThruRPG (link >>>). Expert Nova, English Edition got top marks in a review at the Swedish RPG forum WRNU (link >>>); the text is in Swedish, but if you copy-paste it into Google Translate, you’ll get a readable translation.

That being done, January and February proved extremely busy for me. I joined the Eloso team for the final production stages of the Keeper’s and Investigator’s  Books of the Swedish edition of Call of Cthulhu. Their launch is scheduled for Gothcon (Sweden’s premier game con) at Easter. So I spent my days writing, tweaking, editing, and translating. We have written several new chapters dealing with Sweden in the 1920s: society, customs, careers, creepy events, and so on. (For example, why did a Swedish mining company abandon the Pyramiden settlement in Spitzbergen?)

I write regularly for the Swedish gaming magazine Fenix. In February, I put together an article for issue #2/2020: a creepy SF monster for Expert Nova, useful for many contemporary Earth-based campaigns.

I have also outlined several projects for Expert Nova and the Swedish horror RPG Chock.

However, the corona pandemic is a spanner in the works. No, I’m not ill, but last year I signed on as a civilian reserve officer in the Civil Defence Service. Last week, I was called into service at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. It’s an office assignment, nothing out of the ordinary, but I feel proud that I can put my wits and skills to work for the sake of life and health of others. I will be very busy for most of March, therefore having little time to write games.  But I’ll have a small private notebook at hand all the time and every once in a while I’ll jot down new ideas. There will be game stuff later this year, rest assured of that.

Toppbetyg för Expert Nova English Edition

Summary in English: My new role-playing game Expert Nova English Edition is praised in a fresh Swedish review. It gets top marks: 5 of 5.

En rykande färsk svensk recension av mitt nya rollspel Expert Nova, English Edition (länk till min Lulu-kiosk >>> ) finns nu på webbforumet Rollspel.nu. Användaren God45 ger spelet (länk >>> ) betyget 5 av 5 med följande motivering:

Det här är kort sammanfattat den bästa versionen av BRP spelmotorn som du kan få tag på. Recensionen kan vara över med det egentligen.

Expert Nova är specifikt riktad till rollspelande i det närliggande förflutna, nutid och den nära framtiden. Exempel spelvärlden är inspirerad av monsterfilmer från 1950-talet men spelet skulle fungera precis lika bra för att spela något inspirerat av Blade Runner, Indiana Jones eller Terminator. Karaktärerna är mittemellan tuffa och kompetenta vilket lägger dem på samma nivå som de flesta karaktärer i de flesta äventyrshistorier. Systemet tenderar mot en ganska pulpig känsla vilket nästan alltid är fallet med BRP spel. Det här är alltså ett spel som klarar det mesta så länge man spelar människor ungefär nu och man vill att spännande saker händer.

Boken är egentligen tre olika saker:

  • Det är den bästa versionen av BRP-motorn for moderna spelvärldar.
  • Det är ett KSR*-manifesto och exempel på vad KSR kan vara. KSR är fortfarande en ny rörelse och det här borde med all rätta vara en grundsten i den.
  • Det är en djupt förfinad vision från en av Sveriges mest erfarna och skickliga spelskapare. Det märks att en enorm mängd erfarenhet gått in i det här spelet, alla misstagen är gjorda och rättade tills allting slipats till sin slutgiltiga form.

Boken har en snygg och effektiv men minimalistisk layout som är effektiv när det kommer till att förmedla informationen. Den ligger precis mellan att vara en teknisk manual och fiction, precis som rollspel gör. Det är bekvämt att läsa men funktionsvänligt att använda vid bordet.

Jag har ingenting negativt att säga om Expert Nova. Det är den slutgiltiga formen av BRP rollspelande. Det är vad du köper och det är vad du får. Är du intresserad av BRP och KSR och vill ha en bra början är det här boken att köpa. Är du en gammal räv som vill se en mästare få ut 100% av BRP så är det här boken att köpa.

5 av 5


*Klassiskt Svenskt Rollspel

Inspirators for Expert Nova

When I write a game or supplement, I usually put a “Special thanks to…” section on the title page, listing people who assisted or inspired me. The list in Expert Nova is unusually short, only four names. Here I explain who they are and how they contributed directly or indirectly to the making of the game. (Link to Expert Nova’s Swedish and English editions >>> )

  • Samantha Carter (played by Amanda Tapping) is a protagonist in the Stargate franchise. In February 2012, I fell seriously ill and spent a month at home. The solitary weekdays were boring: our children in school and my wife at her job. Fortunately, a cable channel broadcast two Stargate episodes every morning. Samantha Carter quickly became my favorite hero, so when I wrote Expert Nova’s rules for creating player characters she served as a benchmark for competent adventurers.
  • Peter Høeg is a Danish author. In the 1990s, I read his thriller Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow and appreciated its Danish and Arctic settings and its multifaceted protagonist Smilla Jaspersen. When I initially set the parameters for Expert Nova’s purpose and content, I decided that a game master should be able to use the game with no modifications for a campaign based on Smilla’s adventures.
  • Marc Miller’s career as a game wizard started at Game Designers’ Workshop in the 1970s. He quickly earned a reputation for quality designs and he’s still going strong today. His science fiction RPG Traveller taught me how to write role-playing games. I launched my first Traveller campaign in 1978. One year later, I sold my first article to GDW’s Journal of Travellers’ Aid Society (read a post about that here — link >>> ). I continued writing for that publication until 1985, when Target Games hired me as its inhouse designer here in Stockholm. (Link to a long interview with Marc >>> )
  • Åsa Roos is a leading designer, critic, and theorist in Sweden’s gamerverse. She regularly reviews new games in the bimonthly magazine Fenix. Whenever a new issue reaches my letterbox, I begin by reading Åke Rosenius’s Bernard the Barbarian comic strips (link >>>) and then I proceed to Åsa’s reviews. She skillfully assesses the strong and weak points of every game and occasionally her evaluations strike a spark of creativity in my mind. For example, one of her reviews made me realize that I should revise Expert Nova’s rules for social interactions by giving them more versatility and a wider array of PC actions.

Expert Nova, English Edition Is Now Live on Lulu!

Expert Nova is my new role-playing game for action and mysteries in settings from the late Victorian era to a near future in which man still is the measure of all things. Put your players to the test in London’s seedy alleys, the trackless jungles of the Amazonas, the catacombs under Paris, or the Templars’ hidden headquarter. It is a translation of the Swedish version that I published last year, though with an extra chapter explaining campaign design according to our distinctive Swedish RPG lore.

Expert Nova is a 6″x9″ book of 64 pages. €25 at Lulu.

  • Flexible rules that favour playability and encourage clever schemes and social interaction.
  • Speedy character generation that produces hardy and versatile adventurers.
  • Action is skill-based: roll 1D20 as low as possible.
  • Adjust the grittiness and lethality of your adventures by applying optional rules.
  • Campaign design guidelines with a 1950s Australian science fiction setting as a hands-on example.

My RPG Accomplishments in 2019

At the New Year holiday, people often look back at the past year and muse on what has happened. In my case, I pulled off a few nice game-related accomplishments.

  • Ruby Jubilee as a game writer: In 1979, I made my first professional sale, a Traveller article for GDW’s inhouse magazine Journal of Travellers’ Aid Society. Read the full story here — link >>>.
  • Expert Nova, my newest game: My professional situation got a complete overhaul in April for reasons that are of no interest here. What is relevant, though, is that suddenly I had more time for making role-playing games. In May, I decided (snap — just like that) to use my forty years of RPG designer experience to write Expert Nova, a role-playing game for contemporary settings (currently an almost empty niche in the Swedish RPG market) The rules are inspired by Basic Role-playing, the dominant game system in Sweden since the  1980s. I launched Expert Nova via Lulu in October; buy it in my kiosk — link >>>.

    Elin Blixt’s illustration of the chapter on equipment, endurance, and health in Expert Nova.

  • Family Business: I have recruited my adult daughter Elin, an art & design student, for doing interior artwork in my games. Her first job was Expert Nova and she quickly grasped the ins and outs of illustrating RPG rules. We will proceed with new projects in 2020.
  • Expert Nova English Edition: In November I translated Expert Nova into English, an easy task because I am bilingual. Because foreign gamers are unfamiliar with Swedish RPG lore, I added a chapter about our traditional way of designing campaigns. The English text is currently being reviewed and I intend to launch Expert Nova English Edition via Lulu at the end of January. Stay tuned to this blog.
  • The Expert setting books: I have started outlining some settings, the Expert Series, for the Expert Nova rules. However, I haven’t yet decided which book to complete first.
  • Cthulhu Calling: The Swedish game publisher Eloso is busy developing a Swedish version of Chaosium’s classic RPG Call of Cthulhu, part translation, part new material about Sweden in the 1920s. In late 2019, they hired me to work on some chapters. Great assignment.

Expert Nova: vilddjur i Fenix

Summary in English: The rules for wild animals in Expert Nova will soon be published in the Swedish RPG magazine Fenix.


I den dunkla forntiden, dvs någon gång före 1985, förklarade min vän Lennart att rollspel kan delas in två kategorier: sådana där äventyrarna brukar tampas med monster (t.ex. Dungeons & Dragons) och sådana där de brukar tampas med människor och liknande varelser (t.ex. Traveller). I den första kategorin behöver äventyrarna stridsskicklighet, eldbollsmagi och goda rustningar, medan den andra kategorin betonar list, sociala färdigheter och indirekta tillvägagångssätt.

När jag sommaren 2019 skrev rollspelet Expert Nova (länk >>> ) placerade jag det i kategori två, eftersom jag föredrar den sortens kampanjer. Därför skrev jag inga specifika regler för hur djur används.

Men i december 2019 började jag skissa på två kampanjmiljöer där äventyrarna ger sig ut i vildmarken och då såg jag behovet. Under en kreativ vecka konstruerade jag de här djurreglerna. De omfattar djur och odjur från varg via jaguar och afrikansk buffel till Tyrannosaurus rex. Idag har Tove Gillbring bekräftat att reglerna publiceras i kommande Fenix med illustrationer av min vuxna dotter Elin, som även har illustrerat själva spelet.

Chock tillbaka på banan

Summary in English: Eloso’s reboot of the Swedish horror RPG Chock is currently being launched in gamestores and bookshops. I have written a full-length adventure for it.

Nisse Gullikssons omslag till mitt Chock-äventyr

Sisådär, nu Elosos nya skräckrollspel Chock: Åter från graven på väg ut till butikerna. Här är mitt bidrag till nystarten, äventyret Märk hur vår skugga som utspelar sig i Stockholms yuppiekretsar under sent 1980-tal: “Greed is good!”, Café Opera, snabba börsklipp, droger och bredaxlade kostymer.

Illustratör är min gamle kollega Nils Gulliksson. Titeln Märk hur vår skugga är från en av Fredmans epistlar av CM Bellman.

Stockholm Calling or Localizing Cthulhu

OlaLarssonCoC

Ola Larsson’s cover for the Swedish investigator’s handbook

I have been an inactive blogger recently. The cause is what you would expect: shortage of time. I am currently spending a lot time on localizing Call of Cthulhu to Sweden. Among techwriters, localization is a form of translation in which you not only translate from language to another, but you also make the product fit the new market by removing superfluous information, and inserting new information that your domestic customers need.

In the case of Swedish Call of Cthulhu, the publisher Eloso wants to give the game a distinctive “Sweden in the 1920s” flavor. Swedes today know little about what our country was like hundred years ago, so we must explain how e.g. law enforcement, academic institutions, and municipal bureaucracies functioned.

For instance, when the intrepid investigators do research in rural areas, a good source of information might be the local hembygdsförening (“local history association”), whose members delve into the past of their parish or village, holding lectures and writing newsletters and booklets about nearby rune-stones, old churches, and legends of things that go bump in the night. The local temperance lodge keeps a keen eye on the inhabitants’ use and abuse of alcohol, so its leaders might know who is making moonshine and who is smuggling illicit Estonian vodka.* The vicar** of the parish church occupies central role in rural society; apart from his ecclesiastical duties, he is charged by the state with maintaining a detailed population registry, keeping track on births, deaths, marriages, people’s domiciles and other matters. He therefore knows a lot about who is doing what, even though he might be unwilling to share his knowledge because of his pastoral vows.

In the major cities, the above-mentioned organizations are of lesser importance. Instead, trade union chapters and sports clubs in the neighborhood may provide useful information. Social control remains tight because people, apart from the very wealthy, live under cramped conditions in rickety apartment buildings.

We, Eloso’s team of CoC developers, are therefore busy with giving the original rules a Swedish touch and adding brand-new material, such as site descriptions, Swedish grimoires, new adventures, etc. We’ll spend the winter 2019/20 with these chores, a good reason to stay indoors and avoid the sleet and darkness of the season.


*In a tight national referendum in 1921, the Swedish electorate rejected a US-style prohibition; instead, they got a rationing system (link >>>) by which adult citizens in good standing were allowed to buy a certain quantity of hard liquor per month. People were of course circumventing the restrictions in more or less ingenious ways. Smugglers who transported Estonian vodka to Sweden by speedboat became folk heroes. Read about the dashing Algoth Niska here — link >>>
**The established Lutheran Church of Sweden had been governed by the king/state since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. In the 1920s, anti-clerical socialists and Christian dissenters, mainly baptists and presbyterians, disliked this arrangement but lacked the political clout to change it; it was eventually reformed in the 1950s.