Podcast: My 40 years in the RPG business

A Swedish English-language podcast interviews me about my long career as a designer of role-playing games. I explain how I reason when I create rules and settings. Lots about Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Traveller.


Looking back, looking ahead

Traditionally, late December is a time for summarizing the past year and taking a look at what the next year might entail. Here in my blog I focus on my writing endeavors — what’s been accomplished in 2018 and what I hope work with in 2019.

2018: My Accomplishments

  1. Partisan, the Great Surprise: In March, somebody found the sole remaining printout of the legendary and never-published Swedish RPG Partisan and gave it to me. It deals with foreign occupation of our country, presented in the four settings Brown (Nazi Germany), Red (Cold War Soviet), Blue (Cold War with an authoritarian United States), and Ultraviolet (nefarious aliens from space). Serendipity: everybody had thought that the game was lost forever, but here is my incomplete manuscript from when the game was shelved thirty years ago. The printout nowadays rests securely in a safe. Link (Swedish) >>>
  2. During the autumn, I launched my Patreon page, where you can sponsor my writing role-playing games (RPGs) and get various goodies, such as the extant three Partisan settings Red, Blue, and Ultraviolet; and Thriller, my unpublished RPG manuscript from 1983 (espionage and sleuthing in the vein of the original Mission Impossible TV series). Link (English) >>>
  3. In October, Helmgast published Sorgeveden, my campaign setting for Krister Sundelin’s fantasy RPG Hjältarnas Tid. The book depicts an immense forest, stretching from spruces and birches in the subarctic north to jungles in the tropics. Link (Swedish) >>>
  4. In November, I delivered Märk hur vår skugga, an introductory adventure to the new edition of Chock, a Swedish horror RPG that will be published by Eloso in 2019. Link (Swedish) >>>
  5. In December, I launched my product page on DriveThruRPG. So far, it is a trial version, but I intend to use it to sell English PDFs of Traveller settings and other “stuff”. Link (English) >>>
  6. In December, my adult daughter Elin, aka the Tiger, joined forces with me as Team Fox. She is currently a student at an art & design school and she will illustrate some products that will get published at DriveThruRPG. Link (English) >>>
  7. In December, I published Dust & The Road, a paperback with two dieselpunk shortstories that are partially based on my experiences of serving in Afghanistan ten years ago. The stories introduce my setting Patchwork World, a fragmented steampunk & dieselpunk world. Link (English) >>>

Q4 2018 was obviously a hectic time. When I look at the list above, I feel contented with what I achieved.

2019: My intentions

  1. Since 2014, I have planned to make a revised version of the vintage Swedish postapocalyptic RPG Wastelands, but I quickly encountered various snags and obstacles. When Tove & Anders Gillbring a few years later decided to produce Freeway Warrior as an RPG, we agreed that I would turn Wastelands into a Swedish setting for the game. My vision is best summarized as “Lars Molin meets Mad Max”. Tove’s cancer has repeatedly delayed the project, but I hope we can get it moving during 2019.
  2. The hush-hush job: I have made a deal with an publisher about a major RPG project. A non-disclosure agreement prevents me from mentioning details until the publisher has announced the venture. But I am already working on it, and the production team has had fruitful brainstorming sessions on Skype. My deadline is late 2019. Yeah, I feel good about this project.
  3. Dusk and Dawn is a standalone steampunk novella taking place in Patchwork World, though far from the locations of “Dusk” and “The Road”. I have written the first half of the story and and I hope to complete it in 2019. Link (English) >>>
  4. I have outlined a Traveller universe with distinctive qualities, grimmer than the one Marc Miller developed. It’s there to be written when I get time for it. It will sooner or later get published via DriveThruRPG. What rules? Well, probably one set of Cepheus Light and one set of BRP.
  5. I have outlined a dieselpunk RPG, working name Iron Empires, that takes places in an alternate timeline. The game will get at least two Terrestrial and one Martian setting. It is too early to go into details, but you’ll get updates in my blog when I have something substantial to tell. My plan is to publish Iron Empires via DriveThroughRPG, using a variant of the Cepheus Engine rules.

I don’t expect to complete all these projects during 2019, but if I get sunny weather with the wind in my back, and there is plenty of coffee in my thermos flask of holding, I might walk a part of my road. However, an ancient word of wisdom cautions us: Man supposes, God disposes.

Status of My Game Design Projects

  • I have just delivered Märk hur vår skugga …*, an introductory adventure for the new version of Chock, the upcoming Swedish horror RPG by Eloso. Ten thousand words about how young men die mysteriously in Stockholm’s finance quarters during the yuppie era of the late 1980s.
  • I am about to venture into post-apocalyptic landscapes by writing the Swedish Wastelands setting for Åskfågeln’s Freeway Warrior.
  • Non-disclosure agreements currently bar me from discussing other projects, but I can at least tell you that I have a few cool “RPG things” in the pipeline. 2019 will be an exciting year for me.

*”Mark how our shadow…”, a quote from the well-known song Fredmans Epistel no 81 by 18th-century troubadour CM Bellman. It describes the burial of a lady acquaintance.

From “Chock” to “Swedish Wastelands”

Completing a challenging game-writing assignment is always a mixture of elation and weariness. In this case, a few days ago, I delivered my intro adventure to the new second edition of the Swedish horror RPG Chock (“shock” in English) by Eloso. Ten thousand words dealing with young men dying strangely in Stockholm’s finance industry in the late 1980s. This setting coincides intentionally with my time at Target Games as its editor & in-house game designer; we then published the first edition of Chock, which (unlike the second edition) was a straight translation of Pacesetter’s Chill.

Designing games in my spare time is always an up-and-down experience: while writing this adventure, I have also had a regular office job as a techwriter, moved to new home, assisted my three daughters with this and that, been knocked over by an Italian stomach infection (steak tartare is tasty but hazardous), and so on. But writing games and fiction is such a pleasure that I won’t stop doing it despite being short on time.

Next major challenge is developing the Swedish Wastelands setting for the post-apocalyptic RPG Freeway Warrior by Åskfågeln. I have a pretty good idea what I want to do — for example taking a closer look at my old hometown Gothenburg and the farmlands of adjacent Västergötland — and I have some old stuff that can be overhauled to fit the new context. This will be fun.

If you want to support my continued game writing, please sponsor me at my Patreon page — link >>>

If I get sufficient backing, I’ll switch to designing new games and stuff full-time.

Quick Authorial Update For Q4 2018

I haven’t touched the blog for three weeks, because I have been terribly busy with my daytime job as a techwriter and with various family-related matters. However, I’m gearing up for an exciting fourth quarter. My first priority is to complete my introductory adventure to Eloso’s new Swedish horror RPG Chock. Only 20% of the text remains to be written.

After that, it’s time to get going on Wastelands Sverige, a Swedish setting for Åskfågeln’s postapocalyptic RPG Freeway Warrior. My setting is based on the classic Swedish RPG Wastelands from 1991, updated to fit the 21st century. I intend to pay a lot of attention to the port city of Gothenburg and to the fertile farmlands of the adjacent province of Västergötland.

And there are a few other “gamey things” in the pipeline, though my non-disclosure agreements prevent me from saying more. It looks like I’ll have an exciting 2019 when it come to writing games.

I am still working on my Patreon site, and I want to get it up and running before the end of the year.

As for my science fiction and fantasy novels, they are in the backburner for the time being; they have no deadlines, unlike the game texts.

Chock 2.0: »Märk hur vår skugga …«*

Summary in English: A post about a an adventure I am currently writing for the reboot of the Swedish horror RPG Chock.

Välkommen till den popkulturella versionen av yuppietidens Sverige med snabba börsklipp, med landets ekonomi på steroider, med Imperiet, Roxette och Eurythmics i radion, med endast två TV-kanaler, och med filmer som Wall Street, Snuten i Hollywood 2 och Plutonen på biograferna. Och i ett dragigt kontor i Stockholms Frihamn driver ett gäng kreativa unga män ett framgångsrikt företag som gör rollspel till en hobby för hundratusentals tonåringar.

I våras fick jag grönt ljus från Eloso, företaget som publicerar Sagospelet Äventyr, att skriva ett intro-äventyr till deras nya version av skräckspelet Chock. Och sedan dess har jag filat på »Märk hur vår skugga …«, en mordgåta med fokus på dödssynden girighet. Äventyret utspelas i Stockholm och Roslagen någon gång mellan mordet på Olof Palme 28 februari 1986 och Berlinmurens fall 9 november 1989.

Det blir en inte alltför nostalgisk återblick på åren när jag var ung vuxen (jag fyllde trettio våren 1989) och såg världen förvandlas framför mina ögon. Skildringen av åttiotalet är givetvis en smula hårddragen — jag arbetar ju i den svenska deckartraditionen — med blicken riktad mot yuppieerans trista sidor: girighet, droger och unga mäns förtidiga död (AIDS i verkligheten, något annat i Chock-världen).

Här är ett litet smakprov på hur jag presenterar settingen:

Detektivarbete handlar i mångt och mycket om att få fram information. Spelledaren måste då tänka på att följande gäller under 1980-talet.

  • Posten är pålitlig: brev och paket kommer fram i hela landet på ett dygn för brev och på tre för paket. Flygpost till USA tar en vecka.
  • Telefonkiosker: Televerket har ställt ut myntmatade telefonkiosker på offentliga platser, som tunnelbanestationer och torg. Kioskernas telefonkataloger innehåller utmärkta stadskartor.
  • Mobiltelefoni i Televerkets NMT-nät tillhandahåller dyra tjänster med god täckning. 1988 finns det cirka 200.000 mobilabonnemang i Sverige. De stora svarta telefonerna kallas skämtsamt yuppienallar. De har endast talfunktioner.
  • Persondatorer är vanliga på kontor, men inte i hemmen. De används främst för textbehandling och ekonomi. En maskin kostar minst en månadslön och har en klumpig bildskärm. Disketter används för att flytta filer mellan datorer. Internet används endast av några enstaka institutioner i Sverige.
  • Telefax används för att snabbt skicka bilder och text över telefonlinjer.
  • Etermedia domineras av Sveriges Television och Sveriges Radio. Aktuellt, Rapport och radionyheterna på P3 är de viktigaste nyhetskällorna för de flesta.
  • Dagstidningar läses av nästa alla, eftersom de skriver om lokala angelägenheter. Vanliga bibliotek lagrar gamla tidningar i upp till några veckor.
  • Forskning: KB (Kungliga biblioteket) i Stockholm och Carolina (universitetsbiblioteket) i Uppsala är i det här äventyret bra ställen för akademiska efterforskningar. Deras bibliotekarier kan ofta hänvisa till andra boksamlingar av intresse, både offentliga och privata. Båda institutionerna har därtill kompletta mikrofilmsarkiv för svenska tidningar och tidskrifter, samt för många utländska.
  • Rättsmedicin: Fingeravtryck, fotspår, fibrer, kulor, likdelar och pollen är vad kriminaltekniker har att jobba med. Biokemiska analysmetoder, t.ex. DNA-tester, hör däremot enbart hemma i William Gibsons cyberpunkromaner.

*Äventyrets titel är hämtat från första raden av Fredmans epistel no 81, av Carl Michael Bellman. Imperiets version blev en stor hit 1985 och spelades flitigt i radion under de påföljande åren.

Märk hur vår skugga, märk Movitz mon frère,
Inom ett mörker sig slutar.
Hur guld och purpur i skoveln, den där,
Byts till grus och klutar.
Vinkar Charon från sin brusande älv
Och tre gånger sen dödgrävaren själv.