September Was a Busy Month

From a creative-writing perspective, the month of September can be summarized as Swedish Call of Cthulhu. I edited several adventures, translated as well as new ones, putting my long experience as a technical writer to work by: 

  • replacing anglicisms with proper Swedish words
  • turning clumsy sentences into polished Swedish
  • “translating” handouts written in contemporary Swedish into the stilted language and  archaic grammar used by officials in 1920s.
  • chasing typos and missing words  

I also wrote a small CoC adventure (pamflettäventyret Charons lur / Charon’s [Musical] Horn) located to Hultsby, a tiny village south of Gothenburg where I grew up in the 1960s.  Hundred years ago, this was farmlands connected to Gothenburg by a steam train. Nowadays, place is a densely populated part of the Gothenburg metropolitan area.

I also made some progress on my SF novella Dusk and Dawn by developing its  approaching finale and finding a reasonable way. Two chapters remaining.

Kicking off for the Autumn

My career as an RPG writer has taken a wonderful turn. In August, Eloso’s owners held a kick-off weekend during which we made plans for the near future (that is, for 2020/21). We also agreed on how we are to pursue our many projects. 

In short: 

We have currently three major RPG lines to which we all contribute: Chock: Åter från graven; Swedish Call of Cthulhu; and Swedish Runequest. As you can see, Eloso is the Swedish partner of the legendary American RPG company Chaosium. I will be the spider at the center of the  Runequest web — l’araignée universelle — when we re-start translating it in 2021; we had to put the project in the backburner six months ago when covid-19 started wrecking our plans for 2020. 

In addition, I will produce indie-style games under the Eloso by Blixt moniker, some in Swedish, some in English, some in both. I handle most of their production by myself, while Eloso takes care of printing and distribution. The Expert series, powered by the Expert Nova rules, belong here. Currently, I am writing Expert Outreach, a post-apocalyptic space opera game (in English only) and I strive for a 2021 release, though reliable forecasts are currently impossible. There are more titles in the pipeline, but it’s too early to divulge any details about them.

Writing Progress during Summer

My assignment at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency ended in late July; the Swedish corona infection rate has decreased steadily since May and the agency therefore wished to down-size its pandemic emergency organization. I was a civilian reserve officer, not an employee, so I was demobilized with one week’s notice.

As a sunny summer is upon us and schools are closed, I took two daughters on a road & ferry trip to the beautiful island of Gotland and to the port city of Gothenburg. A sorely needed time to wind down after five stressful months in the service of our country. Plenty of long walks in the company of close friends plus a few games of Terraforming Mars.

I also used my time to manage my ongoing projects, two games for Eloso and one short novel:

Expert Outreach: I have written plenty of text for this English post-apocalyptic RPG, describing the broken cosmos into which the intrepid adventurers venture. Mankind’s survival on a war-ravaged Earth is at stake and the remedies are to be found “out there”. But many competing sapient species dislike or hate us, so it’s a tough struggle. During June and July, I have had a few fruitful design discussions by email and F2F with the “usual suspects” Lennart Larsson, Jon Ljunggren, and Clarence Redd. Their critical input is essential to my designs. In earlier creativity updates, I have mentioned that I’m working on rules for exonics (paranormal powers); they are now a part of the Outreach rules. Also, Elin Blixt and I have had several sessions discussing what various xenos (i.e. alien species) should look like.

Swedish Call of Cthulhu: I am busy writing a short adventure taking place in the outskirts of Gothenburg in the 1920s (to be published as a PDF) and an article for the Fenix game magazine on a alternate Swedish setting.

Dusk and Dawn: I have been writing this English science fiction novel for some years. In-story, the protagonists have been struggling to accomplish a major undertaking. At the keyboard, I have struggled with how set up the final showdown. In July, I arrived at a plot finale that makes sense and also matches several fore-shadowing clues that I inserted in the story on day one. At last! Jubilation! However, four chapters remain to to be written — don’t hold your breath.

Expert Outreach: My Next Game

During the spring, I pondered a lot on what would become the next installment in my Expert series of games, nowadays produced by Swedish game publisher Eloso where I recently became a minority partner. After a while, I made up my mind: Expert Outreach, post-apocalyptic space opera in which mankind has to survive in a dark cosmos. It is an extensive development of grim visions for the future that I previously have written about in Swedish (link >>>). Expert Outreach will only be published in English.

I have always had a fondness for science fiction RPGs, ever since I entered the universes of Traveller in 1978 (English link >>>); that game turned me into a professional game designer seven years later. I have experimented with plenty of futuristic settings over the years and acquired a taste for gritty ones, that is, The Expanse rather than Star Trek; Rogue One rather than The Phantom Menace. I give Expert Outreach the label “post-apocalyptic space opera”; its theme is “mankind facing a dangerous future” in which our survival as a species is at stake.

Despite my temporary assignment (ends August 31) as an information analyst at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, June has been a surprisingly productive month. So far I have outlined two-thirds of Expert Outreach and written perhaps one-third of the background. I see no significant obstacles when it comes to content, because I know what the game needs and how to make it work.

Expert Outreach uses an adapted version of the Expert Nova rules (that is, my variant of Basic Role-playing 1D20). Elin Blixt does the interior artwork, whereas Clarence Redd and Andreas Sölvebring contribute text. Hopefully some other Swedish game writers will join my creative team.

Writing Despite Covid-19

The covid-19 pandemic is currently setting the rules for everyone. I am a reserve officer of the civil defense service, and some weeks ago, I was called to duty as an information analyst at the Civil Contingencies Agency here in Stockholm. It is a regular  office job: I relieve my career colleagues of routine matters, such as summarizing committee protocols and producing daily updates on activities in other national and regional public agencies. Coordination is the keyword.
Therefore, I had little time for RPG writing in March, but I made the following creative moves:
  • I published Expert Nova, Swedish Edition as a PDF (price: 88 kr, appr. €8) at DriveThruRPG — link >>>
  • I wrote an article for the Fenix RPG magazine about a creepy science fiction creature for Expert Nova.
  • I joined the Eloso team to develop new products the Swedish Chock horror RPG after my “demobilization” from my civil defense duties (hopefully in late May). I cannot go into details at this stage, but I will write on a subject that has been close to my heart for many years.

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.

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.

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.