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


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.

Enter the Swedish “Call of Cthulhu”

During August, Chaosium’s Swedish partner Eloso contacted me because they urgently needed an extra translator for the Swedish edition of Call of Cthulhu. So, I currently busy with its rules for creating daring investigators that strive to face down cosmic horrors and therefore go gradually insane.

My assignment comprises translation and localization, that is, adapting the texts to Eloso’s 1920s Swedish setting. There are notable differences when it comes to professions (e.g.  no gangsters in Sweden), social classes (e.g. we had a stratified society), and private finances (e.g. period Sweden was notably poorer than the US).

Also, Sweden did not participate in World War One, but many Swedes volunteered to fight in the trenches as soldiers in the German, French, and US armies, as well as in the opposing forces of Finland’s 1918 civil war. Therefore, war veterans have to get credible backstories for their front-line experiences.

Here is Eloso’s CoC kickstarter — link >>>

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.

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.