Expert Nova’s Fundamental Precepts

When you buy a car, you look for a model whose performance suits your needs. The generic car, equally good at all tasks, doesn’t exist. This observation also applies to RPG rules: their designer has, hopefully, a clear notion for what purposes his game is intended.

So, when I start working on a new set of RPG rules, I first visualize a key issue: “What do the adventurers do here?” In other words, what kinds of story/movie/TV-series do you wish to emulate? Your decision takes you to the next question: “What important features does your choice require?” (Dogfighting spacecraft? Sneaky espionage gadgets? Clever heists?) Hence, you must establish a set of precepts to serve as the foundation of your project.

My favorite example is West End Games’s Star Wars D6 from 1987, designed by Greg Costikyan. When I read that game for the first time 33 years ago, it was like seeing an intricate piece of machinery put together by a master craftsman. Greg knew exactly what the Star Wars setting required and he designed the game accordingly, scoring a Gold+ medal for his efforts.

One year ago, I decided (at the spur of a moment) to write Expert Nova. From hour one, I knew for what types of campaigns its rules were intended. My intentions are summarized in the following precepts (central ideas are underlined):

  1. Milieu: Expert Nova is intended for action and adventures in contemporary settings (circa 1880-2050) with technological underpinnings, that is, near-future science fiction, steampunk, dieselpunk, solarpunk, spy thrillers, pulp adventures, alternate history, etc. I also apply two Classical maxims to the game: pántōn chrēmáton ánthrōpon métron eínai* (“man is the measure of all things”, Protagoras) and homo homini lupus est** (“man is man’s wolf”, Plautus), that is, Expert Nova deals with our species facing the universe while simultaneously presupposing that we are our own worst enemy. Hence, moderate “weird technology” lies within Expert Nova’s scope, whereas horror and supernatural entities don’t.
  2. Mood: The players’ adventurers are supposed to be competent people with agency, free will, and a desire to make sensible decisions. That is, a campaign may introduce powerful NPCs with malicious intentions, but there are always ways of opposing them; a setting may be grim, but the adventurers still get the choice to “do the right thing”. For those reasons, railroading adventures, moral nihilism, and “let’s embrace the darkness” attitudes are out of bounds.
  3. Mindset: Adventurers are supposed to think outside the box when facing challenges. Therefore, I encourage clever schemes, cool stunts, and witty repartee.

A Swedish game designer recently asked me whether he could use my rules for a new game project. When he explained its setting to me. I saw that it lay within Expert Nova’s scope, so I granted him permission. I’m looking forward to see what he will accomplish with the Expert Nova “toolbox”.

Expert Nova is available in Swedish and English …
… as paperbacks — link >>>
… as PDFs — link >>> 

* Människan är alltings mått.
** Människan är människans varg.

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.

Expert Nova: the next step

Recently, I published my new Swedish role-playing game Expert Nova at (link to the game in my Lulu shop >>>). Its is designed for real-world or science-fiction campaigns in the contemporary era (i.e. circa 1880 to 2050).

So far I have seen one review (it’s there at the game’s Lulu page); the reviewer awarded five stars out of five. I am eagerly waiting for the review in the Swedish game magazine Fenix later this autumn.

When I started working with Expert Nova in the late Spring, I made a mental survey of what role-playing games there currently are in the Swedish market. Half a dozen or more are competing the fantasy niche, each targeting a particular age or style segment. In the post-apocalyptic niche, there is one multi-faceted line, and as for space opera there are a few titles. But when I considered the contemporary/near future/near past niche, there was only one tentative competitor and it doesn’t resemble anything in my oeuvres.

In my gaming group (playing weekly or biweekly since the 1980s), we have enjoyed several fairly low-key campaigns set in the 20th century, e.g. cops in Vermont 1931 or in Los Angeles 2003; freewheeling British intelligence officers in WW2; Soviet investigators of UFO phenomena in 1956; pulpish adventurers in 1930s Far and Middle East; and so on. So I made up my mind and wrote Expert Nova as a set of flexible rules for that kind of campaigns, using plenty of detective, spy and soldier tropes in its explanatory descriptions because they are familiar to the readers.

I selected Basic Role-playing 1D20 as my foundation for Expert Nova, because I know that system inside out, having used it creatively since 1979. But in Expert Nova I deviate from BRP’s common implementation by cutting the PC’s characteristics from seven to four (Push, Knack, Sense, Grit) and reducing the number of skills to a score broad ones.

For example, the Soldier skill encompasses everything that a competent infantryman is trained to do: marksmanship, field-works, orienteering, spit-and-polish, instruction, first aid, swimming, etc. I want to enable the players to play competent characters that won’t get lost in an an adventure because their team lacks one narrowly-defined skill.

My current intention is to proceed with an Expert series by books, each dealing with a specific milieu or trope. Such a book is supposed to contain a setting with campaign advice for the game master, adventurer creation tips for the players, and an adaptation of the Expert Nova rules with setting-specific add-ons. Each book will be a complete stand-alone game.

During October I have jotted down several ideas and outlines. Some milieus came easily to my mind, such as an adventurous oldschool solar system (explanatory link >>>) or espionage in a Cold-War or a pre-Cold-War timeline. Below I outline three appealing settings:

  1. I have always been fascinated by uchronias, i.e. when history took an alternate turn at some point and thereby created a world different from ours. My academic background of political science and history often inspires me speculate on “What if?” settings. Currently I am spending a lot of key-board time working on an retro-style alternate Europe, a setting designed for crime-fighting, espionage and liberation struggles in oppressive, conservative societies.
  2. I have also outlined a 1990s science fiction setting, in which the adventurers will deal with mankind’s unenviable minor role in cosmos while coping with the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet empire. Yes, this proposition makes sense in context.
  3. I am considering a reboot of the world of Gondica that I created twenty years ago; it would entail an extensive revision and expansion of Gondica’s original timeline and backstory to create a milieu with airships, clockwork automatons, steamships and strange places to explore. I might perhaps derive inspiration from Conan Doyle’s professor Challenger adventures and Kipling’s stories. However, I have currently no idea what results my creative process might deliver in this case.
  4. Also, some people have suggested that I make an English edition of Expert Nova. Yes, I hear you loud and clear, and I have started translating the texts.

I have earlier described myself thus: “Anders Blixt is a machine that turns coffee into role-playing games”. However, available time does not match my relentless creativity, so I must prioritize wisely. General Eisenhower once said:

I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of “emergency” is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.

Therefore, I make no promises about this or that Expert book. Please have patience and stay tuned to this blog for future updates.

Rollspelet Expert Nova lanseras

Summary in English: My new Swedish RPG Expert Nova has been launched at Lulu.

Jag säljer mitt nya rollspel Expert Nova via Lulu (länk till min Lulu-butik >>> [20191104: Koden LULU10 ger 10% rabatt t.o.m. 7 november]). Spelet innehåller klassiska svenska rollspelsregler — slå lågt med 1T20 för att lyckas — för nutida action & äventyr-kampanjer, dvs under perioden 1880 till 2050.3ExNova (2)

Läs en recension av Expert Novas beta-version här — länk >>> . Recensenten ger betyget 5 av 5: “Hela Expert Nova håller den här kvaliteten. Det är helt enkelt en av de bästa realistiska, crunchiga, regelsystemen jag har läst.”

Ett kostnadsfritt rollformulär finns att ladda ner här — länk >>>

Expert Nova: min “Tack till”-kvartett

Summary in English: I write about four people that inspired me when I wrote the Swedish RPG Expert Nova.


När jag skriver en spelprodukt brukar dess försättsblad (kolofon) innehålla rubriken Med tack till, där jag räknar upp folk som på olika sätt bistått mig med råd eller inspiration. Jag har fått roade läsarkommentarer angående en del namn. (Ett exempel: I settingen Sorgeveden till Hjältarnas Tid tackade jag bland annat Tacitus och Julius Caesar, vars tvåtusen år gamla böcker hade givit mig många goda idéer angående storskogens befolkning.)

Tacklistan på Expert Novas försättsblad är kortare än vanligt, endast fyra namn; här förklarar jag vilka de är och varför jag tackar dem.

  • Samantha Carter, spelad av Amanda Tapping, är en huvudperson i Stargate-franchisens teveserier, en duglig amerikansk officer. 2012 var jag allvarligt sjuk och hemma i över en månad. Långtråkigt eftersom barnen var i skolan och hustrun på jobbet. Varje vardagsförmiddag sände dock en kabelkanal två Stargate-avsnitt. Samantha Carter blev snabbt en favorit och när jag skrev Expert Novas regler för spelarnas rollpersoner blev hon mitt riktmärke för hurdan en skicklig äventyrare ska vara.
  • Peter Høeg är en dansk författare. På 1990-talet läste jag hans thriller Fröken Smillas känsla för snö och gillade bokens arktiska kusligheter och mångbottnade huvudperson Smilla Jaspersen. När jag satte upp parametrarna för Expert Novas syften och innehåll bestämde jag att en spelledare ska kunna använda reglerna rakt för en minikampanj baserad på Smillas äventyr. Och så blev det.
  • Marc Miller är en av mina tre läromästare när det gäller spelkonstruktion. Hans SF-rollspel Traveller från 1977 gjorde mig till spelkonstruktör. Jag började spelleda det spelet 1978, och 1979-80 blev jag professionellt publicerad för första gången i speltidskriften Journal of Travellers’ Aid Society. Mina många artiklar där 1980-85 ledde till att Äventyrsspel anställde mig 1985. Läs en lång intervju med Marc här — länk >>>
  • Åsa Roos är en fixstjärna på den svenska spelhimlen. Hon recenserar ofta rollspel i branschtidningen Fenix. När ett färskt nummer hamnar i min brevlåda börjar jag med Birger-stripparna och går sedan över till Åsas recensioner. Där visar hon på spelens starka och svaga sidor och många gånger innehåller hennes bedömningar yrkesmässiga guldkorn. Till exempel gjorde en Åsa-recension att jag insåg behovet av helt nya regler för socialt samspel mellan äventyrare och SLP; de ursprungliga reglerna var nämligen inte tillräckligt flexibla och tydliga.