In 1982, I wrote an Amber Zone adventure called Chariots of Fire for the American Traveller magazine Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society. To my surprise, American youtuber Seth Skorkowski reviewed it a few days ago, also adding some pertinent suggestions how a GM might run it.
Chariots of Fire — the title of the adventure is an intentional pun, because its plot deals with stealing two fire engines and get them undamaged across a troubled border. In 1982, I was 23 years old and a student of political science at Lund University. The adventure’s general setting is based on the 1970s Hollywood version of Central America.
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.
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.
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 >>>.
- 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.
Micael Fryksäter intervjuar mig om mina 40+ år i svenska och amerikanska rollspelsbranschen. Det finns en hel del att berätta.
Last week I was invited by the podcaster Red Moon Roleplaying to run A Hard Night’s Day (pun intended), a small Traveller adventure in my alternate Traveller universe Phoenix Terra. Here is the result.
Yesterday, the Far Trader Menelaos touched down on the polluted backwater planet Khuda (UWP C-653-777-6). In the evening, the chief engineer headed into to startown for some well-deserved leave. She did not return. This morning, the captain orders the suave executive officer and the burly cargo chief to locate her. What could possibly go wrong?
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.
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
- 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) >>>
- 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) >>>
- 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) >>>
- 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) >>>
- 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) >>>
- 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) >>>
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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) >>>
- 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.
- 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.
Recently, I checked what’s available at DriveThruRPG.com; after all, it appears to be the biggest supplier of RPG texts as downloadable PDFs. I made a serendipitous discovery: the site has a sizeable PDF library for Traveller, the game that made me a professional game designer (read about my long-lasting relation to Traveller here — link >>> ).
Also, I saw that there are good opportunities for publishing one’s own Traveller-related material there by using the open content license OGL. Really nice, particularly since I like the new Cepheus Engine rules (with a few house tweaks of course). So I have decided that when, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I can start writing game stuff full-time, I will return to the many universes of Traveller and start publishing my new settings at DriveThruRPG.com. I already have a few ideas in my mind.