Category Archives: Danish Design

Sound and Noise in RPGs – When magic and monsters can hear you

Sometimes they hear you. Then they come for you.

This is an article on how sound and noise can play a role in your game. Below are presented three magic items, that one way or another encourages players to talk or stay silent. Likewise are below three phenomena or techniques that are tied to the words and the sound the players use. These ideas are based on materials from the Hinterlands Adventures (which you can find at RPG Drivethru and at DMs Guild). The descriptions below are kept somewhat D&D agnostic, so that you can easily use them in your D&D 5th, Labyrinth Lord or AD&D game.

Magic Items

  • Potion of Roaring Strength
  • Powder of Silent Wandering
  • Whispering Skull

Potion of Roaring Strength

The potion comes in an iron flask with a depiction of a roaring lion. The liquid is golden, sweet and strong, and it gives of a musky smell.

This potion grants the imbiber +4 bonus to strength tests, +2 to melee attack and damage rolls, and doubles the changes of opening doors, lifting gates etc.

While under the influence of the potion the imbiber cannot whisper, and the imbiber must speak yell, when speaking, otherwise the effects of the potion disappears immediately. The player must speak loudly, when speaking for his or her character, or the effects of the potion ends. Otherwise the effects of the potion lasts 2 hours.

The potion can be found in The Flooded Temple.

Powder of Silent Invisibility

This fine, glittering white powder usually comes in a cloth bag containing 1d3 potions. When thrown in the air it turns all creatures in 10ft diameter circle invisible for as long, as they are silent, or until they attack. Once turned invisible the creatures do not need to stay together to remain invisible.

Any creature who speaks, immediately become visible, and this applies to the players too! Any player who does not merely neutrally describe their character’s actions will see their character turn visible again (in some instances you might even want to have the players write down their actions, as they may difficulty coordinating their actions, when unable to speak).

The Powder appears in the adventure Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart.

The Whispering Skull

Wondrous Item, rare

A gold plated human skull with a cruel smile. Imbedded in gold plating are tiny swirls hiding enchanted symbols, that any arcane spellcaster can identify as arcane symbols related to arcane spells.

If you listen to the skull, you can hear it whisper secrets. If you attune to this item, you can use its two powers.

The secret of wizards: Each whispering skull recites one particular arcane spell, and if you spent 15 minutes listening to the skull, when preparing spells, a wizard can memorize the spell from the skull as if the wizard was studying his or her own spellbook. The skull’s spell cannot be transcribed.

The spell the skull recites is 70% of the time anecromancy spell of level 4-9, and the remainder 30% a divination spell.

The secret of adventurers: If you listen to the skull for 15 minutes before entering a dungeon, the skull will tell you a secret about the dungeon – but only if you whisper a valuable secret to the skull, that you have not told it before.

DM rolls hidden on the table:

1-25 The skull reveals the whereabouts of a treasure in the dungeon
26-70 The skull tells about a mystical danger or a hidden trap in the dungeon
71-85 The skull reveals the whereabouts of a hidden treasure in the dungeon
86-00 The skull lies

The Whispering Skull appears in the adventure Tower of the Star Watcher.

Techniques and Mechanics

  • Wandering Monsters
  • Song Lock
  • Curse of the Faeries

Be silent – or the troll comes for you

Whenever the players are noisy, they risk attracting monsters that may attack their characters. If they do not act and play quietly as their characters would do when moving through caves and grottoes, they will allow the GM to use wandering monsters against them.

Place a cup or glass on the table and have a collection of counters, dice or crystals ready.

Tell the players that their noises are reflective of the noise their characters make.

Whenever a player is noisy or makes a noisy activity (dice clattering, a chair creaking, a bag of chips rustles), you grab one of the counters and put it into the cup. Make sure the PCs see it. Allow the players to whisper loudly without being penalized (unless they overdo it), so that you still can hear them, when they are planning things or talking to you.

Whenever a certain number of objects are in the cup, a roll on the Wandering Monster table is triggered. Then empty the cup and begin collecting again. A fitting amount might for at start be 5 counters, and then you can increase or reduce the amount as needed.

Certain actions are pure and simply noisy. Combat with weapons and armor banging against each other, people yell in anger and fear, and magic roars through the area. Whenever combat begins, just add a single counter to the cup and allow the players to speak freely.

Sing Friend and Enter

The magical stone door is hardened through enchantments to resist most attempts to break it or force it open, and yet, there is a simple way to open the door, that may confound most adventurers. It is known as a Song Lock.

Etched into the surface with silver runes is an ancient song, and merely singing the text is what is needed to open the door, however the players must sing the text. For each being wanting to pass through the door, it must sing the text written on the door. Give the players a simple text to sing, and have them sing it together to open the door. Until it is sung, the door does not open.

A variant of the Song Lock appears in the adventure Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart.

Faerie Curse: Bound Tongue

The Knights of the Flower are champions of the faeries, and they master both the art of combat and magic. Their task is to challenge mortals, and to do that, they must master many different arenas, not merely combat using sword and lance, but also riddles, puzzles and magic.

The Knights of the Flower are encountered in the Hinterlandet woodland adventures – to be translated and published later – and among their abilities is the curse Bound Tongue, they often use when they challenge mortals to solve riddles.

The curse is tied to a specific word, and every time the player uses this word, their character suffers a bloody slash on their tongue, as if an invisible knife had cut it in punishment. The DM keeps an eye out for the words, the player uses, and every time the player speaks the chosen word (which might be ‘sword’, ‘initiative’, ‘but’ etc.), the character suffers 1 point of damage or 1d4 points (dependent on which version of D&D, you are playing. Up to AD&D 2nd edition it is suitable with 1 point of damage, and from 3rd edition 1d4 points of damage is typically suitable).

The curse is lifted, once the puzzle is solved, or if the Knight of the Flower is satisfied with the adventurers’ actions.

Hinterlandet (The Hinterlands) adventures contains more of these meta-play elements using sounds and voices, and more examples will appear in later adventures.

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It calls from The Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart

Scouts report, that they have seen a hill standing on burning pillars. What lies behind this mystery, why is an army of kobolds on the march, and what strange force is calling you from the dark depths of its forgotten tomb?

Welcome to the fifth adventure translated from Danish to English in the line of Hinterlandet (The Hinterlands) adventures. This time the module has been adapted to Labyrinth Lord, and is thus compatible with D&D becmi and various retro clones as well. It is oldschool adventure rich with opportunities for roleplaying.

The adventure is part of the Seven Swords of the Dwarves storyline, and it is the adventure that sparked the storyline for the next two years, where the players in Hinterlandet Living Campaign fought against The Dragon and its cult while searching for weapons to defeat the Dragon with. This is an adventure, that allows you to set loose a great villain on your campaign and let the players be in the center of it all, as they are the ones to (accidentally) unleash the foe. The adventure is followed by the adventure, The Flooded Temple, as it is from the first storyline about the Dragon – The Dragon Awakens – where the adventurers go searching for weapons against the Dragon, and the Cult of the Dragon is trying to stop them.

A large part of the fun with this adventure was seeing the players interact with the residents of the dungeon, especially when they discover, they are under siege, and hostile humanoids wants to enter the ruins. Another great moment was when the players figured out how the tomb worked (no spoilers here), and that this moment allowed a player to let her character become a central villain in the Living Campaign as she became a Herald of the Dragon.

You can find The Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart at RPG Drivethru: The Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart.


Waiting for Death’s Herald at The Flooded Temple

It is an ancient and forgotten temple hidden at the bottom of canyon only accessible by boat. Here wait’s death for curious travelers, but also an ancient relic and several factions struggling to claim the ruin as theirs. Meanwhile the kobolds just wait for Death to carry them away, and careless explorers may find, that they too will be carried off.

This is the fourth Hinterlandet adventure to be translated into English, and where the previous three were converted to D&D 5th edition (Palace of Sweet Dreams, One Night Amongst the Necromancers, Tower of the Star Watcher), this one was kept system agnostic or perhaps more precisely D&D agnostic. It is a sandbox dungeon, that invites the players to explore the caves from several different angles, and encourages roleplaying and problem solving over outright fights, and combat will mainly be at the instigation of the players.

The adventure is a part of The Dragon Awakens storyline – The Hinterlandet Living Campaign – where adventurers are seeking out the Grave of the Dragon Slayer in order to find a mighty sword to battle The Dragon with (this was a consequence of the “Seven Swords of the Dwarves” storyline, where other adventurers accidentally woke the Dragon). This means that a recurring foe, The Cult of the Dragon, appears in the adventure and intrudes in the dungeon, while the PCs are exploring the place (when adapting the adventure for your campaign, you can either use the cult or replace it with a recurring foe of your own campaign).

A part of the fun with the adventure was seeing the players deal with the different factions of the temple, and many found the kobolds to be the saddest humanoids ever encountered, and their beliefs strange and unsettling. The factions, the many paths through the adventure and the open structure is all part of the design principles of a Hinterlandet dungeon.

Recently The Flooded Temple received a positive review, which I wrote about here.

You can find The Flooded Temple at Drivethru here: The Flooded Temple.


Resurrecting a slow blog: Return of DragonLance, Delta Green and other goodness

I must admit that posting two or three times a week at my native blog and once a week at my blogcollective, makes it a bit hard to keep this blog alive, however I intend to share some thoughts and experiences here none the less.

In part I have been busy writing scenarios for three conventions. All three take place in an alternate history universe, where roleplaying was developed in the late 18th century, and we follow the lives of roleplayers in the early 19th century, while the Napoleonic wars are raging through Europe.

Right now I playing DL2 Dragons of Flame, and having read a bit a head into DL3 and DL4 I finally realize what DragonLance is all about, and with this insight I will set about re-imagining DragonLance as if it was another Battlestar Galactica-show, this time ancient aliens and science fiction enters the world of Krynn.

My Delta Green-campaign is at an end, but my posts are not, as there a bunch of insights and experiences, that I want to share. Right now we are playing Trollbabe and aim soon to play Microscope very soon, and I might have some thoughts to share.

Finally I am planning to run a The One Ring-campaign, and I am really looking forward to try this system and to run a campaign in so a well established setting as Tolkien’s Middle Earth.


Call for scenarioes – send your summary

We bring an announcement. The roleplaying Festival, Fastaval, is now open for summaries for anyone, who wants to present a roleplaying-scenario at the convention. Fastaval is a Danish roleplaying festival taking place during the Easter. The convention caters to all sorts of roleplaying games, though traditionally the emphasis is on various kinds of tabletop roleplaying – systemless, freeform, parlor larp, indie, story game, traditional etc. – and now is the chance to apply to present a game at Fastaval, the leading Danish roleplaying convention. 

And now the formal announcement:

Summaries for Fastaval

Once again, it is time to think about roleplaying scenarios for Fastaval. The last couple of years we’ve received a large number of summaries, and we sincerely hope the trend will continue, so we’ll be able to offer a great and varied selection of RPGs in 2012. Send us your idea as a summary, so you may contribute to the big con in 2012.

Formalities

The summaries must be sent to the two scenario coordinators, Kristoffer Rudkjær and Klaus Meier Olsen at: rollespil@fastaval.dk no later than Thursday, September 15, at 23:59 (GMT+1).

The finished scenarios must be sent to Kristoffer and Klaus no later than February 15, 2012.

Please note: Over the last many years, there’s been a very loose deadline discipline. For FV2012 we will enforce a tight deadline for scenarios. Therefore, we are willing to cancel scenarios, if we haven’t received them on February 15.

Summaries and the writers behind them

Primarily, we look at the presentation of your idea. A summary is a short piece of text that describes what sets your scenario apart from others, what makes it awesome, and what the players will experience by playing it. You can read more about the form in Mikkel Bækgaard’s fine description from 2005 here (only in Danish): Den gode synops

In addition, we need the following information:

  • Type (scenario, novella or grind night – see below)
  • Number of players
  • Number of Gamemasters
  • Expected playing time
  • Name, e-mail and phone for alle participating scenario-authors *

What’s new this year?

During the last couple of years, we’ve tried some new things regarding scenarios for Fastaval. This year, there’s not much new under the sun, except for a tuning of last year’s initiatives. Therefore, in relation to the creative processes, we will once again focus on workshops, sparring partners, as well as host a weekend for the writers. We will focus specifically on better and ongoing communication between writers and the people in charge, as well as maintaining a very hard deadline. For our program, we will continue last year’s division between standard scenarios, novellas and the very successful Grind Night concept – with minor adjustments of the latter.

Novellas

The average length of scenarios is currently 3-5 hours. This creates a challenge in regards to our “block” system on the full days, as there isn’t enough time for three blocks, but two blocks would leave too much “gameless” time. To solve this problem, Fastaval introduced a novella block last year, which we will use in FV2012 as well.

So, again this year, we are looking for summaries for novella scenarios. A novella scenario is typically meant for four players or five players without a gamemaster, but we will not make any requirements in this regard. We will, however, require, that the scenario can be played in max two hours, including introduction and wrap-up. Novellas are, in other words, a somewhat limited scenario idea, perhaps with an oblique approach or point of view, that works fantastic for 1½ hours, but not for 5. In addition, it is a slightly more approachable project for e.g. debutants or scenario writers with kids or exams. We are looking forward to see what exciting ideas this format will produce!

Novellas participate in the Otto Awards on equal terms with all other scenarios.

Grind night

Last year, we offered a particular night block for games with horror, fright and grind. It was so successful, we’ll be bringing it back for Fastaval 2012. We will, however, make two minor adjustments. Firstly, the block will start earlier (but don’t worry, it will still be late night gaming), and secondly, we will only accept grind night novellas. That way, it will be possible for players to participate in more than one game (and the writers will have more player groups). Practically speaking, the players will still sign up for the block and be allocated to games in the “Midnight Lounge”.

We are looking for novella scenarios inspired by gore films and late night B TV shows with monsters, murderers and darkness, etc. It can be horror, it can be comical or very grim. The most important thing is, it focuses on the terrifying.

Grind night novellas participate in the Otto Awards on equal terms with all other scenarios.

Live

Lastly, we would like to briefly mention live scenarios. Live is more than welcome on Fastaval, both in standard blocks and as novellas or as part of the Grind Night. So, send us your summary, and we will look it over. Please note, that Fastaval has a live coordinator, who will help with the practicalities of live scenarios.

Live scenarios participate in the Otto Awards on equal terms with all other scenarios.

Selection

So, this year we ask for three types of summaries: the “classical” scenario – which is longer than a novella and can be played in a normal 6 hour block, novellas for our 2 hour blocks, and finally grind night novellas for the grind night block Friday night. Some ideas may break these broad guidelines, in which case we will look at it.

Just as last year, we will try to find a reasonable correlation between number of scenarios and gaming blocks. Because of this, we will be forced to choose between the submissions based on the following three parameters:

Spread

We want a broad selection of scenarios in terms of genre, system and player accessibility. We also want a broad selection of writers, so we have both newcomers, intermediates and old veterans in this year’s program.

This year, there might be cases of having a good idea for a normal scenario, that can’t be accepted for space reasons, but which we think would fit nicely as a novella or on Grind Night, or vice versa. In these cases, we will contact the writer and ask if he/she will participate under these slightly changed circumstances.

Finally, the past two years we have had cases of writers submitting more than one summary. This presents us with a dilemma: the more scenarios from one writer at Fastaval, the less scenarios from different writers. This will be taken into account when we make our selection, which means you must have some really good ideas to get more than one scenario included in the program.

Maturity of the Idea

The more developed the idea, the more likely it will be accepted. A fully developed idea increases the chance of having a ready scenario in February.

Quality

We want the best scenarios possible, to give the con-goers at Fastaval the best playing experiences.

Response and Presentation of the Program

We receive the summaries on September 15 and respond no later than October 1. Shortly hereafter we will publish the program on Fastaval.dk.

 

Best regards,

Klaus & Kristoffer

* It is possible to write under a pseudonym, but the scenario coordinators need all the requested information.

So, are you tempted? I am. I plan to participate with a summary on my alternate history love story about a young theologian investigating strange rumors of witchcraft in the town of Køge in the year 1810.


Visiting Ropecon

So I visited Ropecon in Finland. It is a brief flight from Denmark, but none the less it is my first visit to Finland. One of the pleasent suprises, when arriving in Helsinki was that most signs are both in Swedish and Finnish, which made the otherwise intelligle signs readable.

Awesome International Guest: Mentzer

Since the international guests weren’t the reason for my visit to Ropecon, I was pleasently surprised by discovering the awesome guests, they had coming. To me it was mainly Frank Mentzer, but my introduction to roleplaying back in ’87 was the red box, so getting to meet the designer was fascinating. He is a nice guy, he ran some D&D-sessions, participated in some panels, and at the closing ceremony he gave Ropecon a copy of Chainmail, the original D&D and first Greyhawk-supplement. This was rather generous, and it was touching to see the representative receiving the books, he was absolutely overwhelmed, and this gift was due to the friendly atmosphere and nice hosts – and Ropecon is absolutely a friendly place. Go visit them next year.

There were other international guests like Eric Mona, but since I don’t play their games, I was not that familiar with them or their products.

A convention unlike the ones at home

This is the first convention, that I have attended, where they do not go by the “one group, one room”-approach, but instead had multiple groups in each room often sitting next to each other, and no scenario was run more than once, unless the GM runs his own scenario twice. Being used to have several different GMs run the same scenario at the same time in each of their own rooms, this was quite difficult and I ended up playing not a single scenario, while attending Ropecon.

Another difference was that Ropecon is hugely larger than Danish conventions, it is rich in cosplayers, and it takes place at a conference center, where we lend public schools during weekends and holidays.

Being Published

My reason for going to Ropecon was the publication of Unelma Keltaisesta kuninkaasta ja muita tanskalaisia roolipelejä – in other words a Finnish publication with 12 Danish scenarios. My contribution to the book is Memoratorio – as the Finnish title goes – that I cowrote with Monica Traxl a few years back, and it is fun to see this translation into a language, that I cannot read, and hardly recognize any words in.

It was fun

The Fins are nice people, and they all speak English and some Swedish, so we had no problems communicating. The convention was nice, the weather was wonderful, and there was plenty of roleplaying at both the table and live, besides panels and board games … and beers in the cantina, at the beach or in the park. And it had Frank Mentzer!

 


What are the Roles of the Master?

A short while ago Larp Musing linked to Mailed Fist’s post on ‘What is Roleplaying?‘, and is there something, that many a roleplayer has a strong opinion of or can debate endlessly about, then it is the question “what is roleplaying?”. Usually I prefer the simple explanation, that roleplaying is a medium akin to theater, literature, movies etc., and that we can tell stories with it, and that roleplaying can be art, just as books, movies, and comics can be art.

Now Donjon Master at Mailed Fist wants to give a description of what roleplaying at the table is, and he focuses on the process of the interaction between GM and player, a perspective which is addressed by Larp Musing, as the many of the assignments handled by the GM at the table are absent in larps – at least in the particular role described by Donjon Master at Mailed Fist.

Right now I am prepping the games I will be playing at upcoming roleplaying convention, Fastaval, during Easter, and the different scenarios requires different approaches to how I will be game mastering. Each scenario assigns specific jobs for the GM, ans these do not quite match those Donjon Master describes. Before dealing with the roles of the GM in the four scenarios, I will briefly present the scenarios.

The Four Things I Will Be Game Mastering This Easter

Ikea

A low key comedy about everyday life, where we follow four pairs of people (chosen from some 11 different pairs) shopping in Ikea. Ikea in this sense acts as a frame for each pair’s problems. Each pair consist of one A-role and one B-role, and each player will be playing an A-role in one pair and a B-role in one another pair, and the action shifts between the four pairs, and during the intermezzos the players through their characters acts as extras commenting of the story of the other players. As a part of the scene-setting the players use an actual Ikea-catalogue.

Leaves of Fate

This story takes place in 1901 just after the death of a noble woman, and we follow her four heirs – the husband, the lover, the son and the sister – and they are a unpleasent bunch, but from beyond her grave she gives them a chance to redeem themselves, thus winning the inheritance, but this require them to admit their crime against her and to strive to better themselves. The communication is handled through an actual ouija-board used as a mechanic in the game, and the players through their characters ask questions and constructs answers to shape the story.

A Heart of Metal

A metal-version of the opera Tannhäuser, where we follow the metal-pot Granhøj, his muse, his girlfriend and his rival. He is struggling to succeed as an artist. The curious thing in this one is,t hat the roles rotate among the players at the command of the GM, and that the scenes can be done over again and again from different perspectives.

The scenario is accompanied by a metal soundtrack.

Scrapbook

A woman is lost in her fantasy of the ideal life. The story begins and ends with her kidnapping of a small child and her hiding at a motel. In between the events that drove her to insanity are played out with the players using a scrapbook. Scenes switch between rosy red and dull grey, as they are either her dream life, where things are good, or her real life, where things are not as good. The game moves in a non-linear fashion through the events switching between her fantasy-version, that can constantly be retold, as it is only something she imagines, and reality, that can only be played once, since harsh reality is not malleable.

Game Mastering

Common for all four scenarios, that I will be running:

  • Begin with instructing the players as to how the game is played
  • Demonstrate the rules
  • Establish the genre.

Ikea

  • Pacing and cutting the scenes between the four pairs
  • Leave the scene-setting to the players
  • if a scene is loosing momentum, then introduce the other players playing minor characters

Leaves of Fate

  • Have the players describe location and mood. Do this by asking leading questions to the players during the scenes
  • Set the scenes, once the players have briefly established the situation
  • Play the extras (the priest, the lawyer, the staff) – they are only present briefly at the start
  • Explain the players the general events in each act and scene
  • Assist at the Ouija-board, especially if the players are out of ideas

Scrapbook

  • Frame the Monologue
  • Set the first scene
  • Have the players set the next scenes
  • Frame the Epilogue
  • Play extras if needed

A Heart of Metal

  • Set the scenes, describe the setting
  • Reframe and re-set the scenes
  • Rotate the characters between the players
  • Change the music from scene to scene

Now comparing this to Donjon Masters presentation of the game master’s functions, there are some interesting differences. Only in A Heart of Metal will I be describing the characters’ perception of the situation. Mostly the players will not be describing to me as the GM, what they are doing. Instead they will act out or describe to each other, what their characters are doing, and finally I will in general just nod and say yes to the players’ choices. The scenarios are all structured freeform, and thus there will be no mechanic to determine the outcome, and at most I will be final arbitrator, if there is any doubt as to what is going to happen.


What I will be Playing at The Next Con

The next convention I will be attending is Fastaval in Easter. The convention has its 25th anniversary, and I am pretty excited, as there will be a lot things to watch out for, not just roleplaying, but also all the secondary events such the Roleplaying Home Brewers Contest (that is roleplayers that also brew their own beers), and the anniversary publication covering this years articles on how to play – articles targeting both players and GMs – and also covering the last 25 years of the convention’s history.

Right now I am working on the last details on my own contribution to the programme, a scenario about children and war, and I am looking for game masters for the scenario. I am also trying to figure out, which of the scenarios, that I will run, and so far I have narrowed it down to the following games:

  • A Heart of Metal. A metal-opera roleplay based on Tannhäuser including a playlist of various metal hits.
  • Ikea. A love story using an Ikea-catalogue to set the scenes.
  • Leaves of Destiny. A drama using a ouija-board to simulate the events of the game
  • 15 Men. A pirate story about 15 pirates trying to get the treasure with one pirate dying in each scene. Once a player’s pirate character is dead, he picks the next to play.
  • Memoirs of a Hitman. A story about a nameless hitman finding solace on Iceland.
  • Scrapbook. A sad tale about a woman lost in her fantasy world, where the players construct scenes by using her scrapbook. The color of the pages reveal, whether the events take place or in her dream world.

That is just a small part of the programme.

Since there is a rumor that Jared Sorensen and Luke Crane  of FreeMarket fame might visit, I will also be signing up for the indie-games.


Fastaval – The Roleplaying Festival

We are gearing up for Fastaval, the grand roleplaying convention in Denmark. This time it is in April, Easter to be exact, and soon the registration opens (21st of February), and if you are quick, you will get a discount, which is more or less free participation.

So come to Denmark, try our games, and have fun. We have a lot of unusual stuff, that you don’t get to play elsewhere.

The Fastaval FAQ for the curious.

25 years of Fastaval

It is the 25th anniversary, and I am really looking forward to this convention. This year will be doing a lot of extra things such as a beer brewing-competition among roleplayers, and an anniversary book celebrating Fastaval telling its history and it will be combined with the yearly Fastaval-compendium, which compiles GM and player techniques. There are some 20-30 new scenarios (each scenario is run several times with different GMs), a pile of board games and a great bar.

What I Am Doing

As the coordinator of the brewing contest and editor of the compendium I am quite busy right now – and also with writing my scenario for this years Fastaval, and mentoring one of the other scenario-authors. The competition is quite heavy this year with 20-30 scenarios premiering. I had the opportunity to play test one of them at Con2: A Heart of Metal, a metal opera-roleplaying based on Tännhauser and with great love for the metal genre. It is quite fun with its quite unusual structure, where the characters rotate among the players and the same scene is played several times from different angles. We had a lot of fun playing it.

At Con2 I also had the opportunity to play Periid: The TekGards, an unusual game about friendship and art collection among a futuristic unit of supersoldiers in heavy mechanized armor. A central part of the mechanic in the combat scenes is the players hugging, kissing and high fiving each other playing out the close friendship among the troopers, and at the same time improving their combat results. Quite weird, and it will be relaunched at Viking-Con in October.

Next up is Knudepunkt (17th – 20th Feb), the Scandinavian conference on roleplaying and Larp, where I’ll be participating with a talk about the scenario-writing of Fastaval through the last 25 years. Plenty of stuff to keep me busy.


Is It Roleplaying, or Is It Roleplaying Game?

Recently I entered into a discussion with Carpe Guitarrem at The Player’s Side of the Screen, where he has a series of three posts about immersion and metagame (most recent post), and a part of the difficulty for me, was that a part of the terminology, that I wanted to use, is Danish, and translating the terms while retaining their meaning is not easy.

Roleplaying or Roleplaying Game?

One of the curious things about this hobby of ours, this medium for stories, this art, is the name of the game. Do we call it roleplaying or roleplaying game?

The reason for my asking is language. I am Danish, and once in a while we discuss the definition of RP/RPG at Danish fora, and this sometimes brings the name and its definition to be discussed. The thing is, we do not call it roleplaying game in Danish, just roleplaying. There is a reason for this, so here comes a brief language-discussion.

Roleplaying Game (RPG) consists of three words – role, play and game – thus roleplaying game.

In Danish roleplaying is traditionally translated to rollespil. This was in use before D&D was published, just as roleplaying existed in other areas long before D&D came into existence, for instance as therapeutic practice. Now rolle matches role, but spil is more tricky, as it can refer to either play as in a theater-play or to a game, meaning that rollespil technically could be translated as either roleplay or rolegame (just as playing a game would be spille et spil). However play can also refer to children playing, but that word is leg (e.g. Children playing is Børn, der leger or legende børn).  In order to have all three words – role, play, game – in Danish the translation would end up being either rollespilsleg, rollelegsspil, rollespilsspil – however none of these translations are in use, and they are all a bit clumsy.

No Dice, No System

One consequence seems to be, that no one ever puts an emphasis on ‘game’, when discussing what is roleplaying, nor is the presence of dice or other randomizers mandatory in Danish roleplaying – instead they become optional tools, that some writers may choose include in their scenario-writing, but few does. So many scenarios are therefore diceless, and without any dice, there are no reason to use any of the classical systems such as BRP, D&D, GURPS, Storyteller – as they are designed to use dice – and therefore the scenarios become systemless (systemløst in Danish). However systemløst is not without structure, so we are dealing with a series of structured freeform-scenarios. Some in the traditions related to Swedish Jeepform, others not so much.

A Brief Note About Immersion

In many of the systemløse scenarios one of the desired effects are the equivalent of immersion (in its most general meaning), but it is designated indlevelse, and actually the abscence of rules and dice are important for the players, and for their attaining the desired immersive state. Preferably the GM handles the outcomes, and the players focus on their indlevelse.

LARP without Action

Some of the same applies to LARP. In Danish it is called live rollespil (or levende rollespil as ‘live’ is an English loanword) instead of Live Action Roleplaying (Game) or just rollespil – for most non-roleplayers rollespil is synonymous with LARPing. There may be action in levende rollespil, but there is no emphasis on it. Of course this easily gets confusing, as some LARPers prefer to consider their hobby a rolleleg instead of a rollespil (i.e. rather roleplay than rolegame), and they advocate for the removal of most rules (besides obvious safety rules etc.) reducing the LARP-rules to the most basic and simple.

So that is it, a brief bit about roleplaying in other countries.