Levels game event report

26 April, 2009 at 8:26 pm (actual play, roleplaying) (, , , )

This Saturday and Sunday there was a small and poorly advertised game event in Jyväskylä; it was called Levels. There was plenty of electronic games, some boardgames and some roleplaying folk. Naturally, I spent almost all of my time with the rpg people.

It is notable that Arkenstone clearly dominated the roleplaying side of the event, mostly because nobody else really demoed or explained games. Arkenstone translates and imports indie roleplaying games (mostly in the sense of being connected to the Forge scene) and sells them onwards. All three Tuovinen brothers were there (Eero has a blog, others do not, to my knowledge), as was Sami Koponen (who has a blog in Finnish). There is, or at least was, this stereotype about obnoxious Forge people relentlessly mocking traditional games and players thereof. I must say that I understand where it comes from, though I can’t be sure how serious the attitude was, as the aforementioned personalities have a tendency towards the theatrical. (Video footage of them would sell, I say.)

This said, most of the event time was spending playing games or talking about them. Namely, I told why one certain to-be-published fantasy project tentatively called Bliaron will be problematic; namely, Northern Realms will be publishing their homebrew fantasy setting and rules set. They have a website mostly in Finnish. I posted some criticism on their forums; the response has thus far been good and remarkably fast. Olorin (whose blog is in English) was also involved in the discussions.

I also roleplayed. First was a playtest of some Finnish rpg that I don’t really remember, while second was Solar system with wuxia themes. The second game was especially entertaining. I’m somewhat poor player, though, for few reasons. The first is that I am fundamentally a very shy creature. The second is that I have lots of experience in running games but fairly little in playing them; when game mastering, what I do is to throw interesting situations at people and see what they do and make sure that they bump into each other or just play a world as I see it, arbitrating the actions of the characters. Neither of these styles really works when playing, so I have to struggle to be properly involved. (It somewhat worked in the second game, but utterly failed in the first one due to one player’s strong personality and optimised character and very aggressive play, further adjusted by my suboptimal character who could not resist that character effectively.)

One remarkable thing about the way Tuovinen brothers and Koponen play in is the cinematic descriptions and concepts they use in play. They actively refer to the audience (“your character doesn’t notice this, but the audience clearly sees that the animal/god/Cernunnos is utterly mad and contradicts itself”), pronounce judgements as audience (“as a member of audience I say that your character is total sociopath”) and refer to angles of filming, lighting and other visual tricks. My background and interest is firmly rooted in books, so it was strange. There was also this style of play where one advocates for one’s character. It does not mean simply what is best for the character’s well-being; I think it is more tied to the character’s protagonism or something. The concept is not clear to me. I’d appreciate if someone explained the concept further or offered links to that effect.

I also bought some fudge dice, so now the Shadow of yesterday/Solar system is an option. It appeals to me for several reasons, including fairly light and customisable rules that are still robust and the way it elegantly handles different cultures and shifting character motivations.

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