It seems that there is a border to Praedor Finland. It runs a little north of Jyväskylä, cutting off the northernmost two-thirds of the country (Finland is long and narrow). Beyond this border, hobby game stores do not have Praedor RPG on the shelf and at nights you can hear lonely would-be Praedor gamemasters howling at the moon. Gritty Finnish sword & sorcery is a creature of the cities and towns of the south. Northern wilds belong to boardgames and the occasional D&D missionary risking cannibalism and swamp sacrifice to educate the natives. I am no hero to any cause, but last weekend I took a deep breath and boarded the train north, way past the border. I just knew there had to be sword & sorcery fans out there, even if they didn’t yet know it. Perhaps a secret, as-of-yet uncontacted tribe?
And thus I arrived at Kummacon in Oulu, a northern seaport famous for its Asian food (mind boggles but that Thai place was bloody excellent).
One of the issues with Praedor Public Sessions has been that while it is meant to introduce new players to Praedor RPG, I keep drawing crowds of Praedor veterans for some reason. They are not doing anything wrong, and I am flattered by their interested. But it really isn’t what I originally had in mind when I began doing this. Thus, in Kummacon, I was delighted when my players (excluding my wife) were all new to Praedor and some of them were new even to TRPGs in general. Now, if only they had all showed up when the session started. Half of them came late and thus got the cliff notes version of the usual intro. Also, it made the first half of the session, where characters prepare and interact with human NPCs, feel fragmented and more than a little incoherent.
Rest of the session went well enough. All players claimed to have enjoyed it but they always say that, don’t they? Afterwards, they all ran off, so I got little or no feedback. From what I can tell on my own, I did manage to patch up the broken start and traversing the ruins using Adventure Cards went well. Still, the ending scene for the scenario needs work – stronger definitions of what visual clues there are and what the characters can or cannot do. This was the very first time I ran the Arkes River IV: Restless Peace -scenario, so I always expected there to be some kinks. If it is just the ending, I got off lightly. One thing that went really well was pacing. It was a near-perfect fit for the four-hour slot I maintain for my game sessions. I did exceed that time limit in Kuopio but hey, where the hell else was I going to go?
I know we all kept playing through the night when we were teenagers. But I am not a teenager anymore and boy did I feel like it in Kummacon! My back was broken and most of the convention-goers around me were young enough to be my children. Or grandchildren, if people still had kids at the age where it is biologically sensible. While I have no kids, I hope I can keep my four-hour session length to the end, though. Come on, what else am I going to do in the retirement home? Play boardgames?
But I digress. Later, I managed to corner one of my new players in the convention café and press him for feedback. That is when I learned that while he had “heard” of Dungeons & Dragons, he hadn’t known that other roleplaying games even existed. He also wanted to know more about Praedor RPG and especially how it contrasts against D&D. Well, that’s exactly what I was there for! I opened the rulebooks and we went over different game features, discussing how D&D did them one way and Praedor RPG did them in another way. It was a brilliant discussion, as both games have perfectly valid reasons for their design choices, due to their different aims. I hope it was as informative to him as it was enjoyable (and perhaps somewhat eye-opening) for me. It is rare to get to talk shop these days, particularly with someone who has completely fresh eyes.
In short, all this is what I went to Oulu for and Oulu did not disappoint me. I don’t know if I managed to push the borders of Praedor Finland outwards but at least I gave it a good go. Will go again, if invited. Note that I had not actually been invited to Kummacon by the event organizers. Instead, I had met people from the local roleplaying and boardgaming club/cult (a fez? seriously?) CRYO back in Ropecon. They suggested that I attend Kummacon and I agreed. The event itself was a small but competently balanced mixture of an anime fandom and a spe-fi event. Definitely more balanced than some other events I know (hinthint, nudgenudge).
Now it is November. We are firmly in the season I call ”The Black Box”. Seriously, spend a whole year in South Finland and you’ll see what I mean. With only three Public Sessions to go, my Finnish Tour of Praedor is finally nearing its end. It has been fun and it is very flattering to be this popular but still… I feel thin, sort of stretched, like a blob of butter scraped over too much bread. I think I have gamemastered roughly 40 Public Sessions this year. Unfortunately, I only started keeping track of them in June but there was plenty of action in the Spring as well. And there will be some action next year but nowhere near this much. I am sorry, but if you ever want to see another Praedor RPG supplement, you have to give me time to write the bloody thing!