Mother’s Tongue

“Hey Burgeri! Both Praedor and Stalker RPGs have sold thousands. Yet Stalker RPG is out in English, French and soon Korean. Praedor RPG is still just in Finnish. What gives? Surely it wouldn’t take that much to have it translated into English?”

(Usually they then tell me some story of foreign friends taking interest in Praedor).

Me: “Yes, I could probably afford it. But here is the rub: Praedor RPG is a licensed product from an active, living franchise. It is meant to supplement the comics from Petri Hiltunen and not the other way around. Get the comics translated and published, and the RPG will follow. But not before.”   

“But… but… it is just so weird reading and hearing about this grimmer fantasy stuff in Finnish…”

Me: *Sighs and quietly picks up a genuine 18th century Indian saber. It has seen death before.*

Thinking about a Praedor TV series made me imagine the opening episode in my head. That lead me to think about one of my pet grudges with the Finnish RPG scene – public disdain for the Finnish language in RPG and fantasy vocabulary. I have always hated that attitude and I hate Finglish (English terminology shoehorned into Finnish inflections and grammar as we speak) even more. None of my esteemed colleagues would do anything like that, of course, but you still run into these comments on social media. Back in the webforum days they were endemic.

I’ve put in a lot of effort to make all the words used in Praedor RPG products as Finnish in origin and etymology as possible. Sometimes this meant leaving things out when they did not have a Finnish-language counterpart. Some compromises had to be made. For examples, halberds (or polearms) are “hilpari” in Finnish. This is a medieval loan from the German “hillebard” but has been in use since at least the 14th century, so I let it pass. Sure, the French have something like twenty names for various types of polearms but they are all “hilpari” in Praedor RPG. Period!

Unfortunately, by the time the second edition of the Praedor RPG rolled around, it had way too many historical re-enactment fans that kept pestering me to include a gambeson in the armor list. In a moment of weakness, I did so and have regretted it ever since. Gambeson is a French name for a padded leather-and-quilt coat, often lavishly decorated so and worn either as a light camp armor, or as a base layer beneath heavier armor pieces. There was no good translation for it, but I could have insisted it was just another variation of the soft leather coat. Yet I didn’t and now whenever I look at the gear list, the word gambeson jumps at me like a poisonous toad.

To hell with you, gambeson! And may those who asked for your inclusion have their tongues tied into a knot!

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language and Culture. My day job is done almost entirely in English. Despite, or perhaps because of this, I don’t do English in a Finnish roleplaying game, whether I’m writing or running it. When gamemastering, I try to stick to “book Finnish”, the most complex and articulated form of Finnish language, now often considered old-fashioned. And if Praedor was turned into a TV-series, I really wouldn’t want to hear any English in that either. Not my call, I know, but still. It wouldn’t all be Book Finnish, though. Cultural and societal differences are reflected in speech in Jaconia, just as they are in our world.

Bunch of people would argue against it, saying that Finnish in a fantasy context sounds goofy or “uncool” compared to English. Why would it be any goofier? Jaconians speak Jaconian and we have no real idea what it sounds like! Another argument is that subtitling would reduce series’ international appeal. Perhaps, but Apocalypto did it anyway and I enjoy hearing town NPCs in Assassin’s Creed Origin chatter away in Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Latin. Since subtitles focus attention on what the writer really wants to convey as opposed to background chatter, there are even narrative tricks you can play with those. Of course, being Finnish, I am already accustomed to seeing subtitles is everything.

This is all daydreaming and speculation, of course. Praedor TV series is unlikely to ever happen. Yet having some other Praedor media presented in a foreign language is a possibility. For example, if the videogame project had happened, it would have been in English and I have sympathy for game development start-ups. Subtitled game in a language alien to most of the Indo-European world would be a bold statement, but no publisher or investor would touch it with a ten-foot pole!