Writing this after another day working from home during the Corona lock-down in Greater London – I am happy to report that my immediate and extended family are all ok. It all feels very surreal, and I hope as always that this blog will give you a few moments of being away from it all in a safe place.
- More pictures from the Dalarna 1943 Project and being contacted by Swedish Radio
- A note on my appearance on the Grognard Files
I was contacted by the Swedish Radio last week, their regional Dalarna branch, about this project and recorded a short thing for their morning show today. It made me happy, I hope I did not come across as too much of an idiot whenever it is being aired.
A lot of recent progress on this project as I have finished the third batch of Prints from Sabotag3d (link here). I am really happy to see that Paul has been shipping some round pole fences (gärdsgård) over to Sweden and consequently me not being the only one fascinated by this type of Fence. So if this appeals to someone get in contact with Paul and see what he can do for you, he makes these fences in 1/100 scale (15mm size miniatures) as well as for 28mm miniatures. But I suppose you can get them in any scale you like – it really takes us straight into the Dalarna landscape of old (and new) without to much leap of faith. We should also add that Paul also did a few damaged sections for me, to be used to illustrate the impact of an explosion or that a tank has driven through them.
Last time around we had done the basic village tiles and the round pole fences and it allowed to create something like this (there is a link here to an earlier blog that covers this is some detail and talks about the Falu Red colour used for the houses, etc).
For further detailing I wanted to have some mail boxes, typical of the Swedish country side. So I sent Paul the idea and as always he returned a fantastic little print (truth is that the state post box may not have had the colour scheme and the symbol at that time, but I felt it just needed to look that way).
Milk of course was collected differently in those days and milk churns would be standing on tables alongside the road, ready for collection on the morning.
The centre of the village is the Lanthandel that would sell you the supplies you needed.
And finally a little petrol station, probably not that operational due to rationing, but again a not to uncommon feature in the Sweden of 1943.
On top of this I have spent some time doing further features to add to the landscape and increase the immersion factor on the table.
We laid out another table and had a game with the Little One last weekend (using the Chain of Command rules by Too Fat Lardies, link here) and then we did a lot of shots of vehicles because we could.
A Little Game
Some random shots of Swedish WW2 Vehicles
The Grognard Files – First, Last and Everything
For you not familiar with the Grognard files here is Dirk’s own summary what it is all about (stolen from his webpage).
I’m Dirk the Dice and this is the GROGNARD files podcast, talking bobbins about table-top RPGs from back in the day and today. The Armchair Adventurers are small FRPG group that meet monthly in Bolton. We first got together thanks to a ‘small ad’ in WHITE DWARF in 1983. We got back together in 2010 to play Call of Cthulhu Masks of Nyarlathotep monthly for 3 years. Playing again reignited our passion for RPGs, so we returned to some more classic campaigns from our teenage years: RuneQuest BORDERLANDS, Traveller ADVENTURE, RuneQuest GRIFFIN MOUNTAIN and Call of Cthulhu FUNGI FROM YUGGOTH. Our interest began to shift towards what had happened to RPGs during our period away from the hobby.
I have been, in a friendly way, been pestering Dirk to do a podcast about the Middle Earth Roleplaying Game for a long time (check out #grogmerp on twitter if you do not believe me). Last month he released part 1 of the MERP (Middle Earth Roleplaying) show and he asked me to do a “First, Last and Everything” segment for Part 2 – that is a presentation of my first, last and overall favourite RPG games. I went for (because it is true) the first being the old Swedish RPG game Mutant (from 1984) that I have written about here on a few occasions (link some of it here, here, here and here), MERP as it is the last one I played and you can find out more about it in the two Episodes below, my everything is the classic Call of Cthulhu Rpg.
Here are the links to the two parts of Episode 36 – Middle-Earth Role Playing (MERP) with Liz Danforth:
I did write a script for my part and it is appended below would you be interested, it may be cool to listen to it first though.
/ As always I do hope that this was of some interest, stay safe during these and any other times
First, Last and Everything
Hi, My name is Per and I am delighted to deliver my first, last and everything. You can find me on Twitter as Per at RollaOne or on my blog rollaone.com.
It was 1984 and I was 12 and my slightly older cousin Mika was visiting us in our little provincial town in the heartlands of Sweden, Dalarna, where if you take the wrong fork you may come upon a lonely and curious country, in areas that remind you of some Lovecraftian environment – desolate, quiet and with the occasional character sneaking around, or looking through the windows with empty stares and some doors hanging on rusty and consequently noisy hinges blowing in the wind. These are places where they say shoot-dig-keep quiet – that kind of thing. I mean all that Nordic Noir crime stuff must have come from somewhere? But most of it are quaint red houses with white trimmings, surrounded by, wait for it, round pole fences.
He, my cousin, cajoled me into buying this new game that he had played called Mutant, a game set after the catastrophe in a future Scandinavia. You could play as mutated humans & animals or be a robot from the old time (but with a messed up memory bank, with a tendency to obey orders from pure humans or those who had not too obvious mutations – later I learned they were programmed to follow Asimov’s 3 robotic Laws). You could also be a PSI-mutant with mental powers, shunned by most people with or without fur. They were like magic users but very often with defects like madness or confusion triggered by failing to use a mental ability – making it very frustrating at times, or pure (non-mutated) humans considerable sturdier and more clever than we are today and with a patronising at best to a disrespectful view on mutants. The society that had risen was roughly at the technology level of the early 19th century – you could arm yourself with a musket if you had the cash but equally common were a baseball bat and an old bin lid, or traffic sign with a moose, as a shield. It was a more organised society than in movies like Mad Max – things had calmed down. There were forbidden zones to adventure in and the dungeon equivalent were old research labs or other underground facilities with the chance of finding old tech, crazy cyber computers, frozen people from the old times or mutated beasts – sometimes all at once. The dragon equivalent were giant beetles and land sharks that swam through the earth It was my fist role-playing game and we had never heard about anything like it and it also came with some funny looking dice, but no gaming board. Just a little cardboard sheet that was used to resolve whether the character understood what the old tech item he has just found was. My cousin had never GM:ed before and actually as it turned out he had never played the game – however he spent a day reading it and the following evening a few friends and I made some characters – mine a mutated moose, a hunter, with a big club and a musket – then he very ably played us through the introductionary scenario “Mission in Mos Mosel” until the small hours ….it was love at first play….
This game has evolved to what today is known as Mutant Year 0, and a number of the modern products has given more than a nod to the old modules and adventures.
However we quickly advanced to non-Swedish rpgs – it was not as cool to play the Swedish games – at least not in those days.
We went on a School trip to London in Year 9, this was 1987, and the trip was funded to not a small part of us selling loaves of home baked breads outside a local shopping centre and we also set up a school show and invited all the parents and students – I and yet another cousin and fellow gamer Sebastian played two drunk characters and we made some crap jokes pretending to be pissed and we had a grand finale with the song “Shut uppa you face”, by Joe Dolce. In London we, equipped with a Summer of earnings from working for the local council’s real estate department cutting lawns, bushes and collecting rubbish, delivering leaflets at weekends or selling the Sunday issues of a broadsheet newspaper, bought a lot of RPG games and modules from Orcs Nest (still on Earlham Street today), Games Workshop and The Virgin shop on Oxford Street. We got Judge Dredd, MERP (Middle Earth Roleplaying Game), Call of Cthulhu, and “who ya gonna call” Ghostbusters, Top Secret, Chill, Timemaster, Paranoia and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying and god only knows what else, I remember the only non-rpg stuff I bought was the God Save the Queen single by Sex Pistols and Bob Marley’s Exodus (movement of Jah people).
But also a shout out to the Amazing swedish shop Hobby Huset in Uppsala – they had an amazing selection of RPGs in their catalogue and excellent shipping service. We sometimes even took the 1.5 hour train trip and visited the cellar it was located in and got some strange stuff from the bargain bucket. It was this shop that really opened up the hobby for us country boys.
We played so much RPG games in our youth, in people’s houses but eventually in a shed with a heater that made it bearable. We hated splitting up the group as we had to stand outside in the bloody cold freezing our Dirks off (remember this was Sweden when we had proper seasons). Later we asked our school if we could use one of the class rooms in the evening and weekends and the head teacher gave us a key and we had a hell of a good time. We had a good group with a few changes along the way, but then playing in death metal bands, national service, university education, and moving abroad split the old gang. We had our ups and downs but now 30 years or so later I can only recall the positive aspects, so to my old Grogsquad Jonas, Petri, Sebastian, Tommy, Thomas, Magnus, Micke, Reidar, Erik, Petter, Christer, Anton, Fredrik and the guy who only came once and played Pendragon with us and anyone else I forgot, but also to my new Grogsquad the Adventurers Club led by Dirk, Blythy, Ed, and the Daily Dwarf, I raise my glass of vodka to you all!
Although there was a lot of fear mongering around the Rpg hobby in the mainstream media at the time, thinking we would become too introvert, turn into extremists or jump from buildings imagining we could fly, I think our parents were grateful for the fact that instead of being out drinking moonshine vodka, a speciality of the region, and making the town unsafe, we instead sat in the shed telling each other stories and rolling dice. I think we all turned out ok in the end.
In the day we shared the burden of Game Mastering in our Little but Merry band, but the longer campaigns were usually game mastered by myself or Jonas and one of the first games he ran was MERP – Middle Earth Roleplaying. Jonas was amazing with regards to preparing for campaigns and game sessions and his knowledge of Middle Earth was very deep – he had even read the Silmarillion and the Lost Tales! Later Jonas were to run a very long AD&D campaign (2nd Edition) and although I never really liked the system, his overall campaign with a mixture of shorter episodes, long running plots and reappearing protagonists was probably the best one I ever played. However back to MERP. The rules today feels old-fashioned, being a Lite version of the bigger Rolemaster System but at the time offered us some kind of balance between the always fragile characters in the basic Roleplaying system kind of game and rise of your AD&D characters toward immortality – with MERPs open-ended rolls there was always a chance that an opponent could score critical hits and do some substantial damage whatever the differences in character levels, armour class etc. You had to be careful and not every encounter would be a question of drawing a sword. And the magic system was definitely not Tolkienesque but then Jonas did not allow us to be wizards. But what was more on top of this and perhaps the real legacy of MERP was the many fantastic modules and not the rules. The modules had some fantastic drawings and amazing covers that shaped our vision of this amazing world. There were many talented artists contributing to these modules but for me there are two I would like to mention especially – first the legend Angus McBride who did some exceptional cover art for many of the MERP modules. The second artist is of course Liz Danforth who created an outstanding visual presentation of the various characters, races and creatures of this wonderful world, and by the way a big thanks to you Liz for your support to the #grogmerp campaign on Twitter. But there was more, the modules contained information about the people and lands and it felt like it stayed true to the lore but expanded where there were white spots. Herbs, requires a special mention, and were like modern mobile phone apps – there was an app, sorry I meant a herb for that. It is actually my last RPG, I played and a big part of my recent interest in the hobby.
However, there was only one game that I really really immersed myself into in the day and it was the Call of Cthulhu rpg – I guess it does not need any deeper introduction. The first time I played it was at the RPG club in my hometown that some of us used to go to and play as well as playing with the core group, the club was founded by Magnus Seter and Dan Algstrand who today are well known characters in the RPG Industry. It was an excellent way in getting to know likeminded and try out a wider array of games. The club even run a few conventions and I wrote the Call of Cthulhu Scenario for the first two – with the imaginary titles of – the Shadow in Darkness and the Dweller in the Shadow (You can actually find these on the net, but mind you they are written in Swedish). Our little band played some of the epic campaigns like the Fungi form Yuggoth (later more adequately renamed the Day of the Beast), the Spawn of Azathoth and even the Horror on the Orient Express – although our campaign derailed after a few stops. But for me it was the Arkham county series of books that really made the game come alive – we played scenarios in the Miskatonic Valley – in places straight from the Lovecraft stories like Arkham, Dunwich, Innsmouth and Kingsport. The players included Professors working at the Miskatonic University, a PE teacher who could throw a javelin like no other, a retired Major from the British Army (yes he was a hell of a Marksman with his Webley Revolver), Private Investigators, a daredevil pilot and a Medical Doctor at the Arkham Asylym. The scenarios both readymade and homebrewed focused on local events – it made it more scary and intense when reoccurring NPCs asked for help, suddenly disappeared, ended up at the Asylum, or were found dead. When you could weave in characters family trees into the scenarios with the realisation that great grandfather Elijah Waitrose was a Cthulhu cultist or that Great Aunt Tess Collie was an adventurer lost in Dreamlands. As For anyone who may not be familiar with the literature I really recommend that you read the wonderful but not for the faint hearted stories like “The Call of Cthulhu”, “The Dunwich Horror”, “Escape from Innsmouth”, “The Whisperer in Darkness” and “The Colour out of Space” to name some of my favourites. Yes, having moved on more than 30 years from that initial fascination, I know that H.P. Lovecraft probably was a man I would end up arguing with in the pub – he was a racist, homophobe etc, revealed by studying his letter and analysing some of the stories – I get it! But I was never in it for that, I was in it for the chill, sense of hopelessness in a world full of unknown things that humanity at best had a very limited understanding of, the desperate fight against overwhelming odds of getting either permanently insane or ending up dead. The sheer joy of game mastering a group of seasoned investigators in gathering clues from libraries, local newspapers, speakeasies, weird locals, etc. They, the characters, were never flashing heroes with shiny armour and glimmering swords or caped crusaders flying the flag , they were mostly normal people who endlessly fought on. Call of Cthulhu is my everything!