Friday, 11 December 2015

Interview: Miska Fredman from Ironspine

Miska Fredman is Finnish rpg writer and publisher from Ironspine. Under his belt are games like science fiction rpg Heimot and family rpg of science and fantasy Astraterra. In works are English translation of Astraterra, post-apocalyptic Mythos game Chthonian Highways and re-imagined version of Heimot called Hyperstorm.

He has recently started Patreon focused on scifi maps.

I wanted to ask him few quick questions, and here they are, answered!

How did you start writing games? Who are your greatest influences?

I think I was 13 or so when I got my hands on Megatraveller. I bought it from my friend and it was all in English, but the little I understood at that time got me so excited about the game that I decided to read it with English-Finnish dictionary on one hand and Megatraveller on the other hand. I think it was during that process when I thought for the first time that one day, I want to write a roleplaying game. Back then I thought I would have to move to US to do that, but fortunately things have changed quite much since then :)

Its really hard for me to name certain designers as my influences, but I can name a few games. Megatraveller was my first scifi RPG I played and it influenced me a lot. Later I happened to try Mage from White Wolf and that really hit the sweet spot for me. I still think the skill and ability ratings as dots and dots as dice is one of the biggest innovations for the RPG "interface" design. Since then I have played a lot of different games, but there has not been any great revelations after the Storyteller system. But dont get me wrong, I think there are some really game changing new systems out there, but I'm kind of a visual person myself, and that's probably why I find the Storyteller system so pleasing for my taste.

You are extremely talented, creative and productive mapper and I don't understand how I just recently found out about that skill of yours. How long have you been mapping, and have your maps been published anywhere before your Patreon?

Thanks. My Finnish genes have difficulty to accept such compliments :) But to be honest, the inspiration I had for drawing maps was a bit of a surprise for me too. I have always liked drawing maps, but over the course of last ten or so years, my map drawing retarded to drawing a few quick scribbles on a paper while playing or just before that. I remember seeing some of +Dyson Logos' maps a year or two back and I really liked some of his more complex maps.

When making a map, I might start with a simple idea of the place or theme, but as I start drawing a story starts to take shape in my mind. I try to think of possible interesting scenarios that might take place on the map. I consider a map successful if they inspire others to come up with adventure ideas, and you can play the map from different starting points and with different objectives.

I have made some maps for a few of my games. For example Astraterra has a few maps published, including the world map, for Heimot I designed a fringe world port colony, called Port Dallas (it was controlled by the Bluewing family ;) ). Also, I did 30-something maps for the firstever #mapvember. These maps are available in my blog "Adventures Beyond Space-Time" for personal or commercial use under Creative Commons license.

How do you see Finnish rpg industry at the moment?

It's small. It's very small. But like Finns in general, it has a lot of sisu (guts or grit) ;) I mean you really can't do RPGs in Finnish for a living, but there are still new publications made at least yearly for the past few years now. And there are games translated in English or coming in English. I have myself a couple of projects going on, as you already mentioned in the introduction. Astraterra is "just" a translation project, but Hyperstorm is a bit more ambitious project. It's adventurous, but slightly gritty space opera with lost human colonies ruined by a devastating AI civil war, strange creatures lurking in the shadows and mysterious alien ruins of a long lost culture. We are talking about "dungeon crawling in space", even though the game is not an OSR game. It has a bit more modern rules, but a d20 roller will still feel instantly familiar with the system. It uses the same Ironcore rules as Chthonian Highways. It's still under development and we do not have any solid deadlines yet. One thing I'm quite sure about, there will be example maps of my design in the game :D

Who are your inspirations, what games or supplements have influenced you the most?

This is not an easy question to answer. Over the years I have played or gamemastered quite a few different game systems and settings. World of Darkness (the old one) games and Trinity are games I did spend a lot of time playing. But there are many other systems I have also enjoyed or regarded as well designed. Recently I have found Numenera, Fate, Apocalypse World, FFG's Star Wars and Mutant Year Zero quite interesting.

What do you think of OSR, and the DIY part of it?

The whole OSR phenomenon is quite intriguing; red box D&D was the game I started with and it's interesting to see that it still has its charm. I must admit that I have not played the new OSR games, but I got LotFP in my hands some time ago and its on my reading list. And I just yesterday ordered Dungeon Crawl Classic. I have found White Star also interesting - especially because it has Star Knights as a class, and my first RPG hack (scifi redbox D&D with percentile skills) from early 90's was called "Star Knights", and for nostalgia reasons Astraterra had Star Knights as a class too ;D

But I really like the DIY attitude surrounding the OSR community. I can relate to that very well, Star Knights was hand-written on blue covered note books and I used to photocopy self-made equipment supplements for Megatraveller at our local game store. And one of my more recent games, Kärpänen, where you play a party of different kinds of flies on an epic journey through a house, was done with a DIY attitude. I must say that things have changed quite a lot since the 90's, for example. Nowadays it's quite easy to do an RPG or a supplement yourself and distribute it through a POD or pdf store for example.

What would you like to say to my blog readers?

First of all, I would like to say that I admire your enthusiasm for roleplaying games and more specifically for OSR games. The DIY attitude that you radiate is amazing. So, what would I say to your blog readers is Thaumiel Nerub is one of those few people that I have come across in my life, who are hard-working and really honest about their passion. This is the invisible and intangible energy that has driven our hobby to the point where it is now. I know that Thaumiel has a webstore and a Patreon project as well,  the least that you can do besides offering your likes and shares on social media, is to order some of his products or support his Patreon. Otherwise, keep on looting and may the dice ever be in your favor!

Wait, before you go, who is Ragnar?

Oh, that guy. I don't know him personally, but I've heard that he's a swordmaster and a 3rd level fighter. Also, he must be really into roleplaying. According to him the only true purpose in life is to crawl in the dungeons, roll a natural twenty and crit the hell out of the critters. I've heard of rumors that he's making an OSR fantasy roleplaying game of his own called "Legend of the Heartbreaker".

Seriously: Ragnar is a character I came up for one of my Loot Crate unboxing videos, but since then Ragnar has made reoccurring appearances in various empowering RPG geek themed memes  and Finnish RPG cons and geek events. Don't hate him if he doesn't understand all the intricacies of Fate or Dungeon World. His Intelligence and Wisdom are not his strong stats ;)

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