Obscure finnish fantasy rpg interview: Miekka Ja Magia (1987)

The author, Risto J. Hieta

 -how the idea of MJM developed? did you have any influences or inspirations which lead you to the writing of the game? Was it just a burst of creativity on your part? Or were you dissatisfied with the games available at the time? Did it stem from a particular circumstance?

At that time (1980-1985)  here in Finland were no rpg's in finnish language. I was working  (part-time) as a columnist in MikroBITTI, a computer games magazine. I had read in some other magazine about rpg's and I had played much AD&D with my Intellivision video game. It sounded very interesting, and so I decided to make a paper role-playing game of my own. First we played it in our own group but some months later I thought that would be a great idea to try to sell it to my readers and people, who want to play rpg but can't read english books. So I made a finnish fantasy rpg.

-Was Dungeons & Dragons widely played in Finland at that time? If so, were you trying to deliver MJM to a niche market, or did you expect that group of players would switch to it abandoning D&D?

Not very widely, but many of those who played, were D&D -players. At that time here was no rpg's commonly in book stores. You had to know the right routes to get one copy of D&D. So I didn't think any kind of competition, I just made the first (commercial) finnish rpg for beginners.

- did you have specific aims whilst writing MJM? I mean, were you trying to achieve something specific, maybe in terms of rule mechanics or overall flavour?

Not necessarily. I tried to make the rules easy to understand and I have always encouraged people to be creative and free to make their own decisions. I don't like railroading; strictly ready made adventures, where you can only decide if you wish open the door now or later.

- in terms of mechanics (combat, magic, character creation), do you feel MJM differentiate from other fantasy rpgs of the same era? How would you describe MJM should you try to summarize it?

The rules mechanics are all made of my own. When I wrote M&M I haven't played any other tabletop rpg! M&M was a good game for beginners; simply, easy and waiting for you to create the adventures of your own.

- were there plans to publish adventures modules as well?

No. I made one compendium, Masters of M&M, but there was only some extra rules and for example rules how to use a 30-sided die in the game!

- can you tell us something about your background in the rpg field and hobby at the time of MJM writing? which rpgs were you used to playing before embarking on your project as an rpg designer? did any of these other rpgs exerted an influence over you in particular?

Some information you can find in Wikipedia (risto hieta). I have always been a keen player of different games. As a child I often made changes in the old board games. They were so dull. Then I found video games, soon after that rpg's and since that I've been playing. Board games, card games, role-playing games, small computer games etc. I have not played any big (WoW, GtA etc.) computer games for years, because they are not interesting anymore. Yes, they are beautiful, amazing and nearly as movies but in many game there is no good idea. I think, all good ideas have been found in eighties and now they just try to make them more realistic but no better in other ways.
I have made about ten rpg's to finnish markets and tens of rp-games for my own use. I have played quite a many rpg's. Some of my favourites are Vampire, Deadlands, Ars Magica, Fading Suns, FantasyHero and so on. Usually when I am the Game master, I take the world and partially the rules from the original game, but then I like to add some rules of my own, make the playing easy and  fluent and first of all: let the players decide so much as possible what their characters are going to do!

- are you still active in the rpg hobby, do you still play?

We play in my group every week. For some years we have been playing more board games instead of rpg's. It's the question of time; older people tend to be so busy... 
Just now I'm writing a small rpg named Lännen maat (western lands). It's  quite a new concept. 1 player and many gm's. You take a role of an ancient egyptian who's dead. Then (in some kind of astral form) you travel through the caverns of hell and try to get in the Halls of justice. There the egyptian Gods (other players) are waiting for you. They make you nasty questions about your life and deeds. You must give the right answers or at least try to be  sorry, if you made some bad things in your lifetime. Then you try to tell them some good things you have done during your life. At last your heart is weighed against a feather (that means, the + and - points the gods gave to you are calculated). If your heart is without sins, you may go on to golden fields. If your heart if too heavy with it's sins, a monster will come and eat you. Simple.
Idea of the game is offer some nice story-telling,  thinking and problem solving in a good company. No dice, no tables, no heavy rules.

And yes, I've been working in a fantasy game shop over 20 years now. So games are near my heart, in all ways.

- how was gaming in those years? do you feel the playing style has changed over the years?

Gaming was simplier those days. Then came all those new waves. They were and went. And now it's going back to basisc, as the popularity of Pathfinder shows. I think everybody may play just like he/she wants. I have always liked the freedom of characters and use of imagination.

-what do you think about the OSR? (old school renaissance) and the re-surfacing of old fantasy rpgs of the past to a wide audience?
As said. Whatever people like. I like it simply and free. I think, i'm kind one part of  the Old School. 

-are you going to republish MJM in some way? maybe a 2nd edition or a PDF version in english language?
It's been discussions of that, but it's not economically very clever. Just now I'm concentrating in Lännen maat. Let's see what is the next project!


Anonymous said...

Well done on this CL, a very interesting read. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My new rpg, Lännen maat (western lands) is now ready. A great game about ancient egyptians. Wow.

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