Pathfinder Society in Finland

Monday, November 26, 2012

Illustration by Daren Bader

We move from our last international blog in South Africa to a location in the extreme north: Finland. I knew that Finland had a very strong playerbase in Pathfinder Society during its first few years, but for whatever reason, interest had waned. Back in May, I wanted to bring back the Finnish fanbase because I knew they could only add to the Pathfinder Society experience and make it better. After a series of emails answering concerns, Jukka Särkijärvi agreed to come on board as a Venture-Captain and help revitalize Pathfinder Society in Finland. After six months, I can say that he and his Venture-Lieutenant, Jussi Leinonen, have done an excellent job and I am excited to see Pathfinder Society once again a highlight of gaming in Finland.

Without further ado, I present to you Jukka and Jussi's report on Pathfinder Society in Finland.

We had Pathfinder Society in Finland at the very beginning. The campaign's registration in 2008 actually began during Ropecon, our largest annual gaming convention (roughly 3,500 attendees), where Sampo Haarlaa and I had a presentation about organized play campaigns, which we had already written for, played, and organized for years. Ropecon 2008 was slightly too early for there to be Pathfinder Society at the convention, so the first actual session—Murder on the Silken Caravan—wasn't run until two weeks later. Jukka Särkijärvi, later to become Venture-Captain, ran that one. He didn't get to play his first session until some three weeks later, and after an unlucky critical hit, became the first Finnish Society player who needed to register a second character.

Jukka eventually became the first player to lose two characters, and after a series of unfortunate and inexplicable TPKs, shortly after he was appointed Venture-Captain, he lost the distinction of owning the most dead PCs. The most dead PCs at tables he ran, on the other hand...

Pathfinder Society started slowly over here. There were maybe 25 somewhat active players spread out between the Helsinki metropolitan area and we played through new scenarios as they came out. We were usually soon left hankering for more until we got our next fix. People eventually gravitated toward running Adventure Paths for fixed groups or to different games altogether. After the flowering of Season 0, for two years we had very little Pathfinder Society in Finland outside of Ropecon.

In 2011, Ropecon asked if Erik Mona might be interested in coming over as a guest of honor. He said "yes," and the rest is history. It gave the community new energy to run and play, and we had the untouched expanse of two years of modules at our disposal, with no danger of running out. Old players came back and new ones were recruited. In the end, Ropecon 2011 featured a very modest seven sessions of Pathfinder Society (out of a total of 165 sessions of roleplaying games), but we had Erik there, which kindled the enthusiasm of the wider player base, and it continued long after he had left the country.

In the Helsinki area, much of the resurgence in Society play happened through the involvement of the RPG actives of the local engineering university. There, it quickly became apparent that the organized play model, where Game Masters and fellow party members change from one session to another, was ideally suited for busy students whose unpredictable schedules made it difficult to commit to campaigns with a regular group. During Season 3, more sessions of Pathfinder Society were run in Finland than during the previous three seasons combined. Ropecon 2012 saw 20 tables of Pathfinder Society, including the Blood Under Absalom special. We could probably have accommodated a few more tables, but three of our five most active Pathfinder Society Game Masters, including Venture-Captain Jukka Särkijärvi and Helsinki Venture-Lieutenant Jussi Leinonen, were members of the organizing committee and busy with other duties during the convention.

The Lay of the Land

As stated, Ropecon is the primary gaming convention in Finland, held every summer in Espoo, next to the capital city of Helsinki. The second most important is Tracon, which used to bounce around the calendar from winter to spring until finally settling in the early autumn where it now resides. It is primarily an anime convention (the anime fans are enthusiastic and numerous and we're still trying to figure out how to get them interested in roleplaying games), but thanks to the organizers' varied interests, there are also some roleplaying games scheduled. At this year's Tracon, we had seven tables of Pathfinder Society (out of some 20 sessions altogether) and again, there was demand for more, but the convention ran out of room for tabletop games. We foresee significant growth for both Pathfinder Society and roleplaying games in general for next year's Tracon, and are working closely with their organizing committee to give these offerings a greater prominence at the convention.

There are also smaller conventions in the country, such as Conklaavi in Turku and the biannual Maracon in Oulu. Bringing Pathfinder Society to these conventions and trying to start up self-sustaining player communities and eventually appoint Venture-Lieutenants for these cities is also on the agenda.

At the moment, outside of the convention season, Pathfinder Society in Finland is centered around the university gaming clubs in Helsinki, Espoo and Tampere. Autumn is an especially fruitful time for introducing new players to the campaign, with the influx of new students.

Unlike America, Finland has never really had a culture of playing RPGs in games stores, but we are currently working to change that with regular games scheduled at the Puolenkuun Pelit store in Tampere. At the time of writing, however, the campaign in Finland is strongly focused on running a single session at a time, with the occasional convention and club game day with more activity. We also currently don't have regular weekly game evenings, and each session is coordinated individually at our community wiki and messageboard. Although this approach requires some more initiative on behalf of the gamers, it also adds flexibility as nobody is excluded from Society gaming just because he or she happens to have the regular day of the week booked for something else. With the prominence of current and former university students in the player base, we have been able to use the campus clubrooms for additional public gaming space. These have been important especially for introducing new players, whom the regulars are understandably hesitant to invite to home games. Running games in a public area also brings visibility to Pathfinder Society through the curiosity of other gamers hanging around.

The number of active players in Finland stands at an approximate 60, though the amount of active Game Masters is not quite large enough to meet the demand. We are working on changing this, too, and it is a happy thing to see players enthusiastically taking up the GM screen. Here as well, the organized play model of Pathfinder Society has proven to be advantageous: prospective Game Masters can give GMing a try without committing themselves to providing a long-running campaign, and nobody is worse off if the new GM decides that it's not for her, or something she prefers to do only once every few months. This has encouraged many new people to run games who might have otherwise been unlikely to do so, despite the fact that GMing in an organized play campaign might be considered to require a higher standard of quality than a "casual" game.

Due to our northerly location beyond the Baltic Sea, the Finnish gaming scene is relatively isolated even from the rest of Europe, not to mention North America. That said, the great majority of gamers around here are happy to play a session in English (after all, that's the language we read our rulebooks in), and many fluent GMs can also be found.

If you find yourself in Finland in need of a Society game, email us at (Helsinki metropolitan area) or (the rest of the country). For the more serious gaming tourist, Ropecon (to be held July 26–28, 2013) is an increasingly international convention with some 3,500 visitors annually, with Pathfinder Society and much more.

Jukka Särkijärvi
Venture-Captain, Tampere, Finland
Jussi Leinonen
Venture-Lieutenant, Helsinki, Finland

Thank you to all of the players, GMs, VCs, and VLs for reigniting an awesome Pathfinder Society Lodge in Finland. I look forward to the additions of new Venture-Captains and Venture-Lieutenants in other regions of the country and watching Pathfinder Society grow strong. Keep up the awesome work!

Mike Brock
Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator

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Tags: Pathfinder Society

Also worth noting that Jussi has been to play/GM Pathfinder Society in Toronto twice in the past year. Talk about dedication! :)

Hakkaa päälle Pathfinders!

Silver Crusade 5/5

Jeff Mahood wrote:
Also worth noting that Jussi has been to play/GM Pathfinder Society in Toronto twice in the past year. Talk about dedication! :)

My work brought me to Toronto twice this year and both times, and I was lucky enough to find time to make it to a gaming night of the Southern Ontario Lodge. I think that one of the best things about organized play campaigns is that you can be in any place in the world with a local lodge and go to play with them - the campaign rules set common standards, so the rules are the same and you get credit for playing as normal.

You have a very enthusiastic and friendly group of Pathfinders in Toronto. I felt welcome and had plenty of fun on both occasions.

The Exchange 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Mediterranean

Well met, Pathfinders of the North!

Last picture, that green wooly hat belongs to me! Running Blood Under Absalon in Ropecon 2012, next to those gamers in picture. Good memories, had a friend in my table that was concerned that I might kill his character by "accident". Ropecon is my only "have to do" thing in summer, it's a great convention.


Good work, Jussi & Jukka! I love reading about how other Pathfinder Lodges have grown their gaming communities. Seems like you guys are doing it right!

It's good to see that the Scandinavian's are enjoying Pathfinder. I had a sense they would enjoy this game like they enjoy their heavy metal over there.

Dark Archive Vendor - Fantasiapelit Tampere

Keep up the good work! I only wish I could play more society.

First picture, the second person from the right with black t-shirt is me! Dalcine affair, that was one hell of a module. One of my favourites so far! Great work guys!

...I love the smell of Deep-fried halfling in the morning..

Liberty's Edge 2/5

Great job !!! I hope i Will be able to attend thé next Ropecon!

Dark Archive 4/5 5/5 ***

Karim Majeri wrote:
Great job !!! I hope i Will be able to attend thé next Ropecon!


Just give ample notice so I have time to brush up my French.


This has become some kind of identification thread or in other words look-all-I' and I feel urge to make my contribution.

You can see me in the last image. I am the guy in white shirt and lederhosen with the hat GMing my table in the Blood under Absalom.

Liberty's Edge 4/5 *** Venture-Lieutenant, California—Los Angeles (South Bay)

Congratulations, Jukaa and Jussi!! I wish you good luck with PFS in Finland!

As I have read the Kalevala, I have some idea of the folklore of Finland. What elements of Golarion seem to echo Finnish culture or folklore?

Dark Archive 4/5 5/5 ***

Well, noting that in the concept of "echo" there is implied a distortion of the original... There's the iku-turso monster in Bestiary 3, whose name is from Kalevala. Apart from being an aquatic monster, it does not have a whole lot to do with the original. Then again, plundering folklore for names for new monsters has long traditions.

Also, it seems that the people of Galt have Finnish names, at least according to W3 The Flight of the Red Raven. They apparently also have saunas. It grieves me that this fine module is 3.5 and therefore cannot be run as part of Pathfinder Society. Oh, what fun we would have with it…

Apart from those, there's not much that I've been able to spot. No bards singing men into quicksand, no sleeping giants imparting arcane knowledge from before time began. Of course, there are echoes of Louhi in Baba Yaga, and I rather expect that once we get the Irrisen sourcebook and the Reach of Winter AP, there might be something.

Shadow Lodge 4/5

Louhi is in the Artifacts and Legends book, in the writeup of Baba Yaga's hut. She's a lawful evil human wizard 20+. Food for thought.

I see some of my badly aligned posters and schedule sheets in those pictures! Oh, how the deeds of the mighty live on...

Anyhow, if it weren't for PF Society Finland, I'd probably be doing something entirely different instead of reading Shades of Ice II for my upcoming game. Thanks guys.

Grand Lodge 1/5

If it weren't for Erik Mona's visit to Ropecon in 2011, I wouldn't be the guy saluting in one of the photos featured here. Thanks to him for giving the Finnish PFS scene an adrenaline shot.

Grand Lodge 4/5

Well met fellow European Pathfinder.
It´s nice to read about the PATHFINDER scene in another european country , and relate to the same problems of being out of "major circuit".
And to see that the RPG community from there isn´t very different from ours in Portugal.

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