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 firstname.lastname@example.org (Helsinki metropolitan area) or email@example.com (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.
Venture-Captain, Tampere, Finland
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!
Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator