It was on a beautiful Spring’s evening that I found myself in the company of a handsome young man named Patrik Renholm. I had recently heard that this young stallion, known mainly for his impressive body of work for the esteemed webzine Better Than Sliced Bread, had taken it upon himself to start a new club under SUB, titled DERP. Curious about this new club I had got into contact with the man in order to sit down with him and discuss his new club.
BTSB: Hello, Mr. Renholm. Could I first of all say that you are quite an impressive figure of a man and a truly awesome person and that it is truly an honour to be sitting here with you?
Patrik: You could, and I thank you for your kind words. The pleasure is all mine.
BTSB: So, your new club is called DERP. Could you enlighten us to what it is about?
Patrik: Absolutely. DERP, which stands for Department of English Role-Players, is a club for English majors at the University of Helsinki who are into tabletop role-playing games. The idea is to get role-players and people who have yet to try role-playing games together in order to play RPGs in a safe yet academically minded setting.
BTSB: Tabletop role-playing games? Isn’t that a totally geeky thing for dweeby nerds?
Patrik: Absolutely not. Role-playing games, which as a hobby started with Dungeons & Dragons in the seventies, is a cool hobby for creative people enjoyed by many high-profile people including Wil Wheaton and Vin Diesel. What I’m trying to say is that I’m a bit like Vin Diesel.
BTSB: Ah, I see. Could you briefly tell us about tabletop role-playing games?
Patrik: But of course. Tabletop role-playing games, or RPGs for short, are basically a combination of elaborate games of make-believe and traditional tabletop games: the players create and take upon the roles of fictional characters, usually with one player acting as a referee or storyteller of sorts who describes the setting and story and adjudicates the rules that govern the players’ actions.
BTSB: So, like games where the players pretend to be elves and dwarves and roll weirdly shaped dice to fight fictional dragons in an imaginary setting?
Patrik: Pretty much, except for the fact that RPGs are not limited to fantasy as far as genres go. You can find sci-fi, cyberpunk, horror and even comedy RPGs.
BTSB: Ah, I see. Now, I can’t help but notice that the Department of English no longer exists, yet you refer to it in the title of your club. Why?
Patrik: Because an acronym as cool as DERP merits a bit of rule-breaking.
BTSB: How did you come up with the idea behind DERP?
Patrik: It came to me when I realized that there are a number of lapsed role-players and other people interested in role-playing games studying English philology at the University of Helsinki and I thought it’d be nice to get them all together. Also, I’ve personally had a bit of a dry spell as far as role-playing goes and haven’t been able to play for a while.
BTSB: Who is your club mainly meant for?
Patrik: Mainly for people who already have experience with role-playing games, but also for anyone who wants to try their hand at these truly awesome cool games.
BTSB: So, when will DERP be holding its first meeting?
Patrik: The first meeting of DERP is to be held on May 11th in Lingva at 6 PM. The first meeting will largely be about getting together and talking about what sorts of games we want to play. However, I will also be preparing an adventure using Labyrinth Lord which I can run at the meeting.
BTSB: Labyrinth Lord?
Patrik: It’s a retro-clone of Tom Moldvay’s Basic Dungeons & Dragons.
BTSB: A retr0-what?
Patrik: Let me rephrase: due to the fact that Basic Dungeons & Dragons is sadly out of print and unsupported by the copyright holder, Wizards of the Coast, a number of fans went on to create a game that is a near-exact copy of the game by making use of Wizards of the Coast’s Open Gaming Licence and United States copyright law, which makes it so that you can’t actually copyright the rules of a game. The end result is Labyrinth Lord, a game that perfectly captures the feel of the well-loved Basic game.
BTSB: Oh, I see. Why have you chosen Labyrinth Lord?
Patrik: Mainly because it’s a really easy game even for newbies to play and due to its fast play it makes for a perfect pick-up game. Also, while based on a game made all the way back in the eighties, it perfectly captures the essence of tabletop role-playing games in general.
BTSB: Thank you for this interview. You will most definitely see me at your first meeting. Can I play a Dwarf?
Patrik: Only if you roll at least a 9 for Constitution!
So, in a nutshell:
DERP’s first meeting
May 11th 2012 at 6 PM
Lingva, Uusi Ylioppilastalo
Illustration by Johanna Ruuskanen