The Manifesto of the Turku School, 3rd Edition
The criticized and feared, acclaimed and admired Turku School is here to tell the world
what role-playing is, how and why it should be done, and why everybody else is wrong.
The Turku School has been named after the home town of its chief provocateurs, but
living in Turku is no guarantee of quality - living somewhere else doesn't mean that you
can't understand and support the Manifesto.
RPGs and role-playing
Role-playing is immersion ("eläytyminen") to an outside consciousness ("a character")
and interacting with its surroundings.
Most traditional mediums are either active (the part of the creator; writing, singing,
acting etc.) or passive (the part of the audience; reading, listening, watching).
Role-playing, however, is a truly interactive medium - and the best and most useful of
such media - because there the creative side and the receptive side are no longer
separate. The experience of role-playing is born through contributing. No one can
predict the events of a session beforehand, or recreate them afterwards. Also, most of
the expression takes part inside the participants' heads (in the process of
eläytyminen), which make role-playing games (RPGs) a very subjective form of art.
Interactivity and subjectivity are typical to RPGs, but everything else can vary
greatly, depending on the game. In some games all action is described verbally and the
events happen in the players' imagination, while in others the goal is to visualize
everything as concretely as possible. In some games the players focus on the story and
the action, in others the purpose is to simulate the world in as much detail as
There is an infinite number of ways to role-play, but one of the most popular is to
divide them between live-action role-playing games ("LARPs") and traditional or
table-top RPGs. Although it is impossible to draw an exact line, a typical LARP is a
game where you try to do everything as concretely as possible, and do your best to avoid
any means that are not part of the game world ("non-diegetic means" or "off-game"). In a
typical table-top game the game master ("GM") is the players' medium for interacting
with the game world, and most things are only described, and take place only in the
Another way of dividing the different ways of gaming is to group them into gamist,
dramatist, simulationist and eläytyjist styles. The gamist players ("munchkins") try to
somehow win the game by making their character as powerful as possible - in a way
turning the role-playing into strategy-gaming. The dramatist people have no true grasp
for the meaning of interaction, as they think the purpose of the game is for the game
masters to tell a story using the players as actors - but with no audience to tell the
story to! The simulationists try to create a working society or even a world which is
simulated through role-playing. The eläytyjist set the goal to becoming the characters,
to experiencing everything through the character.
While the division between the mediums of LARP and table-top games does not provide any
difference in quality, the second division certainly does - not all of the above styles
are as well thought-out as others. As is obvious to most role-players, the dramatist and
the gamist styles are inferior to the simulationist and eläytyjist styles. For the sake
of objectivity, they will, however, all be here introduced.
The styles: Good and Bad
Strategy games are often fun and educational. They can be a measure of your intellect,
strategic thinking and ability to stretch resources to their very limit. It's fun to try
to win the war at chess. It's fun to rule a nation in Civilization. It's fun to command
an army unit in Necromunda. Wouldn't it be fun to try to win with just one person whose
actions you could guide? No! Not unless that person is a robot with exact orders and no
personality. Real people don't aim to win at the "game of life"; in fact, there is no
such game! Real people aim to enjoy their life or further their personal goals, but they
also have all sorts of doubts and weaknesses, which come into way of their wanting to do
what they want to do: "I was going to run for the parliament, because I want to make the
world a better place, but I ran into some old friends and went out for a beer, instead."
That is why the gamist style does not work.
Stories are fun and interesting, they can have a huge impact on mankind. Movies are
often entertaining, and a good book can really make you think. And if you want to tell
your own stories, nobody's keeping you from writing a short story, or a novel, or a
drama, or a movie. Nobody's keeping you from composing a song, or directing a play, or
choreographing a dance. But note that in those cases you are the auteur, the creator.
And when your work is finished the audience will get to see it. RPGs don't work that
way. If you want to tell a story (as the dramatists do), you must have the players as
the audience, the auteurs, or both. If the players are the audience, you'd somehow have
to stop them from interfering with the story - and thus they would become passive, and
you'd have a form of theatre or story-telling. If the players are the auteurs, you can't
tell a story. If they are both, as they effectively always are in RPGs, then the story
is told by players, not the game master. And then there are an infinite number of little
stories, all inside the heads of the players. You will have no way to know what will
happen beforehand, and no way to re-create it afterwards. (This same observation can
also be found in the very definition of role-playing.)
It is said that man is a social animal. This is true, for most people define themselves
at least partly through social ties (job, school, hobby, nationality, social class,
religion etc.). As all existing societies are imperfect and flawed, this poses a
problem: people do not know themselves - they have defined their image of themselves at
some early developmental stage, and can't see how it could be anything else. It would be
so much better if they could try to live in a different world, or a different society,
for a while, and then try to see themselves in a new light after that experience. Well,
they can! Through the simulationist way of role-playing - which is, or can be, social
philosophy and behavioral psychology put to practice. It can have many positive effects
on players, and it's also one of the two styles the Turku School promotes.
Apart from societies, what most dictates a person's behavior, is his personality (which
is in part a product of the society). It's easy to think you know yourself when you live
a very sheltered life and never have any reason to leave your room - or, heaven forbid,
question your own way of thinking. To find out your true self - or to check if this is
really what you want to be - you need to have an outside view on yourself, or an inside
view on somebody else. Living the life of another personality, another character, is
just the trick to accomplish this. Another name for that is the eläytyjist style of
larping, and it is the other style of larping the Turku School promotes.
You, the reader, have probably already made your mind about what styles are acceptable
and what are not. Now, read on, as we further elaborate the ideals of the Turku School.
Role-playing as art
Art can be broadly defined to be use of a medium with precision and individuality (which
is creativity combined with personality). Thus it is possible to create art, as well as
pointless entertainment, with RPGs. When creating a game it is important to know what
you want to say with the game, and how it differs from other games. If you're having
hard time finding the answer, you should think again if you really should organize the
game at all. If you want to tell a story, don't attempt to tell it as a role-playing
game (and definitely not as a LARP); think about other easily accessible mediums, like
short stories instead.
Art is a very delicate thing, and certainly not all role-playing games should be
classified as such. Not all even want to be! Most art today is story-telling in one form
or another. But often the art is not in the story itself, but the way it is told. And
although RPGs have no actual plot, the way that the many personal experiences are taken,
is, in a way, up to the GM. In effect, although the content can not be predetermined,
the form can be. And as the form affects the content (in the same way that the content
would in active mediums also affect the form), this gives the GM a way of guiding the
experience of the players. That is the GM's art.
Eläytyjist role-playing is the best currently existing method for creating experiences
and emotions, and allow you to see things from a truly personal point of view. Although
this, like television, is often used as a substitute for life or to allow some people to
have any feelings at all, it can be much more. It can give great, subjective insight
into difficult topics - and allow you to see things from different points of view. In
this sense, role-playing can be called an art.
On the other hand, simulationist role-playing is the best currently existing method to
simulate the actions of a small society in diverse situations. This can be, for
instance, used as a tool for experimenting with different social models. I myself intend
to create a working Utopia and then test it with LARPs and fix it where it didn't work.
In this sense, role-playing can be called a (method of) science.
These days, role-playing games of all kinds are organized and played for the most
obscure reasons. Many people want to sacrifice the GM's workload on the unholy altar of
social relations, playing only when it coincides with meeting friends. In the same
sense, some people write their games for just the same reasons, without ever asking
themselves why they're doing it.
Good reasons to express yourself are telling a story (or in the case of role-playing
games, creating an interesting starting point and setting for possible stories),
delivering a message and developing the medium you want to express yourself with. In
this sense, RPGs are as good a way to express yourself as any other medium.
Telling stories has always been important for mankind. When you have an idea for a great
story, you should think about which medium would best support it - e.g. a story of the
development of an anthill from creation to destruction might not work as a LARP, but
rather as a work of prose, a computer game or as an animated film (The above chapter was
written before the movie Antz --ed.). If the story has a few obvious main characters,
but you only know the beginning (if the middle and the end are, as of yet, open) then it
might work as a table-top RPG. If the story's middle and end are open, but you know it's
about a small society of people and the time-period it encompasses would be relatively
short and twist-packed, then you might even use LARP as its medium. Notice, however,
that the last two methods are not strictly about telling stories via RPG, but rather
giving the world and the beginning of a story to the players and seeing what comes out.
It is NOT POSSIBLE to tell pre-determined stories through RPG.
In delivering a message you should remember the same thing as with story-telling. The
difference is, this time the starting point should be your message, not the idea for the
story. Delivering messages through RPGs takes some skill, but when successful - thanks
to the subjectivity of RPGs - gives more empiric and precise insight than any other
medium. There has been relatively few experiments in this field, but LARPs are extremely
well suited at least for criticizing the society, and table-top games for commenting on
the behavior and psychology of the individual.
Developing a medium is never unnecessary - often even the worst failed attempts can
teach a lot about the inner structure of the medium. Often it's not advisable to start
by thinking what kind of a game you want to organize, but in these cases you must go
there. When you have a wish to organize something weird - like a LARP where causality
doesn't work, or a table-top game where the players will try to communicate
telepathically with each others - you should think about what type of a game this
experiment would benefit most, and create the situation and the world around the
experiment. (All the better, of course, if some particular situation or message requires
this approach, but it is not condemnable to do it for honest curiosity, either.)
The absolute rule of the game master
The role-playing game is the game masters creation, to which he lets the players enter.
The game world is the game master's, the scenario is the game master's, the characters
(being a part of the game world) are the game master's. The players' part is to get
inside their character's head in the situation where the game begins and by eläytyminen
try to simulate its actions.
The object of the player should be to obey the game master's every wish concerning the
style of play. This does not mean that the game master should tell the players what
their characters should do. When it comes to the things that have to do with the game,
the game master has the ultimate ruling power. Not the enjoyability of the gaming
session, not cell phones, not hunger, not anything. Sometimes it might be fun to do
something that is not in strict accordance with the character, but - unless the GM has
specifically asked you to do so - THAT IS FORBIDDEN.
The player's position in an RPG session is further elaborated in the following Player's
Vow of Chastity.
The relationships between the Turkuists and the opposing schools
After what has been said above, it is obvious what the relationship between the Turku
School and any other schools and ways of thinking is - that is, the relationship between
the Turkuists, the gamists and the dramatists.
The Turku School struggles for the immediate and long-term goals of the eläytyjist and
simulationist role-players, but presently it also stands for the future of all
role-playing. In Norway the dramatists are trying to re-invent theatre, but there the
word of the Turku School still brings hope to the oppressed simulationists. In the
United States the gamists are trying to de-evolve role-playing back into moving little
pieces of plastic on a board, but even in that world of darkness the Turku School sheds
light to the eläytyjist movement.
The members and friends of the Turku School are spreading the radical views of the
Manifesto all around the world - lately including Stockholm, New Jersey, Helsinki,
Istanbul, Vienna, Oslo and Paris. In London the local gaming store refused to sell the
Manifesto because it didn't have any pictures.
Yet, despite its international achievements, even in its native Turku the school is
struggling against the short-sighted, the conservative, and above all, the gamist and
The Turku School now has its eyes mostly set on the Nordic countries, because they live
the dawn of role-playing revolution. Compared to the Nordic countries of the early and
late 1990s, this revolution is characterized by the more advanced role-playing community
and especially the ever-increasing number of newbies. Thus the role-playing revolution
of Northern Europe can only be a prelude to the Turkuist revolution.
To put it shortly, the Turku School supports any and all revolutionary role-players'
movement directed against the current gamist and dramatist circumstances.
In all these movements the Turkuists put the question of character eläytyminen and
society simulation above all others.
The Turku School thinks it despicable to hide one's views and intentions. Turkuists
openly admit that their goals can only be achieved by taking down by force the current
system of role-playing. Let the gamist and dramatist classes shiver before the Turkuist
revolution. The simulationists and the eläytyjists have nothing to lose but their
chains. But they have the whole world to win.
TURKUIST ROLE-PLAYERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
The Players' Vow of Chastity
The Turku School