Creators of Agemonia: A chat with Narrative Designer Mike Pohjola
“Oh, you play tabletop RPGs, you should meet Max, was a phrase I used to hear many times,” Mike Pohjola starts. As the co-creator along with Lead Designer Max Wikström in Agemonia, Mike creates the lore, stories, backgrounds, and the world of the game. “It took like ten years of low-key advertising in the theatre circles before we actually bumped into each other, a dozen years back or so. We hit it off instantly, both being gamers, nerds and roleplaying enthusiasts.”
At the moment Mike writes Dark Bargain, an interactive story that explores the world and cultures of Agemonia. The main character Shantor Three-Birds is the last of a group of warrior monks. She features again in the very first sessions of the upcoming board game, acting as mentor to the player characters. This is her story leading up to that point.
In the story so far Shantor has visited several strange and beautiful cities, one of them underwater and another moving on the back of ancient creatures. “It took a long time to fully understand the world of Agemonia which had been brewing in Max’s mind for decades,” Mike says. “I’d already created RPGs and written novels, but this was a very enthralling project to work on.”
To Mike, the best thing in creating fantastic things for Agemonia are the cultures. “The peoples are based on very high fantasy concepts where I’ve had to think a lot about how their culture actually works. What sayings do they use and how is their society organized? I love the stuff where I can let go of traditional models of fantasy peoples and societies, like the korallians and quothians. “Shantor is an ignisaur who as a species are something between lizards and demons and in her culture they are imperialistic sun-worshipping cannibals. It’s not like traditional genre stuff where you have Fantasy Rome and Fantasy England and Fantasy Vikings, but this is very much unique.”
Mike, a father of three children and a resident of Helsinki, Finland, says he likes creating intrigues and telling compelling stories. “The Agemonia story is so vast, it’s one of the best things about the game. There are not many games that are this story-driven with the solo stories of the heroes themselves, entwining with the plots, treachery and large-scale machinations.”
“Each hero in Agemonia has a theme, too, which is largely present in the story of the hero. Liberty or tyranny. Power or love. One of the heroes works for a corporation that hacks down forests for profit and has to decide between personal power and his people,” Mike says. “I also love how the heroes in Agemonia are not traditional wandering vagabonds, because that trope isn’t often that realistic. One of them has a family and a career, so he has to explain his gallivanting off to adventures to his wife and take care of things, and not just escape into the world,” Mike laughs. “It’s realistic, which makes it very human.”
The choices that heroes make in their personal journeys affect the story on a larger scale, so crafting the story and all the possibilities is daunting. Mike is experienced in that too, however. “I loved interactive storybooks like Fighting Fantasy and Choose Your Own Adventure back in the day, and I’ve even created one in Finnish regarding the 1918 independence of Finland civil war, an immersive novel for adult readers. So, creating branching possibilities and stories where choice plays a large part is something that I already know how to do. I’ve had great fun creating Dark Bargain, and many times I’ve been completely surprised by what the readers choose!”
Mike is anxiously anticipating the fruition of the project, the upcoming Kickstarter, and eventually, the adventures to be had in Agemonia.
-Ville-Eemeli Miettinen, Digital Marketing Goblin