Chaosium has had an enormous effect on the gaming industry. As shown in The Chaosium Connections, there are approximately 75 companies who are closely connected to Chaosium’s roleplaying publications — not even including magazines, fanzines, miniatures, props, t-shirts, and other more varied publications. But for all of its effects on roleplaying in the English-speaking world, Chaosium may have had even more effect on Sweden, because it pretty much created the roleplaying field there.

The story starts with a Swedish company called Target Games, which published much of its roleplaying under an “Äventyrsspel” brand. They licensed Worlds of Wonder (1982) from Chaosium, so that they could use its “Magic World” to create a Swedish-language fantasy roleplaying game, which they called Drakar och Demoner (1982). They followed up two years later with the Gamma World-like Mutant (1984). Together, those games became the top roleplaying games of Sweden. Target Games became the ruler of the industry, and Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying the country’s game system of choice. (Though in later years, the games would slowly move away from their BRP roots.)

What follows is a look of the continuing impact that Target (and through them, Chaosium) has had on roleplaying in Sweden.

The Target Story

Target itself has a rather convoluted story that runs through a number of successor companies.

Target Games (1980). Created by Fredrik Malmberg and others as a game store in Hjorthagen, Stockholm. The next year they bought out the Tradition game store in Gamla Stan, Stockholm.

Äventyrsspel (1982). The first of many reorganizations for Target resulted in a clarified ownership structure and a new company/brand, which would be used for all of Target’s RPG publications until the mid ’90s. This was the brand that debuted Drakar och Demoner (1982) and Mutant (1984).

Target ended their use of the Äventyrsspel brand around they time they went international, with the production of Mutant Chronicles (1993) and the wargames Warzone (1996) and Chronopia (1997), the former based on Mutant Chronicles — the latter on a setting for Drakar och Demoner.

Ragnarök Speldesign (1991). Not a Target company, but closely allied as its principals, Gunilla Jonsson and Michael Petersén, were the designers of Mutant. They created two games at their indie publisher: En Garde! (1987) and Skuggornas mästare (“Masters of Shadow”, 1988). When they returned to Target, they used those mechanics as the foundation of Target’s Kult (1991).

Target saw notable drops in their sales in the late ’90s, which eventually resulted in their bankruptcy in 1999. A reorganization followed, creating several new companies.

Paradox Entertainment (1999). A spinoff of the video game properties from Target Games, which included their rights to games such as Drakar och DemonerMutant, and Kult. Shortly afterward, Paradox began picking up other IPs, the most notable of which was the rights for Conan the Barbarian. Afterward, they decided to shut-down their video game production, with the intent of becoming a movie studio. This led them to move to Los Angeles.

Brädspelsbolaget (2000). A spinoff from Paradox Entertainment that included the rights to Drakar och Demoner.

Paradox Interactive (2003). Rather than just shutting down Paradox’s video games, Fredrik Wester and Theodore Bergquist purchased the rights, which at this point did not include Target’s classic games, since Target Entertainment was now interested in maintaining IP rights for potential movie production. However, Paradox Interactive has since picked up rights of their own, most notably for Vampire: The Masquerade (1991) and the rest of the World of Darkness, but also for the Swedish RPG, Coriolis (2008).

Cabinet Entertainment / Holdings (2015). A new company formed by Fredrik Malmberg that took over all rights from Paradox Entertainment in 2015. At this point they included MutantKultMutant ChroniclesWarzone, and tChronopia. They of course also own the rights to Conan and several other Robert E. Howard properties such as King Kull and Solomon Kane.

Besides creating the Swedish roleplaying industry in the ’80s, Target has also been a prime licensor in the ’90s and beyond …

Target Goes International

In the mid ’90s, Target started focusing on international releases.

Heartbreaker Hobbies (1993). Bob Watts’ miniatures and card company got the English-language license for Mutant Chronicles and also ended up publishing miniature and card games such as Doomtrooper (1994), Warzone, and Chronopia. Heartbreaker was absorbed by Target in 1997.

Metropolis (1994). The American publisher of first-edition Kult (1993), run by Terry Amthor.

7eme Cercle (2001). A French publisher of third-edition Kult (2001), but they also ended up experimenting with English-language editions of a couple of their books.

The Target Rebellion

The power of Target in Sweden was so great that they could induce new RPG publishers to be created by their absence. However, only one game from this rebellion has had any longevity.

Jan Edman (1982). A distributor in Sweden that pushed Target’s games into the toy market, and so was responsible for a lot of their initial success. In 1989, Target decided to end this relationship, causing Jan Edman to invest in a young RPG publisher, hoping to make them successful enough to replace their former cash cow.

Lancelot Games (1989). Jan Edman’s investment created Lancelot Games, which as it happens was made up of two different companies, Lancelot HB and NRBS HB. Lancelot released the fantasy RPG Khelataar (1989) and the postapocalyptic Wastelands (1990) while NRBS produced Western (1989). All of the games but Western crashed, causing Jan Edman to withdraw their support.

Rävspel (1998). A new publisher created by four notables of the Swedish industry, including Anders Gillbring and Tove Poon-Gillbring, who had previously been part of NRBS. They licensed their Western game back from Jan Edman, to produce a new edition.

Åskfågeln (2016). Another company founded by Anders Gillbring and Tove Poon-Gillbrin. They again licensed Western from Jan Edman, and again published a new edition (this time, the fourth).

RPG Successors

Following the shutdown of Target, its descendants have licensed RPG rights out to a variety of successors (and in one case, sold them outright).

Riotminds(2000). Originally licensed Drakar och Demoner from one of Target’s descendents, then bought it outright in 2005. However, they didn’t get the setting of Chronopia, but instead made their own: Trudvang. They’ve released the game in English as Trudvang Chronicles (2017).

Järnringen (2001). The Iron Ring was founded to publish a new edition of Mutant, which they did, with Mutant: Undergångens arvtagare (“Mutant: Heirs of Doom”, 2002). After several years of working on Target’s brand, they decided to create something of their, which was Coriolis (2008).

After that, their interactions with the rest of the Swedish industry get complex. They shut down, licensing Coriolis to a new company called Fria Ligan, but selling it to Paradox Interactive. Then about half of the former company formed a new incarnation of Järnringen where they created a new game called Symbaroum (2014). Then in 2018, they merged into Fria Ligan, which two years later was able to buy Coriolis back from Paradox.

Fria Ligan (2011). Founded to carry the torch for Järnringen’s Coriolis, Fria Ligan went on to license Mutant from Paradox, creating the very successful Mutant Year Zero (2014). They’ve since become one of the most successful new RPG companies of the ’10s, and even absorbed a new incarnation of Järnringen in 2018.

COG Games (2006). Formed to take advantage of a Mutant Chronicles license, but never did so.

Modiphius (2012). Founded due to a direct connection with Chaosium: Modiphius’ first publication was Achtung Cthulhu! (2013). However, they’ve also had extensive interactions with the Swedish RPG scene that Chaosium ultimately created. They’ve licensed Mutant Chronicles and Conan from Paradox Entertainment and also Vampire: The Masquerade from Paradox Interactive. Meanwhile, they’ve worked with many of the heirs to Target, at various times doing printing and/or distribution for Järnringen, Fria Ligan, and Helmgast. (In many ways, Modiphius has become the third core company for the Swedish RPG scene, following Chaosium and Target: Chaosium created the core game system for Swedish roleplaying, Target popularized it, and Modiphius has been delivering the results back to the result of the world.)

Miniatures Successors

Target’s miniatures games have also continued on.

Excelsior Entertainment (2001). The first company to take over Chronopia and Warzone.

Prince August (2006). A miniatures production house that spun off of the Jan Edman distributor way back in 1958. By the 21st century, they’d moved from Sweden to Ireland. They picked up the rights to make Chronopia and Warzone miniatures after Excelsior closed house.

Fantasy Flight Games (2008). Another publisher who got their start as a Chaosium Call of Cthulhu licensor. They briefly produced a Mutant Chronicles Collectible Miniatures Game (2008), but cancelled it within a year.

Prodos Games (2013). Like Excelsior, a company founded to publish one of Target’s old minis games, in this case Warzone: Resurrection (2013).

The Neogames Story

When Target fell, Neogames was able to step up as a new top company in Sweden, creating a sort of second counter resistance (after the failure of Lancelot Games in the ’90s). In more recent years, their descendants have connected to Target itself.

Neogames (1991). A company founded by Carl Johan Ström. Their best-known game is Eon (1996), a complex and bloody fantasy RPG that rose up to a high level of success in Sweden.

101 Productions (1994). A small design house linked to Neogames through joint work on the Vikings (1994) RPG.

Renskugga (2006). An indie design house run by former Neogames employees Marco Behrmann and Petter Nallo; their sole RPG, Noir (2006), was distributed by Neogames.

Rävsvans Förlag (2015). Another indie design house run by a Neogames employee, this time Krister Sundelin. Probably best known for Västmark (“Western Land”, 1996). One of Sundelin’s later games, Järn (2015) was playtested through Rävsvans but published by Helmgast. Sundelin has since produced a few games for Helmgast.

Helmgast (2014). An heir to both Neogames and Renskugga, licensed to publish Eon fourth edition (2014). They’ve since joined the Target family through the production of a fourth edition of Kult (2018).

The Chaosium connection touched upon almost 75 roleplaying companies connected to Chaosium in relatively major ways. Target has a similar story in Sweden, as this article details approximately 25 companies that they influenced directly through licenses or transfers or indirectly through competitive needs. Of course, you can add these companies on to Chaosium’s list as well, as the entire Swedish gaming scene was created from the original license of Worlds of Wonder — bringing Chaosium’s total to an even 100.

It would be hard to find a more influential company in the roleplaying industry that wasn’t named TSR or Wizards of the Coast.

This article was originally published as Advanced Designers & Dragons #35 on RPGnet. It followed the publication of the four-volume Designers & Dragons (2014) from Evil Hat, and was meant to complement those books.

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