I always wanted to play a tabletop RPG growing up. Unfortunately, I never had the like-minded friends that would do it but that is the joys of growing up. After years of no joy, I am finally in the position to start a campaign with some friends. When I was asked to review Vaesen I couldn’t say yes quick enough.
After researching what it was about my excitement only grew as I love Norse Mythology and Folklore so this was right up my street. Now I have to tell you now this will not be a review of the game played as we are still in the planning stage but of the physical copy of the book, background and mechanics. We will be recording our game sessions and releasing them on both the GamEir and Team Zoom Zoom‘s Youtube channels in the near future.
There is something in the Woods of Vaesen
Vaesen is a Nordic horror game from Free League Publishing and is based on the book “Vaesen: Spirits and Monsters of Scandinavian Folklore” by Johan Egerkran. The game itself is set in an alternate nineteenth-century Scandinavia where the mythical and supernatural still have a place in the world even if hidden to most.
The game centres around the city of Upsala in Sweden. This will be the players base of operations and where the GM (Games Master) will build the world. You can also use a different city if you want but for novices like myself, it is easier to use Upsala as there is a map and information in the Core Rules book.
There are people in this world that have a thing called the Sight which allows them to see Vaesen. People who have this gift usually get it for a physical or psychological trauma from a supernatural event. A secret society called the Order of Artemis was formed for people with the Sight to hunt and kill Vaesen. Over time this organization split into different groups as different people had different ideas about what to do with the Vaesen they encountered so the Order of Artemis splintered leaving a new Order in Upsala called The Society. This too fell to ruin and this is where you pick up as the characters in the game will try and re-establish the Society, find out what happened and maybe even reconnect with other groups.
Vaesen runs on the Year Zero engine that you will find in most of Free Leagues games. All of the player characters have The Sight, the supernatural ability which allows them to see Vaesen. Vaesen are creatures like trolls, fairies, Mermaids etc… and in a Christian country, most people either think they are devils or don’t really exist. The player characters have come together to track down a former Society member called Linnea Elfeklint (you can change the name if you want to) who has taken up residence in the local asylum. This is where the characters receive the keys and deed to Castle Gyllencreutz, the Society’s headquarters in Upsala. There is more to this game than hunting down a monster, you will also have to deal with your neighbours in Upsala that notice the Castle is alive again and will want to know what is going on.
What year is it… It’s year zero in Vaesen
This is where it’s clear that this is a ‘Year Zero’ game. The campaign for Vaesen is all about Castle Gyllencreutz and how it acts as a headquarters. The core rulebook helps you flesh out the game by telling you a lot about the castle and how it has hidden rooms to explore, information to gather on Vaesen and how you can also hire staff to help you in your missions. The character creation will be familiar to most but with some added extras.
Each character must choose both a Trauma and a Dark Secret, which can help the GM personalise the game for the players. A Dark Secret could be anything, they are in love with a Vaesen to a Vaesen stole their identity. The most interesting one is the trauma, as you can see what drives the characters and their actions.
The campaigns themselves play out like monster mysteries where the characters get requests to investigate weird goings-on in villages and towns around Upsala and beyond. Like an 1800’s The X-Files. The characters must investigate and decide on how to deal with the Vaesen threat however they seem fit. This can lead to arguments and hopefully thinking outside the box. This sort of thing reminds me of The Witcher and Geralt’s decisions.
Nothing like a physical copy
The core rule book itself is nothing but stunning. From the illustrations that were done by Johan Egerkran as well as the layout and information. It has it all. I was lucky enough to get the expansion book “Vaesen: A wicked secret and other mysteries”. This expansion has extra missions and stories in it. I honestly cannot wait to get stuck into this game and have already written the start of the campaign.
I have also checked out the Free League Publishing website and saw that they sell Vaesen dice, GM screen, map and Vaesen cards so I might have to indulge in some of these before I get started. This is a must get for all RPG fans out there especially in physical form as there is nothing like that new book smell.