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Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland: A Deeper Look At The Game And Latest Kickstarter

In an upcoming issue of Knights of the Dinner Table, I review Free League’s Vaesen - Nordic Horror Roleplaying core rulebook. I choose to review this project because the concepts, artwork, writing, and engine represent roleplaying done right. This RPG’s world and system offer mysteries that return gamers to the mystery and unknown of early tabletop. In fact, it impressed me so much that I started a Vaesen campaign. At the table, this engine and world combine to create moments of horror, humor, high tension, and high drama; in other words, everything a fun night of roleplaying needs. With the launch of their latest Kickstarter for Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland, a sourcebook for the game, and Vaesen – Seasons of Mystery, an adventure book, it’s the right time to talk about why this RPG deserves the awards it has won, what the Kickstarter offers, and get a few quick insights from its author, Graeme Davis.
Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland 01.jpg

What Is Vaesen?

The Vaesen line of RPGs are Free League’s horror games that follow their proven formula. This RPG checks many of the boxes of Free League’s great properties:
  • It runs on the Year Zero Engine
  • The project is based on the artwork of a great artist, in this case, Johan Egerkrans
  • The graphic design and layouts are beautifully executed
  • Vaesen is a line of books, not a one-and-done project like many other publisher’s games
  • Best of all, the overall game is already an award winning RPG
All Free League books offer a level of quality. When compared to ALIEN, Tales From The Loop, Forbidden Lands, and so many more high quality games from the publisher, it’s hard to imagine that Vaesen would stand out, yet it does. That’s no slight against Vaesen, it’s a statement of Free League’s quality. Yet, Vaesen measures up, standing alongside their other greats.

In the mythic north of 19th century Scandinavia, the people are abandoning the land and the old ways for the promise of the industrialized cities. They’re forgetting the spirits and traditions that made for a happy land and happy vaesen. Left alone and uncared for, those spirits and monsters are angry, and only you, an individual cursed with The Sight, can see them and their pain. It’s up to you to placate these spirits before they lose control and begin hurting those rural folks who have not abandoned them.

As an RPG, it’s a lot of fun. Your character is in a secret society, they know about vaesen, but aren’t experts, just those lucky/unlucky enough to know that they are real and what they can do, and your character knows enough to research what has to be done in order to stop them.

That’s where this RPG stands out from the rest, Vaesen has a secret sauce, Rituals. These monsters and spirits are angry because the old ways are not being observed. Your job in the game is to learn their Rituals, the works that placate them, and calm their angry nature. Unlike most RPGs, you don’t have to kill the vaesen or take their power or conquer their land, you just have to know the right rite to calm them. The culmination of the battle will not be blood and death but presenting the vaesen with a wreath of holly dipped in milk or some other piece of folklore. I like the thought and attention that this RPG puts into the rituals and how they play out.

Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying took home a number of ENnie Awards in 2021. I was able to check out the medals at Origins Game Fair and they look great sitting with the core rulebook. Having played the game, I get way the core rulebook took home the Gold Medals for Best Monster/Adversary, Best Art, Cover, and Best Art, Interior, both for artist Johan Egerkrans’ work.

Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland 04.jpg

What Makes Vaesen Stand Out?

I mentioned the Rituals and I want to shine the spotlight on this non-mechanic. The artwork and setting help to set Vaesen apart from other RPGs. It’s concept – Nordic folklore meets some secret supernatural society – is interesting enough, but the Year Zero Engine (YZE) and the Rituals are what makes Vaesen an experience. The YZE involves rolling d6 dice pools. If you fail, you can push your luck in which case your character takes a condition and you get to reroll your dice pool. It takes the power from the dice and gives it to the players.

Despite how good the engine is, the key to Vaesen is its Rituals. Rituals are how you defeat a vaesen. As an example, let’s look at ghosts in Vaesen. The Ritual to defeat a ghost is exactly what you’d expect: “The only way to banish a ghost is to find out what is keeping her from passing on, and help her resolve whatever unfinished business she may have.” To defeat a ghost, you have to solve their mystery. That’s all roleplaying. Let’s look at the nisse, a farm spirit sorta like a gnome. I’m only going to share the first Ritual to remove them: “The easiest way to get rid of a nisse is to make him accept a new piece of clothing. After putting it on, he disappears to another farm.” To deal with an angry nisse, your characters need to pick out the right piece of clothing and offer it. Alternately, maybe they provide a coat in winter. Maybe it’s the shirt the nisse’s brother wore before he moved off of the farm. Whatever the clothing is, the concept requires research and roleplaying, no dice.

This RPG uses a solid, award winning engine, but it’s secret is that the final resolution to any encounter is roleplaying based.
Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland 03.jpg

Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland and Graeme Davis

It’s the fourth quarter of 2021, a time when RPG Kickstarters tend to thin out. However, Free League has an annual October/November/December Kickstarter tradition: they launch a new campaign. Each year, they prove there’s a significant fanbase and interest in their work despite the holiday shopping season and this year is no different. On top of that, Free League’s Q4 offerings have been some of their heavy hitters.
Despite their solid track record, launching a project with the holiday’s looming is a challenge. Nevertheless, they’re trying something new story of Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland. This quickstarter campaign runs for two weeks only, so I asked the author, Graeme Davis, a pair of quick questions about the project and moving the book from Scandinavia to the UK and Ireland. Why did they decided to uproot the setting to focus on the British Isles instead of digging deeper into Nordic folklore, or even another part of the world?
Graeme Davis: “The moment I saw Vaesen, I knew I wanted to write a sourcebook that would allow people to play among the British and Irish folklore that I grew up with. It’s really as simple as that. This setting also allows players to cross paths with all sorts of interesting people, from Sherlock Holmes to Jack the Ripper.”
That is a great reason to write this book. I asked him what fans can expect from the latest book? Locations? Monsters? Adventure paths?
Graeme Davis: “It’s more than just a sourcebook. As well as a treatment of Britain and Ireland similar to the treatment of the Mythic North in the Vaesen core book, it includes a chapter on the Society in Britain, plus ten creatures from the folklore of the islands and three complete mysteries.”
It’s a risk to shift focus from one setting to another in an RPG line, but this project is proving it’s a wise decision. As of this writing, the campaign for these books have more backers and funds raised than the core rulebook achieved in November, 2019.

Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland 02.jpg

Should You Support the Kickstarter?

Vaesen – Mythic Britain and Ireland is perfect if you want to add more English and Irish folklore options to your Vaesen campaign. Adding new monsters and learning more about the world offers fresh roleplaying opportunities to your table. If you’re a fan of Vaesen, this is an easy recommendation. Alternately, if you like RPGs with an artistic focus, this one is a celebration of Johan Egerkrans’ artwork. The game is based on Johan’s art and concepts, and the finished product shines due to the solid source material. If you want European folklore laid out in a gorgeous way, the first two books of the line, Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying and Vaesen – A Wicked Secret, demonstrate Free League’s eye for design. Don’t own the core rulebook but still want to try out this RPG? There’s a tier for SEK 898 [“Approx.$104/€89/£75”] plus S/H that gives you the print and PDF versions of the core rulebook, this sourcebook, the Season of Mystery adventure book, a map, and a soundtrack. If you want to read more about the core game, Rob Wieland reviewed it here.

Vaesen RPG – Mythic Britain & Ireland from Free League Publishing
  • End Date: Wed, December 22 2021 3:00 PM EST.
  • “Face the mythic creatures of Britain and Ireland in this expansion to the multiple award-winning Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying.”
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.
 

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I thought you could get rid of nisse with a good-sized mallet?
Hit Sony GIF by Peter Rabbit Movie

Anyway, I can barely picture 19th century USA, much less Scandinavia. Is there exposition on what the normal world was like?
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
Anyway, I can barely picture 19th century USA, much less Scandinavia. Is there exposition on what the normal world was like?

A little bit in the main rulebook. But it is VERY light on details (at least in the Swedish version of it, no idea if there are more details in the English version). We are talking about 10-15 pages setting total (with pictures, and small legends), and that iincludes both general life and a little bit about the town of Uppsala (where you have your base) and what exists there.

Basically the countryside is poor, the priests are the authorities and decide "truths" about things. Cities are growing, but are dirty, and most people live in poverty. Technology are starting to come and make advancements for things (and the way technology changes society is one of the reasons that the creatures of folkore mythos are acting out). It is a society with differences in class. Maybe not quite as much as Victorian England, but it is there. There are restrictions on movement, and nationalism is on the rise.
 
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Marandahir

Crown-Forester
I know geography is hard, but Britain and Ireland aren't Scandinavia.
Right. This is an expansion to the original product which is based on Scandinavia, no? All countries shown on this map were also heavily influenced by the Vikings. One could even argue that Middle English and Scots are as much descendants of Old Norse as they are of Old English.
 


JohnTaber

Explorer
I agree with GMMichael. You should have used all the wonderful artwork from the main book...cause there is a ton of it...and it might have cut down on the confusion. ;)

I played Vaesen with a group of gamers that I run. In my opinion the setting, folklore, and arework are where this thing shines. Amazing storytelling here. The system is like their other products but I don't remember the other products having the system that they use for the player's HQ (aka castle). The system allows the castle to "grow" as the party finds more rooms (aka returns from missions). It is very fun and allows the players to tailor the place to their liking. ;)

The rituals are sort of done at a meta level which I really like. They act to enforce the story over the mechanics.

I this it is an amazing product and cannot wait for the next expansion...
John
 

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