Vaesen Nordic Horror Roleplaying Game Review

A few weeks back I found a new game that just came out. The game store had just got it on the shelf and I took a look. It was beautiful and the front described it as Nordic Horror. Vaesen is a game from Free League. If you are unfamiliar, they put out games like Mutant: Year Zero, Tales from the Loop, Forbidden Lands, Mork Borg and the new Alien RPG. Many of the games use the Year Zero System. It is an open system for other to use. Vaesen was my first chance to run the system. I picked the book up with Halloween in mind. We like to do a Halloween one-shot RPG with our game group, and I thought this would be a change from last year.

Now, I only got the chance to run the game last night. There is a great deal in this book that I did not get a chance to use. Some I left out because of my limitations on time.

The Setting

The game is set in the town of Upsala. The Game Master Screen comes with a really great map of the town on one side and the other side is a beautiful map of the Mythic North, it’s worth the purchase for just that alone. The players can see Vaesen. Vaesen are mythical creatures of Nordic lore. Think Faeries, ghosts, trolls, werewolves, and other assorted creatures. Some are interesting and unique. The monster section with all the Vaesen gives you the lore of the creature, how they come to be and ways they can be defeated or dealt with. Not all Vaesen are malevolent. My only complaint here is that I would really like more Vaesen, a Monster Manual or Vaesen Manual would be a wonderful addition to this game.

In the game you are special, your characters can see Vaesen. Most people cannot. So you work with the other players to create your hideout and form a society that studies and goes after them. The rule system is fun in that much of that is part of the creation of characters and gives really good rules on creating your society.

Character Creation

One thing that can make or break a game is character creation. I rolled up seven pre-generated characters for my group, but I can tell you that I wish I had more time to roll characters up with the group. On my own it took me less than two hours to create the seven characters. I would say about 15 minutes a character. It was fast, and not overly complex. You simply assign an amount of points to your attributes and skills. Most of the character creation is choosing things such as your motivation, past trauma, relationship to other player characters and other details that really help flesh out an interesting character with a background that brings them to life. This game seems to be well designed to be role play heavy instead of roll play heavy.

The System

The mechanics are based on the year zero system. After reading into it and running it, I really like the system. It is simple to pick up on. It is complex enough to make a great structure to a game without the mechanics being a thing you must keep looking up. Your attributes and skills have numbers, not remarkably high and they are added together to get the amount of six-sided dice you roll. If one of the dice in your pool of dice rolls a 6 then you have succeeded. Not a lot of math, not looking at stats a lot, just rolling and seeing the success pop up when you see that six.

The system does not seem to be combat heavy at all. If you do take damage it impacts your performance. There is a table provided to roll on and the outcome is often an adjustment or penalty to your attributes and skills. After playing this system, I am very excited to try out some of the other games that Free League has put out with the Year Zero system

The Book

Okay, this is one of the funnest parts of the game to me. I am addicted to books, and I love to flip through Role Playing Books. The Vaesen book is beautiful. It has great sections on different elements that are unique to the game. The art is high quality, and the pages are sturdy, slightly manilla color with black print so it is really easy to read while still having tons of full color art and color highlights that do not distract from the reading like many books can do these day with watermarks and other things behind the print.  There is a good index in the back that helped me to flip to places quick.

Our Game

Now, this was our Halloween game, so I went with some more traditional cliché story elements, but it seemed fun. It was far less difficult telling people to roll a bunch or six sided dice than it is to try and teach a more traditional game like D&D. I think it is a great system for new players. The most time was spent trying to add up how many dice to roll, and I feel that would have gone much faster if we were playing at the game table and not online because of COVID. I changed the initiative system to being just group initiative and rolling a D6. The game calls for a card draw which can be done with Vaesen cards (I don’t have) or just a few cards from a deck of playing cards. I couldn’t figure a good way to draw cards online, and figured rolling a D6 would go much faster.

My Personal Opinion

I love the game. I wish I had time to run a campaign of it right now. It is on my list of campaigns to run in the future though. I would say it is a great game that is not complex and it gives you a lot to work with as a Game Master in running a fun interesting game while not overwhelming you with complex mechanics. I do suggest it. I would love to hear your experiences with it if anyone is running a full campaign with it right now.

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