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Last night, I started running a new Vaesen game with my core group of players. This was a session 0 game, as none of the players have much familiarity with the Year Zero system that Free League Publishing uses for many of its games, nor the adaptation made to make the system work for the Vaesen setting.
Vaesen is a roleplaying game focused on Nordic Horror centering on 19th century Scandinavia. The players are known as Thursday’s Children. They have all, through one trauma or another, gained the ability to see vaesen, the strange creatures of myth, legend, and terror that have always been there with us. Vaesen then, is a story of dealing with creatures and people on the fringes. The setting is one of rapid industrialization, a movement from one way of life to another and the struggles that arise as that occurs.
In short, it is a wonderful and dark analog of our current state and one that is rich for exploration and storytelling.
A New Approach for my Games
I am using Vaesen as a way to shift my usual approach. My players are scattered across the United States and are all working professionals. We can do 4 hours+ games, but only on occasion and not as a regular weekly meeting. Because there is a whole life outside of gaming, sad though that may be, there are also many instances where players cannot always make it to a game night. In a traditional campaign, this means sending the absent player on a trip or playing them as an NPC or companion. If you have tried any of those approaches, you are all too well aware that they are less than optimal.
In 2023, we moved our games to 2 hour runs. This significantly improved player turnout. It also meant that a traditional campaign moved very slowly. Story beats that I could cover in one session would often expand to two or even three sessions. We play once a week, so that means almost a month for something that may take mere moments in the game. In a large campaign this slows things down immensely.
We offset some of that with Discord-based play. Characters would use the Discord channels as a place to communicate and share between one another as they moved from place to place. This allowed us to keep the game fresh and made the 2 hour play sessions more useful overall.
I plan to make Discord a major part of the Vaesen game. I would argue that Vaesen is ideally suited for this for one very simple reason: the headquarters. Players have their own headquarters in Vaesen. It is sort of its own character. The headquarters is actively built and maintained along with the rest of the story. In fact, there are moments when the headquarters will take center stage. In a sense, Vaesen has an adventure hub structure. Players find something curious or are asked to assist in some issue while at their headquarters. Using the resources available to them, they explore, research, and prepare for for the mission. Then they head out to discover what dangers await them in the mission itself.
Much of that game play can be done before the actual weekly session. Players can use Discord to roleplay and interact. They can research, face challenges, and prepare for the mission ahead. Even better, if a player can’t make game night, they can still be involved in assisting other players. They will just remain at the headquarters when the mission begins.
It also allows for more players and more groups which is a major goal for me this year. I can easily expand the Discord server offering new players a way to onboard, and then include them on specific missions. There is a lot of flexibility in this approach, and I am excited to how it goes.
How it Went
Overall, despite some minor technical issues (spotty Internet), it went very well. I have four players with fascinating characters and almost every character sheet is complete. We did a single run of an introduction between a player-character and a regular NPC, Linnea Elfeklint. It was short, but I wanted to give a sense of tone and feel.
The system is pretty easy-to-learn. Players were quick to pick everything up and there is a lot of room for growth and expansion. We’re using Alchemy—which I will talk about in a separate post as this is already getting long—and there were no major issues of concerns. Players left excited and looking forward to next week’s session 1. As a GM, I see a lot of work ahead, but I very excited.
I really like what Free League has been doing with their games and plan to play more. Vaesen is already off to a great start.
If you are looking for a game and this sounds interesting. Drop me a line. Let’s talk!