Vaesen: Mythic Britain & Ireland RPG Review

19 March 2024
The Vaesen are folk horror creatures, the scary tales told over fires and the reason not to go into that cave – and here, Free League take their RPG of investigation and mystery to Britain and Ireland.

Written by Ed Power

Boldly going where other roleplaying publishers are sometimes reluctant to venture has long been Free League’s guiding mission. The Swedish tabletop powerhouse has a track record in spinning dice-chucking gold from potentially unpromising ideas. Whether it’s Tales From Loop’s bored teenagers having adventures in 1980s Sweden or Into the Odd’s mix of stripped-down mechanics and maximalist world-building, Free League’s speciality is thinking outside the box – or, indeed, taking off and nuking the box from orbit.

One of its most innovative titles is Vaesen, a game of mystery and sleuthing set in 19th-century Sweden populated by mischievous spirits (the titular Vaesen) and by player characters cursed with a supernatural “sight”. Now, the Vaesen universe has expanded to include Victorian Britain and Ireland in a chunky new supplement which brings the game’s folkloric role-playing to the world of Celtic mythology.

What is Vaesen: Mythic Britain & Ireland RPG?

The folk horror vibes are strong throughout this lavish and atmospheric supplement. You’ll want to leaf straight to the new Vaesen. These are the supernatural creatures that have lived among us since time immemorial but which can be seen only by those with extra-planer vision.

What a trove this is – and a wonderful showcase for Johan Egerkrans’s creepily evocative art. We are introduced to figures from myth, such as the Banshee, the Dullahan (the inspiration for the headless horseman), the Selkie and the diminutive Red Caps (who must constantly dip their headgear in fresh blood - if it ever dries out, they will die). Mythic Britain and Ireland also gives players more tools to explore the world. There are new archetypes: the game’s version of character classes. These include the stiff-upper-lipped Athlete and the wealthy Socialite, whose distinguished family may contain a few skeletons (or worse) in their gilded closets.

The rich theme plays a huge part in Vaesen’s appeal. Mechanically, though, the game also has lots to recommend it. Sessions take the form of Mysteries, in which the players must work out why a Vaesen, as yet unidentified, is causing trouble to a particular community. The action is divided into “scenes”, with all of the tiresome in-between travel, etc, taking place off-screen and thus leading to a cleaner, leaner experience.

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How does Vaesen Play?

Vaesen utilises a modified form of Free League’s Year Zero Engine, as previously encountered in Tales from the Loop and Coriolis. Players have four core attributes – Physique, Logic, Empathy, and Precision –  each in turn linked to various skills. Ability checks involve pools of six-sided dice – each six represents success, and the number of dice rolled is determined by adding together attribute and skill checks. It’s a slick and straightforward system with enough crunch to require players to keep one eye on their stats and the other on the story.

Related Article: How to Play Vaesen

Is Vaesen: Mythic Britain and Ireland RPG good?

If there’s a criticism, it’s that the supplement leans too far towards England. London’s cathedrals and cemeteries are explored in greater detail than all of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin and Cardiff combined. Two of the three mysteries provided, moreover, take place in Blake’s Green and Pleasant land – though one of these, Old Meg, is a fantastic serving of Children of the Stones-style folk horror. But that’s a minor quibble, and this beautifully produced and wonderfully written book enriches an already compelling game. You’d have to be away with the fairies not to love it.

Should you play Vaesen: Mythic Britain and Ireland RPG?


Atmospheric world-building in a unique universe.

Buy Vaesen: Mythic Britain and Ireland RPG on Drive Thru RPG

Try This If You Liked… Cthulhu By Gaslight

It’s another fascinating supernatural twist on Victorian Britain.

On the Book

Designer: Graeme Davis

Publisher: Free League

Pages: 156

Age: 14+

Price: £36

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