A Wicked Secret and Other Mysteries
A Wicked Secret and Other Mysteries is the first supplement for the Vaesen: Nordic Horror Roleplaying game published by Fria Ligan. It collects four all-new mysteries from authors Tomas Härenstam, Gabrielle de Bourg, Nils Hintze, and Kiku Pukk Härenstam. Each standalone mystery is unique in the type of story it tells, not intended to form a continuous campaign, and focuses on a specific Vaesen of Nordic folklore. If you’d like to learn more about the core game, please read Dan’s review: Save Humanity from the Vaesen; Rebuild the Society.
The collection is available in Hardcover and in a digital format with a hyperlinked table of contents. Unfortunately, the PDF’s hyperlinking did not work for me, each time returning me to the title page. The visual presentation of each mystery follows the standard outline found in the core book. The layout is neat, clean, and easy on the eyes. The artwork, maps, and accompanying handouts are nicely presented, using the color palette and tones of the product line.
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The Silver of the Sea
The Bohuslän archipelago, famous for its exceptional herring fisheries, has close ties to the sea. Decades of poor herring yields have turned fisher families towards other sources of income, such as “wrecking” ships on the shoals and salvaging its cargo. The Amundsson family came to prominence on Wrecker Island as a result of their cunning and calculated “wrecking” operations on the nearby shoals. Their good fortune continued with fate gifting them a son from the sea, the return of the herring schools, and transforming them from simple “wreckers” into the most prominent and wealthiest family on Wrecker Island. Though every twist of fate imparts a price.
As of late, a mainland vicar, a firebrand of sorts, who has been stirring up trouble on Wrecker Island has disappeared. His friend and colleague, a fellow priest, has called in the Society to investigate—he suspects the Amundsson’s may have darker connections to the sea. Society members will travel to Wrecker Island to investigate the vicar’s disappearance. In doing so, they will find themselves in a race against time to save their lives and possibly of all those living in the Bohuslän archipelago. Though in doing so, they may unwittingly break a secret pact, which may have dire consequences.
A Wicked Secret
Gabrielle de Bourg
The economic growth and a burgeoning middle-class spur speculators and industrialists to seek new sources of revenue and raw materials to satiate the ever-growing needs of the economy. At the behest of their employer, two industrialists traveled to the far-off village of Färnsta to purchase new tracts of old-growth forest. They received a lukewarm reception from the villagers.
The village of Färnsta is remote, and its residents have a kinship for the old traditions. Many are good God-fearing Christians; they love their way of life but know that times are changing. Some villagers see the interlopers as a way to better their situation financially, while others view it as a threat to their very existence. Of the two men, one disappears while the other goes mad. Their employer reaches out to the Society, suspecting nothing more than superstition, but they are not taking any chances.
Society members arrive in Färnsta to investigate the mystery of the two men. This will be no easy feat and will challenge even the most educated and sleuths within the Society. Färnsta has many secrets that they won’t give up easily.
The Night Sow
The once sleepy seaside town of Mölle has recently turned into a tourist destination thanks to its tolerance of coed sunbathing, much to the chagrin of the town’s old-fashioned stalwarts. Tourism and the sin of mixed sexes have caused a rift between traditionalists and modernists in Mölle. A modernist local hotel owner, Katrina Jönsson, who has received targeted attacks because she supported modernist ideals, has gone missing.
A series of mysterious events in Mölle results in Society members being summoned by their friend Linnea Elfeklint, who beseeches them to travel to Mölle to address her old friend’s concerns. Not everything is as it seems, and Society members will need to work out those details before it’s too late. The events leading them to Mölle are only the beginning. Things will progressively get weirder and deadlier. Whether the end result is positive or negative, it culminates in a showdown that may have long-term effects and implications, all of which is up to the investigators and their actions. This mystery is set explicitly in mid-winter, which is by its very nature, complicates things for the investigators.
The Song of the Falling Star
Kiku Pukk Härenstam
On the island of Oesel in the Baltic Sea, a young aristocrat by the name of Count Hugo von Kaiserling is attempting to finish his doctoral dissertation fieldwork. Leaving his pregnant wife, Agnes, behind in the island’s largest city, he heads for the remote village of Kaali, where his fieldwork will be conducted. Try as he might, he cannot make inroads with the locals to learn their stories and folklore surrounding the rumored volcanic craters, which is the subject of his research. Leelo Sisalik, the local innkeeper, gives him some sound advice and a musical instrument to help him connect with the villagers.
Instrument in hand, the villagers begin to warm up to the Count. Over time he begins to learn their stories, folklore, and songs. He also becomes proficient on the Kantele, the instrument given to him by Leelo. With his research completed, he returns home to his wife a month before the birth of their first child. When their beautiful baby boy is born, it’s the light of their lives until Agnes becomes convinced their son is the Devil’s offspring several weeks later. At wits ends, the Count contacts his cousin (one of the players) at the Society for help, while Agnes is admitted for medical treatment. Her priest and confidant intervene on her behalf, only to exacerbate the situation.
The Society’s investigators have their work cut for them in this mystery. The distraught Count is not convinced that anything untoward is happening with his son that would require a priest conducting an exorcism. Bargains must be honored…
The mysteries in A Wicked Secret and Other Mysterious are as varied as the Vaesen central to each. However, not all are created equal. While I found each of them well written and developed, I have formed opinions of each, outlined below.
- “The Silver of the Sea” – Despite being the first mystery presented, it’s not the one I would have chosen to showcase first. It’s a relatively straightforward mystery, but it is narratively a little complex. If mishandled by the Gamemaster, it could result in the players making decisions that might lead to a mass casualty event. However, if properly run, I feel it could be a really meaningful mystery.
- “A Wicked Secret” – This mystery is very reminiscent of Call of Cthulhu scenarios that feature multiple organizations striving to fulfill their own objectives. Simply replace the Mythos monster with the Vaesen, and you have “A Wicked Secret.” It’s a well-developed mystery that players should find both challenging and satisfying.
- “The Night Sow” – With a direct connection to Linnea, this one is a natural follow-up to the mystery in the core book. This one is unique. It has two different countdown timers instead of the usual one, and introduces a new Vaesen—highlighting the versatility of Vaesen. It offers the right level of complexity to keep the investigators on their toes while still allowing them some breathing room to solve the mystery.
- “The Song of the Falling Star” – Takes a classic nordic trope and frames a compelling mystery around it. The overall complexity of the mystery is low and focuses heavily on the story, more so than the others. This one has the right feel for me. It’s strange, tragic, and may have long-lasting repercussions for the family—Possibly the impetus for a future mystery.
Each of the four mysteries is good in its own right, with varying complexity levels surrounding the mystery. The two that really stood out to me as the best of the bunch are “The Night Sow” and “The Song of the Falling Star.” I recommend “The Night Sow” for groups looking for something a little dark and mysterious. “The Song of the Falling Star” is recommended for its investigative nature and focus on building tension within the narrative. Either would make for a great second mystery for new players.
A Wicked Secret and Other Mysteries is a sound purchase and an excellent addition to the Vaesen product line!
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