In English-phonetics, that's "skreck ee gamlah svair-ee-eh." The Spelens Hus group is playing Väsen, which is a great title. It doesn't mean horror or monsters, but the entity, essential being, or the term I used in Sorcerer & Sword for the exact concept, imminent. Viewers will notice that Max is taking time off (work stuff), and we have included new players Henna and Peter, the latter taking on the GMing for the game. You may recall Peter from previous posts regarding Trollbabe, The Whispering Vault, Cosmic Zap, and Zombie Cinema.
He has set our game in the textual period of the late 1880s, located in the area where most of us live in real life, Norrköping, including a wonderful trove of images, maps, and documents (see attached). It is, no pun intended or necessary, one hell of a place for it. Not only are centuries of legend and literature manifested almost every square kilometer, but it's also the quintessential hybrid and clash between old farming Sweden and new industrial Sweden as of about 1900 ... to the point where national sterotyping paints it as the worst of both in a boring way, somewhat like parts of Iowa and Nebraska in the U.S. The game text explicitly turns both of these qualities up to 11, and although its example is Uppsala, I say with residential pride that our location is far the better choice.
I've been thinking a lot about how it differs from Call of Cthulhu, which is a very popular game and general setting in Sweden, including translations and many local variants. "Naturalistic investigators, members of an occult lodge, encounter lurking monsters in town and country, trauma ensues" is well established in pop culture here, especially in role-playing. Why then bother with Väsen?
The answer lies in the embedded theme: väsenerna ("the beings") are not existential challenges to reality, but rather the reality which precedes the new one, in which one's character is at the point of divide. To encounter one in all its terrifying features is not a destroying blast of insight regarding one's entire existence, but rather a revelation of one's divided identity. They perfectly capture the fact that one may need monsters, and that the industrial modernity may presage more horror than the old monsters held. My character, for example, is not a driven monster-hunter, rather, he is troubled by religious corruption and rather sympathetic to the goblins and ghoulies that are evidently housed right in his very church.
The elegy is a very present-day challenge to the Swedish or generally Nordic audience, which I am not sure I can articulate. Bluntly, modern Nordic culture bills itself and self-identifies as extremely "foward, ahead, progressive, brightly facing the future" in a fashion which denies the grubbiness, conflicts, and compromises of its transition into the 20th century - all of which shaped the somewhat muted or self-censored policy and culture conflicts of today.
The first video is our preparation session, for which we all brought almost-finished characters to finalize our readiness for play:
- Magnus, played by Nathan, a street urchin with some awful background that fills him with terror
- Rut, played by Henna, a young woman cursed or hexed with aging, a prolific author
- Hilding (called Carlsson), played by Ola, a slick thug seeking a new life
- Else, played by Helma, a nonconformist outdoorswoman avoiding her engagement
- Otto, played by me, a hard-drinking doubtful young priest
I think the audio recorded strangely, so that none of our voices quite sound like us. As of this writing, I'm editing our first session, which is more normal-sounding, and will add it soon, including more document/image material Peter used.