I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I really enjoy tabletop roleplaying games. But more than that, I especially enjoy tweaking them as I see fit, as many GameMasters will do, to fit our needs. The problem is, sometimes you come across a game you really want to run, but it has a very specific game setting that would be difficult to change or replace, without changing what that game is, at its core.
For example, I recently acquired the Nordic Horror RPG, “Vaesen”. It is a beautiful tome, with a wonderful concept and well-defined rules, that I am absolutely itching to play. Except there is a problem… I’m not really well-versed with Scandinavian folklore, nor am I really familiar with 19th century Sweden, where this game is set. My first impression would be to use the system and time-frame, but place the game in a location I am more comfortable with, such as America.
The problem is, this game is basically built as Scandinavian Horror. The setting in 19th century Sweden is as intrinsic to the game as Lovecraftian horrors are to “Call of Cthulhu”. It just wouldn’t be the same if you took the game to another part of the world. Moreover, making a massive change like that to the game, you might as well just play “Cthulhu by Gaslight” or “Chill”, instead.
All you would have left is the core rules, based on the Year Zero system, which is fine… It’s a damn sight better than what “Chill” offers, anyway. But the soul of what makes “Vaesen” interesting would also be gone, so… that’s a problem.
“Vaesen” isn’t the only game that suffers from this issue, of course. There are a lot of TTRPGs that have their setting intrinsically tied into their system, which makes it very difficult to alter or remove without doing significant harm to what that game actually is. For example, my old original copy of “Fading Suns” is extremely setting-specific, and without that setting, the game loses much of its appeal.
That said, some games that have rather iconic settings can easily be modified. I’ve played a bunch of “Star Wars 2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded” over the years, and our GameMaster radically modified the setting, adding in ideas from all manner of different Sci-Fi properties. But that works because, we were a very forgiving gaming group, and that particular game was built on West End Games’ “D6” system. Basically, it was “D6 Space” with Jedi, and that actually makes for pretty easy modification.
You wouldn’t think it would work, but it was fine. Weird, huh?
Anyway, I guess the best thing I could do would be to study a bit of 19th century Swedish history, read “Vaesen” extensively, and at least give the game a try. Probably solo, because the gamers I know would probably just want to play “Call of Cthulhu” instead.
Which would suck.