Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Are we seeing an increase in Nordic-themed RPGs?

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim received a Special Edition upgrade around late October this year. Funnily enough, the months leading up to that reignited my interest in the game but when the new version came out I did not touch it save for a few hours of experimenting. The truth of the matter was that not all of the old mods of the 2011 version were transferred or compatible, and the lack of Skyrim Script Extender or SkyUI support more or less killed any good reason to use the new version even though I got it for free.

About a month later, I saw a Pathfinder setting which combined two disparate elements of steampunk and Norse mythology into an interesting blend: Rhune, Dawn of Twilight. I'm still in the course of reading it, but it's quite a cool book. It has a strong sense of theme rather than trying for a "kitchen sink" approach, and core assumptions are built into the framework. For example, the Material Plane is not a globe, but rather the trunk of Yggdrasil the World Tree while the other planes of existence are its leaves, branches, roots, etc.

Then I was reminded of another book I got recently: the Northlands Saga by Frog God Games, which also released in its Complete version in early 2016. It was at this point I began noticing a pattern. After an illustrated book of the Poetic and Prose Eddas became a best silver seller on Drive-Thru RPG, this all but confirmed it.

Back in 2012, Cubicle 7 Entertainment released the stand-alone RPG Yggdrasil, a game set during a mythical Age of Vikings. Although Midgard by Kobold Press drew more upon Central and Eastern European themes, it did have its fair share of Nordic elements such as the world surrounded by a giant world-serpent eating its own tail.

Interest in Nordic themes is far from recent even in tabletop gaming. Going as far back as Deities & Demigods the Ă†sir–Vanir were described alongside the Greek and Egyptian pantheons, and quite a few campaign settings had their own pseudo-Scandinavian realms. But in regards to whole settings and sourcebooks there does seem to be a lot more Viking-related gaming material as of late. Part of me wonders how much this coincides with Skyrim's popularity (both the original 2011 and latest upgrade), and how much of it was just always there.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!