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Thorsteinn Mar

Thorsteinn Mar

Mar 7, 2024  ·  33 min read

Great TTRPGs from the Nordics


Tabletop Roleplaying games from the Nordic countries.

For years, North America has been the dominant force in the pen-and-paper roleplaying games industry. The majority of publishers and writers have been based in America, with companies such as WoTC, Chaosium, Paizo and Kobold Press leading the way. However, this trend is starting to change. In recent years, Sweden has become a rising player in the industry, producing many interesting games. It remains to be seen if Sweden or any of the other Nordic countries will eventually take over the top spot.

North America has been the hub of roleplaying games since the inception of Dungeons & Dragons. Most major publishing houses and developers are based there. However, some indie games published by non-American publishers have gained popularity over the years, such as the Swedish RPG Kult or the German game The Dark Eye. Recently, Kult was re-published after a highly successful Kickstarter campaign.

For many years, I limited myself to American and English roleplaying games such as various D&D settings, Call of Cthulhu, Shadowrun, and other games. I had tunnel vision when it came to this genre. However, when I realized that there were many interesting games around the world, I started exploring them actively. I discovered exciting games like the German RPGs Degenesis: The Rebirth and The Dark Eye, the French RPG Shadows of Esteren, and the Swedish games Trudvang Chronicles and Tales from the Loop. These games are just as engaging and enjoyable as D&D and other American roleplaying games.

The Nordic countries have published roleplaying games for many years, and Sweden has the most active international RPG publishers, at least at the moment. Interestingly, many of these games were initially published in their native language before being translated into English, if at all. For example, Mutant (the predecessor to Mutant Year Zero) was initially released in Sweden in 1984 and the game was revamped in 2014 and published as “Mutant – Är Noll” in Sweden, later to be translated and released after a successful Kickstarter Campaign as Mutant Year Zero.

In recent years, the roleplaying industry has seen many successful publishers outside of the United States, for example, Cubicle 7 in the UK and Ulisses Spiele in Germany. There have also been interesting changes in the industry, such as CCP, the producer of the popular computer game Eve Online, acquiring White Wolf and later selling the World of Darkness brand to Paradox, a Swedish computer games publisher. Most people may know about TSR's history and WoTC's takeover, which had a significant impact on the D&D brand, resulting in discontinued settings and major system updates. More and more major publishers are turning to crowdfunding to finance their projects, and Chaosium is a great example of this. They have successfully used Kickstarter to fund their republishing of the module Horror on the Orient Express and funded the 7th edition of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, raising over $500,000!

Why Sweden?

Despite the fact that in all the Nordic countries roleplaying games have been published since the advent of roleplaying game, Sweden has emerged as one of the most prominent and leader player in this field. But why? What makes Sweden so special?

The Swedish economy has emerged as one of the strongest in Europe following the financial crisis. With a high-tech local economy and a comprehensive system of welfare benefits, Sweden enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. Their economy is one of the most globalized and competitive, and their educational system is top-notch.

Sweden has been a significant source of art and creativity in recent years. The country has been exporting music and producing several famous authors who led the Scandinavian crime fiction movement that gained popularity across Europe. Notable among them is Stieg Larson. Swedish and Scandinavian movies and TV shows have also gained massive popularity, with many remakes of these productions happening in the US. One such example is "Broen" (The Bridge).

In Sweden, there has been a thriving RPG (roleplaying game) community for many years. Additionally, it is one of the first countries to publish non-English RPGs. One such game is called "Drakar och Demoner" (Dragons & Demons), which was first released in 1982 and is still available today. Fria Ligan got the IP from Riotminds a few years ago and rebranded DoD as Dragonbane, which was published after a successful Kickstarter campaign. However, the game has undergone significant changes since its initial release.

The Kickstarter effect

In early 2017, enworld.org released a list of the 10 most anticipated role-playing games (RPGs) for the year. Remarkably, four of the top games were published in Sweden, with the top three being Swedish. Many of these games gained popularity through social media and had successful Kickstarter campaigns.

Although the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons and a new version of Call of Cthulhu were widely accepted by most roleplayers, Sweden has emerged as a major player in the roleplaying industry with a range of interesting and original games.

The reasons behind this trend are not clear, but it could be that older publishers became set in their ways or that their games went stale. Alternatively, it may be that roleplayers are more receptive to non-American games now or that the internet has enabled non-American publishers to promote their games more effectively. It is possible that many Swedish publishers have leveraged Kickstarter to great effect, reaching audiences they could not have done otherwise, without spending tens of thousands of dollars.

Regardless of the reasons, Sweden's emergence in the roleplaying industry is undeniable.

A few great games from the Nordic Countries

As mentioned earlier, Sweden has been publishing roleplaying games since 1982. Even before the year 2000, the world started recognizing the many great games developed there, such as Kult. In recent times, there has been a surge of fantastic roleplaying games released in the Nordic Countries. Here are a few examples (and by no means a comprehensive list), listed in an alphabetical order.


ALIEN The Roleplaying Game

The "Alien RPG" is a role-playing game that immerses players in the tense and grim universe of the "Alien" films. Developed by Fria Ligan, this game stands out for its focus on atmospheric horror and survival, capturing the essence of the iconic film series.

Players navigate a universe filled with danger and suspense, emphasizing the themes of corporate intrigue, existential fear, and survival against the odds. The game's mechanics, based on the Year Zero Engine, are designed to create a sense of impending dread and facilitate storytelling that mirrors the cinematic intensity of the "Alien" franchise.

I have played a couple of sessions, and what I find impressive every time is the stress mechanics that fit perfectly for this game. Similar to other Year Zero Engine games, you can push rolls, which means that if you fail a check, you can decide to roll again (push the roll). However, in Alien, if you push the roll, your stress level increases by one, and you add a Stress die to your pool.

If you enjoy the "Alien" films or games where your character is constantly stressed out or living on a razor's edge, this game is worth checking out.

Askur Yggdrasils

Iceland may not be the first country you think of when it comes to roleplaying games, but the roleplaying scene has been thriving there since the last decade of the 20th century. With the release of D&D 5E, roleplaying is once again gaining momentum.

Askur Yggdrasils is a roleplaying game set in the nine worlds of Norse Mythology and is the only game ever published in Iceland. Two board games published later contained roleplaying elements (Fraeknir Ferdalangar and Adventure Island), but Askur Yggdrasils is still considered the only Icelandic roleplaying game. It was published in 1994 and designed by the brothers Runar Thor Thorarinsson and Jon Helgi Thorarinsson. Runar Thor also created and designed the two board games in collaboration with other designers. It is safe to assume that almost all Icelandic roleplayers have tried and played Askur Yggdrasils.

Askur Yggdrasils was based on a skill-based percentile system, much like Runequest and Call of Cthulhu. However, unlike Call of Cthulhu, instead of distributing skill points as you wished, every character in Askur Yggdrasils had a certain skill modifier. Each profession had a predetermined number of skills, and a size of die which you rolled and multiplied with the skill modifier to see how many points you started with in that skill. For example, if you had 4 as a skill modifier and had d6 in botany and d4 in poetry, you would multiply the results from those die rolls with 4 to see your starting skill points in these two skills.

Almost all actions needed skill rolls, e.g. if you wanted to cast a spell, you needed to pass a skill test. The system was often complex, and combats could get complicated, especially since there were many tables to consult.

Finally, the system included a subsystem for the gods’ grace. Since the Aesir, the Norse gods, were a living part of the setting, every character could get in the good books and receive certain boons. The gods’ grace also affected other things, such as spellcasting and skills.

Black Void

Black Void is a tabletop roleplaying game with a dark fantasy setting. It revolves around the fall and later resurgence of humanity after cataclysmic events have separated them from Earth. The game is designed by Christoffer Sevaldsen from Denmark.

In Black Void, players assume the role of descendants of the few survivors who were scattered among the stars after the veil between Void and Reality tore due to catastrophic events in the age of Babylon. The game's setting portrays the truth of humanity's small place in the universe and its struggle for survival.

The game's world is a unique and fascinating combination of elements from Arabian Nights, Lovecraft's Dreamlands, Planescape, and Stargate. It's an exciting and immersive game that promises a thrilling experience for players.

The game uses a Set Difficulty mechanic, where the main die is a d12. I have to admit, I'm not a fan of using the d12 as a main die, but it works well in The One Ring RPG. In Black Void, player characters roll a d12 and add related traits, skills, and power bonuses. Rolling a 12 is usually an exceptional success (if the DC is 11 or lower) or incurs a second roll (The Rule of Twelve), while rolling a 1 is a failure (The Rule of One). Keep in mind that the chances of rolling a failure are higher than in d20 DC-based systems. The DCs range from 4 to +25. In combat, you need to roll equal to or higher than your opponent's defense value, and initiative is determined by a d12 roll plus all bonuses, with the highest roll going first.

"Black Void" is an excellent game for fans of fantasy. I have personally played through the published modules and found them to be of great quality. If you're interested in a unique blend of esoteric fantasy with elements of Arabian Nights, Lovecraft, and Planescape, then this game is definitely worth checking out.

Blade Runner

Blade Runner, a science-fiction cult film released in 1982, has gained a massive fan base over the years. Harrison Ford, Sean Young, and Rutger Hauer starred in this great film, which takes place in a dystopian version of Los Angeles, where synthetic humans, known as replicants, work on space colonies. A part of the police force is assigned the task of tracking rogue replicants and retiring them. The replicants are bio-engineered by the powerful Tyrell Corporation. The sequel, Blade Runner 2049, was released in 2017 and received a great response. The plot of the films is extensive, but it is safe to say that both are more than a decent watch, and the setting is phenomenal. Those interested in digging deeper into the continuity of Blade Runner and Prometheus will find it quite intriguing.

In the Blade Runner RPG, players take on the roles of Blade Runners, officers in the LAPD rep-detect unit assigned to hunting down replicas, flying spinners, and using Voight-Kampff machines. Even if you aren't an avid science-fiction fan, the film-noir setting is enough to pull you in and make the game fun.

Blade Runner RPG uses the Year Zero Engine system, like many other games from the Free League. Each character has four attributes, thirteen skills (one more than normally), and many specialties. As in other Year Zero Engine games, you have certain tools to flesh out your character, and you can access them in-game. In Blade Runner, you have a key memory, a key relationship, and a signature item. During character creation, you can choose your archetype and whether you are human or a replicant.


Coriolis is a science fiction role playing game set in a remote cluster of star systems called The Third Horizon, published by Fria Ligan. It is a place ravaged by conflicts and war but also home to proud civilizations, both new and old. Here, the so-called First Come colonists of old worship the Icons, while the newly arrived Zenithians pursue an aggressive imperialistic agenda through trade and military power.

Coriolis is based on the same core system as Mutant: Year Zero, that was awarded with a Silver ENnie for Best Rules at Gencon 2015.


Draug is a role-playing game that originated in Norway and is published by Spartacus. The game uses the FUDGE system, which has been modified to fit the 19th-century Norwegian setting. In Draug, players take on the roles of ordinary people who have to deal with and find ways to combat various Norwegian fairy tale monsters, such as trolls and nisser (fairies and gnomes). Although Draug does involve fighting these creatures, the game mainly focuses on encouraging cooperation and problem-solving among players.

Forbidden Lands

Forbidden Lands

I have played Forbidden Lands way more than can be considered healthy for an old roleplayer. I fell in love with the game because of its unique look, feel, and atmosphere that made it stand out as a fantasy game. The game is all about survival, adventure, and exploration in a fantastical world where players are encouraged to create their own stories and interact with a world that reacts to their choices. The game is set in a world that is still recovering from a near-cataclysmic event, and people are just getting used to being able to travel from one village to another. Only the bravest or the most foolish are willing to risk their lives doing so.

Forbidden Lands uses the Year Zero Engine by Fria Ligan, just like Tales from the Loop. However, unlike Tales from the Loop, this game is quite dangerous and can lead to your character's death, running out of provisions, or getting lost in the wilderness.

I highly recommend this game to anyone who loves fantasy games that emphasize exploration, stronghold building, and trekking through the wilderness, rather than just fighting monsters from different monster manuals.


Fusion is a Danish role-playing game written by Malik Hyltoft and Palle Schmidt, and published by Høst og Søn. It is set in a big city in Denmark around the year 2012, characterized by privatization, open borders, occultism, social distress, and crime. The players take on the roles of a group of private detectives who investigate mysteries in this chaotic world of conflicting interests. They must choose whether to be weak guardians in a society where independence and capitalism are crucial, or to accumulate wealth and prestige. It is a struggle just to survive in Europe, which is full of hardened criminals, murderous junkies, shady streamers, rival detective agencies, capitalist companies, unscrupulous terrorists, street gangs, insane people, and ordinary folks.

Fusion uses a d6 system, which is similar to the Storytelling system used in World of Darkness. Players collect their dice pool based on their Abilities, Skills, and Specialities, and they need to roll 6's to achieve success.

Itras By

Itras By is a Norwegian role-playing game published by Vagrant Workshop. Set in a city similar to Europe in the 1920s, the game has a surreal atmosphere. The game's system is card-based and emphasizes freeform and improvisation. The city of Itras By is European, but with a twist. The reality is relatively stable only in the city center, and the further you go, the more it deteriorates, mutates, and becomes dream-like.

In a narrow sense, the rule system is simple and takes only a few pages. Itras By was the first game to use Matthiijs Holter's resolution cards (also featured in Archipelago III). Additionally, it features a Chance Card system. The resolution cards have texts like "Yes, but...", "No, and...", "Yes, and..." and so on. The players interpret the results, making the game very cooperative in nature.

Kult: Divinity Lost

Kult: Divinity Lost by Helmgast is a contemporary horror role-playing game that has gained high acclaim since its original release in 1991. The game was reprinted after a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Helmgast, who have also produced Eon and Neotech, have given the game a reboot. In this game, players use a skill system where they roll 2d10 + X (skill modifier). To succeed, the player must score above 15. If they score between 10-14, it's a success with a complication, and any number below 10 is a failure.

In Kult, players assume the roles of Kultists, who discover that the world around us is a lie, that we are sleepwalking through life, and that mankind is trapped in illusion. By slowly discovering the truth about our prison, our captors, and our hidden pasts, we can finally awaken from our induced sleep and take control of our destiny.

I remember playing this game back in the 90’s. It was so awesome. I picked up the reprint a few years ago, and though I have yet to find the time to run a Kult game, this game still sends shivers down my spine. I mean, what if this was all just an illusion?


LexOccultum is a game that was initially published by Riotminds, but the IP is now owned by CMON. The game is all about exploring a world filled with filth, danger, and mystery. It includes elements like flintlock pistols, lanterns, werewolves, wine, secret societies, conspiracies, and more. You'll also encounter raging seas, the truth about the Templars, holy bloodlines, and a quiet war between men and beast.

LexOccultum is a skill-based BRP-clone, which means it uses the same system as Trudvang Chronicles. The game offers a variety of archetypes, including Occultist, Highwayman, Vagabond, Soldier, and more. Additionally, there is a set of Character Traits that you can use to customize your character, such as Health, Charisma, Perception, Intelligence, and more.


M-Space is a science fiction role-playing game from Sweden, published by Frostbyte Books. The game mechanics are based on Mythras Imperative, which uses a system of percentage values to determine the outcome of dice rolls. Unlike many RPGs, M-Space does not provide a specific game world or setting; instead, it provides a toolkit for creating and playing sci-fi adventures with characters from diverse cultures and careers.

Mutant: Year Zero

Mutant: Year Zero is a Swedish roleplaying game developed by Fria Ligan, who also publish other games such as Tales from the Loop and Coriolis: The Third Horizon. The game has been around for 30 years and is set in a post-apocalyptic world. In this game, you play as a heavily mutated human living in The Ark, a small and isolated settlement in a chaotic world. You have no knowledge of your origin or the outside world and must survive in a gritty, survivalist environment.

Mutant: Year Zero uses a dice pool system, similar to the game Fusion. Players build their dice pool by using attributes and skills where rolling a 6 counts as a success. Characters can also have diverse mutations and talents. If you have played Tales from the Loop or Coriolis: The Third Horizon, you will know what to expect from Fria Ligan. Mutant: Year Zero is a great addition to their portfolio of games.

Mythic Iceland

Mythic Iceland, a popular Viking Era RPG game, was not published by a Nordic publisher, but by Chaosium. It was, however, written by Pedro Ziviani, a Brazilian living in Iceland. The game is heavily inspired by Icelandic Sagas and folk tales. It uses Chaosium's BRP system and is a great choice for those who love Viking RPGs. You can find some amazing modules for this game on Chaosium's homepage.

Mörk Borg

Mörk Borg - Johan Nohr

To be honest, what initially caught my attention about the Swedish roleplaying game Mörk Borg was its incredible rulebook. The book is designed like a black metal album, with every page meticulously crafted. The game itself is also reminiscent of a black metal album, as players may end up creating multiple characters per session.

Mörk Borg's narrative is heavily influenced by themes of doom, despair, and the inevitability of the end. This makes it a great choice for players who prefer a role-playing game with a darker tone and a unique, immersive experience.

The game's artistic style is a blend of gothic and punk elements, which sets it apart from other roleplaying games. The mechanics of the game are streamlined, with a focus on creating an intense, bleak atmosphere where players face grim challenges in a world on the brink of destruction.

Ruin Masters

Drakar och Demoner, one of the most popular roleplaying games in Sweden, was first published in the 80s, and Riotminds has recently updated the ruleset and re-designed the game. The good news is that it is now available in English via their Kickstarter campaign.

Ruin Masters is a game that pays homage to the first and second generation of roleplaying games. It is a tactical dungeon crawl and map with hexes instead of 5 feet squares. The game is all about survival and earning enough gold for the next adventure. If you miss the old days or are willing to try a new game, you should check this one out.

Ruin Masters is a beautiful game, with breathtaking art by Johan Egerkrans and Alvaro Tapia that is very inspiring. The art has a lot of flavor and depth, and if you have read Egerkrans' books, The Undead or Norse Mythology, or browsed through other RPG books by Riotminds, you will feel familiar with it.

The game is set in Caldarox, a large continent that is full of ruins and dangerous places to explore. The ruins dotting the countryside hold untold riches for those brave and clever enough to explore them.

Ruin Masters uses 2 ten-sided dice, mostly as a percentile system, similar to BRP or Call of Cthulhu. However, in some cases, you might need to roll a d5. The game offers two different types of gaming: one where you follow a narrative set out by the game master, called Ruin Master, or where you explore Caldarox through hex-crawl, where dice, luck, and skill determine what happens in each hex.

Symbaroum roleplaying game

Symbaroum is a dark fantasy setting, published by Järnringen and later acquired by Fria Ligan. The game's narrative is set in and around the vast forest belt Davokar, which has a dark past and an even darker heart. In Symbaroum, players take on the roles of explorers and adventurers who must participate in scenarios and adventures in the Davokar Forest, searching for treasures, lost wisdom, and fame among the Ambrian people.

Symbaroum is a skill-based system that uses a d20 roll mechanic. Players must score under the set difficulty number, which is determined by the character's attribute and any complications added by the game master. What makes this system unique is that the game master never rolls any dice, putting a great focus on the narrative and creating an interesting setting.

As someone who has played a few sessions, I really enjoyed the idea that the game master never rolls any dice. Also, the setting is intriguing. A few years ago, Fria Ligan adapted Symbaroum for 5E, using the same developers that created the 5E adaptation of The One Ring, Adventures in Middle-Earth. The adaptation was widely celebrated as a great conversion of an already great game.

Tales from the Loop/Things from the Flood

If you enjoyed watching Stranger Things or the movie ET, you might want to try playing the game, Tales from the Loop, published by Fria Ligan. In this game, set in the late Eighties, you play as teenagers who solve mysteries connected to the Loop. You get to choose a character type such as the Bookworm, Troublemaker, Popular Kid, or Weirdo. The game is designed to reflect everyday life as a teenager which includes nagging parents, endless homework, and bullying classmates.

Tales from the Loop is based on Simon Stålenhag’s art and is a fantastic game. It is especially enjoyable for those who grew up in the 80s (yes, I am an old geyser, I admit it!) as it focuses heavily on narrative rather than combat. The Year Zero Engine is used in the game, which is the same game system used in most of Fria Ligan's games. You build dice pools using d6’s, and every roll of 6 is a success. Character creation is quick and straightforward, and here's something that will make you smile - the characters can't die because they are just kids.

Fria Ligan released a continuation of the setting a couple of years after the release of Tales from the Loop. In Things from the Flood, the kids have grown older and become teenagers. The game is set in the 90s and has a Lovecraftian feel to it. It is also more dangerous than Tales from the Loop, as the player characters can get scarred, and if they get too many scars, they might die.

Both Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood have received great reviews online and have been widely well-received.

Trudvang Chronicles/Trudvang Adventures

Trudvang Chronicles is a popular fantasy roleplaying game that was voted as the most anticipated RPG of 2017 by Enworld.org. The game is based on the Nordic and Celtic sagas and myths and was first published in 1982 as Drakar och Demoner RPG. It was only after a successful Kickstarter campaign that an English version of the game was made available. Riotminds is the publisher of the game, which was initially slated to release in May 2017, however, the date was pushed back.

Trudvang Chronicles is set in an enchanted world of forests, trolls, dragons, and spirits of nature, amongst other things. The game is both epic and melancholic, with a tone of an ancient age when magic was wild and strong, and nature was a living creature. The system of the game may be a bit convoluted and simulationist, as it uses a d20 and a roll under mechanics, but the setting more than makes up for it. The breathtaking art by John Bauer and Paul Bonner is also worth mentioning, as it was a significant factor in the game's success, much like how Brom was credited for Dark Sun's success in the 90s.

Riotminds, the publisher of Trudvang Chronicles, released a few sourcebooks and campaigns for the game and even adapted it for the 5th edition as Trudvang Adventures. However, after the release of the Trudvang board game, Riotminds sold the intellectual property (IP) to CMON in late 2021.


Nordic / Vaesen - Johan Egerkrans

Vaesen is a game set in the Mythic North - the northernmost part of Europe during the 19th century. The game's setting is different from what we know today, as it features mythological creatures and real myths. The game is a blend of industrialization and the untamed wilderness, where new civilization is emerging in the cities while the countryside still clings to its old ways. The people living in this world know to fear the dark, which is all too real for them.

The Year Zero engine is a gaming system that uses a dice pool of D6. The dice pool can be influenced by your attributes, skills, equipment, and other circumstantial bonuses. In order to succeed, you must roll at least one 6 on a single die. This is similar to other dice pool games, such as the Storyteller system. Compared to games like D&D, the Year Zero engine is relatively rules light and easy to learn.

Personally, I enjoy playing Vaesen by Fria Ligan when roleplaying and investigation are emphasized. Dice pool games fit in perfectly with these types of games since they tend to be less combat-heavy and fast-paced, especially fantasy games. Veterans will find building the dice pools relatively quick, but beginners still learning the ropes and reading the character sheet might take a bit longer.

In Vaesen, you play as an investigator who has the Sight and is a member of the Society. People with the Sight can see vaesen, the mythical creatures of the North (trolls, ghosts, lindwurms, etc.), even when they are trying to remain hidden. The Society is a group of people who have the Sight and are committed to protecting humanity from vaesen. The game is set in the Swedish city of Upsala, where the Society was abandoned a decade before the player characters arrive. The players have access to a safe house that they can explore and modify as the game progresses, and their task is to solve mysteries that involve the vaesen.


Western is a popular Swedish roleplaying game, developed by Askfageln, that is set in the Wild West. It has been around for years and is consistently the largest roleplaying game at Swedish conventions. In this game, players take on the roles of gunslingers, bounty hunters, entrepreneurs, prospectors, or other characters commonly found in the Old West.

The game is dice-based, where success or failure is determined by either one of your attributes (such as strength or intelligence) or a specific skill you have learned (like riding a horse). You roll a twenty-sided die and combine the result with your values. If you roll a 20, you must re-roll the die. This is called an unlimited dice roll, and you add up the results to determine the outcome.

This is not a comprehensive list of Nordic role playing games, but does display a few interesting ones. If you feel that I missed a game or a two, feel free to add to the list in comments.

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