By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Preorder available on Bandcamp
There’s been a handful of doomed expeditions to the Arctic circle early in exploratory history, and perhaps the most famous is Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition. This particular case is well known in Canada since it was found near our waters. AMC’s The Terror gave their take on what may have happened, and its legend still sends shudders to those wanting to find definitive answers.
Although only two boats were involved, Russia’s own home grown terror is not well known and perhaps covered up! Anton Belov from the folk metal band Kauan learned about this tale from his research into his country’s unsolved mysteries and turned it into a concept album, aptly named Ice Fleet. He said, “The only real artifact is the hand-written letter of a person whose grandfather was part of a scientific expedition on the northern shores near the Laptev Sea. This man was involved in blowing up huge ice layers to find the right place to build a meteorological station. After one explosion, the snow revealed a dozen masts. This is where our story begins. The letter itself is carefully translated to English and presented in the next chapters in its entirety.”
There’s no answer to why this “Ice Fleet” was hidden, and to figure out what may have happened will need enterprising authors and thinkers to ask a lot of what if’s. For people who love to explore theoretical possibilities, it makes for a perfect setting for a role playing game!
The rules are based on Lost Pages’ Into the Odd system. The condensed version makes game play simple, and it’s no doubt inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. Players should own a full set (4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 20-sided) of dice, the only extra investment, if they want to play. Only four stats are needed–Strength, Dexterity, Willpower and Hitpoints–to define the character. They make up the essential ingredients to help players survive a night in the cold arctic and face whatever adversary, however supernatural or not, may come.
This system assumes these fictional avatars are more readymade than not. A list of skills is not needed. Everything can be rolled by making a check under the aforementioned stat. This makes character generation quick and easy.
The little town the players find themselves is detailed well enough to let game masters allow players to roam about freely, asking questions and searching for clues.
There’s an ice cathedral known as Stamukha and a mysterious circle of rocks. There’s enough of a description to make these placeholders ripe for expansion should players want to adapt this world to work in other systems like Call of Cthulhu, World of Darkness, Deadlands or Savage Worlds. Any horror based RPG will do.
Adapting this incident to the worlds of H.P. Lovecraft is easy; the Mi-go are responsible and were trying to retrieve a meteorite this fleet of ships were transporting. It was found, but the crew could fight them off. A result was to bury them once and for all so no one else can have it. Instead of one hungry and monstrous sized polar bear involved, there’s even more upon finding the meteorite. Game masters will find that Belov added a touch of The Philadelphia Experiment into this scenario and it’s perfect to see the players involved in that initial fight with space bugs!
The end goal can be in sending the meteorite back to whence it came, and all would be good… or with many horror films, only have one survivor!
Kauan mastermind Anton Belov began making music in 2005 as a teenager in his home of Chelyabinsk, nearly 1,000 miles east of Moscow. His early work was inspired by the landscapes of the region – the Ural Mountains and vast plains. Seeking a language that would be undecipherable to most people (and also honoring some of his favorite metal bands), he chose to write lyrics in Finnish and he named his project with the Finnish word “Kauan,” meaning “for a long time.” By the age of 16, he had written Kauan’s debut LP, Lumikuuro, establishing his unique ability to combine crushing metal and quiet introspection in seamless ways.
Over eight albums, Belov and his collaborators, now based in Tallinn, Estonia, have carved a special path through the underground. 2015 saw the release of Sorni Nai, arguably Kauan’s most ambitious work up to that point, chronicling the Dyatlov Pass Incident, an expedition of nine doomed hikers who mysteriously died in a blizzard in the Ural Mountains. The album received extensive critical acclaim, including this high praise from Stereogum: “Kauan blend elements of folk and metal better than perhaps any other band today, clouding doom in a lush and weary atmosphere… The band captures a sad sense of loss — not maudlin but nostalgic.” 2017’s Kaiho saw Kauan step away from its metal origins in favor of atmospheric rock, featuring lyrics written by the great Finnish folk singer Marja Mattlar. In 2021, Kauan has returned with a new label, Toronto-based Artoffact Records, to release the band’s most ambitious album to date: Ice Fleet.