Yes, I also had "Small Gods" in mind, I remember really liking that premise when I read it. Still do. Also "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman spring to mind in this context. The old gods against the new, getting more and more marginalized in an evolving society.
I guess what got me thinking about the existential angle of Vaesen was that I got stuck writing down campaign ideas. I mean, I quickly had like a dozen seeds for one-shots or short arcs written down - the setting lends itself brilliantly to that. Send the PC's out to unravel a mystery and confront a Vaesen, rinse and repeat. When I started thinking about bigger plot lines, however, I noticed they often tended to drift away from the Vaesen themselves. The core conflict turned from being human vs. vaesen to being human vs. human.
A railroad baroness is blasting her way through the untouched wilderness in northern Sweden, upsetting both locals and vaesen alike. The railroad is financed by the Swedish Crown, and supported by several emerging industrial leaders out to make money from mining and trade. The locals and other conservative powers unite to combat this development. The Vaesen are caught in the middle, causing random mayhem among the settlements along the railroad line. The PCs are contacted for help by one of the human factions or both.
Now, this is all fine. But when I try to give the Vaesen a more proactive role in this drama, I come up short. The reason is, of course, that they are supposed to be a mystery. They are supposed to be fickle and unpredictable and scary because of that. And I'm hard pressed to see them scramble to form a Union to fight for their rights. And once the PCs defeat the trolls that are throwing rocks at the railroad workers or whatever, that's that. The conflict is back to being human vs. human. Because that's where I can easily build stuff since I know what drives and motivates humans.
What I'm getting at is that I feel like I WANT the Vaesen to be a power or a faction that have a more far reaching agenda, but I can't make it work. And part of the problem for me, is that they are so mysterious and we know nothing about them. They are individual mysteries pitched against the collective human race. And they are a product of human belief, which make them intrinsically less powerful than humans, as a faction.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE that they ARE mysterious and unpredictable et c. I really like the premise and the theme of the game. I also think there are ways to work around this problem of mine, and I probably will. But this is, I think, what prompted my question in the first place.
If I keep running this game, I will almost certainly create a human faction dedicated to helping Vaesen out. And on a less serious note, it would be awesome to have them donate giant earmuffs to marginalized Giants and offer social counseling to distraught Necks.
In the alpha pdf there's a really good section on creating "mysteries", which is one of the best I have seen in an RPG from a technical/narrative point of view. The "campaign" section, though, is woefully short... How would YOU create an epic campaign with a coherent narrative that involves human society and with vaesen as a driving force?
I'd love to hear any ideas you have!