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Cthulhu Awakens Roleplaying Game

Created by Green Ronin Publishing

Spin epic Mythos tales of cosmic horror across the Weird Century in a complete, stand-alone roleplaying game powered by the AGE System!

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Secret History in Cthulhu Awakens
almost 2 years ago – Mon, Mar 21, 2022 at 05:35:34 PM

Art by Tentacles and Teeth

In expanding the source material to cover the Weird Century, Cthulhu Awakenspresents a world with a secret history, where the Mythos is never acknowledged in public life, but still represents a pervasive, dangerous influence. This kind of thing isn’t at all unusual for horror and urban fantasy—it’s hard to keep the world recognizable and acknowledge Cthulhu is real—but in our case, this means including somewhat radical changes to the past as well, reaching all the way back to geological epochs. In the game we divide the setting’s history into the following loose epochs.

The Colonization Wars

Beginning over a billion years ago, rival alien factions battled for domination of the world. These included the city-building “elder things,” the body-stealing Yithians, the Mi-Go travelers from Yuggoth and beyond, and Cthulhu and its minions, but the Skotomorphs, a species so strange it has evidently never communicated with any other, and so destructive its actions created the Permian-Triassic Extinction event, presented perhaps the greatest danger. After that event, but in the waning aeons of this period, various hominid species evolved, and some were altered by alien factions, though the relationship between alien-modified hominids and modern humans is unknown.

Secret Human History

In Cthulhu Awakens, most people learn the same history we do, where slow waves of migration from Africa introduced humans to the rest of the world, and the first cities arise around 10,000 BCE. Only a small number of fringe scholars and subject matter experts who focus on certain highly sensitive issues for various governments and other interested parties know the truth: Humans have founded nations, forged bronze, and fought wars to drench the idols of strange gods for perhaps 80,000 years. Furthermore, nonhuman hominids (and, perhaps, beings who never descended from apes at all) had their own nations, in lost islands and vast underground realms, where they used eldritch technologies. Flood myths and other tales of catastrophe may explain why these civilizations fell.

Mundane History to the Weird Century

From 10,000 BCE on, the main course of human history is well-known to the public, but it has secret aspects ranging from the caves of K’n-yan, whose existence is kept secret by the US government, to a certain forbidden zone in Antarctica where the few authorized visitors must avoid using modern equipment to prevent accidentally teaching its clever, shapeshifting residents how to access computer systems or create horrendous weapons. The last 100 years of ordinary history constitutes the Weird Century, where Cthulhu stirs, and the effects of the prehuman colonization wars seem poised to wrench the world out of any predictable path.

The Weird Century
almost 2 years ago – Sun, Mar 20, 2022 at 07:49:30 PM

Art by Andrew Vasilchenko

The key setting concept of Cthulhu Awakens is the Weird Century, a rough period from the 1920s to the present characterized by rising Mythos activity. Isolated cults such as the Esoteric Order of Dagon become worldwide movements powered by advances in technology and global integration. Conspiracies attain greater sophistication and infiltrate governments, and governments themselves must conspire to keep humanity safe from the Mythos—at least, the parts they know about.

Classic stories in the public domain form the roots of the Weird Century, but with a proviso: We assume the accounts are unreliable, influenced by bias and incomplete information. The Weird Century provides what is, for our purposes, a more accurate view of the world under the Mythos, but still doesn’t answer every question. From a game design perspective, this approach means we can not just eliminate problematic elements of the source material and give ourselves the whole arc of the last 100 years to play in, but tailor the truth to fit the demands of a roleplaying game setting, as distinct from a world in which to set non-interactive fiction. That means finding groups characters can affiliate themselves with, as well as antagonists and conflicts that can support an extended campaign. It means we can include elements like:

The Carter-West Agency: In the 21st Century, scions of the Carter and West families join forces to start a peculiar investigation agency which eavesdrops on strange cults as often as on cheating spouses and the other mainstays of private eyes.

The Court of the Dead: Led by their queen Nitocris, the dead but ever-stirring followers of Nyarlathotep crawl across the Weird Century, though in later decades they must contend with reanimated rivals created through various versions of Herbert West’s infamous techniques.

The Implicit Cartography Group: After following leads to a cache of sensitive documents about the future, the analysts of the Implicit Cartography group use it to uncover sensitive sites in rival states…and hoard an arsenal of eldritch texts and artifacts.

Thalassology: The ocean is, of course, a ready metaphor for the primordial self and evolution, and this human potential movement harnesses that to supposedly guide followers to their best selves, especially after they spend thousands of dollars on initiation fees and sign multiple non-disclosure agreements. Coastal cities around the world host Encounter Centers, but the most prestigious is in the otherwise staid, suburb of Innsmouth.

There’s much more going on besides these examples, from the Mi-Go harvesting the brains of public intellectuals to the ambiguous effects of Yithian history manipulation—and that’s before getting alternate universes. That is, after all, the purpose of the Weird Century: to create a history filled with opportunities to tell your own stories.

Bonds: An AGE Mechanic Evolved
almost 2 years ago – Sat, Mar 19, 2022 at 01:50:44 PM

Art by Tentacles and Teeth

If you’re familiar with Blue Rose or Modern AGE, you’ve come across Relationships: a system that provides mechanical benefits based on your character’s powerful feelings for another person, whether it’s love, friendship, professional admiration—or deadly enmity. Relationships form the seeds of Bonds, a generalized mechanic used in Cthulhu Awakens that among other things, is used for the Alienation systems we’ve discussed elsewhere. I’ve been experimenting with expanding the basic concept of Relationships ever since developing Modern AGE and notably, used it as the basic for a divine influence system in the Fantasy AGE Trojan War supplement for sibling game Fantasy AGE.

In Cthulhu Awakens, Bonds are covered in the character creation chapter, as they are essential to the game. A Bond can represent things other than a relationship with a person, and can represent the following:

Enlightenment: This is a Bond of strange, mind-warping insights gained from contact with the Mythos.

Ideology: A belief system to which you’re strongly committed. This could be a religion, a political theory, or some code of honor.

Material: Your Bond connects you to an object, structure, or location. This is the kind of Bond possessed by a character who treats their car like a pet or child, or who would rather die than give up their home.

Melancholy: This Bond attaches itself to characters who abruptly leave the Dreamlands and are deprived of its wonders by our gray, heavy world.

Organization: This Bond either represents an organization’s hold on you or your feelings for it.

Relationship: This is the most common Bond. It represents your feelings about another person or the hold they have over you. A Personal Relationship Bond need not represent affection; you can have a Bond with an enemy.

Terror: This is a Bond given to thoughts cracked by the unnatural, and like Enlightenment, is produced through Alienation.

Each Bond has a rating and descriptor, such as the ideology Bond I will stand up for workers against the bosses because an injury to one is an injury to all (3). This tells you its strength and purview.

Unlike previous AGE system Relationships, Bonds are also split into Personal and External types. Personal Bonds are a source of strength when it comes to addressing the subject of the bond, and you choose when to draw on them. In practical terms, you can spend it on bonus stunt points to make an action more effective, even if you didn’t roll doubles on the dice, the usual way to gain SP. External Bonds represent an involuntary attachment, either because it represents how someone or something else treats you, or it’s a mental and emotional association you can’t consciously control. These are used aversively, such as to add stunt points to tests used against you. Once a loyal member of a group, you’re vulnerable when your former comrades act against you, for instance.

Bonds permeate the Alienation mechanic and several other places in the game, and I look forward to seeing the full rules out in the wild.

Alienation: A Mind Adapted to the Unknown
almost 2 years ago – Sat, Mar 19, 2022 at 10:58:59 AM

Contrary to popular belief, encountering Mythos entities, reading texts that convincingly upend the supposed laws of reality, confronting the dark miracles of sorcery, or witnessing the dark miracles of alien gods do not drive you mad—at least, not in the conventional sense.

Art by John Anthony Di Giovanni

“Madness” is used as a casual term for mental illness, a phenomenon that is partly neurological, partly social, and entirely within the realm of ordinary human experience. Sometimes the word is used as a tool of discrimination. But in Cthulhu Awakens, encounters with the unnatural do not have any special power to cause mental illness beyond the ordinary effects of stress. The Mythos inflicts psychic harm because you start to understand it—comprehend a cosmos beyond what your fat-and-blood brain is adapted to as it muddles through the four dimensions of spacetime. There is an order to the unnatural in its unresolved paradoxes, the unearthly biology of its beings, and the implications of its symbols, which is incompatible with human life and thought—and it is in the nature of the Mythos to embed such paradoxes in witnesses, so that they know what should be impossible to know, perceiving impossible colors, principles, and dimensions beyond our cage of spacetime. We call this phenomenon Alienation.

The game systems for Alienation divide Mythos phenomena into four categories:

Entities (test Willpower (Courage))

Monsters combine a terror coded into our genes from ancient predation with an alienness for which our ancestral memory offers no counsel. Mythos creatures are evidence of alternate lines of evolution inimical to human life, or of anti-ecologies, incompatible with all Earthly life, yet horribly entwined with it.

Visitations (test Willpower (Faith))

Your gods mean nothing when the other gods come, breaking your faith with their undeniable, terrible reality. Even secular pillars of understanding melt before the Outsiders, who are bound to a science and metaphysics where all human thought is an error, and our existence a fragile, temporary outlier in cosmic probabilities.

Phenomena (test Willpower (Morale))

When you see something rotate across five or more dimensions; when sorcery opens doors in the Void; when you stand at the Cyclopean gates of a citadel made when we were microbes, hinting of a civilization we will never match; when you see the curves of time blister into its angles—all are evidence of a universe where everything we know is a provincial exception to a callous, life-destroying rule.

Revelations (test Willpower (Self-Discipline))

The Necronomicon is the most famous source of Alienating revelations, but many other texts, artworks, oral traditions, scientific papers, and even the masterworks of corrupted geniuses can contain seeds of toxic wisdom that, when studied, flower into knowledge that leaves no room for the human condition.

Failing a test provides Enlightenment and Terror: special Bonds (we’ll cover these in future updates) that fuel special effects. Enlightenment in a source of Alienation provides useful insights as your mind filters the strange into the pragmatic. Terror is used against you when your spirit strains against the threatening truth. Accumulating Enlightenment and Terror may eventually lead to distortions, habits of thought that are rational within the context of your extraordinary experiences but interfere with more prosaic matters.

Other Crowdfunding Campaigns We Think Are Cool!
almost 2 years ago – Wed, Mar 16, 2022 at 04:44:50 PM

When we’re running a campaign like Cthulhu Awakens, I like to write an update that highlights other cool looking crowdfunders that are happening at the same time. I’m also going to talk about some fundraisers that might interest you.


Cthulhu is Hard to Spell: Battle Royale

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/russellnohelty/cthulhubattleroyale

Let’s start close to home with this anthology of Lovecraftian comic stories from over 75 creators. Apart from the theme, which is obviously up our street, I took notice of this because of Christian Gossett’s involvement. Back in 2004, Green Ronin did an RPG sourcebook based on his comic, The Red Star, and we’ve been friends ever since. Christian spent some years working at Weta and is an all-around good guy. His contribution to this anthology is called Cthulhutown. That’s only one of 34 stories in this anthology so there’s lots to explore.


OVERISLES

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tatteredbear/overisles

OVERISLES is a rules-light fantasy RPG that teaches sign language and promotes “empathy, cooperation and Deaf awareness.” In this age of performative cruelty, that sounds good to me.


Dutch Resistance: Orange Shall Overcome

https://gamefound.com/projects/liberation-game-design/dutch-resistance-orange-shall-overcome

This game gives you a taste of what the Dutch Resistance was up against during the WW2 German occupation. It’s a scenario-based cooperative boardgame on a topic I can’t say I’ve seen in another game. The designer’s grandmother was in the Dutch Resistance herself, so this is obviously a personal project.


Pirates of Luna City

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/c87-3/pirates-of-luna-city-28mm-pulp-sci-fi-miniatures-and-terrain

Pulp retro sci-fi minis in 28mm? I’m in! Crooked dice is selling several things as part of this campaign. First, the minis themselves. Second, a tie-in expansion for their 7TV skirmish game. Third, STL files for thematic terrain. For fans of old serials like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and, of course, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger!


Fund Raisers

I’d also like to mention that many people in the tabletop RPG space are raising money for Ukraine right now. DriveThruRPG has four bundles supporting Doctors Without Borders with their aid efforts there. Our own Ork! The Roleplaying is in bundle #2 but check them all out.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/featured.php?promotion_id=DwoB2022

You can also get a bundle of over 100 TTRPG products from itch.io benefiting the Canadian Red Cross’s Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal.

https://itch.io/b/1314/the-ttrpg-community-stands-with-ukraine-bundle


-Chris Pramas