The Cthulhu Awakens FAQ, Version 0.5
As we recently announced, we’re making a new standalone AGE System game, Cthulhu Awakens, which will start crowdfunding over at Kickstarter on February 15, 2022. Go here to sign up for alerts. But one of the challenges of the press release format is that we have just a page to present a mixture of high level information, distinctive zingers, and necessary clarifications. That’s why this FAQ exists! A variation of it will probably find a home in the FAQ of the Kickstarter itself, after launch. That’s why this is version 0.5.
What Is Cthulhu Awakens About, Anyway?
Cthulhu Awakens is about roleplaying in the Weird Century, a span running from the 1920s to the present that features increasing influence from bizarre, terrifying forces. The greatest of these are the Outsiders: Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, and other entities who exist within both our own realm and the Unseen Dimensions that make the invisible majority of existence. The ancient Earth was a battleground between competing alien colonists from across time and space, and past participants such as the Yithians and Mi-Go still operate from the shadows—along with secret societies of the dead, sorcerers, and even human operatives from other universes called demimondes. Cthulhu Awakens treats the Mythos as components of a century-spanning setting for open-ended roleplaying.
Is It a Supplement or What?
Cthulhu Awakens is a standalone original roleplaying game using the Adventure Game Engine, containing the full rules for play. It’ll be a hardcover in the 270-300+ page range.
Is It a Licensed Game?
Cthulhu Awakens expands upon elements of the Cthulhu Mythos found in the public domain and uses Green Ronin’s own AGE System, so there was no need to license anything.
What is the AGE System?
Originally designed for the licensed Dragon Age roleplaying game, AGE is short for the Adventure Game Engine. All AGE games use standard six-sided dice (d6s) for everything. One die—called the Stunt Die or Drama Die in various AGE games—is visually distinctive. To do something, roll 3d6 + bonuses to meet or beat a target number. If any of the two dice match, the number on the distinctive die becomes stunt points that can be spent on special effects ranging from a cutting remark to a powerful blow in combat.
What AGE Games are Cthulhu Awakens Compatible With?
The other AGE games Green Ronin currently have in print are Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE, Blue Rose, as well as the licensed roleplaying games for The Expanse, and Dragon Age. Fantasy AGE and Modern AGE have optional settings, while the others have specific ones. Cthulhu Awakens is at least partly compatible with elements of all these games, particularly Modern AGE, as the game began life as a supplement for that line. Many elements can be introduced with no changes at all. This is why some Modern AGE offerings will be included in the Kickstarter. However, Cthulhu Awakens does do a few things differently, and has a substantial number of original systems—and some of them work well with Modern AGE, too.
What Level of Realism or Modern AGE “Mode” Does Cthulhu Awakens Use?
Folks who know Modern AGE know the game has three “Modes,” or preset rules options, based on the degree of “realism” groups want to use in their games. Cthulhu Awakens’ pre-set Mode is a combination of Modern AGE’s Gritty and Pulpy, in that your character’s Health doesn’t go up over time, but sometimes, you can grit your teeth and bear getting stabbed—but not shot.
Cthulhu Awakens also includes an option for more heroic characters called Fortune that makes protagonists tougher and luckier. Fortune was originally designed for The Expanse RPG but works well for more action-focused Cthulhu Awakens campaigns.
How and Why Does Cthulhu Awakens Deal with Lovecraft Being a Racist?
H.P. Lovecraft was a white supremacist whose racism was notable even in his time, as attested to by letters from his own friends. Our position is that anything in Mythos sources that reinforce these elements are lies or errors as far as the setting of Cthulhu Awakens is concerned. Standing against that kind of discrimination is morally obligatory, and it leads to more interesting possibilities than treating Lovecraft’s work as “canon.” In general communication we’ve had to emphasize this both because of Lovecraft’s notorious reputation and to ward off various people with terrible opinions, not to congratulate ourselves for not following the example set by a long-dead racist. Cthulhu Awakens isn’t a purist game and was designed from the basic position that as important to the Mythos as he was, it doesn’t belong to him anymore. He’s dead. It belongs to all of us now.
Aren’t There Already a Bunch of Mythos Games Out There?
There are! And lots of them are fantastic. Some of them emphasize investigation. Others are essentially a tribute to the works of Lovecraft’s circle, the era they take place in, and their approach to the Weird Tale, and many bake a cycle of discovery, horror, and loss into the mechanics, essentially framing the basic story ahead of time. Cthulhu Awakens takes a more open-ended approach; we provide deep support for the Weird Century period, but ultimately encourage you to tell whatever stories you wish. Plus of course, we wanted to express our own fandom and run our own games using the AGE System, which we rather like.
Is there “Madness?” “Magic?”
No—well, there’s Alienation, and eldritch workings (oh, and separate psychic powers too). They’re not quite the same as what you might expect.
Early in design and development we decided that not only was delineating the relationship between the sort of “literary madness” seen in the stories and mental illness not a great idea for Cthulhu Awakens, but that we also wanted to reexamine what it means exactly when exposure to the Mythos alters consciousness. Alienation is about adapting to the alien rules of the Mythos. Since these are incompatible with ordinary human thinking, which takes place in three dimensions plus time and interacts with a fraction of the universe—the reflexive dream of Azathoth, say some—Alienation produces undesirable effects, but it also leads to bursts of inspiration. With Enlightenment comes Terror.
Eldritch workings are neither science nor sorcery—and both. Workings can be learned, but they’re not things you just put on a character sheet. Given the right text to work from and the ability to understand it, anyone can cast an eldritch working without using up any spaces for other powers and abilities. These are mighty, reality-twisting procedures that require specific components and methods, but they offer everything from immortality to the ability to create spacecraft—or call beings who should not be called.
Why Are You Using Kickstarter?
So, with all of the controversy over Kickstarter’s interest in the blockchain, why continue to work with them? The question is a reasonable one, and in ordinary circumstances we’d love to explore other options and find sources for crowdfunding that are more mindful of environmental impact.
The past couple of years are not ordinary circumstances. The truth of the matter is we don’t have that kind of luxury right now. Kickstarter’s market share is such that, if we want this game to reach the widest possible audience and do as well as it can, there aren’t any suitable alternatives—at least, not yet—for this particular project. We’re focused on doing the best we can with the tools we have, while we explore all possible options for connecting our community of players with our games. In any event, Cthulhu Awakens will be up for general sale after we conclude the Kickstarter. For starters, you’ll be able to back the campaign as a late pledge on BackerKit. The finished print book will be available from our online store, game stores, and bookstores, and you’ll be able to get the PDF from our online store and DriveThruRPG. You will have options, in other words, if you don’t want to use Kickstarter.
How Finished Is It? When’s It Coming Out?
As of this time of writing, Cthulhu Awakens’ core book has been through final drafts and two rounds of development, and it is currently going through a final round of development before it enters editing, to better incorporate some internal innovations in the AGE System. The Kickstarter begins on February 15th. The game will be coming out in the fourth Quarter of this year, 2022.