The Twilight Accord

Twilight Accord for 5th EditionThe guards shifted nervously, coughing a bit, breath fogging in the chill night air. They were all a bit uneasy, and with good reason. One glanced again at the wood piled and arranged in the courtyard, and thought about the hours until dawn.

“Some of them are little more than children,” he announced aloud to no one in particular.

“Then they can repent their ways,” the other guard replied, “and perhaps His Holiness will see fit to spare them, although if you ask me there’s no hope for their sort. Perverts. Unnatural. We’re well rid of them before they corrupt anyone else.” He spat in the dirt in disgust. The first man sighed and shook his head.

“I don’t expect there will be any mercy for any of them,” he said, “repentant or not…unless.”

“Unless what…?”

“Well…” the guard hesitated to go on. “You know. You’ve heard the stories.” That earned him a dismissive snort.

“Just stories. You don’t believe them, do you?”

“I don’t…” he began.

Then there was a deafening sound like thunder and the heavy wooden gates of the keep exploded inward, fragments raining down over the courtyard. The guards who were not knocked down by the blast stood in shock, mouths agape.

Figures appeared in the clearing smoke, wreathed in flames of seven colors that glimmered from their armor and weapons and in the hard glare of their eyes. They were not “just stories.”

“We are of the Accord and we have come for our people,” one of them announced. “Let none who hope to see the dawn stand in our way.”

The battle, if it can be called that, was brief, and so we were freed, and walked the Night Road to Gloamingate, to the promise of hope, freedom, and a home to call our own, if we can claim it—and we will.Twilight Accord On Patreon!

TWILIGHT ACCORD: THE FALLEN CITY: A Queer-focused #5e #TTRPG Fantasy Setting and Campaign, now on Patreon for Development.

Not “gay as in happy” but “queer as in ‘roll for initiative.’”

Do You Hear the Call…?

Secrets of Lemuria

Secrets of Lemuria for the Expanse RPG!

Available NOW!

<incoming transmission>

 

<handshake accepted… decryption protocol required>

 

<decryption completed>

 

“It’s been a long journey to the Ring gate and your final destination: Medina Station. Some weeks ago, you were all hired by an independent journalist, Sangra Velazquez, to escort him to a meeting on Medina with explorer/scientist Dr. Carly Toor. Sangra has been cagey about the exact details of this meeting, but has hinted that Dr. Toor has made an important discovery on one of the worlds beyond the Rings. Fearing that other parties and possibly even governments might be interested in this discovery, Sangra chose a private means of transportation–your ship.”

 

Mysteries aplenty lie beyond the Ring Gates. Secrets of Lemuria is the first adventure for The Expanse RPG that begins to explore those mysteries. The adventure is intended for a crew of 4 to 6 1st to 3rd level Expanse characters (although it would be easy enough to increase the danger for higher-level characters.) The story begins with a simple passenger transport and escort job. Independent reporter, Sanga Velazquez, has a meeting on Medina station with a scientist who claims to have made an incredible discovery on Lemuria, one of the many planets beyond the ring. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned, and the PCs find themselves in a cross-fire between an OPA gang and another mysterious (and violent) group…. I don’t want to spoil the story here since some of you, undoubtedly, may end up playing the adventure. Suffice it to say there’s plenty of action and intrigue and stakes that could change the course of human history.

Oh, and did I mention that it comes with a preview of Beyond the Ring? If you haven’t yet ordered a copy,  Lemuria gives you a sneak peak at Medina station —a pressure cooker of merchants, explorers, colonists, businesspeople, gangsters, smugglers, and spies from Earth, Mars, and the Belt. You could easily run an entire campaign on Medina alone, and of course, you have the mysteries of Ring space, the hub, and gateways to 1300 worlds right on its doorstep.

Secrets of Lemuria is the first in an upcoming series of PDF-only releases for The Expanse RPG. We have lots of plans, including new adventures and even a new series we may be announcing soon. Stand by for more information about that!

So, keep your eyes open, and your sensors active. Secrets of Lemuria is available now as a PDF in the Green Ronin Online Store and on DrivethruRPG!

<end transmission>

Neon Shadows

Modern AGE Cyberpunk Slice

Available NOW!

TL;DR – So can I use Cyberpunk Slice with Modern AGE to (ahem) run an urban fantasy cyberpunk game? YES! Grab both books (and maybe Modern AGE Companion while you’re at it) and you’ll rock it!

With the release of Cyberpunk Slice for Modern AGE, AGE System players have a new resource for creating campaigns and finally have an answer to that oft-asked question: “Can I run a cyberpunk urban fantasy campaign using AGE?” To which the answer is very much “Yes! I’m glad you asked.”

Having had some experience with the notion of cyberpunk urban fantasy myself, I’ve given the notion some thought and wanted to share with you the key elements for your Modern AGE cyber-fantasy campaign, what I refer to here as Neon Shadows:

Backgrounds

You’re probably going to want to grab the optional backgrounds from Chapter 1 of the Modern AGE Companion, particularly the Dwarf, Elf, Human, and Orc, if your setting includes various fantasy heritages, or people manifesting the traits of fantasy beings. Feel free to add-on to this as you see fit for your setting: Shapeshifters, Spirit-Bloods…more? Why not? Take particular note of the sidebar in the book about adapting Fantasy AGE backgrounds to Modern AGE before you yank them wholesale out of your Fantasy AGE books, as there are some differences.

The ancestries from Threefold (Arvu, Dreygur, Huldra, and Jana) might be useful inspiration, but keep in mind that ancestries supplement backgrounds rather than replacing them per se: You can mix-and-match ancestry and background traits, and might want to allow the same for backgrounds in your Neon Shadows campaign, allowing for Bohemian Elves, Dwarf Laborers, or Urban Orcs, to name just a few examples.

Neon Shadows as Cyber Urban Fantasy

Professions

You are going to want to augment the options from Modern AGE with the professions in Cyberpunk Slice, particularly Hacker, Operator, Assassin, and Personality for your Neon Shadows game. Ditto the various cyberpunk-specific Drives and ability focuses, depending on the availability of tech in your game. Intelligence (Streetwise) is pretty much a must.

Talents

Cybercombat talent? (That’s combat using various cybernetic augmentations.) Virtual Combat talent? (That’s combat inside of a digital virtual reality.) Yes, please! You’re going to want some (if not all) of the talents in Cyberpunk Slice to go with the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook. There are many of them devoted to making your character badass. In particular, don’t overlook the Kinetic talent, what sometimes gets called a “street soldier” or “street samurai,” just in case you were wondering where that was under Professions previously.

Equipment

Ah, the gear. There’s plenty of stuff in Cyberpunk Slice before you even get to the implants and augmentations: guns (smart and otherwise), ammo, armor, drones, vehicles, grenades, and more. Everything you need to kit-out your characters. Monofilament whips? Of course! Are they dangerous to use? Of course!

Then (of course) there are the actual augmentations. Modern AGE players who have read Threefold have an inkling of what awaits in Chapter 3 of Cyberpunk Slice, but with quite a bit more. A medium augmentation campaign (with a starting capacity of 2) suits Neon Shadows pretty well, as most characters are going to have augmentations of some sort. Breakdown or some type of Complications tend to suit those who go over their capacity for augmentation.

There’s no strict rule in Modern AGE that says tech and magic don’t mix, so you can make the cyber-arcanist of your dreams, if you want. If, on the other hand, you’d prefer that augmentations weaken arcane power, pick one of the following options:

  • Arcanists add their total slots in augmentations to the Target Numbers of their arcana, to their cost, or both.
  • Arcanists subtract their total slots in augmentations from their Magic Points, and from the MP they gain each level, with a minimum of 1 or even 0 MP gained!
  • Augmented arcanists lose 1d6 MP per slot of augmentations per day and have to recover those lost MP normally, in addition to any they expend on their arcana.

Powers

Naturally, it’s not a cyber-fantasy campaign without some magic, so you can include any or all of the various arcana from the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook as well as Modern AGE Companion and Threefold as well, if you’d like. Decide how prevalent you want arcana to be in your campaign: Do lots of people sling spells or is it just a select few? How is the world dealing with these arcanists?

What’s more, decide if there are any other extraordinary powers available in your Neon Shadows campaign. Are there psychic adepts? If not, you can just ignore psychic powers, or else turn them into arcana also available to spell-casters. Perhaps psychics are occultists as described in Threefold, giving them a different flavor of magical power, rather than science-fiction psionics as such.

You can even use the enhancements from Modern AGE Companion, Threefold, and Cyberpunk Slice for more than just technological augmentations: Some people might be exceptionals with supernatural powers, essentially fantasy or mythic abilities. They might be “advancements” of their ancestry or magical birthrights or blessings or some kind. Perhaps there are “paragons” who focus their magical potential inward and develop the kinds of enhancements otherwise granted by implants and modifications, making them the fantasy equivalents of cybernetic street samurai and biotech stealth assassins, to name a few. There may even be a magical equivalent to capacity—and penalties for exceeding it—in the setting, distinct from the effects of augmentations. Just turn some of the augmentations in Cyberpunnk Slice into magical equivalents, either from focusing inherent magic inwards or even weirder implants using magically-animated materials or grafts of body parts or organs from fantasy creatures.

Modern AGE Cyberpunk Slice is also available on DrivethruRPG!

A Slice of Cyberpunk Temptation, Coming for Modern AGE

Cyberpunk Slice for Modern AGE

COMING VERY SOON!

Cyberpunk is one of the most popular genres in roleplaying games. Sitting as it does between the modern era and classic spaceships and aliens SF (though some cyberpunk, such as Schismatrix and Altered Carbon, incorporate those elements too), it’s a natural fit for Modern AGE. I was hesitant to add cyberpunk to Modern AGE because of its world-influencing history, and its shift from cutting-edge, to cliché, to parts of reality. How do I fit it all in?

I finally satisfied myself by realizing that I don’t have to. Cyberpunk is a pervasive enough genre that I don’t need to dig into all its historical, technological, and personal resonances, because you’re already confronting them yourself.

Therefore, we’re just putting the finishing touches on Modern AGE Cyberpunk Slice, a compressed, 50ish page PDF treatment of the genre’s essentials:

  • Futuristic technology, from exoskeletons to guided bullets
  • Cyberspace
  • Augmentation through cybernetics
  • Body swapping and consciousness transfer
  • Options for Player Character androids and other synthetic beings
  • New backgrounds and professions for a desperate, technology-drenched future
  • New character options, from the Virtual Combat focus to anti-technology Wrecker fighting style, and the street soldier called the Kinetic

Cyberpunk Slice uses some elements from previous cyberpunk-adjacent work in the Modern AGE Companion and Threefold, but significantly extends and customizes them for the genre. That way it remains interoperable with previous material without being redundant.

Is this all we’ll do in the genre? I don’t know, but I am certain that this supplement is what a vocal segment of Modern AGE gamers have wanted for a while. It’s coming very soon—I submitted proofing notes just recently—and we’ll make some noise when it happens.

Back Into The Expanse: Worlds and Systems

Some of you may have seen the recent actual play of Cthulhu Awakens that I ran in conjunction with the Kickstarter. I really enjoyed running the game, but after that brief foray into the realms of eldritch horror, I’m excited to say that it’s time for me to get back to The Expanse!

Colony worlds and systems in the Expanse

During my first official visit to ThursdAGE last week, we talked a little about the new Expanse sourcebook, Beyond the Ring. (Check it out if you want to see some of the amazing art in this book) We also did a bit of a deep dive into Chapter 5: System & World Creation in Beyond the Ring. If you check out the stream, you’ll get a behind the scenes look as I go through both the system and world creation systems step by step. One of the challenges I have as the developer for The Expanse RPG is where to draw the line between story and science. This chapter, in particular, proved to be quite a balancing act in that arena. After all, this is a game about telling stories, not a science textbook. But on the other hand, The Expanse novels are heavily grounded in real science. Creating your own systems and worlds is an excellent opportunity for bringing a little more science into your games.

In Chapter 5: System & World Creation, we do our best to give you all the pertinent information needed to create your own worlds and systems without getting too bogged down. All of the charts and tables might look a little daunting for someone who doesn’t know much about the science of spectral types, orbital zones, or atmospheric compositions, but I promise you don’t need to know any of the science. Just follow the steps, and you can design a system without any difficulty. Truthfully, the luminosity of the star or a planet’s orbital period probably won’t come into play in your story, but being able to provide all of the star system information to your players lends a sense of authenticity that this is a real system with real planets. Your scientifically minded players will love it, and your story-driven players will appreciate the attention to detail.

One question I’ve been asked is whether science 100% accurate all of the time? My simple answer is: I’m sure it’s not. But it’s pretty close and certainly more than enough for telling a good story. Ultimately even The Expanse is about the story and the characters. The science is there to give it a backdrop of realism and authenticity, but in the end, it’s a good story that matters.

So, do you want to know more about Beyond the Ring and how you can use it in your own campaign? Well, you’re in luck! My appearance on ThursdAGE was just a teaser for what’s to come. In the following weeks I’m going to be running an actual play of The Expanse RPG that showcases a lot of the key systems in Beyond the Ring, especially colony creation and advancement. In Session Zero we’re going to build the colony that the PCs are going to be connected to using the rules in the book. Sessions 1 and 2 will be a story that centers around the colony. Finally, Session 3 will be the finale, and we’ll go through colony advancement, including the repercussions of the PC’s action during the adventure. So, keep your eyes peeled for the exact dates.

There will also be opportunities for those of you watching live to ask questions, and maybe even some audience participation. So, if you’re considering purchasing Beyond the Ring and want to know more this will be an excellent opportunity to see what it’s all about.


You can Pre-Order the print version of Beyond the Ring right now and receive the PDF for just an additional $5! But we understand that shipping internationally is a little difficult at the moment, so our overseas fans can also get the $5 PDF add-on by just letting their Friendly Local Game Store know that they would like to Pre-Order the book there. Just ask your store clerk to contact us, or their games distributor, and mention the Pre-Order Plus program, we will take care of the rest!

Beyond the Ring: Available Now

Beyond the Ring Available Now!

Available for Pre-Order Now!

The ring gates have opened up opportunities on 1300 worlds for scientists, adventurers, explorers, and colonists. Royal Charter Energy is seeking brave and bold individuals of many diverse backgrounds for colony and mining operations beyond the rings. Be the first to set foot on a new world. Make new discoveries. Explore. RCE is currently hiring scientists with backgrounds in geology, chemistry, as well as those with mining, agriculture, and security experience. Stuck on Basic Assistance? We may have a place for you. Find yourself on a new world.

Applications are being accepted by our offices in Lovell City, Luna, either in person or electronically.

 

Ever wanted to run an off-world colony? Beyond the Ring presents a whole new way to play The Expanse RPG. Instead of traveling the Sol system, the player characters can be a part of a new colony. They get to make decisions about the colony’s advancement and deal with issues and threats as they arise. Chapter 4: Colonies opens with rules for designing your own colonies. Colonies have abilities just like player characters.

You have three options for creating colonies, freeform (basically make it up), point allocation (you get a number of points to spend) or random (speaks for itself). There are five core abilities for colonies: Economy, Force, Infrastructure, Media, and Science. In addition to these, every colony has three additional statistics: Size, Stability and Resolve, which help determine how resistant the colony is to disasters and setbacks. Colonies also have Focuses that represent things like specialty installations (like greenhouses), extraordinary knowledge (like local ecology), special resources (like lithium), or colonists with specific expertise (like a doctor or security forces). Disasters can have an impact on both these abilities and Focuses.

Once your colony is established, you get to see how your colony grows or fails. The rules for running a colony exist to provide new opportunities for adventure, provide a sense of investment in the protagonist’s community, and help players feel like an important part of the dynamic and ever-growing Expanse universe. The colony rules interact with the rest of a campaign in two ways: growth checks and plot actions.

For a colony to survive, it must endure the harsh realities of an alien world, grow to support itself, and thrive in the face of adversity–growth checks represent this. The frequency of these checks is usually from one to three months and can result in the colony growing or expanding or suffering a mishap. Mishaps can lead to adventure opportunities as players can sometimes take plot actions to mitigate their effects.

While growth checks represent the everyday ebb and flow of life in a community, plot actions represent deliberate efforts by the colony leadership toward specific goals. Often plot actions are made in response to a threat or rival colony, but colonies may also be proactive, attempting to undermine rivals or build new projects to improve conditions. Successful plot actions can hurt rivals, disarm threats, and make headway on projects, while failed plot actions do the opposite. The GM also gets to take plot actions. A group of pirates that the PCs previously tangled with past might become a direct threat to the colony.

Finally, this chapter offers a few sample colony operations that were built using these rules. These can be used as a guide for building your own colonies or plugged directly into an adventure if a GM finds they need a colony. As you can see, an entire campaign could be built around a crew starting and managing a colony in the worlds beyond the rings.
If you’re looking for inspiration for telling your own colony-based stories, Cibola Burn offers a lot of good material on what it’s like to live in a colony under threat from multiple directions. The novella Strange Dogs offers a good look into the early days of Laconia. And I was super excited to see that the final Expanse novella, The Sins of Our Fathers, is set entirely on a colony world. The story presents some of the difficult choices colonists might be forced to make. We can’t wait to hear the stories of the colonies on new worlds that you and your players create!


Expanse Beyond the Ring on ThursdAGE

Tune into ThursdAGE this Thursday, April 7th at 2p Pacific to catch designer Ian Lemke as he walks us through star system creation and world building in Beyond the Ring, with your pals Owen KC Stevens and Troy Hewitt

You can watch us on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and don’t forget to subscribe to Green Ronin’s official streaming channels to be notified when we go live with The Expanse RPG: Beyond the Ring Actual plays throughout the month!

Eldritch Texts in Cthulhu Awakens

Eldritch Texts

Art by John Anthony DiGiovanni

 

As we noted in our update about powers and eldritch workings, anyone can “cast a spell” in Cthulhu Awakens as long as they have a text to work from that contains the proper instructions rendered in a language they can understand. This of course leads us to the question of what these references are, and how they’re presented in the game.

Each text’s description passes on the following information.

Content and Effects: A general description of the text’s contents, followed by any special effects they may have.

Decipher: Ability tests and any other conditions required to understand the text.

Praxes and Workings: Eldritch workings—the “spells” of Cthulhu Awakens—are divided into categories called praxes. Each praxis is a bundle of workings with related effects so that, for example, Geometry is the praxis of manipulating spacetime.

Alienation Test: Studying a text deeply is potentially disturbing and may trigger a test to avoid the effects of Alienation: how the Mythos alters minds who witness its phenomena.

The following example lays out this information about itself. Yes, the Necronomicon is covered, though the entry is too long for an update.

Euler Manuscript of Esoteric Mathematics

Beautifully bound in red leather and inked on cotton parchment, this manuscript holds the lesser-known mathematical musings of 18th Century Swiss polymath Leonhard Euler. The only copy now sits in a forgotten storage room at Miskatonic University’s school of Physics, though MU’s librarians are aware that it was lost somewhere on campus in the 1890s. They have not entirely forgotten to keep an eye out for it. Euler’s contemporaries described its contents as “perverse theology,” and implied it was an attempt to solve physical and metaphysical questions with the same pragmatism Euler devised to his other mathematical work—and that its conclusions were abhorrent to science and faith.

Content and Effects: The Euler Manuscript contains graphs, calculations, and beautiful, full-color illustrations of mathematical theories involving the movement of the universe. Using a series of superficially simple formulae, Euler further claims the nature of the universe must parallel the nature of God—or whatever entity is constructed from first principles, which takes God’s place. Subsequent calculations show that the cosmos is simultaneously moving and unmoving, and in attaining greater self-organization only intensifies its eventual breakdown into chaos. Time only exists as a flaw in human perception designed to ignore these contradictions, and any Creator could only have set things in motion to enjoy their destruction. Nihilism is nothing new, but nihilism backed by rigorous math is another thing entirely.

As a result, upon first deciphering the Euler Manuscript, the reader must make a TN 13 Willpower (Faith) test or suffer one level of the Fatigued Condition. Furthermore, casting from the text reminds the reader that the cosmos is meaningless, prompting the test each time the Euler Manuscript is used for this purpose.

Decipher: The reader must succeed at a TN 13 Intelligence (Mathematics) test.

Praxes and Workings: Geometry (angular travel, counter geometry, hyperbolic rotation), Outsiders (intrusion, outsider correspondence)

Alienation Test: Phenomena, TN 14, when studying praxes from the text.
Eldritch Texts

Eldritch Workings and the Powers of Cthulhu Awakens

Eldritch Workings

Art by Maurice Risulmi

 

Cthulhu Awakens provides three options for characters seeking extraordinary powers. First, the Inhuman Legacy talent represents individuals who discover they’ve inherited certain strange characteristics. They might be related to ghouls, Deep Ones, or some other weird lineage.

Second, some humans and other entities possess psychic disciplines, giving them the ability to alter other minds or the environment through force of will. Those of you familiar with Modern AGE will find some aspects familiar, but not others. Some powers have been changed, and instead of spending points or rolling for fatigue, psychics make a Power Test and Price Test—and the latter can have unpredictable consequences. Still, it’s an option for characters seeking a straightforward taste of supernatural might.

But the strongest “magic” of all can be found in eldritch workings, though these straddle the boundaries between science, magic, and what might be considered a form of ritual worship, while truly being none of these, as each working represents reaching out into the unknowable for power. All eldritch workings are lengthier actions that utilize challenge tests, but they do not require characters to invest in them as abilities, though they can do so to make casting easier. Anyone can pick up a copy of the Necronomicon and if they can understand it well enough to follow instructions, they can absolutely attempt the workings within. Eldritch workings are, of course, horrendously powerful—balance takes a back seat to ripping apart the laws of nature for story reasons, as you’ll see in the following example, with annotations in italics.

Hyperbolic Rotation (Generic name of the working; it can have other specific names)

Geometry (Praxis, or category it belongs to)

This working envisions local spacetime as a hyperbolic manifold, a curved plane wrapped around itself so that the Unseen Dimensions act as a vessel for perceptible dimensions. Rotating this structure can distort the relationship between two points in space, putting them closer together or further apart.

Rote Test: Intelligence (Physics), Intelligence (Computers), Intelligence (Electronics), TN 15 (rolls for challenge tests)

Alienation Test: Phenomena, TN 16 (Alienation Rest required for casters)

Interval: Medium (one minute) (How long each roll in the challenge tests uses up)

Trappings: 1) Top of the line computer loaded with dedicated software 2) Electrically-powered gyroscope 3) Silver wire that must be placed and anchored around the target area in specific configurations (examples of components and conditions required, which may differ based on text and altered by skilled casters)

Effect: In an area with a radius of up to 50 yards per casting rank, the caster can designate a number of alternate spatial relationships equal to their Intelligence + casting rank, with points of intersection no larger than 4 square yards each, though several can be combined for a larger single intersection. This can cause a stretch of road to wrap around itself, or a door on one floor of a building to open to a room on a different floor—or in mid-air. All points must exist within the working’s radius. Within the duration, the caster can use an Activate minor action to shift one spatial relationship with range of their senses so that, for example, they can walk through a door to one destination, then ensure the next person who passes through it goes somewhere else.

This working’s effects last one hour per casting rank.

Magister Effect: It no longer requires an Activate action to shift a spatial relationship. Furthermore, at this rank the caster can fix one or more spatial relationships within the effect duration so that they become permanent, but they can no longer be shifted at will except by another casting of hyperbolic rotation. (When a character has special expertise in the working, they can accomplish this.)

Doom: The working’s area of effect vanishes from normal spacetime, with plausible environmental features filling in the gap. The area of effect now exists in a time and location of the Game Master’s choosing, such as 100 years ago, Antarctica, or Yuggoth, taking any occupants with it. (The potential result of a miscast working.)

Secret History in Cthulhu Awakens

Secret History

Art by Tentacles and Teeth

In expanding the source material to cover the Weird Century, Cthulhu Awakens presents 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

Weird Century

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.