Tag Archive for: Cthulhu

Revelations of the Bacchae, the GM’s Kit, and DREADCRAWLS: New(ish) Releases for Cthulhu Awakens!

Cthulhu Awakens, the AGE RPG of confronting Mythos horror across the Weird Century, entered electronic release last October—but since then, we’ve released more for the game, with ambitious plans for 2024! Here we go:

Revelations of the Bacchae for Cthulhu Awakens

Revelations of the Bacchae (PDF, Roll20)

Revelations of the Bacchae presents expanded notes on the Cthulhu Awakens actual play session of the same name, run by Ian Lemke during the Cthulhu Awakens Kickstarter campaign. Note that this is not a full scenario—well, not completely. Instead, the basic notes used to run the game have been cleaned up a bit and presented for your perusal or use, as you see fit. This development process means it may vary from the adventure as presented, as elements of improvisation are “set into stone.”

Revelations of the Bacchae is set in the modern day, but with adjustments can be situated earlier. The latest time-dependent element is from 1996, but the exact date isn’t important.

PDF GM's Kit for Cthulhu Awakens

 

Cthulhu Awakens Game Master’s Kit (PDF)

The Cthulhu Awakens Game Master’s Kit is a collection of resources that helps you smoothly deliver terror and adventure to your players. It provides a PDF with 3 Game Master’s screen panels that displays stunts and other essential information. The quick reference card PDF provides further assistance with commonly used rules, and the combat tracker helps you organize the action.

The true secrets of the Game Master’s Kit are revealed in Unexpurgated Texts, a PDF booklet detailing a dozen fell grimoires and their modern counterparts, each in an expanded, 2-page format listing the eldritch workings and other strange secrets each of them contains.

Dreadcrawls PDF 'zine for Cthulhu Awakens

DREADCRAWLS #0: Strange Places (PDF)

Mountains of madness, cave complexes inhabited since before history, and secret temples under moldering ruins are all part of the Mythos horror genre. With DREADCRAWLS #0: Strange Places, you can generate these bizarre, haunted locations with a few dice rolls and simple decisions. From underground complexes to hyper-dimensional locales folded into non-Euclidean shapes, create haunted lairs for the Mythos with a tried-and-true old school, table-based method.

DREADCRAWLS is the official zine for Cthulhu Awakens, the AGE roleplaying game of Mythos horror, across the Weird Century.

More Horror?

Some of these have been mentioned before, specifically for the Roll20 edition, as Jonesy talks about here. Read about Cthulhu Awakens’ full-featured Roll20 version.

Furthermore, we have four more supplements in various stages of development, so rest assured, there’s support here, and support coming. We’ll tell you when!

Cthulhu Awakens Compendium on Roll20

As a big fan of both the AGE system and of the Cthulhu Mythos, I was super excited when the Cthulhu Awakens Kickstarter was announced and backed it immediately. Part of what excited me was the inclusion of a Roll20 Compendium since I run games both in person and online as part of the USP actual play team. What I didn’t know, at the time I backed that Kickstarter, was that I was going to be entrusted by team Ronin to make that Roll20 Compendium a reality.  With that said we are happy to announce the stars are right and the Cthulhu Awakens compendium is now available on the Roll20 marketplace, as well as DrivethruRPG.

The compendium includes

  • Rollable Tables to randomize your character’s Social Class, Background, Profession, and Drive
  • Dynamic Lightening for all included maps.
  • Drag & Drop for support for Character Creation, including Focuses, Background, Talents, Specializations,
  • Eldritch Workings, Dangerous Texts, Artifacts, and Psychic Phenomena
  • Full drag & drop compatibility and tokens for over 40 Cthulhu Awakens adversaries

Cthulhu Awakens Roll20 compendium

Cthulhu Awakens Roll20 Compendium

Along with Cthulhu Awakens compendium we released Revelations of the Bacchae on Roll20, which features three location maps with dynamic lighting, two Challenge test trackers, Four pre-generated characters, and seven new NPCs

Revelations of the Bacchae

Cthulhu Awakens Roll20 Compendium monsters!

Lastly, we released the token set that comes with the Cthulhu Awakens Compendium as a stand-alone offering for those game masters who only need the tokens.

Cthulhu Awakens Tokens: Entities Pack

So, what is next for Cthulhu Awakens on Roll20? We are working on the Game Master’s Kit, and a couple new surprises I hope to share with you soon.

Cthulhu Awakens Roll20 Compendium Abilities

And don’t forget to tune in to ThursdAGE on the Green Ronin Publishing official YouTube Channel, today 2/8/24 at 2p Pacific/5p Eastern where we’ll do a deep dive into the Cthulhu Awakens Compendium! Your host Disembodied Troy welcomes Malcolm Sheppard, Ian Lemke, and myself to celebrate this VTT Team milestone and talk all things Cthulhu Awakens!

Cthulhu Awakens Now! Well, in Preorder and PDF Form, That Is!

Cthulhu Awakens Preorder Available Now!After a successful Kickstarter campaign, careful design and art direction—and errata, where necessary—Cthulhu Awakens is available to general audiences for preorder and in PDF! Furthermore, if you preorder the print release, you can add the PDF for just another $5.

Cthulhu Awakens brings cosmic horror and the Cthulhu Mythos to Green Ronin’s AGE System. This complete RPG reimagines and expands the Mythos beyond the biases of the original stories, creating a setting designed specifically for roleplaying eldritch adventures across about a hundred strange years—what we call the Weird Century. Follow aliens and cults through wars, the broken atom, the rise of digital and genetic technologies, and the horrors of social media. Contend with Deep One cults, Yithian agents, and terrifying revelations from across the globe—and within your dreams.

If you’ve played any AGE game, such as Blue RoseThe ExpanseFantasy AGE, or Modern AGE, you already know the basicsCthulhu Awakens customizes the system with the effects of horror and Alienation, eldritch workings, psychic powers, strange artifacts, mystic tomes, and more. The game also includes Mythos horrors and ready-made NPCs for the Game Master, and two complete adventures. All you need are character sheets, 3 six-sided dice, and friends ready for weird stories. In Cthulhu Awakens, anyone can stand against the darkness.

If you backed the Kickstarter, you’ve probably already received a preview PDF, and an updated PDF, along with everything else you backed, in time, is on the way—and you’ll get it first. This is for the rest of you, to follow backers in a similarly amusing abyss where everything you thought was a lie…for fun.

Here’s where to go:

There’s more Cthulhu Awakens to come, from the Game Masters Kit to adventures and other supplements. Stay wary!

The Cthulhu Awakens BackerKit…Awakens. Metaphorically.

Cthulhu awakens literally, of course.

In what seems like years ago due to pandemic and post-pandemic time dilation effects, but was actually through this past March, we ran our Kickstarter for Cthulhu Awakens, an AGE system game covering Cthulhu Mythos horror from the early years of the last century to the present: a period we call the Weird Century. Cthulhu Awakens evolves the iteration of AGE first seen in Modern AGE, drawing upon innovations from newer and upcoming AGE system books, as well as special rules unique to it. Cthulhu Awakens was developed to cover an epic span of time according to an inclusive ethic, but that isn’t its point of distinction. I think what makes it special is really the broad range of periods and tones, and an interpretation of the Mythos that puts game-centered storytelling before literary homage. Cthulhu Awakens can be about lurking fear or dramatic action—it’s up to you.

Well, the Kickstarter is done…and the BackerKit is live! That’s where we manage pledges to order the game and its related, uh, game stuff. Go to:

Backerkit Pre-order Store!

If you pledged a token amount to get reminded of this, now’s the time to up your pledge. If you want to tweak your pledge, maybe adding on some last-minute books, do it there.

And if this is new to you? Well, go anyway. This is your second chance, like the kind you don’t get unless you’re a Yithian agent consulting future records of yourself to avoid mistakes…but I’ve said too much. Well, except for one thing: If you’re locking in any kind of pledge, thank you!

Cthulhu Awakens Pre-order store is live

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.

Bonds: An AGE Mechanic Evolved

Bonds form the basis of many relationships and effects of Alienation

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

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.

Alienation in Cthulhu Awakens

“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.