With the Cthulhu Eternal “Jazz Age” SRD now out in the wild, we have the opportunity to take some of the nifty scenarios we’ve released in unstatted form and re-release them as ready-to-play Cthulhu Eternal games. We are calling this series of scenarios the “Miskatonic Mysteries.”
We’ve decided to start by converting the Dateline LovecraftEXTRA scenarios (which, BTW, you can still download with CoC 7e stats on the downloads page of this site).
So far we’ve released two of these with Cthulhu Eternal stats: “To Touch the Untouchable” and “Help Wanted”. If your gaming group likes a bit of old-school investigative horror on the weird streets of Arkham, these scenarios are probably right up your alley. Unlike the previous versions, these rebooted PDFs have no reliance on Dateline Lovecraft, and contain every handout you need to play the scenario in full.
More Miskatonic Mysteries will emerge in coming months . . .
The scenario centres upon a new production of Oscar Wilde’s Decadent play Salome, being prepared in London West End theatre. Persistent rumours of curious happenings have attached themselves to the majestically-staged production. And Oscar Wilde — usually the most gregarious of souls — has become sullen and withdrawn. The playwright’s close friend Bosie approaches the Protagonists to try to understand the strange pall that seems to have settled over Oscar and the forthcoming play.
This scenario has quite a long history of its own. I first encountered it in January 1996 — back in the pre-WWW era, when Lovecraftian gamers used to gather conspiratorially in USENET newsgroups and on subscription-only email lists. In the latter category, one of my favourites was the “Chaosium Digest”, a list where fans of every RPG currently supported by Chaosium could be freel share house-rules or new skills ideas or anything else for the whole community to enjoy.
Simon Lee posted a convention scenario to the Chaosium Digest, something truly inspired that he had written for a South African con in 1995. It was called “Prophecy” … and that free text-only scenario forms the basic core of the adventure we’ve just released. On its 25+ year journey from then-to-now a lot of complexity has been added to create a whole world of intriguing Aesthete NPCs and offer a more detailed long-form clue trail. The end result is something that I truly believe is one of the most intriguing Victorian Cthulhu scenarios to have been published for any game system.
Doing the in-depth research to flesh out this scenario was one of the most enjoyable tasks I’ve had for a game project, since it gave me an excuse to read an enormous amount about the Aesthete and Decadent movements in 1890s English art. Or, more to the point, read about the outlandish, scurrilous and flamboyant artists who populated that particular “school” of subversive counterculture. Where most game depictions of the Victorian Era focus on the “derring do” and “stiff upper lip” central to the vast Imperial achievements of Britain, there is an whole parallel strata of the late Victorian world that is far more concerned with foppery, indolence, and “art for art’s sake.” Oscar Wilde is the most famous of its scions (in England anyway, there is a whole separate Decadent tradition in fin de siècle France), but he is but one of many adherents. And many of them were extraordinary and outlandish individuals — and proudly so.
The NPCs I picked to use to bolster the backdrop of Simon’s scenario are all exemplars in this regard. They are pieces of real-world history that I could never invent as fictional elements … because, frankly, people would label them too OTT … I challenge anyone to read the biography of Count Eric Stenbock (writer of the incredible short tale “The True Story of a Vampire”) and not think he was someone’s elaborate literary creation.
We really hope that people enjoy this gem of a Lovecraftian scenario, and gaming tables everywhere can revel in the “Yellow” antics of the Aesthetes even as they recoil in horror from the terrors that seem to lurk behind the artwork they are bringing into existence. You have tickets for opening night … do you dare to take your seats?
Today we are pleased to announce the release of the FOURTH in our line of Cthulhu Eternal SRDs. This one covers the “Cold War Era”, broadly the period from the end of WW2 to the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. This is a period which some of us creakier old gamers remember quite well … perhaps with a sense of nostalgia, or perhaps with memories of the pervasive sense the world might just teeter into World War III.
The Cold War period is a time ripe for inserting cosmic horror. The world is already living in fear of imminent nuclear annihilation. The geopolitical situation throughout the world is one of paranoia, with nations using subterfuge to fight “proxy wars” and accusing their opponents of rampant spying. Into that brew of distrust, fear, and deception it is easy to sow the seeds of Mythos horror. Whether they are trained intelligence operatives digging to find the truth or everyday people stumbling onto it, it is easy to find ways for Protagonists to learn hints of the true history mankind wasn’t meant to know and can never comprehend.
In preparing the Cthulhu Eternal Cold War SRD we’ve tried to keep things open enough that you COULD use these rules to make an espionage-thriller type of Cold War game, or you could dispense with all the cloak-and-dagger stuff and just go for some nostalgic 80s (or 70s or 60s or 50s) genre emulation. As with all these SRDs, the foundations are there, what you build on them is your call.
The Cthulhu Eternal Cold War SRD is available for download right now — as with all these titles, we’ve made it a free/Pay-What-You-Want release. Pick it up and use it to launch your gaming group back to the heady decades of the recent past … whether as shadowy spies in search of dangerous Mythos incursions, or just everyday folks caught up in things they cannot possibly fully understand …
“The air attack warning sounds like / this is the sound …”
Things are ticking along nicely with plenty of folks picking up free (or donation-backed) copies of our first three SRDs for Cthulhu Eternal (Modern Age, Jazz Age, and Victorian Era). We’ve been delighted to see downloads of the SRDs recently click over to 1500 copies — and have been a little surprised to see that the Modern Day edition of the rules seems most popular with downloaders.
One comment we’ve received several times (for CE and also APOCTHULHU) is that it would be great if there were statted versions of Lovecrafts monstrous creations that could be easily dropped in to a Cthulhu Eternal scenario. Rest assured, on this particular subject we have something special planned.
Long-time readers of the blog might remember some discussion a couple of years back that scratched the surface on which of HPL’s creations are definitively in the public domain. This investigation was picked up by an amazing team of researchers in Germany who went back and re-read every public-domain Lovecraft story and created stats for the original monsters mentioned in their pages. They created their own (German-Language) RPG called FHTAGN which collected all these game stats into a fully-OGL sourcebook and free-to-access website.
The best part — the FHTAGN system is derived from the exact same game engine that we have used for APOCTHULHU and Cthulhu Eternal. So, their creature stats, ritual stats, tome stats, etc., are all fully compatible with our games. The only snag is that they are only available in German.
Recently, though, the FHTAGN folks — heartily encouraged by us — decided to translate all this treasure trove of fantastic material (some 40,000 words of game content) into English. As they do this, we will absorb (and maybe tweak if needed) their awesome material to be useful for APOCTHULHU GMs and Cthulhu Eternal GMs.
So excited are we by the prospect of having fully OGL open creature stats for Lovecraft’s public domain creations, that we have jumped ahead slightly and had a few of the stat blocks from FHTAGN translated ourselves. So, without further ado, I bring you … the Mi-Go (or Fungi from Yuggoth)! More translated critters in coming days …
The Fungi from Yuggoth
The body of a Mi-Go is essentially comprised of a colony of fungal microorganisms. Each is part of a larger whole and together form an independent, functional unit that is designed for a specific task. Depending on the situation, a Mi-go’s physical form can be redesigned and reconfigured. As a result, eyewitness descriptions often differ, sometimes drastically. Some accounts describe encounters with hairy “snowman”, while others report cancerous beings. Still other people claim to have seen terrible fungal monstrosities. In fact, all are accurate reports.
In order to transport minerals and ores, Mi-go can form hair-like tentacles all over their bodies, capable of holding and carrying rocks. In combat situations, they can defend themselves with cancerous nippers.
In order to move unseen among communities of other beings, Mi-go have the ability to camouflage their exterior with a waxy substance. In this way, they can take on an almost human appearance. In some situations, Mi-Go may develop membranous wings that enable them to fly between planets (or even into the depths of interstellar space). The dense atmosphere on Earth makes these wings less effective, but the Mi-Go can still use them to (gracelessly) launch into flight and remain aloft for an extended period. One of their favorite tactics when engaging humans in combat is to grapple them up with their nippers (PIN maneuver) and drag their victim upwards into the sky – dropping them from a great height.
The “shell” that comprises the outer layer of a Mi-go’s physical form interacts with visible light in an unnatural way and therefore cannot be captured on conventional film or digitally. Because of this and because Mi-go have numerous sense organs that alien to human understanding, the creatures are extremely sensitive to light. During the day they retreat into mines and cave systems, usually only coming out at night.
STR 16 CON 14 DEX 13 INT 17 POW 15
HP 15 WP 15
Size category: Medium.
Movement: Mi-Go can move 9 meters/yards in a combat turn on the ground; 11 meters/yards while flying.
Armor: none, but see RESILIANT TO PUNCTURE AND BULLETS and UNNATURAL ORGANISM below.
vs Lethal Damage: UNEARTHLY COMPOSITION – Mi-go are comprised of a spongy fungoid matter that absorbs some types of energy and morphs around kinetic shocks. If attacked with a traditional weapon or explosive that deals Lethal Damage, check to see whether the attack roll was an odd or even number. If odd, the Mi-go’s alien composition renders the damage ineffectual; if even, it is affected as per normal. A successful Lethality roll kills the creature.
50%, damage 1D6+2
50%, range 20 yards, damage is electric shock. Can vary from simply STUN damage to Lethal 20% damage (see ELECTRO-PULSE WEAPON below). [Note that normal armor does not provide protection against electric shock].
Skills: Alertness 60%, Athletics 40%, Search 60%, Stealth 60%, plus numerous specialized scientific and technical skills, all at expert level (60%+).
LIMITED SHAPE CHANGING: The body of a Mi-Go can be reconfigured to a limited extent for its current activity. This takes a few minutes. No matter what a Mi-Go looks like from the outside, its inside remains a hideous fungal creature.
ELECTRO-PULSE WEAPONS: Mi-go Lightning Weapons can be set to varying intensity levels. At the lowest level, effect is limited to STUN. At the highest level, a successful attack delivers 20% Lethality damage. Whether struck by a low-powered or high-powered blast, any target that survives is effectively immobilized as their sensory and motor nerve center is paralyzed. Each subsequent turn, the survivor can make a CON × 5 test to shake off the paralysis and return to mobility next turn. Even after the immediate paralysis subsides, the victim suffers –20% on all actions for 1d20 turns. The human body is an excellent conductor of electricity. Anyone who touches the target of a Mi-Go Lightning Weapon attack will suffer the same effects.
THOUGHT TRANSFER: The Mi-Go usually communicate using telepathy. Without technical aids, they are unable to audibly speak. However, through a communication implant, they can understand and imitate human language.
SENSITIVITY TO LIGHT: Bright light is very uncomfortable for Mi-Go and they avoid it where they can, as it confuses their senses. In strong artificial light or in broad daylight, they receive a penalty of –20% on all tests.
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: Mi-Go have access to many different forms technology, each superior to anything humanity has developed. This includes Lightning Projection Weapons (see above) and Brain Cylinders (capable of keeping a human brain alive outside the body indefinitely).
RESILIANT TO PUNCTURE AND BULLETS: Damage from puncturing weapons and firearms is halved.
UNNATURAL ORGANISM: The fungal colony that serves as the physical body of a Mi-Go does not have any obvious weak points or vulnerable body areas. A CALLED SHOT to increase damage is therefore not possible, and critical success on an attack roll does not deliver double damage as normal. Their weird physical composition also makes them partially resistant to Lethal damage (see above).
SAN Loss: 1/1D8.
The Mi-Go are extremely intelligent. It is safe to assume that they have both economic and strategic goals on earth, where they are known to mine certain mineral resources. They would seem to have developed infrastructure, technology and suitable structures to support their mining activities. In some cases, they may even have entered into bargains or deals with corrupt human to help achieve their unknowable goals. In this way it is conceivable that some stray individuals might be acting as agents of the Mi-Go in human society.
Within our solar system, the Mi-Go’s primary base is the planet Yuggoth, which we call Pluto.
A second facet of Mi-Go behaviors is their intense scientific curiosity. Their biological experimentation extends beyond simple surgical manipulation of humans and animals. Indeed, given their extensive technological abilities and their outstanding knowledge of anatomy, biology, chemistry, etc., there is no end to the bizarre and clinical tests that the Mi-Go might carry out on terrestrial inhabitants.
The Mi-Go are known to worship some of the greater Unnatural Beings which comprise the Cthulhu Mythos. Most notably they demonstrate allegiance to Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, and Shub-Niggurath. It is possible that they are among the million minions of Nyarlathotep mentioned in some written accounts of the Unnatural. The same accounts hint at an enmity between the Mi-Go and a cult that reveres Hastur, with the latter cultists hunting down the fungi and eliminating them whenever the groups cross paths. Exactly why they do this remains unclear.
References / Sources
“The outer beings are perhaps the most marvelous organic things in or beyond all space and time-members of a cosmos-wide race of which all other life-forms are merely degenerate variants. They are more vegetable than animal, if these terms can be applied to the sort of matter composing them, and have a somewhat fungoid structure; though the presence of a chlorophyll-like substance and a very singular nutritive system differentiate them altogether from true cormophytic fungi. Indeed, the type is composed of a form of matter totally alien to our part of space — with electrons having a wholly different vibration rate. That is why the beings cannot be photographed on the ordinary camera films and plates of our known universe, even though our eyes can see them. With proper knowledge, however,any good chemist could make a photographic emulsion which would record their images.“ — The Whisperer in Darkness, Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
This week we released of the first three System Reference Documents for the Cthulhu Eternal RPG (Modern, Jazz Age, Victorian Era) … the culmination of many months of work by our tireless team of writers. Throughout the development process for this new iteration of the D100 system, we’ve been frequently running internal playtests of scenarios we hope to release in the near future.
One such playtest, held across December and January, was recorded in audio (~5 hours, split over 3 parts). If you are curious about how Cthulhu Eternal works at the game table you might like to take a listen.
The scenario is a nefarious mystery set in Victorian London and centering on bizarre goings-on at a theatre where a new play by Mr Oscar Wilde is rapidly approaching its opening night. The session recordings are linked below:
We are so, SO excited to today be announcing the first release of Cthulhu Eternal, our all-new, fully-open, anytime ruleset for creating Tabletop RPGs with a Lovecraftian influence.
The first batch of downloadable System Reference Documents (SRDs) is available right now via DriveThruRPG (where they’re technically listed as a Pay-What-You-Want release to allow folks who want to chip in a donation can do so, but we’re 100% fine with people taking the files for free).
Each PDF is approximately 100 pages, mostly comprising self-contained game mechanics which customize the common Cthulhu Eternal System in the context of a particular historical era. The DTRPG bundles also each include two double-sided character sheets designed for the specific era, as well as a “cheat sheet” to make it easier to learn a new flavor of Cthulhu Eternal if you’re already across the basics of the system.
So what is this all about? Does the world really need a new Lovecraft RPG System?
Some folks that have lurked here for a while will already have some context about why we spent the best part of a year making a new iteration of the D100-based rules engine first published in our APOCTHULHU RPG.
It’s definitely true that several fantastic tabletop RPGs exist with various influences from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. Some of them have huge libraries of published supplements stretching back decades. If you’re a player of one of those games and you are 100% happy with the rules engine they offer, then we heartily support you sticking with the game you love — we absolutely would, too.
If, on the other hand, you are a would-be game writer or publisher (or even a “homebrewer”) who has ambitions that are not easily achieved within the licensing regimes for existing games, our 100% open (as in Wizards of the Coast OGL flavor of “open”), Cthulhu Eternal might be your new best system.
We have long wished for a great set of English-language RPG rules that would empower creators to self-publish their original ideas and stretch the boundaries of the cozy “island” that most Lovecraftian RPGs have traditionally settled upon. Such a system exists in German (the absolutely awesome FHTAGN RPG) and that example inspired us to make something similar. Cthulhu Eternal is the result.
What’s in each Cthulhu Eternal SRD?
The idea of each System Reference Document is to provide a full set of rules — in text form only — that would allow someone to run a game set in the nominated era, and covering events that are common to Lovecraft-y game adventures.
In a nutshell, the 100-pages of each SRD is broken up like this:
Part One describes the rules of the game, and comprises:
A lengthy section describing Protagonists (the generic name given to player characters in Cthulhu Eternal games). This includes a description of all the game attributes that define a Protagonist — characteristics like Strength, Intelligence, Power, Charisma, etc., as well as Skills, Protagonist Bonds to other people and to communities, ratings for their relative access to Resources, as well as ratings that measure their mental stability.
A detailed but streamlined system for Combat, covering all the ways that Protagonists and their adversaries can attempt to deal damage, or avoid the hostile intentions of others.
A comprehensive Sanity system, which attributes damaging effects to Protagonists (and other characters) that result not just from encounters with the bizarre and/or Unnatural, but also from more mundane horrors such as witnessing or participating in violence.
Simple systems for describing special forms of equipment or vehicles that might become important to play.
A set of rules to allow players to explore what their Protagonists do during Downtime — times between adventures when they can interact with their loved ones, attempt to learn or recover, or even to plumb the depths of the Unnatural (not recommended).
Part Two of each SRD is designed for Game Moderators, and includes:
A system of game mechanics describing Maddening Revelations of the secret or hidden nature of reality, whether found in musty old tomes or chiseled into the walls of an ancient Mesopotamian ruin.
A set of rules for Supernatural Effects which might arise from encounters with extra-dimensional horrors, or via human dabbling into Rituals which unlock vast and generally unpleasant forces.
Because our SRDs are designed to be somewhat setting-neutral, they don’t include comprehensive bestiaries of alien creatures, nor do they describe libraries of Rituals which unleash the Unnatural on the world. Part Three of each SRD includes a set of guidelines to help in the creation of such adversaries and powers; also described are guidelines for making new character Archetypes, allowing a broader range of Protagonist types to be played.
Why multiple SRDs? Aren’t the rules basically the same for each?
When we sat down to design a general-purpose system that could support all manner of Lovecraft-inspired games, we initially thought that maybe a generic engine could do that. But the more we looked into it, the more we realized that a part of what makes the game feel “authentic” to a particular historic era (whether past or present) is its handling of some details particular to the era. How are the differing experiences of characters captured as skills? How does technology drive the types of medical or technical proficiencies that characters might have? How does the common labeling of of aberrant mental states shape people’s perception of SAN loss?
We soon realized that a set of rules that would work great for a high-tech modern-day game is going to feel pretty “inauthentic” when used to run a game set in ancient Greece. Sure the classical Greeks would have a use for a First Aid skill, but a Driving skill might need a little tweaking, and the concepts of things like Forensic Science or Anthropology or Firearms would need massive reworking to even make sense in that world. Similarly, the Protagonist Archetypes that are convenient shorthands for common character types vary a lot from era to era. To make something workable requires different “customizations” for each era.
However, we did still want to preserve the idea that all of these variant rulesets had a common foundation — that the core mechanics were largely similar regardless of which version one was playing.
We eventually struck on this model:
In essence, the very core mechanics of Cthulhu Eternal reside in a set of rules which define how dice are rolled and how characters attempt to achieve outcomes. We have grouped all of those unvarying things into a virtual “meta game” which is customized — or “localized” — to make them specific to a certain range of historical settings. This customization rewrites some of the rules, and fills in some gaps with era-specific rules (like weapons tables which are typical for the era). The SRDs we’re releasing today are examples of three such localizations.
The SRDs, though, are still kind of generic in that they are tied to a temporal setting but could be further tailored to different specific purposes. For example, the Victorian Era SRD we’ve released could, in theory, power a Sherlock Holmes style of London Sleuthing type RPG … but could equally be adapted to making a game of Wild West horror.
Our own plans are to use these SRDs in two different ways:
To make a few setting-specific games (for example a standalone Convicts & Cthulhu game that takes a future “Cthulhu Eternal Colonial Era SRD” and adds details particular to the early convict settlement of Australia
To publish standalone scenarios which bring with them just enough of their own “setting” that they can be played by someone using just the rules found in the SRD.
Obviously it’s still early days for Cthulhu Eternal and we have a lot of plans for it … but more importantly, we are excited to make it available for everyone to use — free, and without complex licensing. What fantastic creations will people use it for? We can’t wait to find out.
Again, you can grab the first batch of three SRDs using the links below. More to follow.