It is no secret that the Labs is a fan of Lovecraftian Horror. What is probably less known in these parts is my extreme dislike of anime. While there are a few gems out there that I like from the genre, for the most part anime offends my senses. So I am surprised I actually liked the setting for the new CthulhuTech game by Wildfire. The setting is a mash-up of the classic eldritch horror of Cthulhu and the giant robot mecha of Japanese animation.
CthulhuTech launches you more than half a century (2085) into the future where the once hidden threats of ancient evil have now been thrust upon humanity. The earth is embroiled in a war against the crustacean-insects from Pluto, the Migou, the hordes of alien monsters and cannibals of the Rapine Storm, and the more familiar secret societies that are in service to the Old Ones.
Much of Earth has fallen to these terrifying aliens, but the humans and the Nazzadi (an alien engineered race) meet them on the battlefield with giant robots and arcanotech. Even the aliens have mecha.
The setting pretty much leaves the door wide open on what kind of game you want to play with it. The obvious choices of Mecha vs. Monster and traditional “defeat the evil” adventures are there. But you could also play a game based upon political intrigue within the New Earth Government, investigative games trying to root out the conspiracy perpetrated by the Esoteric Order of Dagon, or even spy/espionage games using the evil Chrysalis Corporation and the guyver-esque symbiotic Tagers.
What is really nice is that the CthulhuTech core book provides two ready-to-run stories. So you have everything you need but dice to begin playing in one sourcebook.
CthulhuTech uses the Framewerk system for its mechanics. Framewerk is a cinematic storytelling system that is very reminiscent of White Wolf’s Storyteller system. It utilizes d10s, dice pools, and a wounding system (though it actually includes hit points too). The system includes an automatic success mechanic, which potentially reduces the amount of tests that need to be rolled.
Of particular interest is how Framewerk allows players to determine the results of a roll. You first determine the base, which is the score of the attribute associated with the test. Then you roll a number of dice equal to the rank of the associated skill. Then to determine the total you add your base to the highest result of the dice pool roll.
The trick is that Framewerk adds a little Poker to the mix. You may either add the highest single die roll, or you may add the sum of the highest set of multiples, or you may instead add the sum of a straight. For example, if you rolled five dice and the results were 10, 8, 8, 7, 6, you could take the 10, take 16 (8+8), or take 21 (8+7+6) and add that score to your base. If anything could cause confusion or burn time during play, it would be this part of the mechanic, but only until you got used to it.
Another feature that sets Framewerk apart is that you must declare the number of actions your character wants to take during his turn. A character, if able, can take up to three actions in a turn. If multiple actions are taken, a Test Penalty of -2 (for two actions) or -4 (for three actions) is applied to the character’s rolls.
Overall, the mechanics look pretty easy, once you get used to the Poker method of determining the result of a dice pool.
This game almost didn’t see the light of day. CthulhuTech was basically dumped so work could be completed on a licensed property by the first publisher that was lined up to take it on, Eos Press. Then the company, Osseum Entertainment picked it up, only to have the company close shop. Then various team had other obligations, such as military deployment.
Finally a business deal was developed with Mongoose Publishing and the book finally went to press, though there were some significant printer issues. Today there are two additional supplements. Dark Passions, which details the minor cults of the setting, adds some cult magic, and provides two stories. The there is Vade Mecum which expands the setting and provides new races, professions, rules, introduces para-psychics, and brings new mecha, tagers, and equipment to the game. Vade Mecum also provides two more stories.
CthulhuTech recently switched publishers again, this time to Catalyst Game Labs. But it looks like support won’t end there either as four more books are on their way.
Want to learn more about CthulhuTech? Read on…
- Atomic Array: Episode 013: CthulhuTech RPG
- Critical Hits: When Horror Meets Awesome: CthulhuTech
- Kore Dice: Interview with CthulhuTech’s Mike Vaillancourt
- Stan!: The Stars Will Be Right
- Arcane Underground: The Saga of CthulhuTech (Updated)
Drop by BattleCorps to pick up your copy today!