Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

CthulhuTech

CthulhuTech is a strange marriage of H.P. Lovecraft‘s Cthulhu mythos and japanese big robot anime series. CthulhuTech is also the first RPG by WildFire, a labor of love of just three people who created the game in their spare time. Knowing this makes the end result even more spectacular.

The rulebook is a beautiful 290 pages full-color hardcover book. When I first opened the book I was blown away by the artwork. The second thing I noticed that everything screams “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. And that’s a good thing. But let’s talk about the story of CthulhuTech first.

The game is set into the near future. It’s 2085 and humanity wages war against an ancient alien race, the Migou, who attack from space and against various cults who attack from within. The stars are right and dead gods have awakened and their gaze falls on Earth. The New Earth Goverment (short: NEG) utilizes cybernetic-organic mecha to fight against the alien invaders and the mecha of unspeakabe cults.

If you are a fan of japanese mecha anime and the Mythos, you will at once fall in love with CthulhuTech. The idea behind the setting is very cool, strangely familiar but also something refreshingly new. But I also fear that a lot of the psychological horror that’s part of Lovecraft’s stories will have to be thrown out of the door when you run a CthulhuTech campaign. The player are supposed to play soldiers in the so-called Aeon War and when you’ve dealed several times with strange alien mecha and other forces of the Mythos, you will probably get used to it. So in the end a Migou is just something like an orc in D&D.

But I haven’t had the chance to playtest the game, so perhaps it’s possible to establish a sense of dread common in Mythos stories even when the players’ character stomp around on battlefields across the solar system with huge humanoid warmachines.

The game uses a rules system dubbed Framewerk, that uses ten-sided dice and reminds me of White Wolf’s Storyteller system. There’s some kind of “poker game” built into the task resolution system that favor roll results that are multiples or straights. Like many modern roleplaying game, CthulhuTech doesn’t use classes or levels. There are several character templates that can be used when you don’t want to create characters totally from scratch, but their are meant as mere guidelines. The available templates are: Arcanotechnician (part scientist, part occult magician), Engel Pilot, Intelligence Agent, Mecha Pilot, Occult Scholar, Soldier and Tager (someone who has bonded with a supernatural symbiont).

Players can also choose between two races: humans and nazzadi. The Nazzadi were created by the migou from human DNA to fight humanity but they rebelled against their creators and now fight alongside humans. Did somebody say Zentraedi *cough*?

When you skim through the book you’ll notice that it’s full of background information, flavor text, everything you’ll consider “fluff”. Although you’ll find many things “borrowed” or “inspired” by anime series like Robotech or Neon Genesis Evangelion, the creators of CthulhuTech have created a highly detailed word in its own right. And since the book also contains a lot of NPC stats, vehicle stats, adventure hooks, etc. you can easily run a whole campaign without ever buying an additional sourcebook.

If you like mecha, SF, the Cthulhu Mythos, japanese anime and eldritch horror, you really should check out CthulhuTech. And if you need even more information on the world of the Aeon War, there’s already a CthulhuTech Companion available in stores and another title called Dark Passions is coming out soon.

The Lost Continent Illyria

Some time ago our fellow RPGBlogger Philippine Gamer has posted about a D&D 4th Edition campaign setting a member of his gaming group, R. Velasco, created: “The Lost Continent Illyria – A Renaissance Magiteck Setting”.
Although (or perhaps because) I am currently working on my own project “World of Asecia”, I had to check out his work.
And I was totally blown away. The setting is only 14 pages long but it’s very well written and uses some great artwork. The PDF document almost looks like a professional roleplaying sourcebook on par with WotC’s work.
Here’s an excerpt for your convenience:

Illyria is a setting where magic, fantasy and technology exist side by side.

Magitech, Portals and Magical skyships, espers and engineers, summoners, and gunknights. Illyria is an unforgiving monarchy where the blood of dragons promote a person’s identity and social status. But still heroes arise in the name of the Queen, or in the name of the Country. Never both.

If you are looking for some setting for your D&D game or some inspiration for your campaign check it out! You won’t regret it!

RIFTS Ultimate Edition – Just my two cents

When I today opened my mailbox I found an US airmail envelope with the RIFTS Ultimate Edition inside it. I ordered it some time ago after writing about my favorite post-apocalyptic settings. The first thing that surprised me was the hardcover format. I’ve owned a few Palladium Book titles in the past and they all have been softcover books and this is a welcome change. My original RIFTS book is already on the verge of falling and the hardcover book looks much sturdier.

But I was not surprised to see that the look and layout of RIFTS hasn’t changed much. Kevin Siembieda still uses the same font throughout the book he always used and the layout is still the two-column layout we all have seen so many times in all these years. So, even if the cover is brand new, the insides are all the same. Or is there still a glimpse of hope?

There is actually quite some new material and the organisation of the chapters has changed a bit. The book now starts with the information on the setting, followed by the O.C.C.s (Occupational Character Classes) and R.C.C.s (Racial Character Classes). A bit strange is the detail, that Siembieda gives details on Magic etc. before explaining the rules and some background information on Chi-Town is thrown in somewhere between magic and equipment.  But if you have successfully run a RIFTS campaign before you know what I mean.

The book is mainly black and white on normal paper with some color pages on glossy paper thrown in. There is some new art (at least I haven’t seen it), but there is a lot of art that has been used in the original RIFTS book. When you are used to roleplaying rulebooks like the more recent D&D 4E books you will be surely disappointed by this book. My copy is from the Third Printing dated July 2008 and it looks like from 20 years ago.

The rules are old-school as well. RIFTS contains quite a large number of tables and every class has it’s own levelling chart. If you are a friend of modern and streamlined rules systems you should avoid RIFTS (and every other Palladium Books game) like the plague. Especially the combat rules still are broken in my opinion. And it’s totally beyond me, why they forgot to include a character record sheet.

Ok, when you’ve read this post to this point, you obviously think that I hate RIFTS to the bottom of my heart. But that’s not true. I just LOVE the setting. The RIFTS Earth is a great place to do campaigns in and some of my most fond roleplaying memories are connected to RIFTS. I just can’t understand why Palladium Books is still clinging to these broken rules and why their books still look like they were layouted by an amateur during the late 80s. When I look at this book I get the feeling Kevin Siembieda was sitting at his desk with scissors and glue tinkering the book together. 

Another thing that annoys me is the fact that they never forget to put all that legal mumbo-jumpo all over the text. It’s just no fun to read an O.C.C.s description when there are (C), (R), and TMs all over the text. I understand that a company has to defend it’s intellectual property, but Palladium Books is just going to far.

I think that the Ultimate Edition looks better than the original RIFTS book but it’s far from being a perfect product. The over 375 pages long book is still worth it’s money if you can live with the subpar looks and the Palladium rules system. The setting has some very cool elements and opens up an endless playground for a creative GM.