So on the heels of Should it Blend I wanted to bring in a very blended genre game.
Two great tastes that taste??? Well that will be up to you.
So the setting for Cthulhu Tech is a blend of Anime Sci Fi and Cthulhu horror. Strangely anime seems to go with anything, and so does Cthulhu. And the writers for this setting really jumped on the idea. In some ways it reminds me of the epic setting for Macross/Robotech. But instead of Robotech Masters or Invid you have the MiGo running the show in the background. You also get a bit of Guyver and Neon Genesis Evangilon or any of the other mecha anime where there is actually a living mind behind the workings of the mecha. Amazingly they blend it well.
I have to say that the setting itself, the fiction and art around it, all make this a rather compelling idea. I can really see why the authors would not give up until they could get the game published in a full color format. And as that hint would suggest the creators had a bit of a challenge getting the book off the ground. Read the wiki for more details but this games publication is a story of persistence in regards to the creators. In that regard alone I think that it should be in the library of anyone who has any interest in anime or Cthulhu so that the authors can keep working, and that other small press publishers will see that taking a risk and pushing for your vision can pay off.
The game mechanics in this engine are a little unconventional and yet completely basic at the same time. Roll dice. Get high numbers. Beat difficulty. Ok so that is the basic side. Now to the unconventional. You have options as to how to get the high number. To use an extreme example lets say you roll six dice. Your dice come up as 4,5,6,7,7, and 8. Now then you could take the 8 as it is your highest die. You could also add together the 7’s for a total of 14. Or since you rolled more than three dice you could add the 4,5, and 6 as they form a straight for a total of 15. So you have many options to win a die roll. You also have to fear 1’s as they cause bad things… more 1’s means more bad… so yeah… if you had rolled those six dice and they all came up ones… I would be thinking about creating a new character… even if the roll was for getting out of bed in the morning. Personally I like the versatility in this kind of dice mechanic. It can skew probability in the favor of the die roller, but considering that the game is lethal in its challenge level… yeah dying is easy. I think this compensates well. That and it build hope which can be crushed and that adds to the Cthulhu factor.
Speaking of the Cthulhu factor, lets talk about bad guys. There are actually a lot of them in this setting. And they all want to either take over or destroy the world. So you have epic baddies. You have the Mi-Go with their manufactured humanoids (who join the humans, well the humanoids do anyway) and giant space mecha and weapons. You have the underwater servants of Cthulhu who have both mechs and magic. You have the evil cults that have magic and madness. And then you have the evil corporation/cult that is using bio-demonic power suits to try and run the show behind the scenes. Now then what is really interesting is that while this sounds like a lot of fronts to be fighting on (and if you have to do them all it really is) but depending on the origin of your characters and the place you are joining into the worlds story from you will only usually go against one or two of them. But you CAN get into all of them. This is another one of those things that feeds into the Cthulhu factor. The more your character knows about all the fights going on, all the foes around them, the harder it can be to go on, because it all seems so hopeless.
The game engine for character generation is another one of those that seems a little blended. You have an occupation, so there is a template to start with. However you have points to build with so you have a lot of control over what goes where and why. You are also not limited to your template in your skill selection. So you have the ability to be much more than your job title would suggest. This part of the system to me is a little clunky but not something that cant be overcome by the calm and judicious application of a couple a house rules. You wont need to mod the rules, just compensate a little.
Combat is also a little clunky, but that stems more from the dice resolution system. It can make choosing your roll a little difficult, and it really makes you feat rolling 1’s. All those positives I mentioned in the dice mechanic can… well fall apart on you in combat quickly. And honestly I think they did that on purpose… again to strip hope and once again heighten the Cthulhu factor.
So how do I distribute the numbers on this one…
Overall Fluff 5/5 – The detail in the background, the fiction, and the art in this game all fuel the setting in a way that few publishers even think about achieving. I can not put it much better than that.
Overall Crunch 3/5 – The rules are fine, but you will need to make a few tweaks to make it really run well. The challenges are not insurmountable by any means, and some of the issues with the rules actually help fuel the dark side of the game if you play it straight.
Overall Mod 3/5 – Not too hard to mod. But you have to be careful of modding too far otherwise you will blow the aesthetic of the game. Usually I would not mind even a bad game engine that I can fix, but this is a pretty good game engine that is not easy to tweak without paying for it elsewhere in the game. If that was on purpose the authors have a better grip on that whole Cthulhu factor than I would have imagined.
Overall Fun 5/5 – Ok so for me it is hard not to enjoy these two flavors on their own. The rules work, the options are awesome, and there are so many story elements that you can make an epic campaign that will blow the minds of many. This sort of game is fun for me as a player or a GM.
Total Score 16/20 – Not a bad overall score at all. Honestly this game is one I rarely get to play, and the only thing that can put a damper in my playing of it is a bad group of players.
So there you have it. Please though as always take a look at it on your own and see if its right for you. Dont just take my word for it. Make up your own mind.
Ok so gimme the dice… I have four dice to make breakfast and… oh dear.. .. .. .. .. I did not know we had He Who Should Not Be Named cereal with the Yellow King surprise inside…