I’ve got a real soft spot for tentacle-mouthed monstrosities, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve been following the progress of Fate of Cthulhu. This Fate Core sourcebook from Evil Hat Productions intends to mash up the world-ending eldritch horrors of Cthulhu and his pals with the time traveling goodness of Terminator 2. Now that the project is on Kickstarter, we can finally take a closer look at this delightfully sinister mashup.
In Fate of Cthulhu, the Great Old Ones are digging their sinister tentacles into the present in order to bring about their apocalyptic future. The players—a mixture of time-travelers from this dark future and modern-day heroes—must use their knowledge of the future to combat the Great Old Ones’ machinations and prevent their rise on Judgement Day. When I interviewed game designers PK Sullivan and Stephen Blackmoore back in April, they likened the game to “Cthulhu as Skynet,” also saying:
The concept of the game is at least one of the player characters is going back in time to change the future, because the Old Ones arose, they completely destroyed the Earth or just made things horrible, and the surviving resistance has managed to find a way to send a person back in time with knowledge of the future so that they can try to change it and prevent that future from coming up. What we’ve done from a gameplay perspective is we’ve developed a system where you actually change the timeline over the course of play.
What this means in practice is that players start the campaign off with some knowledge of the events the lead up the Great Old One’s rise. As they work towards preventing that rise, however, their actions change the timeline and their knowledge of the future becomes less and less reliable. To make matters even worse, players’ interactions with the Great Old Ones will cause them to grow more and more corrupt, forcing them to creep ever closer to becoming the very same monsters that they fight. In other words, don’t expect a picnic. Maybe don’t even expect to live. PK Sullivan even told me in our interview,
One of our big goals was to avoid the shiny happy unicorn possibility. There should never be an outcome in this game where the future is just bright shining roses and everybody has unicorns and nothing is ever bad. That is not Cthulhu and we don’t want that to be the way it is.
That intent to create a setting filled with unavoidable despair is one of the things that really piqued my interest in Fate of Cthulhu, but what really hooked me was the villains. Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, the King in Yellow, Shub-Niggurath, and Dagon all take turns as the main antagonists in Fate of Cthulhu’s different timelines, and each possesses a unique motivation and toolkit for affecting the world around them. PK Sullivan and Stephen Blackmoore both had interesting things to say about the villains.
PK Sullivan: Here each Old One has an agenda and it gives them a number of different elements for the GM to lean on, including their goals, like ultimately what is their world-conquering goal; their drive, what they want to get out of the world; their minions; their tactics, which are basically thematic responses of that Great Old One. Because Cthulhu isn’t going to respond to a threat the same way that Dagon does or the King in Yellow [does]. Cthulhu is all about madness and dreams and corruption, so the tools that Cthulhu has at their disposal are very different from the King in Yellow’s. The King in Yellow responds to a threat by birthing new copies of the plague and starting new cults and things like that, whereas Cthulhu is much more likely to figure out who is the threat and then corrupt someone close to them.
Stephen Blackmoore: We tried to make them unique that way and also the scenarios themselves and the events and all that. I tried to make sure that they were as different from each other as possible and not just in a matter of “Okay, well Cthuluhu does this and Nyarlathotep does this,” but also the world you’re starting from is different. We’ve got one where the the Earth was ravaged by a plague before the Old Ones came and that just made everything worse. We’ve got another one where Antarctica explodes. The whole thing. All the volcanoes go up. Things like that. We just really made sure that we kept them as unique as possible.
The estimated 256-page sourcebook will contain mechanics for corruption and the affects it has on players, a system for tracking the events in the timeline, five example timelines along with rules for GMs to make their own, rules for rituals and spells that tap into the Great Old Ones’ powers, and some adjustments to the Fate Core rules that make them better suited for the eldritch horror setting. People who are new to the Fate system will also be pleased to know that Fate of Cthulhu is a standalone sourcebook—it contains all the rules needed for play so that you and your friends don’t need to download copies of Fate Core before you can play Fate of Cthulhu (although you can for free right here)
You can pledge $10 or more to get immediate access to a PDF of the current prototype. If you like what you see in the prototype, you can up your pledge to $20 or more to get the final PDF once it’s officially published. Pledging $35 or more gets you the physical hardcover version. Pledging at the higher tiers can get you some more physical goods and discounts on multiple copies of the game. The Kickstarter is set to end at the end of May and has already passed its initial goal of $20,000, as well as its first stretch goal of $30,000 to add some additional goodies and polish to the PDF and hardcover versions. For every $10,000 after that (up to $100,000), Evil Hat plans to add an additional campaign timeline to the digital versions.
Though I’m normally wary of any and all crowdfunding endeavors, I think that Evil Hat has rightfully earned a lot of trust in this area. After successfully Kickstarting Fate Core back in 2013, Evil Hat went on to successfully Kickstart and deliver on numerous other projects. With that much crowdfunding experience, I have a hard time doubting their ability to deliver on this product as well. And thank goodness for that, because I need more squamous tentacle monsters in my games.