Author: Dean Engelhardt, Chad Bowser, Jo Kreil
Publisher: Cthulhu Reborn
Page Count: 73
Available Formats: PDF

The fine folks at Cthulhu Reborn we kind enough to provide us with a preview of the new APOCTHULHU Quickstart Rules that were just released on 29 May 2020. In the days leading up to the release, I have been reading through this 73 page PDF and trying to wrap my head around this very different game.

Let me set the tone of this game for you. A world of your own devising has risen from the ashes of a Lovecraftian inspired apocalypse and the survivors, the player characters, have banded together with the hopes of surviving and thriving in this end of times post-apocalyptic environment. They search for ways to recover civilization as they once knew it or just the essentials to survive another day. The bottom line here is the world is dark and gritty with Lovecraftian mythos vibes woven into its very fabric.

What game engine powers APOCTHULHU? The game is actually a hybrid of elements from several Open Gaming Licenses that include the OGL from Wizards of the Coast, Delta Green from Arc Dream Publishing, and Legend from Mongoose Publishing. The writing team has also created new rules to round out the rules set. Gamers familiar with any of these game systems will see common elements carried over and should help ease the learning curve.

Speaking of learning, the Quickstart Rules include everything you need to play this game. No need to own any other books. Familiarity with any of the “parent” systems is not required. The rules do a fine job of explaining how the rules work. While the rules of “how to play” are rather short, they are detailed enough to get players up and running without any difficulties. I would imagine the eventual core book will elaborate and expand much of these rules to add more detail, narrative emphasis, and some granularity.

At its core, the game is utilizing the D100-based system and a bonds system that we see in Delta Green. Percentile based games are very easy for new and veteran gamers to quickly learn and understand. The bonds, tie the survivors to others within the community and to the community itself and serve as a source of stability and anchoring. These bonds will be tried and test during the course of play. The value assigned to them at the start of a game will change, and the change reflects the changing relationships survivors have.

The game’s overarching tone is, as previously mentioned, very dark and foreboding. Traditional Lovecraftian games are rooted in either investigation or “scare” horror; APOCTHULHU is very different. While survivors are investigating how to survive or regain some piece of history from a time before the apocalypse, there is an ever-present dismal tone to their very existence. Not only do they need to succeed in finding whatever they are looking for (the objective of a scenario), but basic survival is an underlying premise as well.

APOCTHULHU is not a location-specific setting in which to play, but rather an engine used to run games in a post-Lovecraftian setting of the Game Moderator’s own devising. The tone of that setting will be reflective of the GM and the type of game they want to convey to their players. In that sense, they can ramp up or scale back various aspects of the game’s tones and thematic elements.

What am I getting in the Quickstart? The 73-page Quickstart gives you everything you need to create your survivors, moderate the game, and a short introductory scenario with six pre-generate survivors to get playing right away. At 73 pages, this is about 30 pages longer than the typical Quickstart rules. Don’t let that put you off. The pre-generated survivors are included within the first 44 pages; that core of the Quickstart book. The included scenario, Amber Waves, written by Chad Bowser, is 28 pages long.

The PDF itself is heavily-illustrated and in full-color; to include colored backgrounds that some readers may or may not like. Cthulhu Reborn has recognized that some people prefer a clean background and have enabled a feature to globally turn page-backgrounds off/on via buttons in the PDF. I don’t personally think they are all that distracting, but if you were to print it out, I would most definitely turn them off to save ink.

Final thoughts – All-in-all, this is a very different mythos/Lovecraftian themed game that will appeal to a select audience of gamers. I think fans of more traditional Lovecraftian themed games with either enjoy the change of theme or will find it not to their liking. Fans of post-apocalyptic games, of which there are many fans, will be the ones to find the game most appealing in theme and tone. For me, I am intrigued to see where the game and product line go in the future, but before I pass judgment on the theme of the game, I will at least put it through its paces. I am interested enough in post-apocalyptic themes, and I love Lovecraftian themes that I’d like to see if it does work together for my gaming group. I have my reservations, but we’ll see.

~ Modoc

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