Cthulhu Rising is the kind of sci-fi Call of Cthulhu setting that everyone's been waiting for. Unlike Cthulhutech, it doesn't have anime elements. Unlike End Time, it's not limited to Mars. Unlike Yellow Dawn, it's not a post-apocalyptic setting. Cthulhu Rising is basically Aliens, only Mythos beasts replace the xenomorphs. Things have come full circle: Lovecraft influenced H.R. Giger, who designed the namesake Alien from a lithograph titled Necronom IV, which appeared in a book Giger titled…Necronomicon.
That said, Cthulhu Rising is not about the end times per se. It's about playing Call of Cthulhu in space, with big spaceships and bigger guns. Everything else in the setting is a justification to get the vibe of John Carpenter's muscular take on action horror.
Cthulhu Rising begins with a timeline that posits several unlikely possibilities: that the United Nations takes over the Middle East conflict and brokers a peace agreement that ends with Jerusalem becoming an independent city. The European Federation, a group of no less than 40 countries, becomes a powerful superstate that conveniently sections off most of Europe into one homogenized block. None of this seems likely today, but it certainly provides a convenient means of getting humanity into space by solving all those pesky political problems.
After the somewhat unlikely timeline is a section about the various political ruling bodies, their colonies, the mega corporations who rule space, and finally some info on what the Mythos have been up to. Cthulhu's still sleeping, ghouls are still meeping, the Mi-Go have moved off Yuggoth, and Shub-Niggurath is still popular with fertility cults. That's it. Not a whole lot has changed. There's also a timeline of Mythos events, including the fact that Miskatonic University was destroyed by a "terrible storm" in 2014 – echoes of Lumley's Titus Crow series. There are also a few cults that risen to power, including the Illuminati, the Military Sciences Division, and the Seaborne Foundation. The Illuminati seem like an anachronistic flourish when the world is otherwise such a changed place in 2271.
There's a variety of character generation options, ranging from the android (from Aliens) to the company suit (from Aliens) to the Soldier (you get the idea). Speaking of androids, they are a major distinguishing feature that reinforces the fact that the game takes place in the future…but the rules are missing from this monograph. Android creation rules are available at http://www.cthulhurising.co.uk under the Downloads section, but there's no way to know that from this PDF. The site is mentioned exactly twice, which is unfortunate because the additional rules at that site really round out the Cthulhu Rising setting.
Skill tweaks are identified along with an expansion of psychic rules. The downside of psychic use is that whenever a psychic fails a power check, they suffer a loss of 1 Sanity, or worse, fumble and suffer even more far-ranging psychic effects. The powers are all standard to sci-fi campaigns but not Call of Cthulhu, particularly the ability to heal or regenerate lost limbs.
The equipment section demonstrates a problem with Cthulhu Rising – it's not all that different from any other campaign. There are a few different weapons that use energy are alternate projectiles, but for the most part Cthulhu Rising feels like modern Earth with the serial numbers filed off. Then again, that was the appeal of Aliens – it felt familiar enough to relate to the plight of the working class characters but alien enough to allow for, well, Aliens.
Cthulhu Rising is the baseline standard for a sci-fi Call of Cthulhu game. But it's less a campaign setting and more a set of rules to run your own campaign. Keepers looking to combine the Mythos with hard science fiction will have to look elsewhere. But for those of us who want to shoot Mythosmorphs, chew bubblegum, and take names, this will do nicely.
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