<+PKSullivan> Hi! I’m PK Sullivan, the designer for Fate of Cthulhu. I was responsible for the moving bits of the game, from the timeline system to corruption to the slimmed down rewrite of the Fate Core rules
<+Sophie> Hi all, I’m Sophie Lagacé and I am project manager and Fate line developer for Fate of Cthulhu, a game for which the pitch was “Terminator, but what if Skynet was a Great Old One?”
<+PKSullivan> Fate of Cthulhu takes that premise and runs with it by presenting the players with a known timeline of the apocalypse. At least one player character is from the future and has experienced the future as their past. They’ve come back in time to try and make the future a little less bad than it is. Or was. Or will be. Tenses get weird with time travel.
<+Sophie> I note that the Kickstarter campaign, which ends around 3:30pm tomorrow, is about $29 from its next stretch goal.
<+Sophie> Oh, no, we jusy ding’d past!
<+Sophie> That means everybody who backs at the $20 level or higher will also receive the book in EPub and mobi (Kindle) files.
<+PKSullivan> The course of a FoC campaign is the heroes trying to change the future. But in doing so they also have to try and avoid becoming the very monsters they’re fighting against. Continued exposure to Old One technology and beings from outside time and space will slowly corrupt you – giving you extraordinary power but eventually damning you to become monsters
<~Dan> Thanks, PKSullivan and Sophie! The floor is open to questions!
<~Dan> What is the future that the time-traveler PC is fleeing?
<+Sophie> The rise of the elder gods!
<~Dan> How far in the future is it?
<+Sophie> Or at least, one particular Great Old One per timeline (mini-campaign.) This future is 30 years away or less.
<~Dan> And how is the time traveling accomplished?
<+PKSullivan> Through arcane rituals where you bind yourself to Yog-Sothoth and are hurled back in time.
<~Dan> That doesn’t sound healthy.
<+Sophie> Time travel, my sweet delicious humans, comes from Yog-Sothoth…
<+PKSullivan> It’s not a pleasant or easy thing >.<
<+Sophie> Time travel will @#$^ you up.
<+PKSullivan> In fact, because time travel is only available through the power of Yog-Sothoth, it always results in corruption
<+AndyC> Wow. So much for the first taste being free.
<~Dan> You should make a T-shirt that says that, Sophie.
<+PKSullivan> So right off the bat, any characters from the future will the incredible powers of being corrupted and be on the path toward damning themselves
<+PKSullivan> *will have
<+Sophie> No free ride!
<~Dan> Can you take back anything from the future, or do you arrive naked and afraid?
<+PKSullivan> Definitely the latter
<+Sophie> Naked and afraid it is.
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> How do you handle the time traveling PC’s foreknowledge of what’s going to happen?
<+PKSullivan> In our early design talks we decided that what makes time travel possible is the joining of a human soul to the power of Yog-Sothoth
<+PKSullivan> So that’s how we also limit the Old Ones sending back all their most fearsome monsters – they need at least some scrap of humanity to send back after you.
<+PKSullivan> As for foreknowledge, the game uses a timeline sheet. That’s public knowledge. It starts off with “this is how it happened”
<+PKSullivan> But as the PCs engage with the timeline and start doing things to change the future, they can start rewriting history
* ~Dan nods
<+PKSullivan> And I designed something called the Ripple Effect
<+PKSullivan> When you change the past, the other events you haven’t tackled yet can also change
<+PKSullivan> The GM keeps a running tally of positive and negative contributors to the timeline – we have a short list of both – and will check boxes when things go one way or the other
<+PKSullivan> When the timeline track is filled either way, they get cleared out and a ripple is checked
<+PKSullivan> That ripple lets the GM change one of the elements in one of the other events
<+PKSullivan> When the heroes are doing well and marking off lots of boxes, they’ll mark + ripples to improve the timeline
<+PKSullivan> When the horrible, squamous monsters are checking off lots of boxes, they mark – ripples that worsen the timeline
<~Dan> That’s clever.
<+AndyC> I like it.
<+PKSullivan> The ripple change catalysts and each event has four catalysts
<+PKSullivan> So when you assassinate the Pope because he’s been replaced by an evil thing from another dimension, that causes time to go differently and the key person involved in another event might be someone else
<+PKSullivan> Or maybe the location of that event changes
<+PKSullivan> It could be that the Pope was pushing to have an artifact displayed in Rome as part of the Old One’s plan but with the Pope gone (and the heroes having earned a + ripple) that changes the timeline so that the artifact in this other event is now ina remote lab
<+PKSullivan> This becomes part of the GM’s prep between sessions.
<+Sophie> And those coming back from the future don’t know *everything*.
<+PKSullivan> Looking at the ripples and playing around with the timeline. The players don’t find out about the changes until they play again and things are different or not how they seem.
<+Sophie> There are GM-only details.
* ~Dan nods
<+PKSullivan> Or maybe someone new from the future comes back and is talking about a different future
<~Dan> I gather that time is strictly linear in this setting?
<+PKSullivan> The events of the timeline can be played in any order
<+PKSullivan> Though there won’t be a lot of time jumping by the players, for a few reasons
<~Dan> Oh, no — I mean linear in the sense that there’s only one timeline at play.
<+PKSullivan> That’s a bit harder to answer, actually
<~Dan> Rather than forking alternate timelines.
<+PKSullivan> It’s closest to the way Terminator works (or more recently, Avengers Endgame) in that you can change the future but never your past
<+PKSullivan> Everything you’ve experienced and done and learned, etc. happened to you; you won’t paradox yourself out of existence
<~Dan> I see.
<+PKSullivan> But there’s no reality hopping or forking paths to jump across. You’re stuck in the one timeline, that you can change
<+Sophie> But you can double up!
<~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, Pinwiz11!)
<+PKSullivan> Yeah, if another you from the new future comes back in time you can run into them
<~Dan> Did you have any concerns about the humanity requirement for time travel making the setting too humanocentric for the uncared Lovecraftian universe?
<+Sophie> I think we understood the soul requirement as “sentience.”
<+PKSullivan> This is also a Fate game and more action horror than most Cthulhian works. Definitely Lovecraft by way Terminator. Our heroes are capable and motivated.
* ~Dan nods
<+PKSullivan> The universe may not care but the heroes are determined to change the future.
<~Dan> Sophie: Does that mean something like a Mi-Go could time travel?
<+Sophie> Oh, many things can pop up from the future, following you. Surprise!
* ~Dan chuckles
<+AndyC> Like, say, the obligatory cultists who like the messed-up future just the way it will be, thanks?
<+PKSullivan> Or who may even want to make it worse intentionally
<+Sophie> Sure! Although I tend to think of cultists as contemporary, and things from beyond as more… alien.
<~Dan> “Wow, this apocalypse can’t get any worse.” “Hold my beer.”
<+AndyC> “So, I can go back in time and make sure things happen like they should, and I get MORE POWER? What do you want me to sign the contract in, blood,, ichor, bile, cerebrospinal fluid? Let’s go, time’s a-wasting!”
<+PKSullivan> Pretty much. The heroes can make the future worse accidentally but there are definitely some “for the glory of Cthulhu!” types who would try to make it worse.
<~Dan> Can you say a bit about how corruption works in the system?
<+PKSullivan> Sure. Corruption is a few interlocking pieces. You have Corrupted Aspects, Corruption Stunts, and the Corruption Track.
<+PKSullivan> Corrupted Aspects are part of your character sheet. When you complete the Corruption Track and gain a level of corruption, you corrupt an aspect on your sheet. Re-write it to reflect the horrible change you’ve gone through.
<+PKSullivan> One of my favorite examples is a Corrupted Aspect “Whispers of Yog-Sothoth” for a character playing a modern day Cassandra
<+PKSullivan> Right there you can see how that can be a powerful aspect. Yog-Sothoth exists everywhere and everywhen; hearing its whispers can give you great knowledge. But… the unending whispers can also be giving you bad info and be irritating
<+Sophie> They used it on The Redacted Files podcast recently: (Link: http://www.theredactedfiles.com/?p=4395)http://www.theredactedfiles.com/?p=4395
<+Sophie> It was fun to listen to.
<+PKSullivan> A Corrupted Aspect should be something that is much more blatantly negative, that the GM can compel more often than not
<+PKSullivan> To go along with the Corrupted Aspect you also get a Corruption Stunt. This is more powerful than a normal stunt, giving a +4 instead of a +2 and generally gives you superhuman abilities
<+PKSullivan> However, to use your Corruption Stunt you need to check a box on the Corruption Track, which is only four boxes long and once it’s filled up you gain a level of corruption, re-write another aspect, and gain another Corruption Stunt
<+PKSullivan> So you have this incredible power that can make you wildly potent and able to change the timeline that is also pushing you toward becoming the very monster you’re fighting
<~Dan> At what point does the player lose control of the character?
<+PKSullivan> When they run out of aspects
<+PKSullivan> Once you corrupt your final aspect you have been given over to the Old One; you have lost so much of yourself that you’re not really human anymore.
<+Sophie> Bringing “success at a cost” very close. You can even sacrifice _everything_ through the Heroic Sacrifice mechanic.
<~Dan> Can you give some examples of powers you can gain via corruption?
<+PKSullivan> That’s always an option; if you see that you’re closing in on becoming a monster you can turn to the GM and declare a heroic last stand. You get to do a big, important thing but at the cost of the character’s life
<+Sophie> So you might salvage that event that was going pear-shaped, and not make the timeline worse.
<+PKSullivan> That modern Cassandra archetype is able make Lore checks with a +4 when trying to find Old One information
<+Sophie> But… you need a new character sheet.
<+PKSullivan> Or you could see a few seconds into the future and get a ‘rewind’ button that lets you reroll your dice with a +2
<+PKSullivan> Stephen’s fond of “Shoggoth’s Left Arm” which gives you a +4 bonus to brute force attacks and breaking walls and things
<+PKSullivan> I’m not sure if it made it into the final manuscript, but there was one Corruption Stunt that gave you a venomous bite
<+PKSullivan> And since this is Fate, we give you a few examples but also a template for how to write your own. Anyone can think up their own horrible mutations and the wonderful powers they give you!
<~Dan> How visually obvious is corruption?
<+Sophie> It gets worse as you get more corrupted aspects.
<+PKSullivan> Depends on the corruption but the default is that people will notice something is off about you if you don’t take steps to hide it
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> Aside from corruption, what other tweaks did you make to the standard Fate rules?
<+PKSullivan> Added in provisions for one-sided damage
<~Dan> Can you explain that?
<+PKSullivan> Generally in Fate if you can hurt one another it’s a conflict. In Fate of Cthulhu there are situations where the heroes simply can’t hurt the monster – but the monster can and wants to hurt them.
<~Dan> Ah, I see.
<+PKSullivan> So we now have a set of rules within Contests for one-sided damage. As the heroes are working to escape from the monster, the cost of their failures can come in the form of stress and consequences because the monster is digging into them as they’re running
* ~Dan nods
<+PKSullivan> It’s a pretty light hack, all things considered, but I felt it was important to have that in there to keep the suspense up. Model the scene from Terminator where Sarah and Reese are running through the machine shop or factory or whatever
<~Dan> Right, right.
<+PKSullivan> They can’t hurt the T-800 but if they don’t get away from it, it will hurt them
<+PKSullivan> So I just made that explicit in the rules; I’m sure some GM has been doing it for years and will tell me eventually
<~Dan> Heh. 🙂
<~Dan> You mentioned corrupting technology earlier. Can you give some examples?
<+PKSullivan> We operate on the principle of “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” with the twist of “Any sufficiently _weird_ technology is indistinguishable from magic”
<+PKSullivan> The Old Ones don’t have magic but it’s how we are able to process their technology, since it doesn’t abide by the laws of our reality
<+PKSullivan> Spells and what not are just you interacting with the Old One tech or using the principles of Old One science to accomplish something
<+PKSullivan> But that exposure is corrupting. The more you use it, the more it becomes a part of you and changes you
<+Sophie> Side note: just heard from Stephen, he won’t be able to join us after all.
<~Dan> Awww… That’s too bad.
<~Dan> So if the PCs get ahold of an Elder Thing molecular disruptor, it will corrupt them with every shot?
<+PKSullivan> Pretty much, yeah
<+PKSullivan> It’s not a case of each shot is one corrupted aspect but it does march you down that road
<+Sophie> But remember, it’s five points, or up to five uses, before the next corrupted aspects. Come on, don’t you want to save humanity?
<+PKSullivan> A number of the MacGuffins in the timelines are Old One artifacts that act as corruption fountains. Their very existence in our world corrupts those around them. Which is why having one in a major city is very, very bad
<~Dan> Is the Mythos working in the open in the modern day timeline, or is it still mostly unknown?
<&Le_Squide> Is that a one way street?
<&Le_Squide> Wup, got a big hiccup there; that was in question to the Corruption stress track
<+PKSullivan> @ Le_Squide: it’s pretty close to a one-way street. It’s very hard to rid yourself of corruption. If you don’t mark any boxes on your corruption track for a whole session you clear one box in your track.
<+PKSullivan> But once you’ve corrupted an aspect, the only way to clear that up is if one of your allies makes a heroic last stand and chooses to remove your corruption as their powerful effect.
<&Le_Squide> Ah! So there, but at a cost. Neat.
<&Le_Squide> Any particular Macguffins/artifacts you came up with that you particularly like?
<~Dan> Speaking of molecular disruptors, do you use damage ratings for weapons? IIRC, Fate doesn’t use them by default.
<+Sophie> And to answer earlier Dan’s question, IIRC in all timelines the Mythos is a secret thing until the arrival of the Great Old One, which is the very event that prompted you to go back into the past.
<+PKSullivan> Le_Squide, the story and scenario designs mostly came from Stephen who couldn’t make it. I do like the King in Yellow, though. In our world it can spawn new versions of itself and it propagates itself as a meme in online communities
<+PKSullivan> Dan, I’d have to check. There were drafts where weapon ratings were used in Corruption Stunts
<+PKSullivan> But I’m not sure if that made it through the final pass
<+Sophie> We took them out in the end, I believe.
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> If you took them out, how do you make Mythos weapons even a temptation?
<+PKSullivan> Because what else can even hurt some of these monsters?
<~Dan> I see.
<+Sophie> That’s just it. Some monsters can only be hurt by very specific things, so having the right weapon gives you permission to hit!
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> Do the Elder Gods (Nodens, etc.) appear in this setting?
<+Sophie> Copyright-wise, we have been sticking to public domain material, so the Mythos espansions by later authors don’t appear.
<~Dan> Nodens was created by HPL, to my knowledge.
<+Sophie> Right now we have Cthulhu, Dagon, The King in Yellow, Shub-Niggurath, and Nyarlathotep;
<~Dan> What about races that are more neutral towards humanity, like the Great Race of Yith or the Elder Things?
<+Sophie> And the stretch goals will include Azathoth, Yig, Yog-Sothoth, and Hastur. Several of our KS backers have talked about the Great Race of Yith, maybe one of our authors will include it.
<+Sophie> But for the first batch we aimed for Great Old Ones.
* ~Dan nods
<+Sophie> I expect, there may be fan-created timelines in the… future.
* ~Dan chuckles
<+Sophie> Not that I have been there or anything.
<&Le_Squide> Hmm. How does Dagon’s timeline differ from cthulhu’s? This may mostly be a CoCism, but I’m used to seeing Dagon basically being Cthulhu’s footman
<+PKSullivan> Since the premise of the game is “What if Skynet was Cthulhu” we definitely went very antagonistic. I think if more ambivalent beings were included they would be on the sidelines or pawns of a more malevolent force
<~Dan> I don’t suppose you include the Dreamlands, do you?
<+Sophie> @Dan: we do. A bit.
<~Dan> Oh? How so?
<+Sophie> @Le_Squide: Cthulhu’s agenda is to touch /everything/ and raise R’lyeh, while Dagon is trying to make more little Deep Ones and take them to an undersea kingdom.
<+Sophie> @Dan: Nyarlathotep uses the Dreamlands to walk into people’s dreams.
<+Sophie> There is no big adventure-n-the-Dreamlands written up, though.
<~Dan> Ah. Sneaky bastard.
<+Sophie> Little Nemo in Slumberland…
<+PKSullivan> Le_Squide The agendas that Sophie mentions is a guide on how to play each Old One specifically. Cthulhu leans heavily on corrupting those around you; Dagon’s agenda is more paranoid and xenophobic, he’s not above sending the human cops after you
<+PKSullivan> The Great Old One agendas are my attempt to Fate-ify Fronts from Apocalypse World. It gives each GOO a goal, drive, and series of tactics to use in play that are thematically linked to help the GM make Cthulhu “feeling” moves
<+Sophie> *burble* “Hello, I wouldbblike to repplbort a crime…”
* ~Dan laughs
<~Dan> Officer: “This report seems fishy.”
<+Sophie> (BTW, the GOO agenda, etc., are tremendously useful for the GM. In my humble and unbiased opinion.)
<+PKSullivan> So where one of Dagon’s responses is “Having information about the PCs unexpectedly broadcast to the public.” Cthulhu’s responses include things like “Have a key allied NPC betray the PCs inexplicably, maybe even without that NPC’s knowledge.”
<~Dan> How aware are the GOOs about the time traveler(s)? Can Future Cthulhu communicate with Present Cthulhu in some manner?
<+PKSullivan> They are definitely aware and not happy about it but they also don’t have a ton of tools to deal with it directly.
<+PKSullivan> The culmination of each timeline is Rise of the Great Old One – so Cthulhu can’t manifest directly to swat you down; things have to run their course first. The GOO will act through their agents and by corrupting influence
<+Sophie> Yog-Sothoth should be an interesting one, since the adversary is the very source of time travel. I expect shenanigans,
<+Sophie> (To be written by Ash Cheshire.)
<+PKSullivan> Whether Cthulhu can send messages back to itself… well, that’s up to the GM, I suppose. It certainly sounds cool and is a time travel trope so I expect someone will use it
<~Dan> I forget the name of it, but there’s some aspect of Yog-Sothoth that’s supposed to be less hazardous to deal with. I think Randolph Carter traveled through time with his/its help.
<+Sophie> That’s where we got the idea of using YS for time travel, IIRC.
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> Back, sorry.
<+Sophie> No worries.
<~Dan> Do you include a bestiary of Mythos critters?
<+Sophie> A few general ones, but mostl;y we make them specific to each time line.
<~Dan> And you said it’s one particular GOO rising in each timeline?
<+Sophie> So there is a certain replay value. For example, You might first face the King in Yellow, then Hastur…
<+Sophie> Like season 1 and season 2.
<~Dan> How might the PCs thwart the stars becoming right? Seems like that would be quite out of their control.
<+Sophie> Do you mean, an actual stellar alignment>
<+PKSullivan> Changing the stars isn’t something they’ll get into but changing the confluence of earthly events more our thing
<+Sophie> The PCs are working on a much lower level, the four events that marked the rise of the GOO in their original timeline.
<+Sophie> Who knows whether old Al-Hazred was being literal or figurative?
<~Dan> Al-Hazred a guess, though.
<~Dan> Thank yew! Tip your waitress!
<~Dan> What makes Fate a good system for this setting?
<+Sophie> Fate being all about capable, pro-active characters leading exciting lives, I’d say the Terminator style is a great match.
<+Sophie> Plus since Fate PCs are sturdy, you can toss a lot of monsters at them without remorse.
<~Dan> Heh. 🙂
<~Dan> Oh… Do you include any sort of sanity mechanic?
<+Sophie> Being tough is what gives them a /chance/ of survival. And ixnay on the anity-say.
<+Sophie> We do not like that trope, no sirre.
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
<+Sophie> We like characters that remain capable or become more so until the end, not a slow descent into ineffectiveness.
<+Sophie> And we are not fond of role-playing metal illnesses for giggles.
<+PKSullivan> I think the biggest thing for us is how different this is from most Lovecraftian games
<+PKSullivan> This isn’t Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green, which always struck me as a big nihilistic
<+PKSullivan> Fate of Cthulhu has a lot of hope in its stories, it’s a desperate hope driven by seeing the world end but it’s hope for a better future
<+Sophie> Not covered yet: at our backers’ request, we created a Fate Accelerated conversion guide, just three pages and a character sheet.
<~Dan> That sounds handy.
<~Dan> Before I forget: If you’ve enjoyed this Q&A and would like to treat me to a coffee, you can do so at (Link: https://ko-fi.com/gmshoe)https://ko-fi.com/gmshoe 🙂
<~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, guys!
<+Sophie> Thank you for inviting us!
<~Dan> If you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you!