Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eldritch Skies

Eldritch Skies is the new SF/Lovecraft/alt-history game from Battlefield Press.

A few disclaimers are in order first I think.
1. I have worked with John Snead in the past ("The Magic Box" for Buffy) and personally think he is a great guy. 2. I reviewed a playtest copy of this several months ago to "check the math" on the Unisystem rules.  3. I have a project coming up with Battlefield Press.

So what can I say about Eldritch Skies?

Let's go basic. Certainly there is the feel of Aliens here more than say Avatar.  One thing though for certain, this is not Star Trek, Star Wars or anything like that.  Though to be fair, Trek did have a story by Robert Bloch and it was very Lovecraftian in tone.   Also if that is what you want (SW or ST) then the rules will support that. This book is Lovecraft as SciFi (dark SciFi to be sure), but not so much as horror.

Chapter 1 deals with the recent history and the present day, 2030.    The history of the world here is slightly different.  Think of it as if all those Lovecraft stories were true and humanity found a way to start using some of that alien tech/magic to get to the stars.  There is a history and the changes start out subtle till we get to the 90s.  We get to the present day and now we are stepping out into the reaches of space and we find wonders and horrors.

Chapter 2 is Character Creation and Chapter 3 is Game Rules.  The game system is Cinematic Unisystem.  The same system that powers my own Ghosts of Albion and other games like Army of Darkness, Buffy and Angel.  So if you are familiar with those games then you will be familiar how this one works too.
Like other CineUnisystem games there are three "levels" of characters, Civilians, Operatives and Veterans.  Unlike other CineUnisystem this game uses the Secondary Attribute Speed, from Classic Unisystem.
For Qualities and Drawbacks there are all the expected ones, Fast Reaction Time, Nerves of Steel, etc. But there are also a lot of "Ab-Human" abilities, such as Deep One Hybrid and Sorcery (it is not the same as Buffy's) and some augmentations.
The rules are same as other Cine Unisystem games with some additions to support the game, ie lots of gear.

Chapter 4 is Arcane Secrets including the secrets of hyperspace. Not just how to travel, but the biggest issue of the hyperspace madness. This is the keystone of the game.  What separates this from other Unisystem games and it from other Mythos games.

Chapter 5 deals with the Realms of the Mythos.  These are the worlds known to humankind.  This also includes the psychic Dream Realms.  This is a very cool chapter that had to be a lot of fun to write.  Tons of new worlds ready for you to use and have adventures on.

Chapter Six: Eldritch Threats and Wonders: The monsters and creatures of the settings. Includes the mythos creatures, humans and ab-humans.  If you have any passing interest in mythos monsters or expanding your CineUnisystem games with more creatures, then this chapter is worth the price of the book alone.  Yes, you can play it as is. Or use it in your Buffy, Army of Darkness or Ghosts of Albion games.

Chapter Seven is the Director's section on how to run a game.  This includes setting the tone and what to do.

The Appendix has rules for using the Classic Unisystem  and a bunch of tables for your ease.  No character sheet though.

I think one of the troubles about playing games like D&D and even to a degree Call of Cthulhu is we have tended to categorize the mythos creatures as well, Mythos Creatures.  They often times are "Stated up" as gods or some other similar sort of being.  We tend to forget that while humans may have worshiped them in cults most were not in fact gods at all.  Powerful alien beings yes, but not so much gods.  Looking at them again as aliens is a deft move and this change of the point of view makes this book less Buffy-doing-Aliens and more Armageddon/ConspiracyX-doing-Event-Horizon.

What I really, really like about this is it treats the Mythos Creatures as aliens and magic as advanced science.  The Thing is a good example of Lovecraft as SciFi story.
Also this book remembers that Lovecraft's stories were also not all about tentacle monsters and evisceration.  Sure we have the Mi-Go, but this more about the madness that lies between the stars.   Honestly to get a better feel of what you can do here, take the Sam Rockwell movie Moon and assume there are outside alien influences on the whole thing.  We never see the aliens, except for maybe when Sam's character sees a Mi-Go with a brain tube at the very end.

I mentioned the playtest files because I'll admit I was not initially a fan of this game when I first read it.  But I was focusing on the crunch rather than the fluff.  The Unisystem parts were (and are) fine. But since it's release I have grown to like it more for both the crunch and the fluff.

Now that I have come back to it I really like it.  I Am not 100% sure I'll play the game "as-is", I might re-do it a bit and set it in 2130 so I can include some ConX or  Armageddon  background.  Or I might just take Chapters 5 and 6 and use them with my Ghosts of Albion games.
Needless to say this thing screams "Use me with All Tomorrow's Zombies" and it would be right. Using the Classic conversion guide in back makes ATZ a perfect add-on for this game.

If you like SciFi, Lovecraft, the Mythos or Unisystem, or all the above, then this is a great game to get.


Tim Knight said...

I only found out about this game earlier today, but am very excited about getting my hands on a print copy. It sounds right up my street!

Unknown said...

There is an award for you on my blog :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the character sheet. We didnt realize we didnt have one until a couple days ago. We have been working on putting one together, and hopefully will have it up next week.

Anonymous said...
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Pun Isaac said...

Somehow I missed this post and am just now learning about Eldritch Skies. The setting seems interesting, but I'm more excited to see the qualities and stats. Perhaps I'll snag a copy next paycheck.