By Douglas Seacat
As I’m writing this we’re past the midway point in the Kickstarter for Cohors Cthulhu, and it has been exciting to watch its progress. It seems like a good time to introduce myself and talk a little bit about my role in the development of the game and its stories. My name is Douglas Seacat and I’m the lead writer of Cohors Cthulhu, and I’ve been heavily involved in helping bring the world to life alongside folks like Chris Birch, Matt Goetz, and a host of other amazing writers, artists, and contributors.
I was lucky enough to be able to join the team early on and be on the ground floor as we figured out what we wanted to make of this setting and game. This involved a lot of exciting discussions and brainstorming about how we might build on the foundation established in Achtung! Cthulhu to create something related but also new and different, with its own period appropriate atmosphere, focus, and themes. As I mentioned in my last blog, “Ready the Legions”, some of that work involved big-picture brainstorming on what the Mythos might mean and represent in the ancient world, as well as to Rome specifically, and ways to take inspiration from legends, mythology, and the oddities of ancient history. This time I’d like to zoom in to talk about Cohors Cthulhu characters.
Creating interesting and dynamic characters has been one of my favorite aspects of working on the game. This includes delving into the minds and personalities of some of the movers and shakers of the setting, as well as creating a large number of heroes both great and small to serve as examples for the roleplaying game and establish what kind of human agendas are at play in the world alongside the more enigmatic Mythos puppeteers. From the outset there has been a focus on character, in particular how we could feature them in both narratives and adventures to enrich the setting and hopefully inspire the games in which our players and gamemasters would participate.
We needed world shaking villains, but ones whose motives are complex and interesting, as well as a bit twisted. This includes some who are terrifyingly wicked and cruel, but also others who are more sympathetic—those that have taken a wrong turn or given aid to the Mythos while pursuing their own agendas. A good number of these individuals are long-lived, some essentially immortal, or close enough to it to have changed drastically over the centuries. The very effort of evading mortality has consumed some of them, taking them down dark paths to find forbidden power, even if their original motives may have been more comprehensible. Even a monster like Herjan, a corrupted Germanic warlord who sees himself as an avatar of Wodan and uses this to justify violent excesses, has a human side. He has a complex past and looks upon the tribe he has assembled with paternal pride. Despite his godlike power and terrifying allies, his nightmares are filled with intrusive thoughts not his own.
Our heroes have also seen their share of darkness, and their paths are fraught with potential traps and pitfalls. Fighting off supernatural horrors is not easily done, and puts people in terrible dilemmas, facing tragedy and loss. Many have their own internal demons, and not all will emerge unscathed from the struggles ahead.
It has been a joy to help shape these heroes in particular, and we’ve created a sizable and diverse roster of fascinating individuals. Some of these people are already becoming larger than life as they are thrust onto the center stage of the evolving conflicts. These are people like the Roman centurion Marius, the Germanic chieftain and warrior Aldegar, a druid from Hibernia named Suibhne, or the Sarmatian archer Vita. All of these people find their lives forever changed after meeting Maeren, a Hyperborean immortal disguised as a priestess of the Vestal Virgins. We will have a chance to follow their story and see their evolution as champions against the Mythos in due time. Their arcs will form something of a center stage to reveal the changing landscape of the setting’s larger events as Mythos forces emerge from the shadows to threaten both Rome and Germania.
Among my own favorite characters are those whose stories are slightly less grand, but no less perilous and tinged by exposure to the Hidden Wars. This includes in particular those we created while working on the frontier town of Laurium. One of the ideas with our Laurium heroes was to create people who might not be so dissimilar from the sorts of people that players of Cohors Cthulhu might take on in their own games.
The fiction anthology being offered with the Kickstarter campaign is closely tied to these “Heroes of Laurium,” which collects many of the Laurium focused stories we created as a means of showing the setting in action. It has been quite enjoyable to delve into the stories of these characters and their complex relationships with one another. Many of these stories link together, showing a web of connections between these people and seeing them embark on just the sort of supernaturally tinged encounters which PCs in the roleplaying game might experience.
The Heroes of Laurium include such individuals as our Germanic smith Penrod, who nurses strong animosities toward Rome’s invasion of his homeland and who has quietly aided in rebelious conspiracies. Or his friend the good-hearted Thracian Pubilius, a scheming rogue who has friends among the criminal underbelly of the town, but looks out for those dear to him. There is Amalthea, an apothecary from northern Africa who has become an invaluable asset of the town, as well as one of its most knowledgeable citizens about the world’s hidden threats. Or the young street urchin Kaeso, who often accompanies Penrod and Pubilius, but who has recently discovered a strange helmet from another era that seems to possess unusual and wondrous qualities.
Adding depth to these characters and the rest of the people of Laurium helped us bring the setting into clarity as we put ourselves in their shoes and told their stories. I expect they will serve as highly useful tools for future game masters and players of Cohors Cthulhu, both to see the setting come into focus and to show how an odd assortment of talented individuals from very different backgrounds might assemble to solve problems and face enemies they couldn’t handle on their own.I can’t wait for you to get your hands on these stories and the miniatures featuring these and other characters of the setting. But more than that, I can’t wait to meet your characters, and hear your stories, and see how you explore the world of Cohors Cthulhu on your own adventures.