Eclipse Cthulhu: A Setting Hack

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mellonbread mellonbread's picture
Eclipse Cthulhu: A Setting Hack

Eclipse Cthulhu
A setting hack which replaces the TITANs and Exsurgent Virus with the Aliens, Deities, and Dark Forces of Lovecraft and co’s Cthulhu Mythos as the primary X-Risks in the Solar System. Besides the Lovecraft Circle’s work, much of this material is taken from Chaosium’s legendary Call of Cthulhu RPG, especially the superb sourcebook The Cruel Empire of Tsan Chan, while other elements are borrowed from Charles Stross’ short story A Colder War. With this in mind, there are plenty of rough edges and Eclipse Phase setting elements that don’t completely make sense in this new context. Don’t think about it too hard, or you’ll go mad.

The Setting

The Bestiary

Pressure: A Sample Scenario

For years, certain scholars had warned Politicians, CEOs and Faith Leaders that a catastrophe of enormous and horrific proportions was imminent, and had been dismissed as cranks and religious lunatics. These few prescient intellectuals hoped desperately that they were wrong, but were proven right on
The Day The Stars Were Right
Dread Cthulhu’s emergence from his house at R'lyeh occurred within six hours of Yog Sothoth’s physical manifestation in the Fertile Crescent. Transhumanity’s most powerful weapons proved powerless to stop them, and over the next few days Earth was reduced to a house of horrors. What remains of the human race survives scattered across the solar system, living in terror of the returned Old Ones. Firewall works behind the scenes to stop these dark forces from exterminating the survivors.

The Inner System
The Inner System is controlled chiefly by the Planetary Consortium. The Consortium is drawn from the remnants of several multinational corporations, many of which had CEOs or Boards of Directors with some knowledge of the Mythos and of the upcoming catastrophe As such, the majority were able to escape The Day The Stars Were Right with substantial assets still intact. Mars, Venus and Mercury are now hypercorp fiefdoms, as are many habitats in the Main Belt.

Mercury
Mercury is a Hypercorp antimatter farm and mining colony, gathering resources used to both tighten the PC’s grip on the Inner System, and prepare defenses against excursions from Earth or incursions from the Outer System. The first colonists to Mercury found it already populated by small numbers of bulbous, sapient vegetable like entities who existed at a stone aged level of technological sophistication, sheltering in the planet’s terminator. Beyond a few enterprising xenozoologists and biodesigners, as well as a few ecologists who decried the destruction of their habitat, the majority of Transhumanity has ignored them.

Venus
Venus is the primary seat of the Consortium’s power. Although there is no need for a physical headquarters, the majority of Hypercorp governing bodies maintain offices on the planet’s many Aerostats, where the Hyperelite of the Inner System likewise maintain homes and clone banks. Many Consortium luminaries are of the opinion that Earth is unsalvageable, and that humanity must settle for fortifying and settling the planet most similar to the homeworld. Plans for intensive terraforming have been drawn up, while indentured surveying parties map the planet’s hellish surface, searching for evidence of alien activity or other threats.

Earth
The Consortium has positioned a network of killsats around Earth, to intercept any excursions from the planet’s new masters. The satellites have thus far been successful in interdicting desultory attempts on the part of the Old One’s servitors to leave the planet, albeit with significant expenditure of ordinance.
Direct observation of the planet is instantly hazardous to the viewer’s mental state, and as such all intelligence gathering is carried out through careful systems of double blind AI surveillance. From this, intelligence analysts are aware that the Old One’s minions are engaged in some form of radical restructuring of the planet’s surface, perhaps constructing cities similar to that which their priest and god king emerged from, perhaps retooling the Earth’s biosphere to match the aeon old climate that existed when R’yleh originally sank. Most likely their actions and motivations are simply impossible for sane transhumans to comprehend. AI and indentured test subject’s reports on surveillance of the regions in the Middle East subsumed by the All In One are similarly incomprehensible.
Reports of human survivors on Earth, hiding from or coexisting with the planet’s new rulers, are dismissed by the Consortium as dangerous rumors.

Luna
Earth’s moon is now the most heavily fortified outpost of humanity in the Solar System. The Lunar Lagrange Alliance maintains its independence from the Consortium by virtue of the substantial arsenal it has amassed, the majority of which it keeps pointed squarely at Earth. Lunar culture is conservative and highly militarized, the majority of Fall infugees who ‘cast there were given the choice between conscription and dead storage. Due to the stresses of living in a highly militarized society, and of living on the doorstep of a malign alien entity, many Lunar citizens are driven to the worship of Dark Gods. Cults are more prevalent on Luna than anywhere else in the Inner System. An increasing number of Lunars are opting for synthetic bodies, based on a number of (pseudoscientific) reports claiming they improve the wearer’s resistance to “Cosmic Anxiety Disorder,” a catch-all diagnosis for mental illness brought on by proximity to Earth, and the fear that Luna might soon share its fate.

Mars
Mars is ruled by the Tharsis League, a notionally independent entity formed out of representatives from major Martian cities. In reality the Tharsis League is a puppet of the Consortium, which treats it as a vassal state, fit primarily for exporting the planet’s raw materials. As such the Tharsis League is ruthless in its efforts to fully exploit the planet’s resources, and equally merciless in its efforts to crush the numerous rebellions which inevitably arise as a result of its maltreating the workers. Two things from Mars then: Income and a merciless fist. Rumors in the mining camps tell of something nastier than guerillas and rangers stalking the Martian outback.
Mars has been visited by several alien races over its history. From the first human colonization of the red planet, the mystery of the windswept, sun-baked ruins dotting the planet taunted settlers. Since The Day The Stars Were Right, a number of these seemingly inscrutable structures have mysteriously unsealed, revealing hidden underground tunnels, tombs and even entire cities beneath the surface. The mysterious alien crypts tempt archaeologists and hypercorp scientists with promises of alien knowledge and technology. Even among the more cautious, few realize the risks they are taking plumbing these depths until it is too late.
The most notable discovery in any of these ruins has thus far been what researchers refer to as the Gate. The Gate, left behind by an advanced civilization of five limbed, winged extraterrestrials, is a portal that instantly transports anything passing through it to a corresponding portal outside the Solar System. Efforts are underway to master the Gate’s controls, as early expeditions to random destinations universally ended with the indentured volunteers requiring restoration from a backup.

Main Belt
The Main Belt marks the boundary between the Inner and Outer regions of the Solar System, and the theoretical extent of the Planetary Consortium’s jurisdiction. In practice Hypercorp mining operations and habitats in the Belt often contend with pirates, smugglers, and visitors from the Outer System.

The Outer System
The Outer System is divided between two main power blocs, the Jovian Republic and the Titanian Commonwealth. Independent of either are the thousands of Brinker and Autonomist habitats which dot the outer system, as well as the inhuman denizens of Yuggoth.

Jupiter
Io, Ganymede, Callisto, and the majority of the minor Jovian moons and moonlets are controlled by the Jovian Republic. Assembled from the remaining assets of the United States, Chilean, Chinese and Russian navies, the Jovian Republic is one of two remaining national governments in the Solar System. The Republic is governed by a parliament, appointed by the remains of these nations’ admiralties on an allegedly technocratic basis. In an effort to prevent the spread of cognitohazards and other contamination stemming from the catastrophe on Earth, the Republic has banned all public use of the Mesh. Jovian intelligence services make extensive use of AGI analysts, out of belief that they produce more rational decisions and better resist the mental stress inherent when interacting with knowledge beyond mortal ken.

Europa
Before the Stars Were Right, exploration of Europa had been limited by perpetual international and corporate bickering over territorial claims to the planet. After the formation of the Republic a number of survey teams were deployed to the moon, eager to both exploit the abundant reserves of water ice, and to crack the surface in search of the liquid ocean beneath. Clinging to the underside of the ice at Conamara Chaos they found a large underwater settlement, peopled by a secretive cabal of degenerated Transhumans. Initial attempts at contact were violently repulsed by the denizens, wielding a mixture of outdated Earth weaponry and advanced technology of unknown provenance. The Republic has cordoned off Europa, enforcing a strict quarantine. The only visitors since have been a smattering of unmanned intelligence and military probes, the findings of which indicate that the moon’s inhabitants are engaged in the construction of multiple large structures kilometers beneath the icy surface.

Saturn
Saturn and its satellites are controlled by the Titanian Commonwealth, based on Titan, the largest of the planet’s moons. The Commonwealth grew out of the remnants of several Northern and Central European space programs who, following their respective nations’ collapse with the emergence of the All In One, hastily banded together to survive. This collaboration proved short lived, ending with a short but brutal struggle for control of the new alliance’s infoware hubs. The victorious faction immediately initiated a policy of large scale memory editing and personality modification of the surviving populace, under the aegis of “memetic civil defense” to fortify them for a future of life in a universe infested with hostile alien intelligences. The ease and efficiency with which they were able to carry out these operations has engendered suspicion that the perpetrators of the coup were preparing even before The Day The Stars Were Right, and had foreknowledge of it. Regardless, communication with Titan has been spotty at best ever since, with the majority of transmission equipment subverted or seized by the state.

Uranus
Uranus is sparsely settled by clutches of Anarchists, Brinkers and Ultimates, either clustering on the world’s moons or drifting in the planet’s upper atmosphere in small aerostats. The planet has no single governing body, though the more populated moons are controlled by various factions. Tensions are high between the Anarchist settlements on Oberon and the Ultimates habitats orbiting around the world. Supposedly the autonomists found something buried under the ice, and the Ultimates want a piece of it. Some of the Brinker aerostats are whispered to have turned to the worship of something hiding beneath the clouds.

Neptune
Neptune is a barely settled world, at least by humans. A number of Brinkers and other survivalists had established habitats hidden as deeply as possible beneath the planet’s cloud layers, cognizant of the many x-risks Transhumanity already posed itself. Following The Day The Stars Were Right, a new wave of refu and infugees arrived on the planet, likewise seeking safety beneath the clouds. Alas, as the reclusive Brinkers had already discovered, Transhumanity was not alone in the outer system.

Pluto
“There are mighty cities on Yuggoth—great tiers of terraced towers built of black stone like the specimen I tried to send you. That came from Yuggoth. The sun shines there no brighter than a star, but the beings need no light. They have other, subtler senses, and put no windows in their great houses and temples. Light even hurts and hampers and confuses them, for it does not exist at all in the black cosmos outside time and space where they came from originally. To visit Yuggoth would drive any weak man mad—yet I am going there. The black rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious Cyclopean bridges—things built by some elder race extinct and forgotten before the things came to Yuggoth from the ultimate voids—ought to be enough to make any man a Dante or Poe if he can keep sane long enough to tell what he has seen.”
Pluto, better known as Yuggoth to its inhabitants, is populated by the Mi-go, a spacefaring race of fungoid crustaceans who colonized the world in ages long past. The fungi from Yuggoth had been visiting Earth since the phanerozoic for a myriad of purposes, mining its heavier elements and plundering the secrets of the various other races that inhabited the world long before anatomically modern man. The Mi-go have in the past made themselves known to humans of exceptional, if peculiar intelligence, sometimes even transporting these mad intellectuals with them on their journeys through the cosmos as brains in specially prepared jars. The Mi-go first became known to Transhumanity at large after the Day The Stars Were Right, although previously they had communicated with a number of the more isolationist Brinker clades, at least one of which they permitted to visit Yuggoth itself in some capacity. It is almost certain that select bodies within the Planetary Consortium have established contact with the Mi-go.

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New Backgrounds
These backgrounds are unlikely to be appropriate for Firewall Sentinels, given that they imply an affinity for the very forces Firewall exists to protect humanity from. In edge cases, or if the campaign being played does not involve work with Firewall, they may be appropriate. All of the following backgrounds carry a Social Stigma if discovered, and in fact may be completely outlawed in many polities. Rather than losing sanity when they encounter the horrors of the mythos, which would be inappropriate given their species’ acclimation to inhuman horror, their grip on reality is tied to the gruesome acts they are compelled to engage in.

K’n-yan
You were born in a vast cavern, to an underground civilization thousands of years old. You grew up worshipping Tulu, Yig, Gtanathoa, Shub Niggurath or her children Nug and Yeb. You watched gladiatorial bouts and ritualized public torture of subsapient slaves, and engaged in public orgies to gratify your time dulled senses. At some point you tired of your life of senseless hedonism and cruelty, and broke your species’ age-old taboo against visiting the surface world. By The Day The Stars Were Right, you had already begun your life elsewhere in the Solar System, in a new body which lacked your original powers of de and rematerialization.
Start with the following Traits: Immortality Blues, Mental Disorder: Sadism, Psi Level 2
Start with 20 in Control, 20 in Sense, and 60 in Mythos: Cthulhu and Yig, Shub Niggurath, or Nug and Yeb
K’n-yan preserve their sanity through intense sensory experiences, or by inflicting these experiences on others. Failing to do so, a K’n-yan will be overcome by crippling ennui, accumulating D5 mental stress per day. This stress manifests as skill penalties or Depression, with Willx3 tests when attempting to expend effort. If a K’n-yan accumulates mental stress equalling or exceeding their Lucidity, the weight of centuries or millennia of life is simply to tiring to bear, and the age old ego either attempts suicide or falls into a catatonic state.

Tcho Tcho
You were born in Southeast Asia to a culture famous among certain anthropologists for its practice of cannibalism. You and your fellows shepherded a race of barely sapient human cattle for food, devouring or offering them to Zhar, Lloigor and Chaugnar Faugn. While your culture celebrates the changes to Earth following The Day The Stars Were Right, you yourself have elected to remain among the remains of transhumanity scattered across the Solar System, hunting humans in the wild.
Start with 40 in Unarmed (Bite) and 60 in Mythos: Zhar and Lloigor, or Chaugnar Faugn
Tcho Tcho preserve their sanity by eating human flesh. For every day these cravings are not satiated, a Tcho Tcho accumulates D5 mental stress. As stress builds, their control slips, and by the time it reaches or exceeds their Lucidity, they lose control completely, reduced to an animalistic state until their bestial hunger is satisfied. Meat produced with makers or grown specially in healing vats and bodybanks is sufficient to stave off mental stress, but killing, cooking and eating live transhumans will reduce it by D10 per meal.

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Character Creation: Factions
Anarchist as in core
Argonaut as in core
Barsoomian as in core
Criminal as in core
Extropian as in core
Hypercorp as in core
Jovian replace “Must start with a Flat or Splicer morph, may not start with any nanoware/advanced nanotech” with “Must start without basic mesh inserts”
Lunar replace Networking: Ecologists with a Weapon, Gunnery or Pilot skill of your choice
Mercurial as in core
Scum as in core
Socialite as in core
Titanian replace Networking: Autonomist with +5 Will, add Disadvantages: Neural Damage, Edited Memories, Modified Behavior
Ultimate as in core
Venusian no longer exists

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Reputation
@-rep no longer applies to Titan. Reputation is nonexistent on Titan, with outsiders lacking any station and members of the Commonwealth having state determined rank and privileges.
c-Rep no longer applies to the Jovian Republic.
e-Rep now applies to the Jovian Republic
f-Rep functions unchanged
g-Rep functions unchanged
i-Rep functions unchanged
r-Rep functions unchanged, although the Argonauts are not quite the force they were in EP classic.
u-Rep functions unchanged, although the Ultimates are not quite the force they were in EP classic
New Reputation Network: ★-Rep
★-Rep, often rendered as *-Rep or Star Rep, measures reputation with the Church of Starry Wisdom, a darknet dedicated to sharing information related to the occult, extraterrestrial races, magic, and secrets transhumanity is not meant to know. Membership consists of cultists and former cultists, researchers and scientists, hobbyists and enthusiasts, and a host of other eccentric or unusual personalities. The network is quite unpopular with the majority of polities aware of its existence, sufficient ★-Rep being grounds for prosecution in the unlikely event a user is identified. Firewall considers the spread of information related to the “mythos” an unacceptable X-Risk, although the intelligence the network gathers on the subject often proves invaluable, and Scanners have thus made every effort to infiltrate it.

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Healing the Mind
The average transhuman has a far greater array of tools at their disposal than the protagonists of Lovecraft’s short stories did for dealing with the psychological horrors wrought by contact with dark forces. While the hapless individuals in the original mythos were destined for morphine, padded rooms or loaded revolvers, psychosurgery allows transhumans to salvage a semblance of normalcy after even the most hideous of experiences. The most effective method, practiced across the Solar System, is memory editing to remove memories that would otherwise drive the ego mad. This was widespread immediately after The Day The Stars Were Right, when many survivors egocasting out of earth would otherwise have been driven insane by their sighting the Old One. Even this was sadly insufficient to salvage those unfortunates who witnessed the All In One’s emergence in Mesopotamia, who remained screaming-insane even after their memories were wiped. Part of this was irrecoverable damage that had already been inflicted, while part is hypothesized to have been an unknown factor beyond transhuman psychiatry’s ability to treat. In any case, psychiatry and psychosurgery have advanced significantly since Lovecraft’s day, but cannot always treat the effects of contact with the arcane and eldritch.

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Secrets That Matter
(Nothing here will come as a surprise to any player or GM familiar with the mythos)

Spoiler: Highlight to view
Earth
Earth is still populated by groups of surviving humans, the majority of which have “become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy.” Some cultures persist more or less as they had before R'lyeh rose and Yog Sothoth emerged, either due to their affinity for the planet’s new masters or through the protection of their own deities. K’n-yan persists beneath the mounds of Mesoamerica, and its people have begun to repopulate the planet’s surface, now that they can be sure it is safe for worshippers of Great Cthulhu. The Tcho Tcho of Southeast Asia are likewise undergoing a renaissance, under the aegis of Zhar, Lloigor, and Chaugnar Faugn. Deep One cities across the globe are bustling hives of activity, enraptured by the return of their pantheon’s third member.

Jupiter
The Jovian Republic is attempting to develop a Seed AI in hopes that a superintelligence will be capable of outthinking the Old One. Unfortunately for them, their research in AGI psychiatry has missed a few important points. Mainly, AGIs are no better at keeping sane in the face of cosmic horrors than ordinary humans, they just conceal madness better.

Europa
The secrets of Europa are elaborated upon in the Eclipse Cthulhu adventure Pressure. Don’t read it unless you’re the one running it.

Titan
The nations that originally formed the Titanian Commonwealth were indeed infiltrated by someone or something with foreknowledge of the coming disaster. The perpetrators could have been opportunists with inside information, like the founders of the Planetary Consortium, or they could have been created by the Mi-go, implanted with false memories and “programmed” to activate when exposed to particular stimuli.

Oberon
The Autonomists of Oberon have found a Gate beneath the ice. While the Mars Gate is archaeotech left behind by the Elder Things, the Oberon Gate was constructed by another entity entirely. Rather than leading to exoplanets or other spheres within our galaxy, the Oberon Gate leads to the Plateau of Leng.

Neptune
A race of extraterrestrials exists beneath the planet’s cloud cover, floating jellyfish-like in the methane-helium-hydrogen layer. They lack starfaring technology and seemingly even tool use, but the Mi-go apparently deem them intelligent enough to occasionally transport whatever brain-analogue they possess to other locales in the Galaxy.

Eris
An Exhuman clade journeying to Eris for the purposes of establishing a colony found the world already inhabited. Beneath the world’s shallow subsurface ocean lies a Gate, on this side of which the Elder Things still maintain a small outpost.

Did you hear the one about the guy who became a fence?

Spoiler: Highlight to view
They say he was a real posthuman
Blue Screen of Death Blue Screen of Death's picture
Iä!! Iä!! Thank you for this.

I'm surprised that no one else has yet made a setting for Eclipse Phase with some HP sauce. I mean, this famous quote could have been on the first page of the EP core...

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Included for its relevance but mainly because I just love the quote... :-)

Octomorph Octomorph's picture
The Void

Wildfire has a Cthulhu-based space setting that is VERY adaptable to EP. Also some good adventures that should be easy to convert as well (I'm actually working on doing one). As with EP, it is also Creative Commons licensed.

uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
This is awesome. An

This is awesome. An interesting read, and it tipped me off to the book about the Mythos future history, so thricely Thank You!

Exhuman, and Humanitarian.