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Horror Roleplaying in Ancient Rome

ROMAN CHILDREN TREMBLE in their beds as their mothers tell them stories of Medusa, the Hundred-Handed Ones, and the War of the Titans. They pray that the Fates have woven a long skein for them, free from encounters with the Minotaur and Cerberus. Little do they know that things more horrible than the creatures of myth and legend inhabit the world. A dark god stalks the streets of Rome stealing the souls of the rich and the poor, the young and the old, to populate his empire on the other side of the wall of sleep.

Thousands of miles away, on the coast of a freshly invaded island, Roman centurions huddle around campfires entertaining themselves with dice and ghost stories. They trust their fortifications to keep the barbarians at bay. But the barbarians are the least of their concerns. Outside the ramparts, small shapes scuttle through the darkness, looking for new hosts.

In the midst of the largest sea the world knows, an Egyptian merchant scans the horizon looking for land—and safety. Pirates prowl the sea, avoiding the Roman navy and preying on merchant vessels. The merchant’s men are well-armed to fend off any pirates, but he won’t relax until the coast is in sight. He doesn’t notice the forms swirling under the waves, reaching up with their claws to pull the boat down. His men are ill-prepared to fight them.

Greek scholars in Athens are ecstatic when they uncover scrolls relating to an African god from the deepest interior of that dark continent. They’re eager to read all they can in the cause of science. Their education hasn’t prepared them for the fact that the god is already in Athens, and they fail to notice that the city hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.

Young women scurry through the streets of Herculaneum to the Temple of Vesta, shunning the advances of lecherous old men and soldiers who’ve returned from the front looking to spend their coin. Only these women know that their chastity protects the world from an unspeakable horror. Should they fail in their mission, all of Rome is doomed to fall under a depraved god’s whim.

Sweat and grime cover a young Persian woman as she pulls her sword out of yet another monster that’s risen from the sand. As she glances around, several more unbury themselves and charge toward her. She casts one last look over her shoulder to make sure the families that were ambushed have escaped before she raises her sword and charges the monsters, her battle cry echoing over the dunes.

This is the world of Cthulhu Invictus, horror roleplaying in the first century CE, the time of the Roman Empire.

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