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If Cthulhu Rising is a fairly positive future setting for Call of Cthulhu (see my reviews of Cthulhu Rising and Jovian Nightmares), then End Time is just about the worst case future in which it’s still possible to play a roleplaying game. The End Times are here, the Mythos has almost complete control over Earth, and the last few remnants of sane humanity fight for day-to-day survival on Mars. Pagan Publishing was originally goping to produce the book, but cancelled the project in 1993. The document now available in book or PDF form is copyright 2001. You can get the book or PDF from Chaosium.

Dr. Michael C LaBossiere
is the author of this work, expanding on his adventure Blood Moon from the Strange Aeons adventure collection. Will the thrill of playing in a desperate future be enough to make you want to play in this setting, or are the End Times simply too depressing to adventure in?

SETTING:

Limiting what the players know about the setting is important to the success of the game. so I’ll describe the player’s view of the future history, then add the ‘real’ story in spoilers. In 2039 the moon begins a sudden and unexpected shift in orbit. Not only does this cause understandable changes in tides and weather patterns, it also causes increased violence and madness across the globe. In the next five years, the increase in disorder, destruction and bizarre events leads to a new focus in human life being continued away from the Earth. New space stations and colony missions are planned and launched over the next 15 years, allowing three ships and nearly 500 people to reach Mars. Human society on Earth and then the Moon breaks down completely until finally no signals are received on Mars from these places. Despite the harsh environment, and numerous setbacks and disasters the Martian colonies have reached a population of over 2000 by the start of the campaign in 2147. Now the leaders of the colony announce that a mission will be sent back to Earth to investigate conditions there, and they are calling for volunteers...

Spoiler (click to reveal)

The unbalancing of the Moon’s orbit has been caused by the release of an huge, ancient Mythos entity called Domaag T’eel. This creature had been imprisoned on the moon by the Mi-go, their wards helping to protect the Earth from the rising of Cthulhu and other constrained creatures. Mythos gods and humanoids now run amok across the globe, and barely any sane humans are left alive anywhere except on Mars.


PRESENTATION:


End Time
is a 98-page book with a photo-copied card cover. The cover of image of Vulthoom, the Devourer of Worlds appears to be by Gottardo Zancini. Mention is made of Maps and Interior Illustrations, but my first edition Monograph has neither. Sadly the website link is no longer active. The sans-serif font is smaller than in Cthulhu Rising, but still fairly easy-to-read and clear. There’s an Index at the rear of the book, which is actually a detailed Contents page. All text is shown in double columns, with bolding and box-outs for emphasis. Confusing annotation such as ‘e’, ‘s’ and ‘h’ are used above some of the sections, with no explanation. Section numbering starts with ‘6’ and is jumbled out of order through the book, though it does coincide with the rear Contents pages.

CONTENTS:

After a page of introduction and credits, End Time begins with two versions of future history for Keepers and Players. No great technological advances are suggested for the future - no Warp drives or Plasma Weapons. The humans have the expectation that Mars might be terraformed enough to be habitable by humans in perhaps 200 years using a newly discovered organism names ‘ohto’. They are limited by the wear and tear on their precious manufactured items, especially transport and communication equipment. Planetary Information is the next section, giving physical and cultural information about the Earth, Moon and Mars. Sections here might be available to the players, but there are also mythos secrets contained in these sections, suggesting long term goals for the investigators. All the major Mythos creatures from the main rulebook are examined in a sentence or two, giving an idea of how these creatures influence has changed in the recent upheaval. While many Mythos creatures and gods are now more in evidence and deadly to any surviving humans, some creatures may protect humans, if only for their own purposes.

Colony Information is covered in the next seven pages, giving an outline of the history of the colony and its current structure. A typical habitation dome is described in detail, though the promised map would have helped. Humans early on discovered abandoned dome structures built by a lost race, which they have colonised in two separate places. Under ‘Denizens of Mars’, three new creatures are detailed - these are the original Martians who built the domes and now appear to be extinct; a newer, more predatory race; and the great old one god of the second race which is now sleeping but may wake at any time...

End Time Sanity and Insanity rules are an expansion of the main Cthulhu sanity rules, with particular details for the Martian setting. New and appropriate Phobias and Fetishes are detailed, removing those unlikely to be used in this setting. New advances in treatment of Insanity include Personality Reconstruction. In the colony, where every person is a vital resource, every affordable attempt is made to allow the insane to take at least some useful part in society. Investigators will lose skills from undertaking this process, but may live to fight again another day. There’s some handy examples of insane insights and a detailed example of using San loss and insanity in a Martian environment.

Keeper’s Lore begins by repeating more information from the Cthulhu rules, before introducing some new Mythos tomes, artifacts, spells and beings. There’s not a lot here, but the flavour of the particular tome that caused such disasters on Earth, but yet may have a solution to it is important game background.

Colony Government is a further 7 pages on the organising structure of the human colonies on Mars. Information is again split into Player’s and Keeper’s Knowledge. Suffice to say, those in the charge of the colonies have their own secrets, and are keeping much of the knowledge of the true Mythos threat from the average colonist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the nature of the exodus from Earth has lead to a resurgence in religious belief, with faiths based on the major Eastern and Western religions being in dominance. The two major Christian religions are both determined to return to Earth, though for different reasons. The Eastern religions as detailed are shown to be happier to follow the rules of the colony and ensure its survival. As detailed, there seems little obvious conflicts between the beliefs, and the colony leaders are careful to show no favouritism to any one religion. One major change is that on death all the physical remains are reused to their highest ability. In a small colony, deaths have a great effect on everyone, but the memory of the departed lives on with those left behind.

Martian Dreamlands is a six page section covering entering, leaving and surviving the dreaming of the ancient martians. This section gives an introduction to the Dreamlands, but could do with more detail as to what might actually be found there. It seems like there are few dreaming Martians to be found in their great crystal cities, which are already under threat from the newer, dark Martians. Hidden items or structures that could be found more easily in the Dreamlands may still survive into reality, or hints from the dreaming Martians might also be uncovered.

The next section is numbered ‘1’ and is End Time mars Investigators Skills and Occupations. Eleven professions are detailed with descriptions and skills, and many options are unavailable due to the nature of Life on Mars. Eight new skills are listed to deal with the new equipment and technology of the Martian Future. A long section describes all the standard skills and examines whether they are available at all (no pools, so no Swimming), changed or pretty much as in the 1920s. The Equipment and Vehicles section list all the gear for the colony, and importantly shows the availability and typical condition of this gear. Since much of the gear is over 100 years old and can only be patched up and not replaced means that care of equipment is vital to the colonies’ survival. Investigators will need proper authorization to use vehicles or weapons, so secret missions will be very hard to pull off. Finally, there’s the two page Index, which as I mentioned are actually Content pages.


The second edition, glossy covered version with different cover image.

VERDICT:

Pluses: - A stark setting; desperate and memorable

- New Mythos additions are useful

- An obvious goal for the campaign: free Earth from the Mythos!

- Secrets to uncover and a potential for interesting political conflict

Minuses: - Sections seemingly bound in the wrong order

- Keeper and Investigator sections inter-twinned

- No NPCs or adventure seeds

- Promised Maps and illustrations are missing

- Sections copied from the main Cthulhu rules could have been cut to allow for more Martian background

It’s a more imaginative and unusual setting than that of Cthulhu Rising. As written, End Time provides enough for a short campaign or a one-shot leading up to a return to Earth, and perhaps the revelation to every colonist of the extent of the Mythos menace. However, it’s hard to recommend End Time as a document in its confused state (if anyone has the second edition and the organisation is different, please tell me). At a reduced cost I would recommend End Time for those interested in colony survival on Mars, or a tough and unusual Cthulhu setting.

IR#60
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J Cale
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Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again.
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Red Wine Pie wrote:

- Promised Maps and illustrations are missing


This seems like a big minus. Is it easy to work around?

Thanks for the review.
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Eric Dodd
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The descriptions of the bases are pretty obvious, and I think you can imagine a domed environment with some internal walls OK. The relationship between the bases and other features of interest on the Martian surface isn't so clear, but using a good modern Mars map you could place everything.

For the ancient Martian cities that the humans are also using its only the external walls that have survived. So not a critical failure, just an unfortunate one.

NPCs are not included, but the requirements for holding the main roles is detailed, so you could create characters and have them close to what the designer intended, I think.
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Chad Bowser
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Are we going to see a review of the final Cthulhu Future product from Chaosium next week? I'd like to see your thought on The Cruel Empire of Tsan Chan
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cjbowser wrote:
Are we going to see a review of the final Cthulhu Future product from Chaosium next week? I'd like to see your thought on The Cruel Empire of Tsan Chan


It sounds fascinating, and it's on my list to buy, but I don't own that one. Once Men is another interesting Future Monograph, as far as I can see.
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Forgot about Once Men. For some reason I was thinking that it was actually support material for End Time
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cjbowser wrote:
Are we going to see a review of the final Cthulhu Future product from Chaosium next week? I'd like to see your thought on The Cruel Empire of Tsan Chan


Now reviewed in March 2013. Summary - I liked it!
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