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Cohors Cthulhu tabletop RPG brings cosmic horror to the edge of the Roman Empire

British publisher Modiphius Entertainment is expanding the world of its flagship tabletop role-playing game Achtung! Cthulhu by bringing the Lovecraftian mythos from the battlefields of World War II to the height of the Roman Empire. The publisher plans to launch Cohors Cthulhu in early 2023, providing rules for Roman legions and Germanic tribes to clash with each other — and with horrors from beyond the stars.

“I’ve loved movies about Roman times since I was a kid, from the classic Spartacus to the more recent Gladiator, Barbarians on Netflix, and Centurion,” said Modiphius founder and CEO Chris Birch. “I think Rome is in our blood if you grew up in Europe. You look around and really so much of our everyday life is based on ancient Rome, and there’s something that appeals about the final days of the empire.”

The first Cohors Cthulhu publication will be set in the Roman frontier town of Laurium, a walled fort in Northern Europe near dense woodlands. Vagabonds gather in its smoky taverns to share stories about haunted forests, terrifying creatures, and strange ruins. The game will be divided into a RPG using the same 2d20 system as Achtung! Cthulhu and a narrative wargame that can be played solo or cooperatively, with players going up against terrifying Lovecraftian forces.

“The wargame itself is set during a huge conflagration, as mythos-backed forces wreak havoc along the Roman border in a plot to destroy the empire,” Birch said. “The RPG is set several months before this, as dark clouds gather over the empire, and so you’ll be seeing a mix of action, adventure, subterfuge, and social encounters. We envisage some groups playing out the stories of brave Roman legions fighting on the frontiers, others pursuing devious cults in the backstreets of town, balancing political ideals and the needs of your people with nobles or simple dungeon crawls in ancient ruins.”

Modiphius will be supporting the release with a complete miniatures line, 3D printable miniature designs, a Cohors Cthulhu novel, and an anthology of short stories featuring signature characters from the game. The publisher is also looking into video game and television licensing deals.

The primary plot of the Cohors games involves the myths of Atlantis and Hyperborea, following a priestess who has roamed the universe for millions of years influencing the development of various human civilizations in her quest to destroy the Outer Gods. That arc will link Cohors Cthulhu to Achtung! Cthulhu, which established a precedent for heroes jumping through time with the Shadows of Atlantis campaign.

  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • Image: Modiphius Entertainment
  • “It’s quite possible your [Achtung! Cthulhu] heroes might find themselves facing the Roman Empire, or vice versa, your Cohors Cthulhu heroes could be dropped into the chaos of World War II,” Birch said. “We always envisioned Achtung! Cthulhu as part of a larger storyline where heroes across the ages fight a secret war against the eldritch forces of the old gods. Cohors Cthulhu is the next step in bringing that universe to life and opening up more possibilities for players to create and play in amazing stories that span human history.”

    As in Achtung! Cthulhu, Cohors Cthulhu characters will be built using archetypes like mystic, scoundrel, or warrior, paired with backgrounds such as merchant, politician, or nomad. Players can build characters who are part of an ancient Atlantean bloodline or have closer ties to the Cthulhu mythos, but you won’t actually be able to play on the side of the Outer Gods.

    “I like insignificant heroes rising above the storm and taking on larger-than-life entities,” Birch said. “It’s something you see time and again in the real world, from wars to legal battles against big business. We’ve taken the best bits of the Cthulhu mythos to fit our universe. It’s not just a world where all hope is pointless and you’re destined to die, but where tiny actions can have consequences across the cosmos. Where a group of heroes can threaten the very existence of age-old beings. They must still fight and sacrifice, but hope is inextricably mixed in with our story, and your sacrifice is on your terms.”

    Birch said he set the first Cohors Cthulhu game in Germania to evoke the feel of a classic fantasy story — characters are based in a small town in the middle of nowhere and must go out and explore. But he plans to expand the game (which is set around A.D. 160-180 during the age of Marcus Aurelius) to other sections of the Roman Empire, including Egypt, Britannia, and the Eternal City of Rome itself. Every area will also see the influence of the Outer Gods, and heroes will need to fight them with powerful magic, ancient lost technology, and eldritch powers.

    Modiphius is looking to hire a diverse group of writers to help bring the Roman world’s numerous cultures to life, so it’s making an open call for writers. Anyone with knowledge of the Roman era and a specific culture are invited to send their role-playing writing resume to [email protected] to apply to join the creative team.

    “Rome can be seen through rose-tinted glasses,” Birch said. “They treated many people terribly, so it was important to ensure players could play as different cultures. Sworn enemies today will have to unite once faced with the cosmic horror being unleashed on the peoples of the ancient world.”

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