First Impressions: Chthonian Highways
I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the alpha testing for Chthonian Highways RPG by Miska Fredman, Jukka Sorsa, and Ville Takanen. This is a first impressions review, as I have only read the alpha testing kit. With the benefit of a run with my playgroup, I’ll be able to deliver a full review sometime next week.
Chthonian Highway brings us to a Mad Max-meets-Lovecraft post-apocalyptic USA. Players assume the role of a Road Warrior keeping what’s left of America’s Highways clear of bandits, cannibals, cultists, and Chthulian horrors, protecting what’s left of civilization.
CH uses the Ironcore Engine, a D20 variant. Stats and attributes are easy to pick up and understand, making it ideal for someone’s first or second RPG, yet complex enough to keep veterans interested. More than FATE, less than DnD, I’ll say.
Experience awarding was one of the biggest things about this game system that jumped out at me. A system of Pushing, Stunts, and the mechanic ‘Velocity’, keeps the action high and rewards smart play. Leftover Velocity feeds into XP, creating an economy of action and progression. XP achievements maintain balanced growth by giving the players lump XP rewards for pulling off large exploits or completing key objectives. It lends itself well to the goal of highly cinematic, action oriented role play indicative to the genre.
And then there is the Cars. I’ve never been more excited to make a character sheet for an inanimate object. Right now there is a host of equipment based upgrades and to fully customize your wheels. This is also an area I’m hoping is expanded upon in the future. Leveling up the cars like the people, perhaps?
Some quick points to close on:
-The combat looks visceral and lethal, and the car combat could be a game unto itself.
-There is a class system, but it’s bare bones at this point. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as mage/rogue/warrior distinction make more sense in a fantasy world than a post-apocalypse one
-Fear, Madness, and Mania rules are present, as to be expected when eldritch horrors lurk around every corner
-There is an quick adventure included. It’s also pretty bare bones, but it get’s you in the action almost immediately which more than I can say for most pre written adventures out there.
In summary, I’m very excited to give Chthonian Highways a spin. The setting is inspired and paired expertly with a well oiled RPG system. I can’t wait to play it.