This game will privilege psychological damage and the cost of heroism, like in the Bourne trilogy of films, the TV series Alias and Callan, and the espionage novels of Graham Greene, for example. Horrors drain your soul as much as they do your blood; you look into the abyss and see the abyss welcoming you in.
In Burn mode games, psychological damage is more intense; the actions you must take inevitably burn away your humanity. Killing is never easy, and never free.
Relative to the setting, this is a gritty, lo-fi tale, a world of Anthony Price or Charles McCarry, similar to the TV series The Sandbaggers or Rubicon, or films like Three Days of the Condor. You should avoid shootouts unless the team has an overwhelming positional advantage, or some surprising ace in the hole
This game is set in a world of hidden agendas and shifting allegiances. They threaten personal identity and self-knowledge, mirroring those threats in betrayal and contests between corrupt opponents where the protagonist must trust only their own moral sense — if they can remember it. This is the world of John Le Carré’s Smiley novels and Barry Eisler’s John Rain thrillers, of movies like Ronin and Spy Games and the Mission: Impossible films, of TV shows like The Prisoner and Spooks.
Mirror mode games encourage a degree of distrust, competition and even rivalry between PCs, so some degree of PvP is possible.
The characters derive their actions from a higher purpose than mere survival or “get the job done” ethics: patriotism, the search for knowledge, protection of the innocent, or even justified revenge. This is the world of James Bond and Jack Ryan, of Tim Powers’ novel Declare, of films like Taken, of TV shows like Burn Notice.
In Stakes mode games, your characters have Drives that urge them forward; with Burn mode, Drives can force the characters to sacrifice themselves; with Mirror mode, conflicting agendas can escalate the drama.
Arcane Underground stories are those that deal with the magic black market and arcane crime. With the regulations enforced by the OIS, there is a large and profitable black market dealing in illegal books, spells, and materials. It is a dangerous place of shady dealings, dark magic, and the constant threat of legal entanglement.
Corporate stories are those that deal with big business in the NEG. The most obvious type are those that deal with the Ashcroft Foundation and its role as both the leading developer of arcanotech and as advisor to most facets of the government.
Counter-espionage stories are those that deal with trying to root out spies within the NEG. Whether it’s Cult spies, Blanks, or Hybrids, there are a lot of ways in which hostiles can and do infiltrate the New Earth Government.
National security stories are those dealing with the safety of the NEG’s citizens. Characters could be part of a city police force, keeping the peace on a local level. They could be agents with the Federal Security Bureau (FSB), which is a combination of the NSA and the FBI, or they could be dealing with arcane crime and the magic black market as agents of the Office of Internal Security (OIS).
Law Enforcement Stories
The two primary types of law enforcement story revolve around either the Federal Security Bureau or the Office of Internal Security. Each has a very distinct and different flavour.
For the most part, Federal Security Bureau stories feel like playing the good guys. They respect the rights of citizens and they fight against the kind of internal evils that most people can understand. They are a much more traditional type of law enforcement than the OIS, with the exception of the Sectarian Crimes Division. There are many different kinds of FSB stories as well, focusing on the different divisions of the agency. One story might involve hunting down slavery rings as part of the Organized Crime Division or taking down drug rings as part of the Controlled Substance Division. However, many of the most exciting stories will come from the cult-hunting Sectarian Crimes Division. Crawling around in the underbelly of the New Earth Government, looking for sects dedicated to the worship of the wrong things certainly speaks to the overall flavour of CthulhuTech.
Stories involving the Office of Internal Security have two big draws: sweeping authority and the arcane underground. Agents of the OIS are given enormous leeway to enforce the NEG’s draconian laws governing magic and para-psychic abilities. They could very easily devolve into goon squads if the world they inhabited were less perilous. As law enforcement agents who live primary in the arcane underground, they are surrounded by powerful enemies with more than a few dirty tricks up their sleeves. Some stories might revolve around undercover agents, deep within the black market. In others, the Characters might be part of an OIS response team, ready to bring in the big guns for when things get ugly. Still others might revolve around field agents, who are the visible hand of the Office of Internal Security investigating potential threats and infractions. Regardless, in the Strange Aeon the OIS always has its hands full.
Advisors from the Ashcroft Foundation may be the most exciting Dramatic Character for a political game. They get to walk in two worlds – the world of elected politics and the world of philanthropic big business. They are civilians with enormous influence in nearly every level of government who do not have to worry about public scrutiny or the constant threat of public approval and re-election. While stories revolving around advisors who help administer things on a city council level are not the stuff CthulhuTech is made of, it is easy to find places that are. Advisors who specialize in military strategy and tactics can be attached to elite units or command posts. Advisors who specialize in criminal psychology or advanced interrogation or investigation techniques can be attached to elite law enforcement units. Wherever the action is, if it’s controlled by the New Earth Government, Ashcroft Advisors can be found.
Politics is a slippery field. On one hand, there’s the responsibility of serving the public in the most tumultuous and frightening time in history and the altruistic desire to do everything to make the world a better place. On the other, there’s the constant threat of corruption, the temptations that come with such power, and the lies politicians tell to make people feel better and to make sure they secure another term. Most politicians in the New Earth Government are part sinner and part saint, but like every era many have given up on the saint all together.