Eldritch Automata TTRPG:
Kickstarter Preview

Cosmic Horror and Giant Robots? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Jan 25, 2024
Eldritch Automata Kickstarter Preview.png

I hate to say it, but I’m a sucker for dark settings in games. While I try to be an optimist in real life, when I plunge into another reality I want there to be a reason to fight, a cause that really motivates you as a player to take up arms and struggle against your surroundings.

With that in mind, there’s a reason why I was immediately intrigued when I saw Eldritch Automata announced at PAX Unplugged at the end of last year. It’s a TTRPG that’s being created by Gehenna Gaming that’s all about attempting to defend the world using giant machines that you interface with as its pilot. Be careful though, as facing off against the horrors which threaten humanity in this game might make you forget what makes you human.

Two Characters For the Price Of One

When I spoke with Nicholas Francia, one of the masterminds behind the setting and the Gehenna Gaming company, he was incredibly open about the influences which went into creating Eldritch Automata. If the concept of being the pilot of a giant machine which can change your personality sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Taking inspiration from Evangelion, Pacific Rim, Alien, Godzilla, and more, the goal of the TTRPG is to combine these sort of mecha, kaiju, and horror elements into something unique. For my money, I think they’ve got the right idea in large part because of this being a roleplaying game.

Using Free League’s “Year Zero Engine”, Eldritch Automata’s core rulebook is meant to let you jump into action without taking too long creating a stat list. Since the RPG system only has four statistics and twelve attributes, your biggest choice is going to be choosing the two character archetypes to start the game with.

Yes, two: one pilot, one automata. The pilot archetype helps set your place in the narrative. Are you going to be more of a responsible, no-nonsense soldier type of character, or are you going to be someone who more expressive and more prone to explosions of emotion for both good and ill? Meanwhile, your automata archetype is going to be much more about combat: do you want to play a slower sort of robot that’s bristling with weapons, or one that is faster and more maneuverable in order to flit about the battlefield?

Junker Eldritch Automata.jpg

Concept art for the 'Junker' Automata archetype. It puts you in an older and less sleek looking mech than others on the battlefield, but that's just because you have abilities that allow you to endure more punishment than some other archetypes. It's a good example of how Eldritch Automata is trying to let players play the sort of giant robot dream of their choice.

I will be honest: I wish the Kickstarter campaign had more details about some of these archetypes, but the possibilities here are really exciting. With there being 12 different pilot and automata archetypes each, there are 144 combinations as to how your characters might act as you start a campaign or one shot in this universe.

Focusing On Both Horror and Friendship

While the unique character creation is exciting, it's how the writers approached the world that really grabbed my attention. There are a host of ttrpg writers who have worked on this book, with the two leads Nicholas Francia and Ian Muller having plenty of experience in running and producing actual plays with Gehenna Gaming.

In my conversation with Nicholas, we brushed over the world building quickly: it’s set in the near future after a cataclysmic event known as Advent Day. Horrors and Seraphs descended on the world for unknown reasons, but survivors have found a way to pilot automata as a way to fend them off. Part of the appeal of the game is in finding out more about the state of the world and how it came to be as you defend what you can.

Eldritch Automata is billed as an ‘action horror roleplaying game’, and it was impressed on me that the horror really is supposed to build as the game sessions continue. Your pilot can become haunted by the things they have seen, sure, but interfacing with your giant death dealing machine takes a lot out of you. It’s best abilities are powered by Ego… yes, your personality, and your willpower. Using it up stresses you out, changing you even as you defend those you care about.

Speaking of caring, an aspect I didn’t realize about this game until the Kickstarter began is how the writers are going to balance this Ego problem, and that’s using a system called Strands. Essentially, the storyteller can reward you by roleplaying close connections with other players or NPCs, with Strands representing finding emotional reserves to pull on to power dice rolls to be higher even while reminding your character why they are fighting their battles to begin with.

A Unique System You Can Support For Just $30

Eldritch Automata went live on Kickstarter on January 2nd, and by the time this article is published, will have just about 48 hours left to be funded. While I’m sad I missed the chance to try out the game in the ttrpg rooms of PAX Unplugged, there are several actual plays you can watch in order to get a taste of what the game might play like.

All in all, I’m really excited that this game exists, and I want to support it. I’ve always wanted to try playing a ‘big robot’ game of some sort as a ttrpg, but I hadn’t really seen one that had really given me that little extra spark to really catch my eye. Eldritch Automata does, and I think it's because of how it approaches how emotionally exhaustive it would be to both try and defend your home and also control a machine of immense destruction. While I don’t have any experience watching the most immediate inspiration, Neon Genesis: Evangelion, the way you are forced to meld pilot and machine reminded me actually of the imperial knights of the Warhammer 40,000 world. The chance to step into that sort of experience really intrigues me, and so the setting definitely has won my support.

As I wrote above, the Kickstarter has just about two days left, and at time of writing, is still missing about $32,500 in order to be funded. However, with a basic reward goal of only $30 to get a pdf of the base corebook, as well as there being reward tiers for getting a fully realized starter box for this game has me excited. While the authors have already said there might be other options if this kickstarter doesn’t work out, I am hoping to raise awareness for an intriguing project that deserves more attention as it approaches the finish line.

With all that said, take a look at the Kickstarter page for yourself and see if it's for you! I have my fingers crossed that they’ll be able to deliver this game by the end of the year, and I’ll have a chance to run a campaign of desperate survival and giant mechs for my friends in time for the next PAX Unplugged.

Wyatt Krause

Editor-in-chief, Co-founder