Recently, I picked up the Dark Passions supplement for CthulhuTech. I’d already sped through Reuben’s copy to see that it was mostly fluff detailing cults, with enough crunch at the end to make playing cultists possible. The major thing I noticed was that the book was flimsy—incredibly so. But, I liked the idea of cults, and thought it might have some useful material, so I kept its flimsiness in mind when I picked up my own copy, for half price, on eBay.
Despite the warnings of graphic content, there’s nothing as extreme as I’d expected, though there are some fairly creepy mentions about killing, raping, and (of course) the creation of Deep Ones, so there’s a reason it labels itself as “mature only.” Not for the easily offended. Keep in mind that cults are sick and twisted, so if you don’t like the idea of your players fighting (or being) people who perform ritual sacrifice and rape, this isn’t the book for you.
For a book detailing cults, it’s not bad. It has some general info on cults in the CthulhuTech world before going into some overviews of a number of cults. They’re all pretty useable, and it’s interesting to see the various directions these cults take. There’s the Blood Brigade, a cross between paranoid militias and far-right evangelicals, which roves inside the New Earth Government to attack Nazzadi and anyone else they consider to be sins in the eyes of God. There’s the Church of All, a new-age religious sect which has some shady underbelly and would fit well in Innsmouth. There’s the Empty, homeless people who destroy communities from within, probably the deadliest since they form a hive-mind which causes them to kill, maim, or otherwise erode society. (The book has several examples of the Empty, ranging from the housewife who snaps and poisons her family, to the group of high-school football jocks who abuse the girls on their street.) There’s a bunch of other cults as well, all maybe 3-5 pages each.
Besides this, there’s a selection of cultist character templates, a few merits and flaws to apply to said cultists, some ideas for running cult-based games (“don’t forget, the characters should be reminded that they’re bad people on the other side of the law”), and several pieces of fiction that I didn’t read since I always assume the worst of game fiction and consider them to be wastes of useable space. And that’s about it.
As an overview, it’s interesting, and gets me thinking about what cults I’d create for the game, but it doesn’t go too in-depth with any of the examples. The big problem with this book is that it’s flimsy. The thin high-gloss pages make it feel smaller than it is, and the cover isn’t as sturdy as your average National Geographic. It’s a mere 64 pages for $19.99, yet another book which makes me think even higher of the $24.99 Exalted soft-splats packed with information through their 160 pages.
Dark Passions is a useful overview, with a number of cool cults and enough rules to play them, but it’s too brief and expensive to recommend it for all GMs. If you want a complete CthulhuTech library, go for it; if you just want to run the game, stick with the core book and Vade Mecum.