Chthonian Highways RPG

Chthonian Highways is a tabletop role-playing game set in a world where nightmarish creatures have ravaged the Earth, and otherworldly landscapes have merged with ours. Strange, dreadful beings prowl in the shadows, and dangerous alien flora takes over the green forests and grasslands. The few remnants of civilization are held together by the Chthonian highways – a web of roads that are still traversable by ground vehicles. The characters are dauntless road warriors who roam the cursed highways in their souped-up cars and motorcycles for as long as there is gasoline to keep the engines roaring.

The Game

Chthonian Highways is currently at its alpha development stage and in the open playtesting. The latest version is a playable prototype of Ironcore Engine including a brief description of the setting, rules, character creation, equipment, vehicles, and a single ready-to-play scenario for 2 to 4 players. The latest version of the playtest kit can be downloaded for free below in the Downloads section.

Please note that this is not the final product. The game is still in development, and some parts are still missing and/or only partially proofread. It probably has some mistakes here and there too.

The World of Chthonian Highways

What we know now as the Reckoning started roughly twenty years ago. First, there were massive earthquakes like none we had ever seen before. The quakes were followed by tsunamis and the thick fog that rolled in from the sea. Millions of people were killed and lost in these natural disasters. At least we thought they were natural until the great sinkholes appeared and many cities collapsed into the deep chasms on the ground. Dense, foul-smelling steam poured out of these holes, and people reported that they saw horrific creatures climbing out of the thick mist.

The earthquakes and the sinkholes of the Reckoning shattered most of the old roads and highways, but some were spared. The highways that are still good are used to transport people and goods through the wastelands between the settlements. While the cannibals and bandits often lie in wait along the roads, the roads are still safer and faster to travel than the badlands that are filled with unknown threats and abominable monstrosities.

The Road Warriors

The player characters are road warriors, brave men, and women who are willing to risk their lives on the chthonian highways for a cause or worldly riches. Some road warriors are more like mercenaries or wasteland paladins on a quest, while others are more like traveling merchants or messengers trying to keep up people’s hopes.
Because death is always lurking on the chthonian highways, road warriors tend to form groups called convoys. The road warrior convoys are tightly knit groups of people who are willing to give their lives for each other. Only by trusting your convoy you can survive another day on the chthonian highways.

The Rules

Chthonian Highways is powered by Ironcore Engine, an original roleplaying game system developed in collaboration with Ironspine and Myrrysmiehet Oy. A rules system is designed especially with action and adventure genres in mind. The Ironcore Engine combines well-tested ‘old school’ conflict resolution with more story-driven game mechanics called Push, Strain, and Velocity.

The basic conflict resolution is easy to learn: d20 + skill level + modifiers versus a set Challenge Level (CL) or an opposing Skill Check result. Things get more interesting when we bring in the Pushing, Strain, and Velocity.

Push and Strain

In Ironcore Engine characters have four Abilities that determine their basic capabilities and inner resources.

  • Body comprises the character’s endurance, health, and overall fitness.
  • Precision reflects the character’s fine motor skills, dexterity, and aim.
  • Wits measure the character’s intelligence, resourcefulness, memory, and ability to concentrate.
  • Psyche represents the character’s instincts, mental stability, and fortitude.

Instead of using the Abilities as a straight bonus to Skill Checks, the character can Push the Abilities to add up to three additional dice to the Skill Check. Each additional dice causes a point of Strain on the Ability, lowering its value temporarily. Besides Pushing, Strain is also caused by other effects that harm or weaken the character physically or mentally, such as damage, fear or fatigue. When the character is Pushing, the player rolls all the dice together – a d20 plus one d20 for each point of Strain taken – and picks the highest die result. This result is used to calculate the character’s Skill Check result.


When you succeed exceptionally well, your character gets Velocity. You can use the Velocity points immediately to increase the quality of your success, to perform special maneuvers, or feats of heroic proportions. Unused Velocity points can be saved for later, so your “critical hit” will not be wasted on some trivial Skill Check.

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