There is little doubt that World War 2 was one of the most devastating events in history. There is little wonder then why there is such an enormous amount of material on every facet of this event, and why there are still large chunks of it which remain a mystery.
Achtung! Cthulhu is a setting that takes World War 2 and injects it with a large dose of Lovecraftian Horror, making it even darker than it really was. Today we’re taking a look at the first chapter of the Investigator’s Guide, aptly titled: “Welcome to the Secret War”
The chapter opens with a short note as to what Achtung! Cthulhu is: a setting book for Lovecraftian horror in World War 2, where player characters investigate the plans of madmen and monsters while fighting in the war.
The book itself was initially created for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, Sixth Edition, and Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Savage Worlds system, though recently a version of the Investigator’s Guide has also been released for use with the Fate Core system from Evil Hat Productions. The books offer rules relevant to each of these systems, though I suspect that the book will still be useful if even you plan to use it to mine for ideas and the setting alone.
It’s impossible to talk about a Historical setting without getting the appropriate context. Achtung! Cthulhu handles this right off the bat, starting off with a Chronology of World War 2, starting from 1918 with the signing of the armstice which ends World War One.
Each year leading up to 1945 is given a short entry to discuss the relevant events that have happened in the months and days of the given year. Meanwhile sidebars are peppered across the various pages, talking about small bits of trivia relating to the war, from the first appearace of the Molotov Cocktail to the many attempts on Hitler’s life.
Interestingly enough, the timeline ends with April 1945, wherein the events of the game finally take place. In the real world, the war ends until late 1945, but the setting’s Secret War has other things in mind, and those will be dealt with in upcoming supplements.
One important thing to note with this timeline is that is presents the war as it happened, there are no mentions of the Secret War’s events up to this time. I actually like that they did this as it allows the reader to digest the facts first, before the game starts adding the Lovecraftian Elements.
Keep the Home Fires Burning
The following Chapter talks about life away from the battlefront, and how the average citizen of the various countries was like during the war. This is a great chapter for me as it goes into the color of the setting outside of the uniforms and the guns.
As a GM, it’s important to be able to convey a sense of color to the world, and this is best done by going into specific detail. Achtung! Cthulhu covers this requirement very well, going into the small aspects of daily life, from the plight of the working woman (and how to tweak it for groups who prefer more gender and racial equality.) Other intersting aspects were the enforcement of rationing and how people dealt with that, government feeding programs and how they were actually implemented. Fashions and Entertainments of the era were also tackled, something that again, helps lend an air of authenticity to a game should the GM make use of this information.
Again, this chapter provides interesting anecdotes int he various sidebars, dealing with such topics as Propaganda and the popular music and movies of the Era.
As a setting, Achtung! Cthulhu is certainly off on the right foot. World War Two can be a daunting topic, with a lot of facets and factors to consider that most rpg enthusiasts might not necessarily know. What Achtung! Cthulhu does is to start parcelling this information into digestible chunks, and the writing is surprisingly accessible. As someone who tends to have his eyes glaze over at all the dates and names, being able to get through these and come out hungry to learn more is a refreshing experience.
Tomorrow we’ll continue with the next two chapters of the Investigator’s Guide: Home, Sweet Home, which provides social timelines for Britain, France and the USA, and In the Service of One’s Country, which tackles the life of a soldier in World war Two.
For those interested and would like to follow along, you can get a copy of the Achtung! Cthulhu Books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG
- Investigator’s Guide (Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu version) $14.99
- Keeper’s Guide (Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu version) $22.99
- Investigator’s Guide (Fate Core version) $14.99
- Keeper’s Guide (Fate Core version) $22.99
- Achtung! Cthulhu Guide to the Pacific Front (Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu version) $14.99