Achtung! Cthulhu

[Let’s Study Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide] Part 6: Conclusions and Review

Today’s entry is the wrap up of the remaining chapters of the Keeper’s Guide. Not that these chapters are somehow less noteworthy, but because they are essentially a no-nonsense list of GM resources that will be of use in any WW2 game involving the Cthulhu Mythos.

After the special rules chapters, the Keeper’s Guide has several chapters that cover magic and artifacts, a spell list, horrors and monstrosities and important allies and nemeses in the setting.

Beyond those, the last few chapters include Adventure Seeds, and a Quick Play Guide and resources for the GM’s use.

Each of these chapters goes into excellent detail on the various facets presented. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that it’s essentially a toybox of Cthulu Mythos fun. NPCs provided in the chapters all have the required stat blocks for all the systems involved, which is surely no small amount of work, and the usefulness of the Keeper’s Guide is apparent to anyone looking to run a Cthulhu game in this era.

Review and Conclusion

The Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide is a dense, detailed, and well researched book which is more than able to deliver on the promise of arming a GM with the necessary information to run any kind of WW2 game involving the Cthulhu Mythos.

The antagonist secret societies introduced in this book remain a highlight for me, as I found them to be very colorful and still very sinister, falling beautifully in that space between pulp and horror, allowing them to work in any game of the setting with minor adjustments to how they’re run.

As a GM, I can’t stress enough how the book has pretty much anything you might need. It’s best to view this book as a reference material as opposed to a standard GM guide. If you need anything, from a vehicle, to rules on a dogfight involving a flying cthulhoid creature and an airplane, to bizzare inventions used by the Nazis against Allied tanks, it’s in here.

The artwork in the book remains splendid, and the layout clear and easy to use. My only possible feedback with regards to this is that it doesn’t seem to have much in terms of a guide to how to use the book for novice GMs. It’s a lot of information, but I can see new GMs fumbling about how to use all of this, and perhaps getting a little worried that they might need to use all of it, which is certainly not the case.

More experienced GMs will know that the books is sort of a buffet of information and options that they can cherry pick only the stuff that they’re interested in and use that, without feeling that kind of pressure.

That said I cannot really say that there’s a fault in having too much information. With a discerning GM with a careful eye towards balancing authenticity with information overload, the book is an absolute joy to go through.

Achtung! Cthulhu is turning out to be quite the product line, and I would say that it is definitely a must have for any fans of games set in the era, both as a game and as a resource.

For those interested, you can get a copy of the Achtung! Cthulhu Books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG

[Let’s Study Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide] Part 5: Into the Fray & Rules of Savage Engagement

We’re looking at two chapters today, each of which deals with specific rules for Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds for handling special cases that go beyond the standard combat.

Given that this is a World War 2 game, Achtung! Cthulhu has a lot of special cases to consider, all of which have been given coverage in these two chapters.

These chapters start off with the Aerial Dogfight mechanics, including rules for handling combat against flying creatures, as well as bombing and strafing runs.

Tanks are also detailed here, with coverage on tank vs tank combat, and the matter of combat involving a tank vs infantry as well.

Bunkers and other Hard Targets are also given some treatment, including the rules for demolishing buildings and the rules for foxholes, sandbags and trenches.

Given that this is a World War 2 game, Achtung! Cthulhu would be remiss if they hadn’t included mass combat rules. Each rule system is given a thorough breakdown of Mass Combat, which isn’t just about troops, but also the cost of large scale combat on morale. There are also tables for hostile force encounters, something that I expect many players will hate waching their GM roll on.

Sanity is given treatment for the Savage Worlds ruleset, both in the face of the horrifying things found in “normal” war, and the alien entities that the Black Sun utilize in the conflict. There’s even a shell shock table to simulate the kind of effects that war has on even hardened soldiers.

I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but I’m continuously impressed by Achtung! Cthulhu’s dedication to giving the GM as many tools as they could ask for to run a World War 2 game. Achtung! Cthulhu is really doing a great job as both a setting book, and a resource for people who are interested in running a World War 2 game of any type. The Keeper’s Guide in particular has a lot of meat to it that can keep up with a lot of historical purists, while still being accessible enough for those like me who have only the most basic working knowledge of the events of World War 2.

For those interested and would like to follow along, you can get a copy of the Achtung! Cthulhu Books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG

[Let’s Study Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide] Part 4: Planes, Trains and Things That Go Bang

Today we’re looking at the vehicles, transportation and gear chapter of the Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide.

A counterpart of the Player’s Guide equipment chapter, this one talks about the big stuff. Keeping with the Achtung! Cthulhu standard, the chapter is extensive, going over a great number of vehicles from airplanes, to tanks and stranger things from the various factions of the war.

Each entry has a beefy entry talking about how they look and what they were used for, and each vehicle also has a corresponding entry in the rules, in the form of tables detailing their statistics.

Needless to say, this is pretty much a toybox for GMs and players who like vehicles and big guns.

Once we’ve gotten the diverse entries of real-life equipment, the chapter then goes into detailing the Not-So-Standard equpiment, the esoteric and strange gear used by the Nachtwolfe and the Black Sun.

The chapter wraps up with a quick look at improvised and custom equipment and vehicles. It’s a quick and dirty customization guide, with not so much in terms of hard and fast rules, but examples on how a group could put together customizations onto existing equipment. Needless to say it involves a bit of back and forth with the GM and players to come to an agreement on how to best simulate the customizations that they plan to apply.

Overall this is another meaty chapter, but one that really feels much more interesting to GMs who enjoy having a large list of gear. I’m more inclined towards espionage games so having that much military hardware is nice to have, but won’t be my favorite chapter.

This is not to say that it’s a bad chapter. Again, the book goes into plenty of detail, and it depends on the GM on just how much they’d like to apply onto their game.

For those interested and would like to follow along, you can get a copy of the Achtung! Cthulhu Books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG

[Let’s Study Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide] Part 3: Secret and Occult Societies

Today we’re looking at Chapter 5 of the Achtun! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide which goes into all the fun details about the various Secret and Occult Societies in the setting.

The chapter opens with a look at a small selection of interesting occult societies per nation, again covering America, France, Britain and Germany. Each country gets a writeup of one or more secret societies, and each society has a large plot hook in it regarding their affairs. A few of these have writeups for relevant NPCs in the groups, statted according to the system you’re interested in.

This chapter gets even more interesting the moment the book goes into Section M, a crew of occult investigators working with the British against the Germans. Their history and characters are given the full treatment here, and provide a spot of fictional color to the book. After several chapters of timelines, this kind of more personal approach is a welcome one.

America’s Majestic follows up next, with its own colorful account of its history, operations, headquarters and heroes.

What follows next is detailed account of two German secret societies, starting with The Cult of the Black Sun.

The Black Sun are the German’s Occult arm, dedicated to terrible sorceries and forbidden paths, calling on various blasphemies to do their bidding. They are the sorcerous arm of the Nazi War Machine. They’ve got powerful backers in the form of some of the more well-known Elder Gods of the Cthulhu Mythos, and that makes the Black Sun a very interesting opponent for player characters.

Aside from the well known leaders and personnel of the Black Sun, the chapter also details their troops and other, more unique and monstrous forces.

The Nachtwolfe are the other secret society covered here, and serve as an interesting counterpoint. While the Black Sun focuses on foul sorceries, the Nachtwolfe are more in tune with occult artifacts and lost technologies. This makes them a fearsome asset to the German forces. It’s intresting how the Nachtwolfe are related to the Black Sun and how they’ve become their own thing, and the tensions between the two are well explained.

The Nachtwolfe also have their heroes and troops detailed, with interesting technologies that can wreak havoc in any normal battlefield.

This is the chapter that really caught my attention. While the timelines and details were great for historical accuracy, I found the chapter on secret societies to be the one that could inspire the most. I’m especially amused by The Black Sun and the Nachtwolfe. The’re excellent opponents, and as a GM, I’m glad to be able to throw something that feels a little more theatrical than the usual Nazi soldier to my players. It will certainly make their encounters with either society much more memorable.

For those interested and would like to follow along, you can get a copy of the Achtung! Cthulhu Books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG

[Let’s Study Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide] Part 2: Might Makes Right? and The Other Secret War

Hey everyone, after a few weeks of crazy workloads and a dead computer, I’m finally back to blogging. Today we’re picking up from where we left off on the Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide, with the next chapter: Might Makes Right?

This chapter details the military organization of the various armies showcased in Achtung! Cthulhu. Aside from going over the military organization of the British, Americans and the Germans, there’s also a whole host of different NPCs that can double as templates for Investigators as well.

I won’t go into explaining the details here, as the book does a great job of it. Instead, I would like to call out that I appreciate the benefits of having a book that goes into this kind of detail to help GMs like me who have no prior military experience (or knowledge) to have a somewhat working knowledge of how the military chain of command looks like and how it works.

This chapter also goes into detail into how to requesition supplies, administer first aid, the use of signaling and details about Prisoners of War before going into a listing of various NPC stat blocks.

The next chapter: The Other Secret War talks about the intelligence services, and is perhaps why I like it so much. There’s emphasis here on the American, French, British and German intelligence services.

Each of the countries gets a thorough breakdown of their organization, from the “MI” intelligence departments of the British Intelligence, to the various offices of the American Intelligence, such as the FBI. The French Resistance gets a smaller section, but are no less interesting, being the ones caught in the thick of the fighting against the Germans. Germans also get coverage with some discussion on the Abwehr, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and the Gestapo.

The Keeper’s Guide continues the straightforward explanation of the setting of Achtung! Cthulhu with an eye towards detail. There’s a lot to take in here, and will clearly reward a GM who wants authenticity in his games. As with the Player’s Guide, I’m seeing a lot of openings here from GMs, and while new GMs might feel a little lost with all the information here, more experienced GMs will be able to spot that the game is full of potential hooks to be used in any kind of WW2 game, from those centered on the front lines, to those that deal with the shadows and espionage.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue with the discussion on two more chapters: Secret and Occult Societies and Planes, Trains and Things That Go Bang

For those interested and would like to follow along, you can get a copy of the Achtung! Cthulhu Books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG

[Let’s Study Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide] Part 1: From The Shadows & Inside The Reich

Hello everyone, glad to be back and posting again after a hectic workweek. Today we’re staring our coverage of the Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide, the other half of the game reserved for the GMs.

I have to admit that I’ve been looking forward to checking this out as I’m quite used to being a GM and if this game is going to get any play time in my table, I suspect I’m going to have to be the one to run it.

Anyway, let’s get started with the first chapter of the book, which gives us a very quick introduction to the game, and immediately launches into what might be my favorite part: The Secret Chronology of a World at War.

As with the Investigator’s Guide, this Chronology is straightforward, mixing historical stuff with the occult events in the game. It’s a compelling read, and while I’m no expert in history, the plot hooks were practically all over this timeline.

As a side note, adding the page references to entries that are mentioned in the book are a nice touch, if only to bring attention to things that are discussed later on.

Sidebars are still here, with mention of the other interesting trivia in the timeline often talking about remarkable characters or special operations conducted in the time.

The next chapter, Inside the Reich, talks about the Germans, and leaves the choice of playing German Investigators up to individual groups. That said it still has a small sidebar talking about how games centered on German players can involve Espionage and Infiltration.

Special attention must be called to a short Essay by Kenneth Hite warning about the dehumanization of the Germans just because they’re painted by history as the enemy in World War Two. It’s a great piece and one that I was certainly looking for when I saw that they were going to discuss Germany in the Keeper’s Guide. It’s important to remember that all sides of the war were human, and majority of them didn’t want to be involved in the atrocities that were committed at the time.

The rest of the chapter portrays a non-secret history timeline of events from a German perspective, further adding to just how well Achtung! Cthulhu manages to portray all the sides of the conflict in a respectful fashion, while still keeping things interesting from a game perspective.

The Keeper’s Guide is off to a great start. I’m impressed by how the game handled the subject matter of the Germans in World War 2 with an eye towards presenting them as people and not as targets. It’s a solid move and one that I definitely count as a big plus.

Next up we’ll be taking a look at the next two chapters: Might Makes Right? & The Other Secret War

For those interested and would like to follow along, you can get a copy of the Achtung! Cthulhu Books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG

[Let’s Study Achtung! Cthulhu Investigator’s Guide] Part 3b Character Creation, Savage Worlds

Today we’re tackling character creation for Achtung! Cthulhu with the Savage Worlds rules. I’m afraid that with the current crush of requirements at my day job, I’ll have to cut this article shorter than I usally do, by going over the mechanics presented rather than building a character like I did in the previous post.

That said, we might as well get right to it!

Character creation for Savage Worlds is again similar to the usual, with tweaks along the way introduced by Achtung! Cthulhu.

Every character starts off as Human, along with the usual free Edge. A choice of nationality is also available here, though using the same table from the previous character creation rules. No particular benefits or penalties for being of one kind of nationality over another, but it does add flavor at least.

The next step would be to choose a role, which means choosing from any of the branches of the military. That said, Achtung! Cthulhu also allows for characters who do not belong to any of the branches of the military.

Within a service branch, a character decides on their Military Occupational Specialty or a Civilian Occupation if they do not choose a Military service.

Traits are up next, which are bought up from a starting die of d4. Certain Military specialties have minimum starting attribute levels, so it’s a good idea to peek at what you want as a specialty first before you start distributing points.

Sanity is given some treatment here, starting at 2 plus half his Spirit die type. As they run into the horrors of war and other things, this is going to fluctuate. It’s a nice touch, and obviously in line with a Lovecraftian horror game.

Starting investigators also begin with 15 points for skills, some of these must be spent in accordance to the MOS packages. Civilian characters don’t necessarily have to do this.

Edges and Hindrances come next, with each of the Military Occupational Specialty having a few suggested Edges as well.

The MOS packages are detailed after the initial summary of steps, each one being essentially a pre-built template of character choices that simulate a given type of training. I like this approach as it works without adding complications to the system. Once more Achtung! Cthulhu shows just what it can do with working with an existing system as opposed to trying to re-invent the wheel.

For those looking for more mechanical meat, there’s a whole slew of Edges (and Hindrances) in the book, ranging from “Hose ’em down” which improves a character’s ability to lay down suppressing fire with a machine-gun to “Insane insight” which allows the investigator to ask the GM a single Yes/No question which must be answered truthfully.

While I do enjoy the CoC variant, the Savage world’s character creation really gives off a stronger Pulp vibe as opposed to the CoC’s Noir one. The fact that the rules reflect both styles of play equally well and make me want to consider running separate campaigns using each system can only be considered a good thing.

Tomorrow we take a look at Character Creation from the FATE Core Investigator’s Guide, and see how they plan to carry over the mood of the setting in a much lighter rule system.

For those interested and would like to follow along, you can get a copy of the Achtung! Cthulhu Books in PDF format from DriveThruRPG

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