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Defender (Lvl 8)
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide: When NAZIS Shooting at You Just isn’t SCARY ENOUGH!
It’s hard to deny that Nazis deservedly get the Evilest-Guys-on-the Planet-Black-Hat Award. And whether appearing in an old black-and-white classic film or chasing Indiana Jones through two movies, their demises are always applauded by audiences happy to see a reckoning to the perpetrators of the pinnacle of heinous war crimes during World War II.
So just imagine the exponential increase in evilosity that occurs when you combine Nazis with Lovecraftian Horror!
Well the writers over at Modiphius Entertainment have done just that, and created a roleplaying game setting where the Third Reich dabbles in the darkest of magic and the occult, and unleashes the terrible forces of the Mythos on a war torn world! Garnering the funds for their project with a VERY successful Kickstarter campaign last spring, Modiphius Entertainment has finally released an Investigator’s Guide and Keeper’s Guide for their Achtung! Cthulhu setting – and designed for use with two systems: Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds RPGs!
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide
- Authors: Chris Birch, Dave Blewer, Bill Bodden, Alex Bund, Russ Charles, Adam Crossingham, Lynne Hardy, Kenneth Hite, Sarah Newton & Matthew Pook
- Illustrators: Dim Martin (artwork); Michael E. Cross (graphics/cartography)
- Publisher: Modiphius Entertainment Ltd.
- Year: 2013
- Media: PDF (295 pages)
- Price: $22.99 (Available from RPGNow.com)
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide is a setting sourcebook of Lovecraftian horror during World War II, and is designed for use with both Call of Cthilhu RPG (6th Edition) and the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition. The sourcebook contains a variety of resources to allow a GM to run a campaign in an WW II alternate timeline, including a “historical” chronology of occult events behind the scenes, Mythos spells and artifacts, and rules for handling a wide range of combat that could occur in the European Theatre of War.
The production quality of Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide is exceptional, with some brilliant writing from the authors, and an amazing layout. The writers are quite good at conveying both rules and setting descriptions with equal facility, and overall the book was a “good read”. The layout is designed to resemble pages in a dossier folder, and utilizes graphical embellishments to simulate “clippings” taped or paper-clipped into the documents.
The PDF package comes with two versions of Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide, a high graphics version and a printer friendly one. For navigation, the PDF has a table of contents, index, and PDF bookmarks – all of which assist the reader quite well in finding information throughout the text.
The artwork in Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide is excellent, leading off with a stunning cover depicting an Allied team of investigators fleeing Cthulhu in a German motorcycle and sidecar (Good luck with that!). Many of the interior illustrations are grayscale images resembling faded black and white photographs (possibly photoshopped photos?), while other pieces are done as a stylized comic rendition. Overall, the illustrations match the theme of Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide very well, and enhances the reader’s experience.
The Third Reich… with tentacles!
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide offers an alternate time period for the typical Call of Cthulhu RPG campaign in the 1920s, and presents content to make the Nazi’s occult activities into something far more terrifying. In this single sourcebook, rules and material are provided for use with both the Call of Cthulhu RPG and the Savage Worlds RPG. The core rulebook for each system is required for use with this book, and the first chapter includes suggested additional sourcebooks which might be helpful in running an Achtung! Cthulhu campaign.
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide is divided into fifteen chapters, each focusing on a different facet of running an RPG campaign of Lovecraftian Horror, using World War II as a backdrop. In addition to the Quick Start Guide explaining the nature of the book and additional works that would be helpful to the GM (Keeper), Chapter 1 also includes the Secret Chronology of a World at War. This Secret Chronology runs from 1907 to 1949, and details both real events during the lead up and the war itself, as well as alternate reality occult events which are perpetrated by the various cults and secret societies struggling behind the scenes. This allows a campaign to start prior to World War II, and continue into the wartime era – and there are hints that 1949 is not the end of this Secret War of the occult, which are seeds for GMs to develop.
Chapter 2 focuses on the timeline of historical events happening Inside the Reich, from 1920 to 1946. The Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide also offers optional information on how to play German nationals as Investigators, either as exiles or as agents of espionage trying to dismantle the secret societies and the Third Reich from within. It does a good job of conveying the main political and social events that shaped Germany preceding and during the war, which can be useful to the GM regardless of the type of characters they allow.
The age-old question of whether Might Makes Right entitles Chapter 3, and explores the military of the Germans, British, French, and Americans. This chapter of Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide discusses the structure of the military, and even provides tables for comparative ranks, titles, and uniform colors for the Allies and the German Forces. The chapter thoroughly discusses important facets of the military, including supply and ordnance, medical issues, engineering and more, as well as gives rules on how these facets affect characters in both game systems. Stat blocks for German, American, British, and French infantry are provided here for both CoC and SW.
The Other Secret War is discussed in Chapter 4, and refers to the historical espionage agencies of the Allies and the Germans. The many agencies and bureaus of British and American intelligence are detailed in this chapter, as well as the French Resistance. The German intelligence services are also detailed here, including the infamous Geheime Staatspolizei or commonly known as the Gestapo.
Chapter 5 delves into the true agencies behind the Secret War – Secret and Occult Societies. The minor occult societies are broken down by country, with special attention paid to the major players in the Secret War. These include two organizations for the Investigators – the British Section M and the American agency codenamed Majestic. The Germans have a number of very nasty cults working with the Third Reich, including the Nachwölfe and the Cult of the Black Sun – the main antagonists in this alternate history.
In Chapter 6, the writers discuss Planes, Trains, and Things That go Bang – a guide to vehicles, weapons, and other gear accessible during an Achtung! Cthulhu campaign. This chapter details transportation options and travels times whether taking a train, a steamer, car, or plane to a new destination, as well as the difficulties that can arise during travels – such as crossing borders during a World War. Military vehicles are also discussed here for both Allies and the Germans, and includes tables of vehicle stats in CoC and SW. (Very handy if you plan on blasting a Mi-Go with a stolen Panzer tank.) Descriptions of Allied weaponry is found in Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator’s Guide, but this chapter details German firearms for the campaign. The writers also include a section of Esoteric Equipment, occult gadgets used by Cult of the Black Sun and the Nachwölfe on their enemies.
Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 are devoted to rules additions and changes to Call of Cthulhu RPG and Savage Worlds RPG respectively. These rules cover situations that can arise during a major conflict between nations, such as aerial combat, tank warfare, and ships and submarines. Rules are also provided for the Investigators when they encounter mines, bunkers, and other battlefield hazards. Chapter 7 in Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide includes special rules for dealing with sanity in Savage Worlds RPG, and has a very elegant system of dementia points to coincide with CoC’s sanity points.
Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 delve into Cthulhu Mythos content, detailing new artifacts and Mythos tomes, as well as providing SW RPG gamers information on the standard CoC grimoires, such as The Necronomicon and De Vermiis Mysteriis. New items have full descriptions, as well as stat block for CoC and SW. A collection of common CoC spells are provided here, converted into SW rules, and there are even new spells in Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide specific to the alternate setting. Some of the new spells and artifacts are quite creepy, as is fitting with any Lovecraftian Horror, and fit well in this occult Secret War setting.
Chapter 11 in Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide details the Horrors and Monstrosities of the Cthulhu Mythos, giving a succinct who’s who (or it’s it?) for the major gods and the common races and creatures. Savage Worlds RPG stat blocks are provided for the races and monsters found already in CoC, and there are also new monsters and horrors included here as well – new entities have a CoC stat block available here as well. Many of these new horrors are the work of demented Nazi experiments, cultist activity, or a combination of both!
Allies and Nemeses are detailed in Chapter 12, with brief descriptions of major historical figures from World War II. In addition, there are a vibrant cast of NPCs for each nationality, complete with CoC and SW stat blocks. And there are brief descriptions of ten locales where action might take place, such as an airfield, hospital, or country village.
Chapter 14 contains ten Adventure Seeds for use in an Achtung! Cthulhu campaign. Each seed has some suggested countries to adventure in, possible locales, and a newspaper clipping designed to entice Investigators into following up what may be occult activity. The seeds also have a potential complication suggested to heighten the tension and danger.
Finally, Chapter 15 has a collection of Suggested Resources which might be of use to a GM running an Achtung! Cthulhu campaign. These resources include movies and television shows, books, web pages (with hot links), roleplaying games, and even museums and memorials to visit.
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide concludes with a nicely rendered map of the Secret War circa 1941.
Overall Score: 4.25 out of 5.0
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide presents an absolutely fantastic alternative history and setting for Call of Cthulhu RPG – not to mention that they stack on a complete Savage Worlds RPG conversion and setting – all in one book! This World War II setting makes for a really high tension backdrop to an occult investigation campaign, and the writers did a splendid job of covering a massive amount of history and events to give the GMs what they need to run the game. Horror RPG fans will doubtless find this setting just familiar enough to be readily accessible, but with enough Lovecraftian plot elements to really make the gaming experience truly unique.
Given the huge amount of content contained in Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide, the price is excellent, and well worth consideration for a place on one’s virtual gaming shelf.
Editorial Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary playtest copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Presentation: 4.25
- - Design: 4.5 (Fantastic writing; cool looking layout!)
- - Illustrations: 4.0 (Excellent cover art; interior art nicely evokes the setting)
- Content: 4.5
- - Crunch: 4.5 (Excellent rule conversions and use; two RPG systems covered by one book!)
- - Fluff: 4.5 (Amazing amounts of setting material and history!)
- Value: 4.0 (Tons of content for the price!)