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Achtung Cthulhu 2d20 Makes World War II Even Weirder

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Modiphius comes full circle with the release of Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20. The company established itself with the Achtung! Cthulhu Kickstarter in 2013. The game was originally released with Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds rules and a Fate version came a few years after. Now that 2d20 has become a calling card for the company, it makes sense that an adaptation into the house system would follow. I got a review copy of Achtung! Cthulhu Player’s Guide and Achtung Cthulhu! Gamemaster’s Guide from Modiphius and I was shocked to discover that this was my favorite version of the game yet.

Achtung! Cthulhu mixes Lovecraftian lore with World War II adventure tales. It’s a game where you punch Nazis with one fist and Cthulhu cultists in the other. Rather than the sanity blasting countdown clock of other Mythos games, this is more akin to action horror in the style of Evil Dead or Blade. The premise is fairly simple. Not only are the players trying to stop the spread of Nazi evil across the world in the 1940s, but they are also racing to keep the bad guys from exploiting eldritch powers to achieve those goals and beyond. What if the Ark of the Covenant was actually a way to communicate with the Great Old Ones?

This edition takes a further step towards the action direction by shifting the stories into something more akin to the recent Wolfenstein games or the first Captain America film (and its corresponding What If? episode starring Captain Carter). The game uncovers a secret war beneath the historical conflict featuring six factions. The British have Section M, run by an eccentric English noble with the money and the pull to get the government to entertain his notions of occult truth. The Americans have Majestic, who tend to discover ancient Mythos spells and artifacts, figure out just enough how to use them and then point the glowing end at the bad guys before they go off. The Axis powers are split between Black Sun, a Hydra style occult secret society that wants to use the war machine for a more insidious goal and Nachtwolfe, mad scientists enamored with using alien technology to win the war. The Mythos elements most directly involved in the war are the Mi-Go and the Deep Ones, though there are plenty of examples of the Great Old Ones getting their tentacles dirty in affecting the outcome of battles.

Characters are built by plugging together three blocks; what your character did before the war, what they are doing during the war and a defining characteristic. This process works well enough to get players ready to fight with a single character trait to hang on like old war movies, but I admit, with the rich history of both the Cthulhu Mythos and World War II, I would have loved to see something more akin to the lifepath setup from Star Trek Adventures.

While recent entries like Dune have leaned into more narrative directions, this version of 2d20 is more akin to earlier versions like Mutant Chronicles.There are some nods to more recent designs like choosing to fail and using Truths as modifiers, but the game digs into heavier combat and magical resolution. Weapons have both stress effects and other qualities that can affect them. The book details weapons in fine historical detail and offers some vehicular combat rules as well.Picking up equipment is handled via an abstract point system, supported by some mechanical support for finding weapons and equipment in the field.

Magic gets split into three categories; traditional, researcher (aka Mythos spells) and dabbler. Traditionalists hail from an expected magical background, such as druids or Viking rune masters. Researchers are more of the spellbook types that learned their magic more recently. Anyone can be or become a dabbler at the risk of learning a flawed spell that can fly out of their control on a bad roll. What I really enjoyed was the short section on how to make your own spells. That allows spells from earlier editions to be converted easily or even pulling favorites from other games.

The pulpier shift in direction paid off for me. The original versions started off with lengthy historical discussions of World War II that sapped some of the pulp energy out of the game for me. This one jumps into talking about the game assuming the reader is familiar with both the Mythos and history. I’ve been looking for a game like this since Captain America: The First Avenger and leaning into the dieselpunk trappings really engaged me in a way previous editions did not. I’m also fresh off a Fallout campaign for Theatre of the Mind Players, so I have a better understanding of how to run 2d20 tactically.

Achtung Cthulhu 2d20 is a great choice for fans who want the three P’s at their table: pulp action, punching Nazis and preventing Cthulhu.

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

eyeheartawk

Works 60% of the time, every time
As a fan of the original CoC version, I can confidently say that I have about zero interest in a 2D20 version.

That being said, I find it kind of, I don't know, poopy, that they're publishing a new version and seemingly abandoning the previous game line when it's incomplete. They've published a few volumes of the Zero Point campaign and just...stopped? Thanks, I appreciate buying the constituent books of a abandoned campaign.

I asked their CS about it and their response was that I should bother the author and ask her when she'll complete it. Are you serious?
 


As a fan of the original CoC version, I can confidently say that I have about zero interest in a 2D20 version.

That being said, I find it kind of, I don't know, poopy, that they're publishing a new version and seemingly abandoning the previous game line when it's incomplete. They've published a few volumes of the Zero Point campaign and just...stopped? Thanks, I appreciate buying the constituent books of a abandoned campaign.

I asked their CS about it and their response was that I should bother the author and ask her when she'll complete it. Are you serious?
Likewise.

I'm not buying the same background material just for a different game system. Converting to a different system isn't a problem in any case.

What this suggests is that Modiphius can't be relied upon to support its material.
 



I have heard that this version of the 2D20 system for Achtung Cthulhu is probably the best version. Especially if your looking for a more "cinematic" type take. Which makes me a bit curious as if that's the case, how easy would it be to use the mechanics from this version for when playing say, Star Trek 2D20 or like Fallout 2D20? Kinda like how I've had people tell me the Atomic Robo version of the Fate rules is probably the best "version" or take on the Fate rule set.

Like I know the Star Trek version isn't really that "combat focused" but say if I wanted to play my Star Trek 2D20 like Elite Force as members of Hazard Team and I wanted to use Achtung's Cthulhu combat/momentum mechanics for the physical stuff and what not.

But then, this is coming from a guy who also wants to play his Star Trek 2D20 as Star Trek: Invasion as well and have the pcs be members of the Valkyrie Squadron.
 

I have the Fate version but I'll pick this up. I've been looking for a reason to pick up 2d20 for a while now.
Supposedly, I've heard that the Fate version of Achtung Cthulhu has some exclusive factions, such as the supernatural/military branch for the Russians while the 2D20 version excludes them. So if your into the lore and what not, both books should still serve you well.
 

schneeland

Adventurer
I asked their CS about it and their response was that I should bother the author and ask her when she'll complete it. Are you serious?
From what I have learnt from other places (e.g. rpg.net), it seems that the author of the campaign basically has other priorities and Modiphius apparently no leverage to make her complete it.
 


eyeheartawk

Works 60% of the time, every time
From what I have learnt from other places (e.g. rpg.net), it seems that the author of the campaign basically has other priorities and Modiphius apparently no leverage to make her complete it.
Yeah, okay. Would seem like a breach of contract or whatever. At least, get it to somebody else. They are ultimately responsible for their game not Random Freelancer A.
 

Arakkas

Villager
I'm mildy interested in the new version, but I'll probably wait until the line has been developed a bit further before I buy anything. I own pretty much all the old A!C books and like them quite a bit. The main improvement I see with the 2d20 version is the emphasis on pulp action since the old books tend to swing a bit between a 'war is horror'-approach and a classic Indiana Jones vibe, leaving things somewhat muddled.

Not sure about the new visual identiy though... I mean, it looks good and communicates the pulpy vibes clearly, but damn - the covers and insides of the old GM and player book are so damn stylish in my opinion. Think I prefer them still.
 

From what I have learnt from other places (e.g. rpg.net), it seems that the author of the campaign basically has other priorities and Modiphius apparently no leverage to make her complete it.
In that case, they maybe moving it to 2d20 not just to fill out their 2d20 catalogue but also so they have enough control to get that adventure series wrapped up and done.

But on that note, I'm not holding my breath for them to continue that wrap up on the SW and Trail versions soon if ever.
 

Whilst I like the setting I have the older books for CoC so I'm not going to purchase the books again. Plus there is something about the 2d20 system that just doesn't gel for me and the group.
 

Crusadius

Explorer
In that case, they maybe moving it to 2d20 not just to fill out their 2d20 catalogue but also so they have enough control to get that adventure series wrapped up and done.

But on that note, I'm not holding my breath for them to continue that wrap up on the SW and Trail versions soon if ever.
Just to note: that rpg.net link is 5 years old. I wouldn't hold my breath too. Plus the developer has gone through a personal tragedy since then.

This also highlights a problem with using systems not under your control for games and supplements - Savage Words and Call of Cthulhu both have new editions released since the last Zero Point release (2012-2014 depending on what system you refer to). So what edition should the missing parts be written in - the older or newer?

2D20 on the other hand is Modiphius own system and each game they release using 2D20 has its own variation of the system - so they have complete control over it and don't have to think about the edition of the system they need to use to release supplements for the game.
 

Modiphius has suggested that they might continue with support for CoC 7E. It basically comes down to demand to justify the expense of the CoC 7e licence.
Now this I'd be up for. I got back into CoC after a 15 year absence, and with 7th Ed. I'm glad I did. I'm all for a WWII version of the game and this looks great, but I still want CoC.
 

MGibster

Legend
I've had a scenario rattling around my head for more than five years now involving a Wehrmacht squad retreating following D-Day and resting in a seemingly abandoned French village. I'm not so sure about the long term viability of a campaign sent in WWII, but I sure wouldn't mind a short campaign. I'm more for the horror rather than pulp action though.
 

I've had a scenario rattling around my head for more than five years now involving a Wehrmacht squad retreating following D-Day and resting in a seemingly abandoned French village. I'm not so sure about the long term viability of a campaign sent in WWII, but I sure wouldn't mind a short campaign. I'm more for the horror rather than pulp action though.

That's my opinion as well. I've kicked around various campaign ideas for years: Nazi machinations, Soviet machinations, third-party machinations, all three, none of the above, and so forth. I haven't hit on the right combination yet.
 

Now this I'd be up for. I got back into CoC after a 15 year absence, and with 7th Ed. I'm glad I did. I'm all for a WWII version of the game and this looks great, but I still want CoC.
You may be on luck. Chaosium themselves bought out Cubical 7's, non-Laundry, CoC lines after C7 let their BRP license lapse. These include Cthulhu Britannica (Classic/Jazz Era England including a big box set on London) and World War Cthulhu (The Great War to the Cold War, if I'm remembering correctly). 7e updates with new art have been confirmed, so a first-party Chaosium-penned WWII book is incoming... Eventually... Their turnover rate is fairly low. The Malleus Monstrorum only just got released in 2020, and that Dreamlands update has been in the pipe for YEARS... They've also got a book for pre-WWII Berlin, if that interests you.

 

modiphius

Explorer
Yeah, okay. Would seem like a breach of contract or whatever. At least, get it to somebody else. They are ultimately responsible for their game not Random Freelancer A.
The Three Kings campaign is copyright to the author so we can't just give it to another writer. We hope at some point they will be able to continue with the series though.

The new 2d20 books are a complete re-write - we moved away from having a lot of historical background because it's freely available online for those who want to look it up, instead you've got a much deeper dive in to the weird and nightmarish Secret War being fought - more magic, ancient enemies, gods, artefacts, lost technology and secret bases.

We added in a huge amount of new content on the universe, re-wrote the remaining material and the books feature all new art bringing the world to life. There's quite a few new books and campaigns in the works - I describe the Achtung! Cthulhu universe as the mythos with a faint glimmer of hope. In WW2, the resistance in europe saw the Nazis as unstoppable as we imagine Cthulhu in the classic stories. We're just mere sand under the feet of the Outer Gods. The idea is how we'll die and it's all pretty futile. But the resistance fought on in ww2 despite the seeming futility of it all - visiting the Minsk war museum I saw countless stories of incredible heroism by ordinary people who must have known it was doomed to failure but they fought on and sometimes succeeded knowing anything was better than succumbing to the nazis. We've brought that fighting spirit to Achtung! Cthulhu - it's not cheesy pulp because you're up against ancient gods who have conquered millions of civilisations across the universe, down through the ages, they torn trillions upon trillions of souls from their bodies in the most horrific manner and these embodiments of true evil need to die... by your hands or those who will come after.

Achtung! Cthulhu isn't just 'Cthulhu in ww2' it's the tip of an iceberg of a massive conflict - the universe is called 'Against the Gods Themselves' and it's being played out through the ages, we're currently working on a major prequel to be launched in 2022 going back in history, there's a sequel set about a 100 years later, and much more in the works.

'Against the Gods Themselves' is partly a vengeance story fought out in the front lines of a war longer than most can know, and our heroes will be face nearly impossible odds, against terrifying enemies. Sure you can go in two fisted but this a war not everyone will see through, but we hope to inspire players to see the odds and futility real people faced in the real war and learn how 'anything' is possible if you fight hard enough :)
 

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