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Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2014 08:22:07

This tome is intended as the essential reference work for mixing the Cthulhu Mythos with World War Two - primarily aimed at the GM/Keeper but providing a lot of detailed background for anyone wishing to explore adventuring in a 'weird war' style.

After a brief Introduction by Chris Birch, instigator of the concept, it's on to Chapter 1: From the Shadows. With a brief piece of atmospheric fiction, it launches into an explanation of what this game is designed to present: an alternate history of WW2 in which the Nazis are attempting, through their known interest in the occult, to recruit the forces of the Mythos to aid their quest for world domination. Whilst most of the material is generic, specific game mechanics are provided for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds, with tags to indicate them in the text as well as game-specific chapters to deal with topics like combat, strategy and Sanity loss. It then jumps into a timeline from 1907 through to April 1945, weaving fact with fiction. It's illustrated with period photographs and snippets of information on various individuals and events - all laid out to give the impression of a dossier - and is designed so that you can set your action whenever you choose. Of course, later events may be somewhat different depending on the outcome of your group's adventures.

Next, Chapter 2: Inside the Reich deals with the notion that this is an historical horror game and hence delivers some (mostly) historical detail. This type of game works best when you have a good grasp of the real-world history on which your alternate history is based and covers developments in Germany from 1920 on. It looks at the potentials for playing German characters and issues the stark reminder that the Nazis were nasty enough without help from the Mythos. Not everyone will be comfortable playing a German character - although again it must be remembered that not all Germans were as evil as Hitler... war is not football, you do not get to choose which side you support. Notes here make a good job of picking their way through propaganda to give a clear picture of what the average German, especially the average German soldier, was really like. It is an interesting argument which boils down to the concept that the Nazis were not evil due to Mythos influences even in this game, they were evil enough to seek out and attempt to weaponise the Mythos.

Chapter 3: Might Makes Right? moves on from general discussion of German history to talk about the military. Everything is covered from organisation to uniforms to everyday life in the ranks, giving a good impression of the German war machine of the time. There's quite extensive discussion of prisoner-of-war camps which may come in useful should Allied player-characters fall into enemy hands! This chapter ends with a wide selection of sample stat blocks for both German and Allied military personnel. Many real-world units are included, complete with historical notes.

Chapter 4: The Other Secret War then looks at the Great Game, the role of intelligence agencies, spies, signal interception and the like that went on behind the scenes. Here the history and operations of the real-world British, French, American and German intelligence services are covered in quite some detail. The 'Secret War' that is the main thrust of Achtung! Cthulhu is handled in the following chapter, Chapter 5: Secret and Occult Societies. This details many such societies in different countries around the world, mixing known occultists with invented ones quite seamlessly. Organisations and individuals (all with dual stat blocks) provide a ready source of contacts and ideas for adventures, as do the more detailed accounts of some of the ongoing operations, particularly those conducted by the Germans.

Next comes Chapter 6: Planes, Trains and Things That Go Bang. It is much more than an equipment list, with notes on travel by air, sea and land - including border crossings other than the conventional stroll up and present your passport - as well as details of military vehicles and vessels (in enough detail to keep the average wargamer happy) and equipment. The equipment covered here is German, British and Allied equipment is covered in the Investigator's Guide. More esoteric devices invented by German occultists are also included here. Every item is, of course, provided with both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds statistics.

Chapter 7: Into The Fray opens with the immortal words "In case you hadn't noticed, there's a war on" and proceeds to discuss the perils of attempting to run a conventional role-playing style adventure in a combat zone as well as translating common battlefield events into convenient role-playing terms so that if your characters get involved, for example, in an aerial dogfight, you now have the rules to make it all happen within the context of the game. Chapter 8: Rules of Savage Engagement provide additional Savage Worlds game mechanics for use in military combat situations. This being a Mythos game, there is also a table for Sanity loss for those who find themselves caught up in the horrors of war.

This is followed by Chapter 9: Artefacts and Tomes which looks at some of the potent items and books that are around, particularly in Germany, to threaten or entertain the inquisitive seeker of occult knowledge. Several are based on real items held to be of almost-mystical significance by the real-world Nazis, now neatly embuded with power for game purposes - the Blutfahne and the SS Totenkopfring for example. There's a good library of dark and dangerous tomes too, some will be familiar to Call of Cthulhu veterans, but here they are provided with Savage Worlds stats (get the CoC ones from the core rulebook). Now you have all that occult knowledge, Chapter 10: Deadly Illusions and Cursed Knowledge shows you how to use it - in particular, how to cast spells and use artefacts to their full potential, as well as how to use the Knowledge (Mythos) skill to good effect as you try to puzzle things out, preferably before going insane or getting eaten. Budding spellcasters will find a goodly grimoire of spells here. Most are standard ones, so presented only with Savage Worlds mechanics, but there are some new ones with the mechanics for both game systems provided. If that's not enough, Chapter 11: Horrors and Monstrosities provides a vast array of monsters and worse with which to bedevil investigators. There's also a good overview of the Cthulhu Mythos for those new to it.

Next is Chapter 12: Allies and Nemeses, which introduces a wide range of notable individuals the characters might have an opportunity to meet and interact with during the course of the game. Many are real-world historical figures, others feature in Achtung! Cthulhu adventures or feature in this alternate history. Yet others are examples of ordinary people whom they might encounter. There is also a collection of choice generic locations that might come in handy. And now you have people and places, all you need is Chapter 13: Adventure Seeds to start coming up for ways to use them. Some nice ideas here, but you'll have to flesh them out to make full scenarios of them.

Chapter 14: Quick Play Guide is a useful ready-reference for Call of Cthulhu Keepers as to where they can find all the rules they'll need (Savage Worlds referees have all the Cthulhu-related rules they need in this book, of course, and the Savage Worlds rulebook for everything else). Finally, Chapter 15: Suggested Resources provides inspirational references to books and films - even a list of museums you might want to visit.

Presented in a style that suggests a sheaf of government paperwork, adorned with annotations and clipped-in phots and sketches, this book is a masterful exposition of how to weave an alternate history around the Second World War, and should put even the newest Keeper/Referee in a position to run an Achtung! Cthulhu game well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2014 06:44:58

Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/08/tabletop-review-achtung-cthulhu-keepers-guide-to-the-secret-war-call-of-cthulhu-savage-worlds/

I reviewed Achtung! Cthulhu’s Investigator’s Guide to the Secret War last month but had a number of things set me back from getting to my review of the Keeper’s Guide, which functions as the Dungeon or Game Masters’s Guide for the game using either Call of Cthulhu rules mods or Savage Worlds mods, most of which, aside from character creation, are contained here in the Keeper’s Guide. Both of these books started life on Kickstarter, and I’ve loved the end results that they’ve produced. Where the Investigator’s Guide offered up a nice supplement for playing a soldier with some unique investigative charges, going so far as to convince me that you could play it as a straight World War II RPG, the Keeper’s Guide unleashes the little tidbits lurking in the dark corners and provides the game master with all the tools to let the Old Ones and the cult side of the Nazi war machine which is great because if you can keep your player’s out of the Keeper’s Guide, they’ll have no idea what’s coming their way. Let’s take a look.

The layout scheme from the Investigator’s Guide continues, looking like a series of case files strung out over someone’s desk or put up on a corkboard with notes and photographs taped in for emphasis. It gives the book layout a distinct period feel that adds to the atmosphere of the game and keeps the book readable as well which is important when you’re using it as entertainment and a rulebook. The titles are set up to look like they were punched onto the page by a type-writer but they opted to give the main text you read a far more readable font, thankfully. When you are presented with a table or stat block, it’s done up like it was formatted on a large index card and hastily taped into place but is still legible. Both this and the Investigator’s Guide would be amazing to have as print copies when I stop to think about them in my hands I’m actually disappointed I only have access to the PDFs for review. If you thought the Investigator’s Guide only having 4 pages of ads, you’ll love the Keeper’s Guide only having 3.5 pages of ads and subtracting those, plus the covers, the splash pages, and a thanks to the backers of the game, you’re looking at 283 pages of content for your use. That’s impressive.

As I mentioned, Achtung! Cthulhu is set up to work with two different rule systems, Savage Worlds Deluxe and Call of Cthulhu, 6th Edition. The bulk of the time you’ll see rules for each of these game systems printed side by side with each other with color coded names to better tell which rules go with which system, but like the Investigator’s Guide, sometimes it’s just easier to delve into a chapter on specific rule changes for each system, but while the Investigator’s Guide split this off into 4 chapters, 2 for each system, the Keeper’s Guide keeps this number down to just one chapter per system, each one aptly titled and marked based off the rules it’s written for. Both of these chapters are very similar in content with various tweaks for each, so I recommend looking each over even if you’re just running one of the systems, but you don’t have to know each to run. There will be later chapters that offer more for Savage Worlds than Call of Cthulhu, but that’s more because some of the spells, effects and monsters are already covered in the core book for Call of Cthulhu and aren’t in Savage Worlds. There is new material for Call of Cthulhu in these mixed chapters, it’s just not as thick as Savage Worlds.

Chapter 1, From the Shadows, is a 12 page chronology of events that sparked World War II as well as the Secret War going back to 1907. While a good chunk of this time was covered in the Investigator’s Guide, this timeline deals with different events and details different people than was covered before so it’s not simply a retread of material you’ve already received if you have the Investigator’s Guide. It’s a pretty decent way to mine for more story ideas as well as being something your players haven’t seen yet unless they’re familiar with World War II history and even then there are things mentioned that I only know because of various documentaries I’ve watched over the years. Chapter 2, Inside the Reich, is another 7 page chronology, much like they revisited the idea in the Investigator’s Guide, but this is tailored more to events directly dealing with Germany. The other thing I find interesting in this chapter are short messages about how to run the Germans during the war and the fact that what they’re doing and actions they took are theirs alone and that the Mythos would have come to them because of it and not that the Mythos drove them to do those things. It helps avoid a slippery slope, I think, and keeps things going along the lines of what Lovecraft envisioned for his creation and makes it all the worse because of it. Chapter 3, Might Makes Right?, weighs in at 27 pages and covers a variety of topics, mainly the German forces and their make-up as well as structure. Later in goes into providing some example soldiers for the Allies and Germany as well. They cover a lot in there and do it pretty well.

Chaper 4, The Other Secret War, delves into the Intelligence forces active during World War II. Covering all the agencies active with an emphasis more on the Brits than the U.S., French or Germans, at 11 pages this is more of a summary but is still pretty decent and well laid out information on each. If any of your players heads that route or you need to use them, most of what you’d need as far as structure and who does what is covered in here. At 51 pages, Chapter 5 Secret and Occult Societies, is easily the meatiest chapter in the book covering a lot of what you’ll need to run the game depending on your setting and what you’re trying to do. The big things covered here are the Occult heavy hitters working for Germany, the Night Wolf and the Black Sun. One is a spin-off from the other and while they’re both working for Germany, they have very different methods and outlooks on how and what they’re trying to accomplish. While those two get a big spotlight, other groups are also covered so you can have them working against your group in America, France or Britain just as easily within their own soil or even groups designed to stop whatever is coming.

Chapter 6, Planes, Trains and Things That Go Bang, is another hefty 48 page chapter that serves as your equipment and weapons chapter. This covers gear, vehicles, and weapons that you average Investigator wouldn’t necessarily have access to on their own, but might acquire through killing an enemy or during a mission, or might just get as the key to getting through a mission alive. Not every piece of equipment in here is standard to World War II and there are definitely some interesting toys to use on your palyers here. Chapter 7, Into the Fray, is the first of the two chapters detailing specific rules for one of the two game systems. This 11 page chapter is all new rules and updates for Call of Cthulhu, including aerial and naval combat and a few other useful bits just for running in this time period. Chapter 8, Rules of Savage Engagement, is 12 pages covering aerial combat and cover for Savage Worlds, but instead of navel combat it instead covers Sanity and all the wonderful ways you might lost it being exposed to the Mythos.

Chapter 9, Artefacts and Tomes, is the first of three chapters that start to lean into more information for Savage Worlds than Call of Cthulhu. While there is some new information here for both games, some ground that Call of Cthulhu covers is re-tread here over the 8 pages so you can use this with Savage Worlds as well. This chapter covers items that are tied directly to the Mythos that can have certain benefits and definite drawbacks for the players, especially if they’re not the first to find them. Chapter 10, Deadly Illusions and Cursed Knowledge, clocks in at 23 pages, only 3 of which contain new material for Call of Cthulhu. This part of the book delves into magic and spells specifc to the Mythos so you can see where the bulk of it may have already been covered by the Cthulhu core book. To avoid being completely useless for Cthulhu in this chapter they’ve added some new spells and effects however and some would be interesting to see outside of Achtung! Cthulhu in a Call of Cthulhu campaign. Chapter 11, Horrors and Monstrosities, serves as a kind of Bestiary for both games and is the last really lopsided chapter. At 28 pages, only 12 of these are for both games and feature things you haven’t seen before if you’ve played Call of Cthulhu. It goes through the Gods of the Mythos for the Savage Worlds players as well as some of the typical critters that serve before diving into the new creations that have shown up in World War II and not all of them are tied to Nazi creation.

Once you’re out of the monsters, they move onto the human element in Chapter 12, Allies and Nemeses, which covers the big important people like Hoover all the way down to the Man on the Street. There are a lot of examples of NPCs to run into as well as example locations and who you might find there. At only 20 pages this feels a little brief, but there’s enough variety here and between the other chapters that you shouldn’t have a problem assembling enough NPCs to fill out a campaign without much effort. Chapter 13, Adventure Seeds, is woefully short at only 6 pages and is actually the one chapter I wished could have been filled out more. You do get ten adventure ideas, so that’s great, but I would have liked to have seen more. Yes there are some more books incoming, and yes I have all I’d need here to make my own campaign between the two books, but when they go through the trouble to provide these hooks, I always want more to mess around with. Chapter 14, Quick Play Guide, is great if you’re already familiar with Call of Cthulhu or Savage Worlds, otherwise the list of page numbers and summaries of the new rules from this book are going to not really help you start quickly. It feels like 6 pages of fluff and I wasn’t too thrilled with the Quick Start Guide in the Investigator’s Guide either. Chapter 15, Suggested Resources, has a few more listed for each section than the Investigator’s Guide did but not enough that I don’t think they couldn’t have just pointed to the other book and said go here. After that is the backer’s thank you list, the index, a few ads and a different map of Europe than the one the players get.

Much like the Investigator’s Guide, I’m a bit over-whelmed with how much they’ve crammed into this set of books and not made it feel over-whelming at all. It’s organized pretty well and they’ve broken up the different sections so that it’s easier to locate the different information you might need. There’s much more here on the Secret War end of things than in the Investigator’s Guide and they’ve managed to not make it feel like a re-hashed book and more something that works in concert with the other book to make a whole expansion to either Call of Cthulhu or Savage Worlds. The artwork and photos they picked look great and the placement and feel really sold each of these for me on top of the content. I did enjoy reading the Investigator’s Guide more than the Keeper’s Guide, but they’re both extremely well done. While the book is weighted a little more on content for Savage Worlds than Call of Cthulhu, there’s definitely material here enough for both games to warrant the price and it’s a new setting with a great twist for both and definitely something you should be picking up if you’re looking for something with a different kind of horror vibe to it. The bundle for both books is more than reasonably priced if you’re getting the PDF version as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Justin B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/13/2014 05:53:08

Original Review with Artwork at http://www.fantasyliterature.com/games/the-keepers-and-investigators-guides-for-achtung-cthulhu/

This review is a combination of both the Keeper's and Investigator's Guide.

Game Review: The Keeper’s and Investigator’s Guides for Achtung! Cthulhu

The Keeper’s and Investigator’s Guide of Achtung! Cthulhu by Modiphius Games The Keeper’s and Investigator’s Guides for Achtung! Cthulhu by Modiphius GamesThe Keeper’s and Investigator’s Guide of Achtung! Cthulhu by Modiphius Games

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a character in your favorite story? I think everyone has wondered this at some point. Using the imagination to transport you to a place that doesn't exist in the real world is one of the fundamental reasons we read speculative fiction. It’s a chance to escape reality for awhile. You can take your imagination a step further by actually playing the role. I’m talking about Role Playing Games — games in which you become the character you’re reading about and partake in pseudo-imaginary adventures with your peers.

I was never into RPGs and wrote them off as mostly a past-time for the more “serious nerd.” I chose to occupy myself with way less nerdy endeavors like making Anime Music Videos or painting Steampunk robots. My introduction to RPGs really began at Gen Con. I started covering Gen Con for Fanlit when the convention was getting too big to for the speculative fiction industry to ignore. Since it’s primarily a gaming convention, it’s impossible not to get into some of the games at Gen Con. I’ve talked about a few of the ones I’m into or got to look at on this site in my annual reports. I’d never taken an interest in looking at RPGs from a journalistic/reviewer standpoint outside the convention, until now.The Keeper’s and Investigator’s Guide of Achtung! Cthulhu by Modiphius

Recently I was sent copies of the Investigator’s Guide and Keeper’s Guide, for Achtung! Cthulhu, a game published by Modiphius Games. Its meshing of World War II historical events and the nightmarish worlds of H.P. Lovecraft were irresistible to me. I did warn the Modiphius team I was not much of an RPG player and would be looking at their Achtung! Cthulhu universe from an almost pure storytelling perspective; they did not seem concerned by this. I soon realized why they were unconcerned with being scrutinized by a non-gaming book reviewer, it’s because Achtung! Cthulhu is extremely well written. This is not a typical set of books. They do not have a specific narrative. This is pure world building, and the players are the ones who tell the actual stories. These books are definitive guides to the Achtung! Cthulhu universe, and their scope is impressive. The opening segments of the Investigator’s Guide lay out the timeline of events — from the end of World War I in 1918 to the Battle of Berlin in April 1945. The abrupt ending of the timeline prior to the end of World War II is intentional since the stories you tell will quite likely change the ending of the war in some significant way. The timeline hits all the major high points of the war and gives the reader a basic summary of what happened at each crucial point. This will help “Keepers” build believable stories for their player to participate in.

You can get as detailed as you want with the accuracy of your story, and the guides make sure you have all the tools you need to go as deep as you want. There are entire chapters on the cultural issues of the time, so you’ll know how your character may react to seeing a woman or minority in your group. Or maybe there is no racism or sexism in your world — that’ll be for your keeper to decide. There is plenty more world-building information in the guides for equipment, jobs, and everyday life.

The guides are short on the mechanics and fundamental rules because Achtung! Cthulhu is based on the pre-existing rule engine Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition by Chaosium. Players are expected to be familiar with the Call of Cthulhu rule set in order to run a game of Achtung! Cthulhu. A good keeper will be able to assist new players with the fundamental rules. I would however recommend obtaining a copy of the Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition rulebook before embarking on you Achtung! Cthulhu adventure.

I also must mention the artwork in the guides, because it’s amazing. The cover art is done by Spanish artist Pintureiro, and has that War era pulp look that fits the content perfectly. That theme is continued throughout the book with equally amazing art by Dim Martin. I should also mention Michael Cross, who was the graphic design and layout person. I’ve rarely thought about how the overall look and design of a book is such a huge factor in my enjoyment of the work. However, Mr. Cross has opened my eyes. These page designs are on another level. The copies I have are digital versions. I desperately want these books in hardbound covers sitting on my shelf, even if I never play the game again. This is the first RPG I have reviewed, and I must say I’m impressed. They’ve certainly engaged my curiosity and my love of storytelling. The Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator’s Guide and Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper’s Guide are very sharply put together and beautiful pieces to look at. I really was in awe of the effort that went into producing something like this. If you’re curious about the Achtung! Cthulhu game, check with your local game store and see if anyone is playing it. Even if you already play a particular RPG then maybe it’s time for your gaming group to try something new.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/12/2014 17:17:53

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=41575.

The Keeper’s Guide is the Game Master’s handbook to the Acthung! Cthulhu setting, along with being a source for the seedier background material for plots and themes within the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign. It contains mechanics for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds. While the original Acthung! Cthulhu campaign modules are designed for Realms of Cthulhu from Reality Blurs, the Keeper’s Guide no longer appears to require that setting guide. This book presents two new pieces to the Acthung! Cthulhu core setting: the Axis and the occult/mythos. It also augments the already present Allies information by giving the Keeper a collection of filler they can add to their adventures and campaigns to fill the gaps within the story and background. This includes things like Allied NPCs, a full look at intelligence agencies, and some behind-the-scenes things that the players and player characters may not realize. This means the Keeper can present a complete backdrop of both sides of the war without getting bogged down in fiddly bits like creating Allied NPCs for the PCs to interact with.

Probably the most important pieces of the Keeper’s Guide is the Axis forces and the occult/mythos. As much information that was presented for the Americans and British in the Investigator’s Guide is presented for the Germans in this book. This is a pretty in-depth presentation of what it’s like to create small and large forces to create obstacles for the PCs to get around. The occult and mythos side of things (including the various secret societies and intelligence agencies) are presented as protagonists for the PCs to encounter. Once again, World War II is being presented in a very complete manner to simulate that backdrop, keeping the setting cohesive with the era it’s presented in. Amongst all this content is a huge collection of adversaries covering soldiers, intelligence personnel, cultists, and mythos beings. There’s a good chance that a Keeper would never need to create their own adversaries and can simply stick to those presented in this book.

There is one section within the Keeper’s Guide that I question its placement of: vehicles. Not just German vehicles, but also American and British ones. These are military vehicles, ones the characters could feasibly come into contact with, steal, or maybe requisition. I can understand how they’re presented in this book as a part of the backdrop, but they’re really detailed and presented in a way that says “Hey, the characters can use these.” This even includes mechanics for aerial combat. Again, this is something the players should have access to, but I can see why it’s presented in this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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