Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tommy's Take on Achtung! Cthulhu - Zero Point Pt. 1: Three Kings


Achtung! Cthulhu is a new setting for multiple systems, including Savage Worlds, Trail of Cthulhu and Call of Cthulhu. This review, and likely all future reviews, will focus entirely on the Savage Worlds versions. Achtung! Cthulhu is a melding of Mythos and World War II, and Three Kings is the first part of the first campaign for the setting, called Zero Point.

WARNING!

SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW!

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: For maximum effect, you will need Realms of Cthulhu by Reality Blurs and a copy of the Savage Worlds rules. The PDF, by Modiphius, is $9.99 for 42 pages (a print compilation is promised when the campaign is complete), kicking off the wartime campaign. The book is very nice, having a layout that evokes an “old book” feel, with notes attached to the pages and handwritten bits in the margins.

The adventure is set in Czechoslovakia in 1939, and the PCs are assumed to be special operatives being dropped into the region to link up with the leaders of the underground resistance movement known as The Three Kings.

The book is split into Episodes, with the first featuring multiple options for getting the PCs into the region. The first option assumes the British Special Ops backstory and has the team parachuting in. A second option has the team slipping into the country as spies, while yet a third option is presented with the PCs being academics at the University of Prague, hearing rumblings of unnatural things occurring at Castle Karlstein.

Episode 2 provides us with a very nice map of the region, and hinges on the PCs making contact with the resistance. The PCs also gain the opportunity to pick up some rumors that hint at the true nature of the adventure here. Two sidebars are provided here, on regarding the efforts of the resistance agent known as Codename ANGEL, and the second covering the horrifying options if a PC is captured: Suicide by cyanide, or torture at the hands of the Nazis.

Episode 3 gives the PCs the chance to meet up not only with the Three Kings, but also Codename ANGEL, where the PCs can join Codename ANGEL’s rescue mission.

Episode 4 is the assault on Castle Karlstein, and it may shock you to discover that it is NOT a standard Nazi operation at work here. Doktor Von Hammerstein is hard at work on an army of supersoldiers, and he’s using the occult to do it. This is played open-ended, with the layout of the castle and its defenses provided, and the approach and attack up to the PCs. And there’s a stunning twist that can make the whole situation worse…and downright nightmarish.

Episode 5 is the (optional) resolution, with the PCs hopefully extracting themselves from the situation. A sidebar also points out the elements from here that are meant to play a larger role in the Zero Point campaign.

Stat blocks are provided for NPCs (two major NPCs are covered in the adventure itself when they first appear), and rules work was credited to Dave Blewer, meaning they should be in capable hands. Four pregenerated PCs are also provided, along with standardized equipment lists.

A second appendix covers rules for Parachuting, guards being on alert, Half-Track vehicles as well as torture and interrogation.

The book ends with some swell handouts you can print and give to your players, plus a blurb for Heroes of the Sea, the second adventure in the series.

WHAT WORKS: The production values look great. The writing on the adventure is loose enough that if the PCs take an alternate approach to something, you aren’t scrambling to figure out how to make it all fit. Some potentially unnerving twists, especially if your PCs aren’t aware it’s a horror adventure.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Realms of Cthulhu plus Savage Worlds plus this volume is a steeper than normal buy in. That said, you can get Realms and Three Kings in a bundle for $15, which is a pretty great deal. Having the new rules material printed within the adventures as well as in an appendix seems a tad wasteful.

CONCLUSION: Very promising start to the campaign. I believe this is their first product for Savage Worlds, but they got a Savage Worlds guy that knows his stuff. I would love to run this for a group that’s not aware we’re doing a horror adventure. Being American, I would have also preferred an opening for American Investigators (military or not), but that’s easy enough to remedy. I’m far from a World War II or Mythos enthusiast, but I know what I like, and this is a really nice addition to the Savage Worlds ranks.