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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,164 posts (5,461 including aliases). 438 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.



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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This supplement equips you to take your Achtung! Cthulhu adventures across the world to the Pacific Theatre, where ferocious battles in the Pacific islands and Southern Asia and the perils of jungle warfare are mixed with the emergence of ancient evils. Chapter 1: Welcome to the Pacific sets the ball rolling by setting the scene with a time-line of events pertinent to the Far East from 1854 right through to the events of the Second World War. Mostly historical, it is enlivened by snippets of information - often presented in the form of 'notes' apparently pinned to the page - that add colour and suggest ideas as wekk as adding further material about people and events of the times. It ends in April 1945, with a note that if you run the forthcoming Achtung! Cthulhu: Assault on the Mountains of Madness campaign, events in Europe from 1944 on are likely to be world-changing enough to disrupt matters here in the Pacific.

Chapter 2: The Land of the Rising Sun gives an introduction to Japan, a mysterious land that until the 1830s had deliberately isolated itself from the rest of the world. Since the succession of a new emperor, rapid changes turned the nation from feudalism and mediaeval standards of living to a modern technological country ready to take its place on the world stage. This is coupled with an aggressive military stance directed against China and Russia... and the development of many secret societies whose tentacles reach out through every part of Japanese society. This sets the background against which Japan enters the Second World War by attacking Pearl Harbour in December 1941, dragging the United States into the conflict.

Next, Chapter 3: The Balance of Power looks at the state of affairs in the Pacific region during the run up to World War Two, as well as giving a brief overview of how events unfold as time progresses. It's to be noted that few people had much idea of the situation there unless they have some connection with the area, this applies to Investigator characters as much as anyone else. Apart from China, Thailand and Japan, much of the region is under colonial control from elsewhere - and even a fair bit of China's territory is under Japanese control.

This is followed by Chapter 4: In Captivity, which expands on earlier references to the cruelty of the Japanese to those they invade as well as to prisoners of war. Although game mechanics are provided, it is probably best that characters do not find themselves in captivity.

Next comes Chapter 5: New Beginnings. This provides rules for generating characters who come from the Pacific region as well as providing appropriate new career paths and other material, with mechanics for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds. There are also additional military careers and training packages relevant to this theatre of war. Characters sorted, Chapter 6: The Whole Kit and Caboodle provides all the weapons and equipment that they could dream of, with Japanese weaponry included as well.

Chapter 7: The Best Laid Plans discusses the challenges of conducting combat operations in the Pacific region. This includes notes on Japanese combat doctrine and methods as well as the perils of jungle warfare... and as if that wasn't enough, Chapter 8: Exotic Beasts and Vile Beings provides plenty of wildlife and more hostile adversaries with plenty of detail of Chtulhu Mythos presence in the area. Piling more on, Chapter 9: Artefacts, Spells and Tomes delivers information on notable items and books that might be encoungtered and a few new spells to cast.

Then Chapter 10: The Many Faces of War provides a raft of NPCs from famous people to generic soldiers and civilians that the characters might encounter in the course of their adventures. Chapter 11: Adventure Seeds provides several ideas for plots to be run in the Pacific region, although they are just brief outlines and will require work before they can be played through. Finally, Chapter 12: Suggested Resources provides reference to books, films and other materials that can set the scene, provide further information or just get you into the right mood for a Pacific campaign.

Overall, this is a comprehensive introduction to a lesser-known aspect of the Second World War with sufficient Mythos involvement to keep any investigator intrigued.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Aimed at players - whether of Call of Cthulhu or Savage Worlds - this book contains a wealth of material to help them understand the alternate history of a World War 2 with added Cthulhu Mythos elements, and hence to play their characters more convincingly.

Chapter 1: Welcome to the Secret War sets out the basic premise, beginning with a timeline of events running from November 1918 to April 1945. Despite comments about Mythos involvement, this is straight history... the weird bits get mixed in later! After all, to begin with the characters probably know nothing about it.

Next, Chapter 2: Keep the Home Fires Burning looks at life on the 'home front' - as opposed to the battlefield - telling how the war affected those not actively involved in combat just as much as it did those in uniform. There's a lot here from working life to fashion and food, even popular music of the day. Again this is historically accurate without the merest taint of Mythos, just as is intended for the game: ordinary folk got through the war without hearing about such things (much as it was only after the war that many Nazi atrocities were revealed). Chapter 3: Home Sweet Home continues this theme with a timeline of events in civilian life. A few suggestions about the style of adventures you might have on the home front are included, but this book is really for players rather than game masters (although they too ought to read it, it does not duplicate the contents of the Keeper's Guide to the Secret War). It all goes towards putting your adventures into context, however.

With the Home Front adequately covered, what of those who took up arms? Chapter 4: In the Service of One's Country gives an overview of the armed forces, intelligence and auxillary services mainly from an Allied point of view, although the German military machine is also covered. (Indeed, the whole book assumes characters will be drawn from Allied countries.)

Now that the scene has been comprehensively set, Chapter 5: Your Country Needs You! delves into the game mechanics involved in creating a WW2 Investigator character. There's an overview of the different nationalities from which he might come and a review of civilian and military occupations. Skills, pay scales, everything that you need to know about various occupations are included... and there's even a section on how to introduce a modicum of Mythos knowledge even before play begins by creating a bit of backstory to explain it - and perhaps explain why it's YOU and not someone else who gets embroiled in the sort of missions that are the basis of gameplay in this setting. For those intending military characters there is a review of the process of character generation under Call of Cthulhu rules, which in the original cater well for having a military background but are less good if you want your character to be in service when play begins. There's even a (somewhat inaccurate) note on the decorations he might have received. It also covers the civilian who has just enlisted (or who will do so during the course of the game). Unless you have a much-loved character which the game master agrees, it's recommended that you use these rules in conjunction with your chosen ruleset to generate your Achtung! Cthulhu character, as they've been written with the era and setting in mind.

Getting down to nuts and bolts, Chapter 6: Getting Your Hands Dirty introduces and explains new skills appropriate to this game, with Call of Cthulhu mechanics. Fear not, Chapter 7: The Savage Practice of War covers similar material under the Savage Worlds ruleset, if that is your game of choice. Chapter 8: Tools of the Trade mainly concentrates on weapons, with a wealth of detail about the different ones popular with various nations and units, complete with statistics for both rulesets.

To wind up, Chapter 9: Quick Play Guide summarises everything you need to know to create and play your character under either ruleset, and Chapter 10: Suggested Resources covers books, films and more that will enable you to understand the period better and get into the right mood.

Overall, this is an excellent introduction to playing in the Achtung! Cthulhu setting and ought to be read by players and referees alike.


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An RPG Resource Review

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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.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Achtung! Cthulhu is a setting for Lovecraftian role-playing in World War 2, and this is the first adventure in that setting. As if the world wasn't already tearing itself apart, what would be the impact of having the Cthulhu Mythos involved as well? With, of course, evil Nazi scientists trying to harness their powers...

The adventure is set in the summer of 1939 when the world was slowly realising that there was no escape from conflict (my mother, just about to go to university, was worried about the effect that a war would have on her social life!). Czechoslovakia has just been invaded by the Third Reich and although the UK is not yet officially at war they are receiving dire news from resistance figures and the new-born government-in-exile that a member of the resistance has information about atrocities being committed that would make wonderful propaganda when war does begin in earnest. So 'Section D' - a branch of the British Secret Intelligence Service has assembled a team to find out... you can either have your players generate appropriate characters using the Call of Cthulhu rules, or use the pre-generated ones supplied with the adventure.

Material is presented atmospherically with realistic-looking documents, indeed the adventure itself looks as if it escaped from wartime files (there's a printer-friendly one included in the PDF version to save on ink).

The underlying plot is laid out for the Keeper's eyes, and then there are several 'likely episodes' laid out for you, leaving the whole thing quite open-ended and allowing you to react to character actions and approaches to the investigation with ease. Each episode in turn has a number of scenes which may or may not take place as the action unfolds. Obviously, this is an adventure that repays thorough preparation, it would be quite hard to just pick it up and play. Loads of alternatives - beginning with ideas on how to use the adventure with less military-minded characters than the provided ones - are scattered throughout, so that you can tailor the adventure to suit the characters and how they want to go about matters without floundering and having to improvise too much. Even more impressive are all the little details - from local cuisine to likely languages spoken - that will help you to make the whole thing come to life in a shared alternate reality.

Put simply, the characters have to break into a castle and find out what's going on there. Of course, it never is that simple...

Support is good with stat blocks and notes about those who you might meet, details of roving patrols and how the castle is defended, maps (in both Keeper and player versions) as well as new rules from skills like parachuting to how best to handle capture of the characters (a real threat) and new occupations within the cloak and dagger world of intelligence operations. There's even a full Operational Briefing that, if your characters are Section D agents, can be handed directly to them repleate with maps, scribbled comments and SECRET stamps. Very atmospheric!

With the single caveat that some groups may not feel comfortable with an adventure set in World War 2, this is - for those groups who are happy with the situation - a straightforward yet exciting introduction to the concept of Cthulhu-meets-the-Nazis. Memorable adventure is to be had!


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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

In the Hub Federation, a key feature of Gypsy Knights Games's alternative Traveller universe, as well as a navy there are two types of ground forces - a Federation-wide force of Marines and individual planetary ground forces. This book deals with both, and is of most use if your game includes the Hub Federation as presented in this alternate setting. However, it could be retooled for any pocket empire that choses to organise its forces this way, and includes career tracks and equipment that could be useful whatever sort of game you are running where ground troops are involved.

The first part describes the Hub Federation Marines and then the various planetary ground forces - loads of detail here from history and structure down to uniforms and rank badges. Unlike the Hub Federation Navy, where fleets of British and German origin combined (and created a new force based on both traditions), the Hub Federation Marines were formed from a group of British Royal Marines and have insisted on retaining their traditions by and large intact. Each planetary force, however, has established their own and this is reflected in variations to a standard uniform for all of them. However I am left wondering why the Marines wear bearskin caps... something never worn by the Royal Marines, they are the sole preserve of the British Guards regiments! The Hub Federation Marines have also adopted the kilt, as an optional item of dress, due to the presence of the 'Royal Highland Marine Regiment' or Black Watch (again a bit of confusion - yes, there was a Black Watch or Royal Highland Regiment on the British books until the last round of mergers but they were never marines!). It makes a nice touch, especially the thought that the kilt may be worn into battle along with combat armour. Scary... and there's even an illustration to give the idea.

Next come all the details necessary for creating a character with a background in either Marines or a planetary ground force. There's a section on medals too, no pictures alas but names and terms of award. That's always something nice for players... I once ran a game at a convention in which success was rewarded by some medals, and was surprised that the players carefully noted the decorations they received on the pre-generated character sheets they'd been handed for the game! The career paths are detailed and comprehensive, with loads of tables to roll upon as you work your way through.

Then comes a selection of landing craft to get these ground-pounders where they need to go, followed by ground vehicles, aircraft and equipment for use when they get there. Atmospheric fiction and pictures are scattered throughout, and appendices contain reference to a notable past action - the Battle of Beol - and organisation charts. All in all, a good resource if you are using the Hub Federation in your game and want to know a bit about their ground forces.


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