Title: Achtung! Cthulhu 2D20 Gamemaster’s Guide
Publisher: Modiphius Entertainment
Authors: Nathan Dowdell, John Houlihan, Richard August, Brad Bell, Richard L Gale, Benn Graybeaton, Bill Heron, Mari Tokuda, Sam Webb
Artists: Carlos Cabrera, Sam Denmark, Chaim Garcia, Boris Martsev, Dimitri Martin, and Christian Quinot
Genre: Lovecraftian horror and World War II action roleplaying game GM’s guide
Pages: 271 pages
MSRP: $54.00 in hardcover or $19.99 in PDF at DriveThruRPG
The cover of the Achtung! Cthulhu Gamemaster’s Guide, like that of the Player’s Guide, has a comic book issue number. The fonts used on the cover look like they’re lifted from 1930s or 40s pulp adventure magazines. These graphic design choices clearly communicate the feel the game is going for. This is not the World War II of Saving Private Ryan; it’s the World War II of 1940s Captain America comics and pulp fiction.
The 2d20 version of this setting leans further into the pulp by eliminating the Sanity mechanic that is a touchstone of many games of Lovecraftian horror. The Stress track in this game reflects both physical and mental suffering, and insanity is a possible outcome if a character takes damage after they have been defeated (taken out of combat) by mental injuries. However, the management of sanity and the fear of going insane are not constantly monitored the way they are in Call of Cthulhu.
In fact, this version of Achtung! Cthulhu leans so far into pulp depictions of World War II that a sidebar explicitly discourages GMs from dealing with the real human horrors of World War II or the real-world atrocities of the Nazis. It says, basically, that the horror in the game should come exclusively from the supernatural and not from normal humans. Some players may see this as trivializing one of the darkest chapters in human history, even though groups are free to ignore this advice.
That said, the Gamemaster’s Guide does a great job of presenting a more complex setting than you might imagine, given the premise. The Nazis are not a monolith in this world. The Nazi Mythos adherents are split between The Cult of the Black Sun, which seeks to free Yog-Sothoth from its extradimensional prison, and Nachtwölfe, which prefers Atlantean superscience to magic. These two factions spend almost as much time at each other’s throats as they do attacking the Allies. The book details all the major figures in the Nazi supernatural apparatus, including personal quirks and unexpected loyalties.
It also includes stat blocks for Nazi grunt soldiers, commandoes, and officers. It goes on to detail Deep Ones and Mi-go of various power levels, culminating with stats for all the Cthulhu Mythos gods. The GM will be well-prepared to throw any adversary at their unsuspecting players.
However, the GM is also empowered to give the PCs powerful tools to fight these creatures. The Gamemaster’s Guide includes a list of spells from Nordic and Celtic magic traditions, as well as psychic powers uncovered by America’s Majestic agency. In this Lovecraftian setting, magic is costly but is available as another weapon to use against the Mythos. There is also the option of allowing the PCs to requisition magic anti-Mythos weapons if the GM really wants the campaign to be about blasting Deep Ones. It should be mentioned, though, that the Black Sun and Nachtwölfe have their own devious special weapons, as well as potent Mythos spells.
Overall, the Achtung! Cthulhu Gamemaster’s Guide gives GMs plenty of options for running a campaign of Mythos horror during World War II. However, it is best suited for people who don’t mind a lighter approach to both World War II and the Cthulhu Mythos.