Publisher Interview: Chris Birch from Modiphius (Achtung! Cthulhu)

A few weeks ago I started a chat with Chris Birch of Modiphius about their game Achtung! Cthulhu. And as I learned more about their Lovecraft + World War II approach to a role-playing campaign, I knew I wanted to dive deeper. Thankfully Chris was kind enough to agree to an interview!

Q: Chris, first of all thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions! Can you tell me where the name “Modiphius” come from? And what made you start publishing?

Well I had always thought of having my own games business, but never had the right contacts, ideas or time. Having written Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre (with Sarah Newton) I decided it was time to give it a go. Modiphius was the name of a star system in a friend and I came up with back in the 90’s for a sci-fi rpg we wrote for fun. It derived from the world Modiphied and is all about change. This is a change in my life and I’m also a big greek myth fan and now I see this beardy old warrior leaning on his battered spear, his battered old shield leaning by his side surrounded by a horde of kids on the steps of ruined temple relating wonderful stories of adventures.

Q: How did you get the chance to work with Sarah Newton (Legends of Anglerre, The Chronicles of Future Earth) on Achtung! Cthulhu? What was it like working with her on the project?

I came across Sarah after Starblazer Adventures as she had this awesome concept for a sci-fi setting which turned out to be Mindjammer. We just clicked and were able to work on Legends of Anglerre together and she’s a great writing machine! When I set up on my own she came to me with her Zero Point campaign and we had talked about an idea for a WW2 setting for FATE before and shortly afterwards the Achtung! Cthulhu setting was born!

Q: Have you been surprised by the responses to Achtung! Cthulhu? All the reviews I’ve seen so far have been very positive.

All the team did a really great job of making our first release look so professional and I know we’re going to keep a high standard of product coming out that is worth every penny. I think people love the WW2 Cthulhu vibe – it’s just not been done before and we have tapped in to the popular game systems without trying to come out with yet another system

Q: It’s surprising to me that we haven’t seen other game publishers explore the intersection of Lovecraftian horror and World War II. The  legends surrounding Hitler’s obsession with the paranormal has grown over the last few decades. Are you surprised no one else has taken on this genre?

Well Weird War has been pretty much done with settings from Savage Worlds and D20, miniature war games rules from Nuts, Gear Kreig, Dust Tactics and AE WWII to name a few. I guess weird war is the kind of mainstream idea, Cthulhu is just a little more, well weird, yet it’s actually turning out to be more popular I think – it’s more polarized, much more iconic big bads and it can contain a lot of the cooler weird war stuff.

src="/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/cthulhu_800-300x225.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="225" />Q: Was it difficult converting the adventures for Realms of Cthulhu/Savage Worlds since they were written for Call of Cthulhu?

No not at all, well I say that, Dave Blewer of Sundered Skies fame did a sterling job on Three Kings and is currently converting the even larger Heroes of the Sea by Sarah Newton, Episode 2 in her Zero Point campaign.

Q: Any hints as to what we can expect in Episode 2 of “ZERO POINT”?

Heroes of the Sea sends the heroes hurtling in to the pitched battles and sheer madness of the Dunkirk evacuation – giving the GM a mini sandbox campaign area with all manner of encounters. There’s some terrible secrets to uncover, an awful secret at the bottom of the sea and plenty of waterbourne adventure as well. At over 60 pages this is going to be an amazing sequel and the artwork is just beautiful.

Q: How often can we expect new adventures in the Achtung! Cthulhu “ZERO POINT” series? Are there plans to continue in this vein with other campaigns?

I think we’re looking at a really every 8-12 weeks but with the other campaigns starting up imminently we should have more releases allowing you to hop around the world on different adventures. Shadows of Atlantis our second campaign starts soon with the first episode kicking off in a seedy Berlin club…

Q: What other projects are you working on at Modiphius and when might we see them?

We’ve got Trail of Cthulhu and a stand alone PDQ version of Three Kings later this month, a Victorian steampunk indie game, plus a horror sci-fi setting for Savage Worlds and more. We should have a string of releases before Christmas!

Q: Do you game regularly? Do you have any good gaming stories to tell?

Yep, every Wednesday we’re playtesting a new RPG we’re launching next year called Expeditions, a kind of introductory RPG with cards and a metagame allowing you to play out the adventures of the expedition itself. Once a month we have a board game night and often roll out Defenders of the Realm or Last Night on Earth, Fortune & Glory or other fun games.

Q: If there is one question you weren’t asked that you’d like to answer, what would that question and answer be?

I guess I’d ask us what makes Modiphius special. Well we pay everyone a royalty on sales so that means every single sale gives back to the writers, artists and designers who’ve contributed so much to make these great games. I believe in rewarding creative people who work hard and as a team I want everyone to enjoy the success. My vision is to help people get their amazing worlds and game ideas in to print so they can share them with as many people as possible.

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I want to offer a huge thank you to Chris Birch at Modiphius for answering my questions and wish him and the rest of the team all the best for Achtung! Cthulhu and everything else they have in the hopper!

For more about Modiphius and the Achtung! Cthulhu world…

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