As we’ve slowly lost the heroes of World War II to the ravages of time, we must continue to find ways to honor them so they and their sacrifices are not forgotten. One of the more interesting ways of late to memorialize the men and women of that generation while adding a fantastic element to their already heroic deeds is through the Achtung! Cthulhu adventures from Sarah Newton and Modiphius Entertainment designed for use with Call of Cthulhu (6th edition) or Savage Worlds and Realms of Cthulhu. Not only does it allow players to portray heroes in an important historical time, but it brings Lovecraftian horror into the mix. Tough to go wrong with heroes, history, or tentacles.
Heroes of the Sea follows up Three Kings, the first adventure in the series – this time exploring the “Miracle at Dunkirk” – the evacuation of more than 300,000 Allied soldiers from Dunkirk over nine days when they were being closed in by the German army. Adding in Cthulhoid creatures from the bottom of the sea and a group of Germans working on using supernatural means to win the war just makes the situation that much more dire for your intrepid band of heroes.
I really don’t want to spoil the fun much more than what I’ve already said, so let me instead focus on some of the other parts that make this adventure really sing. The book has come together so well that it reminds me of a product from Open Design with its terrific integration of art, layout, great writing, and story. For a small publisher, I look at Open Design as the gold standard, so the fact that Modiphius – a fairly new publisher – is hitting on all these cylinders is fantastic.
Let’s start with the writing and editing. It’s a little thing, but there’s a paragraph early in the book that I read, paused, re-read, and said wow. Bad writing can kill a product, but great writing can bring one to another level. In this case it’s the proper use of a semicolon in a very descriptive sentence that kicks things off: “Wassermeister is a big woman given to massive leather greatcoats and startling hats; her round, pallid face houses bulging eyes and a loathsome sneer.” Describing this key NPC in such detail that literally paints a picture is amazing – and it’s just the beginning of that paragraph.
Next, let’s look at the art and layout. It’s a simple two-column layout with the columns fully-justified, but the use of pieces of paper “clipped” to the corners or “taped” onto the page present a variety of designs to keep every page turn visually interesting, mixing and matching to avoid a single page style repeated ad nauseum. Tables are done in a faded style that continues the aging, brown paper theme throughout. Clear headings and good use of white space doesn’t hurt either.
Art is done in a near-photographic style using subdued colors and hues fitting to the historical period and the horror genre. And I can’t go without talking about the maps – whether encounter maps or historical ones, they’re bold and beautiful, echoing the choices in the layout and letting the colors pop when they need to illustrate a point.
Last but definitely not least is the story itself. Newton has a compelling story to start with and somehow weaves supernatural elements into the narrative as though they were always there. It’s seamless and terrifying – exactly what you need for a campaign involving Nazi Germany and creatures from the deep. But scarier even than the monsters for me are the NPCs dedicated to the success of their cause at any cost. Frau Wasermeister and Karl Walpurgen show an insane focus that would be difficult to battle under the best of circumstances, let alone the crazy timeline of the evacuation.
So I leave it to you. If you are looking for a challenging scenario sure to drive your characters crazy one way or another, Achtung! Cthulhu: Heroes of the Sea offers just the thing. Sarah Newton and Modiphius continue to impress me with their use of actual history and Lovecraftian horror. Tough to go wrong with this combination!
For more about the Achtung! Cthulhu world…
- … check out their website!
- … look for the book at RPGNow for Call of Cthulhu.
- … or for for Savage Worlds.
- … or take a look at my review of Achtung! Cthulhu: Three Kings.