Ever wondered what the world would be like if Allied forces had to contend with the Great Old Ones as well as the Nazi menace during the Second World War? A new RPG setting called Achtung! Cthulhu has all the answers you need and more besides. I caught up with Chris Birch, one of the co-writers and man behind the Modiphius publishing house, to talk about it.
Michael Fox: So, lets kick off with a simple question that’ll need a tricky answer: give us the speedy tour of Achtung! Cthulhu – how would you describe it in a couple of sentences?
Chris Birch: Achtung! Cthulhu unlocks the secret history of World War Two – stories of the amazing heroism in which stalwart men and women struggled to overthrow a nightmare alliance of science and the occult, of frightening inhuman conspiracies from the depths of time, and the unbelievable war machines which were the product of Nazi scientific genius – and how close we all came to a slithering end!
MF: So, what are we looking at? Is it a whole new role playing system or is it based on something gamers are already used to?
CB: It’s a complete setting for use with either the Call of Cthulhu or the Savage Worlds roleplaying games. The books contains rules and stats for both systems.
MF: Nice – not locking it to one system must have been a challenge though?
CB: We’ve been doing the same for our first releases – the Zero Point campaign – Three Kings and Heroes of the Sea that we put out last year. It wasn’t that hard to re-stat and it opens up a much bigger audience.
MF: So, tell us a little bit about your history with RPGs – how did you get into creating these campaigns?
CB: Well I started with D&D Basic when my brother and his girlfriend introduced me to it aged 9 years old, then my other brother got interested in games and we played Metamorphosis Alpha. I’d thought we were playing D&D and I remember the sense of awe and wonder when I realised I was on a giant starship! I continued with AD&D, then Star Frontiers, Paranoia and Star Wars, and kept coming up with my own ideas all along the way. Back in the nineties Stuart Newman (an old gaming friend) and I set about creating a sci-fi RPG and war-game called Blaster Array set in the alien engineered Modiphius system (and yes, that’s where the name came from). It was a bit of fun but we gave it to R Talsorian supreme Mike Pondsmith when I met him, but of course it never went anywhere!
Around 2005 I was working on licensing the old Starblazer Comics by DC Thompson to make some cool sci-fi t-shirts and mentioned to my friend Angus Abranson the art would be perfect for an RPG – he said ‘well why don’t you write it?!’ and off I went. Six-hundred pages and three years later Starblazer Adventures was nominated for an Ennie and I went on to write Legends of Anglerre based on the fantasy versions of the comics with Sarah Newton, Mike Olson, Tom Miskey and Marc Reyes – it was a great team!
I then had a break from working on games but my love for it couldn’t keep quiet and I was soon pondering starting my own games business now that PDF sales were making such a big impact. I wanted to control who, why and how we made games and develop more cool projects with other creatives. When we were writing Legends of Anglerre Sarah and I considered the idea of a FATE based weird World War Two game but shelved it to get Legends finished. I also play 15mm WWII games like Flames of War and wanted to do something strange or Cthulhu orientated. I had been devising some plans when Sarah came to me with her first Zero Point adventures; the stars were aligned and our adventures in the world of Achtung! Cthulhu could truly begin! I have a deep interest in the Second World War and since I was a kid I’ve loved playing soldiers, whether dressing up in silly outfits when we were seven or playing war-games with plastic soldiers. My dad and grandfather told me so many stories of growing up in the war and this inspired me to create a truly fantastical world that drew you in with tales of mystery and horror, yet hopefully unlocked an interest in this incredible time in our history when so many forgotten heroes gave everything.
MF: And all that led to this latest project then! Now, you’re already funded on Kickstarter and the numbers keep rising – what made you decide on the KS route? Did you consider attempting to publish on your own?
CB: We were already publishing the adventures and planned more books but Kickstarter let us speed things up – there was so much potential and we didn’t want to drip feed it out – particularly it was so important to get the core books out as this is the foundations for all the adventures and supplements being produced so it’s really helped bring forward a lot of the cool projects we have planned for the Achtung! Cthulhu universe like boardgames, tiles, miniatures, along with the whole RPG setting!
MF: Big plans for the future then!
CB: Yes but in stages, have to take it step by step and not over promise!
MF: Could you tell us about a few of your favourite elements of Achtung! Cthulhu?
CB: What I love is the sense of desperate heroism, ALL the odds are stacked against the heroes, not only the vast power of the Third Reich but of Cthulhu and his minions’ own machinations too – I love this style of game because it is in these types of situations that humans prevail and overcome the most incredible opposition. What’s not to love about exploration of the weird war machines being invented by the Nazis, the mythical powers, the ancient entities striving to make everyone’s day end VERY badly and the simply incredible feats of ingenuity from the Allies in defeating not just the powers of the Nazi’s but also what we have planned? Doing Achtung! Cthulhu is doing what I love the most – building a fantastic world with new imagery with a great team of creative people.
MF: Fantastic stuff! So, are we allowed to know any of your future plans for the Kickstarter campaign? Any potential stretch goals that you’re dreaming of?
CB: Well we are going to introduce some very cool Allied investigators & heroes later on if we hit our main supplement and campaign stretch goals, plus there’s a rather big infamous Cthulhu campaign announcing this week – all I can say is you’ll need to wrap up warm…
MF: Cool! Now, wrapping up – what sort of stuff can people expect when they head on over and check out your campaign?
CB: Well we just unlocked the full colour hard cover for the second book, and if you pledge £35 (which is the PDF Master Bonus Level) and above you get every single stretch goal on PDF – already that includes a 98 page Part One of the Shadows of Atlantis campaign and the Eastern Front Guide is on it’s way next! So it’s amazing value already – there’s also the £40 Print Master level gets you two full colour hard backs (128 pages and 248 pages) plus a bonus 98 page PDF.
MF: And finally, anything else you’d like to say?
CB: Well we are also re-booting the Mutant Chronicles roleplaying game this year – it’s 3rd Edition so watch out for that!