Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tommy's Take on Achtung! Cthulhu - Zero Point Pt. 2: Heroes of the Sea

Previously, I reviewed Three Kings, the first Achtung! Cthulhu adventure. Now, it is time to take a look at the second adventure (Heroes of the Sea), in the wake of the new Achtung! Cthulhu Kickstarter, which is hoping to turn Achtung! Cthulhu from a series of adventures into a full-fledged setting. As with the last review, this review focuses exclusively on the Savage Worlds version.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: While the Achtung! Cthulhu adventures are also available in Call of Cthulhu and PDQ, I’m way more familiar with (and interested in) Savage Worlds, and so I’m focusing on that. The PDF is 63 pages at $14.99, and is meant to be ran after Three Kings, though it can also be ran completely standalone. As with Three Kings, you will want a copy of the Savage Worlds rules and Realms of Cthulhu.

As always, I will try to run light on spoilers, but that does get difficult, so be aware.

After the events of Three Kings, an undercover agent has gone missing shortly after uncovering a secret German project. It is up to the PCs to move in and try to figure out what has happened. If you think this is a cut and dried investigation, however, you clearly are not paying attention.

So now it’s 1940, the Allies are retreating from the Germans so they aren’t driven into the sea, and the PCs are having to find a missing intelligence agent in the embattled Dunkirk region. The opening of the adventure is a chaotic affair filled with all kinds of random encounters, including an encounter chart with options like booby traps, troops on sinking ships, dive bombers, criminal activity and more.

There are five “episodes” to the adventure, but the adventure professes that the “how” and “when” of each encounter is up to the PCs. Realistically, I don’t see a TON of variance in how the first couple of chapters play out, but I could be wrong.

The PCs should find the agent pretty early, though she is quite incapacitated. There are a couple of handy crazed notes that can be passed out to the PCs that ominously warn of things to come.

From there it does get a bit free flowing. There is potential for the PCs to travel into another dimension, where they can force an early encounter with the villain of the adventure, as well as catch a sneak peek at what the Nazis are up to. The grand finale is an epic confrontation in a raging storm while Allied Forces are retreating to boats en masse, only to face the end result of the Nazi plan (and fans of the Mythos probably have some idea what is coming). There are three likely outcomes included, one of which is a colossal failure for the PCs, one of which is a straight up victory, and one of which is very, very poetic.

When the smoke clears, there’s enough questions about what the Nazis are into, leading to the formation of a new branch of British intelligence designed to deal with just these things.

Four pregenerated characters are included, though ranks/XP aren’t listed. The Rules appendix adds a new skill that everyone gets at d4 (Dreaming), as well as a number of new Powers, many of which are utilized by the villains. For instance, Mindblast forces the target to roll a Guts check against the spellcasting roll or take 2d6 Mental Anguish AND suffer temporary insanity. Finally, rules are provided for trying to slip through a full on firefight.

Other appendices include new monsters and relevant vehicle stats for the adventure.

Several printable handouts are included, which can be used to give the scenario that extra punch.

An ad for Zero Point: Code of Honour, set in Constantinople, drops hints at the future of the campaign, as well as an ad plugging Weird War II, which has material that could be useful in a campaign like this.

The adventure does include a pair of alternate openings to the adventure, one of which casts the group as academics (archaelogists) whose explorations lead to them stumbling across the Nazi plot, and a second (very interesting) one, which features the PCs as German agents at odds with the SS!

WHAT WORKS: The adventure really is very flexible after the opening chapter or two, something I always appreciate. The gradual reveal of the Lovecraftian elements in the campaign continues and it’s a good thing. The alternate openings are also nice, if you don’t want to go the British Intelligence route and/or you want to skip Three Kings. The production values generally look fantastic. Nice ending, setting up the next adventure.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: A lot of material is repeated in the book, especially the handouts, which are included at the relevant parts of the adventure as well as one of the appendices. Organization didn’t feel quite as tight in this book as it did in the last adventure, though I couldn’t tell for sure if that was layout or writing.

CONCLUSION: Another very good entry in the Zero Point series, continuing the theme of Nazi occultism in World War II/Mythos influence while still feeling very different from the previous adventure. I also deeply appreciate that while the author has things that they assume will happen, notes are provided to help the GM along if the PCs go “off script” (like if they successfully take on the Big Bad of the adventure in Episode 3, or even if they completely skip Episode 3 altogether). Some organizational issues hamper the overall product, in my view, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons, with some nice new rules, cool powers and a fairly open adventure for your money.