Sunday, April 17, 2016

[Achtung Cthulhu] The City of Broken Dreams

Under the guidance of Alexander, Viscount Towton, MI6 launches a new secretive division, Section M. And with the threat of war looming ever closer on a daily basis, two new recruits are dispatched to Vienna to retrieve a couple of assets, veterans of Operation THREE KINGS...

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Dave S.


  1. An interesting bit of investigation, and apparently an accurate description of Boltzmann's grave (though I think he died earlier than you said). I wouldn't have expected him to get such a monument.

    Also, I was wondering if you're familiar with the Al Stewart song Night Train to Munich, because there were definitely some bits in this one that seemed reminiscent.

    1. Yeah, I pulled Boltzmann's date of death out of my proverbial GMing ass--the scenario mentions his wife dying in 1936, so I figured he'd pre-deceased her maybe 10-20 years earlier. But no! Closer to 30 years!

      Thanks for the Al Stewart tip. Hadn't heard it before!

  2. Jen has really embraced the heart of Call of Cthulhu. If someone is being creepy, get what you want out of them, and then efficiently dispose of them. I love Renae's uncertain "Thanks" post-bashing. As if she's never done anything similar.

    I'm confused about the structure of the game. Is this a pulpy Cthulhu adventure setting, or is it more like a Deadlands Plot Point campaign?

    1. "As if she's never done anything similar." Bwhahaha! Too true!

      Your confusion is warranted; Achtung! Cthulhu is dual-statted for CoC and Savage Worlds, so it feels like a bit of each regardless of which system you use. This isn't a plot point campaign per se, but all the A!C adventures are linked under the same continuity arc and can be run in sequence.

  3. It's Lovecraft: all the characters should probably list their nationality as "Degenerate." (I'm pretty sure that Lovecraft was capable of coming up with a way to view Vermonters as profoundly alien and threatening...)

    Which raises the awkward but undeniable tension here (better acknowledged and dealt with than avoided, I think). Does Achtung! Cthulhu explicitly address the issue that there are aspects of Lovecraftian horror that have more in common with Nazi anti-Semitic ideology than they do with the side that the characters are playing?

    The uncomfortably described individual is a case in point: he really does sound like a Nazi depiction of Jewishness. Not a criticism of the way that you handled it, just an interesting area that could use (delicate and sensitive) exploration, if you're comfortable with that.

    1. Pretty sure if we were going full Lovecraft for Chargen I'd have to list Charles Bucket's nationality as "Negroid"

    2. "Does Achtung! Cthulhu explicitly address the issue that there are aspects of Lovecraftian horror that have more in common with Nazi anti-Semitic ideology than they do with the side that the characters are playing?"

      It addresses Nazism's relationship to the Mythos (which is to say, it takes the stance that Nazism is a purely human invention, and that to the extent that the Nazis and the Mythos interact it's out of a misguided human attempt at mastering and weaponizing the Mythos).

      I think the fact that Lovecraft's xenophobia and aversion to miscegenation uncomfortably mirrors that of Nazi ideology (as indeed the Nazis were heavily influenced by American ideas on eugenics in the 20s and 30s) provides an interesting gloss to the experience of horror of "the Other" in A!C. I'll be looking for opportunities to point that out, certainly, via interactions with eugenicists and anti-Semites as the campaign goes on. The encounter with the bookshop owner (and the PCs' reaction to him) is merely the first paving stone on that particular road to Hell...

      As Dave points out, though, the fact that our core group includes only a single WASP and is otherwise made up of a woman and two men of color serves in and of itself as an interesting anti-Lovecraftian counterpoint--something else that's bound to come up, at least in passing.

  4. I think that's one of the things that's interesting about playing in this setting, in fact: the chance to reverse Lovecraft so that it's the people obsessed with "racial purity" that are the source of horror. Lovecraft's recurrent fear of something awful hidden in one's own ancestry can be repurposed here.

    I should probably note that I don't think that racism is all there is to Lovecraft, and even his intense prejudices don't always manifest in the way that one might expect. It is striking that he doesn't locate borror where one might think, in ethnically diverse cities and their immigrant populations, but in the idealized American territory of the small town.