sábado, 18 de mayo de 2013

Reviewing: Three Kings, Part 1 of the Zero Point campaign for Achtung! Cthulhu

Now that you all know what is Achtung! Cthulhu and what I think about the setting here you have my thoughts regarding the first MODIPHIUS product, the first part of the Zero Point campaign, Three Kings, written by Sarah Newton.

As I said in a previous post, this adventure is available on pdf for Call of Cthulhu, Realms of Cthulhu, and PDQ. (Edited: and now also for Trail of Cthulhu). I only possess the first one, so that is the one I will be talking about. As far as I know, the story is identical, but the feeling of using one system or the other can be very different.

So, what do you get with your purchase? Two pdfs, one full-color with a really nice background that imitates a briefing booklet, full of clipped or stuck notes; the other one is the printer-friendly version, which still includes the color maps and the art from Dim Martin. I have not printed any of them but both look fantastic in the computer, so I cannot wait to get the printed version. You can get a preview of the color version here.

The 44-pages booklet is roughly divided into two halves, the first one the adventure itself, the second one the extras (NPCs, pregenerated characters, new rules and handouts). That gives us a relatively short story that probably plays well in a 4-6 hour session (I have not had the opportunity of running the story myself yet). The story itself is good without being terribly original, it looks to me like a Where-Eagles-Dare-meets-Cthulhu, and I love it1! The story takes place in the summer of 1939, before the invasion of Poland, in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. There, in a castle not far from Prague, the Germans are conducting atrocities unknown to the outside world…so the British sent a group of special agents (the PC) with the objective of contacting with the Czech resistance, including the famous Three Kings of the title, investigating those atrocities and stopping them (if possible). As you can see, pretty straightforward, although there are a few surprises that I have not mentioned to avoid any major spoiler. It doesn’t seem to me like a very complicated story, since most players will always know what can they do next, although if they will have the gusts (or the firepower) to do it is an entirely different question. Knowing how deadly CoC is, and despite its limitations when it comes to combat, I think it will work well for a WWII-infiltration-story, with the players necessarily planning their next move carefully. Aside from the main story, there a few ideas for alternative beginnings (I love the “University Wars” option) and some ways to expand the story once the mission is done. They both require some from the Keeper, but that might make Three Kings the perfect link between prewar adventures in Central Europe (not that I know many of them) and the new Achtung! Cthulhu setting. The adventure would also work well as an introduction to the Mythos for new players, or for players who do not know that they are playing a Mythos game. I cannot wait to convince a few friends to play “this new WWII RPG” and then, when they are deep into the Nazi-controlled castle surprise them with… did you really expect me to tell you what is there?

The second section starts presenting all the NPCs, mainly resistance members and the Germans forces: soldiers, SS, and Gestapo; well explained to understand the differences between them without needing a History book. All the bad guys are very archetypical, in the pulp tradition of Indiana Jones (which makes them, in my opinion, perfect for an introductory scenario). They come with enough notes regarding their backgrounds and personalities to make easy for the Keeper to use them and easy for the investigators to identify who is trying to kill them in that particular moment. 

Being this story part of a campaign, I prefer to create my own characters rather than using pregenerated ones. The good thing is that Three Kings offers you both, while we wait for the Investigator’s Guide we have two new occupations from the British Secret Service (field and research agent), and four pregenerated characters (brawny soldier, tinker soldier, scholar, and resistance-expert). These characters will allow you to start playing in no time, they will guarantee that at least the investigators have the possibility succeeding and, on top of that, they have brief but interesting backgrounds, being, in short, a very good starting point.

The next appendix offers you all the rules that have appeared through the booklet in one convenient place: parachuting (I told you this was like Where Eagles Dare), guards, vehicle combat, new skills and occupations and torture and interrogation (I sincerely hope you do not need the last one). The book ends with the only handout of the story, a four-pages operational briefings describing the mission. I like it a lot and I hope that once they print the whole campaign, they will include these as a separate booklet to give to the players.

In short, a relatively inexpensive way of getting into Achtung! Cthulhu. It will guarantee you a fun afternoon for you and your players and then you can judge by yourself. After I read it I thought, “This is cool but I do not know if it is really my thing”. However it was enough to encourage me to get the second part: Heroes of the Sea. And this one ensured me that I was going to read a lot of/ about Achtung! Cthulhu in the next few years.

1 Any Clint Eastwood movie is a good movie, any 2.
2 Any movie and in any language that I understand.

$9.99 (pdf) There are several bundles that will save you a few bucks if you are thinking about getting the two adventures or getting one for several systems.

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