Achtung! Cthulhu in Fate!


Are you a fan of pulpy, WWII horror action? Then you might already be aware of the Achtung! Cthulhu Kickstarter campaign. The wonderful Chris Birch of Modiphius Entertainment contacted me a few months back to talk about a Fate version of this idea. The Kickstarter campaign reached £80,000, which means the Fate Core version is unlocked! And Chris announced that I’ll be the one doing the conversation! :D

Long-time fans and astute readers will remember that I wrote some time about about how Fate can’t do horror. Since Chris contacted me, I’ve been thinking about what one would do to Fate to make it closer to that style of game and how much you can bend that style of game to fit with Fate.

The thing about action horror & Fate is peppered with moments of powerlessness, both in ability and in knowledge. Fate is a game that gives a lot more pulpy-scale power to the characters and narrative power to the players. And when it comes to me looking at a Fate conversion, I look at what dials can be tweaked to get Fate to deliver something more than just “here are all the skills and some sample aspects.”

And folks, after pondering this for some time, I gotta say, I have ideas…

I won’t get into it much now, since things are still being developed (and at the moment I’m under the gun for other projects, as fans are likely aware), but what we’re looking at right now is:

[Caveat: we might be smarter in the future and try something different; this is just an initial approach.]

  • Just as the Savage Worlds editing is pulpier than the Call of Cthulhu one, the Fate one will naturally be even pulpier still. So, the Fate one would start with us not messing around with too many Fate assumptions, since people like Fate for a reason. Which means it is a bit closer to the “here are all the skills and some sample aspects” take on conversion.
  • Add optional bits to bring the rules down at different moments, actually changing the Fate experience to be closer to action horror, while not eschewing Fate’s core promises.

As to the latter, I noted down a few things. Here’re a couple (that may or may not work out in the end):

  • Since Fate points allow you to buy your way out of failure, having moments where you can’t use Fate points in that manner so efficiently works. When you’re dealing with Wehrmacht mooks, Fate points could work normal. Dealing with the undead? The game changes — you can spend like normal to reroll dice, but to add +2 gets expensive. So buying your way out of dealing with horrific situations isn’t as simple (and will ideally drive creating more preemptive advantages).
  • Massive, unfightable entities don’t have aspects or skills or anything like that, and in fact they never roll dice. What they have are pseudo-skills like “Devour investigator [8],” where that’s just the static result for whenever that situation comes into play.

In any case, I’m excited by this prospect. It’ll be an interesting and fun project! There’s still time for you to get in on the Kickstarter, if this sounds up your alley.

– Ryan


6 Responses to Achtung! Cthulhu in Fate!

  1. Sean Nittner says:

    Do you see any future of using particularly harsh compels?

    Using the event based mad-lib:

    You are in *an abandoned mine shaft* and have the *nosy investigator* aspect, so it makes sense that, unfortunately, *your poking around the alien controls collapses the shaft behind you, leaving you trapped without food or water* . Damn your luck.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I’ll draw a bit from the different forms of compels that we talked about in Core (which comes originally from this blog post). When it comes to horror, putting yourself in danger when you don’t otherwise have to counts as an external compel.

      For example, let’s say you’re escorting some scientist away from a Castle Wolfenstein sitch and there are undead hunting you. The scientist trips and sprains his ankle. He’s about to be zombie-food. That’s a compel off of the game’s aspect of The Suffering of Humanity, or the scientist’s aspect of Clumsy, or your aspect of Why The Fuck Do I Get The Shit Jobs. In any case, that’s a compel, and all I need to say is what happens and that it’s a compel. If you complicate your life by getting into harm’s way when you have a choice, that’s the Fate point.

      In your example, it’s slightly different. It’s the world reacting to you in a way that you can’t control. So, it’s a compel you can’t refuse, because you’ve already put yourself there.

      Now, such compels only reward once per significant moment or choice, so getting a second shaft collapsing behind you isn’t worth anything in that same scene.

      Does any of that make sense?

      – Ryan

  2. Sean Nittner says:

    Yeah, I’d take “you have to make a tough choice” right alongside “the world just made your life tougher” as valid compels. Yours focusing on tragedy and drama, mine focusing on a situation spiraling from bad to worse. I think both are good for doing horror.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Right. Part of what’s on me to do is write how to effectively (and poorly) compel in action horror. I’m glad you brought it up.

      – Ryan

  3. John Powell says:

    Congrats Ryan! If you need a playtester for this, let me know.