What’s in Achtung! Cthulhu Fate Edition?

Acthung! Cthulhu is available now in PDF, and Chris Birch of Modiphius tells me to follow them to see an announcement of physical books later in July. People have been asking about what’s in it for Fate fans, and let me tell you this: there are around 70,000 words that are in it for Fate fans. I wrote a lot for this game, and I’m pretty proud of it. Let’s get into some details about what’s in this two-volume set.

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Lore Designed For Cthulhoid Investigation

Mythos games are  largely about information flow and characters having detailed knowledge. The specializations system in Acthung! Cthulhu works to that end, extending the Lore skill into a split Academics, Sciences, and Lore without creating numerous individual skills. This dovetails with the sanity system, as having a specialization means that you automatically notice things that will risk your sanity.

Because smart people in the Mythos are constantly in danger.

If you’ve seen Fate Codex #2, you’ll see the automatic noticing concept in that volume extended in Achtung! Cthulhu, which sort of makes hybridizes Fate with some things that GUMSHOE holds dear.

Warzone Conflicts

Along with being a Mythos game, this is a WWII game, so I wrote a chapter extending Fate rules into situations that happen in WWII fiction. Here’s the overview:

Here is a guide to navigating this chapter: Stress, Consequence & Recovery (p.132) covers how every character deals with recovering stress and consequences in Achtung! Cthulhu; Conceding and Being Taken Out (p.133) talks about what it means to lose a fight in a lethal environment.

Then there are the general rule modules for different warzone situations: Battlefields, Zones & War Story Logic (p.134) talks about how to run a Fate game that happens in the chaos of battle, and how to deal with weapons that cover long distances and large areas when using zones; Scale (p.135) introduces how to handle vastly outclassed forces, like a person versus a tank or a bomb; and Airstrikes, Artillery & Other One-Sided Conflicts (p.136) shows you how to use Fate to handle dramatic scenes where characters cannot directly fight back. Unavoidable Attacks and Other Nastiness (p.138) offers a gritty system for what happens when something vicious assaults a character.

After that are the rules players will really want to know about: Automatic Fire and a Hail of Bullets (p.138) talks about how to use rapid-fire weapons to your advantage; Parachuting and Other Daring Feats (p.141) offers a framework for those times when characters are doing amazing and dangerous actions that aren’t directly opposed, and where the difference between failure and success can be quite interesting indeed; Explosives (p.139) goes into everyone’s favourite tool—things that go boom; Poisons and Other Silent Killers (p.141) handles the opposite of explosives—those things that hit without notice. Finally, for characters who are particularly crafty, Creating Explosives and Poisons (p.141) provides rules for these rather unfriendly activities.

You will also want to review the rules for vehicles in Chapter 6, starting on p.100.

These rules do not cover every conceivable thing that could happen in a warzone, but they should give you plenty of tools to use for a variety of situations, as well as tools you can extrapolate to handle anything unexpected.

And I give a sneak preview here, talking about how I’d handle Operation Overlord using the rules I made for Acthung! Cthulhu: http://ryanmacklin.com/2014/06/handling-overlord-fate/

Scale Rules

Everyone and their parents have a scale rule for Fate. I really like mine, because it’s fairly simple, centered around default notions and fictional positioning. And because this deals with Mythos beings, it slides in just as easily to deal with a person versus a tank, person versus a chthonian, and a tank versus an chthonian.

A preview of Acthung! Cthulhu’s scale: http://ryanmacklin.com/2014/05/qa-scaling-in-fate/

Sanity Rules

Sanity was a hard nut to crack in Fate. The thing about all sorts of damage and Fate is that the system doesn’t handle the slow drain of agency that many adventure games do. Healing in Fate is either trivial or narrative, but you don’t fear the death-by-a-thousand-cuts sort of narrative. However, that is how sanity works in this sort of story, so instead of just taking someone onto mental stress and calling it done, I spent revision after revision building a sanity system that worked with Fate and felt like a Fate extra, but didn’t feel trivial or easy to shrug off.

Sanity paces a Mythos hero’s story, and I talk about that as well — about how recovering sanity is a slow process, but the war stops for no one, so you have to make hard choices about your character. However, unlike in Call of Cthulhu, sanity isn’t something assigned to creatures or moments; these rules are focused on the story’s own tension and general scales of inhumanity, so you can layer the moments as needed for the narrative.

Mythos Magic

One of the most interesting challenges was to make a Fate magic build that felt like the Mythos. To that end, I went back to the source, the Call of Cthulhu RPG 5th Edition, and studied the hell out of it. I was fascinated with seeing how spellcasting was largely a matter of “if you know a spell, you can spend your spell energy and it just happens.” I had forgotten about that part of CoC, and how truly frightening it is to see a sorcerer just be able to do something with impunity. Of course, there’s still resisting against a spell, but that’s not the same as the spell failing to happen.

So the Mythos magic system in Achtung! Cthulhu works closely with that vibe, while still being something that extends from Fate, which includes many of the spells from Call of Cthulhu ported to Fate.

Mythos Monsters

I’m really proud of the work here. Modiphius handed me several dozen monsters to convert from their CoC/Savage Worlds stats to Fate, which turned into some interesting challenges in defining inhuman creature threats and abilities. To emphasize the alien nature of these creatures, I throw out the skill system entirely, replacing with flavorful skill modes like “Hunt the Living +3” or “Shrug Off Pathetic Mortals +4.”

You can see a taste of that in an earlier blog post: http://ryanmacklin.com/2013/11/npcs-and-ad-hoc-skill-modes/. Achtung! Cthulhu has that in detail, with many immediately playable instances.

And More!

If you’re a Fate designer, I think you’ll find my chapter on Game Creation to be useful for framing your own setting elements. All of the skills are detailed in the Investigator’s Guide even when appearing in Fate Core, because WWII and horror re-contextualizes everything, and we didn’t want you flipping through two different books for all of the common skills and also having to translate a generic write-up into a specific setting. The equipment rules are brief and to the point for Fate fans, without having individual stats for each rifle or vehicle.

Creative Commons!

Finally, Modiphius has those Fate rules released under Creative Commons. If you believe in supporting the openness of Fate, please buy a copy to show that support. If you want to see how to do Lovecraft in Fate Core, well, I think it’s the first game to tackle it while fitting in Fate’s default mode of high-action.


Have you checked it out? What’s your favorite part?

– Ryan


5 Responses to What’s in Achtung! Cthulhu Fate Edition?

  1. Fnorder says:

    This looks spectacular! I will pick it up as soon as the next paycheck arrives, however there is one question I’d like to ask. Since “player’s guide” seems to mean two different things in the industry, of which persuasion is this one: is it a separate book with content that together with the GM’s guide forms a complete whole, or is is a trimmed version of the corebook, for players on a budget who won’t need the GM parts?

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      The divide is your classic “there are surprises that you might not want spoiled on” bit, though the Fate rules are split across the volumes because there was no good way to do it otherwise. The Investigator’s Guide has character creation, skills, and some equipment rules. The Keeper’s Guide has the rest of it, and we’ve starred the chapters in the TOC that are spoiler-free.

  2. If you’re on the fence about this one don’t be. Go pick it up. Thanks for putting this together Ryan. I’m totally digging on the Sanity rules and how they interact with the idea of the forces of darkness/the mythos are always moving forward.

    Man would it be nice to relax for a few weeks and clear those stress boxes or spend a few months in an asylum but then the horrible old one will break through the barriers of time and space and send us all to various dimensions of pain and unspeakable horror.

    Pure gold. Pure Gold.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Thanks, Chris!

      Yeah, that was a case where I almost didn’t add that bit of narrative text, to leave that implied in the rules rather than explicit. But then after some conversations online about when explanations about design decisions are good versus when they’re distracting and actually cause confusion, I added a few bits here and there to make clear how the rules impact the larger story arc.

      – Ryan

  3. Aljen says:

    Ah I am so angry at myself that I havent supported this Achtung Cthulhu FC kickstarter when it was running! 9 books for 46$, while now 2 of them costs 30$ WW2 is not my keg of beer but Cthulhu and Sanity rules (to reuse them for my FCwh40k) definitely are.
    Looks like I will have to buy myself another birthsday present.

    (World of Dew, Urban Shadows, Dark, Blade of the Iron Throne, Wield, Circle of HAnds … it looks like I really like myself this year)