Monday, 8 June 2015

World War Cthulhu

A quick update then on RPG activity. Since the conclusion of our Deadlands Noir plot arc (the campaign is not over yet, but I'm just taking a breather as work has been getting busier), we've been dabbling in World War Cthulhu. For those not familiar with this, it is a setting for Call of Cthulhu, using World War Two as the background. Characters are members of the British Special Operations Executive, tasked with dropping into enemy-occupied Europe to carry out missions of espionage and sabotage. On top of this, our group has been tasked with tracking down a missing German occultist, who vanished in a sleepy French village in 1938. Our team of five is using the cover of a regular SOE mission into France in 1941 to find this missing man.

On the team are two British operatives (one from Northern Ireland), a ex-IRA man blackmailed by the Secret Service, a French pilot who missed the fighting in 1940 because he was in Algeria, and an Australian lawyer.

Our motley crew has already run into trouble, with one badly injured on the initial drop, another got lost in a mysterious Sanity-devouring woodland that seems to be haunted by something unpleasant, papers have been confiscated by a German patrol, and not only has a German officer been shot and dumped in a river, but we've also been forced to execute one of our partisan allies on flimsy evidence of being a double agent.

The big differences with CoC are that firstly, you play a trained expert in assassination and covert operations, so you are meant to be able to handle yourself. The character generation process is more involved and designed to deliver a competent team of agents. It does, however, end up channelling points into some areas and not into other, logically associated areas. For example, my character, Pierre-Yves Bertrand, is a pilot, and enjoys high scores in Pilot Aircraft and Operate Radio, but he relies on Fergus, his Irish colleague, who is the team cryptographer, to support coded communications. Should something happen to Fergus, we may have problems communicating with London. But Bertrand lacks skill in Navigation, which would have been a core skill for him in the conventional version of the game. His Stealth is also 10%, which is proving ruinous in an environment where there is plenty of sneaking about. Some of the blame must lie with me, as I was pretty tired on the night we rolled up characters, and I should have paid more attention to associated skills, but Navigation just didn't jump at me,

What augments the tension, however, is conducting an investigation in occupied France, while trying to set up a resistance network, and dealing with people who want to let rip and bring the wrath of the German Wehrmacht down on our heads (even my own PC has been guilty of wanting to blow something up, although blowing things up is specifically not in our orders).

This is not pulp Achtung Cthulhu. In this game, you are more vulnerable, and it is becoming increasingly evident how much pressure SOE operatives would typically live under, without any hope of extraction if things went 'Pete Tong' suddenly. We've twice now had to kill people to maintain the secrecy of our existence in the village, including one person who might have been innocent, while making very slow progress in establishing our cell. On top of that, there may / may not be a cult of some kind active in the village - we've seen and heard some very odd things, to be honest, and as ever in this game, I can't help feeling we're missing important clues.

"I've got a little job for you, in France..."

Again, I find myself wondering about the deficiencies of Call of Cthulhu as a system, as we have characters with some very high scores that could easily be abused - including one with only a 1% chance of failing in Fast Talk, who could technically be able to talk her way out of anything if the Keeper does not impose penalties of some kind. Compare this with Gumshoe GUMSHOE, where she would have to spend points on interpersonal skills unless she were on top of a core clue. While I've not yet read the 7.0 version of the game, I do feel it would bear an update of some kind.

That said, I'm very much enjoying the game, even though I stand convinced we'll all die horribly. Our last session was particularly intense, and had me on the edge of my seat for most of it, except when I was slicing up Caribbean rum cake for the players. WWC is a very intriguing deviation off the well-trodden path of CoC gaming and highly enjoyable.


  1. Perhaps we should have a skill point redistribution session!

  2. You are such an eternal optimist Stuart! ;) But yes. Probably best to cap skill point buying at 80%. Anything beyond that has to be earned through roleplay.
    And yes. We probably are all doomed but as El Kel says, there is always time for some skill redistribution. Before we are devoured ;)