By John Houlihan
Great storytelling is often built on conflict and when it came to the narrative design of the new edition of Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20, I decided that we needed to inject even more clashes, rivalries, and intensity than the first iteration of the game.
So, rather than a simple black and white Allied occult forces versus Axis occult forces storyline, it would make for a much more intriguing setting, if we had six main factions in the mix, which were all to various degrees in opposition to each other.
Black Sun were pretty well developed in the earlier versions of the game, but Nachtwölfe needed some work, so we added a bunch of new troops and tech and developed their backstory to add more detail into their narrative. We’ve also increased the tension and rivalry between them and Black Sun, so that these two Nazi occult faction are constantly vying for power and even more at each other’s throats than they ever were before. This results in all out civil war near the end of the timeline.
Even between such great allies as Section M and Majestic, there was bound to be some tension occasionally. They certainly wouldn’t agree on every single detail (just like the US and Britain didn’t during World War II) and might even sometimes find themselves in operational opposition with conflicting motives and needs, depending on the circumstances.
Next I threw in another two fresh new Mythos factions, the Deep Ones and the Mi-Go, to really put the cat amongst the pigeons. The Deep Ones have always been one of my favourite Lovecraftian creations, an Earth-native undersea race who probably they wouldn’t be sitting just idly by waiting for Great Cthulhu’s awakening while all-out war erupted on the surface world. Surely they would move to protect their own interests and might even seek allies against the machinations of some of their Mythos rivals?
Enter the Mi-Go another Mythos race built for conflict and in Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 they’re a strange symbiotic hybrid of fungus and insectoid from the far reaches of the solar system who have come to earth for some unfathomable but no doubt nefarious intention. Oh, and of course, they can inhabit human host bodies and like to keep human brains in jars, which certainly make things interesting from a narrative point of view. An enemy within, indeed.
So with six factions to play with, I hope we’ve given GMs sufficient tools to keep things bubbling in the new Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 and that GMs will find plenty of delight in rewarding and tormenting their players with them. Conflict will rage, temporary alliances will be forged, re-made and betrayed, as these six factions competing goals and ambitions clash throughout the course of the war and perhaps even on a day-by-day basis.
Stirring six ingredients into the mix should make for a whole lot of fun. Here’s a quick outline of the human factions and how they will work in Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20.
“We’ve not got much time. Or much hope. But, we do have a stiff-upper lip. So that’ll just have to do.” — Viscount Alexander ‘Alec’ Towton Head of Section M
Section M’s mission is to oppose and foil Black Sun and Nachtwölfe’s worst machinations and serve as Britain’s front line occult force in the Secret War. It’s always playing catch up, as it was not officially brought into being until 1939, but ‘better late than never’, say Section M’s operatives, that’s just the nature of war.
Despite its initial over reliance on a forgotten archive of Victoriana and a talent for improvisation and making do — Section M survives and eventually thrives. Its success is due to a combination of those great British virtues — indomitability and luck — while leaning on the cosmopolitan diversity of its former Empire to fill in any gaps. By war’s end it has matured into a formidable fighting force. The strength of Section M lies in its unorthodoxy, its faintly amateur ethos, and its adaptability, reacting directly to situations without the burden of endless bureaucracy. Its chief, Alec Towton, is a brave and indefatigable leader, adept at spotting an array of talent and harnessing it for Section M’s exacting needs. It’s most notable operatives include Corporal Akhee “the Eye” Singh, Captain “Badger” Harris, Natalya Petrova, and “Mad” Jack McMasters.
“The Nazis are meddling with forces they shouldn’t and that means we have to get our hands dirty too. The only way to survive is to fight fire with fire.” — Sally Armitage, Commander of Majestic
Majestic, the United States’ special occult force in the Secret War, shares Section M’s mandate of opposing Black Sun and Nachtwölfe and their Mythos allies. Although certain agents actively assist their British counterparts prior to the United States’ entry into the war, it is not until late 1942 that “the Office of Mumbo- Jumbo”, as J Edgar Hoover disparagingly terms it, comes into its own.
Although late to the party, Majestic is well funded and resourced and uses American ingenuity to fuse together a powerful combination of firepower and technology, mixed with raw courage and tenacity, to create a flexible fighting force which serves across many fronts with distinction.
Majestic’s foremost goal is to defend American interests and it often finds itself as the tip of the spear, going toe-to-toe with Axis and Mythos foes and strong arming them into submission, albeit at a high cost in lives and material. Majestic runs a huge variety of missions and operations, ranging from small team reconnaissance teams to battalion-sized airborne combat drops. Given the loose and distributed nature of Majestic’s network, agents in the field often find themselves improvising to address the unexpected. Its heroes include the formidable Professor Richard Deadman and Sergeant Brandon Carter.
“Yog-Sothoth is the gate, the key and the guardian. When the black sun is released and its solar rays wash over the Earth, then all men will know his dominion, and despair.” — Exarch Reinhardt Weissler
Through Hyperborean magic and dark pacts with the ancient gods of the Mythos, the Nazi Order of the Black Sun practices foul sorcery and summons evil creatures from other dimensions to rule the battlefields of men. Even though their warrior-sorcerers, trooper foot soldiers and captive horrors become a terror to the allies, Black Sun’s practical work for Hitler’s brutal regime is not its true aim.
In the strange, alien place between wakefulness and sleep, one finds the Dreamlands, a realm beyond the veil of consciousness. There, on the fabled Plateau of Leng under the inky, sombre gaze of its dark star, lies the valley of the black sun. Knowledge, power, and madness abound here, where the Hyperboreans imprisoned an aspect of the Outer God Yog-Sothoth in an unnatural solar orb aeons ago. Based at the sinister forbidden fortress at Wewelsburg castle and driven by its ruthless leader, Reinhardt Weissler and his four Priors, the Order of the Black Sun works inexorably toward its primary goal, acquiring the magic and artefacts necessary to free Yog-Sothoth from its solar prison in the Dreamlands, and unleash it upon this dimension. There it will shine its unholy light on Earth and rain destruction and terror on mankind forever more.
“Science, technology, an indomitable will to power, and the Blauer Kristall, these are the tools we will use to prevail against all our enemies, both foreign and domestic.” — Mina Wolff, head of Nachtwölfe.
Nachtwölfe, the Night Wolves, were originally part of Black Sun, until Mina Wolf’s great betrayal when she split from Exarch Reinhardt Weissler, splintering off to form her own occult organisation with the tacit backing of the Fuhrer. Nachtwölfe’s primary focuses are science, technology, progress, biological enhancements, and wonder weapons (wunderwaffen) powered by Blauer Kristall (Blue Crystal) to help win the war for Nazi Germany. They scour the world for rare Atlantean technology, looking to learn its secrets while harvesting the rare Blauer Kristall which powers it.
Nachtwölfe specialists stalk the battlefield and are instantly recognisable by the eerie blue glow of their advanced weaponry and technology, fabricated by the scientific staff who pursue Mina Wolff’s vision of an advanced Germany. Nonetheless, their methods are still without conscience and ethical or moral considerations and Nachtwölfe creates many horrors of its own. The Cerberus-Gruppe actively encourage their staff to push the limits of science using highly questionable methods. “The ends justify the means” is their warped thinking in creating this new order for the Third Reich. Senior staff include Gerd Schmidt, commander of the Nachtwölfe elite Wolf Guards and Krafft Heimburg, head of the scientific division.