By John Houlihan
Achtung! Cthulhu’s Season of the Snake, our event surrounding the launch of our epic Serpent and the Sands combined guide and campaign book concluded recently after a three week long campaign which involved Priority Mission giveaways, actual plays, community events and a celebration of taking the fight to the perfidious Ophidians.
We hope you enjoyed it and you can still access all the content at our Season of the Snake hub right here if you need to catch up. But one of our key aims of Season of the Snake was to get the community more involved and so we ran a competition to design a Section M Priority Mission, a short adventure to provide inspiration for GMs, which can be expanded or re-used with fresh adventure seeds.
We had a record number of entries and quality was extremely high, but our discerning panel of judges have pondered long and hard and finally made their decision with a winner and two runners-up.
Congratulations to our overall winner Scott Virtue for the excellent Hunt the Sea Wolf, a taut, pacy scenario built around a Nachtwolfe sub pen and a raid on an experimental U-Boat. Vasileios Stratigakis also caught the judges’ eye for Slithering Sands, a classic raid on a lost Ophidian temple and Warren Davidson’s Operation U-Bend stood out for its daring submersible bullion heist on a lake in the Adriatic.
Huge congratulations to all three and each scenario not only wins a prize, but will be getting a full Achtung! Cthulhu release. However, we’d also like to extend a big shout out to the wider community for some excellent additional entries, which we may well include in the forthcoming Section M Priority Missions compilation.
And keep an eye out for further chances to contribute across all our social media channels, we’re always keen to try new writers. Just mail firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
But we thought you might like a little insight into the whole process of writing and designing a mission so we had a quick chat with Scott Virtue to see how Hunt the Sea Wolf came together.
How long have you been playing RPGs? Have you written or designed anything before?
I’ve been playing RPGs for a long time, call it 40 years. Through the years, I gravitated into the GM role as I enjoy setting a backdrop and helping my players tell a collective story. I do enjoy playing on the other side of the screen, but I always feel limited with a single character. The curse of the GM and playing everyone else in the adventure. As a GM, I always had ideas for a new world, a place to explore, or a nefarious villain to defeat. So, in that vein, I’ve written lots of adventures, created different worlds, assembled campaign arcs, crafted villains, and created bucket loads of NPCs. All for the consumption of my gaming friends, nothing published.
What inspired you to write Hunt the Sea Wolf? Any influences?
I was brainstorming adventure ideas for the local gaming crew (shout out to the Lost Ones!) and I started watching World War Two movies. One of them (Age of Heroes) is about a group of British commandos and is set in Norway. It immediately made me think “That is our group running an Achtung! Cthulhu mission.” I did some research on Norway during World War II and thought it would make a fantastic location for the Secret War. While doing the research, I ran across several pulp adventure comics about submarines. This sparked me to watch a couple naval movies, specifically Greyhound and U-571. The German U-boats were truly terrifying, almost bestial stalking their prey and striking from the shadows. Seemed like the start of a good mission with a location and plot.
Without giving too much away, tell us a little about the mission.
The mission is set in Norway at a German naval base. Recent intelligence has tipped off Section M that a German submarine of unknown configuration which has been wreaking havoc in the North Sea may be located at the base. The agents are dispatched via parachute drop to conduct reconnaissance, infiltrate the base, and cripple this new weapon if possible.
How did you discover Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20?
As the local gaming group was finishing a Star Trek 2d20 campaign, we were looking for ideas on what to play next. Several in the group had experience with other 2d20 games, and as we all enjoyed the mechanics we chose to stick with the system. Then someone suggested a horror or mythos genre, and Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 became the clear choice. I volunteered to GM figuring it would be great fun to blend my love of history with the mythos and learn a new game system. After a four-week crash course in the system, including multiple YouTube videos, we were running our first mission.
What do you like about the setting?
There are so many delightful stories buried in this setting just waiting to be explored. Larger than life villains, mythos creatures, and the forces of good all struggling against the backdrop of World War Two. I personally enjoy researching real world events and weaving in the Secret War aspect. Fierce battles between opposing armies, with the agents caught in the middle trying to survive. Spy missions to infiltrate and acquire information to thwart the evil villains. The quiet slog through an ancient ruin exploding into all out action in a desperate moment to escape. And the ever-present mythos creatures, lurking in the shadows. Sounds like the makings of the best action story ever.
What do you like about the system?
Overall, it does a wonderful job of capturing that pulp action feel. I really appreciate the Momentum and Threat mechanics. As a GM, threat provides a method to build suspense and at the right moment unleash it to throw a major curve ball at the players. Or dribble it out and slowly ratchet up the tension. The Momentum pool is a visible sign of success (we use a pool of blue stones) and provides a sense of invulnerability for the players to accomplish the impossible. This makes for great role-playing moments, snatching victory at the last moment and the like. The game mechanics are well balanced between action, investigation, and problem solving. The talents, skills, and archetypes allow a wide range of character builds and provide everyone a moment in the spotlight during a session.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring RPG writers and designers out there?
If you have an idea, write it down, and keep writing them down. Turn your ideas around, flip them over, and consider different perspectives. Do research on your idea or topic. If you are stuck, surf the internet. You might be surprised what rabbit hole will spark inspiration. There is a wealth of information available at our fingertips and any one word/image/thought might be that spark. Share your writing with others for feedback. Take feedback as a gift and learn from it. Most important of all, be brave and put your ideas out there.