By John Houlihan
The Forest of Fear, which launches today, is the first great late war campaign for Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20. Designed for a group of veteran agents (though there’s rules for adapting your existing ones too), it takes place in and around a secret offensive within the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, as Hitler prepares to launch his last great gambit, attempting to split the Allies and recapture the deep water port of Antwerp.
But beneath the canopy of this ancient woodland, other forces also stir. An evil, sorcerous cult with its roots in the Middle Ages has long dreamed of fulfilling its malign destiny. Now, as the stars align, they mean to release an ancient horror to ravage the forest and defeat their eternal Celtic foes.
Hurled into this maelstrom are a group of unsuspecting agents who have been ordered to investigate strange occurrences in the forest. During the course of its 11 enthralling missions they will visit an ancient Elder Thing undercity, ruined castles, a cursed monastery, and conclude with a thrilling climax at the mountain aerie known as the Blackbird’s Nest.
Forest of Fear first came to life as a web comic designed by Achtung! Cthulhu creator Chris Birch and when we discussed expanding it into a full campaign, my mind raced with the possibilities.
At its heart, the Battle of the Bulge was a massive armoured assault, so I knew it must have shoggoth tanks in there somewhere and so the Mark VII Sabre Tooth Tiger panzer was born. Some intriguing research into the myths and legends of the Ardennes also turned up an ancient Celtic goddess, Arduinna, who rode a wild boar and was a protectress of the forest and its creatures.
I took the challenge and ran with it, beginning with a bit of universe creation, narrative design and world building. The secret history of the forest first debuted in Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish Secret War Operations, which involved an ancient Elder Thing vs Mi-Go conflict, and ran through the coming of the Celts, the slaughter of a Roman legion and the fall of a medieval monastery into darkness. It eventually became the narrative basis for the Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics videogame.
But when it came to designing the tabletop RPG version, I wanted something truly epic to suit the late war setting and so a twin track narrative was born, with agents alternating missions against the Nazis, and missions against the cult. The estimable Bill Heron clambered aboard to take on the story arc of Dr. Franz Amsel, the Blackbird, who commands the Nazis, while I concentrated on the Crimson Brothers and the Slumbering Horror they hope to awake.
We even gave you a little taster of what you can expect with the launch of the prologue Assault on the Fuhrer Train, (which was just too delicious an idea not to do).
Now the final book is here and it’s the culmination of almost two years work (in between launching the core books and the missions) and I can’t wait for you to check it out.
If you want to get a preview of how it plays, our good friends over at Garblag Games will be launching an epic live play on their Twitch.TV channel this Thursday Nov 3 at 9pm CST.
Huge thanks to Bill of course, for his excellent work, and Boris Martsev and Carlos Cabrera for supplying some awesome visuals to illustrate the story, and also the always brilliant Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design for his fantastic map making skills.
Looking back on the Forest of Fear now, and it’s weird how much it has grown and evolved from that original idea, and mutated into something markedly different from its origins. I hope Chris can forgive me!
Most of all, I hope you have a ton of fun and an absolute riot playing it. Nothing matches the thrill of hearing tales of how GMs and agents have taken the original design and made it there own and I look forward to hearing what you think.
If you’d like to know more, do drop by for a chat on our Discord channel at 4pm GMT this evening, where Bill will be joining me for a chat on Forest of Fear.
I’ll be happy to field your questions and also give you a tantalising glimpse of what lies in store for Achtung! Cthulhu next year.