Investigator’s Guide is a core setting book for the WWII action horror Acthung! Cthulhu, for Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds, written by Chris Birch, Dave Blewer, Alex Bund, Adam Crossingham, Lynne Hardy, Sarah Newton, and Matthew Pook and published by Modiphius Entertainment.
By Aaron T. Huss
Disclaimer: Roleplayers Chronicle was provided a copy of Acthung! Cthulhu Investigator’s Guide by Modiphius Entertainment.
The Investigator’s Guide is the player’s handbook to the Acthung! Cthulhu setting, along with being a source for background material for characters within the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign. It contains mechanics for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds. While the original Acthung! Cthulhu campaign modules are designed for Realms of Cthulhu from Reality Blurs, the Investigator’s Guide no longer appears to require that setting guide. The book is really two parts: a look at life leading up to and during World War II and the types of common professions available to investigators within the setting.
Before going further, I would like to note that I did not back the Acthung! Cthulhu Kickstarter campaign. I considered it heavily, but in the end there were other things I wanted to back instead. Although I like the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign modules, I was unsure about how the two setting guides would turn out.
A large part of the Investigator’s Guide is dedicated to making the backdrop of the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign come to life. I say backdrop because the campaign is ultimately a Cthulhu Mythos investigation of the Axis delve into the occult during World War II (WWII being the backdrop). This book focuses heavily on life during World War II. This allows for a great amount of background material that can be leveraged during character creation, including defining what life is like back at home while the investigators are out chasing the Nazis and their cohorts. Timelines are provided to note the major events during and around the time in terms of the war and “what’s going on back home.”
The WWII backdrop also plays heavily into the character background information provided. If the characters are military personnel, there is a plethora of information regarding the different forces and divisions involved in the war, including intelligence. Support roles are touched on, but not significantly.
Fleshing out all this backdrop and background information from a mechanics standpoint is a large chunk of the book. Call of Cthulhu mechanics take up more than the Savage Worlds mechanics as a load of new skills are provided to represent the different skill sets each character background would feasibly have. Military occupations during WWII are provided in mechanical terms including elite and special forces. These backgrounds are considerably streamlined for the Savage Worlds mechanics and presented as quick-use archetypes. This is accompanied by new Hindrances and Edges. The book is capped off with a look at WWII equipment and a Quick Play Guide that sums character creation.
The Investigator’s Guide is a solid player’s book for games set in World War II. It’s quite obvious that the character focus is on those in the military as opposed to something more pulp-like. This is a good way of setting Acthung! Cthulhu apart from other settings during this era as it provides value in the hands of the players (they’re not getting a rehash of pulp heroes fighting Nazis). One thing I like the most about the book is that it presents the players with World War II and doesn’t really lead-on that much to what’s going on in the shadowy world of the Cthulhu Mythos.
The one thing I really don’t like about the book is that it contains mechanics for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds. Part of this is because if you strip out the Call of Cthulhu mechanics, you have a much smaller book that could come in at a lower price point. If you play Call of Cthulhu, the book wouldn’t be that much smaller, but it definitely would take out a fair number of pages. Yes I understand much of the content is system-agnostic, but if you play one and not the other, you’re paying for both no matter what. If you play both, then you’re getting an awesome deal. For example, Chapters 5 and 6, almost 50 pages, is Call of Cthulhu only. That’s 1/3 of the book.
If I had to sum up the Investigator’s Guide, I would call it a character creation tool for building military occupation characters for games set in the backdrop of World War II that aren’t focused on warfare. The driving force behind the setting seems more akin to Special Forces and intelligence than the war, but the character options presented therein are geared toward military characters. It’s an awesome character guide for those types of characters and you can easily strip out the Cthulhu parts and go with a straight military campaign. In other words, it’s a very versatile book for that historical period.