Kontamination, Achtung! Cthulhu Adventure
From: Modiphius Entertainment Ltd
Reviewed by: Ron W McClung
Kontamination is a new RPG Adventure/One Shot from Modiphius Entertainment Ltd.
When I try to run a published adventure, I sometimes find myself asking if the adventure was written with the GM in mind. For me, it’s important to convey the story of the adventure to the players in the most succinct and clear fashion with minimal page turning and book diving as possible. However, not everyone retains the same information at the same rate and every GM is different. So what is the way to best write an adventure? Keep it as simple as possible in terms of wording and stat blocking, and make key aspects of the adventure easy to reference if at all possible.
Kontamination is an adventure with the intention of being a one shot. It was written by a guy who admits he has never played a table top RPG. Sam Richards is the writer and also the creator of Tweet RPG, a web site that has since changed to StoryMechs.com. From the web site: “Tweet RPG is a free online role-playing experience, which utilizes Twitter to provide users with an innovative new way of enjoying text-based adventures.” Kontamination was written using the Tweet RPG means of crowd-creation. I only found this out after running it and found that very surprising and innovative.
This is also one of the few times I actually ran an adventure I am going to review. I had 8 players (which was more than I really wanted) on a Saturday afternoon, and with that many, the game ran a little long. But I found it very adaptable. The game itself was a great success. I had also run the first adventure released for Achtung! Cthulhu called Three Kings, and Kontamination could not be more different in a lot of ways.
From page #3:
“What’s good need not be secret, and what’s secret is not good.” – Unknown
The adventure is a very contained and focused story that has a lot of flexibility in each encounter but is restricted in the confines of a specific mission. In fact, the characters are taking on a secret mission within an actual historical mission. The adventure boldly puts the players in the roles of German soldiers, and if you are using the pre-generated characters, the writer provides hooks into the adventure that act as manipulation points, giving the characters more motivation to accomplish the mission other than simply they are loyal Nazis. The pre-generated characters are in fact not necessarily loyal Nazis but rather people trying to survive the horrible war. The GM is encouraged to create characters in the same vein if he does not use the pre-generated characters.
It takes place during the Battle of the Bulge or from the German’s perspective, the Ardennes Offensive. During this time, the Germans conducted a covert action called Operation Greif, where German soldiers dressed in Allied uniforms and using Allied equipment caused disruption and confusion behind enemy lines. The Reich Main Security Office has gotten intelligence of a super secret operation within the Operation Greif was being conducted by a super secret group called Nachtwulf and not even the Security Office knew of them. This concerns the lead of the Reich Main Security Office and the players are brought in to act as operatives to investigate.
This is where the adventure first gets a little challenging for the GM and the players. Although it does not seem like a big thing, it can be confusing to those not prepared for it. The players have a real name, an operative name within Operation Greif and then later they get their Allied soldier name. The pre-generated characters smartly placed the name they were going to use the most as their primary name – the Operation Greif name. The Allied name was rarely used when we played and their real name was never used. I made up flash cards with the Allied names and ranks and randomly handed them out during the mission and took them back when it was not needed.
It is also gets a little challenging in the equipment department. The group should start out with just the bare necessities but they switch between Allied equipment and German equipment throughout the adventure. If keeping up with who has what gun when is important, I recommend making flash cards with game stats of all the available weapons and handing them out at the right times. This also makes the quartermaster scene in the beginning a lot more fun.
From page # 3:
“The Second World War is drawing to a close, but combat still rages on.”
I won’t get into the detail of the overall plot beyond the intro, but it is well defined in three key episodes and those are broken down into a number of scenes. The strict structure of the military mission does have the tendency to feel like the GM is railroading the players, but in playing it never really did feel like that. I think the players felt like at any time they could take control of their characters and do what they wanted but the backgrounds and hooks provided in the pre-gens helped keep them on track. They all stayed within character and stayed true to their motivations.
My only major complaint was the way the adventure was written. Although well written with a lot of painstaking detail (which I enjoyed), it was not quite written with the GM in mind. I found myself struggling at points to find the right stats for the bad guys, or the right text I needed to read to the characters. I do not like to do a lot of reading to the characters, but in a one shot the key moments that might require reading is the intro. Although they did provide that “Read to the characters” text for the Reich Main Security Office mission introduction, they needed to also do the same thing when given the mission instructions for the Nachtwulf mission (the mission within which they were to accomplish their own secret mission). There are key aspects that needed to be clearly stated to the characters and I would have preferred to have succinct and precise text to read to them.
The creatures they end up facing are soldiers manipulated by a Mythos-based apparatus. Instead of providing stats for the creatures, the creature was provided in the form of a template to apply to whomever ends up having the procedure applied. Although creative and interesting, to run this as a one shot, especially if you want to run this as a one shot in a convention, time is of the essence. In combat, I do not want to be referencing back and forth between the template and the character that was converted. That slows combat down and in most RPGs, combat is slow enough. What I recommend a GM doing is prepping a few typical “converted” bad guys ahead of time so they are ready for combat.
The characters also are part of an overall plot that basically treats them as expendables. There is enough plot development before the final episode that the players may conclude as much before they get to the epic climactic battle that happens at the end. In my case, the players smartly figured it out and took matters in their own hands, short circuiting the overall story. The GM should be prepared for that if they have good players. The intended battle at the end of the adventure that I never got to is absolutely epic. I hate that we never got to it (although my game ended well) because it is set up very well.
When diving into an adventure based in a setting like Achtung! Cthulhu – non-fictional historical meets fiction horror – I wonder what the author is going to focus on. Basing something in something historical, you run the risk of turning your session into a history lesson. And, although I am World War 2 history buff, I never assume all my players are too. An ideal Achtung! Cthulhu would focus on both in a good balance, always remembering that the players are really here because of the horror, fantasy and fictional aspects and less about the history. I honestly believe that Kontamination accomplishes an amazing balance between the two aspects of the setting.
In conclusion, Kontamination is well written from a content point of view but from a RPG structure point of view, I think it needs a little work. The story is amazingly well put together and fluid and it was very fun to play. The players all had fun. I highly recommend this as a one shot at home or at a convention. The GM needs to do a little more preparation beyond just reading it, but if he does that, the session will go very well.
For more details on Modiphius Entertainment Ltd and their new RPG Adventure/One Shot “Kontamination” check them out at their website http://www.modiphius.com/.
Codex Rating: 16
From: Modiphius Entertainment Ltd
Type of Game: RPG Adventure/One Shot
Written by Sam Richards & Matthew Pook
Created using the Tweet RPG system (www.tweetrpg.co.uk)
Additional Material by Dave Blewer, Bill Bodden & Lynne Hardy
Edited by Lynne Hardy, Matthew Pook & Michal E. Cross
Artwork by Dim Martin
Graphic Design, Layout & Cartography by Michal E. Cross
Produced & Art Directed by Chris Birch & Lynne Hardy
Number of Pages: 54
Game Components Included: One PDF adventure
Game Components Not Included: Core RPG rulebooks
Retail Price: $11.99 (US)
Reviewed by: Ron W McClung