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Call of Cthulhu: Section 46 Operations Manual

Section 46 Operations Manual

This work provides information for those playing Cold War spies caught up in the even darker web of those who seek to defeat the Mythos as well as the Red Menace. As well as providing masses of information and ideas to aid in planning and running espionage operations, there are notes about appropriate game mechanics to apply and observations as to how 'real world' spy tradecraft is (or more often is not) effective against the Mythos and its agents.

Straight into Chapter 1: Communication and Deception. Beginning with a discourse that announces that 'espionage' means 'discovering secrets' and hence doing so is the core of what a spy does, it goes on to explain that a lot of the information the typical spy gathers is not particularly secret at all! Much can be gathered by observation, although most countries do not welcome spies wandering around even if they only seem to be reading the newspapers and watching what is going on around them in plain view. It looks at how to mount a convincing deception - like persuading someone that your presence is quite innocent, even when it's not - and how to prepare for questioning by having your fake background well imagined and at the tip of your tongue. Then we move on to disguises and cover identities, the building of a 'legend'. This is followed by the more chillings aspects of what might happen if the story doesn't hold enough water to prevent the agent being arrested and questioned further about their identity and activities, and provides hints and tips on how to come out smelling like roses. With some notes on the props that may be used to support a cover story, the narrative moves on to communications: once you have the information you seek, it needs to be passed on. The interception of transmissions is also covered - it can be a good way to find things out, or an easy way for the opposition to find you! Signals, codes and ciphers are covered as well as old-school tradecraft like dead drops, and this chapter ends with propaganda and lies.

Next, Chapter 2: Networks and Assets explores how to set up and run a network in hostile territory, and how to recruit and utilise assets - who may not even know what you are after or what you intend to do with it. This chapter also looks at planning operations and issuing orders for them.

This leads on to Chapter 3: Field Operations. Both urban and rural environments have their challenges and these are explored. Insertions, movement, breaking and entering, all manner of aspects of live in the field are covered here.

This is followed by Chapter 4: Surveillance and Intelligence Gathering, which goes into more detail about various aspects of tradecraft touched upon earlier. Stakeouts, tailing people, conducting all manner of surveillance in person or electronically... plenty useful skills here.

Next, Chapter 5 looks at Personal Violence. Successful spies rarely if ever need to indulge in this - unless handed an assassination task, of course. However, when it becomes necessary to fight at all, the operative must be prepared to do whatever it takes to win. This chapter also covers the use of explosives and incendiary devices. Assassination techniques and those for silent kills are also addressed, along with poisons and other drugs... and the all-important topic of cleaning up bodies and evidence once you're done. Like everything else (barring the Mythos-based comments) this is genuine real world stuff, so don't try it out on your friends. It does make for excellent role-playing if you can describe in realistic detail precisely what your character is doing to accomplish his mission, however.

Then comes Chapter 6: Covert Operations. This is when espionage goes large, and you end up involved in an armed uprising. Maybe the seeds have already been sown, and there is a leader in place for you to assist; sometimes you'll need to sow the seeds yourself and either take the lead or find someone suitable to do so. There's also things like sabotage and disruption here as well as full-blown guerilla warfare. There's a change of focus with a look at close protection duties, should you have a VIP to protect, as well as urban combat and small group actions.

Finally, Chapter 7 looks at Special Weapons and provides some pre-generated characters for those who are ready to leap straight into the fray. The weapons section starts with regular small arms but works right up to nuclear warfare.

Overall, this is an excellent primer for the would-be spy, useful whatever modern spy game you want to play even if it's not the Cold War version of World War Cthulhu. Well worth a look if espionage is your thing.

Return to Section 46 Operations Manual page.

Reviewed: 14 December 2017