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Call of Cthulhu: Our American Cousins

Our American Cousins

Whilst World War Cthulhu: Cold War contained information about intelligence agencies around the world, the main thrust of that work was British activities. Yet in the Cold War the driving force was the interaction between America and Soviet Russia, so this book deals with American espionage activities. When Section 46 was formed, its ostensible role was to liaise with intelligence agencies in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. There's been a long association between British and American intelligence agencies ever since WW2, and peace did not affect this special relationship. Of course, N is somewhat wary of any government looking into the Mythos - for reasons unknown, a couple are suggested but you can pick what you wish - and keeps a sharp eye on what the Americans are up to. There's a summary of some of the more unusal operations and investigations run in America during the 1960s and 1970s - some real, like Project Bluebook which gathered information about UFO sightings, some weird like Project MKUltra which experimented into mind control, and more.

For those wishing to play American agents, the default agency is the CIA, however other agencies are described and may be used if preferred - for example, a campaign based around events in America might work better with an FBI team. Most published adventures are written with British agents in mind but it ought not to be too difficult to use American ones instead. Groups of agents from different agencies might be difficult to explain if you are aiming for a 'real-world' feel to your game, although they might work together occasionally.

The first chapter deals with The US Intelligence Community in the 1970s. It starts by looking at the somewhat uneasy situation with scandals caused by the revelation of some well-dodgy programmes being run within US agencies. The CIA changed Directors at a dizzying rate, brief details of each are provided. Agencies covered include the CIA, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the FBI, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the National Security Agency (NSA) and more of the 'alphabet soup' of three-letter agencies that populate the US intelligence scene. It ends with a bibliography for those who wish to delve deeper into real-world American agencies.

Next, Domestic Briefings provides a run-down of what is going on in the murkier circles of the American underworld (apart from the activities described in the preceeding chapter). Organised crime, gangs, drug dealers, domestic terrorists and dissidents rub shoulders with cultists - real ones like the Reverend Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ (which ended in the Jonestown Massacre, a mass suicide). A couple of real dodgy clandestine operations is followed by outline ideas for adventures along similar lines. Each provides both an intelligence operation and a parallel task from N.

Then there's a look at Foreign Intelligence Theatres, a scan around the world with more outline missions in Central America, Angola, Bolivia, Europe, the USSR, Afghanistan, the Far East and Australia. Plenty to keep the party busy and on their toes. This is followed by Keeper Dossiers, a series of two page spreads, featuring a core story or topic, and a series of ancillary facts, characters, locations and topics, along with some targeted guidance for further reading, all designed to inspire the Keeper to come up with even more missions with which to task the party. They're grouped geographically: UK, USA, and the rest of the world.

Beyond Top Secret then looks at the Mythos threat in more detail, providing the Keeper with the necessary information to run credible threats. There's a whole bunch of activities that either Mythos creatures or cultists have been getting up to, and these can be woven into existing missions or provide entirely new ones.

Next, The Brocken Spectre provides a full ready-to-run scenario set in East Berlin and the Harz Mountains of East Germany. It all begins with a search for a missing NSA agent, complicated by the arrival of the estranged son of a person the agent mentioned, the Stasi, and a strange woman who after something but nobody's sure just what. There's enough detail on East Berlin to run it as the dark and claustrophobic place it was, the usual host of well-characterised NPCs. The consequences of failure in this mission are potentially dire, and could even precipitate war between the West and the East.

Finally, there's a collection of American Fortean events (more plot ideas in abundance) and a collection of Persons of Interest - NPCs you can use to help or hinder the party as suits. Each also comes with ideas for plots involving them, although most will make good 'bit part' players to be encountered during other missions.

This makes an excellent addition to the World War Cthulhu: Cold War line, and with a bit of modification in the mission briefings will work with British agents if preferred. A lot of the material would work well in more regular spy games, just excise the Mythos elements (or treat them X-Files style where there was usually a real-world explanation as well as a spooky one for every weird effect.

Return to Our American Cousins page.

Reviewed: 20 December 2017