The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all it’s contents
H.P. Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu (1926)
For me, October is all about horror. This is due mostly to everybody’s favorite pagan holiday most endearingly referred to as Halloween. It can be said that if we as gamers would have what could be called an unofficial mascot of horror and madness, our guy would be Cthulhu (ka-thu-lou). Born of from the imagination of one H.P. Lovecarft back in the 1920’s, he is a major part of and figure head of what is now an extensive Mythos filled with unseen and overwhelming horrors. You can see his influence both directly and indirectly in a lot of tabletop games, video games, and movies even still today. So why not get into the spirit, hit the jump, and look over some suggestions for immersing your self in the madness of the Mythos.
While you can honestly jump right into a lot of these games without any knowledge of Cthulhu and the Mythos, it definitely does help the experience to at least bone up with a collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s works. While there are some really stand out short stories, all of them tend to at least be a good read. While Cthulhu is mentioned often in a lot of Mr. Lovecraft’s short stories, you would at least want to pay particular attention to the short story entitled The Call of Cthulhu. It can be found in most of his collections if you don’t care for my suggestion below. Also, by no means is this a definitive guide to all things Cthulhu in the world of gaming. These are all just merely suggestions to satiate your undeniable hunger for the macabre.
I recommend this only because it’s a collection I own and have read. Some of the stories are a little dry and you’ll quickly catch on to how descriptive Mr. Lovecraft tends to be, but there are some real gems in here that I did not allow me to put the book down. More importantly, it has the short story The Call of Cthulhu.
The Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is only indirectly about Cthulhu. The game is actually loosely based around another short story of Lovecraft’s called The Shadow Over Innsmouth but ties in with the Cthulhu Mythos in general. Developed by now bankrupt Headfirst productions, it was released for the original Xbox (2005) and PC (2006) by Bethesda with numerous (often game stopping) bugs. If you can get past the bugs, I’ve heard it’s not a bad game and stays true to the Mythos.
Arkham Horror is a PNG Staff favorite. When we often talk about this game, it is done with a passionate tone and longing eyes. While the game from Fantasy Flight is not centered around Cthulhu, it is knee deep in his Mythos even allowing you to go head to head against the Great Old One. Various gods and creatures from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos are smattered across boss cards, creature tiles, and the copious amounts of expansions. Be warned, the basic game is large enough to cover a decent sized coffee table and still be tight on space, just imagine what getting the board expansions would require!
While I have never personally played this RPG system by Chaosium, their game slots have consistently filled up at every Gencon that I’ve been too over the past 7 years. It’s been around since 1981 and is currently in it’s 6th edition. The system is completely skill based and is heavily focused on a sanity point system. Much like in H.P.’s stories, the more your characters are exposed to the truths of the Mythos, the more their minds break an eventually succumb to insanity. Characters typically die in gruesome deaths or end up checking in for an extensive stay at Arkham Asylum.
Warhammer: Invasion wasn’t Fantasy Flights first trip to the rodeo with their Living Card Game system. While I can’t say I’ve played it, I’ve come to love the games designed by Fantasy Flight’s Eric M. Lang. The Call of Cthulhu is themed heavily around the Mythos and has had numerous monthly boosters released so far. The rules seem simple to understand and gameplay appears to be fun. I might have to pick this up myself!
Dave isn’t the only one that can recommend a movie on this site! It’s made in the style of an old school black and white silent movie and adheres very closely to the short story The Call of Cthulhu. If you can get past the awesomely bad special effects, it isn’t a bad movie. I do highly recommend reading the story before you see this movie though as I can see people not really getting it without some prior knowledge.