“The Call of Cthulhu” is a short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written in the summer of 1926, it was first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, in February 1928. The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared fictional universe, based on the work of American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. An ongoing theme in Lovecraft’s work is the complete irrelevance of mankind in the face of the cosmic horrors that apparently exist in the universe. Lovecraft constantly referred to the “Great Old Ones“: a loose pantheon of ancient creatures and deities from space who once ruled the Earth and who have since fallen into a deathlike sleep.
The Great Old Ones are powerful, ancient creatures worshipped by deranged human cults. Many of them are made of an unearthly material with properties unlike normal matter. A Great Old One’s influence is often limited to the planet where it dwells. If it is based on a planet outside the solar system, it can only extend its influence to Earth when the star of its planetary system is in the night sky. In such cases, the help of cultists performing various rituals may be required.
This idea was first established in “The Call of Cthulhu“, in which the minds of the human characters deteriorated when afforded a glimpse of what exists outside their perceived reality. Lovecraft emphasized the point by stating in the opening sentence of the story that “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
The setting of Call of Cthulhu is a darker version of our world, based on H. P. Lovecraft’s observation that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” The protagonists may also travel to places that are not of this earth, represented in the Dreamlands (which can be accessed through dreams as well as being physically connected to the earth), to other planets, or into the voids of space.
The players take the roles of ordinary people drawn into the realm of the mysterious: detectives, criminals, scholars, artists, war veterans, etc. Often, happenings begin innocently enough, until more and more of the workings behind the scenes are revealed. As the characters learn more of the true horrors of the world and the irrelevance of humanity, their sanity inevitably withers away.
The game includes a mechanism for determining how damaged a character’s sanity is at any given point; encountering the horrific beings usually triggers a loss of SAN points. To gain the tools they need to defeat the horrors – mystic knowledge and magic – the characters may end up losing some of their sanity, though other means such as pure firepower or simply outsmarting one’s opponents also exist. Call of Cthulhu has a reputation as a game in which it is quite common for a player character to die in gruesome circumstances or end up in a mental institution. Unlike most other role-playing games, eventual triumph of the players is not assumed.
Our campaign is called “DuBois: City of the Damned.”