Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 20, 2017
I discovered the Call of Cthulhu game in a review in the pages of Dragon Magazine back when my only experience playing RPGs was from those published by TSR (D&D, Boot Hill, Top Secret, and Gamma World). I read the review about three times, and told my best friend about it. Later, he got the rules, and I got to look them over, but I don’t think we ever played.
I got the chance to play a year or two later with another group, where I was the newb to the rules. It was awesome. It was scary and freaky and cool. I think that adventure took place at a dinner party in the 1920s. We started realizing that our host was not a good guy. We discovered a secret door in his house to some tunnels, and he sicced a bunch of ghouls on us. I remember being stuck in a chamber at the end of the tunnel… one that I intended to explore. I stood off to the side with a sword-cane while one of the characters who’d managed to smuggle in the stereotypical Tommy gun in the violin case opened up on the horde of ghouls streaming down the tunnel. It thinned out their ranks a little and injured a bunch of them, but it didn’t stop them. One girl said she was going to cast a spell. At the table in the real world, the rest of the players looked at her like she was insane. I didn’t fully realize at the time just how dangerous (and insanity-causing) spellcasting was in that game.
That wasn’t my first introduction to Lovecraft, but my interest in his stories grew significantly after that. As a side-note, ghouls only appeared twice in Lovecraft’s stories that I’m aware of. In one, they are freaky and potential threats but really just more disturbing. In the other, they are allies of the main character. And I’ve got a soon-to-be-published story involving ghouls of a Lovecraftian flavor…
But I digress. The dice-and-paper RPG (at least the older editions) kinda brought all these stand-alone stories into a something of a loose milieu, with a rules system that encouraged characters to behave somewhat like the characters in the stories, with a nice blend of investigation and action, and unlike D&D, combat was deadly and something to be avoided until you were good and ready (and usually limited to fighting humans and lesser monsters, like ghouls). Even investigation could prove deadly or dangerous to a character’s fragile sanity. There was always a question of how far you were willing to go… push too far, and the adventure may be (at least temporarily) over for your character as they’d freak out with temporary insanity and possibly be incapable of functioning further.
Now that Lovecraft’s works have begun slipping into the public domain, Cthulhu and several of his other creations have made it into many, many games. Still, there have been several strong efforts to capture the elements of his stories and the feel of the role-playing game into a computer game. Some efforts off the top of my head include Shadow of the Comet (later rebranded Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet), Prisoner of Ice, Alone in the Dark (the original was very much a Lovecraftian game), Call of Cthulhu: Wasted Lands, and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
And now, it looks like we’ve got a new one that will be out this year. Call of Cthulhu (please don’t let the full title actually be Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game, like all the branding says now… ugh!) looks pretty intense based on the new trailer (and the E3 video from last year). Trailers don’t prove anything other than maybe whether or not the marketing team knows what they’ve got and knows how its supposed to feel. In that respect, it looks like they get it.
I can only hope. If it really mimics the feel of the RPG, I’ll be thrilled….
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