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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > October 2019 (#35) > ’Quick & Painful’: How Call of Cthulhu’s scary stories changed roleplaying

’Quick & Painful’: How Call of Cthulhu’s scary stories changed roleplaying

Call of Cthulhu helped transform H.P. Lovecraft from cult figure into pop culture icon. Lead writer Mike Mason looks back on how the underdog RPG deffined horror gaming – and how it continues to terrorise players almost 40 years later
Unlike other RPGs, players’ characters in Call of Cthulhu were fragile and would only improve their skills as they used them

When it first emerged from the darkness in 1981, Call of Cthulhu was unlike any RPG adaption seen before it. Whilst fans of systems like Dungeons & Dragons or Tunnels & Trolls had created their own horror scenarios within those systems, Call of Cthulhu was the first to take a fairly unknown property – the works of H.P. Lovecraft – and turn it into an original survival horror pen-and-paper RPG.

Aside from a couple of obscure cult flms, such as 1970’s the Dunwich Horror, Lovecraft had at the time largely remained a shadow at the door of popular culture, and certainly hadn’t received any attention from the tabletop gaming community. Up until 1981, it seemed Lovecraft was known only to readers of weird science- fiction; readers such as Chaosium’s very own Sandy Peterson, who was eventually brought on to rework the Lovecraftian RPG after the first draft had failed to impress the company’s creative directors.

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