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CALL OF CTHULHU

More than 35 years after it debuted, Chaosium’s seminal RPG remains one of the most illustrious tabletop reimaginings of horror author H.P. Lovecraft’s twisted universe. Original designer Sandy Petersen and current line editor Mike Mason reflect on the title’s creation and lasting legacy

At the dawn of the 1980s, roleplay gaming was fast becoming one of the cornerstones of nascent geek culture. In bedrooms and basements across the world, groups of teenage adventurers were exploring perilous lands and slaying ferocious beasts. But while games like Dungeons & Dragons offered the chance of heroic escapism, something far darker was awakening – something that would captivate generations of gamers with its blend of insanity, mystery and dread.

Call of Cthulhu introduced generations of players to a world of sinister cults, forbidden knowledge and malevolent, godlike aliens. Tabletop Gaming spoke to its creator, and to the man responsible for the latest edition of one of the most influential titles in all of gaming.

HORROR TAKES HOLD

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is one of the most revered writers in the history of horror fiction. Born in 1890 in the US state of Rhode Island, his work broke from the genre’s traditional fixation with haunted mansions and vengeful spirits to embrace a scientific view of the universe. In Lovecraft’s imagination, humankind was rendered insignificant by a vast and inhospitable cosmos. His portrayal of a reality populated by ancient, deiform alien beings continues to captivate, terrify and inspire readers today, 80 years after the author’s death.

Game designer Sandy Petersen first encountered Lovecraft’s work on his father’s bookshelf. It made an instant impression on his young mind.

“I read my first Lovecraft tale when I was eight,” he recalls. “I had already read some Poe, and liked scary stories, but Lovecraft was like nothing I’d ever encountered before. You have to understand that when I read The Call of Cthulhu, I had no idea what Cthulhu was. I worked through the tale completely on tenterhooks. That’s not possible for most people today.

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