Cthulhu is Calling You to PulpFest’s Gaming Track

Jul 14, 2015 by

Call of Cthulhu Banner

During the late summer of 1926, H. P. Lovecraft wrote “The Call of Cthulhu.” Initially rejected by WEIRD TALES editor Farnsworth Wright, it was first published in “The Unique Magazine” in its February 1928 issue. Although a few related stories predated it — “The Nameless City,” “The Hound,” and “The Festival” — in what has come to be known as “The Cthulhu Mythos,” “The Call of Cthulhu” is a seminal work of its author. As writer and Lovecraft correspondent Fritz Leiber observed, “Here for the first time, Lovecraft moves horror from the realm of Earth to the stars.”

In Lovecraft’s remaining years following the publication of “The Call of Cthulhu,” he expanded on its themes in such tales as “The Whisperer in Darkness,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” and “The Shadow Out of Time,” depicting a universe of mind-numbing horror and reflecting his own materialistic atheism. During his last years, Lovecraft invited other writers to pen their own tales using the “synthetic folklore” he had created. “I think it is rather good fun to have this artificial mythology given an air of verisimilitude by wide citation.” Some of the authors who responded with their own “Cthulhu” fiction were Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Frank Belknap Long, and Henry Kuttner.

In later years, particularly following the death of “the old gentleman,” August Derleth worked to expand Lovecraft’s so-called “mythos,” shaping it in a way that some scholars claim to be a corruption of the original author’s intent. Derleth’s “Cthulhu Mythos,” as the story-type came to be known, shifted away from Lovecraft’s nihilistic universe toward a more “good versus evil” theme. Other writers, notably Lin Carter and Brian Lumley, continued this process.

Although Derleth may have corrupted Lovecraft’s “synthetic folklore,” he also helped to popularize the author’s fiction through his Arkham House Publishers and significantly expanded Lovecraft’s reputation. His visions increasingly came under the microscope of academia and scholars. His fiction became increasingly known and popular, leading to adaptations in a variety of media. All of this came to a head in 1981 when a wargame and role-playing-game publisher known as Chaosium released the first edition of CALL OF CTHULHU, a game developed by Sandy Peterson. It is is now in its seventh edition and is one of the role-playing games that will be featured during PulpFest‘s new gaming track.

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 setting of Chaosium’s CALL OF CTHULHU is a darker and stranger version of our world, where the players try to hold back the darkness. The original game is set in the 1920s, the setting of many of Lovecraft’s stories. There have been numerous interesting adventures written for the game system over the years, including the CTHULHU BY GASLIGHT supplement, a blend of occult and Holmesian mystery set in Victorian England; CTHULHU DARK AGES that takes place about 1000 AD; CTHULHU RISING and its 23rd century setting; and CTHULHU INVICTUS, which takes place in the first century at the time of the Roman Empire.

Whatever the setting, the players take on the roles of detectives, criminals, scholars, artists, war veterans, and others who are drawn into the realm of the mysterious. Often, events begin innocently enough, until more and more of the true nature of reality is revealed. As the players experience more of the true horrors of the world and the irrelevance of humanity, their sanity inevitably withers away. The fun of these games comes from assuming roles that are different from everyday life and sometimes, making choices that one would not make in reality.

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. Eventual triumph of the players is not a guarantee. However, dying heroically or going insane is part of the fun of this game. But who knows? You may gain the tools you need to defeat the creatures of the night – mystical knowledge and magic – and outsmart your opponents. As H. P. Lovecraft wrote in 1926, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”

The PulpFest 2015 gaming track will begin at 10 AM on both Friday and Saturday and last until 10 PM or thereabouts. On Sunday, games will begin at 10 AM and continue until the end of the convention. All games will be set up in the Clark Room, located on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency. The only requirements to play games at PulpFest 2015 are a PulpFest membership, your imagination, and a desire to have a good time. So if you enjoy pulps and you enjoy games, PulpFest will be the place to be. You can join us at the beautiful Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio, beginning on Thursday evening, August 13th and running through Sunday afternoon, August 16th. To book a room for this year’s convention, please visit www.pulpfest.com/2015/06/16872/. Then, click the red “register” button on our home page to learn how to register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con,” and now, “Summer’s Great Pulp Gaming Con.”

(Many thanks to Chaosium, the publisher of CALL OF CTHULHU, one of the most recognized role playing games in the world. Chaosium has donated a selection of books and role-playing-game supplements to be used as prizes for PulpFest‘s new gaming track.)