Call of Cthulhu is a tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) based on the works of American writer H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. It was first published in 1981 by Chaosium Inc. and has since become one of the most popular and influential horror RPGs.
The game is set in the 1920s, known as the “Classic Era,” although there are also variations that explore different time periods.
The world of Call of Cthulhu is dark and ominous, where cosmic entities, ancient gods, and eldritch horrors lurk in the shadows, hidden from the awareness of most humans.
It is a world where knowledge of the mythos can drive people to madness or even death.
The game draws heavily from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, an influential writer known for his cosmic horror tales. Lovecraft’s mythos consists of a shared universe populated by ancient cosmic deities, forbidden knowledge, and otherworldly creatures.
The Call of Cthulhu RPG expands on Lovecraft’s ideas, offering a framework for players to explore and interact with the mythos.
Call of Cthulhu uses a percentile-based system, where characters’ abilities and skills are represented by percentages.
The core mechanic involves rolling percentile dice (two ten-sided dice, one for the tens digit and one for the ones digit) and comparing the result to the relevant skill or attribute to determine success or failure.
The game emphasizes investigation, problem-solving, and survival rather than combat.
Players create investigators who delve into the mysteries of the mythos. Characters have various attributes such as Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Sanity.
Skills represent their abilities in different areas such as firearms, occultism, or persuasion. Investigators are also defined by their occupation, background, and personal history, which can impact their skills and resources.
Sanity plays a significant role in Call of Cthulhu. Characters who witness or experience supernatural phenomena, encounter horrifying monsters, or gain forbidden knowledge can suffer sanity loss. As sanity erodes, characters may develop phobias, manias, or even descend into madness. Sanity is a fragile resource that must be preserved to avoid devastating consequences.
Call of Cthulhu focuses on investigative gameplay. Players uncover clues, research ancient texts, interview witnesses, and piece together fragments of information to unveil the truth behind mysterious events.
The game often incorporates elements of psychological horror, suspense, and the unknown, creating an atmosphere of tension and dread.
Supplements and Scenarios
Call of Cthulhu has a vast library of supplements and scenarios that provide additional settings, campaigns, and adventures. Many of these expand on different time periods, locations, or specific aspects of the mythos. These supplements allow Game Masters (GMs) to craft unique and personalized experiences for their players within the Lovecraftian universe.
Legacy and Influence
Call of Cthulhu has had a significant impact on the tabletop RPG landscape. It introduced innovative mechanics and popularized the use of sanity and investigation in roleplaying games. The game’s success has led to numerous adaptations, including video games, board games, and even a feature-length movie. It remains a staple of the horror genre and continues to captivate players with its dark and immersive gameplay experience.