Welcome to Call of Cthulhu!

Call of Cthulhu is a game full of secrets, mysteries and horror. Playing the role of a steadfast investigator, you will travel to strange and dangerous places, uncover foul plots and stand against the terrors of the night. You will encounter sanity-blasting entities, monsters and insane cultists. Within strange and forgotten tomes of lore you will find secrets that man was not meant to know.

You and your companions may very well decide the fate of the world…

Call of Cthulhu is a horror-themed role playing game based on the writings of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Lovecraft penned a tremendous body of work during the 1920s and 1930s, concerning both horrors from beyond and from within. Following his death in 1937, Lovecraft’s stories of cosmic horror have grown in reputation and stature, and today he is recognized as a major American horror story writer of the twentieth century, influencing numerous authors and film directors, and amassing a huge following of devoted fans. Indeed, Lovecraft himself could now be considered a cult figure in his own right. Lovecraft’s fiction ranges from science fiction to Gothic horror and into nihilistic cosmic terror— perfect material on which to base a role playing game.

Lovecraft’s most famous invention has become known as the Cthulhu Mythos, a series of stories sharing common plot elements such as certain mythical books of arcane lore and alien godlike entities. The Cthulhu Mythos fired the imagination of other authors, mostly protégés and friend of Lovecraft, and soon they were adding to this complex mythology, further advancing its concepts and constituent parts. Today, “Cthulhu” stories are still being written (and filmed) by the heirs to Lovecraft’s literary legacy.

An Overview of the Game

The aim of playing Call of Cthulhu is to have fun with your friends as you explore and create a Lovecraftian story. One player takes the role of game moderator, known as the Keeper of Arcane Lore (“Keeper” for short), and his or her role within the rules is to run the game for the rest of the players. The rest of the players take the part of intrepid Investigators of the Unknown (“investigators”), attempting to seek out, understand and eventually confront the horrors, mysteries and secrets of the Cthulhu Mythos.

The Keeper picks a story to run. These stories are known as “scenarios”, and you will find three at the back of this book. A scenario provides the Keeper with the structure of a story for him or her to present to the players. The Keeper’s role is a little like that of a director making a film in which the actors don’t know how the story will develop. To extend that analogy, the players are like actors who have the freedom to improvise their own scripts. The investigators need not be anything at all like the people who play them. Indeed, it is often more rewarding and enjoyable for players to create characters entirely unlike themselves: tough private eyes, rude taxi drivers or sinisterly genteel occultists.

Most of the play is a verbal exchange. The Keeper sets the scene, describing the environment, the individuals and encounters to the players. The players tell the Keeper what they intend their investigators to do. The Keeper then tells them whether they can do it and, if not, what happens instead. In play the game takes the form of a group conversation with many twists and turns and fun on the way.

The game rules use dice to determine if an action succeeds or fails when a dramatic “conflict” presents itself; for example, whether your investigators are able to leap out of the way of a giant statue that is about to crash down upon their heads! The rules describe how to decide the outcome of such conflicts.

In Call of Cthulhu, the Keeper has the responsibility of preparing adventures (“scenarios”) and running the game without bias. It is the Keeper’s duty to make the investigators’ opposition smart and mean.

Cooperation & Competition

Gaming is a social pastime. If you want to use your imagination alone, you could simply read a book. However, be warned! When a number of people get together cooperatively, they can build a communal fantasy far more interesting and imaginative than a single person—and the joint effort results in an extremely fun and satisfying experience for all involved. Together you create and develop a story in which each of your investigators plays a leading role! Whether or not investigators cooperate, the players should. Investigators may be played as nice people, as devious brutes or however the players wish. Most of the entertainment of the game can be found in the ingenuity of players’ role playing and in-character conversations, as well as the unforeseeably scary or amusing directions the story will take.

Working cooperatively together, the players and Keeper build an enjoyable and understandable “world” in which to play. The rewards of cooperation are great. Remember, the object of all of this is to have fun!

Winners and Losers

In Call of Cthulhu, there are no winners and losers in the standard competitive sense. Play is usually cooperative. The participants work together to attain a common goal—usually to discover and foil some nefarious plot being perpetrated by the minions of some dark cult or secret society. The opposition that the investigators face will often be an alien or hostile situation—controlled by an impartial Keeper, not another player. Winning in such a situation depends on whether the investigators succeed in their goal. Losing is what happens if they fail to achieve their goal (they may be able to try again later). During the game investigators may become injured, suffer sanity-shattering experiences, or even die! However, someone has to make a stand against the cosmic horrors of the universe and the death of a single investigator matters little if it means repulsing Cthulhu’s master plan to enslave the Earth! Investigators who survive will gain power from arcane volumes of forgotten lore, knowledge of horrendous monsters, and advancement in their skills as they become more experienced. Thus the players’ investigators will continue to progress, until their demise or retirement—whichever comes first.