In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.
-H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
One of the most compelling elements of H.P. Lovecraft’s literature was how skillfully he built the suspense. The creeping realization the narrator had of the horror that is about to be unleashed was the central motif. Lovecraft’s stories were often told first person as a recollection, or through the discovered notes of a missing professor. The reader would discover how close they were to the terror, themselves, and often, that’s just when the story would end; on the brink of horrific events without going over the edge. The imagination of the audience was often tasked with filling in the details, which can be much more disturbing. Even the creatures in Lovecraft’s tales weren’t always fully illustrated for the readers, being referred to as indescribable horrors. The imagination can create some terrifying masterpieces if you let it.
The brilliant minds of designers Eric M. Lang and Rob Daviau have done just that with Cthulhu: Death May Die (C:DMD). Many games that exist within the Lovecraft mythos focus on the slow growing horror that builds as an investigation comes to its ultimate conclusion. C:DMD forgoes all of the lead up and places players right in the middle of a battle for the fate of the world.
By the time players start an Episode of the game, they already know what is going on. An evil gang of cultists is summoning one of the Great Old Ones, gods from another dimension. These ancient deities once ruled the Earth. Trivialities, like the fate of man, meant nothing to them, except perhaps, as a passing amusement. For eons, they have fallen into a deep deathlike sleep. In a Lovecraft story, the arrival of one of the Great Old Ones often signalled the end of the tale. The protagonist was rendered insane by the very sight of the creature and the audience is left to wonder what happened next. This is where C:DMD begins. Players take on the role of Investigators who have discovered the evil intentions of a cult. The incantations are already being performed, and it’s only a matter of time before the ancient god arrives.
While most Lovecraft protagonists struggle to retain their sanity, the Investigators in C:DMD have already lost theirs. The horrific realities of the situation drove them to madness before the box is even opened. They suffer from conditions like paranoia, pyromania, or PTSD. These ailments can cause them a lot of problems, but if they lean in to use them effectively, they may actually work in their favor. While their sanity has been a casualty, these characters are not going to let that stand in their way of shooting one of the Great Old Ones in the face. It’s almost as if the A-Team has been called into the middle of a Lovecraft story. They are here to chew bubble gum and kick butt… and they’re all out of bubble gum.
The strengths of the Investigators and the blending of their insanities make for formidable characters to play. These aren’t the wilting scientists or professors you’d find in classic Lovecraft tales. These protagonists are ready for a war, and just might be able to save the world.
C:DMD has the atmosphere of Lovecraft literature. It looks like a gothic tale set in the 1920s. The evocative art by Adrian Smith and Karl Kopinski place players in the abandoned museums, remote docks, and solitary crypts that one would expect, and the incredible miniatures created under the supervision of legendary sculptor Mike McVey, give a physical presence to the horrors dreamt up by Lovecraft. However, where his stories end, C:DMD is just getting started.
The Investigators are thrown into an all-out battle right from the beginning. Their fate and the fate of the world is up to the players. C:DMD asks what would happen if you put a team of bad asses into a Lovecraft story.
With a number of Investigators to choose from, different Great Old Ones to face, and a variety of Episodes, players of C:DMD will get to write a new chapter in the Lovecraft mythos. One with heroes, monsters, and a battle for the fate of the world.
Read our Cthulhu: Death May Die introduction article here.