Interview: How Chaosium Shall Reawaken 'Cthulhu'

call of cthulhu

Another venerable RPG is finding new life through crowdfunding. Chaosium launched the Kickstarter for a 7th Edition of "Call of Cthulhu" earlier this week and raised their goal of $40,000 in less than a day. I spoke to Chaosium's President Charlie Krank about the new edition of the horror RPG.

Many may recognize the name "Cthulhu" from popular entertainment, such as a multi-episode arc on "South Park" a few years ago or video games, but here are the basics for those who don't know. In the 1920s and '30s horror writer H.P. Lovecraft created a series of short stories and novellas about cosmic horrors and terrible monsters. Usually the protagonists that interact with these things, even if they survive, go insane. These creations were all part of the same world, referred to as the Lovercraft or Cthulhu Mythos. Other writers, friends of Lovecraft, began writing about this world as well. The Mythos has survived for generations as others have jumped into this bloody sandbox.

Chaosium has been publishing a "Call of Cthulhu" roleplaying game set in the Mythos since the 1981. As you can imagine, a game set in such a world of horror focuses on staying alive and staying sane more than slaying monsters to earn treasure. Every few years the game gets an update, the rules tweaked and better explained. And this new 7th edition, due by Halloween of this year, is no exception.

MTV Geek: What was behind the decision to create a new edition of "Call of Cthulhu?"

Charlie Krank: For a product such as a roleplaying game to survive for more than 30 years in this marketplace it needs to be refreshed occasionally. It has been almost 12 years since the last edition of Call of Cthulhu was published. The new edition streamlines some of the combat rules and opposition rolls.

Geek: What are some of the big changes to the game and why were they made?

Krank: As always, our primary consideration is telling a good story and having fun. We try to keep our rules intuitive and out-of-the-way of the Keeper's narrative. We noticed that the system occasionally results in "no-effect" combat rounds; so we tried to smooth combat just a bit. We extended the use of some mechanics already used in the game, making them more consistently-applied.

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Geek: Why Kickstarter?

Krank: We work in a niche market, and not everybody understands or appreciates roleplaying. Usually we must print a book, convince a distributor to carry it, who then convinces a retail store to buy it, who then sells it to our fans. With Kickstarter we reverse the flow of interest; we directly interact with our customers who end up with a book they want. Their energy and excitement then flows to the store owner and up to the distributor.

Geek: Who is the audience for "CoC 7", long time fans or new players?

Krank: Both, really. We strive to publish games and scenarios that are easy to play, but with a depth that appeals to the experienced gamer. "Call of Cthulhu" is, first and foremost, a game in which ordinary people are thrust into extraordinary, and sanity-threatening, situations. The thrill comes from seeing if your character, lacking the powers, magic, and armor of (essentially) super-hero knights and wizards, can prevail against superhuman enemies. Lacking the accoutrements of the high-powered roleplaying systems, your sense of achievement is the greater should your characters prevail. I think this results in a more memorable, and satisfying, roleplaying experience.

One of my great joys is producing books that are well-written and well-made. It seems that much of our audience also appreciates such craftsmanship, and the fun that derives from a good storyline and players who are invested in their characters.