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H.P. Lovecraft, Author, Is Dead

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Blood on the Mors
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« on: May 03, 2015, 01:32:49 am »

 In 1979 a company called Chaosium began internal development on a RPG set in H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. When the project began to founder, they called in game designer—and lifelong Lovecraft devotee—Sandy Petersen to finish the job. With Petersen’s involvement in Call of Cthulhu, several aspects of the game were radically changed. For one, the action was shifted from the Dreamlands to the real world, Massachusetts of the 1920s, the setting for most of Lovecraft’s own stories. For another, in stark contrast to the heroics found in other roleplaying games of the time, Petersen made CoC a dismal affair, with players routinely being devoured or going insane.

The result was a roleplaying game that is routinely cited as one of the best ever designed, and one that perfectly evokes the hopelessness of the source material.

As Petersen told me, “When the game first came out, most of the people I met at conventions thanked me for finally publishing a game about their favorite author. But from about 1985 onward, almost ALL of the people I have met at conventions thanked me for introducing them to Lovecraft via my game. So it’s clear that the game has spread knowledge of HPL worldwide. Last year I was in Italy for a convention and was swamped with Italians who would clearly never have heard of HPL without the game.”

Fewer than 100,000 copies of the game have been sold. But they’ve been purchased by nerds, avid readers, and other technologically-savvy people, who helped spread the Cthulhu meme on the internet and other cultural sources.

But of course, the ultimate credit for Lovecraft’s success lies with Lovecraft. No matter how good a game is, it won’t convert people into reading an author unless the author himself holds up to scrutiny. I might have had a hand in publicizing HPL, but it is still HPL who must make his case before the people.
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