Playing Call of Cthulhu Again - and Why It's Not 7th Edition

This probably won't be a popular post. But first, some backstory:

After a two year dry spell during which I played maybe one or two role playing games, I've finally returned to gaming on a somewhat more frequent basis. At first, I had a tough time getting back into the groove. I had a few ideas for games thanks to some outside influences (namely watching my son play video games like Cyberpunk 2077 and several dark fantasy-themed games), but aside from gathering game materials and sitting down to make characters, we didn't make much progress at first. It was hard to break through the wall between doing game-related activities and actually running an adventure.

I was starting to worry that I'd lost my game master mojo.

Fortunately, that proved to not be the case, and I successfully ran a fun game of Cyberpunk 2020 for my wife and son. That seemed to break that barrier and let the game juices start to flow again. As a result, I started getting flashes of ideas for games, just as I used to in the Good Old DaysTM

One such flash was for a Call of Cthulhu adventure. As long-time readers of ARMAMS (I know, it doesn't exactly roll of the tongue - let's just say The Rust Monster Blog) will know, I love me some Call of Cthulhu. I've been playing or itching to play since I discovered the Games Workshop/Chaosium third edition hardcover in 1985. That book moved me - its layout may have been seriously flawed, but the art and style of it inspired me in ways that many, more professionally produced books could never match.

Seventh edition Call of Cthulhu came fairly close. Its glossy pages and slick design didn't carry quite the emotional weight of the simply illustrated, ivory pages of the GW edition, but were inspirational in their own way. And the slight revision to the game system* was a nice, modernizing touch that made the game a real contender to replace my beloved GW edition as the de facto system in which to play Call of Cthulhu games.

I'd already received the Keepers and Investigators books as a birthday gift, but last spring I invested heavily in the game. (Hope never died that I would return to playing RPGs one day, despite the gaming drought.) I purchased the Starter Set (for the nice selection of adventures, and with no little thanks to Seth Skorkowsy's review on YouTube), the Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos Magic, the Horror on the Orient Express box set (a massive beast of a product!), the Masks of Nyarlathotep slipcase set (and, for good measure, the HP Lovecraft Historical Society's accompanying Gamer Props Set) and a third-party adventure, The Star on the Shore. I was primed to run a Call of Cthulhu campaign using seventh edition.

Until the WOKEness ruined it all.

Now, a bit about me. I'm an older guy, but I've been a middle-of-the-road person all my life. My one golden rule is "Don't be a dick." (Actually, it's a combination of "Live and let live" and "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it" with a little "And it harm none, do what thou wilt." But it's just faster to say DBAD.) I can't abide people who go around telling others what to believe and say, and the modern American culture is rife with that sort of divisive, hate-breeding behavior. It goes against everything I was ever raised to believe, and promotes an environment where people feel that it's not only acceptable but demanded of them to denigrate and destroy one another for differences in personal beliefs. I try to love everyone, as my (now defunct) social circle would have easily exhibited. I counted among my friends people of many philosophical bents, as well as ethnic and societal backgrounds. They were all my friends, just as all humans are my fellows, regardless of these things.

But more than that, I cannot abide hypocrisy. I've always believed that one should have courage in their convictions and not doing so just shows that they don't really believe what they say. They're just saying it to manipulate or to pander to their audience.

Enter Chaosium, circa 2020. Imagine my disgust when I watched the company that had created and kept alive a game I love turn on the man whose works were the sole reason that company had enjoyed the success it had and the only reason it's still around today. Suddenly, amid the rising tide of WOKEness, Chaosium decided to remove the images of Lovecraft from their books and loudly proclaim their anti-Lovecraft stance.

Talk about standing on the shoulders of giants - and kicking them in the head.

Now, to be fair, I understand - and agree with - the emotions behind this act. Lovecraft's bigoted, xenophobic behavior, while largely acceptable - even expected - by the society of which he was a part was and is the exact opposite of DBAD. I get it, and I won't argue with anybody who takes offense to it. I find it offensive myself. I would never accept that level of intolerance being directed at entire groups of people, and I don't expect others to accept it. I would argue - rationally and mature-ly - with anyone I knew who thought that way. (And have: some of my oldest friends have made sweeping, bigoted statements that I found utterly offensive. And we argued over them and solved our issues - like adults.) But that's not why I have a problem with Chaosium.

I have a problem with Chaosium because their behavior is the highest form of hypocrisy. The condemnation and shunning of Lovecraft is all well and good - but not when you continue to trade on his name and creations. In my estimation, you don't get to cancel a creator and then profit from his creations. That's not standing up to intolerance - instead of tackling a sensitive issue like reasonable, mature adults, it's taking the easiest way out and pandering to the audience just enough to keep meeting your profit margin. 

You don't solve problems like Lovecraft's bigotry and xenophobia by pretending they don't exist, or by trying to forget the past. Just like you don't make a health issue go away by pretending it doesn't exist. That's immature, irrational behavior, and it solves nothing. You solve problems by accepting that they exist and by addressing them from a mature, rational perspective. In terms of the things people make, if we simply chose to cancel every creator in history who had a perspective that was not in alignment with today's tolerant thinking, we'd lose a huge chunk of the greatest creations in human history. Who would that benefit? What gets made better? The correct approach is to respect the creator for the creation, even if the creator was deeply flawed by modern thinking. The two are not inseparable, and no matter how flawed the creator may have been, they still deserve to be respected for the imagination that formed their beloved creation. That's the correct, mature approach - not total cancellation.

Lovecraft was a bigot and a xenophobe whose creations have brought joy (and nightmares) to millions and have infiltrated mainstream culture in ways few other authors' works have. He deserves to be appreciated for these things, even if we have to shine a harsher light on his personal beliefs.

And that's why I'm done with seventh edition. Until Chaosium choose to forego their WOKE/cancel culture approach and actually address the issues with the man who's responsible for their success, while acknowledging his genius and its role in that success, they won't be getting any more of my money.

I'll continue to play an edition that was produced by people who recognized and celebrated the man for the good things he did and created.

*Although, as much as I love both the advantage/disadvantage and task difficulty mechanics, I wonder at the inclusion of both - I think, like 5e Dungeons & Dragons, the advantage/disadvantage mechanic would have been enough.


  1. You're as much a hypocrite as the company you're railing against in my book. You're *still* playing Call of Cthulhu, a Chaosium product. Their staff has not seen a 100% turnover from 6th to 7th, or even from 1st to 7th. Some of the old guard who wrote that 1st edition are still around and they're part of the decision to shun Lovecraft. You're still using their work, and your decision not to play 7th is beyond meaningless. It's not even the "adult behavior" you claim to use when working out differences with people - unless you've somehow skipped mentioning the exchange of messages you had with Chaosium about your concerns.

    If you truly object to their stance so much there are many, many other options to game the Mythos with out there. Don't turn your nose up at 7th and tell yourself 4th or 5th or whatever you're using is fine as an alternative. You're impressing no one, and you're certainly "virtue signaling" and indulging in your own bit of cancel culture yourself - and like most people who do so, you're subjecting yourself to the absolute bare minimum of personal inconvenience required to do so..

    1. So my suggestion to you is to read my post *again*. Failing that, here's a quick summary: my objection isn't that Chaosium has issues with Lovecraft and acted upon them - it's that they PROFIT from his creations while doing so. That's wrong.

      Also, the creators of third edition have little to do with the modern iteration of Chaosium. Is Sandy Peterson there? Keith Herber? Greg Stafford? Lynn Willis?

      Further, I'm the hypocrite? I continue to play the works produced by imaginative people who loved the author's creations, regardless of the company's current stance on socio-political *crap*. I have separated the game from its producers. My sole decision is to not continue to monetarily support a company that chooses to profit off an author's creations while vilifying the man, not *cancel* the game in its entirety.

      My goal is neither to impress nor virtue signal, so I'm sorry you perceive my post as such. I have no interest in either, I assure you. Back in my day, we simply would have called this a statement of disgust, but I guess we have to frame everything in these lame modern terms whether they truly fit or not. I can only imagine Thomas Paine's reaction to be called out for virtue signaling or canceling colonial authority. Oh how times have changed.

      Thanks for the feedback, Dick. But I suggest that if you want to have a true debate about the post you try doing so by considering and refuting the things I said, not by attacking me personally because of your perception of why I said them.

    2. Cthulhu mythos has been expanded upon by so many authors. Call out HP Lovecraft for his bigotry is necessary to enjoy his creation. Chaosium has elevated the mythos in their games. None of their actions are hypocritical.

  2. sorry being reminded non-white people and minorities exist and have concerns separate from your middle class white interest in remaining forever coddled inside your safe space where being reminded that other people have feelings counts as violence towards you is 'divisive' to you. i'm sure crying more about it will make it all better. in fact, i hear chaosium, worried you might somehow unbuy the product you already gave them money for, is even now working on an 8th edition just for you that won't offend your delicate honkey sensibilities!

    1. Ah, the intelligent discourse I would expect from "Anonymous." I applaud you the courage of your convictions and your deep command of rhetorical debate. You have certainly put me in my place!

  3. How has wokeness ruined call of Cthulhu or anything to you ? Most companies cannot alienate large sections of the purchasing gamer. Is it taking away your freedom to game as you want in some way? Pray tell.

    If you are a closet racist and this your attack on wokeness. I am not buying so you shouldn’t kind of argument. Then damaging a game company you supported through the decades is unfortunate really is sad. I suppose they could have called August Derleth’s Call of Cthulhu but it probably doesn’t have that kind of marketing pull. Chaosium is trying to survive to the nest decade. Your blog doesn’t have peoples livelihoods resting on it.

    1. Sorry, I guess maybe English isn't your first language, so I couldn't quite get some of your comment. But let me respond to this: this isn't about anyone preventing me from gaming the way I want. (Indeed, the fact that I'm choosing *not* to play the "latest, greatest" version of the game is pretty clearly me doing just that.)

      For anyone who's confused, let me restate my thesis *clearly*: if any company wants to be so woke that that they have to make stupid, irrelevant business decisions to appease some minor yet overly vocal fraction of their audience who care about the politics of a man *who's been dead almost a century*, that's their business. They have that right. But I will not give my money to a company that makes such a decision and refuses to credit a man WHILE CONTINUING TO TAKE MONEY FOR A GAME BASED ON THAT MAN'S CREATIONS. Point: It's the *decision to omit* that I detest; I could care less about other people's politics, right, left, or otherwise.

  4. It's hysterical how any well-reasoned, carefully and honestly expressed disagreement is immediately met with knee-jerk cries of 'racist!'. I can't believe that their reading comprehension skills are so inept, so I have to assume that they didn't even read the post, they just went straight to the 'call them a racist' button that has by now been hardwired into their brains.

    1. Indeed - it does seem that people are being conditioned to lash out at differing viewpoints rather than calmly discuss them. And they've taken to this conditioning far too well.

      It's sad - I had friends - close ones - for over 25 years who had political and social viewpoints that were almost diametrically opposed to my own. But we still got along just fine. The difference between then and now: we respected one another as intelligent human beings who could and did form our own opinions. That world is dead and buried, I guess.

      BTW, thank you for the rational comment, Story Archer!


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