Paul Baldowski just shared: “Thoughts upon Cthulhu Hack 2e”

This material was posted on patreon by Paul Baldowski

For reference, it feels like a 120-page book at this point

Beyond the Barrier

One thing that has weighed on my mind is source material, which is something that came up in the recent Miskatonic University Podcast—Cthulhu Hack is all about my immersion in the source material and the things that I take away from it. My interpretation drives the uniqueness of the game. Without that layer sitting between you and Lovecraft, you might as well have picked up any of a hundred other tabletop games that draw inspiration from Howard’s stories.

In putting The Haunter of the Dark together, I read the story many times—perhaps a dozen times. Each time I would take something new away or just make notes. At least two passes involved creating the annotations and notes in the book, while the other served as the step necessary to write up the adventure.

I do that all the time. It’s easier when you’re dealing with a short story, but even Lovecraft’s longest tales don’t tax a reader too much. Hours rather than days or weeks; minutes with a short story.

Like my reinterpretation of events around the 1563 Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcrafts that serve as the root for The Dee Sanction, I want something similar at the heart of the Second Edition of Cthulhu Hack. If I can find the means to place yet further distance between this game and those that layer boilerplate Lovecraft over a mechanical engine, then I provide something new. Cthulhu has become tainted by overuse, but I believe that so much more potential remains for those who re-evaluate the original stories.

Undimensioned and Unseen

Another thing that I bang on about all the time is the campaign (both the idea and the piece of writing I started so long ago and have yet to finish!). Humanity is fleeting; each individual little more than a speck of dust or a crumb of cake housed in a space of such vastness and indifference that existence is meaningless. In comparison, the cosmic horrors that wallow in the dark expanses of our universe (and beyond) persist in a state that our minds cannot hope to comprehend.

The entities, like Azathoth and Yog-sothoth, are likely older than the Universe itself and will persist beyond the heat death that will consume it. Even lesser entities have lifespans that one might only count in aeons. So, why do games set against the backdrop of Lovecraft’s stories always focus on individuals and their actions in brief periods of time that amount to a mere fraction of human existence? When an entity can persist for millennia, why wouldn’t its plans span the same? A campaign against the Mythos should be generational, at least, a quest recorded in journals and passed down in unbelievable tales.

The Second Edition will include elements from both The Haunter of the Dark and The Campaign to support running a game in a way where investigators become actors in a play—of sorts—that will run on long past their participation. I believe that this approach and mindset needs to be discussed and understood from the outset of running a game of Cthulhu Hack because it varies significantly from many other games. I want the tools and advice to provide some measure of support for doing just that.

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