This was originally written for The British Fantasy Society.
Cults are a TTRPG staple, it doesn’t matter what the genre is. However, some games need cults, and Chaosium has published a supplement for The Call of Cthulhu that is, frankly, an obvious addition to the game’s catalogue. This wide-ranging book invites players to explore the deranged sects populating the shadows that were so carefully crafted by H.P. Lovecraft.
What stands out for Call of Cthulhu? The book is a full-colour deep dive into the cults designed for the game. Within this book there are, a variety of NPCs and adversaries, fully fleshed-out cults, historical lore, and three(!) missions. What’s more, there are quality rules for creating home-brewed cults that take all kinds of ideas into consideration. Questions such as funding a cult, meeting places, who is in charge, and what happens when people start investigating the cult? Cthulhu, obviously for that last question, but someone has to marshal the troops, right?
All that aside, the concept of “cult” is generally taken for granted. It’s a term that appears self-evident but isn’t as clear as it might seem. In Cults of Cthulhu, the problem is that, while the content deals with small clandestine organizations working on behalf of a dormant entity, the organizations are all working for the same goal, no matter where they are globally, or when they exist historically. Is this a book about cults, or an occult movement that has always been lurking in the shadows? It would have been helpful if the book took some time to discuss cults in general terms to have a better sense of how the authors wanted to present the material. The bottom line, there is a lot of content in this book, and that’s not even taking into consideration that there are free handouts as well. Yes, a more general definition would have helped clarify cults and the presence of activity dedicated to the supernatural being, Cthulhu. This may be more of a philosophical issue than one that pertains to the material in the book. Regardless of what your opinion on cults is, this is a robust book that offers a lot for the gaming table.