Burst of Insight—Dabbling in Cosmic Horror

It’s been a long time since we actively played any horror RPGs at home. With the kids flitting in and out of the game space we didn’t think that it was a good idea to get too dark and scary with our games. Now our kids are both teens and better adapted to hearing spooky talk from around the game table. With this in mind I’ve been eager to delve back into horror RPGs. For years horror meant personal horror like Vampire the Masquerade or Werewolf the Apocalypse but I burned out on the World of Darkness some time ago and wanted to try something different.

Now, years ago I played Call of Cthulhu (CoC) and had a blast, but other than the d20 version (which never quite “felt” right) I’ve never owed a copy of CoC itself. So I began looking into picking up the latest edition of the game. At the same time I was listening to the Glass Cannon Network’s New Game, Who Dis pandemic podcast for their patrons and specifically the Delta Green episode.

Prior to the podcast, I knew Delta Green was a series of CoC supplements in the 90’s and possibly into the early 2000’s but I knew little more than that. I certainly didn’t realize it had evolved into its own RPG. Having listened to the GCP actual play of Last Things Last I was very interested in Delta Green and curious about how it stacked up to Call of Cthulhu so I asked around (mostly among my friends on social media). Ultimately, it turned out my friends just swayed me to just go out and buy both games but I did start with Delta Green based solely on the mechanics for character bonds. Those NPCs the PC agents need in their lives to stay balanced and sane but at a very serious cost to those very relationships.

I ran my own players (including my 14 year old son) through Last Things Last and it was a frightening good time.

It needs to be addressed that cosmic horror particularly the Cthulhu Mythos is tainted by Lovecraft’s rampant racism so I’ve been seeking out other writers to inspire my games not just those original stories. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle possesses a singularly African-American voice as an excellent book. While set in the 1920’s its relevance to current events today highlights we haven’t come as far as some of us might have thought and that might be more monstrous and horrifying than the creatures of the mythos. I also just picked up reading the all women authored anthology, She Walks in Shadows. I haven’t finished all the stories yet but I’m very much enjoying the tales so far. I highly encourage players, GMs (Handlers and Keepers) to explore the mythos with these sorts of alternate and often under-represented voices your games will be richer for it.

Burst of Insight

Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.