Adventures in Fiction: H.P. Lovecraft
by Jon Hook
Today we celebrate the birthday of HP Lovecraft, one of the most influential authors of the 20th Century. In honor of this day, we re-present the Adventures in Fiction about his influence on D&D and, of course, Dungeon Crawl Classics.
At Goodman Games we recognize the importance of Appendix N in the history of D&D and DCC. August 20 marks the 128th anniversary of the birth of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, a key contributor to Appendix N. Many Goodman Games products are based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft, including our Age of Cthulhu series and several of our horror-themed DCC modules. Here is some more information on this seminal writer.
H. P. Lovecraft was born in his family home in Providence, Rhode Island. Lovecraft was an only child with few childhood friends. He lived a solitary life with his mother. His connection to the world was through books, pulp magazines, and the numerous correspondences he wrote to the authors and editors of those magazines. Lovecraft is recognized as one of the greatest letter writers of the twentieth century, and some of his regular correspondents were Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith.
Gary Gygax named H. P. Lovecraft as one of the immediate influences in the Dungeon Masters Guide’s Appendix N. Lovecraft is best known for the creation of the alien god, Cthulhu, from the short story “The Call of Cthulhu” published in Weird Tales in 1928 (and be sure to check out our collection of reprints featuring Lovecraft’s works). Cthulhu is but one of many alien creatures that are perceived as gods by men; some writers that followed in Lovecraft’s footsteps have even tried to organize the gods into a pantheon. The debate on whether it was Lovecraft’s intention for there to be a pantheon rages on to this day.
After publishing the Players Handbook for Advanced D&D in 1978, Gary chose to relax by writing some adventure modules. The first was D-1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth. Along with drow, rust monsters, and molds, this module also featured two mind flyers, also known as illithids. These psionic creatures are cunning and manipulative. Gary said that his inspiration for the illithids came from the cover of Brian Lumley’s The Burrowers Beneath, a novel grounded in the Cthulhu Mythos. Illithids have the same tentacled octopoid head as Great Cthulhu himself. The following module, D-2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa featured the first appearance of the humanoid amphibians known as the Kuo-Toa. These “fish-men” are very similar to the deep ones described in Lovecraft’s story, The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Neither monster was an exact extrapolation of literary creatures into the Dungeons & Dragons game; instead, they were original creations by Gary Gygax that were inspired by Lovecraft’s body of work. In each module, Gary mined several sources as inspiration for the monsters and narrative driving through the adventures. They were a hodge-podge of everything Gary thought was awesome. And it worked.
In 1980, James M. Ward and Robert J. Kuntz codified Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos in a chapter of the initial publication of Deities & Demigods, a reference manual for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The chapter included descriptions and game statistics for Cthulhu, Deep Ones, Nyarlathotep, Old Ones, and Shoggoths. But a dispute over copyrights resulted in the removal of the Cthulhu Mythos chapter in subsequent printings of the book. Today, Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos is part of the public domain, and Goodman Games and the world of Dungeon Crawl Classics has embraced it. Goodman Games has an official license from Chaosium to publish Call of Cthulhu adventures under their Age of Cthulhu banner. Fantasy gamers can also lose their minds in DCC adventures inspired by Lovecraft’s creations, like the upcoming Shadows Under Devil’s Reef. So tread carefully and beware of dark corners on this 127th anniversary of the birth of H. P. Lovecraft.
To experience sanity-straining adventures, be sure to check out DCC #77: The Croaking Fane, DCC 2013 Holiday Module: The Old God’s Return, DCC 2015 Halloween Module: They Served Brandolyn Red, DCC 2016 Halloween Module: The Sinister Sutures of the Sempstress, and everything in Goodman Games’ Age of Cthulhu line of adventures.