Wer die Kolumne lieber auf deutsch lesen mag, muss sich noch einige Tage gedulden. Wie gut die allerdings sein wird, steht auf einen anderen Blatt... Hier also zunächst das Original!

by Sandy Petersen

Here are some questions-and-answers I've exchanged with fellow fans of the Cthulhu Mythos. I hope they are enlightening or useful or entertaining.

Question - What I'm having trouble with, and I think this is the reason I haven't run Call of Cthulhu in a few years... is what's the point? I guess what I'm asking is why do the Cthulhu-Monsters care about humanity? Why not just eat or enslave or melt-into-festering-puddles-of-goo all humanity, leave the Earth a slag heap, and then take off?

Answer - I think the original thrust of the tales was not that the monsters particularly cared about humans. It was that when WE - the humans -- leave our little corner of the universe & delve into the Unknown, we come across horrors beyond belief which scar our souls. We might even bring something back with us.

To compare, imagine if a troop of ants wandered into your kitchen and found a ham sandwich. When you spot the ants, you are irritated, and instead of "just" squirting the ants on your countertop with extra-strength poison, you decide to follow their trail outside, and then pour boiling vinegar into the entire ant mound. Now, from the ants' point of view, what had happened was that one of them had wandered too far into the Unknown, and the result was not only a painful death for the intruders, but inconceivable terror & death for their whole ant nation.

Now, assume that the ants represent the humans, and the kitchen owner represents the Cthulhu Monsters, and you may get an idea of what I'm trying to get at. Of course, Cthulhu wouldn't use anything so mundane as boiling vinegar, but the end result is no less unpleasant.

Question - am I missing something? I guess, when I try to inflict "cosmic horror" into a Cthulhu scenario, I just can't figure out the monster's motivation. Maybe I'm just thinking like a human, I don't know...

Answer - To use the "ant" analogy some more, imagine that the ant, instead of wandering into your kitchen, had found a friendly grub that fed him honeydew. He carries the grub SchattenSeiten, and all the ants enjoy the honeydew. But at night, while they are not watching, the grub feeds on their children.

By the way, this really happens as part of insect ecology! In fact, the study of arthropods and other invertebrates is a never-ending useful source of inspiration for Cthulhu-type horrors. Anyway, on with the story.

One day, the grub cocoons up, and hatches into Something Awful. Exactly what it is depends on the grub's type (there are several of these things). Perhaps the adult is a hairy butterfly who promptly leaves the nest, goes forth and infests other anthills. Perhaps it is an armored horror invulnerable to the ants' weaponry and starts to feast on the adults as well as the children. It's pretty easy to see how either of these horrors could be turned into something interesting for a Cthulhu campaign. I'd suggest that the "grub" provide something other than edible honeydew to its human "owners", but otherwise the scenario works out perfectly.

Now, you'll notice that the motivation of the grub is quite different from that of the human kitchen-owner. In the case of the kitchen, the ants accidentally happened to stimulate a terrible revenge on the part of the otherwise-uncaring owner. In the case of the grub, the grub itself wanted to insinuate itself into ant society so it could prey on them.

Anyway, my point is that the baddies have different goals depending on what they are. The universe is a big place and we are one tiny fragment of it. When we come in contact with other fragments, we should not expect one to have the same motives as another.

There is no real connection between Cthulhu, the Old Ones, Yog-Sothoth, the Great Race, and the Fungi from Yuggoth. They just happen to live in the same universe. Sure they know about each other, but they're not part of the same "conspiracy" - they are just different aspects of the Outside.

The fundamental principle behind the Cthulhu Mythos is that when humans start messing with the Outside, it's terrifying to the point of madness. Of course, sometimes the Outside intrudes upon the humans willy-nilly.

If a human wanted to plant a flower garden, and so dug up all the dirt by the side of his house, this might well destroy numerous anthills. He wouldn't even take notice. But how would the ants conceive of the disaster which had overtaken them?

Remember that ants are MUCH closer to humans than we are to the Great Old Ones, and have fun!