The Cold War and the Cthulhu Mythos

"Gadget" In December 2008 I first read about Charles Stross’ short story “A Colder War”. Imagine an alternative timeline where the cold war ends in 1984 because the Soviets mistake a joke made by then-president Ronald Reagan for a declaration of war. But in addition to the nuclear arsenal, a hidden supernatural one is used. In “A Colder War” the Great Cthulhu himself has been weaponized by the Soviets and the Iran government tries to summon Yog-Sothoth into our world. The more I think about it, the more I believe a campaign inspired by that short story could be a great project for the upcoming months.

Especially in autumn or winter I love to run horror games and what could be more blood-freezing than combining H.P. Lovecraft’s work with the cold war? I think I’ll pitch the idea to my players and if they show some interest, I’ll start working on that project as soon as I have enough free time.

The question that remains is what system shall I use. The simplest solution would probably be Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. The system is easy enough and allows adventures from the 1890s to modern day with ease. Another possibility would be Realms of Cthulhu by Reality Blurs. Especially if the campaign should feature a good amount of action, it’s probably the best solution because it uses the Savage World rules. Last but not least Trail of Cthulhu by Pelgrane Press comes to mind. This game normally uses the 1930s as its setting, but as the adventure Castle Bravo has shown, it can be used for later centuries, too. Castle Bravo also combines the Mythos with atomic horror, so it can probably be used for inspiration, or even be run as part of said campaign.

Currently I think it would probably the best to set the campaign into the 1950s or 1960s. Most characters might have actually fought in WW2 and may even had their first encounter with the Mythos then. I also think that the McCarthy era in particular could form a great backdrop for such a campaign. Perhaps the players start as FBI agents following some leads on a group of Communists that are in fact cultists worshipping some Mythos entity.

I am not entirely sure about the details yet, but my plan is that things on Earth get increasingly worse during the campaign. Instead of stopping the coming apocalypse the player characters should be uncovering the events that lead to it. This is a big gamble. My players may actually hate it, because they can’t fight the inevitable. But in my opinion that’s what a combination of the Cthulhu Mythos and the cold war should be like. There’s no way out. The bombs will fall, Cthulhu will wake, humanity will be destroyed. But the way there can be quite exciting and even fun to play!