Call of Cthulhu and Heroisim

If you’ve ever wondered why people play games such as Call of Cthulhu and Hunter: The Reckoning, games where the protagonists are fated to loose then the d20 version of Cthulhu may shed some light on the nature of heroism in such games.

The Inevitable Fall of Humanity

What is to become of us? In Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu,” a cultist describes our fate. He says the End Times will be easy to recognise, for they will come at a point when all humanity is consumed by violence and hedonism. Our societies will resemble those o the Great Old Ones themselves: lawless and wild, without and purpose except destruction.
We are not living in the End Times right now. But like the smoke from a distant fire, we can see them from here. Our world is burning. We have gone from being a single species to a set of rapacious civilisations, from there to clashing nations, and from there to uncivil societies. Step by step, as we factionalise into subcultures and sub-subcultures, betraying our communities for the sake of our personal obsessions, we grow ever closer to being a world of people-states where each individual places self above all. We are becoming a race of tyrants, feeble imitations of the Great Old Ones. The prophecies are coming true, one step at a time, as we march into the global abattoirs of our own making. The beings known as the Cthulhu Mythos are not responsible; they are merely farther along the evolutionary track than we are. In them, we see our future, and that of the entire cosmos: order crumbling into chaos, life shriveling into death. Divide by zero.

The Terrible Toll of Defiance

What then must we do? The easy answer is nothing. We can lose ourselves in the distractions of shopping and politics, even the welcome responsibilities of family and career. In the face of a future so vast and so terrible that it is futile to even resist it, who can blame those who are content to live their lives in ignorance or denial? We are so young, and the cosmos so old.
Those who do make a stand have little to look forward to. Again and again, the heroes of Lovecraft’s stories struggle to understand the darkness and gain only madness or oblivion. They are destroyed by monsters, driven mad by revelations, or hide from the certain doom they now know awaits them. No one retires to live happily ever after.

Heroism and Horror

Nonetheless, heroes emerge. Normal men and women step forward to fight the darkness though they know they will ultimately fail. Even in the face of chaos they stand firm, putting everything and everyone they love at risk for the sake of the few precious days remaining to us, and the unborn generations who may yet spend many of those days in peace.
Investigators of the unknown are brave, intelligent, and compassionate heroes who are not willing to surrender to destiny. Like Tolstoy, who in the face of poverty roamed the streets to give away all his money; or Dylan Thomas, who urged us not to go gently into that good night, but rage against the dying of the light; or the man who stood before the tanks in Tiananmen Square, certain of defeat, but refusing to compromise.
Every investigator reaches a moment when it is easier to run away, ignore the evidence of his senses, and let sleeping dogs lie. Cowards turn back, but heroes press on, challenging the darkness in terrible places where even angels fear to tread.

Saving the Day

Some heroes fight the impossible, fighting for the sake of today. They have people they care about, and they know they must take on this challenge to keep those they love from harm. What does it matter if the world is going to end? Today remains, and today is worth fighting for. Even if the planet is doomed there is a life to save right now, a wrong to redress, a hideous agenda to thwart. A small victory is still a victory, and there’s no reason to go down without a fight.

Making a Difference

Others struggle to add their light to the sum of the light. By taking up the mantle of hero they become exemplars of selflessness and community – the very values the cosmos would erode. In their defiance of the inevitable they inspire others to stand with them, to do something worthwhile with their time on this world, to make hay while the sun shines.

Your Only Judge is Yourself

In the end, this reality is one that doesn’t care if we live or die or what we do with our days upon the Earth. What matters is what you choose to believe in, and what actions you take to show it. Pick your battles and make your stand. At the end of the day, even in the moment of your annihilation, you’ll know you were not content to sit back with the rest. You’re a hero, and even if no one realizes it, you still made a difference while you could.
If he Cthulhu Mythos has a saving grace it is this: By putting our existence in such stark relief, by propping up such insurmountable foes, by hurling the very fabric of reality against us, we can finally see who we really are. The Mythos is a vast mirror help up before the face of humanity. If you want to like what you see there, the power is in your hands.

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About blaster219

Suspect is a Caucasian male, approximately 5'7" in height with blue eyes and brown hair. Last known place of residence in Manchester, UK WARNING: Suspect is in possession of number of swords, knives, firearms and other weaponry as well as body armour. He should be considered armed and dangerous.

Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007, in RPG General. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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