What Makes the Arkham Horror RPG Unique

2024 / 06 / 28

One unique aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos (shorthand for the mythos first created by H.P. Lovecraft) is that it is over a century old. In that time, most of Lovecraft’s works (as well as the work of many of his contemporaries) have passed into public domain. This means that just about anyone can make a game based on the Cthulhu Mythos, and plenty of people have! 

Roleplaying games set in the Cthulhu Mythos range from long-running stalwarts spanning multiple editions to scrappy upstarts with their own unique twists on the setting. So where does Arkham Horror — The Roleplaying Game fit in? What sets it apart from these other games?

Adventure (and Horror!) Awaits!

Many Cthulhu Mythos games focus on the horror element of the setting. In these, the characters you play are merely pawns at the whims of a vast and uncaring cosmos and the unspeakable eldritch horrors that dwell within. The forces arrayed against you are far too great to defeat; in fact even survival is often impossible. And even if your body remains intact, your sanity likely will not. Of course, this can make for a very compelling and intense game. But it may not be what every player is in the mood for! 

In Arkham Horror — the Roleplaying Game, the horror of the Cthulhu Mythos has been joined with the heroism of pulp adventure in the 1920s. Sure, there are still nightmarish terrors from beyond time and space, and yes, they are just as likely to  shatter your sanity as they are to tear you limb from limb. But in this version of the Cthulhu Mythos you have a chance to fight back. Blast a shoggoth with a shotgun! Banish a star spawn with ten pounds of TNT! Crack open a tome of eldritch terrors, then use the dread incantations to seal an Ancient One beyond the veil of time and space! Sure, none of this is going to be easy, but in Arkham Horror — The Roleplaying Game, at least you have a fighting chance at saving the world.

Big Names, Bigger Personalities

This leads to another major difference. In many Cthulhu Mythos games, you play average people, random individuals caught up in events more horrible than they could ever imagine. Again, this can certainly result in tense and driven games. But it’s also been done, and our goal is to do something different. 

The Arkham Horror setting has a long and rich legacy, starting with the Arkham Horror Board Game and flowing into numerous other games such as Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness, Eldritch Horror, and Arkham Horror: The Card Game. In each of these games, the primary focus is the heroes. These larger-than-life characters have been transported from game to game, and fans have learned to recognize names like Joe Diamond, Jenny Barnes, Marie Lambeau, Lily Chen, and Ashcan Pete (and his dog, Duke!). The game may change, but their legacy remains.

Now in Arkham Horror — The Roleplaying Game, you have the chance to make your own larger-than-life hero and save the world as well! Whether you’re taking on the role of an existing character or making your own, you’ll have abilities and skills that set you apart from everyone else. Sure, the incomprehensible horrors arrayed against you have legions of monsters to send against the Earth. But to destroy our planet, they’re going to have to get by you

Story-Driven Gameplay

And while we’re talking a bit about mechanics, let’s touch on the game as a whole. In Arkham Horror — The Roleplaying Game, the game mechanics have several design elements that promote heroic, pulpy gameplay. The first is that there are tons of reward-with-risk elements baked into the game. If your character goes down, you have a choice to send them roaring back into the fight. Sure they might suffer for it later, but you can keep fighting monsters now

Likewise, gameplay is kept fluid and open. This allows you and your friends the flexibility of telling a story first and just using the mechanics to see if you succeed. Even in the midst of combat, players can pause their characters’ actions, let someone else do something cool, then pick right back up without any complex delay or holding mechanics. And your character has a choice between focusing on accomplishing something well, or frantically trying to get as much done as possible and risking failure. Cautious and reckless playstyles can be equally rewarding.

But finally, your character has elements that nobody else in the game does. Your character’s insight lets you perform cool tricks and feats of derring-do, but it also lets you sus out clues in the story, introduce your own narrative beats, and if the worst were to happen, bring your character back from the dead. 

So we hope you’ve enjoyed this comparison between Arkham Horror and other Cthulhu Mythos roleplaying games! One of the things we love about the Cthulhu Mythos is that there’s plenty of room for all sorts of games within its terrifying embrace. We hope you’ll like ours!

Arkham Horror – The Roleplaying Game Starter Set – Hungering Abyss will be out on August 2, 2024.