Lovecraftian tabletop RPG Call of Cthulhu - the inspiration for horror board games including Arkham Horror - has officially come to online roleplaying platform Roll20, and you can play it for free online right now.
The introduction of official support means players can access the game’s Quick Start Rules for free - which include adventure The Haunting, the basic rules and everything required to create a character.
Official support means that players also get handy character sheets, as well as a compendium to help them plan out sessions by searching through the core Keeper Rulebook, Call of Cthulhu’s equivalent to the Dungeon Master’s Guide - top of the list of what to buy if you want to play Dungeons & Dragons 5E.
Call of Cthulhu was previously revealed to be the second most popular RPG on Roll20 after Dungeons & Dragons 5E. Publisher Chaosium announced it would be bringing official support to Roll20 earlier this year, releasing a free standalone adventure, The Lightless Beacon, to mark the anniversary of company founder and RPG designer Greg Stafford’s passing in 2018. Further free adventures were released for Stafford’s King Arthur Pendragon and RuneQuest, as well as 7th Sea.
Originally released in 1981, Call of Cthulhu’s adventures are typically set in the 1920s - however, spin-offs from the RPG such as Delta Green and Cthulhu Rising have taken it as far as the 1980s and the 23rd century respectively. Meanwhile, Cthulhu Invictus took the setting’s tentacled abominations back to Roman times.
The game master is known as the Keeper, while the player characters are referred to as investigators. For the most part, you play ordinary people like detectives and artists.
Mechanically, Call of Cthulhu uses a percentile dice system rolled on a d100 - two ten-sided dice - and also includes a measure of sanity, which tapers away the more unknowable horrors you witness. You’re also not necessarily going to make it out alive - it’s a dark and deadly RPG system.
Recently released adventures for Call of Cthulhu include the Saturnine Chalice - in which a group of robbers stumble upon a cursed house - and Dead Light, a remake of an older adventure in which you all must survive a dark, stormy night pursued by some kind of mysterious abomination.
The Call of Cthulhu 7E Keeper Rulebook - effectively the game master tome - is available now on Roll20 for $54.95 (£42). It includes the full set of rules, over 30 non-player characters and monsters, maps, spells, items and two scenario modules: Amidst the Ancient Trees and Crimson Trees.
However, the investigator handbook - which outlines further details for player characters - won’t be available until 2020.
If unending terror is your jam, discover more delightful nightmares in our round-up of the best horror board games, or visit slightly less terrifying worlds by exploring some of the best fantasy RPGs that aren’t Dungeons & Dragons.