Arkham, Call of Cthulhu (review)

Arkham Call of Cthulhu Picture
Image by Chaosium Inc.

The setting guide “Arkham” for Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium does everything right and completely kills me. Make a sanity roll!

In Warhammer there are background volumes for Middenheim and Altdorf, for The Dark Eye there are regional guides for the Desert Realm and the Riverlands. In Cthulhu, however, the world is explained in the adventures themselves. Anyone can read about London, Paris, Hong Kong and New York in the 1920s for themselves if they want to. Nobody needs a special book. (Although that would be worth considering, Chaosium!?)

The one setting guide

However, if Call of Cthulhu needs a book that describes an area in more detail, then this is it, the “Arkham” setting guide. Arkham, Massachusetts is the fictional town that Call of Cthulhu revolves around. Nobody knows what it looks like, how the town is built, what its history is, unless it’s in the stories of the Cthulhu Mythos. Until now. This tome from Chaosium Inc., which bears the simple name “Arkham”, now gives us everything in one fell swoop.

Arkham Call of Cthulhu Book
Image by Chaosium Inc.

Where is Arkham actually located?

The book is over 270 pages long and begins with the geographical location of Arkham. According to the description, I would guess somewhere between Ipswich, Hamilton and Essex. (At this point, I didn’t know that there was even a map further on, showing the exact location of Arkham). Finally, the mystery of exactly where the town is is solved. That takes away some of the magic of not knowing, but at least it’s one less mystery to keep me awake at night.

A level of detail to drive you mad

The book “Arkham” is amazing. So incredibly detailed and accurately described – I could hardly believe it when I was working through it.

It must have been a lot of fun to think up the geography and history of an imaginary city in such detail. I can’t say how much of this can be taken from the works of Lovecraft and his successors.

The book is beautifully laid out with lots of illustrations and graphic elements, including a distance table to the surrounding towns, a list of local societies and religious organizations, but also – and now please note – a complete list of stores and institutions with their exact addresses!

There is a drawing of each of the nine neighborhoods of Arkham and almost every house has a number with a description. Then there’s a list of notable people who live there, some even with a picture and description. Incredible. More than 80 NPCs and 290 locations are described. It’s crazy.

Graveyards of Arkham

Cleverly, the new volume fits Chaosium’s own actual-play series “Graveyards of Arkham” like a glove. Or is it rather the series that goes with the currently published book? Of course. We’ve already had 4 episodes of “Bookstores of Arkham”, which together have over 250,000 views on YouTube. And now the new season of “Graveyards of Arkham” is starting today, February 7, 2024. There will be one episode a week, first as a premiere on Twitch and then on YouTube.

Graveyards of Arkham Call of Cthulhu
Image by Chaosium Inc.

I had the pleasure of watching the advance screening of episode 1 and I can say I was quite surprised when the first NPC walked in and sat down on the sofa with the players. Guest NPCs are a nice touch and make life easier for the GM.

With this and the corresponding costumes, the series “… of Arkham” always has a touch of narrative theater, because it’s this strange mixture of, on the one hand, theater of the mind and, on the other hand, this “I see half of what is described, but not the way it is described”. I look forward to reading your opinions on the Chaosium show in the comments.

But back to the actual center of interest…


Would you like to delve much deeper into the world of Call of Cthulhu and know it better than anyone else? Then the book “Arkham” will give your “theater of the mind” a powerful boost and provide you with the necessary further education. On the other hand, I’ve run and read many a Cthulhu adventure and Arkham was mentioned in them at best.

I think it’s an incredibly great volume, but I personally feel the same way as about every background volume. Would it make my game better, give it more depth? Of course, it would. Would it throw my already overflowing roleplaying time management even further overboard and demand so much from my time, memory and SL skills that it would be almost unbearable? Without a doubt.

And so, like the role-playing game Cthulhu, I’ll either read this book thoroughly, try to keep everything in my head and slowly go insane, or I’ll live according to the motto “ignorance is bliss” and live ignorantly but mentally healthy until the end of my days. Let’s see if I can pass this intelligence check…

Click here for more Call of Cthulhu: Solo Adventure “Alone Against the Static”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.