Tanking for Dummies

A Mythos Primer
June 19, 2009, 12:01 am
Filed under: Roleplaying | Tags:

So, stealing a bit of inspiration from Spinks’ post relating to this yesterday: There is a lot of things in World of Warcraft that owe a debt of gratitude to the work of H.P Lovecraft.  Lovecraft himself was a product of the age of Pulp, and his stories are a staple of the genre, filled as they are with horrible creatures and people doing terrible things to other people.  The thing that probably set Lovecraft apart from his peers, however, is that he was an adept world builder, and unlike today’s world of infuriatingly inane intelectual property disputes, Lovecraft profusely shared his ideas with other pulp writers like Robert Bloch (Psycho) and Robert Howard (Conan the Barbarian) and thus spread his world into the fiction of others.  This spread (which has continued today, clearly) is one of the reasons why people refer to this as the Mythos.  You’ll most commonly hear this connected to one of Lovecraft’s most famous creations, i.e. “The Cthulhu Mythos.”

If you’re new to all of this, allow me to give you a brief primer on the Mythos influences in World of Warcraft thus far.

Murlocs – The first Lovecraftian beastie you’re likely to encounter in World of Warcraft is the lowly Murloc.  Though mostly an homage in terms of appearance, the fishmen are very definitively like the Deep Ones from Lovecraft’s Shadow over Innsmouth.  Though unlike the Deep Ones, Murlocs don’t seem to be involved in interbreeding with humans, they are found most commonly on shorelines near the Alliance and inhabit sunken cities in the reefs off shore.

C’thun – Perhaps most famous (up until recently) among Lovecraftian references in WoW, the previous Old God in residence is a reference to Lovecraft’s most famous creation, Cthulhu, from his Call of Cthulhu.  Though C’thun appears nothing like his Mythos counterpart (whose general appearance is much closer to that of General Vezax), the reference was enough to make many of us shiver with joy, particularly when exposed to the creepy voices in Ahn’Qiraq.  Cthulhu’s fame versus Lovecraft’s other creations is something of an ongoing mystery, but it might be due to his unyieldingly cute nature.

Faceless Ones – The elephant like-Faceless ones (and their Herald) bear a very similar appearance to the Illithid of Dungeons & Dragons fame, which means their origins are probably related to the Cthuli, also called the “Star Spawn of Cthulhu.”  The use of Telepathic powers and general desire to melt your mind and suck it out through a straw makes the connection tentative but still applicable.  If nothing else, the their general tentacled appearance and use of mechanics that mess with your head make them very Mythos-like if difficult to pin down exactly.

Yogg-Saron – Ah Yoggy. You are actually very similar to the all encompassing Yog-Sothoth that is your namesake.  You know and see all, you are intimately connected to the world and your consciousness spreads out across time and space.  Unfortunately, you are also a brain in a glass case, so your appearance is nothing like the globes of light mentioned in The Lurker at the Threshold.  Still, fans of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game put out by Chaosium love your sanity mechanic, which could not be a better homage if it tried.

Ahn’Qiraj – the dead city of the Qiraji is in some way analogous to the “Nameless City” of the Necronomicon mentioned in Lovecraft’s story of the same name as well as many other stories of his including the Call of Cthulhu, and the Shadow out of Time.  Both are found in the remote desert and have a strange connection to the Old Gods (Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones).

There are many many more Lovecraftian references in WoW I haven’t even mentioned yet, easter eggs waiting to be found.  But interestingly, to me at least, there is still a lot of influence to be mined in coming theoretical expansions.  For example, the Maelstrom and the sunken cities within it are similar to the city of R’lyeh in which Cthulhu resides.  And shall we not forget the Emerald Dream?  Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle deals intimately with the world of dreams and introduces the Demon Sultan Azathoth (whose massive and all consuming nature is suspiciously like the Emerald Nightmare) and Nyarlathotep of the Ten-Thousand forms.  Both would make great additions to such an adventure.

Hopefully I’ve whetted your appetite for some Mythos fiction.  Check out the links I’ve provided and see for yourself what you’ve been missing (if you’ve been missing it).

Keeper’s Note: Investigators reading this post lose 3d6 SAN.  Happy gibbering!


4 Comments so far
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See also: A Shuggoth on the Roof

Although I would warn those who’ve not read it before that Lovecraft was very much a product of his times, which means that some of his works can occasionally be somewhat jarring to modern sensibilities (I’m thinking specifically of the flagrant racism in the Reanimator stories).

Comment by Yuki

It’s certainly there. If you’ve read Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle it’s fairly similar in tone (if not substance).

Comment by Tarsus



Comment by Jov

I hadn’t really thought about quite how much mythos influence there is on WoW. The murlocs had totally escaped me.

It is a fascinating set of works, partly because it’s so much a product of its time but also because he had this extremely strong concept of impersonal void-spanning horror (not an accident he was writing at the same time as the first atomic bomb tests). It is still breath-taking to read, even if you don’t like anything else about it.

Comment by spinks

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