The Present Day Ain’t What It Used To Be

Chaosium’s The 1990s Handbook for 5th Edition Call of Cthulhu hails from 1995, making it over 22 years old at this point. By the late 1990s, it was already feeling slightly stale, and only seemed more out of date in the Noughties; now, however, the passage of time has hit the point where it’s come full circle to being useful again, if only as a reminder of the zeitgeist of the time. (If nothing else the rudimentary computer rules provide a snapshot of the moment when personal home computers hadn’t quite become ubiquitous yet, and when Internet activity still largely happened through BBSs and other frameworks rather than the World Wide Web.)

It would be easy to mistake this for a gunbunny’s take on Call of Cthulhu, particularly given the attention given to weapons, the inclusion of a hit location system, and the rundowns of government, military, and organised crime groups offered. (Terrorism is relegated to a sidebar because it was pre-9/11.) This is exacerbated somewhat by the fact that few Mythos threats are actually detailed outside of a chapter of adventure seeds and a set of maps of interesting sites around the world (though this does make it a useful sourcebook for the era for any Basic Roleplaying-derived purposes).

Beyond this, the book is largely an update of Cthulhu Now – at least, those parts which hadn’t been cannibalised into the core Call of Cthulhu rulebook. In principle the present day is the era of the game which usually needs a sourcebook the least of all – but in practice the 1990s Handbook is a useful insight into yesterday’s present day.


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