The Safewords of Cthulhu

There has been many interesting things to come out of recent debate over on YSDC about the intersection between Intellectual Property law, the Cthulhu Mythos, Chaosium, BRP, and the Open Gaming Licence.

One of the most contentious of the discussion topics has been around which Mythos creatures/gods/characters are truly in the Public Domain, which are definitely “licensed” by their original creators for game use, and which fall into the enormous grey-area in between. For a game designer trying to put together a brand new Lovecraftian game, knowing this stuff is pretty important … but there really aren’t too many places you can go to find such details. The prevailing wisdom seems to be “buy yourself a copy of Dan Harms’ excellent Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia and figure out for yourself which things were first mentioned in stories now in the public domain.” For most people, that is more work than they expected.

Fortunately, one of the folks who weighed in to the YSDC discussion was @CaseUndefined who is creating a Lovecraftian RPG in German called FHTAGN. In order to determine which Mythos entities were safe to include, and which weren’t, he spent a long time researching the various named beings and gods that are mentioned in short stories to find which are truly Public Domain.

You can see the original German material produced by @CaseUndefined at this link … but in the interests of making the results of his/her research more accessible to English-speaking audiences, I have extracted the list of “safe” Mythos Entities and translated the relevant names back to English. I have done the same for FHTAGN’s list of Unnatural Rituals. Obviously the FHTAGN game itself has a lot more information and game-stats about each of these things, I am just giving the names of the entities or rituals in question. If you have an interest in FHTAGN or speak German and wish to see the source text, see the link above.

[ Standard Disclaimer: this is the results of original research for the FHTAGN game; it’s not legal advice about the Intellectual Property status of entities mentioned in Lovecraft’s tales. ]


Cosmic Horrors

·         Azathoth
·         Beings From Ib
·         Bokrug
·         Cthulhu
·         Colour Out Of Space
·         Dagon and Hydra
·         Deep Ones
·         Dholes
·         Elder Things
·         Flying Polyps
·         Ghasts
·         Ghouls
·         Gloon
·         Gnorri
·         Great Race of Yith
·         Gugs
·         Hastur
·         High Priest Not To Be Described
·         Hunting Horrors
·         Hypnos
·         Mi-Go
·         Miri Nigri
·         Moonbeasts
·         Nath-Horthath
·         Night-gaunts
·         Nodens
·         Nyarlathotep
·         Rat-Things
·         Re-Animated Corpse
·         Re-Animated Horror
·         Shantaks
·         Shoggoths
·         Shub-Niggurath
·         Star-Spawn of Cthulhu
·         Tamash
·         Winged Servants
·         Yog-Sothoth
·         Zo-Kalar
·         Zoogs and the Ancient Zoog

Unnatural Rituals

  • Aklo Sabaoth
  • Ancestral Bond
  • Dho-Hna Formula
  • Elder Sign
  • Essential Salts
  • Powder of Ibn Ghazi [added 30Jun19]
  • Sign of Koth
  • Summon Beings

4 responses to “The Safewords of Cthulhu

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