Saturday, January 19, 2013

RIP Lynn Willis

5th Edition Call of Cthulhu Rulebook

I didn't know Lynn Willis except through his work. I was very sorry to hear of his death yesterday. His work on the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game and others (particularly Elric!) were an integral part of what made them such classics in the field. 

I've always considered Call of Cthulhu to be the Rolls Royce of roleplaying games, mainly because it has at its heart the idea that ordinary people will do extraordinary things to save the world and that they will do so and continue to do even when defeat is inevitable.  Call it the myth of Sisyphus with dice or the struggle with sin, but the idea is worth having. 

Lynn Willis wrote the majority of the 5th edition of the game, which formed my introduction to it and is still to my mind the finest yet written. Writing of how to portray civil authority in the game, he wrote,

"There is a rough justice in uniformly portraying authorities as sleazy opportunists, corrupt fools, or rigid bumpkins, but such clich├ęs damage the heart of the game.  Call of Cthulhu assumes that humanity and human civilization are worth defending and worth saving.  It's undramatic to say that humans are not as bad as the Mythos - for dramatic contrast, humans and human institutions must be perceivably better if the contrast is to  succeed."

I've always rather liked that. I try to be perceivably better - perhaps on good days I am. 

I met the man once. He wore a very loud Hawaiian shirt and I fought rising tide of adolescent panic. He and Janice Sellers very kindly took some time to talk to an obviously anxious teenager and sign my book.  A small kindness perhaps, but one I've always remembered. 

Eternal rest grant him O Lord and perpetual light shine upon him. 


  1. A may his soul and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.

  2. Thanks for this, young Kinch. I have never seen or played these rules, but the idea of a man who could write so eloguently and with such optimism about human nature, and who favoured loud Hawaiian shirts, is most appealing to me.
    God rest and keep him.