“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
– Pablo Picasso, T S Eliot, perhaps even Steve Jobs
Stealing Cthulhu by Graham Walmsley is a roleplaying book for GMs or, more precisely given the context, Keepers: those who write and run Cthulhu Mythos roleplaying scenarios.
The central thesis of the book is that if you want to run Lovecraftian horror, you should go back to Lovecraft. The more general point is that if you want to evoke the atmosphere and feeling of a particular work, you should return to the source material and use the settings and narrative structures from that work.
For gamers (especially Mythos gamers), this book is a terrific resource. Walmsley analyses the recurring themes and narrative devices of the Lovecraft canon, describing methods to vary these recurring themes in ways consistent with the original material.
For writers, it’s a lesson not only in how to borrow ideas from other authors (albeit at the risk of pastiche), but also a general discussion on how to iterate across a setting to manufacture plot and instil a coherent sense of place.
Much of the material is specific to gaming. The sections on converting Lovecraft’s protagonists into investigators, for example, may be of only vicarious interest to someone approaching this book solely for writing ideas, but even those parts should be of some value since they help with shifting perspectives on a character. There is a substantial section in the latter half of the book which analyses some Mythos monsters, those from Lovecraft and other writers, for their original context and their potential in other contexts. Consider an underwater Mi-Go colony, for example, mining the sea bed for newly formed volcanic minerals. Or a Deep One city in a deep mountain lake.
Overall it is a brilliant and engaging roam through the catacomb of Mythos horror gaming. Highly recommended.