Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American writer of weird, science, fantasy, and horror fiction born in Providence, Rhode Island. He is best known for his creation of the Cthulhu Mythos and the fantasy and science fiction elements that it incorporated, which in turn led to the codification of the cosmic horror genre.
Lovecraft began writing speculative fiction in pulp magazines in 1913, and would start writing stories for what became known as the Cthulhu Mythos as early as 1920, beginning with "The Call of Cthulhu" - much of his work was published in Weird Tales, and though he was virtually unknown and unable to support himself from his literary work during his lifetime, he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors of supernatural horror fiction. This is owed to a scholarly revival of Lovecraft's work in the 1970s that led to more widespread discovery of his work, as well as criticism of political views he held until after the Great Depression.
Lovecraft's works, their many direct adaptations and spiritual successors and the later contributions of other authors formed the Mythos as we currently know it - major themes include fear of the unknown, the nature of knowledge, and the idea that humanity is a fragile part of cosmic existence that could be swept away at any moment. The word "Lovecraftian" has since come to describe any being, location or thing that is considered sufficiently alien and unknowable in nature.
While vanilla NetHack has not actively drawn from any of Lovecraft's works and/or the Cthulhu Mythos, several NetHack variants and patches contain monsters and themes derived from them; SLASH'EM has Cthulhu and several other creatures of Lovecraftian origin among the various new monsters added, and dNetHack has arguably the most direct Lovecraftian influence present in its themes and design, as well as its monster lineup. The mind flayer as it appears in NetHack is not directly inspired by Lovecraft or the Mythos, but is commonly depicted as a humanoid similar to Cthulhu in appearance - the mind flayers' roles in other works also play on the themes of cosmic horror.
Below is a list of various features in variants of NetHack that are inspired in part or in whole by Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos.
Variants and patches featuring Lovecraftian influence
dNetHack explicitly bills itself as "featuring horror elements reminiscent of those found in Call of Cthulhu" - both the original story and the tabletop game of the same name - and also incorporates many other elements from Lovecraft-influenced games and works, as well as mechanics that measure the player character's mental well-being and their ability to see "beyond the veil". dNetHack also portrays mind flayers and the deep ones as "r'lyehian", derived from the name of the sunken city R'lyeh that appears in "The Call of Cthulhu".
For details on sanity and insight, visit the linked articles - both of them contain major spoilers for dNetHack. Below is a non-exhaustive list of other dNetHack features inspired by the works of Lovecraft and the Chtulhu Mythos:
- deep one
- mind flayer
- Great Cthulhu
- Neutral Quest
- Drowned City of R'lyeh
- Gehennom (Lethe patch)
- Cthulhu's Sanctum
- B byakhee
- B nightgaunt
- h deep one
- P shoggoth
- V star vampire
- V fire vampire
- Z gug
- h / & Cthulhu
- h / & Cthulhu