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Press [Chaosium] A tribute to Arkham Unveiled's Keith Herber on the 15th anniversary of his passing

Michael O'Brien

Keith Herber (1949-2009)
-- Keith Herber (January 3, 1949 – March 13, 2009) --

Today marks 15 years since Keith "Doc" Herber passed on.

Doc was born in Detroit, Michigan and later moved to the Bay Area during his time working at Chaosium on Call of Cthulhu. It’s funny how things change, given that Chaosium’s head office is now based in Michigan. Perhaps it’s something in the Michigan water that nurtures game designers?

As well as being an accomplished musician, playing bass guitar for blues bands like the Progressive Blues Band or rock for the likes of The Violent Femmes, Doc was a writer and editor. While he wrote for White Wolf’s Vampire and contributed to small press zines like The Unspeakable Oath and Worlds of Cthulhu, it is his lasting work on the Call of Cthulhu tabletop roleplaying game that most who read this will remember him by.

Doc wrote for Chaosium from the mid-1980s, not that long into the game’s history, and was Call of Cthulhu line editor for around five years after working on the development of the fourth edition of the game, released in 1989. After that, Doc went on to manage the fifth edition of Call of Cthulhu (1992) as well as numerous scenario books and supplements, including The Fungi from Yuggoth (1984),Trail of Tsathogghua (1984),Spawn of Azathoth (1986), Investigator’s Companion Vol 1 & 2 (1993 & 1994), and the Keeper’s Compendium (1993).

In terms of Call of Cthulhu, Doc is probably best remembered for his work on developing what came to be known as “Lovecraft Country” through the books Arkham Unveiled (1990), Return to Dunwich (1991), Kingsport (1991), and Escape from Innsmouth (1992).

Arkham Unveiled (1990)

-- Arkham Unveiled (1990) --

These works firmly established the Miskatonic Valley region in game lore. Building on Lovecraft’s, Derleth’s, and others works, Doc grafted meat on to the bones, breathing life into these fictional locations with quirky characters, strange buildings, and engaging plot seeds. It was a vast amount of work, whether as lead writer or editor, in pulling all the strands together to form a consistent, believable, and immersive setting—and I should know, given that I’ve been working on updating and expanding these books! It was no small feat and I for one certainly understand and recognize the effort and passion Doc had for this unique and groundbreaking series.

Keith left Chaosium for new dimensions in 1994. A few years later, he would return to his love of Call of Cthulhu by setting up Miskatonic River Press in 2009 to publish supplements for the game under license, as well as fiction anthologies. It was in the early days of this new and exciting venture that Keith left us all.

In writing and producing the new edition of Arkham Unveiled, now simply called "Arkham,” I felt it was only right to honor Doc within the game’s canon, and so there’s a new entry within—look up location OS109 and you’ll find it. Just my way of thanking Doc and remembering him.

Mike Mason
March 13, 2024

Call of Cthulhu Arkham - hardcover and special leatherette version (2024)

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