Compiled by James V. Kracht


Of, or relating to Cthulhu {pronounced kuh-THOO-loo}; more at H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, as formalized by author August Derleth after H.P. Lovecraft's death in 1937; "…based on the fundamental lore or legend that this world was inhabited at one time by another race who, in practising black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside ever ready to take possession of this earth again."

QUICK INDEX: (Click on an entry or scroll through this document)

[Chthon] [Elder Gods] [Elder Sign] [Elemental Theory] [Nameless City] [Shambler] [Shub-Niggurath] [Silver Key] [Spawn] [Vaults of Zin]


{pronounced kuh-THOEN}

Chthon appears to be a strange, mutated member of a race of creatures known as Chthonians; I make this assertion on name similarity alone for Chthonians in literature are many-tentacled, burrowing giants. They can generate earthquakes and have telepathic powers. Their massive worm-like bodies can withstand horrendous extremes of temperature; in The House of Chthon (E1M7), Chthon rises up from a pit of molten rock, hurling great handfuls of lava. Chthon guards Quake's Rune of Earth Magic, which may link him/it with Shub-Niggurath who, according to Elemental Theory, is linked with the element of earth. It is more than likely, however, that Chthon is an independent entity (independent of the Cthulhu Mythos, that is); the Greek word "chthon" means "earth." See Brian Lumley's The Burrowers Beneath. [Top]

Elder Gods

The fourth episode of Quake known as The Elder World contains a level called The Elder God Shrine (E4M3). The Elder Gods, according to the literature, may live somewhere near Betelgeuse or, perhaps, in another dimension known as Elysia. Through the usage of slipgates in Quake it seems likely that visiting this alternate dimension is a distinct possibility. There are numerous Elder Gods with various names, among them Nodens, a Celtic warrior god known in the Cthulhu Mythos as the "Great Lord of the Abyss." This may shed some light on the presence of the various medieval knights in Quake, one of which (Death Knight) has magical powers. For more information see H.P. Lovecraft's novels The Lurker at the Threshold (with August Derleth), The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and his short story The Strange High House in the Mist. Also of interest may be Elysia, by Brian Lumley. [Top]

Elder Sign

The traditional rendering of the Elder Sign consists of a five-pointed star with an eye at its center; the pupil often contains a pillar of flame. The symbol may have been created by the Elder Gods. It is not known exactly why, but the Elder Sign protects the user from the minions of the Great Old Ones (including Cthulhu, Hastur, Tsathoggua, and Ithaqua - in theory, at least). In Quake, this symbol abounds; found on door frames, archways, and often on the surfaces of pressure plates and wall switches, this star-shaped symbol with a circle at its center is a variation of the classic Elder Sign. Of course, it is useless against the creatures in Quake, who are primarily the horrid offspring of Shub-Niggurath (an Outer God). See Derleth's and Lovecraft's novel The Lurker at the Threshold, and Lovecraft's story The Messenger. [Top]

Elemental Theory

A slightly discredited facet of the Cthulhu Mythos, Elemental Theory (as originated by the Comte d'Erlette) attempts to link the Great Old Ones to the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) so often the tools of alchemists through the ages. The first episode of Quake (The Doomed Dimension) contains the Rune of Earth Magic, obtained in The House of Chthon (E1M7). Quake's other episodes, however, are not linked with the four elements and in fact have nothing to do with Elemental Theory. See Eddy Bertin's Darkness, My Name Is and Lin Carter's Zoth-Ommog. [Top]

The Nameless City

Buried somewhere in the Arabian desert, The Nameless City was, for a time, the home of Abdul Alhazred (who would later write the dreaded Necronomicon). Long before Alhazred lived there, the city was populated by a race of reptilian beings who eventually abandoned the place by burrowing deep into the earth. It is possible that the Quake creatures known as Scrags are the descendants of these ancient beings (but not likely). Now that Quake has finally been released, it is ironic that The Nameless City shares nothing in common with Lovecraft's creation other than its name. While having nothing to do with the deserts of Arabia, the level contains some very creepy "city" textures (lots of red brick, high barred windows, and deep shadowy alleys) - all very evocative of Lovecraft's haunted man-made cities of Arkham, Dunwich, and Kingsport. See Lovecraft's The Nameless City, and A History of the Necronomicon. Brian Lumley's Return of the Deep Ones may also be of interest.

NOTE: To visit The Nameless City you must use the Silver Key. Since you can only use it once you must use it wisely. In Hell's Atrium (E4M5) there will come a time when you are confronted by a deadly lava pit with a bridge suspended above it. You can activate and lower the bridge by using the key, but doing so also blocks a doorway on the other side of the lava pit; the gate to The Nameless City (E4M8) lies beyond this locked door - and the only thing that can unlock it is the Silver Key. You must carefully cross this lava pit, jumping onto the slim poles that rise from the molten rock. It sounds daunting and looks impossible - but it can be done! [Top]


More commonly known as Dimensional Shamblers in literature and in the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu, the variation of this creature that inhabits Quake is fearsome indeed. In Lovecraft's story The Horror in the Museum (written with Hazel Heald), the Dimensional Shambler is described as having an expressionless face; in Quake, these giants possess only a vast toothy maw where their head should be. If one ignores this purely physiological difference, it's obvious that they are strikingly similar -- in attack as well as methodology, for both often appear out of thin air to surprise their prey. Quake's Shamblers also possess the ability to generate huge bolts of electricity! [Top]


{Pronounced shub-NIG-er-ath}

An Outer God, sometimes known as The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young. This oft-described-but never-encountered entity makes its first appearance in Quake; the final level (END), known as Shub-Niggurath's Pit, gives Quake players a glimpse of this penultimate horror. She towers above all other creatures; three massive tentacles thrust skyward from her hulking, swelling body. One of the most perverse "fertility" deities in Lovecraft's pantheon of Outer Gods, she is able to spawn other creatures at will - mostly Shamblers and Vores, two of Quake's most deadly opponents. Quite a few stories reference Shub-Niggurath; among them are Derleth's and Lovecraft's novel The Lurker at the Threshold, and Lovecraft's story The Whisperer in Darkness. For total understanding, see Robert M. Price's compilation The Shub-Niggurath Cycle. [Top]

The Silver Key

While it may only be a coincidence (many 3D games utilize color-coded keys), the four episodes of Quake feature a striking silver key which plays a pivotal role in the completion of various levels. In Lovecraft's stories (the Dreamlands tales), the Silver Key can transport the user to any place or point in time. In Quake, the possession of the Silver Key is essential if you want to visit The Elder World's secret level. In Hell's Atrium (E4M5), the player will eventually arrive at a raised bridge. The silver key will lower the bridge and allow the player to exit the level. It is essential, however, that the player not use the key to lower the bridge, for doing so also lowers an impenetrable wall over the entrance to The Nameless City (E4M8). It requires a bit of precision jumping, but the lava pit can be crossed without "wasting" the Silver Key on the bridge. See H.P. Lovecraft's The Silver Key and Through the Gates of the Silver Key (with E. Hoffman Price). [Top]


Oozing black creatures known in H.P. Lovecraft's work as servitors of Tsathoggua (a Great Old One whose body is often formless). The Spawn in Quake are similar, if not identical, to their fictional counterparts. Primarily appearing in the fourth episode (The Elder World), these blobs of liquid can change shape and are often highly dangerous. Able to move with alarming speed, they detonate when killed, causing extreme damage. They are best attacked from long range before they discover your presence. See The Mound, by Zealia Bishop and H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith's The Door to Saturn and The Seven Geases. [Top]

The Vaults of Zin

In Quake's third episode (The Netherworld) players can visit the Vaults of Zin (E3M2). This level serves as an effective introduction to this episode. In Lovecraft's Dreamlands stories, the Vaults of Zin are populated by Ghasts, a monstrous race of partially human creatures prone to cannibalism; their dismal home is considered to be a link between the waking world and the world of dreams. In Quake, this level is filled with Zombies (which are very similar to Ghasts) - hoards of them, emerging from tiny crypts in the walls. While not a literal reproduction of Lovecraft's mystical realm, it truly captures the sense of an alien dimension. See The Mound, by Zealia Bishop and H.P. Lovecraft, and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, by H.P. Lovecraft. [Top]

Note: this small glossary is probably not complete and there may be many more Lovecraftian references in Quake. I'm currently researching several possibilities - stay tuned!

Note on the map names/numbers: Quake levels are often identified by map name or number; to use these numbers you may enter them in the Quake console. For instance, to jump to the fourth level (or map) of episode one, open the console by pressing the tilde key (~) and type: map e1m4 <enter>. If you wanted to visit Shub-Niggurath (why?), you would open the console (~) and type: map end <enter>


As well as Lovecraft's fiction and Quake's documentation, several other arcane tomes were indispensable while compiling this glossary:

Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, by Daniel Harms, Chaosium Fiction (1st edition, 1994).

Call of Cthulhu, by Sandy Peterson & Lynn Willis, Chaosium Inc. (3rd and 5th editions, 1986 & 1994).

Compiled by James V. Kracht. Quake is a trademark of id Software. Call of Cthulhu is a trademark of Chaosium Inc.