Archive for Gaming

Call of Cthulhu is not D&D

First, I am not attacking people who enjoy Dungeons and Dragons. It is simply an excellent example to illustrate my point.

There are a zillion pencil and paper RPG systems–of various genres and degrees of high and low genre. Personally, I love and prefer low regardless of genre.

That, my love of the Cthulhu Mythos, and my being introduced to it the year it was first published, is why I love Call of Cthulhu.

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Santa Claus (Avatar of Nodens)

A man dressed in a long, rough woolen gown, dyed red with white spots. A large white beard obscures much of his face. His head is adorned with a reindeer skull and antlers. He rides astride an eight-legged black reindeer. The animal's mouth is drawn in a hideous grimace, slobbering.

“He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.”

A Visit from St. Nicholas, Clement Clark Moore.

Alternative names: Berchtold, Bokkenrijder, Nikamund the Red. 

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Starers

A monster with a thin, spindly body and an enormous oval-shaped head. The head has no mouth and giant black eyes.

It never leaves me. Wherever I go, it follows me. Always watching. Always staring. At the office. At the park. Standing over my bed at night, those giant black eyes just inches from my face. I scream at it to do something, to kill me. It does nothing. I put my hands around its throat, trying to pull its bulbous head from its scrawny, skeletal body. It doesn’t even fight back. Just dies, staring me in the eyes the whole time. But it’s not over. It’s never over. I kill it, and there are two more a couple of days later. 

Alternative names: Those That Watch.

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Ke’ken

A giant flying insect, the bones of a human wrapped around it. The head of the bug is inside the skull, its thorax inside the rib cage. The skeleton is missing its pelvic bones and legs. The segmented abdomen protrudes from the bottom of the rib cage. Fly-like, translucent wings emerge from the back of the rib cage.

Through the graveyard, frantic digging could be heard. The ground shifted. Dozens of headstones fell, many into the pits that opened where once lay burial plots. We saw the skulls, then shoulders bones and rib cages push their way out of the stinking mud. Something was wearing the bones of people. Long, segmented legs hung between rib cages. A curled abdomen curled where the pelvic bones and legs once were. From the back sprouted gossamer wings. The creature chittered and clicked to one another, then flew into the night. 

Alternative names: Corpse Flies

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Illuminated

A man wearing loose, shimmering robes. Only his head and hands are exposed. He has aquiline features, pale eyes, and long white hair. Over his shoulder floats a metallic orb, about the size of a baseball.

Master Rirhi first appeared to bear witness and give testimony to the initiates in 1893. When he next imparted his wisdom to the initiates, this time in 1921, he appeared as he had decades before. No new line or spot marred his face. His alabaster hair had lost none of its lusters. Same for his eyes, brilliant azure, reflecting the infinite depths of his wisdom. The intervening years had not conspired to stoop him, no arthritis had entered his bones. His bearing was as regal and imperious as ever. The older initiates declared this was indeed a sign that his wisdom had lifted him up into divinity. From The All-Pervasive Teachings of Master Rirhi Unveiled, by Col. Raymond R. Cook (published 1930)

Alternative names: Ascended Masters, Chrononauts, Exalted Patrons, Secret Chiefs

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Hidebehind

A thin insect-like appendage, multi-segmented and terminating in claws, reaching out from behind a tree in the forest

We felt eyes on us for miles. We’d turn only to catch a glimpse of something slinking behind a tree. Later, I felt a tug on my collar. My shirt ripped as I spun. The leg or arm of a giant insect was curled around the tree, torn fabric held in its claws. Then it slithered back behind the tree. We ran. 

Alternative names: Grabbers

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Vestals of Ii-Ha

A tall female humanoid figure, wearing a long tunic. The tunic is decorated in arcane symbols in rows running up and down the length of the garment. She has four arms, two on each side. Each arm has multiple joints, segmented like an insect. From under the bottom of the tunic peek the ends of multiple insect-like legs. On their head they wear a veil that terminates just below the eyes, obscuring them. Under the veil, the face is dried and withered, the nose and lips missing, teeth exposed and gritted in a sinister grin.

It was something of a female figure, taller than any human, moving among the seeming infinite shelves of books. A finger traced the spines of the collected volumes, at the end of a misformed arm, segmented like that of an insect. A priest’s vestments hung from the being’s body. Across the gown were sigils I could not comprehend. Yet something inside of me roiled when I saw them. The creature floated as it moved. Sharp, thin feet, dozens of them, kicked from under the hem of the gown. I must have made some sort of noise. It turned toward me, a hiss coming from its skeletal face. It lifted a veil covering its eyes. The empty sockets began to glow. 

Alternative names: Canonesses of the True Face, Sisters of the Throne. 

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A Picture of a Rose

a plain black box

Alternative names: Langford’s Rose, Xithxrar’s Face

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Xaazenak

An immense, thin humanoid being slightly bent at the waist. It is nude and sexless. Its flesh appears to be made of bone. Two arms hang by its sides; there are no elbows on the arms, nothing connecting the wrist to the rest of the arm or the hands to the wrists. Palms face the viewer. From its back spread eight other arms, four on each side, extending like wings, each disjointed like the arms at its side. Its face is featureless save six narrow eyes, arraigned in two even, verticle rows. Atop its head is a crown-like flame.

It hurt the eyes just to look at the being. The air around it shimmered, like pavement on a hot summer day. There was no radiation, the scientists in charge assured us. The effect was due to thex being’s strange composition, they said. It was just a guess, though. They’d never been able to get a tissue sample. The colossal creature seemed to be made entirely of bone or something like it. Whatever it was, it’d proved too hard for the government’s tools to even chip. Immense chains binding it gave the illusion of security. No doubt if it awoke it would easily shrug them away. Even as it slept, it felt as though the being was reaching inside of our minds, weighing our sins, judging our worthiness. 

Alternative names: Angels, Cleansers of the Earth, Fires of the Elder Gods. 

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Phantoms of No Man’s Land

The Phantoms look like gasmask clad German infantry, soaked with mud, blood, and human waste through their uniforms, sometimes carrying the detritus of the battlefield tangled in their gear and flesh. They are peppered with bullet and shrapnel wounds, sometimes tangled in sections of barbed wire. Beneath their heavy uniforms and helmets, their corpse-white skin shows the damage of war and possibly their reassembly from unmatched corpses. Their gas masks adhere to their skulls like skin and removing them leaves a wet, grinning skull and staring eyes.

The play The King in Yellow has been introduced to the oddest and most inaccessible of places. One of those was the blood and fecal churned mud in the trenches of the Western Front. As soldiers reached out for any talisman, mascot, or gris-gris that might protect them from the random, impersonal death that haunted the mazes of entrenchments that stretched from Switzerland to the sea, more than one man on leave stumbled upon the Yellow Sign. Some thought them to be a variation of the popular Buddhist swastika that was found in great numbers on either side of No Man’s Land. Others believe them to be a good luck charm of Arabic origin. Whether found in a shop or sent in the mail by worried and superstitious family or friends, the Yellow Sign was not unknown in the trenches. And where the Yellow Sign Goes, the play The King in Yellow is sure to follow. Perhaps the manuscript arrives at the battalion HQ via the post from an anonymous sender. A play that might be performed in order to alleviate the boredom that settles in between the gargantuan efforts to shift the front a mile or two east? Maybe the pages arrive as nothing more than wadded packing around a shipment of preserved food sent from the hole? In any event, the play is here now and Carcosa will soon follow.

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