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.
On the one hand, as Carcosa begins to manifest, the sector of the front will grow quieter and quieter. German artillery, no matter how much might be fired from behind the lines, arrives less and less frequently. Snipers seem to be less and less resolute in their mission until one can ultimately sit atop the parapet unmolested. Elements of the dug-out and bunkers that honey-comb the front like the chambers of an anthill begin to acquire objects from Carcosa. Fine China and silver tea sets appear, replacing tin mess kits. Gold cigarette cases, ivory snuff boxes, and jeweled watches can be found among even the basest Tommy’s possessions. Phonographs play “Cassilda’s Song” rather than “It’s a long way to Tipperary.” Bare wooden floors are found to be covered with elegantly woven rugs of fine quality. The food even improves. Rather than a ceramic jug holding the company Rum ration, a crystal decanter is found holding an unidentifiable vintage. In many ways, the men see nothing amiss. Forced to confront the change most simply accept that “things have gotten better, not worse” and accept the inexplicable changes. After all, casualties have dropped to near zero. No one’s been killed or wounded in days, maybe weeks.
Of course, near zero isn’t zero. And while no one has been killed or wounded, that doesn’t mean that some soldiers haven’t gone missing. The source of these missing men is the Phantoms of No Man’s Land.
Emerging from the blasted landscape between the lines, these figures stalk forward wearing the livery of the enemy, looking at first like the trench-fighters and stormtroopers of the German Army. However, they have already given their lives for their country and now serve not their previous Kaiser und Vaterland, but a different King and a different country. They come covered in the mud of Niemandsland and reeking of the grave. Their faces are submerged behind dehumanizing and goggle-eyed gas masks, but like the Phantom of Truth, they wear no mask. The gas masks are not held on with straps. They merge with the meat of the faces they envelop. Their weapons are choked with mud and do not fire, but their bayonets can still cut, and their brass rifle butts can still smash. They wield their folding entrenching tools like battle axes and carry a variety of trench clubs. Some improvised. Some issued. A few carry hand grenades that still work.
They begin their silent work a night, like trench-raiders, sneaking up on isolated sentries and capturing them, dragging them back into No Man’s Land. They do not speak, even among themselves, but work with perfect coordination. But as Carcosa manifests itself more and more in the area, the Phantoms will ultimately begin “the Big Push.” Under cover of a cloud of yellow gas that advances before them, hundreds, if not thousands of Phantoms will emerge from the darkness of the night to over-run the infected unit’s position and carry off as many soldiers to their new home, in the hands of a living god.
Char rolls average
STR 2d6+6 13
CON 3d6+6 16
SIZ 2d6+6 13
INT 1d6 3-4
POW 1d6 3-4
DEX 2d6 7
Average Damage Bonus: +1d4
Attacks: Rifle mounted Bayonet 35% damage 1d8 +1 +db
Rifle Butt 35% damage 1d8 +db
Hand-held Bayonet 35% damage 1d6 +db
Entrenching tool 35% damage 1d4 +db
Trench club 35% damage 1d6 +db
Stahlgrenade 35% damage 4d6, 4 yard radius *
Grapple 35% damage special
Punch 60% damage 1d3 +db
Kick 35% damage 1d6 +db
Headbutt 20% damage 1d4 +1(helmet) +db
Armor: None, but all wear German stahlhelm helmets worth 2 points. Impaling weapons only do 1 point of damage per hit. All other weapons do ½ damage. They are immune to poison, disease, and suffocation.
Skills: Listen 35%, Spot Hidden 35%, Sneak 50%, Hide 50%, Throw 35%
Sanity Loss: -1/1d6 when revealed as inhuman
Special effect: Always accompanied by a cloud of yellow gas that appears, at first, to resemble Mustard Gas. However, this fog acts more like Chlorine gas, smothering the target rather than infliction the acid-like burns of Mustard Gas. Anyone exposed to the gas, not wearing a gas mask or isolated oxygen supply begins suffering the effects of the Drowning Rules. The yellow cloud also limits the vision of those it envelops. Someone wearing a gas mask will also have their vision impaired. Spot Hidden skill will be reduced by half. Ranged combat is affected so that all ranges are considered one range class longer. Dex-range combat (where the target is closer than the attacker’s Dex rating in feet) is resolved without the normal bonus. Combat within the weapon’s base range is considered to be beyond the base range and must be resolved at half the attacker’s skill level. The Phantom’s sight is unaffected by the cloud, but they do not use ranged weapons. A few still carry German-issue Stahlgrenades, known to the allies as the “potato masher.”
*The grenade only detonates properly if a Luck roll is made. Otherwise, it is a dud. If a Luck roll is fumbled, the grenade explodes as soon as the fuse is activated.
Artist Description: 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.