Thorough Investigators or Consequences of Violence
The following was submitted by Chick Lewis:
Early on I introduced them to a friendly and potentially-useful NPC near Cairo who knew friends of theirs, and who showed them his basement lab where he is busily trying to reanimate mummies, with no particular success. The NPC really just wants to talk to an ancient Egyptian. Fortunately the party decided not to kill him as a prophylactic measure - ("Anybody trying to raise the dead CAN'T be up to anything good ! ").
Not long afterward they discovered, in the intact tomb of Abeb Ma'at, an ancient papyrus, with hieroglyphics which translate "That which binds the demon Peraya Keku (Black Pharaoh, transliterated)". They had two phonetic translations made of the hieroglyphs, one by a high Coptic Church clergyman, and another by the worlds greatest modern expert on the Pharaonic language, in Turin, Italy (thanks Davide). The two versions differ greatly and frequently due to the fact that hieroglyphs generally don't include any vowels, so exactly how this spell should sound is still a mystery to the party. They do know that if they read it and don't have the sounds right, it will not function. So far, so good, they want to learn the incantation, but realize that at present they can't make it work.
Last game, having set them up pretty well, I thought, I let them encounter five shambling recently-reanimated mummies, deep in catacombs under ancient Meroe, in the Sudan. The mummies stumbled towards the party slowly, curiously, and made strange hissing and whistling noises to the investigators. What the mummies really wanted from the party was help getting back to the "other side" where they had been quite content, instead of being trapped in their old bodies in the dingy underground temple in which they found themselves.
Well, MY investigators KNOW what to do when one encounters walking dead, and trying to communicate with them is just not on the program. Soon oil was being poured on torches, and one mummy was burning quite nicely !! The other mummies shambled slowly away from the party, trying to protect themselves by covering their poor bandaged faces with their dry, sticklike arms. Nope, even though nobody had been attacked by the mummies, and they had presented no actual threat, the intrepid party of investigators BURNED ALL FIVE MUMMIES. As soon as one mummy flamed up, every player realized that he or she ALSO desperately needed to torch one. The last two mummies were ignited while huddled together in a corner, squatted down cowering on top of one another to get away from the flames. No mercy or curiosity was shown.
Rats, now I'm trying to figure out whether I should just let the game world end when the black pharaoh reappears, and nobody knows how to pronounce the binding spell, or whether I should figure out another way to get the phonetic information to the party.
Well, there is one possible way. The group found a book in the cultist's catacombs explaining cookbook-style how those mummies were raised (for practice) by the cultists, and they have access to the mummy of Abeb Ma'at, the righteous priest who banished Peraya Keku 4700 years ago. But raising mummies involves human sacrifice in exchange of spirits. That should be good for some serious sanity loss.
Ricardo Mendez replied:
Has anyone played a campaign _after_ the players screw up? That is, the cultists do succeed in finishing the unspeakable ritual, the unholy evil is released upon earth and all hell breaks loose. However bad things may go the world isn't going to go kaput in just the blink of an eye, so why shouldn't the investigators keep struggling in a world against them?
Peter Devlin replied:
>so exactly how this spell should sound is still a mystery to the >party... But raising mummies involves human sacrifice in exchange of spirits. That should be good for some serious sanity loss.
If you have game time to spend as I did, teach them an object lesson in the values of life and death. 5 disintegrated mummies = 5 souls doomed to wander the earth without returning to their proper afterlife. (OK, not strictly true to Egyptian occult but it works.) Have those souls (ba?) begin to terrorise the PCs who killed their mummy form. Dream sendings, plagues of insects, boils, toads et al, mysteriously rotted food, beds which grow mould overnight. You could even have one of them possessed for a time. The upside of all this is that via dreams or possession the PCs get familiar with the phonetics in question or they can have the possessed PC explain the proper pronunciation.
Force the PCs to seek ancient wisdom, perhaps in the form of a wise(?) old Egyptian man/woman who demands payment before rendering the service of sending the souls peacefully to the underworld. Payment? Assistance in a tomb robbing venture? Recovering an item stolen by French or English? Theft of an item from the Cairo musuem?
In our campaign Cairo and Alexandria are home to a N. African arms/drugs smuggling network and the crusading Copts from "Thoth's Dagger" as well as the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh. Any of these groups could point PCs towards a wise Egyptian patron, with the admonition to "bargain carefully".
Chuck Z replied:
> > 2>If the Great Old Ones exploit the same weaknesses over and over, couldn't that place them behind some of the biggest events in history, without having to expend much effort? You could always make a case for Hitler as being a plant (a shoggoth lord, maybe?) but I'm thinking about other events, more chaotic, less purposeful, to the point of being needless. WWI pops immediately to mind. Millions of people died, and in all honesty, for what?
I prefer to attribute these things to the lesser races. Mi-go, Shan, Serpent People, etc, etc, are all string pullers to some extent. I think the GOO aren't really intrested in human wars and whatnot, they allow cults to venerate them as a sort of "Layaway Plan" for the day when the stars are right and they need someone to throw wide the gates. If, as has been intimated in some stories, the GOO need sentient creatures to release them, who can they count on? Ghouls got a good thing going right now, they probably won't rock the boat. The Mi-go are having the time of their lives as they're the dominant alien race on the planet, if Big C and the boys get out they might want to start another turf war and that's bad for buisiness. If the Deep Ones were able to, surely they'd have sprung their boss the last time he came to the surface. The Shan may worship Azathoth, but I don't think they want to meet him outside the reactor room of their temples.
>Smacks of the Great Old Ones wanting to further human suffering to me.
As I read this I got a mental picture of a greasy cultist reading Rev. of Glaaki Vol. XII; a bloated, headless form appears and says " You read the book and I came, now you must return with me....taste my pleasures." Sorry, watched Hellraiser this morning.
> 3>Ok, this idea is a little more concert and less vague. If humans are malleable for the Great Old Ones, then why is that? I prefer to blame the Elder Things. I know we were supposedly created by accident by the crinoid ones, but what would it have taken them to come back early on and tinker with our genetic code, placing a set of triggers which to easily manipulate us? In 'At the Mountains of Madness' the Elder Things just seem to be scientists, but what about in 'Dreams in the Witch-House'? They appear to be pretty malovolent (I don't think I spelt that right) there. What exactly did happen to poor Gilman? Maybe it was the triggers in his brain they were manipulating. This, of course, totally blows away any sense of safety for anyone in CoC.
Don't forget, according to the dwellers in K'n-Yan, the Mi-go have been altering human evoloution for thousands of years, suppressing our natural and (if the K'n-Yanians are a indicator) formidable mental powers for their own purposes. Why? Perhaps at one time we were a race worthy of fear. Stop laughing and think about it, right under the Mi-go's noses (so to speak) we stopped throwing crap at each other, stood upright, and developed tools and language. What if we started developing these things because we exhibited incredible psychic powers and were stealing them right from the aliens minds? The Fungi may have decided to nip this burgening powerhouse in the bud, before we became competion. This would explain the incredible tech the natives of K'n-Yan possesed before their decadence.
> There are of course holes in all of this. Chuck Z already pointed out one:
> > Why isn't everyone in Lovecraft's world a cultist?
> > I would venture to guess that one of the Great Old Ones' motivations with humanity is to increase human suffering. If everyone was a cultist, it is likely that no one would be suffering. Most cultists overt schemes are always seem vengeful, spiteful and evil. I like to thing that cultists main schism with the rest of us is the fact they don't belong, and therefore want to 'get back at us.' If everyone was a cultist, there would be no one to get back at.
I think, if the GOO need us to release them, then they realize that everyone being a cultist would be bad for biz. I mean, we have wars over religious diffrences as it is, and no one really knows that there's a higher power out there rooting for them (that's why it's faith, right?). Can you imagine if everyone could chuck spells at people who didn't worship their patron entity? It wouldn't be long 'till we blasted ourselves back to the stone age or worse.
> And my final note (this goes along with another thread that has been floating around here) why do the Great Old Ones care?
> > Maybe we are viewed as an excellent source of POW, entertainment, cheap labor, breeding stock, and protein just the way we are.
> These are all good points. I think though, invariably, that to assign concrete motivations to the Great Old Ones is kind of like looking at the face of God--a complete mystery. What's the standard answer when people ask about the why's concerning God? "Our feeble human mind cannot even begin to comprehend why God does what he does. It's just part of his plan." I prefer to take that route, in the big picture, with the Great Old Ones. When you're talking about entities whose lives have spanned galaxies and millions of years, you could expect that much.
Just to be a Devil's Advocate here, whose to say that we couldn't understand what the GOO are trying to do? I mean, Sentience is sentience right? If Cthulhu sat me on his knee and paitently explained why this miserable mudball holds so much facination for him and his ilk, I 'd like to think I could understand the salient points of his reasoning. "I like basking on planets rich in Beta-Z radiation. So me and my buddies came here and built a religious commune (he's a priest) on what would later appear to be a tectonically unstable continent. I wasn't too keen on my neighbors. We got in some fights but they were pretty tough, so we all made nicey-nicey... for the moment anyway. Then I started sleeping like the dead, my house got flooded, and some jerk put a lock on the outside of my door. Last time I got out, I was so happy to see you fellas, I could just eat you up....so I did."
Fco. Javier Rubio replied:
There is a bit of it in the movie (4 what i recall the american title) 'At the mouth of madness').
Anyway we are doomed, aren't we? It is just a matter of time, more or less time, but the Stars will be right... soon...
Chuck Z replied:
Peter Devlin replied:
The first, 'Breeding Ground' is set in 1920's midwest America. It revolves around an unusual Shub-Niggurath cult and a supernatural disease epidemic. The plot contains elements not too dissimilar to George A Romero's 'Living Dead' movies, and has a well drawn difficult-to-dispose-of cult leader. I've referred this one (with a few changes) and most of the players had a rare old time. IMHO the scenario works well as a sudden descent into horror and madness and could catch many PCs by surprise.
The second, whose title escapes me, is set in 1920's Central America. It features Latin revolutionaries, US mercenaries, fruit company politics, ancient Indians and an avatar of Azathoth mangling platoons of troops. This scenario I haven't refereed as I found it impossible to mould to my PC group. IMHO the horror aspect of this one is also rather lacking but the background material is quite intriguing.
The third scenario (again I can't remember the title) is set in 1990's Antarctica in a scientific research station. Predictably (and unnecessarily) it borrows its early stages from Carpenter's 'The Thing'. The protagonists are the MiGo, up to their usual tricks. For me this scenario is redeemed by the final stage, set inside Charon, an artificially-created moon orbiting Pluto / Yuggoth. This is to be used as an assault vehicle for getting masses of MiGo to Earth. I haven't refereed this one although I plan to use chunks of the material at some point in the near future. More SF than horror but with good ideas.
I've yet to see anyone publish material for a 'stars are right' campaign. The nearest would be 'Delta Green' and the forthcoming 'Countdown' which deal with a 1990's run up to the end times. Check out the BB+C link below for one idea for a post-holocaust horror campaign, and the SA archives should contain a discussion on similar topics from some months back.
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