Sunday, September 20, 2015

Nameless Cults III


I hated Morlocks until I remembered this movie.
OK: Everybody knows what Cthulhu's about, we've all read the books. You can buy a plush stuffed one. Nobody cares to read some purple prose about frolicking in the swamps and atavistic rites. I'll save us all the trouble.

So for me, These guys work a bit differently. Cthulhu's worshippers are not a special church unto themselves, just a gathering of demi-humans and beasts only held together by their common "religion," a strong leader and probably psychic domination or brainwashing. I use wild men, subhumans, goatmen, morlocks and any other grubby, dumb humanoids for my Cthulhu cultists. They can still be encountered in their own context and groups, but when a cult is called for I just roll up a pack of these guys as I normally would.

Then I add:

1 - A charismatic leader. As long as he is in action, the cultists have morale 12. If he is killed/KOd/captured, the remaining cultists' morale is reduced to 1 less than normal. He could be the same type of creature as the rest of the cult, or something different. Have fun with it!

2 - An ancient graven idol with mysterious properties. In Realms of Crawling Chaos, we have this:

"Through the idol, any worshipper with a PS of 14 or higher may concentrate and communicate with Cthulhu in the form of images and feelings. However, there is a 30% chance that Cthulhu lashes out with a psionic attack of the referee's choosing."

And these idols are described as being eight inches tall! That doesn't turn me on even a little bit.

I want to see morlocks hauling twenty-ton slabs of stone around the dungeon with legions of slaves straining under the whip, or some goatmen building a new one with moon-rocks they bought from the rugose cone monsters on level 8, who control the moon-teleporter. Here are some fun properties for BIG Cthulhu idols. All of these effects work on anyone within sight unless otherwise stated:

1 - Curse, Unhallow, Protection from Law, etc -  OK starting with an easy one. As the spell description, pick anything out of your own list. Stronger and more numerous cults will have better spells on their idols, and this one is great to combine with the other effects. Basically just an excuse to make the day a few percentage points tougher.

2 - Mind Control - This idol radiates the alien willpower of the Ancient Ones. Save vs. spell or join the cult and try to kill your friends. Get another save when the idol is out of sight. Every 24 hours spent near the idol gives you a cumulative -1 penalty to save, until eventually your mind is completely enslaved. Remove Curse should cure this, or at least give you another saving throw.

3 - Radioactive - Whatever that idol is carved from, it's not safe to be around. Lose 1 point of CON for every minute spent nearby. Could be just line-of-sight, or it might affect a whole dungeon level, with the rate of CON loss slower the farther away you get (how realistic do you want to be?). This damage cannot be healed by normal means: restoration or similar magic is needed. The cultists with an idol like this will all be emaciated near-zombies with glowing eyes. Brittle-boned and sick, but immune to fear and totally insane.

4 - Reanimator - Any sentient being (cultist, adventurer, bystander, really smart dog) that dies near the idol and remains there for 2d4 rounds will rise as a zombie and attack anyone not identified as a cult member. Remember zombies are stupid and can't ask questions, so the signifier has to be visually obvious. They have to die in the idol's presence though and remain there for the whole time - so gravedigging won't work.

5 - Non-Euclidean - Angles and directions go completely to shit in the presence of this idol. Aimed ranged attacks of any kind (spells, thrown weapons, arrows, etc) have a flat 50/50 chance to scatter in a random direction. DEX or WIS checks every few rounds or fall over from disorientation. The entrances and exits to the room all connect to different parts of the dungeon (this could be a quick way to get around, if you can get past all the cultists). Doors appear and disappear, or circulate between walls, floor and ceiling. Have fun with it. Of course the cultists are acclimatized.

6 - Ennui / Where is your God now? - This one stings! Clerics of any gods/entities other than the Ancient Ones cannot draw power from their deities near this idol. No spells, no turn undead, no special abilities. Lawful beings save vs. spell (with a penalty for high WIS, and a bonus for low) or feel the despair and meaninglessness of living in an amoral mechanistic universe, suffering -3 on attacks, saves and morale checks due to a feeling of "why bother?" Beings that don't understand religion or already have a philosophy like this might be exempted. Remember they don't have Existentialism, the scientific method or Nietzsche in D&D-land, although if your game does I'd love to hear about it.

7 - Cosmic Transmitter - The idol is a focus for contacting another planet or dimension: Carcosa, the moon, the Abyss, Yuggoth, fucking Krynn, whatever you like (heretofore referred to as the Place). It might be random every time the idol is used, or an idol might be fixed to one location. When something cool or powerful happens nearby (battles, sacrifices, cult rituals, spells that deal with conjuration or changing the fabric of reality probably) roll 1d20, and in 1d6 rounds something happens: 

Cosmic Transmitter (1d20):

1-14 - Nothing
15 - Contact Other Plane on being with highest INT or WIS.
16 - Contact Other Plane on being with lowest INT or WIS.
17 - Being with highest INT or WIS is granted a vision of the Place, and rendered catatonic for 1d6 rounds while their mind wanders the unfamiliar terrain. May learn something useful.
18 - Random being within sight of the Idol is mind-invaded by a resident of the Place - save vs. spells, or psychic combat ensues. If you don't have psionic rules, it's time for Invasion of the Body-snatchers.
19 - 1d8 beings from the Place appear: they know no master.
20 - 1d4 beings from the Place appear: they obey the closest Chaotic being with high INT or WIS.
21 - 1d4 beings closest to the idol are instantly transported to the Place.
22 - 1d4 random beings within sight are instantly transported to the Place.
23 - A Gate is opened. It stays open for 1d4 rounds, and anybody can pass through it either way during that time.
24+ - A Gate is opened. It stays open for 2d10 rounds, and anybody can pass through it either way during that time.


+0 - battle with up to 10 participants, 1st-4th level spell, 1-5 humanoid sacrifices, simple rituals,
+1 - 20 person battle, 5th level spell, 10 sacrifices
+2 - 30 person battle, 6th level spell, 20 sacrifices, elaborate rituals,
+3 - 40 person battle, 7th level spell, 30 sacrifices
+5 - 50 person battle, 8th level spell, 40 sacrifices, difficult or dangerous rituals
+7 - 60+ person battle, 9th level spell, 50+ sacrifices, rituals with very rare or expensive or dangerous components.

Or just wing it.

8 - Slime - Idol transforms living sacrifices, after the appropriate ritual, into slimes, oozes, jellies and the like. Pick whichever you want from your monster book, or roll randomly, these are the ones I use in my game (there is no point in having 10 different slime/ooze/jelly creatures - honestly even six is too much). Also, the idol is covered in a sticky, dripping snail-trail type coating which has the touch effects of one of these slimes. Re-rolling every time somebody touches it would be fun.

1 - gelatinous cube
2 - black pudding
3 - green slime
4 - corpse jelly
5 - ochre jelly*
6 - shoggoth

Hit Dice of the slime should be equal to those of the sacrificed creature, and if it has less than normal, damage dealt can be reduced in proportion. Sacrifices could be combined to make a bigger slime, possibly higher than the normal maximum in the book - this would be a fun way to surprise players who have seen it all, or as an awesome/terrible mistake made by a monomaniacal cultist: "I'll make the BIGGEST gelatinous cube in the world! Wait, don't eat me! Nooooo....!" You get the idea.

*I used to think ochre jellies were stupid, until I read the description and it says they are giant amoebas. How could I possibly NOT include that in my game? A massive single-cell monster with pseudopods, just blobbing around the dungeon for millions of years, since the origin of life. So I just crossed out "Ochre Jelly" and wrote "Giant Amoeba" in the book.

Now BLAST this track while looking at the kind of thing I'm talking about:

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