Once Men on Sale

•July 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

My science fiction/horror book for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, One Men, is now on sale.

You can buy it here.

Once Men Monograph

•July 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I recently completed the Once Men monograph for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

This work provides science fiction rules for Call of Cthulhu as well as four adventures set in the future. Naturally enough, writing a science fiction supplement for a universe based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos proved to be a challenging endeavor.

Lovecraft does include references to the future in some of his stories. Four of these are the “Shadow Out of Time”, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”, and “In the Walls of Eryx.”

In the “Shadow out of Time”, Lovecraft provides a few tantalizing comments about the future of humanity. As the story recounts, Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee’s mind is exchanged with that of one of the Great Race of Yith. While his mind is in the distant past, he encounters other human minds from various epochs. Among these are three men from the future. The first is Nevil Kingston-Brown, an “Australian physicist…who will die in 2,518 A.D.” The second is Yiang-Li who is “a philosopher from the cruel empire of Tsan-Chan, which is to come in 5,000 A.D.” The third is Nug-Soth, “a magician of the dark conquerors of 16,000 A.D.”

The story also related that a hardy coleopterous race would be humanity’s immediate successor on earth. Unfortunately for that race of beetles, they will eventually be taken over by the minds of the Great Race. The final race on earth, at least according to the story, will be an arachnid one. While no specific dates are provided, it is suggested that these events lie in the far distant future.

In “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, Lovecraft mentions that Pickman Carter “would use strange means in repelling the Mongol hordes from Australia” in 2169. This is the only mention of future events in the story.

In “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”, Lovecraft also mentions the cruel empire of Chan-Tsan. In this story, the empire is said to arise 3,000 years after the winter of 1900-1901.

The short story “In the Walls of Eryx”, tells of a future in which humanity has landed on Venus in order to mine crystals. Of course, there is the obvious worry that this story does not seem to be part of the Mythos and hence cannot be taken as providing more insight into the future hinted at in the other two stories.

Some have taken the stories “The Crawling Chaos”, “Nyarlathotep”, and “The Fungi From Yugoth” to suggest that Nyarlathotep will bring about the end of humanity and perhaps the earth. No specific dates are provided for these events, but (given “The Shadow Out of Time”) the end of man must take place after 16,000 A.D. and the earth must endure at least through the time of the arachnid race.

This lack of detail about the future was both a boon and a bane when it came to writing this work. On the negative side, the lack of detail means that the future had to be created almost whole cloth and with few guides as to what Lovecraft might have intended or envisioned. On the positive side, the lack of details allowed a broad field in which to operate. Since I have been consistent with the few available details and the spirit of Lovecraft’s stories, it would be difficult for a critic to plausibly say “that is not what Lovecraft would have intended.”

In this work, I do not even pretend to try to guess as to what Lovecraft truly had in mind in regards to the future of man. My main goal has been to present a future consistent with Lovecraft’s stories and the spirit of his works.

In terms of the game aspects, I elected to stick with two key assumptions of the Call of Cthulhu game. First, it is assumed that while man is truly nothing before the ultimate power of the Mythos, humanity is still worth protecting. While mankind cannot be permanently saved, moments of peace and islands of sanity can be carved out of the uncaring and horrific universe.

Second, it is not the “stuff” (weapons, vehicles, and gadgets) that matters most. Rather the story and the role-playing are what matter. The future setting is just that-a setting intended to provide a new twist to the game. Naturally, it is tempting to overload a game set in the future with amazing technology. However, I think that Alien, Firefly and even Star Trek have shown that science fiction is often at its best when the technology is a backdrop for the characters and plot rather than the star of the show. As in the standard Call of Cthulhu game, it is clever thinking, good planning and some luck that will win the day. To change a classic question just a bit: ‘what happens when you nuke Cthulhu from orbit?” The answer is, of course, “he reforms, but now he is radioactive. Make a Sanity check.”

The players’ kits can be downloaded here:

“An Unexpected Return”

“Dust” & “The Ship that Waits”

“Once Men”

Keeper of the Woods

•March 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In 1721 Daniel Brown purchased a plot of land on the coast of what would become Maine. Although his father had been locally famous as a failed farmer, Daniel was rather successful in business and managed to expand his holdings with each passing year. Unlike many colonials, Brown was on excellent terms with the native inhabitants and availed himself of their knowledge of local conditions and other matters.

When the colonies rebelled against Britain, the Brown family joined the revolution. Andrew Brown was killed in the war, but his younger brother Samuel survived and the family thrived as the fledging nation became involved in lucrative trading and whaling endeavors. The Brown family maintained its friendly relations with the natives and this caused them some trouble when young Joshua Brown wrote several tracts condemning America’s treatment of the Apache, Dakota and other tribes during the late 1800s. Joshua created a further stir by attempting legal action against the government on the basis that the United States had violated its own treaties.

Joshua’s actions had little positive effect and led to an attempt on his life that left him lame. Thwarted in these efforts, he was determined to take some action. Having been influenced by the new fangled notion of conservation, Joshua became determined to help preserve the bounty of nature. A naturally curious man, he turned to many strange sources and learned many unusual things.

In 1911 Joshua donated a large portion of the family land to the state of Maine. The land was to be maintained in perpetuity as a public park that would be free of development. He named the pond on the land after his beloved wife, Ellie.

In 1923 Joshua realized that he was nearing the end of his life. Although his family seemed to support his views of conservation, he was worried that time might change things. So, he took a rather dramatic step. Using a ritual he had learned from a wise and ancient sage of the woods, he transformed himself in a way that melded his human flesh and bone with plant matter. This alteration would permit him to endure for centuries and would provide him the strength he might need to protect the woods he so dearly loved.

From 1923 onward Joshua remained the hidden guardian of the woods of Joshua Brown Park. Those who worked in the park noticed that the trees seemed unusually healthy and well tended. They also noticed that the trails were mysteriously well maintained and kept free of litter. Since this made their job much easier, the workers thought it best not to comment on this and attributed these things to eccentric locals.

Download: Keeper of the Woods

A Little Things

•March 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The 12th century Scholastic philosopher John Belton, developed the theory that the life energy of a creature, which he called the spark, could move a shell of metal or wood as easily as it moved the body. He further theorized that the spark could be somehow utilized as a source of energy-although he argues that using the “spark like a mere piece of wood for fuel” would be an affront to God. Other thinkers followed Belton and some investigated the matter unhindered by Belton’s moral sense. In the early 1900s an Englishman named Harold Greshem was working on a theory about the life energy of living creatures when he came across Belton’s works. Delving deeper, he came across works that went into greater detail and encountered some works that had links to the Mythos and its alien sciences. Utilizing his findings, he designed several devices intended to capture and store said life energy in the way a battery stores electrical energy. Greshem decided to conduct his experiments in a big way-he constructed several apartment houses in London in 1910 and equipped them with various versions of his “batteries.” He then arranged for people to die in the houses and examined the results. Unfortunately for Greshem, the authorities were somehow able to connect him with some of the deaths and him and his fellows were arrested in London. His houses were troubled places for years; at least until the Nazi bombings in WWII destroyed all but one of them. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, Greshem had corresponded extensively with like minded people in Europe and America. Many of these people, such as the American Brunholt (see the adventure “The Brunholt Head”) came to bad ends. One of the people Greshmen corresponded with was a rather untalented self-proclaimed inventor named Joseph Range. Range was convinced that his soul would perish when he died and was terribly afraid of this occurring. As such, he became obsessed with finding ways to extend his life. While Range was singularly unskilled at invention, he was rather good at investigating old texts and myths-so much so that he eventually, after many years, managed to acquire a Mi-Go brain cylinder containing the brain of a true inventor-a being the Mi-Go had acquired on one of their many forays to other worlds. Through the use of threats and punishments, Range got the brain to design various devices which he patented and sold. Ironically, the best inventions were regarded as preposterous impossibilities and rejected. Using the money from selling the patents he helped fund a group dedicated to developing a way to preserve the spark of life after death. In his final years Range became morbidly obsessed with surviving death and remaining in the physical world. Using Greshem’s diagrams, the aid of his fellows and the intellect of his prisoner, he managed to design a fairly crude device for holding his spark after he died. In his last few months, he spent his fortune preparing the means of his survival. He purchased a plot of land and had a large house constructed on the site with a secret underground complex in which he would remain. He was sealed in the secret complex by a loyal colleague and, upon his death, his spark was drawn into the device. He had planned that his fellows would continue to refine their devices until his spark could be placed in a suitable shell and he would not need to siphon the energy of others to remain in existence. However, his group’s rather nefarious activities attracted the attention of a group of investigators and most of them were slain. Since then Range has remained trapped in his secret chamber feeding on the life of others and unable to die.   

Download: A Little Things

Clean Up, Aisle Four!

•March 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In the ancient days when the earth was young, a cosmic object impacted the atmosphere and rained metal down upon the earth. This alien metal had a variety of bizarre qualities one of which was that it weakened the metaphysical veil between this reality and other realms. One chunk of the strange metal ended up buried in the earth under what is now the Massachusetts town of Weyport. For untold centuries the metal rested there, allowing interaction between our realm and a realm inhabited by nightmarish creatures. Fortunately, the area was not inhabited for many years. When the first humans arrived in the area, they eventually encountered the creatures that were able to visit our room. Realizing that these horrid beings were limited to a certain area, these people wisely avoided the region and passed on this warning to others. In 1623 a band of Englishmen were given a charter to form a colony.

 

Unfortunately for them, they chose to establish their initial settlement in the area that was influenced by the strange metal. Disaster was almost averted when one of the natives of the region noticed the smoke from the settlement and bravely entered the area to warn them. The leader of the settlement dismissed his warning as the mere ramblings of a savage. With sadness in his heart, the brave man left the area after making one last plea. Things went reasonably well at the settlement until one night predators from the other realm became aware of the presence of the settlers. Caught by surprise, the settlers were quickly slaughtered and devoured; leaving behind an empty settlement that seemed like the inhabitants had just stepped out. When the next ship arrived, they found the empty settlement. Suspecting that hostile natives had killed the first settlers, the second group sent the women to an established colony and, after arming themselves, the men set out in search of revenge. Unable to find anyone on which to take their revenge, they returned to the empty settlement and decided to start a few fires at night in the hopes of luring in those responsible for the lost settlers. Unfortunately for Clean Up, Aisle four! Page 2 of 12 them, they succeeded: the creatures were drawn back to the settlement to slaughter the men. A small scouting party from the established colony went to the settlement and found it abandoned once again. They decided it was best to simply leave the area alone and departed, leaving the rough buildings to fall into decay.

 

Shortly after this, Mi-Go scouts detected the presence of the metal in the area. The Mi Go had various uses for the strange metal and actively sought it. Having dealt with such areas before, the Mi-Go were prepared. They arrived in the area during the day, knowing that the sunlight prevented the creatures from entering into earth’s realm. The Mi-Go buried devices within the earth to disrupt the emanations of the alien metal, thus preventing the creatures from entering into the realm of earth. Thus protected, the Mi-Go mined out most of the metal and then departed the area. In 1697 Charles Wey, a down on his luck English adventurer, learned of the failed settlement and managed to talk his way into the ownership of the charter for the area. He found the ruins of the previous settlement as well as the excavations of the Mi-Go. Despite the area’s bad reputation, he was eventually able to persuade enough people to move to the area, thus creating a viable colony.

 

The colony eventually grew and became what is now the town of Weyport. While the Mi-Go devices remained and kept the dwellers of the other reality from entering the realm of earth, under certain conditions, such as violent lightning storms at night, people would occasionally see flickering and dim visions of the creatures of the other realm. These sightings gave the area a reputation for being haunted, which actually helped its tourist industry. However, this all changed when Cheryl Pik, owner of the Zipp N’ Pik chain of convenience stores, bought the town’s gas station and had it modernized. During construction one of the Mi- Go devices was unearthed and taken by one of the workers, thus enabling the veil to be parted in that area. Eventually the convenience store was completed and opened. Nothing happened for the first twenty-seven days. Then, one night creatures from the other realm crossed, quite by accident, into the convenience store area. Ever hungry, they attacked, killed and consumed all they encountered and then returned entirely to their realm as the solar radiation caused the veil between realms to rise again. In the morning, the day shift arrived to find the store empty. They called the police who discovered that in addition to the night shift several other people were missing-their cars were abandoned in the lot, one of them with the nozzle from a gas pump still in its tank.  

Download: Clean Up, Aisle Four!

The Bad Place

•March 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In 1744 in the course of unholy research, Andrew Kensworth stumbled across a reference to “magicke stones” in what is now Maine. Through further research he learned that these stones would allegedly grant “a greatly extended existence” at the cost of human sacrifice-specifically a “praktitioner of magickes.” Desiring to extend his life, Kensworth tricked one of his associates, Andrew Moore, into accompanying him to the new world. Though it took three years of searching, Kensworth and Moore eventually found the stones. Believing that any sacrifice would suffice, Moore helped Kensworth capture two victims and accompanied him to the stones anticipating his participation in the life-extending ritual. Much to his dismay, Moore found, as Kensworth stabbed him in the belly, that his role in the ritual was as the sacrifice. In accord with the ritual, Kensworth burned Moore alive and scattered his ashes between the stones.

When the ritual was complete, the ashes burned down into the soil, creating a permanent dead area. Not realizing that it was Moore who now had an extended life (of a terrible sort), Kensworth left the area, planning to lure another wizard there in the hopes of extending his life even more. Fortunately for the world, Kensworth ran afoul of an even more evil wizard who drained his life energy into a crystal and then used his bones to make a coat rack. Trapped within the ash, Moore’s life energy writhed in torment, lusting for vengeance and burning with mindless hatred. Unable to take any action, Moore’s hatred and lust remained impotent for centuries. When the town of Catheway started to grow, some of the locals came across the dead area. They found the area disturbing and it became an area of mystery. Eventually the dead area was mostly forgotten, but a few tales remained.

Download: The Bad Place

Window of the Mind

•March 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Occam’s Razor tells us not to multiply entities beyond necessity. The flip side of Occam’s Razor tells us that if our theory requires an entity to work, then we can postulate that entity. The physics the old doctor had worked out required the existence of dimensions adjacent to our own and accessible to it. It was up to my research team to test his claim empirically, using what our detractors called a mix of super science and witchcraft.  

Download: Window of the Mind

 
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