Flash Fiction: Sludge

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The Sun Is Sick (Austin Osman Spare)

We’d been trudging through the treacherous sludge of the Louisiana bayou for nigh on a fortnight, when we came to the clearing. Boudreaux, our guide, stopped us outside the stone circle.

“I do not go into this place,” he said. “It is cursed.”

At the time, I laughed off Boudreaux’s melodramatic warning. I did not laugh when we found the heathen idol on its crimson stained altar, its bulbous outline depicting the hideous features of a membranous winged monstrosity. And as I compile my notes, here in the British Museum’s archives, it begins to glow with a pale, unearthly luminescence.

~100 words

via Daily Prompt: Sludge

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Clues As Fate Aspects

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I have some shocking news, GMs. You are not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and your players are not Sherlock Holmes. So when you run a mystery, you should save yourself, and your players, the frustration of expecting your players to just, somehow “get it”. Yes, it’s great when someone puts 2 and 2 together (that’s 22, right?), but those moments are the exception rather than rule, and can only serve to highlight good mystery planning, rather than being relied upon to drive the plot forward.

This is for the simple reason that no one can see inside your head. GMs who are in all other cases highly descriptive when it comes to hack n’ slash dungeon crawls, will all too often suddenly expect players to read their minds when it comes to a horror/mystery like Call of Cthulhu. In order for players to put together the pieces of this intricate puzzle, you have to stop holding out on giving them the pieces.

Continue reading “Clues As Fate Aspects”

Call of Cthulhu Creature Spotlight: The Ghoul

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There was one thing called “The Lesson”—heaven pity me, that I ever saw it! Listen—can you fancy a squatting circle of nameless dog-like things in a churchyard teaching a small child how to feed like themselves? The price of a changeling, I suppose—you know the old myth about how the weird people leave their spawn in cradles in exchange for the human babes they steal. Pickman was shewing what happens to those stolen babes—how they grow up—and then I began to see a hideous relationship in the faces of the human and non-human figures. He was, in all his gradations of morbidity between the frankly non-human and the degradedly human, establishing a sardonic linkage and evolution. The dog-things were developed from mortals!

Pickman’s Model, H.P. Lovecraft

Surpassed only by the Deep Ones among Call of Cthulhu RPG minions, Ghouls are truly a Keeper favorite. When the Investigators dare to get on a boat, or shamble through the mid-morning mist of Innsmouth, send a Deep One. When the Investigators go skulking around subterranean caverns, or prowling around cemeteries at night, well, a slavering pack of Ghouls cannot be far behind.

These creatures originate in Arabic folklore where they are called ghūls. Ghouls dwell in burial grounds, and are eaters of the dead, a trait which they maintain throughout western fiction and roleplaying games, including the Lovecraft mythos. In Arabic folklore, they are sons of Iblis, the chief of the evil Jinni. In Lovecraft’s fiction, their origin is perhaps even more sinister, for they, as the quote above describes, are humans twisted and mutated by some dark and ancient means, known only to ghoul-kind.

I like to recommend Pickman’s Model to first time reader’s of Lovecraft’s stories for two reasons: it is short, and it gives all of the creeping dread that is so emblematic of Lovecraft’s fiction. And, like The Outsider, it has a bit of a twist at the end, one whose horror is not at all diminished if you happen to see it coming.

via Daily Prompt: Ghoulish