Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Terrible Horrible Beauty and Wonder

It looks so much better in person

S. Petersen's Field Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors makes the Mythos beautiful. This isn't just because of the fantastic art (which is top-tier, top-notch, top-shelf, and top-gun) but for the special way that the art combines with the text, and how that can then be applied.

You see, the Field Guide is written as an in-universe text (complete with fake citations, one of the top 3 ways to pander directly to me) compiled by scholars of the preternatural at good old Miskatonic U. As such, they're significantly more enthusiastic and open-minded about the whole deal - the topics of their study are handled with excitement and curiosity, though still with great care: most can still kill you quite easily. It's closer to how a naturalist would talk about a tiger, or a dinosaur, or something else of that nature

The titular horror has been approached as a living thing, unstuck from the limits and attitudes of its original incarnation. The reaction provided by the text isn't "run away, hide, go insane, and die, in that order if you're lucky" - it's "here's what we know, isn't that neat?"

In short, everything is terrible and horrible, but beautiful and wondrous too: Here's the information, go where you want and extrapolate what you will.

Which is just what I'm going to do. Buckle up, we're doing some setting extrapolation.

The Most Important Fact in the Entire Mythos

Australian physicist Nevil Kingston-Brown dies in 2518. This means that Australia, the profession of physicist, the structures necessary for the previous two things to exist, and boring-ass white guys (alas) still exist on Earth up until at least that date. There is no need to panic.

Re: Elder Things

  • There are still Elder Thing settlements on Earth's ocean floor.
  • Descendant sub-species exist out among their abandoned and collapsed colonies. 
    • [Which may, like their progenitors, be relatively-comprehensible to humanity.]
  • At least one known incident of seeding life on a colony world (see: Earth)
    • [Thus, through action or accident, there is cause to think there might be more planets out there that ended up the same way. No guarantees, but the possibility of alien life more on our level.]

Re: Yithians

  • A cult exists to protect and facilitate Yithian travelers when they are in a modern era.
  • The cult maintains an active trade of information and technology with the Yithians.
    • [This isn't a cult, this is sensible people acting sensibly and diplomatically. This is the foot in the door.]

Re: Byakhee

  • Possess an organ which facilitates flight, capable of reaching 0.1 C in vacuum.
  • Said organ can also facilitate causality-maintaining faster-than-light travel at a speed of ~ 1.1 ly/day, for relatively low energy requirements.
    • [Seriously, they can break lightspeed and only end up really, really hungry.]


Re: Mi-Go

  • Are in possession of a sizable interstellar civilization.
    • [Seem to have replaced the Elder Things as the dominant power in local space. Overlap possible, co-existence probability unknown]
  • Only interested in Earth for some rare-earth mining operations, willing to employ and consult with humans to maintain secrecy and security. 
    •  Certainly not entirely trustworthy (see: brain canisters), but they seem to favor worlds inimical to human life and going about their business.]


Re: Deep Ones

  • Biologically immortal - their bodies simply don't break down.
  • Originated on Earth, have hybridized with humans and dolphins.
    • [DNA is thus no stranger than any other Earth-based life, splicing possible]
  • Can hibernate for decades, burning off most body mass to survive without nourishment. 
  • Hybrids gradually show more traits before full transofmration, but not all achieve metamorphosis. Specific stimuli or genetic markers might halt full transformation.
    • [Hello CRISPR]
  • Significant and widespread civilization in the oceans, but maintain connection to human coastal settlements for purposes of reproduction.
    • [Perhaps they need us. Perhaps they are sterile on their own.]

Re: Ghouls

  •  Specifically human-derived, means currently unknown.
    • [Similar in traits to those transformed by Ithaqua. Potential link?]
    • [Similar in traits to ghasts. Potential link?]
    • [The state of carnivorous undeath seems malleable in humans.]

Re: Shoggoths

  • Have been domesticated by Deep Ones and Elder Things.
  • Can be conditioned to grow in specified organ-patterns.
    • [Primary danger seems to be conditioning/programming breakdowns. Proceed with great caution, akin to AI development].

So Where Does This Lead Us? 

  • Yithian technology and deep-time knowledge is the foot in the door and the first step to getting off of Earth before the eventual end-date.
  •  Alliance with the Elder Things possible, though I cannot say if it's probable, as it is not explicitly stated if we have anything they want. They may be willing to part with some technical knowledge in exchange for assistance in reaching their old colony worlds.
  • Trade deals and diplomatic agreements can be made with the Mi-Go. Even with the brain in a jar thing, humans are typically a lot worse to other humans than the bugs are.
  • Deep-One hybridization on the small scale should be possible through gene-engineering. Further interaction with the Deep Ones via hybrid proxies can be used in conjunction with Elder Thing knowledge to gain (relatively) safe shoggoth usage.
  • A shoggoth could potentially / should be able to replicate a byakhee's flight organ. (It's easier than catching and maintaining a domestic population in Earth orbit) The terrible hunger caused by FTL usage can be offset through solar or nuclear energy sources.
  • Ghouls and Hybrids can be used as vanguards for long-distance or high-danger expeditions.
And this is without touching the Dreamlands, or half the other things in the book, or all the stuff in my other CoC books, or half of the other potentials that could be here.

Humans being humans, every step here will inevitably be fucked up.

Too Long, Didn't Read

The future of humanity is Abe Sapien riding around the cosmos with his ghoul co-pilot on a faster-than-light shoggoth with solar sails and that's awesome.


  1. Proving once again that eventually, everything turns into a space opera if I think about it long enough.

    On the recontextualized Lovecraft note, I have been meaning to get Ruthanna Emrys "Winter Tide" sometime soon, I've heard good things.

    1. If it is anything like "The Litany of Earth" (https://www.tor.com/2014/05/14/the-litany-of-earth-ruthanna-emrys/), which I guess is the precursor to the full novel, it is definitely good. My thoughts went to it immediately when reading this post.

  2. I suspect I like your summary more than I would like the book. Very cool ideas though, regardless.

  3. Replies
    1. That is, in the end, much of the point. I'm of the mind that you can't really have Lovecraftian horror within the Mythos proper, on the grounds that it is too well-understood - so you end up with this train of thought instead. For horror, I need to break convention and expectation, which will achieve similar tone with different content.

    2. I think that it's also fun to use Lovecraftian imagery to invoke fear and wonder, but maybe not so fun to invoke Lovecraft's original themes, including "not being the center of the universe drives me insane," "it is impossible to have a meaningful impact on anything," and "fear of the unknown means fear of immigrants."

    3. Ninja has it in one. There will be a post upcoming where I wax poetic on how good the Magnus Archives are at invoking fear and wonder in varied forms separate from those original themes, because hoo boy there's a lot of material in that series.

    4. At the time Sandy left grad school for Chaosium he was studying entomology - hence the amusing styling after scientific articles in this and the original Field Guides.

      Understanding too much about horror makes it less horrifying. That’s probably a factor in why ongoing horror RPG campaigns aren’t as scary as doing one-shots (which are incidentally the only way Sandy runs Call of Cthulhu scenarios these days)

  4. I get the feeling that Lovecraft's personal horror of not being the crown of creation is somewhat influenced by being from the USA with its puritan-protestant tradition. For comparison read H. G. Wells War of the Worlds, where the narrator even compares the aliens and the humans to us and ants and yet the book isn't horror but pure science fiction.