Friday, September 14, 2018

The Magnus Archives Post

A while ago I purchased Emmy Allen's Esoteric Enterprises, and that is as good an excuse as any to finally do this big post on the Magnus Archives that I've been meaning to do.

(For those who haven't heard me rave about it yet, The Magnus Archives is a horror serial podcast that I will give a double gold star recommendation to anyone and everyone even remotely interested in that sort of thing. It's remained engaging for well over a hundred episodes, the metaplot is rock-solid, there's a planned ending - by those metrics it's top percentile in that genre before you even start listening. Go check it out.)

I'll be doing this post in two parts: the first will be a big table of creepy things from the series that you can plug in to your games whenever you need a bit of creep. Part 2 will be after the break and contain some spoilers about the series' connective tissue, and how that can be used as building blocks in games.

50 Entries from the Archives

  1. "There is a wasps' nest in my attic..."
  2. A cheap wooden coffin, chained and padlocked. 'Do Not Open' is scratched into the lid.
  3. The man upstairs is hammering away at the walls, and the smell is getting worse.
  4. A woman in a red dress wanders the suburbs at night with a syringe full of worms.
  5. Exorcist-turned-cannibal, serving a double life sentence. Declined the interview.
  6. Grifter's Bone, the band so bad they need to sneak into shows.
  7. There is something at the foot of the bed.
  8. A pale man in an alleyway, asking for a cigarette. He bobs a foot off the ground.
  9. Homeless man trades in heroin for vampire-hunting.
  10. Two sisters gone missing in Lost Johns' Cave.
  11. Need something delivered, taken or broke? Call the two Cockney fellas at Breekon & Hope.
  12. "As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn't there."
  13. "Enjoy sky blue" the old man said, as he threw himself from the plane.
  14. A plaque on the calliope organ: "Be still, for there is strange music."
  15. Mr. Pitch has come to take us all away to Ny-Ålesund. It's been 300 years' wait.
  16. 41 hearts in a garden shed, all a-glowing blue.
  17. Death remains a fan of games.  
  18. Billboard advertisement: "Sleep is overrated."
  19. Some of the men hear a distant piping. They climb over the trench and never return. 
  20. The crew of the Tundra has not changed in 10 years, all the cargo's rusted in place.
  21. Ivy Meadows Care Home has burnt down, and that is for the best. They'd taken ill, you see...
  22. Those tunnels had always been underneath the place, no one noticed them until now.
  23. The tiger isn't finished yet.
  24. The lights keep going out, the taps keep running brackish.
  25. There's a house on Hilltop Road, it pulls you in and reels you back.
  26. Hot item of the hour: a Carthaginian gorilla skin
  27. Spiders pour out of the wound.
  28. "Come meat, by my guest, and let thy gifts to me be blessed."
  29. Raising the spirits of the dead to commit bank fraud.
  30. The mummy plunges the knife into its own chest.
  31. Seventeen hours of UshankasDespair.exe
  32. There's a pit in the middle of town, they walk down into it.
  33. An old copy of The Boneturner's Tale, from the library of Jurgen Leitner.
  34. She orders a coffee every day, but never seems to drink it.
  35. Private Amherst is such a restless man, let not the gangrene stop him.
  36. DIG down, DIG down...
  37. A pile of Bibles, a pile of tea cups, a pile of severed fingers.
  38. An old man who knows just enough to be wrong.
  39. Mr. Spider loves guests, but only when they are polite.
  40. The police have killed five vampires in the last nine years.
  41. Everyone dumps their trash on old Maggie's property. Go deliver some food to her, will you?
  42. Self-immolation, in front of her own girlfriend.
  43. When threatened with death, give them a job instead.
  44. The mold 'round the drain can't be scrubbed away.
  45. A cave stacked deep with the corpses of soldiers.
  46. Black sand pours from his mouth.
  47. Eventually, they buried the monstrous pig in concrete.
  48. The Mechanical Turk drove a sword into the chessboard, and then began to dance.
  49. A pot that steals from the world.
  50. Privately-funded space-isolation experiment.

Actually Using This Shit

Right then, the meat of it.

There are fourteen great and terrible powers acting behind the scenes in MAG, born of the great fears in the collective unconsciousness. The emergence of a fifteenth is still up for debate.
  1. The Web - Of being trapped, of being manipulated
  2. The Desolation - Sudden, catastrophic loss. Pain and burning.
  3. The Spiral - That your mind is lying to you
  4. The End - Death. The full stop.
  5. The Eye - Being watched, having secrets revealed.
  6. The Stranger - The unknown, the uncanny, that something is not right.
  7. The Buried - Claustrophobia, tight spaces, being unable to breathe, being trapped underground.
  8. The Flesh - The horror of one's body, of eating and bodily function.
  9. The Corruption - Disgust, rot, filth, decay, insects, disease, mold.
  10. The Hunt - There is something after you, out for blood.
  11. The Dark - Things beyond our ability to sense or know.
  12. The Isolation - To be cut off; complete disconnection.
  13. The Vast - Insignificance, emptiness, outer space, open skies, deep waters.
  14. The Slaughter - Mindless, pointless violence.
Two kickers are applied to this:
  1. Powers do not have a prime or core manifestation. It's always a manifestation of the Flesh, not the manifestation. There's no guiding intelligence, just a driving force.
  2. These powers are a spectrum. Characters in the show specifically refer to it as a color wheel, and (just shy of 60% through) that's the best explanation we have. 
With the color wheel in play, the rest follows.
  • Powers can, and often do, overlap with each other.
  • Certain powers are opposed and are less prone to overlap. The possibility of overlap has not been ruled out.
    • (ex: The Vast and the Buried, the Eye and the Stranger)
  • Certain powers are very close and are more prone to overlap.
    • (ex: Isolation and the Vast, The Web and the Spiral)
  • Manifestations of a power are unique and separate (As an eye would be from a hand)
  • Manifestations of a power can potentially work at cross-purposes.
  • Some manifestations are just plain hard to pin down. To this day I couldn't tell you what episode 65 is supposed to be about.
  • This entire system was specifically dreamt up by a character in-universe - odds are there's more beneath that we don't yet know.


If you want to run all this as-is, (or something of the same template), Esoteric Enterprises is probably perfect for it. Especially the grimoires and mystic cults, that's practically 1:1 for the Leitners and avatars of MAG. Steal manifestations (monsters, events, avatars, items, general phenomena) from the show or whip up some for whatever Powers you decided to use. Keep the backend a secret. Drip-feed them to players, and give them strings to tug on. Repeat names, expand on loose ends.

So if you want to use all this in game, all you have to do is whip up some lists of manifestations  for whatever Powers you are using, and go to town.

Statement ends.


  1. Finally got around to writing this one, it's been stalled out forever.

  2. I love how focused your posts tend to be on usable stuff. Thanks.

    1. That was actually a major worry I had with this one, part of why it stalled so much - it felt like the fanboy to useful ratio was skewed. good to know that it wasn't that off.

  3. this is really useful for a campaign i am planning, i don't like the "powers born from the human fears" so i'll adapt the idea to more self-sustaining powers. great work!

    1. Yep, template still works out if you change up the background. Avatars of Nyarlathotep would work really nicely too.

      (Bonus fun fact - the Hunt and Flesh aren't human in origin)

  4. Someone mentioned that a problem with the 5E Monster Manual is that everything is just "dangerous animals" without being "monstrous". I think this list will help key things to profoundly human fears!

    1. A good monster needs some manner of inexplicableness to it. If it needs food / water / shelter / safety for its young, it's probably an animal or a person.

  5. I'm almost current with the show! Keep up the good work Dan.