Resources For Every GM: Characters Part 3 / Horror Part 5
Hello everyone, we’re back to the Resources with more inspirational works. This time we have three characters from the horror genre. More specifically, these are characters of Lovecraftian horror. If you are new here you may not have seen how much I love cosmic horror, but I do and for good reason. It holds concepts of philosophical horror that other tales just don’t connect with. Sure, other tales are less weird or more humanized, but that is why I love Lovecraftian fiction. There is so much more out there than we act like there is and so much potential. And, much as I love Doctor Who, some such things are hopeless and incomprehensible. To help accomplish that existential dread, here are three characters you could easily use or allude to in your games.
We start off with one of the most flexible and “human” of the entities of the Mythos: Nyarlathotep. The Messenger, the Crawling Chaos, the Haunter in the Dark. Good old Nyarlathotep has dozens of names and has appeared to dozens of cultures over millennia. And that is just talking about Earth. The Messenger lies in a weird place in the Mythos as he is technically classified as an Outer God. These are some of the most strange and powerful beings in the cosmos. They are not just gods or alien entities with power over aspects of the universe, but creatures that are, in some cases, conterminous with those concepts. This one gets its name from the fact that he is the word of those other Outer Gods. He is their messenger. As such, he often interacts with the cults and servitor races of the universe. Of all the entities, Nyarlathotep is most human-like and actually appears human frequently. He is likely to talk to a cult leader and explain things. Not that those things that someone called the Crawling Chaos tells to an insane cult leader need to make sense. I like Nyarlathotep because he is the most accessible and can easily take any form or avatar you wish to give him. Hell, in one game I had him as a Ferengi cult leader focused on selling the King In Yellow far and wide. He is also the most likely to interact with PCs in a non-deadly way early on while also being the most likely to be in direct conflict with your world’s pantheon!
This character might be most familiar to you, especially if you have played D&D before. Even more so if you are familiar with 4th Edition. Dagon has been part of the D&D universe as a fish-like Demon Prince. While the influence of the Lovecraftian deity is there, the version we are looking at definitely differs. Our fish-person godling is something a bit unique. In some cases Dagon is described as a Great Old One. Technically he, along with his consort Mother Hydra, are just the oldest and largest of the deep ones. Deep ones are a fish people that were, once, human but who have been tainted and mutated into a deep see cult. This ambiguity as to whether he is just an immortal specimen of deep ones, their paternal god, or an actual Great Old One is perfect for the table and a great inspiration for other odd monstrous cultures. More than that, Dagon has consorted with the Star Spawn, a terrible race of shapechangers who worship Cthulhu and take his form. This creates an amazing opportunity to bridge a gap between defeating cults that could threaten a kingdom and a cult of aliens that could threaten the world!
There were a lot of possibilities to consider for this third spot: Great Old Ones, Elder Gods, and Outer Gods alike. I went with that last option and chose the Black Goat of the Woods With a Thousand Young. I should mention that it is not under complete agreement that that is an actual nickname for her, but I use it as such. The selection has to do with that name, though, and its implication. You see, Shub-Niggurath is an Outer God worshiped often as some kind of fertility goddess. Not only that but many Great Old Ones can trace back their parentage to her. No one knows where she can be found and it could be any number of places, but she has the most cults around. This is the type of deity who covers primal aspects of life that can be found everywhere. Her cults could sprout up or infect themselves into any number of religions be them goblin, elf, or satyr. Best of all she is served by creatures similar to, but smaller than herself that appear in the woods of those who have properly worshiped. These dark spawn can range anywhere from terrifying impossible entities to gargantuan monstrosities to be taken down by heroes. It all depends on your game and level of play. Mostly, I find her to be another good focal enemy or, at least, driver behind an enemy: slowly infecting religions with rituals that take power from true worship and open dark gateways to the horrors of an Outer God like her.