Your Haunter May Vary

All Haunters are not born equal. The cosmic horror value of your Haunter may go up as well as down.

You know the drill, right?

You play a game and when the bad guys make their first tentative appearance the players read between the lines and leap ahead to tactics and strategies. They know how to handle a Deep One or a Shoggoth – and even though the antagonist hasn’t reared so much as a finger or eye lid yet, they’re ready for action with Plans A through G.

Disappointing show, anyone?

The Cthulhu Hack has this covered from two angles – and you should always consider adding your own spice into the mix. The cosmic horror should never become commonplace or boring; nor should the Lovecraft aficionado in your group present an insurmountable barrier to generating fresh new challenge.

On the one hand, you have the generic assistance of From Unformed Realms.

When I discuss this book at conventions, my pitch centres on the value of these tables as a way to create not only whole new monsters but to adjust the features or even just the spoor of the horror.

The spoor, you say?

Well, if you have a creature that attacks with acid or secretes strange pheromones, then the Investigator might find partially digested meat or note a queer sensation of homeliness about a place, something warm and comforting. It should seem and feel odd, but at the same time it only hints at the entity, as the Investigator find – the spoor of the beast – is second-hand.

You can achieve that with the roll of three six-sided dice on the main table in From Unformed Realms. It’s all about the spice, turning the ordinary and expected into something different. Why note Deep Ones that owe more to sharks or pikes? How about a Shoggoth composed of biological waste or chemical effluent? Once you start changing a key feature, the physical appearance alters with it and how the entity interacts with the environment.

Something of this concept sits in the middle of The Haunter of the Dark. That lurking horror at the heart of Providence – what if it isn’t what you expected? If you read into the nature of the entity, what else might it be? Given the unreliable narrator – the journal of an insane artist – why accept the whole winged monstrosity or the three-lobed eye?

The Haunter of the Dark contains a short chapter that outlines what else it might be – drawing on Lovecraft’s wider Mythos to present other options. In turn, by changing the nature of the entity, you tweak the sect that worship it. The chapter names the horror and explains how it varies from the entity at the heart of the original tale and why; then, briefly, it indicates the special qualities of the followers, their nature and intentions.

Again, it turns the situation around on the ‘expert’ who can no longer rely on the second-hand knowledge of reading the original. Indeed, the included investigation assumes that the Investigators might find the journal of Robert Blake at some point – meaning they can read Lovecraft’s story as a hand-out. However, it may become clear that perceptions of the unfiltered mind can become horribly distorted by the cosmic truth of the uncaring universe, cold, alien and anathema to humanity.

Take care now!

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