We’ll start today by wishing H.P. Lovecraft a very happy birthday in whatever great beyond he happens to inhabit these days… Howard would have been 125 years old if he had survived, but his works have gone on to influence so very many people over the years. It’s amazing to think how mundane some horror might have been without his particular flair.
We are thankful for his creepy influences. I know that his work definitely changed the way I look at horror and even some science fiction, not only through his writings but through the many ripples they caused. Call of Cthulhu was one of those games I played in college that I profoundly enjoyed due to the crazy mythology and chance to go a little crazy in return.
My favorite memory of CoC had to do with a session we played set in the 1920s. I don’t remember specifics, only that we saw a creature and it drove my character insane. He grabbed his Tommy Gun and managed to mow down most of his party members with glee before dying in the same encounter. Only one of our members actually survived that game to tell the tale… but obviously it’s left a mark!
Today we’re going to talk about some of those various creatures and how you might randomly create something for your games with a bit of a Lovecraftian feel.
- Roll again
Random Descriptor (d20)
Putting it Together
How do you use those two tables? In this case, I recommend finding your favorite random encounter table. Though I don’t play much Pathfinder, the resources available at d20pfsrd are one of my go-to spots for inspiration. In this case, I’m going to head to a low-level Dungeon table.
- Dire Rats – (Smell/Slimy) As you creep down the dark hallway, you begin to notice a strange odor before you step in the first puddle of slime along the floor. With that tiny splash, half a dozen red eyes stare at you from about 20 feet away. A single squeak and they splash madly through more puddles of the stuff as they close the distance. It turns out that the slime must dissolve living tissue, because these creatures have seen better days and the smell you noticed was the result of their slow decomposition while still trying to survive… Roll initiative!
- Fire Beetles – (Height/Inside) The scrabble of tiny feet is the only warning you get as you open the door to see a handful of odd shapes inside the room ahead. They may have been normal beetles long ago, but something has warped their exoskeletons into bizarre, nonsensical geometric shapes. One resembles a lopsided hexagon while three others charge forward with chitinous blades at horrific right angles. Roll initiative!
- Human Skeletons – (Time/Foreboding) At the entrance to the dungeon is an immense hall with six pedestals in a row and faint shapes on the walls on either side of them. As you step to the first pedestal, you catch the hint of movement in the shapes on the walls and can almost make out a highlighted figure glowing with a faint light. The click-clack of bones is your only warning as the walls explode in a shower of stone dust as a half dozen skeletal figures charge down the hallway on either side…
- Giant Centipedes – (Depth/Sinister) You are lucky your rogue stumbled upon the trigger to the pit trap at the door, but are still curious about what might have awaited you at the bottom. She uses her 10-foot pole to hit the button and the floor drops out of the room with a crash and a hiss… all you see are thousands of legs and the shiny black shells of hundreds of segments…
- Spider Swarm – (Hearing/Fragile) Without warning, hundreds of tiny spiders drop from their nests in the room ceiling even as you hear sobbing from one corner of the room. Though fragile, the webbing covers all of you in its sticky embrace as all the arachnids seek openings in your armor to give you their poisonous kiss. If you survive, you can search the many bodies cocooned in the tightly woven gossamer threads to see if anyone else fell prey to their attack!
Obviously these are quickly thrown together, but that’s the idea. While at the table, sometimes all it takes is a few words to make a random encounter even more unique. And Lovecraft was full of ways to make his readers scream, so why not use some of those same techniques at the game table?
The Big Book of Little Spaces: Haunts can be helpful in these situations as well as anything openly Lovecraftian. You may need to detail some of these places so when your PCs arrive you’re ready to throw some creatively creepy ideas at them. So be sure to check it out!
Stay tuned this week for more random madness to explore and check out yesterday’s post.