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Sinister Seed for Cthulhu Invictus

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#1 Nightbreed24

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 09:52 AM

I was approached by two of my buddies last week and they told me they've seen the new Hercules movie and want to play a one-shot in Ancient Greece. I read a LOT of Greek myths in my teenage years and remembered one about Cecrops and Erichthonius, two legendary kings of Athens who were half serpents. According to the myth the latter was born of the earth and Pallas Athene decided to raise him in secret in a box. When Cecrops’ daughters looked into the box the saw a monstrous child and threw themselves off a cliff. This got me thinking. What if King Cecrops was Yig himself and there is a city of the serpent people hidden under Athens? What if a lurker or a small group of them decide to find the entrance to this city to wake up dozens of hibernating mages of their race?

 

In my version the lurker enthralls an Athenian land owner named Peison because an entrance is located in his olive orchard. My two players so far are a male prostitute and a sailor-thief. The former is hired by a group of friends for a symposion and hears about the fourth friends who has been acting weird for 3 months now: he has become and idiotes which means he does not participate in politics which is weird because he is a prytanis in the boule, so was a very active politician. Elsewhere they hear that a land owner is looking for workers in his olive orchard. It is Peison of course who is paying good money. They hear that the olives on the trees are ripe but nobody is haversting them, the land owner only wants his workers to dig a hole. One of them later dies of a fatal snake bite (a Child of Yig which are atracted by the lurker to guard the dig site). The background is that a serpent man learned that there is an entrance to the city under the orchard. He approached the land owner in the guise of a young slave (or an eromenos) and told him that he is non other than Erichthonius himself and wants him to return Athens to its former glory. The lurker now lives with him, persuaded the man to free his house slaves not to blow his cover, killed his wife and devoured their infant son. Neighbors can state that they haven’t seen the wife in months and don’t hear the baby’s cries anymore. Peison of course is insane by this point. If they manage to find one of his former slaves he or she can tell that the new slave never ate and they had a terrible feeling of dred every time they were near him or her. The big showdown would be in the lost city under Athens.

 

This could be easily adapted to the Roman era too.




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#2 banshee

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 11:55 AM

That sounds awesome!  :D


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#3 wombat1

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Posted 17 February 2015 - 05:17 PM

It sounds very innovative; I look forward to hearing  more as you go forward.  (I think it would work better as a Roman era scenario, as there might well be some folks who want to break away and restore Rome to its former glory.)



#4 Puriri

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 07:31 PM

This sounds awesome, and I love the Ancient Greek setting. The way you've used facts about Greek life that other Greeks would realize is wrong like the olives or the politician not working in the boule is neat. Since you mentioned letting the slaves go, a cool detail you could add is that slaves cannot appear in court as witnesses unless tortured. Based on this the serpent person may not even bother to get rid of them. 



#5 Nightbreed24

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 09:06 AM

We will test it in our local gaming club this Saturday if all goes well. 8)

 

Puriri, it is better not to have them around in the evening and see his shadow. Or notice that Peison's house smells like a reptile house in the zoo.


Edited by Nightbreed24, 02 March 2015 - 10:53 AM.


#6 Nightbreed24

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Posted 13 April 2015 - 10:11 AM

I will tell you more about the scenario once we are done. Since we play at our local club on saturdays, we had a vote to determine the game we will play and CoC lost to a Hungarian fantasy game which all players know. There was also a tournament last weekend we had to organize. But we will play it when there is chance. Could you collect all your questions in the meantime?



#7 Tony Williams

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Posted 13 April 2015 - 12:05 PM

Utterly brilliant connections you have come up with there.


Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#8 Nightbreed24

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 01:31 PM

Alright gents, it took a long while, but I managed to run this game during the time our club is closed for summer. Please excuse the typos. The game's setting was Ancient Athens 500 BC. My players were a sailor-thief, a winegrowing aristocrat, an old augur (a 4th player, who called shortly after we started, came over and joined in) and a male prostitute. Three of them were Athenian citizens, the prostitute was a metic. My original players thought out a nice way of knowing each other from earlier, the aristocrat had some shady dealings with both of them: spying on political opponents and acquisition of expensive items and land.
 

I have used some of the characteristics of Ancient Greek epic poetry, like the in medias res beginning of the story, but sadly forgot the extensive use of Homerian epithets, when describing  NPCs and locations after a while. The story began in a gymnasion, where the sailor-thief and the aristocrat met 2 wealthy NPCs, a chariot maker and a merchant. The sailor-thief and the latter had a friendly boying match, which the former won. It was a pretty close fight though. Then they went to the gymnasion’s bathhouse and talked about that Peison fellow mentioned in my first post, who became an idiotes shortly after the birth of his son. The NPCs tell them, that a group of politicians is already talking about exiling Peison by ostracism for neglecting his civic duties. Then they left the gymnasion and agreed to meet at the aristocrats house for a symposion. The aristocrat hired the male prostitute for the evening and also called an augur to tell the future from the sacrificial animal’s entrails. The sailor-thief went to the harbour before the evening started and met a crooked Egyptian wheat merchant, who was smuggling some fine jewelry into Athens and they became pals.

I have done extensive research on how a symposion was run and this was the highlight of the story for me. They made the sacrifice, the augur told them about the lesions found in the entrails and the grim future they predict. The male prostitute and two female ones then performed a satyr play the lighten the mood. They then went to the andron, the men’s room of the house and the symposiarchos was chosen (it was the sailor-thief), who’s job it was to oversee the mixing of the wine (the old Greeks never drank pure wine) and the three libations for the three kraters about to be drunk that evening. Then they talked about the looming Persian threat and a LOT about politics and politicians: one archon trying to cheat during an ostracism by bringing dozens of pre-made ostraca with the name of a hated adversary with him. They talked about what punishment would be good for him, some advocated exile, others loss of citizenship and even death by poison. Then they talked about another old archon getting a heart attack while „visiting” a beautiful new Thracian hetaira, who’s skin is like mlik and hair is like fire. They all agreed to invite her next time. Other hot topics were a strategos in office for 6 years now, who could attempt to create a tyranny again and a prytanis, who the male prostitiute heard has a relationship with one of his Barbarian slaves and plays the part of the bottom. The Ancient Greeks abhorred such unmanly practice after all. They spoke about using this gossip to their advantage. They also talked about Peison, their friend who has been acting weird and the aristocrat decided to pay him a visit tomorrow afternoon. The male prostitute also told them, that he heard from the poorer citizens and metics, that Peison is looking for workers in his olive orchard. They also had a lengthy discussion about what time period (Hesiod’s Five Ages of Man) they are living in: the Age of Heroes or the Iron Age.
 

They visited Peison’s house the next day, but he was unfriendly and told them to leave and not bother him anymore. They spoke to one of his neighbour’s, an old man (the kind, who has nothing better to do, than sit around in front of his house and see who goes by), who said he hasn’t heard the cries of the newborn, nor seen Peison’s wife for months and that he freed all of his slaves 3 months ago.  The male prostitute went to the olive orchard and by Luck managed to know one of the workers, a peasant named Dolios, who told him that they have to dig a hole in the side of the mountain. He also complained, that the olives are ripe and will go bad and that they have seen dozens of sand vipers in the orchard and are afraid someone will be bitten. The male prostitute then tracked down one of Peison's former slaves, an old woman named Althaia, who told him it all started 3 months ago, when their former master bought a new slave, a Greek from Mykonos named Xanthippos, who never ate and gave everyone the chills. He freed his old slaves shortly after and practically kicked them out of his home. Things started to become more and more strange, so all players agreed to investigate. They told Dolios to head to the Peison’s house at sundown to lure him to the orchard, so that the sailor-thief and the Egyptian merchant and some of his crew can burglarize his home. It worked, but they encountered Xanthippos and two Children of Yig, a Nubian sailor was bitten to death and the slave coldly told the „mammals” to flee or he will sick the snakes on them. They saw of course, that his shadow in the moonlight was everything except human: Xanthippos was a Serpent Man, a lurker from the time of the Second Empire. They of course ran like hell.

Meanwhile the prostitute snuck after Peison and saw him surrounded by snakes in his orchard and heard him mention the name of King Cecrops, the mythical half-serpent founder of Athens. That was enough for him to flee back as well. The sailor-thief and the prostitute gathered the others, met at the temple of Pallas Athene and told the priest everything. The poor old priest's head began to hurt from all the wild rambling about serpets on two legs, hundreds of snakes gathering near the city and talk about calling someone a mammal and cursing him, so he summoned some policemen (Athens had a 500 man strong police force of Scythian slaves).  The group split up: the prostitute lead the policemen to the orchard while the others went to the aristocrat’s home to arm themselves. The three policemen infiltrated the orchard, but were killed by Children of Yig and Peison, who was wearing his cuirass, his Corinthian-style helmet and was armed to the teeth by this time. He talked to the prostitute about slaying everyone, who stands in the way of the city’s new golden age and Kings Cecrops and Erichthonius. He wanted to kill him too but the prostitute was quicker. He met the others halfway between Athens and the orchard and they decided to go back and kill Peison. The group had to make 3 Luck-rolls (done by the person with the lowest Luck) to avoid the snakes til reaching the pit. The prostitute fumbled the last so they had to fight a Child of Yig in the pit, which they managed to kill after a few rounds. Good for them that it has just started to dawn and being cold-blooded they were still very slow. They then used the skins of fish oil they brought to set the grass on fire and entered the large chasm at the bottom of the pit. They found an ancient network of black basalt tunnels and stone squares insribed with Aklo scripture, which they followed until they reached a room, where Peison and Xanthippos were waiting for them. The phrases „Foolish mammals, you have no idea of what ancient power you are facing! Your species was still barely different from the apes, when mine was already raising cities far more glorious, than your Athens!” were spoken by Peison’s slave. They could again notice, that his shadow was that of a monster. The augur managed to lose 5 SAN, became temporarily insane and started to scream and flail around with his torch like a lunatic. The others battled Peison and it was a close call. They then followed the Serpent Man into a very large chamber, where they saw him chanting amidst 24 stone caskets. Something started to rise from the one closest to them and a green-scaled, clawed hand reached for the ceiling. The sailor-thief used his bow, hit Xanthippos and his illuison disappeared. They saw a reptilian humanoid with orange eyes and blue scales in front of them. SAN-rolls were made and this time the arictocrat lost 6. He threw his weapons to the ground, charged the Serpent Man and beat him to a bloody pulp with his fists. The others quickly took care of the rising Serpent Wizards by stabbing them with swords and bashing their heads and rib cages in with rocks. Athens was saved from certain doom and we all had great fun.
 

My players missed a few planned clues in Peison’s house, like the triangular Serpent Man metal tablets and the Scrying Window the Serpent Man created with his magic and the coloured glass ordered by Peison to locate the chamber of the sleepers. If they would’ve found it then they could’ve seen the sacrificial chamber in all its glory, where the priests of Yig were sacrificing Neanderthals to their cruel god.


Edited by Nightbreed24, 06 July 2015 - 03:00 PM.


#9 banshee

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 01:37 PM

Brilliant!  :)


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#10 Nightbreed24

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Posted 24 March 2016 - 11:59 AM

I'm thinking about writing another Ancient Greek scenario.

SHALAFI, DON'T READ FURTHER!

Ok, my idea is about Hecate, a major underworld goddess. She was said to be accompanied by underworld hounds, when she visited the world of the living. These could easily be ghouls. An Athenian ghoul cult could leave sausages made of human flesh as offerings by her shrines. These food offerings (Hecate's suppers) were said to be regularly picked up and consumed by the needy, and this could become a disaster for the city, when they start changing. I haven't fleshed it out yet, but I wonder, what you think of the idea.



#11 wombat1

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Posted 24 March 2016 - 07:58 PM

Again, I think you have a very good and very innovative idea, which I look forward to hearing all about as it unfolds.  It would be fun to see these written up as full scenarios, perhaps leading to another CoC sourcebook.



#12 Nightbreed24

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 07:39 PM

Wow, haven't seen this thread in a long time. Well, we were rather busy but I've still managed to write down a vague scenario hook.

The ghoul issue above could easily be fleshed out to create a large cult of ghoul worshippers living in Athens. The cliche of a cult lead by a rotten to the core aristocrat always comes to mind, but it would be refreshing to have the cult's leader be Chilonis, the high priestess of Eileithya, Hera or Artemis (they were all associated with child birth after all). She has huge respect in the city, so accusing her is basically social suicide. The corrupt aristocrat, Hipponax could be her father and also a respected, cunning and powerful politician: a strategos or a retired archon for example. The backbone of this cult would be a group of midwives, who regulerly hold disgusting orgies with the subterranean creatures in secret underground chambers below the Kerameikos (the Athenian cemetery district) where cannibalism is also practiced, and are switching human newborns to ghoul babies by the dozens. This hellish deed could affect a couple the investigators are friends with or is one of their beloved relatives.

I don't think there are many Mythos beings you can use in an Ancient Athenian campaign. There's always a chance of an "Esoteric Order of Dagon" being well established in the Piraeus. But this is another cliche. But I remember reading about the god Pan having a small shrine in a cave under the Acropolis. There is a legend that he was involved in the Battle of Marathon and his presence caused great panic in the Persian army. Perhaps this story has a dark grain of truth and the twisted, satyr-like blessed of Shub-Niggurath played a part in the disastrous Persian defeat. The investigators could search for and talk to veterans of the battle, who saw something unnatural, which could lead them deep into the dark woods, where wild, sinister creatures are said to lurk and the mighty trees crave human flesh, to a hamlet or a bandit camp, whose inhabitants worship the Black Goat of the Woods and are lead by her rowdy blessed. Images of the Beastmen from Warhammer Fantasy come to my mind.



#13 wombat1

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 08:35 PM

There are not many uniquely ancient beings for the Mythos, but there is no reason why you cannot have nearly the full range of beings available.  Some are located in specific places, to be sure, but even they have a long reach.

 

Also, just because something is well-used by others to the point of being a cliche does not mean that you cannot use it as well, if you give it a variation or your own personal turn. 

 

I like your idea of a (perfectly typical) Mythos being (blessed of S. N., perhaps with some Dark Young) intervening in the Battle of Marathon.  So, then, what has he been doing since then? You outline some very good ideas I think, and you have two or three episodes in there, perhaps some can stretch for several sessions. 

 

If someone in your group of gamers collect Warhammer Fantasy beastmen, and someone else (who may or may not be into role playing games at all) is into ancient Greek minis, one can even write and throw in a battle scene, which is a refreshing twist for both the historic miniature players and the role playing gamers (if both come to it with an open mind and are not too purist about it.) 

 

Also, another twist could be that the Mythos entities are themselves working at close purposes.  The Esoteric Order of Dagon consists of course of both Deep Ones and Hybrids, and the Hybrids are very much plugged into the community of Athens even if they have odd looking eyes and they smell funny.  They want the Shub Niggurath crowd evicted from the area near Marathon for some reason because it is bad for their business.  The players can be put in the perplexing position of getting help from one Mythos group or helping them in order to get rid of the other.


Edited by wombat1, 28 December 2016 - 08:39 PM.


#14 Nightbreed24

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 07:58 AM

Maybe it's just me who likes to check what Mythos monsters are suited for the environment. I forgot to mention the fungi from Yuggoth in my previous post. Greece is a mountainous country, lots of opportunities for mining.

 

That would be a nice idea but I only play Man O' War. The only Beastmen there are cardboard tokens. :D Here in Hungary, 40K reigns supreme.

 

I've been thinking and reading about the subject. Pheidippides the legendary runner of Marathon is said to have met the god Pan on his way back from Sparta. The deity agreed to help the Athenians if they would revere him. And there was a swamp on the battlefield where the Persian soldiers were pushed into and where many perished. Pheidippides could've met a blessed or Shub-Niggurath herself who helped spread panic in the enemy army and is using Pan's worship to set foot into Athens. Or this is just a myth but there was a blessed with many potent spells searching for an arcane artifact or something in said swamp when the battle broke out. Perhaps the item is still there.



#15 WinstonP

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 01:37 PM

Maybe it's just me who likes to check what Mythos monsters are suited for the environment. I forgot to mention the fungi from Yuggoth in my previous post. Greece is a mountainous country, lots of opportunities for mining.


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#16 wombat1

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 09:47 PM

Maybe it's just me who likes to check what Mythos monsters are suited for the environment. I forgot to mention the fungi from Yuggoth in my previous post. Greece is a mountainous country, lots of opportunities for mining.

 

That would be a nice idea but I only play Man O' War. The only Beastmen there are cardboard tokens. :D Here in Hungary, 40K reigns supreme.

 

I've been thinking and reading about the subject. Pheidippides the legendary runner of Marathon is said to have met the god Pan on his way back from Sparta. The deity agreed to help the Athenians if they would revere him. And there was a swamp on the battlefield where the Persian soldiers were pushed into and where many perished. Pheidippides could've met a blessed or Shub-Niggurath herself who helped spread panic in the enemy army and is using Pan's worship to set foot into Athens. Or this is just a myth but there was a blessed with many potent spells searching for an arcane artifact or something in said swamp when the battle broke out. Perhaps the item is still there.

Cardboard tokens are perfectly serviceable for gaming, and one can make extras for a special occasion easily enough.

 

I do like the angle about the worship of Pan--no doubt that will give rise to an unsavory cult soon enough.  Also, perhaps the Persians brought something to dispel or break the influence of the cult, and this is the artifact that fell into the swamp.





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