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Meleiro

Help for an Adventure Idea - Yig vs Tsathoggua

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Meleiro

I started playing Call of Cthulhu this month and I am the Keeper of the game, I just finished a short-story I found on the web and now I want to start an adventure of my own, below are a summary of my idea and some questions of how to improve it.

I was on the Youtube when I see on the recommendations list "5 Mysterious Islands" and thought to myself "this is Call of Cthulhu material", the history that caught most my interest was the Bermeja Island: In 1921 (perfect timing) this whole island north of Yucatan peninsula just disappeared from the map and no one knows the cause, there are theories, even one conspiratory about how the USA would have bombarded the island to avoid the Mexican Government exploit oil reserves on the island, because the region is divided by both countries economics zones.
And that is how my idea began: The USA government wants to study the viability of oil extraction on the island and ask for the help of a university (don't know which one, I am not a USA citizen and I'm accepting suggestions), the university accepts BUT in return wants to study the possibilities of Mesoamerican ruins on the island, based on discoveries in Aztecs archeological sites mentioning a old city in a sacred island, and so it begins this expedition. Seems like a win-win deal, right?

Each one of the players is invited to participate in the expedition,  so everyone gets its own scene explaining that based on their character's background (that until now are yet unknown), during the travel the players be introduced to the circumstances that I explained above and they will describe events of their own choosing  to help the players feel more like a group, after that a great storm appears and the waves cause the shipwreck on the coast of the island.

The background of the adventure is this: The island is habited by an untouched Mesoamerican tribe that venerates Yig (which is living on the island maybe, haven't decided yet) and lives peacefully with the snake people on the same city (the humans are more like slaves actually, but is their way of life) and is the last know place on the world that Black Lotus is still cultivated, the whole expedition actually was created by a cult of Tsathoggua (or maybe just by a single mage, will elaborate on that later here) that wishes to stole the plants because of its properties and destroy the Yig's devotes as a way to satisfy their god.

So... that is it, now about my questions:

1. In your experience, what you think of the idea? Is Yig and Tsathoggua followers good adversaries for the players? If not, would it be better I change it to a Cthulhu Cult looking for something to free their master at R'lyeh?
2. My greatest difficulty in making adventures is to think an order of events on the history, in other words: I have no idea on what could or should happen after the shipwreck, maybe they spent a few days setting camp??? I suppose someone could disappear and they would be ordered to go search it, but I don't know how to elaborate more of that.
3. What you guys think is better: a cult of Tsathoggua or a sorcerer wanting to make a deal with Tsathoggua? What would they be like?
4. I don't want to be good guys or bad guys in this history, so how I could interpret both sides of the conflict? Maybe everyone is terrible people?

I know I am practically asking help to create most of the campaign, but I really appreciate any helpful insight on how to turn a medium idea in a great adventure. I am accepting any suggestion on how to continue the history from this point, and about the end, I suppose that either Tsathoggua sinks the island or Yig "moves" (???) to a safer place, or maybe the players just escape and never found out what happened later...

Some observations: My group will have 3 to 4 sessions, of 2-3h each, so I am not planning a one-shot or a long campaign either, but something between, English is not my primary language and I apologize for any grammatical error and this is also my first time here on the forum, so if anything I have said or done is against the rules, just say so say and I will delete it or correct it.

Thank you all for the attention. 

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dulcamara

I'm not sure you could really tackle this in 3-4 sessions of 2-3 hours apiece - this sounds like a pretty epic pulp saga. There are a lot of moving parts here.

 

If it were me - I'd outline the general concept (as you've started to do), but first concentrate on a couple earlier scenarios. Maybe the investigators would brush up against one of these cults in mainland USA or Mexico, etc, to break up some kind of small-scale conspiracy or ceremony. That way you can build the background & details slowly without having to design this really in-depth society & narrative to start.

 

One thing I've learned in GMing different systems is that if you dive right into a big concept (especially for new GMs/Keepers) you run the risk of not everything really holding together in convincing fashion. Better to build it organically from the foundation IMO. It also helps build tension for the players - they gradually realize just how deep & insane this conspiracy must go, rather than just shipwrecking them on an island with a snake-human society locked in struggle with a giant Hyperborean toad. Even in the pulpiest campaigns it's important to layer these things up.

 

That's just me though, YMMV.

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Meleiro
1 hour ago, dulcamara said:

I'm not sure you could really tackle this in 3-4 sessions of 2-3 hours apiece - this sounds like a pretty epic pulp saga. There are a lot of moving parts here.

 

If it were me - I'd outline the general concept (as you've started to do), but first concentrate on a couple earlier scenarios. Maybe the investigators would brush up against one of these cults in mainland USA or Mexico, etc, to break up some kind of small-scale conspiracy or ceremony. That way you can build the background & details slowly without having to design this really in-depth society & narrative to start.

 

One thing I've learned in GMing different systems is that if you dive right into a big concept (especially for new GMs/Keepers) you run the risk of not everything really holding together in convincing fashion. Better to build it organically from the foundation IMO. It also helps build tension for the players - they gradually realize just how deep & insane this conspiracy must go, rather than just shipwrecking them on an island with a snake-human society locked in struggle with a giant Hyperborean toad. Even in the pulpiest campaigns it's important to layer these things up.

 

That's just me though, YMMV.

 

That is a great advice, thanks for it S2 I heard about Pulp Cthulhu, but I didn't have the time yet to discuss it with my friends, although I think they will like. I tough about the concepts like you said and came up with this idea:

A campaign of 3 parts, the snake people would be the second. The first one would start at the funeral of a Professor, each one of the players would be someone close to him and they would meet each other on this occasion. The professor was murdered by the Tsathoggua's cult, he was investigating them and trying to stop something (that I am yet to think what was it), this part ends with the players successful stopping the cult plans, and at the end they receive an invitation to participate in the expedition to Bermeja Island, since the professor had died, the university extended the invitation as a suggestion made by the Professor while alive. I don't know, maybe the professor was a powerful wizard that found a way to see the future and understood the chain of events that his death would unleash and willing gave up his life for that, either way, at the end of this part the players would not have found the connection between the cult and Tsathoggua.

The second part would be as I described before, and in the end, either as a reward for helping Yig, helping the cult (resulting in an invitation to be members, even if a scenario where the players help the killers from their best friend is unlikely, I think is best leave the possibilities open) or just find evidence and getting out of the island, the players would learn the identity of the cult's God and his location.

That brings us to the conclusion of the saga, the God is in the subterranean of a Villa in Europe where all the villagers are cultists, but there is a traitor among they that can help the investigators. Will our heroes defeat the fiendish devil? Will they survive the horrors before them? Will they maintain their sanity long enough to survive? Who knows??? (that is Pulp narrative, right????)

So, what you think of this concepts? Of course, I will change our plans and will roleplay Reing of Terror for them during the next 3-4 sessions (the adventure book says that it takes that long to roleplay it, but I haven't found about how many hours is that, anyway, at least the first part I should be able to do it), and this idea of mine will be left for the end of the year, when I won't have to concern myself about timing it, until then I will be preparing the campaign slowly and layering those thing up as you said.

I know about the relation between Reing of Terror and Horror of the Orient Express, but it would literally take some years for my group finish it because of our time disponibility, so I won't concern myself with the spoilers, although will try to keep a sense of continuity without events that would contradict the Orient Express adventure.

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yronimoswhateley

I, for one, enjoy this sort of brainstorming, I definitely don't mind that you're still in an early stage of planning, that's my favorite time to offer suggestions.  Also, you write very well in English!

 

First:

 

For the Yig vs. Tsathoggua idea, you don't seem very sure about where to go with them, and the combination might be a bit complicated.  They're both great monsters, though.  You might get more mileage from trimming down the number of big-name supernatural factions involved and just tackling one per story:  a lot of players tend to find that Call of Cthulhu stories work best when they focus on a single monster, etc., and you might find it easier to work with just one at a time.

 

Spoiler

Pick either Yig or Tsathoggua as your real villain, and go from there.  With one Big Bad to focus on, you might then have a fairly generic organization hire the investigators to go to your mysterious island where the Black Lotus (for example) is rumored to grow in abundance. 

 

It might be a traditional "good guy" organization, but it doesn't have to be - a lot of players like the idea of working as villains sometimes, so, if you think your players might enjoy that, you might have a cult of "Black Lodge Magicians" of your own invention hire some antihero investigators to find and exploit this resource by any means necessary.  (In answer to one of your questions:  there's no reason at all you couldn't have everyone be terrible people, just be sure that the monsters are clearly more monstrous than the investigators and their employers, and the investigators and their employers can be just as terrible as you and your group like.) 

 

Alternatively, an evil American corporation that sends a couple unscrupulous expeditions to exploit a native resource works, too.

 

Whatever the case, what the investigators won't find out until after they meet the natives is that, however bad their employers are, the natives are the real Big Bad:  they are Yig Cultists/Tsathoggua Cultists/Tentacle Monsters/whatever, with a whole mysterious island of horrors to inflict on the "villain" investigators.  (This "Awful people get what they deserve when they wander into a wilderness they don't belong in" approach is a formula that a lot of exploitation horror movies have worked with - for just a few examples, see The Ruins (2008), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), The Green Inferno (2013), Hostel (2005), Predator (1981), Aliens (1986), and many a cannibal hillbilly or slasher movie that has its local killer hack-and-slash the series of jerks who make the mistake of invading the killer's cabin-in-the-woods to make out and use drugs.)

 

Then, focus on whichever monster fits in with the island story the best.

 

I think both Yig and Tsathoggua can work great as the central monster for a tropical island! 

 

Yig might be an obvious choice to link with a tropical island:  loading a tropical island up with snake-themed horror is natural and easy to do... and, it might be so easy and natural, it might lose some of its horror in being such an obvious choice.  You might have to work harder to make Yig shock explorers on a tropical island, but it might be a fun challenge.

 

Tsathoggua might be a very interesting choice to use instead... play up the weird, sleepy toad-thing angle, give Tsathoggua and his island a weird, slimy, humid, hallucinogenic poison theme, and you might have something to work with.... the black, toxic, oily skin of Tsathoggua might be an interesting callback to your unethical American oil company, or perhaps to an unethical American pharmaceutical company seeking to exploit the tropics for exotic medicines, which might also link to a psychedelic, mushroom-inspired idea that occurs to me....

 

Second:

 

Building on your great mysterious island inspiration, you might be interested in the William Hope Hodgson story "A Voice in the Night", filmed as Matango:  The Attack of the Mushroom People (1963, Japanese, with subtitles and sometimes dubbing). 
 

Spoiler

The basic story (mild spoilers) involves a group of people shipwrecked on a mysterious fungus-covered island in the mist, who soon find that the weird island and its fungal forest grows on them - literally:   before long, the damp, waterlogged characters have fungus growing all over them, in the movie adaptation turning them into the monstrous "mushroom people" after the starving characters try to eat the fungus, and leaving surviving victims monstrously disfigured by the infestation to whisper the tale of their doom to would-be rescuers from the darkness as "a voice in the night". 

 

This might fit in with the disappearing island that inspired you:  maybe the whole island is a living mass of fungus floating in a still "Sargasso sea", the previous expedition's American science ship, hired to find oil deposits using sinister means, has wrecked into the fungal mass, stranding the damaged ship in calm waters, sinking most of the fungus, and trapping the rest on board with the crew of the first expedition, slowly transforming them into monsters.  The investigators are hired to rescue the first expedition, salvage the ship, and retrieve any scientific data and specimens from the island; an evil employer (of the sort that employs Ellen Ripley and the rest of the characters from Alien) would of course neglect to tell the investigators about the fungus or the disaster that befell the previous expedition who found it!  Maybe the corporation even wants the investigators to get infected by the fungus when bringing samples back, for their own mysterious and unethical reasons. 

 

Your first adventure, then, might involve the investigators being hired by a sinister Company to rescue and salvage what turns out to be a seemingly deserted, drifting ghost ship, covered in weird fungus (some of which are actually the monstrous remains of the first expedition), and containing some hints that there was always something weird about that expedition:  occult diagrams, instruments, and tomes included among the "scientific" gear, for example, indicating that the American company is not beyond using black magic to find oil, or the secrets to the super-medicines hidden in an isolated island rain-forest, or whatever it is that the Company is after....

 

A fungus island might work as your main monster for the island, but, as I mentioned earlier, you might also link this weird, creepy fungus to both the sinister medicines the American expedition was looking for, and to a weird, toxic, slimy Tsathoggua, if you want to connect Tsathoggua to this island.  Maybe the fungus grows on the skin of Tsathoggua, and the Toad-thing doesn't mind, since it's a natural part of its abnormal biology, but those same fungi are - to Tsathoggua's sluggish amusement - stark, cringing horror when they come in contact with humans!

 

Or, you might think of a way to connect some horrible, tropical island-based body-horror like the fungus to both the American oil/pharmaceutical/biological/whatever expeditions and to Yig, instead.  That might be an interesting challenge, one that could produce a really unique angle for the usual Yig snake theme....

 

Third:

 

Regarding the pulp narrative:  you've more or less got the idea.

 

Spoiler

The "pulps" were a range of low-budget popular genre literature that included Lovecraft's relatively subtle horror fiction, as well as Conan the Barbarian, and extends across many genres, including horror, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, detective fiction, war stories, action/adventure stories, comic book superheroes, and more.  Pulp literature is simply low-budget fiction with larger-than-life dangers, heroes, action, monsters, etc. - typical Lovecraftian fiction is a (supposedly somewhat restrained) version of pulp literature, and Pulp Cthulhu exaggerates or expands the pulp elements a little more to include charismatic villains, weird super-science, pro-active heroes that can fist-fight their way out of trouble, etc.  Basically, it's Lovecraftian horror expanded to include such things as characters and storylines inspired by Fu Manchu and Flash Gordon, Sergeant Rock and Conan the Barbarian, Randolph Carter and John Carter, The Iron Skull and Doctor Doom, The Shadow and The Rocketeer, Doc Savage and Tarzan, The Lone Ranger and Indiana Jones, etc.

 

If you want to go with a more "pulpy" scenario, give the heroes plenty of evil "mooks" to shoot at, play with "cliffhangers" that leave heroes in some sort of dramatic danger to escape from, and don't shy away from ideas that might seem a bit weird and maybe out-of-place in a more traditional Lovecraft story, such as mundane superheroes and supervillains, fist-fights and gun-play, high-speed car/boat/airplane/horse chases, masked villains, narrow escapes, dramatic showdowns, giant robots and jetpacks and heat ray guns, etc.

 

Depending on how "pulpy" you get, you might lose a little bit in horror and "realism", but gain some action, adventure, and genre experimentation in its place.

 

For perhaps best results, the Pulp Cthulhu supplement suggests some new mechanics to make your larger-than-life heroes and antiheroes a little more resilient in your bigger, flashier, more violent and action-heavy stories, and you might find it best to design a pulp campaign from the ground up after reading that supplement.

 

I think that if you do choose to have the Yig and Tsathoggua cults working against each other in the same story, it does give the story a bit of a "pulpy", action-and-adventure feel to it, and might work best if designed as a pulp scenario with exactly the weird plot twists you might see in an old-fashioned radio or film serial, or long-running comic, etc.

 

Fourth:
 

In your later post, you describe a multi-part story.  I think that's a great idea!

 

Spoiler

I see absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of splitting a campaign up into separate adventures involving adventure in a temple to Yig on a deadly and mysterious island for one story,  a murder pointing to a weird underground Tsathoggua cult in Europe for another story, etc.  Breaking things up like that is a great idea, and lets you focus on setting the unique atmosphere for each monster's theme as the centerpiece of its own story.  Furthermore, I think your story ideas in your last post have some intriguing possibilities.  As an extension of my first suggestion, I think you'll get good results from each part of your bigger story by coming up with a big, interesting, creepy, atmospheric set-piece that each leg of your story eventually leads up to, and then think of some hooks and clues and so on:  a particularly vivid scene, monster, revelation, etc., with the rest of that part of the story leading up to that scene, or following from it to the next one. 

 

For examples: 

 

First, there might be the moment the investigators, under the blazing sun and sweltering humidity of the jungle, uncover the secret of the strange island they've been exploring!  (What happened to attract the investigators' attention to the island?  Was it something mysterious that awakened their curiosity?  What was that mysterious thing, and how can you make it extra curious and mysterious?  Maybe they shipwrecked on the island?  How can you make the shipwreck dramatic and interesting to play out?  Can you add anything weird about the shipwreck that can help make the story weirder?  What is the strange secret, and how can you make it really strange, really creepy, really dreadful, and so interesting your players can't help putting their characters in danger to catch a glimpse of what it looks like?  What kinds of weird, interesting clues can you add to keep your characters interested in digging deeper and deeper into the mystery, in spite of the obvious dangers?)

 

Second, there could be the ghastly and horrific moment the murdered professor's body is revealed!  (Why should the investigators care about the professor?  That should be set up early - perhaps the professor was a well-liked friend, you'll want to build that friendship.  Just as effective, perhaps, is that maybe the professor is a hated enemy - you'll want to set up that enmity!  What is there about the condition of the body that might arouse the investigators' curiosity?  What other clues can you add to point the investigators in the direction you want them to go, and how can you make those clues as interesting and creepy and irresistible as possible?)

 

Third, there might be the investigators' slow, eerie descent into the hidden world of the subterranean Yig cult's cavern temples, dark and claustrophobic and unearthly tunnels dug into some abnormal pit in the earth!  (What can you do to make those underground temples really come to life as a strange and alien place?  In what ways are the temple ruins strange and unearthly?  What can you do to make the people who inhabit them creepy and unsettling?  How can you make the unholy pit where these temples were dug a strange and unearthly place?)

 

Fourth, there's the shocking climax of your series of adventures!  (What can be weirder than the tunnels the investigators just walked through?  What final, ultimate, mind-blasting secret awaits at the end of the trail, connecting the mysterious island, the murdered professor, and this temple together?  How can you add some sort of cathartic drama to this ultimate reveal?  One answer to that might be that something terrible chases the characters back out of the pits - describing a good, scary chase scene through a dark and eerie underground city, with investigators rolling dice to see if they can keep their balance, climb, swim, and run their way to sunlight while their sanity is worn away by weird noises behind them while weird faces of drum-beating and chanting cultists peer out of the darkness, and some terrible pursuing horror follows close behind could be a lot of creepy fun!)

 

Anyway, I love the idea of a creepy, mysterious island to explore, I think the idea of anti-hero investigators working for an unscrupulous corporation, cult, or cult-corporation is a cool idea, the ideas of a gruesome murder of a professor and an underground city in Europe seem like some great ideas to build on, and Tsathoggua and Yig are some cool monsters to work with.  I think the two monsters might work best as separate and only loosely-connected elements of the story, rather than as competing villains, but that's really up to the flavor of story you want to tell:  having two big monsters or their big cults share the spotlight tends to dilute the horror a bit, but at the same time it can dial up the pulpy plot twists and action and adventure, if that's the direction you want to go in.

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NeferSutekh

The Serpent People followers of Yig and Tsathoggua are natural antagonists:

 

"After the destruction of Valusia, the Serpent Men escaped to Yoth, a cavern beneath K'n-yan in North America (ironically, the Pictish Isles of the Kull stories). They built subterranean cities, of which only ruins remain in the modern age. Explorers from K'n-yan visited Yoth frequently to learn more of the Serpent Men's scientific lore. Their next downfall came when they brought idols of Tsathoggua from N'kai and abandoned their patron deity Yig to worship their new god. As retribution Yig placed his curse upon them, forcing his few remaining worshipers to flee to caverns beneath Mount Voormithadreth."

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Gaffer

The University contracted for the geological survey is Miskatonick, of course.

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Dante7

You do know of the Pulp Cthulhu campaign "The Two Headed Serpent", yes?

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