Fury of Yig Rough Draft Completed

I just finished the rough draft for the final chapter of Fury of Yig a few days ago.  It has quite a bit that needs to be added in terms of background, but I’m extremely happy with it.  If you’ve ever come to the end of a Cthulhu campaign and said, “That was a fizzle,” or “I wish they’d play the villains intelligently” or “Where do the players factor into this?” or “What was at stake, anyway?”, you’ll really like this.  This is one sequence that I almost feel bad about completing, because it was so much fun to write.

And no, I won’t tell you where we end up.

There’s still much work to be done, but I hope that you’ll find it as thrilling to read as it was to write.

Published in: on April 23, 2009 at 5:57 pm  Comments (1)  

Fury of Yig: Ninurta and Ningiszida

This is one of the first pieces I wrote for Fury of Yig, and, as is so often the case, it won’t make its way into the final book.  I’m presenting it here for your entertainment.  Of course, the book described, the author, and the reviewer are entirely fictional.

Scheible, Nathan. Ninurta and Ningiŝzida: A Transliteration and Translation from Stone Library 358. Original Sources from the Ancient World 16. Arkham, MA: Miskatonic University Press. 2002 xlii+135 pp. $129.95.

Then did Sharar say to Ninurta, “The Serpent of the Underworld comes, O Lord! The skies darken with his poison, The animals die beneath his breath, The ground roils with his children, The crescent-headed ones come forth. Trees crash and the cattle fall, Women are left sterile in his wake. Prepare for battle, and call to Enlil!… – Scheible, stanzas 323-334

Many of the deeds of the warrior-god Ninurta, patron of Nippur, have been lost to modern scholars. A list given in the Lugal-e mentions among his defeated opponents such fantastic names as “The Kulianna, the Basilisk, the Gypsum / the ‘Strong Copper,’ the warrior ‘Six-Headed Buck,’ / Magilum, the lord ‘Heaven’s Hobble,’ / the Bison, King Datepalm, / the Thunderbird, and the ‘Seven-Headed Serpent’” (Jacobsen 1987:243) – a fantastic lot, to be sure. Now, from the Stone collection of Miskatonic University appears a previously unknown work describing the god’s conquests, this time against the serpent Ningiŝzida, translated by Nathan Scheible of the school’s Ancient History department.

Ningiŝzida had been known in previous texts as the guardian of the gates of the underworld in the Descent of Inanna, but here he takes on the role of a lord of the serpents, or “crescent-headed ones” – most likely a reference to the horned viper (Cerastes cerastes) endemic to the region. Sharar, Ninurta’s intelligent mace, tells him of Ningiŝzida’s arrival from the underworld and how his children bring death among both Ninurta’s livestock and subjects. Ninurta goes forth with two mighty lions, often depicted upon his standards, to do battle, and after fighting a mighty battle with the aid of his father Enki, subdues the crafty serpent and his brood. When Ninurta attempts to slay his foe, Ereshkigal, lady of the underworld, intervenes and promises that tribute will be paid. Ninurta claims the epithet “Dragon” for himself, heals the land and his people, and returns triumphantly to his capital, where he receives a lengthy accolade from his grateful ministers.

Scheible’s translation is on strong ground at every point; even at points where the exact reading might be under dispute, his choice of phrasing is rarely questionable. On more uncertain ground are his statements on the Jungian unconscious, which authors on popular spirituality are likely to turn into endorsements of a “universal serpent-god” or other such nonsense. It is much more likely that this, as with the parallel myth “Lugal-e,” describes the process by which a wild and unpredictable nature is tamed by civilization. Nonetheless, this is an impressive and important work that should occupy the shelves of all serious students of Mesopotamian mythology. – Arthur Townsend

Published in: on April 18, 2009 at 11:56 am  Comments (1)  

Fury of Yig: Heading Home

63K words in, and I’m looking at the end.  I’m well past Oklahoma, and far into the first of the last two chapters.  The setting is something of a surprise, so I’m reluctant to spoil it.

Past precedent with the Mythos is always a tricky task.  Even within the Call of Cthulhu scenarios on Yig, there’s quite an amount of material from older scenarios.  I’ve tried to insert as many references to that other material as possible, but it hasn’t always worked out.

In terms of implementation, there’s quite a difference between using the Mythos in fiction and using it in games.  If you want to drop the names of a dozen Yig-related tomes or locations in a story, it might not result in the best writing in the world, but you can give the reader some shivers nonetheless.  In a role-playing scenario, the same technique will rapidly confuse the players, who don’t know which lead to follow.  A red herring or two is fine, but simply irrelevant material rapidly becomes frustrating.

For example, there’s a fun scenario for the d20 Call of Cthulhu game called “The Lost Temple of Yig.”  It’s a very pulpy scenario, and one that requires far too much setup explanation to implement.  Further, one has to be careful about tossing out even casual references to such a temple, because you don’t want the group getting obsessed with the Lost Temple, trying to find the Lost Temple, wondering if they missed the Lost Temple, etc.

Nonetheless, I can recall at least four scenarios that have been referenced in Fury in one way or another.  That should give readers and knowledgeable players some extra thrills, while including enough original content to thrill new players.

Oh yes – there are references to the fiction as well, ranging from “The Curse of Yig” to Lin Carter.  Yes, I found a creative way to use one of Carter’s stories…

Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 11:32 pm  Comments (1)  

Fury of Yig Update: The Monsters

Fury now hovers around 55K words, and I’ve made it to Oklahoma.

A quick comment on the monsters in Fury.  It’s not been uncommon for many campaigns to have interludes in which you have creatures that don’t quite fit with the theme of the campaign.  I can understand the desire for writers to change around the cast to liven up things, but sometimes it does come across as a monster mash of sorts.

Originally, I thought this would be a problem for Fury.  I mean, this is a campaign about Yig, which means your immediate monster roster looks like this:

  • Snakes
  • Serpent people
  • Yig
  • More snakes

As it turns out, however, there are a number of other possibilities, if you delve into some of the source material.  Some of the monsters are from previous products, and I’ve also included a couple new ones.  I’m especially happy with the monster for the Oklahoma chapter, which is built off of a hint in one of those old Petersen’s Guides that were produced for Call of Cthulhu years ago.

So, overall, the campaign goes well.

Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 7:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Fury of Yig Update

As of yesterday, Fury of Yig topped 50,000 words.  That’s the size of a standard Call of Cthulhu book.

Three more chapters to go.

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm  Comments (1)  

Fury of Yig Update

We had a request for a Fury update.  This semester has gone absolutely crazy, so I haven’t been as active here as I’d like to be, but I can certainly give one.

Right now, I’m over 44K words into the campaign, and (I hope) just coming over the halfway point.  I did pin down Adam on a word count, and it seems that I’ll end up right in the range that we want for the book.  I’ve compared Fury to a massive road trip, and I’ve finished up with the East Coast and headed out west.  Those who’ve read “The Curse of Yig” know that Oklahoma will be on the itinerary, but that’s not the only stop.

One element I’m being careful about is the use of Mythos beings.  If you’ve read many Call of Cthulhu campaigns, you’ve likely run into a being or two who really didn’t seem to have a reason to be there.  I can understand the writer’s impulse to bring in some outside elements so you’re not fighting the same creatures over and over; one of the challenges going into this campaign was not to make all the antagonists snakes and serpent men.

I hope to work on this in two respects.  First, most of the focus will be on humans, whether working for or against the investigators.  Finding my inspiration in the old Lovecraft Country books, I’ve tried to draw individuals who are compelling and who provide interesting interactions.  For example, the chapter I just finished includes a character who, I hope, you’ll want to punch by the time it’s over.  It was both scary and fun to write him.

Second, I’ve found some other monstrosities who fit with the overall theme, instead of having an obligatory yet out of place Deep One, ghoul, or mi-go encounter.  In fact, I was surprised to find out just how few of these I needed – I haven’t even run completely through my list.  That makes it easier to edit later if I or one of my readers decides it needs something more.

So don’t worry – I’m still trucking along, and I’m still having fun.

Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 9:45 pm  Comments (2)  

Fury of Yig: A Tome of Disrespect, Part 2

As we discussed in our last installment, tomes are largely sidelined in Call of Cthulhu games, and I’d like to do something about it in Fury of Yig.  I’m working with Bret Kramer, who came up with an innovative way of working with tomes for the Masks Companion, on the writeups for the book.

Up front, I should say that much of this is dependent on what gets in and what gets cut.  Nonetheless, I thought I’d let you know how we hope to cover each tome in Fury, from the Necronomicon (yes, it’s in there) to New Age literature…

  • A physical description of the book.
  • Availability – where can you find it?  Is it only available in the vaults of some library?  Can you purchase it online through a specialty bookseller?  Or is it available in the airport bookstore?  So often it seems that a book is only available through one copy in any scenario, instead of accessible through other sources.
  • Skimming – sure, we have rules for skimming books in Call of Cthulhu, but it’s often not clear what’s in there or not.  We make the distinction clear.
  • Research – What can you learn about the book, its author, and its contents?
  • Reading – What you find when reading the book itself.  This also includes skill rolls to be made after reading the book.  A successful Occult roll might mean you can tell whether a book’s incantations are typical for a period, or an Anthropology roll can assess the plausibility of an author’s statements.  It’s another incentive to not let one member of the group read the books…
  • Quotes from the book, many of which should be relevant to the investigation
  • The statistics of the book

The overall goal is to make tomes into sources of information for your investigators to read, consider, pass around, and otherwise treat as important documents, rather than simply convenient sources of Cthulhu Mythos skill and a few spells.  We’ll see how it goes.

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 9:44 pm  Comments (1)  

Fury of Yig: A Tome of Disrespect

I’ve had a nasty stomach bug for the past couple days, hence my silence.  The break nonetheless let me curl up with the new Mysteries of Mesoamerica, for one adventure of which I give spoilers below.

Before going on, I’d like to say I’m greatly enjoying this book.  Blair Reynolds’ artwork is wonderful, Brian Appleton and John Crowe have written some fine scenarios, and Clint Staples’ sections… well, I haven’t read them because one master’s degree is enough Mesoamerican knowledge for me, but they look excellent.

Nonetheless, one scenario – “The Temple of the Toad” – is perhaps the epitome of how Call of Cthulhu adventures use tomes in curious ways.

This adventure is based on Robert E. Howard’s “The Thing on the Roof,” which has as a major plot point the differences between the various editions of von Junzt’s Unaussprechlichen Kulten.  “Temple” follows suit, but it doesn’t let us see any of these – no copies are available, and no quotations are provided.  In fact, it’s made clear that the investigators have absolutely no way of actually viewing this book.

Why?

Obviously, the short answer is that the author didn’t want the characters to sit down for 52 weeks and read the book, as per the rules.  I can certainly understand that.

Nonetheless, it illustrates one of the main trouble with the classic Mythos tomes in Call of Cthulhu – their use as sources of Cthulhu Mythos percentiles and spells and not books that are actually read for useful information.  Despite the central role books like the Necronomicon and De Vermis Mysteriis play in the Mythos and the game, most of the actual clues in the game appear in newspapers, journals, matchbooks, business cards, videotapes, or in some book that the author cooked up to get around the time restrictions on reading those tomes.  That’s understandable for one-shot adventures, but even campaigns usually provide the tomes but don’t give much relevance for them in terms of content.

In short, I’d like to handle this differently in Fury of Yig.  My post next week will be on how I’ll try to shake matters up.

Published in: on January 14, 2009 at 6:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Fury of Yig: Which Yig?

This is what I hope to be the first in a series of posts regarding the Fury of Yig campaign for Call of Cthulhu on which I’m working.

Long-time CoC fans might ask, which Yig are we using?  After all, a few different versions have been published over the years in products for the game.

The first of these is the semi-benevolent Yig who works in concert with the natives who revere him to help the characters against a greater Mythos threat.  I don’t want to discount this entirely from the canon, because Lovecraft alludes toward some friendliness in “Curse of Yig,” but it’s certainly not a version of Yig I want to use in Fury.  We can assume that most of those pockets of Yig worship in the world have, by modern times, largely dispersed, his believers turning to capitalism or Pentecostalism or television and forgetting the old ways.  There’s not really any reason for Yig to hold back any more.

The second is the pulp Yig, who shows up at some temple in the jungle or remote valley, allowing his foes to carve out a swath of bloody doom through cultists or serpent men.  This can be fun, but it’s also an approach that I’d like to get away from.

The Yig I’d like to invoke in Fury is one who’s genuinely scary.   If we had to pick out one attribute regarding Yig from the literature, it would be his anger against someone who kills one of his children.  Even if you’re not an environmentalist, a quick look at all the transformations we’ve seen across our landscape over the past hundred years – strip malls and fast food chains and shrinking wilderness – has certainly had a negative impact on snakes everywhere.  With the low number of people who reverence him, you can see why Yig might decide that all of this is enough, and that it’s best just to take out the entire miserable species, and perhaps those other hairy beasts for good measure.

That, in a nutshell, is what the campaign’s about.

If you’d like me to discuss any aspect of Fury, please ask.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I’d like to talk with you about what I’m finding nonetheless.

Published in: on January 5, 2009 at 6:29 pm  Comments (4)  

Fury Playtest

I’ve spent the past few days, among other matters, prepping for the first playtest session of Fury of Yig.  So far, I have to say it wasn’t the disaster that I thought it might be, as some scenarios are when your carefully-laid plans meet with actual players.  Everyone seemed happy with it, though at some points I did have to tell them no, there are no productive clues down this path.  And they caught a couple things that the readers have missed so far, which is one of the main reasons I wanted them to playtest this.  They’re good guys.

And now I’m rambling, so I’ll go off to bed.  More about England later.

Published in: on June 16, 2009 at 12:16 am  Leave a Comment