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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    I was wondering about having some Lovecraft inspired beasties for a scifi game (early space era), and was trying to puzzle through what sort are best. I don't want a scenario like, "Cthulhu has awoken! But we might be able to beat him if we can get that shotgun."* I was thinking more along the lines of, "here is some terrifying, otherworldly thing, which you might just be able to kill at great risk and cost." Killing anything Lovecraftian is sort of against Lovecraft's work, but at the same time I figure you could mow down the people of Innsmouth with an MG had that scenario arisen.

    Any suggestions?


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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Well, let's see. Ghuls, Vampires, Mi-Go, Deep Ones and Elder Beings all aren't that powerful individually, though they tend to have strange magics and/or technology. Animated corpses are around occasionally and not that hard to destroy, I'd assume. Though I suppose you mean something a bit more powerful than that. Cthulhu himself is famously beaten the only time he shows up. If a ship to the face can do it, I imagine so can SciFi weaponry.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    I remember a long argument about the ship to the face, some time back. Whether it was just chance that he happened to be going to sleep at the time, or whether a ship to the face was just what he needed to send him back to bed.

    The mi-go are a good idea. Abominable looking things, interesting and horrifying enough that shooting them with all the ships' guns would be most relieving.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    You can see the last post I made in the other thread for more deetz but I think you've got a somewhat mixed up idea about what a "Lovecraftian Monster" is. It does not mean "the most powerful big bad bad guy ever you can't beat no way and it's so bad you go cray cray from looking at it." There's seriously a story where the villain, an eight foot tall mutant monster, gets killed by a dog.

    e: Like, here's what we know about Shoggoths really, from canon -

    -they are like the size of a bus
    -they are made of protoplasm
    -they can race along at like maybe 12-15 MPH; some guys managed to outrun one but they had a pretty big head start
    -They are strong enough that they were basically used like living construction vehicles
    -They can grow hot enough to burn through solid rock


    There's basically nothing there that says you couldn't kill the hell out of one with a space bazooka. I mean, it's basically the Horta just a lot bigger. And the Shoggoth is like the iconic Lovecraftian monster so there you go.
    Last edited by Piedmon_Sama; 2015-10-23 at 07:18 PM.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Quote Originally Posted by Piedmon_Sama View Post
    You can see the last post I made in the other thread for more deetz but I think you've got a somewhat mixed up idea about what a "Lovecraftian Monster" is. It does not mean "the most powerful big bad bad guy ever you can't beat no way and it's so bad you go cray cray from looking at it." There's seriously a story where the villain, an eight foot tall mutant monster, gets killed by a dog.
    Dogs are awesome, though. Even if Lovecraft preferred cats.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mask View Post
    Killing anything Lovecraftian is sort of against Lovecraft's work, but at the same time I figure you could mow down the people of Innsmouth with an MG had that scenario arisen.
    Common misconception about Lovecraft's work, actually. In fact Shadow Over Innsmouth did end with the FBI doing just that to the eponymous town. The problem is, of course, they can't really do anything about the Deep Ones down below, who are much stronger sorcerers and the like. Similarly, Herbert West was able to kill more than one of his creations, when they came for his jibblies-- his luck and ability to put down his horrors eventually was just outstripped by his ability to create horrors. Wilbur Whateley, from The Dunwich Horror, got bodied hard by a dog, and his... brother was Ghostbustered all to hell-- just not before they killed a bunch of people and made the Miskatonic's researchers develop a marked distaste for calamari. The vampire from The Shunned House (a house you can actually visit, if you're so inclined), though made huge from years of consumption, still went down when confronted with enough sulfuric acid-- it's probably gone, but it still got the protagonist's dear relative.

    To make a good Lovecraftian Horror, then, you absolutely need three elements:

    1.At first, your players dunno what it is or how to deal with it.

    2.By the time they've figured out how to deal with it, they've incurred significant losses-- and their knowledge of what is going on needs to be incomplete.

    3.Whether or not they beat it, they can't ascertain that the root cause of the problem has been significantly altered.

    So, let's set up an example with Star Spawn-- baby Cthulhus, essentially. I'll make up some anomalous properties that aren't cannon but that they could conceivably . Your players encounter an area overgrown with strange, green, slimy, scaly fungus. If their sci-fi science dood tries to take samples, spectrometers and spectrographs, and other scanners return back gibberish data-- things like saying that you're clearly scanning ununoctium in a gaseous phase when they're scanning something that they would assume to be a solid hydrocarbon. Deeper into the area, they find corpses whose faces are shrouded with the same fungal matter-- covered completely. If they try and analyze it with tools, cause of death could be severe bodily trauma-- the fungus has grown into their bodies and basically started selectively consuming tissues in the lungs, stomach lining, liver, and brain.

    So, at this point, they've got no idea what's going on, but that it's bad on an order that defies the laws of physics. Then they actually encounter the thing-- maybe it emerged from an ancient coffin hewn of green soapstone (that is not dead which can eternal lie, etc.). If they got a gunner, make sure to give him plenty of opportunities to thoroughly douse the thing in lead and maybe even fire-- "kill it with fire" is, after all, the go-to trope for an escalated threat of this kind, thanks to The Thing in part. Have the Star Spawn shrug it off at every turn, and only be repelled by, for example, a certain kind of X-ray emitter that eventually blows up, apparently from a feedback loop. If it gets a hit in, maybe have pieces of the star spawn flake off onto their skin-- only to reveal that it's the fungus, and have them frantically try to scrape it off as it tries to kill them.

    From there, have them scrounge around for data, information about how to beat the Star Spawn-- in ancient, alien tombs, in underground cities predating humanity, things like that. Make it so that the idea of fighting another one of those bastards fills them with dread, and that even when they do figure out how to beat it, it's not a cakewalk by any stretch-- maybe it still regenerates, albeit slowly, from damage caused by whatever gadget you have it die to. In the end, they come out victorious-- but they discover that the strange stone coffins are scattered over many worlds, and some of them are rather larger and more ornate than the ones they've had to deal with so far.

    That is, of course, just an example. You should modify the central ideas to work with your setting and with your game so that it fits. Maybe Star Spawn just don't hit the right notes for your narrative-- pick Night Gaunts, shoggoths, or make something entirely new up!
    Last edited by Deffers; 2015-10-23 at 07:23 PM.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Piedmon: To be fair, dogs can get pretty big. It's true that fans tend to exaggerate the invincibility of all things Lovecraftian to the extent that I begin to associate them as unkillable. Though, more specifically, there a couple of camps of Lovecraftian monsters, ranging from Cthulhu to the guy lost in a cave. One you can kill with a rock, the other drives you mad by thinking about it. I was mostly wondering about something inbetween, where killing it is possible, but very hard and not very desirable.



    Ludic: The Cats of Ulthar versus a Shaggoth, who wins?



    Deffers: Oddly, I can't remember the epilogue chapter with the FBI whatsoever. Not sure why.

    That's an awesome example, Deffers, thanks! That's really the best way to handle monsters in a lot of scenarios.
    Last edited by Mr. Mask; 2015-10-23 at 07:28 PM.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    No problem, Mr. Mask!

    And if you want my opinion, the cats would win. They're under the protection from a god (or gods) in the Dreamlands-- that's why they're so OP. They do rituals.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Those cats are OP. It made me wonder how the involved deities compare to Cthulhu. I don't think there was any speculation or hints as to that in H.P's works.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    It's worth noting that Cthulhu did lose to one alien civilization (which is the reason he's asleep these days). Granted, they had an army, but so did he. As for the dream gods, Nodens is able to oppose Nyarlathotep confidently; I doubt Cthulhu is anywhere near that power.

    Now, obviously, HP Lovecraft does have lots of monsters that do survive the protagonists' best efforts to kill them. In most cases, though, it's still possible to fight them, and even foil their plans; most people simply lack whatever arcane resources are necessary to deal with them permanently. There are a few truly transcendent beings (like Yog-Sothoth and Azathoth), but they are extremely rare and generally don't interact with our plane.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    @Mr. Mask: There are a few hints. More stories about Dreamlands cities exist in his mythos. They tend to do things like level towns. Some of the stronger ones, like Nodens, are enemies of creatures as high up the food chain as Nyarlathotep. And Nodens, in particular, can manage to do some wonky multi-dimensional stuff, as was shown with The Strange High House in the Mist.

    That's another interesting misunderstanding people have about Lovecraft's mythos: People aren't wholly boned. Only mostly boned. Every now and then, someone gets to have an encounter with the numinous and cosmic that doesn't end in hideous disaster. Some people can even have happy endings! Pickman got a good deal. And he's still a good friend to humans who seek out his help. That might be another setting concern for your particular campaign-- do you want to add those more positive elements? That opens up potential to radically change the tone.

    EDIT: Ninja'd on the Nodens point!
    Last edited by Deffers; 2015-10-23 at 09:44 PM.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    The xenomorphs from the Alien franchise, done well, are fairly lovecraftian in their own right.

    To my understanding, the two main themes of lovecraftian horror are
    1) The Unknowable: Things that hurt you by the very act of learning about them. Things so alien that the human mind struggles to describe, let alone grasp them.
    "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
    -H.P. Lovecraft

    2) Distortion or loss of identity.
    Pickman's Model and Shadow over Innsmouth both end with the shocking reveal that significant characters were "one of THEM all along!". In Shadow from Out of Time, the protagonist spends several years with his brain swapped with that of a disturbingly alien time traveler from another world, navigating around as a strange, twisted tentacle thing body. In The Colour from Outer Space, a meteor full in indescribably colored goo starts to mutate, then suck the life out of, everything on or near the farm it landed in.

    So I guess the two things a lovecraftian threat should probably do is fail to conform to normal logic/physics, and probably threaten to turn one or more party members into... something else. Perhaps more of itself, perhaps something altogether new. Worst of all if the side effects from being exposed to it don't make them into violent NPCs, their bodies are just warping into something disguising and hideous while leaving their minds horribly untouched, forced to cope with the reality of it.

    Doesn't matter if they kill it, or maybe as best they can tell just manage to drive it away, if it leaves behind a nightmarish legacy.
    ...with a vengeance!

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Not sure I'd agree with loss of identity one hundred percent, DoomHat. But it's still something to bear in mind, and one way Lovecraft's stories can go. Let's discuss some Lovecraft stories that deal with those themes.

    Well, Pickman was still human at the end of his story. It's just that he had a picture of something that wasn't-- that was the reveal. Pickman's Model was an actual ghoul. Sometime between then and Randolph Carter's Dream Quest, Pickman himself became a full ghoul by taking what I will refer to as the Atkins Extreme Diet. And it turned out great for him! Kuranes the Dream King, another two-story HPL character, got a less happy ending from his full transition to the Dreamlands. The life he left behind was desolate and bare, but he still missed the home of his youth. Randolph himself seemed to be pretty alright with being turned into an alien sorcerer in a much later story except for the fact that he missed his house-- that is to say, he's not too bothered by what he turned into as much as he's bothered by the fact that he can't figure out how to go back to being human.

    Shadow Over Innsmouth reveals the narrator will, in time, become a Deep One too. And he starts to relish the idea. I wouldn't call that a happy end, since we can pretty much infer that it's just a part of Fish Puberty changing his perception of reality rather than a choice he voluntarily made like with Kuranes or Pickman. The Outsider, similarly, is struck with the revelation that he was a monster all along-- to the world and to himself. And ultimately chooses to live among ghouls but he's full of sorrow and revulsion. Then there's the problem of the Thing on the Doorstep-- that was loss of identity forced on someone as part of another human-level intelligence's plan to stay alive pretty much forever. The Rats in the Walls is loss of identity by way of horrible revelation and atavistic response instead, which ends in loss of sanity. Arthur Jermyn met the same fate. Then there are the stories where the Mi Go are involved, and that's pretty much a one-way ticket to having a bad time as a brain in a jar..The Yithians tend towards leaving you with knowledge that is great and interesting, but which also happens to make people think you're crazy. This one's weird because, for a while, you inhabit the Yithian's body while he goes and lives your life-- and people don't always adapt well to this change or to the change back. There's loss of identity twice over. These are the quintessential horror-based loss of identity arcs in Lovecraft's fiction, I think.

    In short: I'd agree loss of identity is a consistent theme, but sometimes the characters themselves don't see it as that bad a thing. The odds aren't quite in any given character's favor, though. So I'd say it depends on both the DM's choice of tone and the attitude the player thinks his character would take to a given situation. PC's are weird people. Maybe they'd enjoy being turned into a monster-- even Lovecraft admitted this was a possibility, after all.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    It it has stats, it can be killed. The only way to make it unkillable is to not give it stats. This is why the Lady of Pain is invincible.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Are you looking for something like the Reapers of Mass Effect ? Technology so advanced it's basically magic, otherworldly goals (well, until ME2), can still be killed by liberal application of firepower.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    In this case, I was actually hoping for some dark, hidden horror, a monstrous creature that could assail you at the edge of civilization when you explore wild places.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    The Mi Go might be good inspiration for that kinda enemy (along with my aforementioned Star Spawn reinterpretation). They live in hidden bases all over earth and other similar planets, mostly for resource gathering. They're fungoid creatures who're made of some exotic kinda matter, so they can do things like fly to space and not give a crap about getting shot. If you impress them, they'll put your brain in a jar. You can go all sorts of places with that-- we had a Mythos setting here where Migo, and the planet that they live on, are only really affected by gravity when also in the presence of human consciousness. Meaning that they don't really like having humans around that aren't under their direct control.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Mask View Post
    In this case, I was actually hoping for some dark, hidden horror, a monstrous creature that could assail you at the edge of civilization when you explore wild places.
    Oh, dude. They already exist in all kinds of stuff. Pathfinder's Qlippoth, Magic the Gathering's Eldrazi, DC's Anti-Monitors...there's a lot of these thing sitting past the edges of reality ready to try a taste of your sanity just to see if it tastes like blueberries.

    Lovecraftian monsters are pretty simple. They're somewhat formless, sometimes vaguely resemble seafood, and are generally just...wrong. They strip away the possibility of a benevolent universe. If you already didn't think the presents were from Santa, they're only as scary as any other boogin.

    Cosmic Horror exists beyond the edges of Lovecraft, and a good concept goes somewhere else. What genre, ostensibly, is the setting? Your horrors exist to skull-**** that notion out of people's heads. You want to confound the hope out of your players' hearts in a science-fiction setting? They're not going to be startled by conventional star-spawned horrors, they almost expect 'em.

    What you want are some angels. However, they're not living Renaissance artl these things are weird. If you run into any conventional cosmic squid creatures, they're just as horrified by the angels as you are.

    Here's an example of one of those utterly alien...things, from organized religion, the Ophanim.

    • Two wheels turning over eachother, wreathed in a ring of wings fluttering in disjointed directions. At the center of this whirling atrocity is an unblinking, austere eye. This thing should not, cannot fly, and yet it does, while spouting off about vice and virtue in a voice like a brass section.


    That's ****ing strange, ain't it. Why is it spinning? Where did it come from? What does it want?

    Essentially, have angels come in, acting on an unknown agenda with dispassionate zeal. If you ask them why, they don't even know, they're just doing it because they should.

    There's a reason those abominations had to shout, "FEAR NOT!"



    Essentially, you want your semi-beatable cosmic horror to defy the setting. They're puzzle-pieces that don't fit, they're mismatched socks, they just plain don't look like they should be real. If you want to see cosmic madness-monsters done par excellence, check out the witches from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The Witches are so alien that when they show up, the animation style changes.
    Last edited by ThinkMinty; 2015-10-25 at 02:56 AM.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Quote Originally Posted by ThinkMinty View Post
    There's a reason those abominations had to shout, "FEAR NOT!"
    My response would be:

    "NOT HELPING!"

    Last edited by goto124; 2015-10-25 at 03:17 AM.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Quote Originally Posted by goto124 View Post
    My response would be:

    "NOT HELPING!"

    Pretty much, just tailor the horrors to people's expectations and defying 'em. Or get high and read a lot of Grant Morrison comics. That might help.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Yeah, breaking expectations is a big part of cosmic horror. It's about coming face to face with how reality operates outside your control.

    And if your players go all "LOL already knew I was insignificant, there are no truths" et cetera, the right answer is for the Angels above to come down and say "actually, you mattered, there was a truth you could've known all along... but because you rejected it, now you're going to Hell".

    Practically speaking, the difference between Awe and cosmic horror is nill.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    This is why I'm not much of a Cthulhu-fan. The fandom can be so pessimistic at times. Some people actually think normal people have no chances against Lovecraftian monsters, even if they have supposedly read more Lovecraft and co. than I have. I've even heard some people wonder how screwed D&D-heroes would be if they were ever against Lovecraftian monsters. Since normal people do in fact have chances, D&D-heroes would just wipe the floor with these monsters. They've had worse.

    I'm now pretty certain that my favorite Cthulhu-story is Old Man Henderson.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    An average character would have no chance against one of Lovecraft's monsters in a boxing ring with a rifle, so some people used to DnD and other more "heroic" games think "Oh well, that's it, since my character can't survive multiple gunshot wounds to the brain he must be incapable of fighting these monsters."

    All you really need to do is plan out the battle in you favor with "heavy artillery" like machine guns or grenades and spells or come prepared with an effective strategy other than shoot it until it dies.

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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    D&D characters always had a fighting chance, Lovecraft's creatures have been part of the monster roster since the start. This goes back to literary inspirations like Conan, who actually shared the world with some of Lovecraft's things due to collaboration between authors.

    The thing that's often missed is that even Conan was frequently horrified by said things in a primal and instinctive way, even as he was punching them in the face. The line between Sword & Sorcery and cosmic horror, even heroic epic and cosmic horror, is so thin as to be non-existent.
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raimun View Post
    I'm now pretty certain that my favorite Cthulhu-story is Old Man Henderson.
    Seconded. Old Man Henderson is an inspiring tale of heroic explosions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deffers View Post
    The Mi Go might be good inspiration for that kinda enemy (along with my aforementioned Star Spawn reinterpretation). They live in hidden bases all over earth and other similar planets, mostly for resource gathering. They're fungoid creatures who're made of some exotic kinda matter, so they can do things like fly to space and not give a crap about getting shot. If you impress them, they'll put your brain in a jar. You can go all sorts of places with that-- we had a Mythos setting here where Migo, and the planet that they live on, are only really affected by gravity when also in the presence of human consciousness. Meaning that they don't really like having humans around that aren't under their direct control.
    Oh yeah. That was fun, the dark matter Mi-Go. And then the humans putting brains in jars in evangelion-style living giant weapon systems, to counter them.

    I should dig that setting back out some time.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2015-10-26 at 04:16 AM.
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    From the depths of the pacific, to the edge of the galaxy.
    For as long as I shall live.

  27. - Top - End - #27
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    Ashtagon's Avatar

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    Jan 2009
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    Default Re: (Semi-)Beatable Lovecraft Monsters?

    Lovecraft's heroes do at times win against the horrors. But when they do, it's normally either through incredible luck or incredible planning. They don't do stand-up fights against the monsters and win.

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