Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Book of Shub-Niggurath - Owner's Manual

The Book of Shub-Niggurath - Owner's Manual

Shub-Niggurath - The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young: Lovecraft Call of Cthulhu LARP RPG roleplaying game accessory is meant be utilized as a roleplaying prop for the Call of Cthulhu RPG or any other horror or fantasy game that needs a Lovecraftian twist. With 566 pages in the book, that's plenty for you to tear out or write on, using them for props or clues.

I received the question of exactly how one would incorporate the Book of Shub-Niggurath in their game.  This is the result of that question and its subsequent answers.

I’ll cover the gaming aspects first, then the real world magickal theories second.

I started gaming in the 80’s.  We loved handouts, props, any extras that enhanced the playing and storytelling experience.  Unfortunately, back then most of the extras included were tiny black and white maps or “found pages from an ancient tome” which were sometimes only a quarter page size cutout.  So we would use old encyclopedias or even phone books (to invoke the Plumber of Doom dial 555-FLUSHIT) in the stead of sizeable spell books.

This is a physical prop intended to be used and abused.

Especially if you’re a Keeper who likes to use atmospheric extras, turn down the lights, flicker bulbs, sound fx tracks, eerie music, etcetera; this book is for you.  Your players will remember the first time you announce that they have discovered the Book of Shub-Niggurath and hold it a few feet above the table, then let it drop with a heavy thud that shakes the table and sends papers, pencils, and dice flying.  “Hold your drinks.”  This thing weighs three and a half pounds.  Be careful where you toss it.  Unless you’re like my old gaming crew was, then you’ll probably forcibly throw it at one or all of them during the course of the campaign.  I guess from a legal standpoint, yes, those multiple incidents would technically constitute assault.

Got a designated spellcaster?  Make them get up and walk around the table while reciting the appropriate passages.  “In proper Sumerian, please.”  We used to have to write out and recite every fhtagn word.  “Oh, no.  I’m not casting nothing this game.  You’re the mage now.” *proceeds to throw book at the new acolyte*  If you’re LARPing, your mage will simply love lugging this heavy thing around for hours on end!

Use passages from the Lovecraft stories as clues for the investigators.  Some sending them in the right direction, some sending them the other way.  But all paths are fraught with danger.

Make the investigators find the clues in the book’s passages themselves from other external cues.  They might hate you for making them work so hard, but there will also be a solid feeling of satisfaction of unraveling a mystery using physical props as opposed to just making an occult skill roll.  I left the pages unnumbered for this reason, but how many authentic spellbooks are numbered anyway?  Especially if pages are always being added or removed.

The different ancient languages in the book can be used to send investigators on themed adventures (gods, cults, beings, and folk heroes from those mythologies) or even to their originating locations around the world.  The Akkadian underworld can become a real subterranean location or reachable other-dimensional plane.

There are multiple gods from the Cthulhu Mythos pantheon listed in the book besides Shub-Niggurath.  So these are easy lead-ins to include all those various other factions in your adventures.

Get a red marker and start writing clues across the pages with the ancient languages.  Questions, translations (and inaccurate translations – Klaatu.  Barada.  Necktie!), non-euclidean equations, occult symbols, cryptic messages, locations, etc.

Or perhaps that one crucial page with all the clues is missing!  Or partially torn with the other half of the banishing spell on it.  An infuriating cliché of fiction from the era was that the location of the villain’s hideout, or the dead recluse millionaire’s will, or the combination to the safe containing the needed special item were written on that missing page.

Make it the Book of dread.  Use it sparingly, then when the book comes out your investigators know there is trouble ahead.

Are some of those pages cursed?  Side quest interrupting gameplay to find a cure for the increasingly fishy skin condition of Professor Smart Guy who botched the spell reading.  Yeah, they’re gonna really hate you after this one.

Who else wants this book?  Any of the Thousand Young will obviously want to get Mom’s book back.  There could be multiple, competing factions of Shub cults fighting each other and your team to gain possession of the book.  Other cults will have a vested interest in getting their slimy tentacles on the magic contained within those pages.  Agents of other groups or persons of interest who think that much power must be destroyed; or at least taken out of your group’s incompetent hands.

Did you steal this book from the Miskatonic library?  You will have to contend with some very angry faculty as well as overzealous students and wannabe campus cultists.

Actual otherplanar beings will probably want to get hold of the Book of Shub-Niggurath.  Can they sense the magic in the book and track the party?  Always one step behind?  Will they use it for their own nefarious schemes or just devour its power as a light snack then go back to sleep for 1000 years?

Shub might have to take matters into her own hands (alien grabby parts?) and get the book back herself.

Learn a new dead language.  I could fluently read and write Runic Norse by the time I was done studying it for gaming purposes.

As for as real world magic use, all of the ancient languages are considered to contain actual power that is unlockable and usable to the reader.  Many cultures held the belief that words themselves are a type of energy and that put together in the proper order constitute a functioning spell.  That’s what curse words originally were!

Then there is also the aspect of equidistant letter sequencing, hidden words and meanings, and subliminal magicks of mental control or spiritual domination.  Catcher in the Rye anyone?  What works for one won’t necessarily work for another.  That does not disempower the original seeker of knowledge.  Books can transport you to another world, create new reality paradigms, breathe life into those eldritch landscapes.  But this book is just a focus.  The real power lies within you.