D&D and the Cthulhu mythos: Adventure ideas?
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  1. #1

    D&D and the Cthulhu mythos: Adventure ideas?

    Before I ask my question, I'd like to be clear: this is a request to generate some ideas, not for lists of books and published adventures I likely already have.

    I've looked in CoCd20, Cthulhu Dark Ages, Heroes of Horror, the Freeport trilogy, most of my Chaosium/Pagan Publishing BRP Cthulhu books (and I have a ton of them) and even the Lords of Madness book. I'm having a tough time actually coming up with ideas for incorporating the Mythos into my D&D game.

    Horror games? No prob--I have scads of Ravenloft products, Darkness & Dread and even Nightmares of Mine. I have the tools needed to run a scary game. What I don't have is Mythos-specific, Cthulhu-centric plots that I can use to challenge my (currently 3rd level) party. I'd especially like something that can be an over-arching plot that I gradually build as my players gain levels.

    So, lay it on me, baby. Post your coolest adventure seed, squamous plot, loathsome conspiracy, hideous ritual, or convoluted investigation that mashed the Cthulhu mythos directly into your D&D game...or allowed it to subtly lurk in the darkened corners.

    Please, anything--even if it's a few words, you'll spark ideas that will get me started.

    Oh, and a small request: Deep Ones, sahuagin, mi-go, beholders and mind flayers are over-done, played out, clichÚ and tired. I'm looking for something...different. Heck, I'd love to hear about some human opponents--after all, we're the most hideous monsters, aren't we? ...And thank you, in advance!
    Last edited by Wraith Form; Thursday, 10th May, 2007 at 11:50 AM.

  2. #2
    Hmm, they're probably all going to be variations on someone (the PCs or cultists) freeing or summoning a Great Old One, and you could use something native to D&D like the Tarrasque or the Far Realm for that.

    In a fantastic D&D world, much of the alien horror of Cthulhu has it's wind taken out of it's sails. PCs use magic, it doesn't drive them insane. PCs fight monsters, they don't drive them insane. The planes are wacky, and they don't drive the PCs insane either. Differentiating a Great Old One from being just another supermonster like the Tarrasque, or Mephistopheles trying to bring about Hell On Prime is also going to be tricky.

    Age of Worms also proves somewhat that the CoC research model for finding forbidden secrets is dubiously useful in a D&D context; PCs go to expert for no intuitive reason except that the module designer wants them to, expert tells them not much because forbidden knowledge needs to stay kinda secret, PCs go to next dungeon and thump some more monsters anyway (because monsters are a big deal in the 1930s, but just another thing to slay in D&D). It lacks a certain something.

    CoC tropes in D&D have been trendy since forever, dating back to 1st edition, and continues to get reinvented as if it were something new, but I'm not sure people have really thought it through very much. Oh well, it gave us mind flayers and the Elder Elemental God.

    I know that doesn't really offer much useful, except pointing out some hurdles.
    Last edited by rounser; Thursday, 10th May, 2007 at 11:42 AM.

  3. #3
    It can be done, however: look at Lords of Madness. Look at Dungeon adventures "Deep Freeze" or "And Madness Followed".

    I just need some basic plot ideas that can be lifted from CoC and dropped into D&D. I'm shocked how many BRP CoC adventures I own that would require massive re-working just to get the basic plot into a quasi-medieval setting.

    Regarding the Far Realm, I know there was a post here a few months ago asking about all the Far Realm adventures/products. Anyone happen to have a linkie to that, pretty please?
    Last edited by Wraith Form; Thursday, 10th May, 2007 at 11:47 AM.

  4. #4
    It can be done, however: look at Lords of Madness. Look at Dungeon adventures "Deep Freeze" or "And Madness Followed".
    I'm not familiar with these, but am genuinely interested: Are these reminiscent of CoC stylistic aesthetics in a D&D setting, or do they genuinely turn D&D into Dungeons & Madness? The former has been done a lot; the latter would be a real trick. Then again, if Ravenloft can pull off horror with PCs who are armed to the teeth and can fireball an inn down, I suppose it's possible.

    Also, if Ravenloft can superimpose fear checks on D&D monsters, a CoC D&D campaign should be able to superimpose insanity checks on the same. Again, you run up against the question of why the PCs are going insane if they meet elves down at the pub, so there's some "are monsters normal and common to the world, or completely alien aberrations of nature that aren't even supposed to exist ala 1930s earth" problems to sort out there...
    Last edited by rounser; Thursday, 10th May, 2007 at 11:51 AM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by rounser
    I'm not familiar with these, but am genuinely interested: Are these reminiscent of CoC stylistic aesthetics in a D&D setting, or do they genuinely turn D&D into Dungeons & Madness?
    Much more the former than the latter. Deep Freeze is, essentially, Mountains of Madness for 2nd level D&D characters: the PCs investigate why an insane asylum is being effected by nearby mountains, wherein live...things. BIG mo-fo things trapped in ice. Alas, no madness checks. "And Madness Followed" is a bard's attempt to run The King in Yellow (the play)...and the squishy joy that follows, for 9th level characters. Again, no madness checks. There are also a few Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics that have a "Lovecraftian feel"--Lost Vault of Tsathzar Rho describes an ancient wizard that angered ultra-planar Exiled Ones, and the results when the wizard is brought back to this plane. Cage of Delirium is an adventure concerning an asylum of the insane. Gooey good times ensue. They all appear to be adventures well worth their (essential) salt, though. {Heh. See how I did that? Essential salt?}

    There are several products for d20 that have madness rules, including Unearthed Arcana. Heroes of Madness offers the Ravenloft-inspired "taint" as well, which debuted in Book of Vile Darkness.

    I think it's almost barely arguable that the Midnight setting is modestly Lovecraft-inspired.

    I'd love to design the next "Masks of Nyarlathotep" Adventure Path, built for D&D, but I'm not very good at adventure design of the CoC "layered onion" type. LOL
    Last edited by Wraith Form; Thursday, 10th May, 2007 at 12:25 PM.

  6. #6
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    Seven mythos-themed story ideas for Dungeons and Dragons:

    1. The Old Speech: Traders on strange vessels have arrived from faraway lands, speaking strange tongues. They're goods are odd, artistically, but nothing is dangerous about their cargoes. But the language they speak- it's hard to forget. People dealing with them pick it up quickly, and find its vocabulary replacing their own. They find themselves considering things to have darker, more malign implications than other. Sexual attraction becomes overwhelming desire for dominance and subjugation, students become mindlessly devoted to their now-cult leader like teachers, and so on. Soon they lose their ability to speak any other language, and start infecting others...friends, family, townsfolk, whoever. The PCs can be involved at any stage- hired as guards for merchants, assigned by the local rulers to investigate, infected and hoping for a cure, whatever. Eventually there will be riots as the infected descend into madness, becoming as the Old Ones. The traders depart for the next port, leaving chaos in their wake and taking with them the strongest of the infected.

    2. The Sky: The PCs are underground, battling some cult or some evil underground race that already worships foul, blasphemous deities. Something alone the lines of Drow or whatnot. They discover an idol to said deity that leaves an impression in their minds- they start having strange dreams of a great eye moving behind clouds in the sky, a nameless terror of open spaces, etc. When they return to the surface they find themselves beset by a vision of the sky, one terrifying and ominous. Forced to flee for their sanity back underground, they'll have to search for source of this ancient evil in order to cure themselves of this Old One induced agoraphobia.

    3. The Gates: The PCs discover, or are hired by those who have discovered, whatever the hook, two mystical portals that lead between two important locations in the campaign. However, travelling between these portals isn't something people can just describe- they never remember exactly what it was like, just that it was unpleasant and violating. The time it takes to travel between each portal varies, and some people come through with a bizarre, fatal sickness (i.e., radiation poisoning). At some point someone doesn't come through the other side, and the PCs have to go in to get them. Say an empire was trying to use the portals as a way to secretly move troops or spies into a rival empire, and their army never appeared on the other side. Something along those lines. (Or they arrived...changed)

    4. The Strange High Castle in the Mist: Haunted Castle. Crazy old Witch lives between the dimensions within, drives residents mad or sucks them into her crazy multi-angled plane. I.e., it's Dreams in the Witch House, only in a castle, and probably with more stabbing of things with swords.

    5. The City of the God: Decadent city in a wasteland. Fading power, evil nobility that exists only to gratify its monstrous urges...and the PCs are captured, or their beloved NPCs are capture, or the King's Daughter has been captured, or they're out to find this city to A. Enjoy its forbidden delights B. Steal something from it C. "rescue' someone who went to enjoy its forbidden delights...and may not want to leave, like the King's Evil Daughter, etc...
    Anyway, somewhere in the city is a god trapped in a pit- not a Big Timey God, more like an overweight shoggoth with some spells or a lesser Old One. Anyway, like Conan, they probably have to stab it at some point to get away. Extra points if the city and its inhuman nobility are destroyed in a cataclysm as the PCs flee.

    6.The Glove Cleaners (stolen from an Unspeakable Oath): Someone with access to a mythos tome and a printing press has decided to start scattering pages and excerpts from it all over the place. Never enough to assemble a whole spell, but just enough to unsettle those who read them and upset the delicate balance of the fragile or sensitive. Now the King's Daughter (i.e., insert Generic NPC In Distress) has gone mad after collecting too many of these fragments, and the PCs have to go hunt down the printer who is disseminating the forbidden knowledge. But he doesn't even know why he does it, just that he has the urge, and is otherwise a normal guy. (Probably protected secretly by a cult for your obligatory battle sequence) EDIT: Even better if you borrow from "Rome" and have it be mythos-themed graffiti against the local government or nobility.

    7. The Disturbances: In the "Call of Cthulhu" short story, when the Big C stirred in his sleep as a result of Ry'leh's short rise to the surface, psychics, sensitives and artists all over the world went mad, had nightmares, or otherwise had a pretty bad couple of days. Now it's happening to the PC's homeland, continent, or to the King's Daughter. The PCs have to go and travel to the location of the not-awake-but-not-asleep GOO and stop its cultists from disturbing its slumber. They haven't woken it up, but they're causing it to thrash around a bit in its Forbidden Island/Underground/Remote Mountaintop/Ancient Ruin/Underwater Chasm/Vast Forest prison. That or it's not cultists but foolish archaelogists who happen to be mostly deep sleepers. Or...Dwarves. When in doubt, blame the dwarves...
    Last edited by Professor Phobos; Thursday, 10th May, 2007 at 01:24 PM.

  7. #7
    Do you have a magic user in your party. If so, you might want to start out with everyone being all "ho-hum some aberration thingy is casting spells at us again" until...the spell-caster in the party notices that these spells don't match up with any known formulas for magic and these monsters don't seem to fit fit in this world. Everything is just...off. Describe it better than I just did (with the resources you have that shouldn't be a problem) and segue into using the sanity rules.

    Now you're free to build the mood with the rules backing you and you can do fun stuff like the elf cultists trying to turn themselves into Sahuagin by secretly sacrificing the children of a sleepy coastal town in an attempt to get the attention of some Thing From Beyond. Why do they want it's attention? Why do they need to become sea monsters to get it? Have the children really been killed, or has some fate worse befallen them?
    Last edited by DJCupboard; Thursday, 10th May, 2007 at 01:07 PM.

  8. #8
    Wow, both posts are great! Thanks, Professor P & DJ C!

    ...And yes, I have that UO with the Glove Cleaners. (I never understood the reference--what the heck's a "glove cleaner"?)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wraith Form
    Wow, both posts are great! Thanks, Professor P & DJ C!

    ...And yes, I have that UO with the Glove Cleaners. (I never understood the reference--what the heck's a "glove cleaner"?)
    I have no idea either, but the name fits, for some reason.

  10. #10
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    I have posted along these lines before, I will see if I can recreate someof the ideas:

    In the City of the King: In a great metropolis a small band of seemingly homeless wanderers are drawing strange swirling grafitti around the town. Nothing to odd about this, until strange aberration begin appearing randomly and attacking the citizenry. Eventually entire parts of the city begin to transfrom in to strange alien buildings as the city is slowly replaced by the Mad God City of the Far Realm. Meanwhile strange plays are being shown, odd coins are showing up, and population of goblins/kobolds/ratmen that are normally found in the sewers and tunnels beneath the city are all leaving, having been warned by their god in a dream to flee the madness to come. Lots of possible adventures in that scenario:
    - Investigate what has the goblins stirred up
    - Investigate the random attacks by aberrations (mindless horrors seemingly with no plan at all)
    - Investigate the acting troupe the nobleman's daughter has joined and the strange play they are performing.

    All or none of that might lead the PCs to the eventually discover the link betweent he symbols, the drifters, and the strange occurances but it may not be in time. If not there is
    - Explore a section of city that has been transformed to rescue a friend/influential person/source of information/magic artifact
    - Confront pseudonatrual humans that are building strange works of art/machines to hasten the spread of the alien city
    -Confront the drifters and their Yellow King, an avatar of the Mad God City.

    I will see what else I can come up with that doesnt involve deep ones or mindflayers.

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