Cult for Trail of Cthulhu
Ever since humanity stared into the first flames and saw a cause for worship, cults secretly venerating Cthugha have arisen within existing religions to lure the young and fervent to immolation.
In the contemporary west, this pattern manifests in the Cult of Redeeming Light.
Founded by French knight, occultist and serial killer Gilles de Rais after the execution of his beloved comrade Joan of Arc, the cult exists to ritually recapitulate a demonic parody of her burning at the stake. It survived de Rais’ 1440 hanging, perpetuating itself under a mask of Catholicism. It arrived in America shortly after the founding of Maryland, then a rare haven for Catholic worship in the colonies. From there cult leaders, seeking a more widely tolerated outward face for their occult blasphemies, pretended to be Anglicans, and later still members of increasingly obscure Protestant denominations.
By the 1930s, investigators may find cult chapters concealed within Catholic or Protestant organizations. Some chapters exist within genuine congregations; others are made up entirely of cultists.
Cult leaders, often apparent laymen functioning under the noses of entirely virtuous and respectable clergy, prepare for their sect’s key ritual by inculcating religious mania in prepubescent children. Although they find more success with withdrawn, bright, approval-seeking girls, Redeeming Lightists happily accepts susceptible boys, when available.
Leaders prepare their victims by teaching them prayers and hymns that express conventional religious sentiment in the local language, but also contain sounds in a prehuman tongue, binding the reciter to Cthugha. After two to three years of exposure to these insane liturgies, cultists teach the child the final ritual, culminating in the victim’s spontaneous combustion. When the stars are right, the flames transform into an earthly, minor manifestation of Cthugha, which the cultists attempt to bind.
Before their rituals of final apotheosis, targeted children sometimes become conscious of their growing connection to Cthugha. Minds altered, they assume control of the cult, at least until immolation day. Otherwise leadership duties and status within the cult go to the parents who last sacrificed offspring to the cosmic flame. Rivalries within a chapter, between the parents of the last sacrifice and aspirants hoping to take their place with a fresh sacrifice, sometimes lead to its fragmentation or exposure.
Distribution: rare and scattered, but worldwide. Styled to fit each locality’s prevailing faith.
Hooks: a divorced parent approaches the investigators, uneasy about a child’s glassy-eyed new religious fervor under the influence of her new stepfather.
Responses: cultists want to avoid exposure without losing their time investment in the latest candidate for combustion. They use their cover as respectable citizens to hamper the investigation, resorting to carefully organized, deniable violence when PCs get too close to the horrible truth.
Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.