You’ve Heard Of Elf On The Shelf…

(Author’s Note: Sometimes you have stupid ideas. Sometimes, an idea is so stupid that it develops its own gravity well, dragging you down into it even though you are quite aware that it is monumentally stupid. Enjoy the fruits of said stupidity.

That said, putting stupid constraints on yourself can be a useful way to collide concepts and spark new ideas.)

You’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf, so here are Myriad Features of Hideous Creatures – a scenario seed for every monster from Hideous Creatures for Trail of Cthulhu (with a few Cthulhu City and Fall of Delta Green seeds too), done according to a horribly forced rhyme (thank you, and a glass of wine, for getting me through this)…

The Bat-Thing on the Landing

A friend of the investigators recently purchased a decaying house to renovate it, but discovered the house came with an unexpected tenant, a troublesome bat-like ghost that only haunts the landing – which is annoying, as one of the house’s best features is the grand stained-glass window with its commanding views over the countryside. The previous owner of the house was a sorcerer, and the ‘window’ is actually a dormant Gate. The ghost is a bat-thing spawned by the God on the other side of the glass – and as the infestation of bat-things grows, it signifies that the god is coming closer. To deactivate the portal, the investigators must delve into the works of the dead sorcerer and find the particular stars that turn the window in a gateway, then close it from the far side.

The Bhole in Seoul

1968. Recent clashes between North and South Korea prompt President Johnson to authorise Operation Combat Fox, a massive show of US air power. During a surveillance overflight in the DMZ, a spotter plane from the 19th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron takes a photograph of ruins high in the mountains north of Chorwon in North Korea. DELTA GREEN fears that there’s a monster slumbering under the temple – and that North Korea artillery emplacement construction may disturb it. The only option is to send a team across the DMZ to make the temple safe.

The Black Winged One with Distinction

A survivor of a previous investigation, traumatised by their experiences with the Mythos, seeks a way to protect themselves by transcending humanity. The teachings of the Cthulhu cult whisper of Black Winged Ones, the ritual murderers and assassins, and how a man may become a Black Winged One through the proper rites. The unfortunate madman breaks into the investigators’ library, stealing any mythos tomes they’ve acquired, then embarks on a murder spree in the hopes of becoming a Black Winged Ones and leaving the terrors and fragility of humanity behind.

The Byakhee in the Abbey

At Southacre Abbey, sect of monks fell into the secret worship of the Unspeakable, performing blasphemous rites under the guise of worshipping Christ. The abbey was seized and sold by King Henry VIII in 1537; the buildings were mostly torn down and the abbey’s extensive farmland sold to a local landowner. However, a summoned byakhee still haunts the ruins, waiting to bear a rider back to Aldebaran. Tales of the ‘Southacre Bird’ speak of its hideous appearance and habit of preying on travellers.

The Colour Out Of Space & The Beloved Face

Auction lot item #8 – an antique mirror, the property of the late Francis Wake of Arkham. Wake ran a profitable farm in the hills west of the town until 1883, when a series of poor harvests and the death of his wife led to him moving to Arkham and embarking on a new career as a publican. Wake claimed to his dying day that the mirror had ‘caught his wife’s soul’ in the ‘flash that killed her’. His wife, Abigail, died by misadventure; Wake claimed she was struck by lightning through the window one night while combing her hair, but it is more likely she tipped over the oil-lamp and was set ablaze. The mirror was a wedding gift from Wake’s wealthy uncle, and is a fine example of Italian craftsmanship, although the silver backing is unaccountably discoloured, causing reflections to be somewhat distorted in both appearance and colour.

The Dark Young & The Devil’s Tongue

The ‘Devil’s Tree’ is a peculiarly twisted tree in the woods west of Arkham. Local children play there, swinging from its low branches and climbing up its gnarled trunk. One game involves pretending to ‘listen’ to the tree and then playing along, claiming the tree told them to, say, gather stones from a certain glade and arrange them just so, or to catch a rat and feed it milk mixed with blood, or to only speak in a silly made-up language. One little girl is so caught up in this game that she insists her new, secret name is Keziah…

The Deep One Commits Treason

Military police at Cam Ranh Air Force base detain a US mechanic named Arnold Waters for attempting to steal a patrol boat. Under interrogation, Waters claims that his great-grandfather talks to him in his dreams, and demanded he ‘come down to the city’. Around the same time, contact is lost with the Thresher-class submarine Dace. The Dace’s sister ship Thresher was destroyed by the Deep Ones in 1963 (see Operation RIPTIDE, p. 179 of Fall of Delta Green); has Dace met with the same fate? Or could Waters – whose family can be traced back to Innsmouth – guide the investigators to the missing sub?

The Elder Thing Went Networking

Following the Starkweather-Moore expedition, Professor Moore returns to Oxford, bringing with him a mysterious large crate. In the months that follow, Moore publishes several papers in radically different fields – anatomy, mathematics, astronomy, cell biology – all of which are groundbreaking new discoveries. What did Moore bring back with him from Antarctica? And why have there been several unsolved murders on the banks of the river?

The Flying Polyp Underlies Logic

Given the Great Race of Yith had literally all of time and space to choose from, why did they built their city in a place that was threated by “half-polypous, utterly alien entities”? Why was the Great Race able to “easily subdue” the polyps when they arrived on Earth, but later lived in dread of the polyps and the day when they would inevitably destroy the Yithians?

The truth is that the flying polyps aren’t creatures in any understandable sense. They’re cancerous information. Learn enough about any topic, accrue enough data, and polyps must arise. They’re irruptions of entropy. The polyps inevitably form wherever the Great Race built one of their libraries.

Now, humanity – in our little, fumbling way – draws close to that critical mass of information necessary to spawn a polyp. What happens when writing one more research paper, reading one more book, thinking one more thoughtbrings forth a monster?

The Gaseous Wraith in the Carrier Raid

Creatures of the upper atmosphere, the Gaseous Wraiths pay little attention to the world below – but they can be called down by those who know the right words. Those words were engraved on certain tablets found in the city of the Elder Things, and were captured by the Karotechia. Now, agents working for Dr. Gunter Frank intend to sell those tablets to the Soviets. Can DELTA GREEN stop the deal before the sky turns red and giant alien monsters from beyond the clouds eat the Fifth Fleet?

The Ghoul Who Ate Abdul

It’s well known that Abdul Al-Hazred, the author of the fabled Kitab Al-Azif – the Necronomicon – was devoured by an invisible monster in broad daylight in Damascus. However, the recent discovery of a tomb in the hills outside Damascus – a tomb marked with certain secret sigils and signs – suggests that enough of the sorcerer survived to be buried. An examination of the tomb reveals it was raided by ghouls – is there some ancient ghoul out there who consumed the full knowledge of Abdul Al-Hazred?

The Great Race of Yith In A Foundation Myth

The Yithians have seeded cults and conspiracies throughout human history to aid their time travellers as they pursue their fiendish schemes. How deeply rooted are these Yithian manipulations? How much of our culture, our beliefs, our very modes of thought has been engineered by the Great Race? Do we have the words to describe them? Can we even perceive them, or have they taught us selective blindness? Fnord!

The Hounds of Tindalos Haunt Linda Rose

A friend of the investigators, Linda Rose, comes to them begging for help. She’s being chased by monstrous hound-like monsters, the Hounds of Tindalos. These creatures normally pursue those who have travelled too far back in time, but Linda’s no time traveller.

At least, not yet. The mystery is a loop – the investigators’ attempts to solve the problem of Linda’s persecution will inevitably lead them to a time machine, and Linda will use it to travel back in time, get seen by the Hounds, and begin the chase…

The Hunting Horror Stalks The Budding Author

A sensitive young poet writes half of a new epic, describing a marvellous city of delights – and then stops, his muse flown. Soon afterwards, he’s stalked by a giant monster. Only a dreamer can aid him – for his half-written pleasure-dome has been claimed in the land of dreams by the weak gods of Earth, and they object to their new paradise remaining unfinished. Their cries and wailing has irritated Nyarlathotep, who dispatched the hunting horror. What do the investigators do with this chance to earn the gods’ favour?

The Lloigor in the Foyer

A lloigor manifests in a hotel in Chicago, infiltrating the minds of all the guests and staff to feed on their psychic energy. This causes the hotel to sink into a nightmarish pocket dimension, where the sorrows and fears of the residents spill out and take on physical form. Worse, the reason the lloigor manifested here is because a veteran DELTA GREEN Agent is staying in the hotel – Agent Bell had a breakdown, vanished for a few months, and just now made contact with his handler. The Agents were sent to bring him in – now, they’ve got to bring him out before all the horrors in his head become real right there in the lobby.

The Medusa on the Appaloosa

Lovecraft’s medusa was a parasitic clump of hair that grafted itself to the scalp of its victims – but why limit it to human hosts? That horse with the flowing mane and long tail… that horse there that looks at you with more than animal awareness… that horse there with fangs… my god, the eyes! The EYES!

The Mi-Go In Situ

A flying mi-go gets fried during a lightning storm over New York, and it drops its cargo – a brain-case containing the consciousness of another mi-go whose body was ill-adapted for interplanetary flight. The case survives the fall, and fortunately for the brain inside, this particular case was fitted with speaking-tubes and camera, but has no means of locomotion or manipulation. What does an alien brain do in New York? What minions will it recruit?

The Moon-Beast And The Noon Feast

Through a series of unlikely events, the investigators come into possession of a huge ruby, the Moon Sultan. It’s one of a set of six such gemstones. Examining the ruby, they discover that it’s engraved with magical sigils. And now a mysterious swami has invited the investigators – and five other parties – to gather at an isolated guest house in Iceland in the summer, in the days of the midnight sun when the moon cannot be seen for months at a time. What’s the connection of the rubies to the moon? And who is this swami?

The Night-Gaunt In The High Court

One of the investigators inadvertently offends hoary Nodens by trespassing in the ruins of a temple, and the next night they are carried away by gibbering giggling night-gaunts and flown to a strange court in the Dreamlands to stand trial. Can they negotiate a plea bargain, or will they be condemned to the depths of the abyss? What does community service look like for a god?

The Raktajihva’s Foul Saliva

After killing one of these hideous avatars of the Bloody Tongue, a 1-point Chemistry spend develops a reliable test for certain chemical markers found in saliva, even when the monsters wear human face. The investigators suspect there are more Raktajihva at large in Arkham – can they use this test to eliminate them before they bring about a terrible summoning?

The Rat-Thing Saw The Bad Thing

A muck-raking journalist in Cthulhu City gets a series of remarkably accurate tips, revealing corruption and lawbreaking among members of the city council. The investigators discover the journalist is being fed information by a Rat-Thing – but why would one of the council’s spies in the walls be helping a journalist? Is the journalist being used to undermine the rivals of the Rat-Thing’s master? What else does the rat know?

The Serpent Folk In The Ermine Cloak

The discovery of the intact grave of a 6th century British warlord sets the archaeological world ablaze – but then rumours spread that the remains must be a hoax, for the bones are more like those of a snake, not a human. When the original discoverer is murdered, the investigators must consider the question: is there a secret line of snake-people in the British aristocracy, desperate to remain concealed?

The Shoggoth in Rehoboth

During the Federal investigation in the wake of the Raid on Innsmouth, researchers discover that in 1882, a native of Innsmouth, Albert Sargent, moved from the cursed town to the small community of Rehoboth, MA (just east of Providence). According to a diary found in the ruins of the Esoteric Order, Sargent took with him a ‘portion of the unbegotten life’ – a cutting from a Shoggoth. Sargent married a Rehoboth woman, and his descendants still live in their handsome mansion on the edge of town. They claim to have no idea of their grandfather’s connection to Innsmouth, and they’ve never heard of a ‘shoggoth’ – but neighbours claim to have heard odd rumblings beneath their farm, like a train passing through a tunnel deep underground, and the area’s oddly free of animals…

The Spawn of Yog-Sothoth Under The Frozen Earth

After the men from Arkham went away and the Horror was done, the folk of Dunwich left Sentinel Hill alone for a few months. The first snow, though, brought an echo of the Horror – for it piled higher on the summit than elsewhere, as if the snow was landing on some invisible mound. In spring, a few of the braver men got blind drunk, and went up with shovels, and buried the corpse of the thing they could not see a little way down the slope. They dug a pit and dragged Lavinia Whately’s other boy’s corpse in, and there it lies to this day.

Now another man from Arkham’s come to Dunwich. A medical man, and the town’s in need of a doctor – even an odd fellow by the name of Herbert West. And he’s been digging…

The Star Vampire And The Rock Samphire

Rock Samphire is an edible plant that grows on rocks and cliffs along the shore; it’s mentioned in Lear, when Edgar leads the blind Earl of Gloucester there. The Earl implies he means to kill himself by hurling himself from the clifftop – but rock samphire grows there, and the plant’s used in many folk cures and recipes. Could Shakespeare have concealed a summoning rite in the text of the play?

There is a cliff, whose high and bending head
Looks fearfully in the confined deep:
Bring me but to the very brim of it,
And I’ll repair the misery thou dost bear
With something rich about me: from that place
I shall no leading need.

The Tcho-Tcho Was A No Show

A CIA team stumbles out of the jungles of Laos, having tried and failed to make contact with their allies among the Tcho-Tcho – the operation was to deliver arms to the Tcho-Tcho guerrilla fighters. In the ensuing bureaucratic tussle, the job lands with DELTA GREEN to head back across the border and attempt to find the elusive tribe. What stopped the Tcho-Tcho from making the planned rendezvous? Are they scared of something? Are they reneging on their deal with the CIA?

The Ultraviolet Devourer In The Reign of Terror

Anton Lavoisier – brilliant French chemist and groundbreaking scientist – was executed by guillotine in 1794, after being accused of defrauding the state by adulterating tobacco. Within a year and a half, he was posthumously cleared of all charges, and most of his accusers were themselves executed. What brought about this sudden change? Did Lavoisier, knowing he was about to be arrested, conduct a terrifying experiment involving ultraviolet light? UV light was not officially discovered until 1801, but Lavoisier was a genius ahead of his time – were the accusations of tax fraud and soggy tobacco just a cover for the real fear that Lavoisier controlled a weapon far more terrifying than any guillotine?

The Vampirish Vapour Builds A Castle in the Air

Vampirish vapours are the exhalations of dead sorcerers, fluid horrors born from their rot. They are only partially material, able to shift their matter from solid to liquid to gas, and even to other states only guessed at by physicists. For all that, though, they are – or were – human, and even a vampirish vapour dreams. The shunned old house where the mad old man lived – the locals say that at night, they’ve seen fanciful scenes appear above it, castles in the air and pastoral memories, as if someone’s playing a movie projector against a fogbank. Observing the vapour’s dreams could give the investigators a clue on how to defeat the undead sorcerer.

The Wendigo Practised Bushido

One of the suggested mythic echoes for the Wendigo is the Japanese gashadokuro, a giant skeleton-ghost that roams the night and bites off the heads of its victims. Gashadokuro are conjured from the remains of those who died and were left unburied. To defeat this wendigo-variant, the investigators must find the bones of the dead man who conjured the gashadokuro and ensure they are properly honoured by his family – but the dead man was a disgraced samurai, and his kinsfolk want nothing to do with him. How can the investigators atone for the sins of the dead – before the dead devour them?

The Worm That Walks Lives In Mum’s Hat Box

An investigator discovers that his late mother was in fact a secret cultist of Yog-Sothoth – and hidden among her possessions is a jar containing a fat white grave-worm. What arcane secrets might the worm reveal – if allowed to consume a human corpse? And did the investigator’s mother intend for him to find and use the worm on her remains?

The Y’m-Bhi’s Always Timely

In Caddo County, they tell of a cave high in the hills. Every year, on a certain day, a strange ‘grey man’ comes out of the cave. He never speaks, they say, but if you follow him, he’ll lead you down through the tunnels under the earth to a marvellous land below – but he walks a terrible fast pace, and you’ve got to keep up with him or you’ll be lost forever…

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 print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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