For the last, er, twenty-five years or so, I’ve run a Cthulhu game every year at Warpcon. In recent years, they’ve been playtests or first drafts of material intended for publication – scenarios like A Cigarette, a Blindfold and You or, for that matter, Cthulhu City began life as con scenarios. But the early scenarios are (mostly) justly forgotten, although I do have soft spots for a few (remind me to go back to the Arthurian Cthulhu well at some point).
Among those early scenarios was a WWII Cthulhu game entitled Operation Faust. It’s terrible – a dungeon crawl in WWII cosplay. But for reasons that I do not understand, the monster from that scenario, the Great Old One Th’rygh the God-Beast got swept up in some earnest Wikipedia curation and now has his own page on a Lovecraft fan wiki, complete with original art.
So, if Th’rygh’s going to live forever online in the Mythos apocrypha, let’s flesh him out a little. In the scenario, Th’rygh’s barely touched upon – he’s just the magical equivalent of a nuclear bomb, awoken from his grave near the city of Kursk in Russia to gobble up a few Soviet divisions. To quote my younger self: “a horrendous stench boils up out of the well, and the hillside begins to shake. A crack appears in the ground, and a thin, almost transparent tentacle snakes out of it. It darts out and brushes over a unit of Russian infantry. They’re sucked into it, their flesh melting and spreading out into the tentacle, filling it. More and more tentacles appear, sucking in more organic matter. Within a few minutes, Th’rygh emerges, a horrible patchwork of flesh and soil and alien matter.”
So, the horror here is that of assimilation – Th’rygh doesn’t kill, it absorbs and fuses everything it touches. You live forever in the cosmic katamari ball of the God-Beast. So, with that in mind, let’s bisociate ol’ Th’ryghy a bit and see what falls out.
He dissolved before my very eyes, flesh and bone sucked first of their colour, then their solidity, even as that hideous jellied tendril battened on his essence. His limbs atrophied in an eyeblink. He turned to me – he was only a head and torso then, his lower body melting into the tendril – and it was Henry’s voice that told me to run. But Henry was gone.
- Th’rygh, the God-Beast, lies buried beneath the black earth of Kursk. He slumbers, although certain spells recorded in the Necronomicon can rouse him up to feed on the life of the surface world.
- Th’rygh was once an entity of pure thought existing in a higher dimension. It passed through a fold in space/time and crash-landed on Earth millions of years ago, becoming entangled with the base matter of our reality. It desperately tries to repair itself by absorbing the neural activity of living creatures, assimilating their minds into its own vast consciousness so it can free itself from the toils of material existence. However, as human minds cannot exist outside our crude brains, Th’rygh’s attempts to escape only poison it with unwanted neural tissue, and so its escape attempts fail. In its writhing, it throws off psychic fragments of those consumed minds, which we perceive as dreams or episodes of reincarnation.
- Th’rygh is a gigantic Star Vampire that nests on Earth. On certain auspicious nights, it emerges from its cavern to spawn thousands of young vampires, launching a cloud of spores at escape velocity into the starry sky. Only a tiny fraction of these new-spawned vampires ever fall back to Earth.
- Th’rygh is another name, perhaps the true name, of Mordiggan the Great Ghoul God.
- Th’rygh is the Mythos equivalent of a trap street – references to him were added to the Latin Necronomicon by Olaus Wormius in a fit of paranoia, when he believed “invisible rivals” were spying on his translation of Al Azif. He doesn’t exist, and any alleged Greek or Arabic versions of the Necronomicon that mention him must be forgeries.
- Th’rygh is a recall command, one of several primal instructions imprinted in every living cell bred by the Elder Things, including those of shoggoths – and humans. On receipt of Th’rygh, our bodies dissolve into formless protoplasm, ready to be reused and remade into more useful shapes. Shoggoths were able to rebel against their creators because one of them managed to break the Th’rygh command and retain a measure of its cellular identity, and it passed this secret onto its comrades. However, that primal shoggoth Spartacus only made this breakthrough after it had been commanded to dissolve, so it’s trapped writhing forever, dissolving and reforming eternally.
- Th’rygh is a form of group psychosis, possibly the result of a brain parasite. Initially, those suffering from Th’rygh desire to be with other sufferers, and form isolated communities in the mountains or desert. Over time, the urge to unite becomes stronger and stronger. Sufferers sleep together, and desire constant physical contact with other members of their community. As the Th’rygh phenomenon reaches a crescendo, sufferers desperately cram themselves together, hordes of people squashing themselves to death by crowding into a small space or grave. The final manifestion of a Th’rygh is a vaguely humanoid giant, a meat puppet animated by psychic energy, its towering shape covered in a hide of soil and skin, its body made up of the pulped remnants of those who sacrificed their lives for this ghastly union. Such giants cannot survive for long before the animating energy dissipates.
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.