Tangled in the Dark

As we quickly approach Old Hallow’s Eve, I’m left pondering some of the horrors in the dark corners of Tattered Magicks. We’ve already talked about ghosts and I brought up werewolves about a year ago for Aliens & Asteroids. But I recently had an opportunity to ponder tentacled horrors.

Now, what is a tentacled horror? Good question.

Let’s say that someone really likes H.P. Lovecraft’s work and associates it with tentacles, though Cthulhu is so much more than a collection of otherworldly tendrils of madness. Let’s say that they want a doomsday cult dedicated to drawing something into our realm from an “other” place with something as old as the universe. Maybe it’s Kassogtha, a Great Old One rumored to be Chtulhu’s sister. Maybe it’s just that odd neighbor who lives for Ursula cosplay opportunities. Who knows?

What I do know is that the idea of something writhing in the darkness of another universe is either a) so far removed from our level of existence that it thinks of us as less than ants if it thinks of us at all, or b) a horror patiently waiting to be invited into another realm of existence so that it can consume us like popcorn. (Does anybody else have an image of Cthulhu sitting on a couch like Homer Simpson and eating popcorn with a single butter-covered tentacle?)

Either way, it’s a horror that probably shouldn’t be roaming around earth, let alone consuming popcorn on a couch.

Well, one of our playtest characters seems to have history with a group who tried to bring one of these critters through into our world. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think misguided souls often do bad things because they think they’ll be rewarded when the deeds are done. That’s probably the case here.

Suffice it to say that the creature in question was turned back by a moment of extreme heroism and our PC is the sole survivor left pondering his survivor’s guilt after he watched some of his cult be destroyed by a tentacled creature from another world. It didn’t sit well. He doesn’t sleep much these days.

But it was the idea of not knowing what the creature was, why his momentary prayer gave the thing pause in that moment, or why the other woman who escaped at the same time he did, not only tracked him down but dissolved in a puddle of goo four months after the initial event… Those questions need horrific answers and leave me pondering what, exactly, “horror” means in the Tattered Magicks world.

According to the dictionary, “horror” is another word for intense fear, shock, or disgust. Stories featuring such topics create disease in the reader, whether in the situations, settings, or the subjects themselves that are featured in such stories. Something like the dark creature our character not only helped get into the world, but stopped just short of passing over the threshold would definitely do all of those things.

Sometimes we go too far in describing things to our players and it’s good to keep them guessing. What was it? Are there more of them? How do I stop it? Will it find me? Fear and doubt are powerful motivators for character action.

Though Tattered Magicks is going to primarily focus on more traditional urban fantasy themes than horror themes, I think there’s plenty of room for a tentacled creature to live and die there as well. And now that this PC in our playtest has opened the doorway, I’ll be curious to see what else comes through it.

So my question to you is… what “horrors” do you see in your own stories and nightmares that would be at home in a more modern setting? This tentacled thing needs some friends!

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