Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cthuesday: Desh, Greater and Lesser

Apologies for the lack of Cthuesday post last week, readers, I spent the weekend in Cleveland at the Cinema Wasteland Movie and Memorabilia Expo with friends, and just didn't have the time or energy to produce content here when I got back.  So this week I'll give you a two-fer, and cover both varieties of Desh, an interdimensional creature that originally appeared in the adventure "The Dark Wood," in Adventures in Arkham County.

Appearing as long, tadpole-like creatures, both varieties of Desh are native to a coterminous dimension that overlaps but does not intersect our own, much like the Terrors from Beyond.  Unlike the Terrors, the Desh are not accessible through the use of an Ultraviolet Projector - Desh come into our dimension when summoned by specific spells known to the Hyperboreans.  When cast, the spell uses the human neural network to draw Desh into our dimension; the process is painful but not otherwise harmful with Lesser Desh, but tends to prove fatal with the Greater Desh, who explode out of a subject's skull, leaving a star-shaped hole behind.  Intriguingly, the Greater Desh's skin flickers with images drawn from the memories of the individual through whose brain it was summoned.

Lesser Desh seem to have only the most tenuous grasp on our reality when summoned; they tend to "unravel" within 1d3 days, and are ineffectual in combat.  They may be of the most use to the Keeper as "warnings" to investigators - signs that their investigation is proceeding in the right direction, and that if they keep going they'll encounter much worse.  Alternately, swarm the PCs with them! They won't take any physical damage (unless the Lesser Desh use their grab and trip ability near a flight of stairs or a cliff, heh heh!) but the feeling of dozens of cold, wriggling alien bodies slithering over and around them is good for some SAN loss for sure.

Lesser Desh
STR = (2d6+1)x5 = 40
CON = 1d6x5 = 15-20
SIZ = 1d6x5 = 15-20
INT = 1d4x5 = 10-15
POW = 1d3x5 = 10
DEX = (3d6+1)x5 = 55-60
Move: 6
HP: 3-4
Av. Damage Bonus:N/A
Build: -2
Attacks: 1 Trip

Grab and Trip 35%, dmg N/A (target must make a Hard DEX roll or fall prone)

Armor: none
Spells: none
SAN: 0/1d3 to see a Lesser Desh

Greater Desh are another story.  They are fast, they are mean, and they can chew your face off.  With a movement value of 30, there's simply no such thing as outrunning them.  They're even likely to have spells, albeit possibly with strange effects in this dimension, which is a double-whammy.  The luck required in killing them is a triple whammy.

Greater Desh
STR = (4d6+3)x5 = 85
CON = 3d6x5 = 50-55
SIZ = 2d6x5 = 35
INT = 2d6x5 = 35
POW = (3d6+2)x5 = 60-65
DEX = (6d6+1)x5 = 110
Move: 30
HP: 3-4
Av. Damage Bonus:N/A
Build: 0
Attacks: Greater Desh Grab and Hold their targets to restrain them for a Bite attack.

Grab (Maneuver) 45%, target is restrained and a Bite attack hits automatically.
Bite 55%, dmg 1d10

Armor: none, however Greater Desh do not take damage normally.  On a successful attack against a Greater Desh, the damage is rolled then multipled by five, giving a percentage chance that the creature is destroyed outright by the attack, dissipating from our dimension in a star-shaped burst of light.
Spells: keeper's choice, likely with very bizarre effects in this dimension
SAN: 1/1d4+1 to see a Greater Desh

So what do we do with these creatures in an adventure? I think a good starting point is their
connection to the Hyperboreans, the prehistoric magic-using people of Greenland in the fiction of Clark Ashton Smith and others.  The adventure "The Dark Wood" has an artifact that can be used to summon the Desh, an item that, while not mass-produced, was likely not a one of a kind deal, but, like a Hand of Glory, was created by wizards as needed, and as such would be a useful tool to use in creating adventures.

For example, in a Gaslight or Classic scenario, an expansion of the London Underground might unearth buried Hyperborean ruins - a crypt or, perhaps, a wizard's laboratories.  Hyperborean runes look enough like Elder Futhark at a glance to be mistaken for Viking, and archaeologists descend on the site.  One of them determines that he's looking at relics of an entirely unrecorded civilization, and becomes obsessed with the site, with unlocking its secrets, to make himself famous.  He interprets bas-reliefs of humans "communing" with this bejeweled skull as a form of ancestor worship, and when he finds the skull in a sealed lead box, he can't help but pick it up and touch the gems...activating it.

For a more scientific take on the Desh, I'd tie them in with altered states of consciousness - either on the cusp between waking and dreaming (maybe connecting them to the terrifying experience known as "sleep paralysis") or from hallucinogenic drug use - in which case, could the Desh be the "Self Transforming Machine Elves" associated with DMT usage?

To borrow an idea from an old episode of "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," maybe the subconscious mind of a coma patient has made contact with the Desh-Dimension, and during REM cycles he begins to "leak" Lesser Desh into the facility.  Perhaps at first the Lesser Desh try to swim out into the world to contact his family members with messages (flickering across their quicksilver-like skin) from his trapped personality, or harass people he held grudges against.  Soon these tadpole-like creatures begin to emerge from the heads of those he's "contacted" in this way.  What happens when a Greater Desh follows its lesser brethren into our world?

In the latter case, if we're using DMT/REM Desh, I'd give the Greater Desh access to a lot of the perception-altering spells - things like "Consume Likeness" and (a personal favorite of mine) "Curse of the Putrid Husk." Spells like "Gate" would be completely apropos as well, and I might throw in some nasty stuff with a memetic or genetic memory bent to it, like "Dread Curse of Azathoth" or "Red Sign of Shudde-M'ell" (for more on memetic horror ideas, check out Ken Hite's "The Madness Dossier"!)

I think that'll be it from me for this installment.  Next Tuesday I'm running another one-shot at Just Games Rochester, and I'll have a fresh installment of Cthuesday for you all as well.

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