Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cthuesday: The Xotl'mi-go

Last week I alluded to T.E.D. Klein's ghastly humanoid horrors, the Xotl'mi-go, from the short story "The Children of the Kingdom," published in the 1980s in the collection Dark Gods.  I read the story years ago, having gotten the book for a dollar at a used book sale - would that I still had it! While much of the plot of the story has faded from my memory, much of the story's imagery, and of course the creatures themselves, remain fresh in my mind.  I decided it'd be worthwhile to devote this week's Cthuesday Creature entry to these grotesques.

The story is set during the New York City blackout of 1977, during which something like 36 blocks of Manhattan were ravaged by fire in under 24 hours, people basically going mad from the heat, the power outage, racial tensions and fears of the "Son of Sam" killer.  Klein took this all-too-human horror and wove a tale of inhuman horror amidst the looting and rioting.  The Xotl'migo, a race of pallid, near-blind, web-fingered humanoids, emerged from the sewers and sub-basements taking advantage of the darkness and chaos to pursue their unwholesome goals.

Much like the Deep Ones, the Xotl'mi-go are driven to perpetuate their race on humankind; mythology suggests that the Xotl'mi-go are a race of men that "God made wrong," and He cursed them with eyelessness and a complete lack of reproductive organs as punishment for their sins.  This lack of genitals has not stopped them from assaulting and trying to forcibly breed with human women, and they are indiscriminate - I recall from the story an infant and an elderly woman being assaulted.

Point blank, I'm going to say this: I'd leave the rape on the cutting room floor in any game I ran featuring the Xotl'mi-go.  I've got both men and women in my games right now, spanning a thirty-year age range, and we play in a public space.  There's no way I feel comfortable presenting the fact that these monsters are rapists at the table, no matter how "real" it makes the horror.  It doesn't have a place in my games.

Let's take a look at the stat block, updated to 7th Edition:

 STR= (2d6+8)x5 = 75
CON = (3d6+6)x5 = 80-85
SIZ = (2d6+6)x5 = 65
INT = (3d6)x5 = 50-55
POW = (3d6+3)x5 = 50
DEX = (3d6)x5 = 50-55
Move: 9
HP: 14-15
Av. Damage Bonus: +1d4
Build: +1
Attacks: 2 Claws, with a chance to bite if a victim is held.

Claws, 30%, dmg 1d6+DB
Bite, 25% if  victim is held, dmg 1d6

Armor: 1 point of rubbery skin
Spells: None, normally
Skills: Jump 55%, Listen 75%, Stealth 80%
Sanity Loss: 0/1d6 for seeing the Xotl'mi-go

While the Xotl'mi-go are not insanely heavy hitters, with these stats they can still be pretty nasty, especially given that they tend to be encountered in gangs of 2-10 individuals.  They're faster than the average man, and stronger as well, and with that 80% chance of being stealthy they're likely to be on a party of unsuspecting investigators faster than they can react.

So how do we want to use these creatures in an adventure? Rather than recycle the C.H.U.D. inspired scenario from last week, I'm going to draw from another horror film from the 80s and tie it into the blackout scenario from the original short story.

Psychiatrists at Oakhaven Sanitarium have been studying an unusual phenomenon - four patients, violent men kept away from the general patient population by electronic locks and armed guards, have begun to correlate their psychoses in an unprecedented fashion, forming a singular, shared obsession.

It began with Jack Cutter, a former POW who served in Vietnam.  He emerged from his captivity paranoid and insomniac, convinced of the existence of "creatures" - not men, but close, with grasping hands and tiny, burning eyes above a mouth like a fanged sphincter - that emerged from the jungle or the tunnels at night, lurching through villages in the darkness of the New Moon, looking for...something.  More than once, he says, inhuman faces were pressed against the bars of his cage, while boneless, rubbery white hands reached for him.  US Army Psychologists suggest that these were hallucinations brought on by the extreme mental strain of his captivity, dehumanizing his captors into loathsome monsters.

In Oakhaven, Cutter found confirmation in Fred "Preacher" Dobbs, a former minister and current pyromaniac who filled Cutter's mind with stories of lost tribes and races of men cursed by God for their sins, made monstrous and driven to the edges of civilization.  Cutter began to rationalize that the creatures he encountered were of such a tribe, while Dobbs found Cutter's stories to prove his own religious mania.

The two of them enlisted Reggie "Lennie" Bruster, a giant of a man judged not guilty of child-murder due to his own simplistic mental state, and Jimmy "Ferret" Skaggs, a rat-faced little man with some fairly antisocial compulsive tendencies and a long history of violence towards women.  Cutter became convinced that Lennie and Ferret were on the verge of being cursed by God to become the creatures he saw, and concluded that he and Preacher had been placed with these men to save them.  The fact that Ferret, in his old job with the sanitation department, claimed to have once seen the hastily-disposed of, waterlogged corpse of a similar creature fished out of the sewer, cemented his usefulness to Cutter.

The four became convinced that they were the only ones who knew for certain of the creatures' existence, and decided that God had ordained them to burn these creatures out of wherever they'd found refuge from the harsh light of day.

When a blackout disables the electronic locks to their cells, the four realize that now is their chance, and set off for nearby New York City, intent on cleansing the Big Apple of the worms at its core.  In hot pursuit are a team of psychiatrists, orderlies and security guards (i.e., the Investigators), eager to return the four madmen to the safety of their cells before they can burn down half the city in their hunt for these imagined "monsters."  But are they so imaginary...?

This scenario takes its set up from my absolute favorite under-known 1980s horror film, 1982's ALONE IN THE DARK, from writer/director Jack Sholder, starring Jack Palance, Walter Matthau and Donald Pleasence.  Using it here, I've made the focus on pursuing the human monsters, which if handled well will lull players into a false sense of security, letting them think that this is a "red herring" sort of scenario where there are no Mythos elements - then BAM, a webbed, slimy hand emerges from the shadows and clamps over an investigator's mouth, dragging them backwards with their friends none the wiser.  Of course, then we have the moral quandary - what do the players do when they realize the lunatics are *right*?


  1. Nice write-up Bill and well-handled on an interesting gaming dilemma. A more palatable option could be that they simply impregnate their victims through a bite - infecting their host through the dna in their saliva? Whatever their motivation for attacking, I like the back-story to your four characters. Looking forward to hearing how the game goes.

    1. Thanks Blax, the characters are pretty much straight from the film. I actually haven't run any of the adventure seeds I've included with this series of posts - they're more to show how I would use a monster, rather than as an adventure I'm going to be running.

      Starting next week I'm running a published campaign that's being released one chapter at a time to members of the GM outreach program that Chaosium, the publishers of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, host. We're play testing the adventures and will be offering feedback before the book actually goes to print in a purchasable form.