Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Ten Lesser-Known Mythos Creatures as Depicted by the Call of Cthulhu Tabletop Game
I don't talk about it so often anymore, but I went through a pretty big "Lovecraftian" phase as a kid. Learning of the "mythos" almost exclusively through fantasy gaming magazines, it seemed like something obscure, unusual and special for how old it was, and the coolest possible combination of science fiction tropes with magical horror elements. As I got older, I got kind of bored by it and the surrounding genre, and never did take Lovecraft himself too seriously...but the setting obviously has a lot of interesting monster ideas, and today, we look at ten of my "more obscure" favorites based on their appearances in the original Call of Cthulhu core roleplaying manual!
From Ramsey Campbell's "The Inhabitant of the Lake."
Glaaki is a pretty silly one, all the elements of a fine B-movie antagonist; it arrived on Earth in a meteorite, naturally, which itself created the enormous lake it resides in. It resembles a pale slug with three eye-stalks, a gaping maw full of teeth and hundreds of silvery, metallic quills. It's through these quills that the slug injects people with a toxin that can turn a living being into an undead slave, riddled with cancerous growths that allow Glaaki to puppeteer their corpse. A fun concept all around, though I always felt its vertebrate-like teeth felt out of place and detracted a bit from the concept. What's wrong with just a sad, prickly space slug? Does it need chompy fangs? It also shouldn't have to have a malignant intelligence to be scary; a mere animal from some other world, whose venom has such weird effects, might have also been more striking and more intriguing. I like the idea of these beings having no actual idea they're being worshipped by human cults.
From Frank Belknap Long's "The Horror From the Hills"
The illustration of this one is kind of severely lacking, but in a kind of funny way. The point of this entity's description is that it only superficially reminds the viewer of an elephant, but for this drawing we just get "alright, so it's an elephant." This same mistake is made by a lot of other portrayals, but every so often I see one that really "gets it," giving off strong pachyderm vibes without even mammalian anatomy.
Chaugnr doesn't do much, honestly, except chase people down and suck their blood through his trunk.
From Ramsey Campbell's "The Render of the Veils"
This is an interesting one because its description is just so counter to almost anything else in the Mythos continuity; its form is completely inorganic and geometric, resembling a collection of metallic and plastic shapes, and is so complex that it appears to the human eye to be a meaningless and chaotic mass. Also interesting is how an onlooker is said to get the impression of eyes from the spaces in between its many pieces, but only sees empty space if they try to focus on any of them.
This really succeeds at feeling like one of those "mind-breaking otherworldly cosmic horrors beyond our comprehension," far better than just a big mass of tentacles and goo. Daoloth is associated with astronomy and astrology alike, and if summoned, can grant a person the ability to "see things as they really are," an experience nobody ever seems to handle well.
From Hazel Heald and Lovecraft's "Out of the Aeons."
This is one of those that's described as mind-breakingly nonsensical, but really just sounds like a big blob of monster pieces, something I gotta say the human mind really shouldn't have any difficulty comprehending. I like how scary this illustration looks, though, actually managing to make this thing feel kind of horrible in all its twitchy fuzziness. The absurd thing about Ghatanothoa is that it's supposed to be so hideous, the very sight of it petrifies the beholder like a classical gorgon. By this however, they mean the victim's skin hardens like tough leather and they "mummify" into a sort of fleshy statue, but their mind remains conscious indefinitely. It really is just because the monster is that ugly, supposedly, because it works even if you look at an accurate enough sculpture of it. Again, the artist did the best they could; I think the way this turned out looking like a pile of rotten, mutilated animal parts is a lot freakier than the usual Lovecraftian tentacle-beast.
From Hazel Heald's "The Horror in the Museum"
What I like about this one is that it's one fo those "outer gods" worshipped by various cults an otherworldly cultures, but it's only fifteen feet tall and doesn't seem to have any known powers beyond those that come with being an animal that size. It has a goofy round head covered in little tentacle hairs and a cute weevil nose maybe a foot or two in length. It can seemingly live forever, but that's all we know, and it's kind of a lot more interesting when it's implied that these so-called "gods" are just normal creatures from other realities.
From August Derleth's "The Lair of the Star Spawn."
These two are just big masses of wormy tentacles, but I like how they're said to have spent thousands of years in a pitch dark cavern just "humming" to each other. That's cute! They're presumably communicating something with one another that we just can't even imagine. It's also speculated that they're just one being with two bodies, though some writing also talks about them like they're just "brothers," and Zhar is the older, bossier of the two.
Zhar and Lloigor
From Ramsey Campbell's "Cold Print."
I've really overlooked this one. I just saw "headless guy with mouths in his hands" and though "eh, whatever," but the Call of Cthulhu description of him says he's a "god of evil" whose definition of evil may be "shallow." It doesn't elaborate, but his details in the original story basically imply that anything any being considers perverse or immoral enough to its species and culture can draw Y'golonac's attention. What an edgelord!
Y'golonac's true form is unknown, but said to be imprisoned "behind a wall of bricks." Yeah, just a wall of bricks somewhere, like he totally got Amontillado'd at some point. The big fat headless mouth-hands guy isn't Y'golonac per se, but what a human transforms into when possessed by Y'golonac, and that's really interesting, I think, because it must be shaped pretty different from us if this is how it "fits itself" into a humanoid form.
From Ramsey Campbell's "The Insects From Shaggai."
So these call themselves the Shan, and after their home planet of Shaggai was destroyed by a mysterious red light, they just kept teleporting to new worlds until they'd have to move again. The first time, it was because they were creeped out by the religious practices of the alien race they enslaved. The second time, they made some other "horrific" but unspecified discovery on another new planet. They then tried to colonize Uranus, but "found it unsuitable," probably because you don't shower enough.
Insects from Shaggai
Finally, the Shan made it to Earth, and have been there ever since. What's fun about them is that they're specified to be the size of pigeons, and they can phase inside of people's heads to take control of their minds. They're also "sadistic and twisted," and make their hosts do all kinds of gross, weird, awful things for their amusement.
I honestly do still really like a lot of this lore, all these alien things just kind of trying to live their lives that unfortunately tend to clash with what humans find comfortable. I also like the little eyeballs of the Shan in this drawing.
So these are from the same story as the Insects from Shaggai, and are in fact the race we mentioned them enslaving. Resembling metallic trees, the Xiclotlians are slow and simple-minded, but they still managed to royally spook their little tiny bug masters. This is because the Xiclotlians worship a huge, carnivorous plant, which the insects apparently didn't notice for a really long time. As soon as they did they were just totally freaked out enough to leave the entire planet behind, which is really kind of adorable. They're malevolent, brain-invading insect creatures but carnivorous plant gods are where they absolutely draw the line. It makes sense, really; besides the fly-trap connection, their powers probably don't work at all on plant life.
Again, this is the kind of lore I actually get into, not all that "Cthulhu cults ending the world" stuff. Seen it.
From Robert Bloch's "The Shambler From the Stars."
This was actually one of the first mythos stories I ever read, in a collection I checked out at a library when I was about twelve years old. I've found that any monster referred to as a "shambler" tends to have a design I really like, and this is no exception; it's a normally invisible entity until it drains enough blood to be seen, at which point it's revealed to be completely coated in little tubes that end with their own sucker-like mouths! It was also described as having a large central mouth, but I strongly prefer interpretations with the little leechy tubies alone. It also has a pair of weird arms, and I like that, I like that it's just one pair of limbs and a ball of leeches. It's a body plan almost like a Fry Kid or Tangela!
Also, the Shambler is said to be constantly laughing, or at last making a sound like laughing.
This was more fun than I actually expected to have discussing "lovecraftian" things, though I can't help but realize very few things on this page were actually conceived of by Lovecraft himself. Ironically, a lot of these are even from authors whose actual stories I just couldn't get into or found a little too generic and hokey, but I guess they were pretty good at the monster part...and that's where it all counts, really.
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