Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nightmare Fuel - Devotees of the Maimed One

I don’t have a ton of nightmares, but I tend to enjoy and remember them when they happen.  I had a nasty one the other night that is surely rife with some gaming inspiration.

When I was growing up, I had some cousins that lived in in a neighborhood of row houses, very urban with minimal front yards and long narrow back yards.  The dream was in that type of neighborhood, and a group of loud nihilists moved in next door.  They had outlandish hair styles and seemed to be into extreme piercings.

The horror part of the dream started when all these folks started maiming each other, cutting off body parts as tribute to the 'god of pain', the maimed one.  Hands and fingers and ears were chopped off, males castrated themselves, tourniquets and cauterizations were done so they could stay alive just long enough.  "Our parts don't matter, since none of us are coming back from this," they were saying.  Then they went off through the neighborhood with knives, hatchets, and samurai swords, and started cutting, chopping, and slicing everyone they met, dragging people from their homes.

At that point, the dream degraded into a bit of chase, a really common trope in nightmares.  We ended up at the beach (a fast change of scene that only happens in a dream) and were hiding in a boat house that stretched into the surf.   Except "Jaws" was in the boat house too, sneaking under the seaward end, and we wouldn't dare go into the water or take a boat with the head of a gigantic white shark munching everything in sight, beached as it was in the surf and stuck in the boathouse.  That part was too nonsensical, and then I woke.

The bit about the devotees of the maimed god was pretty disturbing.  Dreams usually aren't that visceral, with people cutting off their own noses and ears and other parts and then going on a murderous rampage.  A rather grueseome gaming scenario could be constructed around "the new cult that moves into town"; it seems innocent enough at first, but as members get indoctrinated into the belief system and suppress their will to the cult, it builds into a murderous rampage of self-inflicted trauma and carnage.  Sadly, murder-suicide has become so commonplace in the world that such a scenario might intrude too much reality into one's fantasy game.


  1. If the mutilations are presented as the results of 'accidents', which happen with occurring frequency as time goes by in a single location, like a home base town, it could be a very effective, slowly escalating background detail which eventually attracts player's interest. And pretty grim if NPCs - even henchmen - they know get involved.

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  3. I would introduce it as a peaceful cult of people into scarification. The townspeople would be uneasy about it, to be sure, but (assuming religious tolerance is the norm, as it tends to be in most fantasy settings) they wouldn't really be too bothered. "Everybody has some weirdness in 'em. As long as their weirdness don't intrude on my weirdness, their weirdness is okay by me. None o' my business."

    Presumably the players will see it as a background detail and not think too much on it.

    After some time has passed and the cult has established itself in the players' minds as a normal thing, the unthinkable happens: The beautiful young woman with whom the characters have a strong relationship (or perhaps the daughter of an NPC with a strong relationship to the PCs) announces her conversion. She's never indicated such leanings before, and now she is marking herself with scars that defy magical and mundane healing.

    And more young men and women are converting at an increasing pace. Even ones who the day before their conversion were outspoken in their opposition to the cult's behavior.

    What's behind these sudden conversions? What strange power is being used to corrupt our young? Or is it just the amazing charisma possessed by the cult leader? These questions and more await the PC's to find answers.

  4. I think that's great stuff for a horror game. The name of the cult alone is gold.

  5. "Nihilists! F**k me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."
    - Walter Sobchak

    Just saw "The Big Lebowski" a couple of weeks ago... I can't hear the term Nihilist without thinking of the movie. Of course, your conversion from dream to RPG-fodder gave them an ethos.

  6. I'm surprised that nobody has brought up the Reavers from "Firefly" yet. They are very similar to your cult in a lot of ways.

    For those not familiar with "Firefly", Reavers are space pirates that have gone insane. They will rape, murder, mutilate, and feed on the people they encounter, and have a tendency to self-mutilate in many horrifying fashions.

    Just witnessing a Reaver attack can be horrifying enough to turn you into one.

    While there is never an explicit religion given for the Reavers, it is probable that they have something that passes for religeous belief because their bizarre behaviour seems to be consistent across a scattered populace.

  7. Be a good scenario for a Pathfinder campaign involving Zon Kuthon.