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Chzo Mythos, also known as the John DeFoe Tetralogy or the Trilby Tetralogy, are a series of horror-themed freewareadventure games by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw. Yes, that one. First released in 2003, the first game follows a Gentleman Thief named Trilby as he tries to burgle an old country manor, only to end up trapped inside with a bunch of other people and a lurking, homicidal being. The following games jump around in space and time (though Trilby shows up again), but all end up having some link to the secret of DeFoe Manor.The four games are, in order of creation, 5 Days a Stranger, 7 Days a Skeptic, Trilby's Notes and 6 Days a Sacrifice (in chronological order of events: 5 Days, Notes, 6 Days, 7 Days, though it makes more sense if you play 7 Days before 6 Days). There is also a tie-in game titled Trilby: The Art of Theft, which shares the hero and Player Character with half of the other games, but isn't connected to any of them with regard to subject matter.Some Interactive Fiction by the name of the Countdown Trilogy and a tie-in short story called The Expedition, which expands upon the background of the universe and some of the lesser, yet still important, events within the storyline also exists.With their old-school graphics, the games nevertheless manage to be surprisingly suspenseful. Can be found here, along with some of Yahtzee's other games. Special editions with useful author commentary, extra scenes and some other stuff were formerly available as donationware, but are free to download now.
The games use the following tropes:
Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Welder's machete. Weapon aficionados would know better that machetes can't go through muscle, bone and sinew THAT easily. Would be justified considering who wields it, until you realize that said being is also a Body Surfer, so some host's limitations should be in effect.
The unfortunate soldier from The Expedition deserves a special mention. Mainly because he fleshes out just what horrible fate awaits Chzo's prisoners. By carving it into the walls of his cell with a sharpened button before moving on to his own flesh.
Interestingly, Chzo is suggested to be this. He's the Last of His Kind, he's immortal but can't move or exist outside of a certain area, and all he can do is feel and cause pain.
Even the main characters aren't immune, as one of them kills himself to become a deity and another is transformed into the big bad's slave. The only character to make it through the entire series is the pain elemental Chzo. Everybody else dies, either because they're killed or, since the games span multiple centuries, natural causes.
Also an arc date: Most of the important events in the timeline occur on July 28th, as that's the one day of the year Chzo can look in on the world of Technology, and the Tall Man can travel to it to exact vengeance on those who harm the wood of his soul.
Artifact Title: The characterization of the Player Character of 7 Days a Skeptic changed drastically from its initial conception. As a result, the character is quite possibly the least skeptical character on the ship, making the title a bit of a misnomer.
As You Know: In 7 Days, the captain explains quite a bit of ship protocol that your character should already know. Subverted, as "Dr Malcolm" is in fact an impostor.
Awesome, yet Impractical: The four-bladed staff wielded by the Tall Man wouldn't be an effective weapon in real life, having four short blades on top arranged perpendicular to one another with the sharp edges facing upwards, thus making it ineffective as both a slashing or stabbing weapon. Justified in that he's the avatar for a god who feeds on suffering, and thus is more concerned with inflicting massive amounts of pain rather than simply killing.
Badass Normal: Trilby. Who else has pulled a rug out from under the Welder? Or kicked the Tall Man in the face?
Cannibal Larder: Once the protagonist gains access to Taylor's room in 7 Days, he discovers that it's an abattoir filled with the mutilated parts of the other crewmembers. Not a straight example of this trope, as the other crewmembers haven't been butchered to be eaten: instead, Taylor is using them to construct a new body for John DeFoe.
In 6 Days a Sacrifice, talk to the cultist and ask him about the Order. Read closely when they're talking about the three Blessed Agonies - and realize your character goes through all three of them during the span of the game.
The radio masts in 7 Days.
Church of Happyology: Optimology, which is a front for the Chzo-worshiping Order of Blessed Agonies to boot.
Yahtzee:"Fact is, this is me trying to do something disturbing without realising that I'm the only one it disturbs. I've come to develop a weird aversion to sex. I've never been really sold on it. It's possible I have some hangups from a few things from my past, but these days I'm pretty much celibate (and it's not for want of female (or even male) attention, thank you very much, I mean, I own a bar, for christ's sake). I don't think it's immoral, or anything. I just find it a bit gross. This may be linked to the fact that I hate kids and the thought of having any of my own makes me want to stick a gun in my mouth. The sex scene was intended to be grotesque, not in any way titillating. It's about characters succumbing to something animalistic as they lose their grip on reality. It's an expression of Janine's descent into madness (consider how she's behaving immediately afterwards), and another torture device to pile onto Theo. In case it's not been obvious enough so far, the theme of 6 Days is the Blessed Agonies, and how a comparatively short period of experiencing them is enough to turn Theo, the ultimate everyman, into something to Chzo's liking. And the sex thing is part of it. It's just plain physically painful but he's doing it because it's what Janine wants, and she's completely and utterly doomed. But I understand that most people don't see sex the same way I do, so the intention might have been lost. I defend the concept, but not so much the execution."
Continuity Nod: Several throughout the games. One of the more subtle instances occurs when Trilby opens the safe in Trilby's Notes. Finding it empty, he comments "Just for once I'd like to open a safe that contains something" - a nod back to 5 Days, where the safe he opened was also empty.
Another that a lot of people don't notice is that Art of Theft has a special unlockable outfit, "Clanbronwyn Classic", which is the exact same one that is used in Trilby's Notes.
In the official walkthrough, William Taylor from 7 Days is stated to be a descendant of Simone from 5 Days.
The Corpse Stops Here: In both 5 Days and 7 Days. Possibly subverted slightly in the latter since it's suggested in 6 Days that your character in 7 Days may have really done it, having been possessed by the Welder.
Cruel Twist Ending: The end of 7 Days. "Dr Jonathan Somerset", the Player Character, turns out to be an impostor who killed the real Dr Somerset [who we later discover is his own father] and was using his identity. Oh, and he gets arrested for 6 murders, out of which he commited only 1.
Of course, if you take into consideration the Alternate Character Interpretation, the fact that "John", or Malcolm, as is his real name, was possibly the one responsible for the murders in the first place, it doesn't help that when in 6 Days when the Welders were being killed, there was no "Decompression" deaths, so Malcolm may have been more responsible for the murders, because he was the one who was possessed.
Dark World: The Ethereal Realm. Or at least the parts of it that are under Chzo's control.
Also to Malcolm in 6 Days, though neither the "guilt" part nor the "death" one are straightforward.
Death Is the Only Option: At the end of Trilby's Notes, the villain needs Trilby alive in order to complete his ritual. Fortunately, Trilby is already fatally wounded by this point, and you can simply type "die" to thwart the villain's plans. Even more fortunately, Trilby is subsequently revived by a mysterious benefactor.
Depraved Homosexual: Jack Frehorn, though notable in that his depravity only began when he was tricked into murdering his lover, Wilbur. Only afterward did he begin using his sexuality for evil instead of occult-nerdly good.
The Dragon: The Prince, followed by the New Prince
Dragon with an Agenda: The Prince spends the entire series futilely trying to keep Chzo from replacing him. Ironically enough, the Prince's defiance of Chzo's will turns out to be the key factor in Chzo's final decision to replace him.
Every time you "die" in 6 Days, the game cuts to Theo waking up.
Dual-World Gameplay: Going between a real world and a Dark World is used in Trilby's Notes. The player can switch at will to a certain extent and often encountered the "path open in another world" technique
A Fate Worse Than Death: The name of the game for Cabadath, Theo, Trilby... At least Trilby eventually gets put out of his misery when the man in the red robe comes by and kills him. Also, it probably isn't really Trilby, but a clone. Probably.
From Nobody to Nightmare: Happens three times in Chzo Mythos; chronologically, the first is Cabadath becoming the Prince, then John DeFoe, on his death, and finally Theo Dacabe becoming the New Prince.
Gaiden Game: The Art of Theft. It has Trilby as the protagonist, but is a different genre than the other games (stealth-based platformer rather than adventure game), and the plot has nothing to do with the Chzo Mythos.
The Scandinavian telepath, Ericsson, from The Expedition does however question this:
The King is a beast. That's the most foolish part of it. He has no sentience. His mind is nothing more than that of a fattened pig. He could be the most powerful entity in any universe and his actions are no more calculated than a dog chasing a bone. Randomness and magic turned a dumb animal into God.
The source and the writer, for that matter should be taken into question, though. The source is a clearly insane man who has delved into the mind of a Lovecraftian-esque Eldritch Abomination. Some other abominations can drive a man insane on sight—delving into the mind of one? I think you know where I'm going with this. The writer also becomes insane enough to actually write on his body even after he's pretty much finished. With a sharpened button. And the Books of Chzo imply that Chzo is actually intelligent, and we damn well know that Cabadath wasn't the one to tell Frehorn what to write. A possible facade?
It's possible Chzo did all this on pure instinct.
The Books of Chzo are also not entirely accurate. They're penned by Jack Frehorn who, for one, is a fanatical follower, and for another, note the difference between the written account of Wilbur's death and the actual flashback.
Genetic Memory: the Trilby clones, to a degree. Their memories are only jogged by Cabadath and Samantha's ID card, respectively, and they clearly haven't inherited the original's abilities.
If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Delia Reneaux, the main character in the second part of Countdown series, is asked to kill her ex-boyfriend, Jason, in order to suffer the Blessed Agony of the Soul and become a fully accepted member of the Order of Blessed Agonies.
It's Up to You: In 7 Days a Skeptic, your role is supposedly ship's counselor and yet you end up running around doing everything, including tasks that should be someone else's responsibility. This is most glaringly apparent with Adam, the engineer, who seems to have no qualms at all in leaving someone far less qualified to take care of things he should be doing. Somewhat justified in that Adam was scared out of his wits.
In 6 Days a Sacrifice, you are sent to run around finding guns or looking for vital objects despite nursing some rather severe injuries following a nice little fall down an elevator shaft. Yahtzee both justifies and lampshades this in the 6 Days special edition commentary by pointing out how dull the game would be if the player character could only sit around doing nothing.
The Killer In Me: in 5 Days, Trilby gets possessed and ends up killing a fellow prisoner. There was foreshadowing earlier in the game.
Actively a plot point in 6 Days, as it foreshadows Theo DaCabe's eventual destiny.
Of course, you can still only take things which are relevant to the plot, even in the early part where you'd think he'd at least grab anything of value while he was looking for the way out. Still justified though in that based on some of the comments made by Trilby, there isn't really anything worth stealing.
Lampshaded in Notes: if you tell him to steal a painting, he reminds you he's no longer a thief. He has no problem stealing plot-relevant items, though.
Left Hanging: How did Trilby's car end up in the backyard or Serena's hand go from a closed storage area, down a floor, through a grate, out a maintenace shaft, and into a food dispenser, while leaving sizable blood stains almost exclusively on the walls?
Let The Past Burn: At the end of 5 Days a Stranger, the mansion as well as the recently re-animated body of the then-unnamed DeFoe child is burnt down, freeing those that had been trapped within. Except for AJ and Philip Harty, who were dead before the fire started.
Locked Door: Quite frequent, and jammed glass windows as well.
Logical Fallacies: Angela arrests the only person willing to do anything because he finds the bodies after being told to do so. She also won't fall for the Look Behind You trick from a unarmed person behind a laser fence.
Meaningful Name: Theo DaCabe's name, if rearranged, is phonetically very similar to Cabadath, aka The Tall Man, hinting at Theo's eventual fate as his replacement.
Also plenty of meaningful surnames. It comes most into play in 6 Days as the combination of the name "Harty" and "dead" triggers a response in the Trilby clone you are trying to get on-side, but Yahtzee seems to be fond of descendents/ancestors: see Chahal (Barry in 7 Days, Abed in Notes) and Taylor (Simone in 5 Days, William in 7 Days). It is also implied in the SE commentary for Notes that the Somerset in Notes may be a long-distant ancestor of the Somersets in 7 Days - he reveals that he had originally planned to keep Owen Somerset alive, leading to a theme of "Somersets always survive", but changed his mind further down the line.
Cabadath is also known as "The Arrogant Man" in the Order's holy writings. Much of the plot is driven by the fact that he's trying to prevent his god from replacing him; efforts which, ultimately, are what cause said god to decide to replace him.
Mercy Kill: In 6 Days, the Caretaker does this to the Trilby clone. The purpose is not only to save the victim from an eternity of suffering, but also to take his life-force and use it to revive the real Trilby when he is dying at the end of Trilby's Notes.
When Chzo reached into the Realm of Technology and took Cabadath, Cabadath begged his friend Galdn to kill him. Galdn was terrified and ran, and Cabadath ended up in immortal slavery to Chzo.
Necksnap: There's one in 7 Days which manages to transcend the graphics to be horrific purely on the merit of the sound effect. Necksnaps also show up in 6 Days, where the Tall Man uses this method to dispatch the Trilby Clones in the late stages of the game. His reason for doing so is because it's a relatively painless death. He's trying to operate under Chzo's radar by this point, and Chzo would be alerted to his actions if pain were involved. Possibly counts as Fridge Brilliance for those players who figure the logic out by themselves.
No Name Given: Trilby claims he doesn't have one anymore; trilby's the type of a hat he wears, and "as a name, it suffices".
Yahtzee gives it away in the 7 Days SE commentary. Turns out his real name is the same as "John Somerset"'s.
Also, there's AJ, whose real name is never stated. The tie-in fiction suggests it's Andrew Jarvis.
Confirmed in the extra materials of the special edition of 6 Days.
Non Indicative Name: 7 Days a Skeptic is actually eight days long. Whoops. note Starts on Sunday, day one...then goes Monday (day two), Tuesday (day three), Wednesday (day four), Thursday (day five), Friday (day six), Saturday (day seven), then back to Sunday again for day eight.
Yahtzee addressed this by stating that the first part of the game does not count as a day, since it does not have an intro like the others and should just be seen as a "Day 0".
In addition, 6 Days a Sacrifice takes place over the course of five days. The sixth day (fifth chronologically) takes place 200 years in the future.
Non-Lethal K.O.: In 6 Days, anything that would have given you a Game Over in previous games (i.e. any time you get caught by John DeFoe or DeFoe-possessed Janine) now instead has Theo simply wake up in the sleeping quarters, ready to pick up right from where you left off.
No OSHA Compliance: The ship's escape pods in 7 Days take several hours of automated preparation to use. I'm going to repeat that. The devices which are intended to be used in case of dire emergency cannot be used until several hours after they're activated.
Justified in that their ship, the Mephistopheles, is an old vessel by the game's age standards, so there's a lot of design flaws which John De Foe's spirit uses against the crew in full effect. Still, the fact that this was greenlit even by last year's code is really jarring.
Appears in-universe in "The Expedition": the only actual torture the narrator undergoes as Chzo's prisoner is having to wait and imagine what will happen to him. After some time of this, he goes mad and starts cutting himself without Chzo having to do anything.
Odd Name Out: Trilby's Notes, although it is different from the other three games in a few key ways.
There are a lot of culprits of this throughout the series but special mentions go to Adam in 7 Days, who chooses not to let anyone know about the letter in the locker warning of the dangers of keeping said locker and Samantha in 6 Days, who decides that preserving her integrity is far more important than explaining what she knows of the cult, the complex and in particular the Trilby clones.
Pure Magic Being: Chzo. It can't even survive in our relatively mundane dimension.
Put on a Bus: Jim, possibly literally - after Simone's death in Notes, Trilby advises him to go into hiding. This is the last we ever hear of him.
Railing Kill: In 7 Days, the means of getting rid of the possessed starship captain.
Random Event: The hallucinations in Trilby's Notes. Chances are you will run into at least one or two over the course of the game, but which ones and where you are when they happen are random: the game is coded so that every time you take a pill, there is a chance that a random hallucination will trigger two screens later. Granted, it is possible to take advantage of that fact by trying to trigger them on purpose, but chances are it'll take several pills and a lot of patience to trigger them all.
The DeFoe twins' birth was changed to a month later to match the July 28th significance.
The letter in 7 Days describes things very differently than how they happen in Trilby's Notes.
At the beginning, 5 Days and later 7 Days were going to be stand-alone games. When Yahtzee had the idea of Chzo, he had to work it out this way. 6 Days is basically a gigantic Retcon to put the whole series together.
Retirony7 Days was to be Captain Barry Chahal's last mission before retirement.
Notes gives us the trio of Body, Mind and Soul. The most obvious way this is used is with John DeFoe/The Bridgekeeper) but there are other more subtle uses of a Body/Mind/Soul trio that the "Special Edition" highlights. Firstly, the three main characters at the hotel form such a trio (Trilby as the Body, Abed as the Mind and Siobhan as the Soul). Secondly, the three pictures in the Dark World's bar (the Tall Man, blank and broken) sum up the three elements of the Prince. Finally, if you ask Lenkmann about the ritual after Trilby's been stabbed, he will offer the first explanation about the Blessed Agonies, with Trilby as Body, Lenkmann himself as the Mind and Siobhan sufficing for Soul mainly on account of there's no-one else left.
6 Days adds to the above with a Past/Present/Future trio and, specifically, how the two events in 5 Days (Past) and 7 Days (Future) created ripples across the timeline that collide in the Present in which 6 Days takes place. It also expands a little more on the Blessed Agonies and in the Special Edition, Yahtzee suggests that Canning, Samantha and Janine were abandoned alive in order to provide Blessed Agonies to tempt Chzo.
Also features in 5 Days, though in less meaningful ways (at least at the time the game was made) - both with the body-finder device, which comprises of three components ( stick + string + possession belonging to the dead person in question), and in the final puzzle with the welding gear, knife, and remains of John DeFoe. There's also the fact that of the five in the house, three survive and it is only by utilising all three that you can avoid getting killed by the now quasi-mortal DeFoe and get the true ending.
Hell, John DeFoe's attire is, in itself, part of the Rule : a mask, an apron, and a knife.
Sanity Slippage: In 6 Days a Sacrifice, as you go deeper and deeper into DeFoe Manor, the look-at-info of the doors changes. It goes from "I think it's a door, but I can't think straight. Being in this place feels like having huge weights on my head.", to "It's a... I think it's a... it hurts...", then to a simple "it hurts".
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: 7 Days revolves around a locker found floating in space in a distant galaxy. For one, finding anything this small in an entire galaxy is so mind-bogglingly unlikely that it can only be expressed with large numbers of exponents. The locker was also launched several hundred years ago with no method of propulsion, somehow traveling millions of lightyears since then.
Lampshaded when one of the crew notes the extreme unlikelihood that a small locker floating around for only 400 years would end up in a completely different galaxy. The ensuing conversation implies a supernatural force is responsible - which makes sense when you consider that it has the remains of a murderous ghost in it, and it's basically being manipulated by a god.
Sex Is Evil: In 6 Days,the two main characters have sex, and Janine is turned into a monster. Note that this isn't something Yahtzee actually believes, mind you. He meant to use it as a way to symbolize that both main characters had sunk so low as to embrace their animalistic side in the midst of all this Mind Screw. This doesn't work so well outside of the UK.
Shout-Out: Given the many parallels between 7 Days and Event Horizon, William tearing out his own eyes seems like it may be a homage.
Jim namedrops Treasure Island and Terry Pratchett in 5 Days. In his Let's Play, Quovak complains that there's no real significance to the Shout-Out, it's just there; Yahtzee admits that he never intended any deeper meaning, younger-him just thought it would be clever to drop it out of the blue, and were he making the game today he wouldn't have been quite so injudicious about it.
The ship scene in Trilby's Notes is an obvious parallel to the ship scene of [[Nosferatu]].
Stable Time Loop: In 6 Days, a seemingly supernatural bald man in a red robe appears and helps the characters out. It is revealed that this character is none other than the Somerset from 7 Days, revealed to be the son of the real Dr Somerset, in a mental asylum for the 7 Days murders. He kills himself with a ritual knife, which ends up turning him into the bald robed man. After the ending scenes of 6 Days, taking place 196 years before 7 Days, he goes to urge his younger self to kill his father, thus triggering the events that got him thrown into jail in the first place.
In the Special Edition of Notes, the scene where Trilby is brought back to life is expanded on, with the Caretaker talking to a resistant Trilby and telling him he has no choice but to return, on account of the events that have already taken place in the future requiring Trilby to still be alive.
Story-to-Gameplay Ratio: Although the games are very heavy on story, one instance where gameplay was chosen over story stands out because of the Fridge Logic it causes. To be more precise it is the "find the bodies" puzzle in 5 Days.
In the Special Editions, Yahtzee admits to several instances where story was sacrificed for gameplay. Another example is how the days in 7 Days become ridiculously short towards the end, which creates plenty of Fridge Logic of its own if you think about it too much.
Straw Vulcan: The helmsman and first officer in 7 Days A Skeptic are indoctrinated in the ways of "logic", but it's more along the lines of an irrationally extreme version of Occam's Razor than logic. They refuse to even investigate any leads that don't have an obvious rational explanation.
The first officer then proceeds to arrest the sole investigator on the grounds that it was "awfully suspicious" that he discovered all the bodies. She refuses to listen to him, even when she was given the "Look Behind You" warning just before her death. She had also ordered him to investigate.
Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Simone survives the events of 5 Days, but a time capsule letter in the distant-future 7 Days reveals that the character was actually killed very shortly afterward. Trilby's Notes goes back and is set a few years after 5 Days, and its prologue/tutorial ends with the discovery of the character's body.
Also, to the great shock of the player, the very first puzzle of "6 Days" results in the very gory death of an inexplicably present Trilby.Clone
Summoning Ritual: Cabadath performs one in an attempt to call Chzo into the human plane to fight off the Roman invaders.
Super Strength - The Tall Man can, among other things, gut people alive with his bare hands.
Ten Little Murder Victims : The premise of all four games, to a certain extent, but since they have the largest casts 5 Days a Stranger and 7 Days a Skeptic fit it best. In the former, you're locked in a manor; in the latter, you are on a spaceship, which obviously prevents you from leaving it, save adrift in a vacuum.
There Was a Door: Trying to climb through a window on the ground level from the backyard in 5 Days results in Trilby remarking that "[t]here's a perfectly serviceable door."
Timey-Wimey Ball: The premise of 6 Days. Its present is simultaneously (maybe the word is jointly? A little help, Dan Streetmentioner?) caused by the past and the future.
This makes more sense if you look at it from the perspective of a non-linear creature (that is repeatedly compared to a god to boot). The language used to frame the process (speaking of 5 Days as "yesterday" and 7 Days as "tomorrow") would have no meaning to such a creature, so the sensible assumption is that it's just used so we linear creatures can make sense of it. With that in the back of one's mind, the decision to use the word "today" to refer to the events of 6 Days can be justified on the grounds that the events of 6 Days involve the non-linear god-creature finally getting what it wants, making them a logical focal point for its attentions.
Title Theme Drop: In 7 Days, the title theme returns at the start of the final day, where you are hiding in the maintenance shaft, the rest of the crew murdered save for the ship's doctor who on the previous day was all set to butcher you for body parts. It continues to play over the ensuing conversation between you and William, echoing the opening segment of the game.
5 Days: Simone is the only female in a cast of five
7 Days: Barry Chahal is the only non-white character
Trilby's Notes: Abed Chahal is the only non-white present-time character. Siobhan is the only significant female character, past or present (all of the flashbacks are male-centric), though the hotel clerk is female and Simone features briefly, though never alive.
Imagine this: you're trapped on a spaceship with a psychotic murderer. Half the crew is dead. You've just gained access to the escape pods. What do you do? If your first guess is to have all the survivors go take a nap in separate rooms, you should be in this story.
Violation of Common Sense: At one point in 5 Days, the other captives in the manor lock Trilby up in the shed after he kills Philip while possessed, and Simone guards the door. How do you get out? Convince Simone that you are mentally ill and a murderer. After Trilby expresses harrowing feelings of guilt, she'll give him his tie to let him hang himself, letting him access his lockpicks.