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Tabletop Game / World War Cthulhu

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World War Cthulhu is a line of settings for the Call of Cthulhu Tabletop RPG published by Cubicle 7. Each setting examines a different 20th century conflict and the ways in which the agents of the Cthulhu Mythos try to take advantage of the situation to further their own ends. These settings include:

  • The Darkest Hour: Set in World War II, players are members of the British Special Operations Executive recruited into the network of N, a British Intelligence spymaster. Hailing from a wide range of backgrounds, they are tasked with fighting a hidden war on two fronts: against Nazi Germany and the insidious Mythos menace.
  • London: Taking place during the Blitz (7 September 1940 – 11 May 1941), players take on the roles of Londoners, whether civilians, civil defence volunteers, members of the Home Guard or auxiliary members of Network N, caught between the horrors of war and those of the Mythos. Their adventures will range from simple survival to saving London itself from threats both human and alien.
  • Cold War: Players assume the role of Western spies, agents and operatives, exposed to the horrors of the Mythos in the Cold War. Recruited into the secretive Section 46, the last echo of Network N, investigators come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some may find themselves influenced through dreams to follow other agendas, set out by the mysterious presence known only as H. These investigators are tasked with fighting a secret two-front war: a delicate cat-and-mouse game against the Soviet bloc, and a desperate fight against the Mythos.

In World War Cthulhu, the Mythos is a half-glimpsed threat, lurking in the shadows. Most Mythos encounters will be with its mortal pawns. The unnatural and weird is very much on the outside of society. The Mythos has no direct involvement in human wars and atrocities; while they provide opportunities for ancient evils and their minions, the evils of humanity and the evils of the Mythos are different. Human beings are more than capable of cruelty without the influence of alien gods.

World War Cthulhu is grim and gritty, in the Purist style of Call of Cthulhu. The investigators are not pulp heroes, but real people fighting for their lives, paranoid in case the Gestapo, KGB or a Mythos cult have uncovered them, always aware that capture or worse could be right around the next corner. Many monstrous threats cannot be fought by normal means, or are so dangerous that attempting to do so is suicide. This does not mean that the investigators will not or should not try, simply that they will not always live to tell of it.

On 1st January 2018, when Cubicle 7's licence with Chaosium expired and was not renewed, the World War Cthulhu line was discontinued and all products pulled from sale from online stores. On 21st August 2021, World War Cthulhu and Cthulhu Britannica were acquired by Chaosium, who plans to rerelease these lines for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.

For the other, more pulpy World War II Lovecraftian RPG setting, see Achtung! Cthulhu. See also Cthulhu Britannica, a 1920s Britain Call of Cthulhu setting also published by Cubicle 7, and The Laundry and Delta Green, two other settings that blend Spy Fiction with Lovecraftian roleplaying.

This game provides examples of:

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    In General 
  • Alien Blood: Agents are instructed to take care to avoid contact with any fluids discharged from knife wounds. Not all creatures bleed as humans do, and some such discharges are toxic or corrosive.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Agents have been reported using weapons constructed by Mythos entities; in pressing danger, it is understandably tempting to use any resources available. However, N recommends against doing this: these weapons were designed for other creatures and are awkward and inaccurate in human hands, tend to be less reliable than conventional weapons, and risk alerting observers to the Mythos. As appealing as it may be to attack an enemy with lightning or earthquakes, the risks are generally too great to be operationally sound.
  • Big Good: N conducts a one-man quixotic crusade against the Mythos by running a spy network, recruiting the Player Characters and drawing them together to carry out covert investigations and attacks against occult threats. However, N might not be who he really is, and the investigators might find themselves turning against their former mentor when they discover his true nature (as determined by the Keeper).
  • Disposing of a Body: Cleanup might be the most important part of any anti-occult operations. Disposing of corpses, destroying evidence of one's presence and such should be routine for Agents.
  • Enslaved Tongue: There are some means of interrogation that cannot be resisted. Those with access to otherworldly powers can compel truthfulness by serum, spell or mental invasion. Some measures can compel an already dead Agent to reveal knowledge, and in this case, death before capture is the only sure defence.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Rituals and incantations learned from occult texts should not be used by Agents under any circumstance, no matter how useful they might seem. In addition to the all-too-revealing unnatural effects, using these rituals invite madness into the Agents' minds, and more than one Agent has been lost because of this. Worst of all are rituals that attract or summon monsters, which provide very little practical benefit and cannot be contained or controlled.
    N: I am weary of explaining why the tools of Our Other Enemy are too dangerous to use. A significant number of the human pawns we deal with began with the best of intentions, using unsavoury magics in pursuit of noble ends. These things always carry an unacceptable price. The people who use them are invariably changed or maddened. Too many of my agents have had ideas like yours. The fortunate ones are dead. Please do not take any actions that will force me to add you to their numbers.
  • Glamour Failure: Creatures in human guise often give themselves away through congenital deformities or strange mannerisms. Agents are advised to assume the worst of people with strange features; even if they prove human, these features may be the result of occult practices.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: N reminds Agents to be always ready to make sacrifices, even the supreme one, in order to achieve victory against the Mythos. However, it should also be noted that:
    Though it is far better to sacrifice another than yourself. Live to fight another day and you do more harm to Our Other Enemy than simply dying for the cause. Let the fanatics die for theirs.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Certain unearthly languages and scripts offer an interesting possibility of secret communication, as it is unlikely that there's an enemy expert observer who could identify them. However, N only recommends doing so when absolutely necessary, as those that do not understand them might dismiss them as gibberish and excise them from reports, or worse, be driven to madness or accidentally summon something squamous.
  • Human Disguise: Servants of the Mythos can take many forms. There are tainted lineages that can pass as human, things that can consume a person's insides and wear them as a mask, and other things that puppet people.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: N has perfected a hypnotic technique that suppresses memory. An investigator may wish to have their memory of a single event partially erased from their mind. The character still remembers some aspects of the event, but the memory is softened, dulled and fragmented, and thus easier to bear (until the investigator beholds the same horror again).
  • No Body Left Behind: Often, inhuman creatures simply dissolve into nothingness when killed, leaving little to clean up. However, if they do not, disposing of their remains is difficult.
  • The Omniscient: N possesses an alarmingly encyclopaedic knowledge of the Mythos. He knows where the Deep Ones come ashore on moonless nights. He knows the secret language of the ghouls in the catacombs under Paris. He knows that there is a staircase in a certain French castle that descends into tunnels carved by no human hand, and what dwells in the heart of the Black Forest. He knows the pirates of the South China Sea who trade captured sailors to Deep Ones in exchange for safe passage.
  • One-Letter Name: The player characters are recruited into the network of a British Intelligence spymaster only known as N.
  • The Pig-Pen: Cultists are often at least somewhat insane and care little for their personal grooming, and an easy way to disguise oneself as one is to simply not bathe or clean clothes.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The lower sorts of people rarely have the necessary intellect to willingly serve the Mythos. Agents are recommended to target them, as they lack the ability to truly believe in what they espouse and are weak enough to be easily manipulated with intimidation or bribery.
  • Reptilian Conspiracy: The serpent people have utilised illusory shape-changing to masquerade undetected as humans for long periods of time. However, they have found it difficult to stay out of the limelight as fringe conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts have amassed a body of information ranging from detailed witness testimony to paranoid ravings of global 'reptilian' conspiracies.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Agents are recommended to consider a sawn-off shotgun due to its immense killing power at close range and reasonable concealability. Its very significant impact may be useful in throwing back a creature long enough for the Agent to flee. Some Agents have reported success with cut-down pump-action military shotguns such as the Ithaca or Remington.
  • Secret Identity: Perhaps the most important lie an operative will tell is their cover story: the false identity they assume in order to go about their business. All of the principles of lying apply to the creation of a cover identity that will resist attempts to penetrate it.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Sometimes all it takes is the right words in the right ears or a few planted documents to pit rival cults against each other. However, N doesn't like this, as cultists have no sense of subtlety and their battles risk exposing everyone.
  • Sigil Spam: Cults tend to use the same symbols over and over, and through this inattentively label their resources. It is important for Agents to know these symbols.
  • The Spook: Who is N? Are the investigators fighting to save humanity or being used as pawns to bring on its destruction? N's true nature is up to the Keeper: a former investigator who dedicated his life to battling the horrors that killed the rest of his band, a high-ranking member in a global organisation that battles inhuman forces, a madman obsessed with revenge upon the horrors that devoured his friends, a sorcerer who intends to master the knowledge of the Old Ones, a cultist who uses the investigators as unwitting pawns, or a mask of Nyarlathotep himself.
  • The Spymaster: N is a highly successful British Intelligence spymaster who has built up a network of elite agents, many within the Special Operations Executive (SOE). From his lair in London, N helps direct the war effort, but dispatches his own agents under the cover of British intelligence to carry out covert investigations and attacks against occult threats.
  • Spy Speak: To avoid revealing information about the Mythos to telegraph and radio operators, code words specific to creatures and activities should be used in all written and transmitted communications, in place of their actual names.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In situations of uncertainty, agents should err on the side of massive overkill; extravagant destruction is preferred over failure.
    Miller: The only good kill is overkill, make sure you did the job right and you won't have to do it again.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Far away from official scrutiny, tied to old beliefs, and often incestuous both literally and figuratively, the countryside is a hotbed for strange activity. Such cults might be even more difficult to root out than urban ones, as they are protected by the xenophobia of locals. In fact, an entire community might be part of the plot. When operating in rural areas, Agents should trust no one.
    The Darkest Hour 
  • Abnormal Ammo: A variety of shells loaded with projectiles formed from exotic materials have been offered for trial by experts in the field, but there has yet to be any clear information concerning their efficacy against any given target.
  • Enemy Mine: N strongly discourages active co-operation with the Germans against the Mythos. The enemy will use any information passed on to them in their activities elsewhere, and will try to seize an Agent of whom they become aware:
    The enemy of our enemy is not our friend, but while he is doing battle with our enemy it may be in our best interests not to interfere.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even in the Nazis, save the most psychopathic ones, the human instinct to avoid or oppose the threat would kick in when confronted with the horrors of the Mythos, rather than a counter-intuitive attempt to subvert the Mythos for the good of the Reich.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Mythos is toxic and inimical to all humanity, no matter which side they are on. The Nazis are a purely human evil, and the typical Wehrmacht soldier or Kriegsmarine sailor will be as ignorant of—and terrified by—these creatures as a typical British or Soviet citizen.
  • Ghostapo: Defied, in contrast with other Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks like Delta Green or Achtung! Cthulhu. While the investigators may encounter the occasional ex-Ahnenerbe SS officer who has uncovered some pre-human tomb, his activities are unsanctioned and as aberrant as those of any other dabbler in the Mythos. There were no magical sacrifices in the concentration camps; the Nazis did not use magic or the Mythos. Keepers are instructed to avoid overusing Nazi exploitation of the Mythos, for it changes the game into an alternate-history weird war, and turns the Mythos into something rational, predictable, diminishing the horror.
  • The Mole: Cthonians study humankind through telepathy, finding would-be traitors or weak-willed humans who they can plunder information from, usually those connected to weapons of mass destruction research. These include Hitler's experimental weapons division or the USA's Manhattan Project, as well as less obvious research which may be problematic in the long run.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Stewart Menzies' best use in a campaign is to stymie and frustrate the investigators when they try to make the British government more aware of the Mythos: as he is the gatekeeper to Winston Churchill and the corridors of power, the investigators have to get past Menzies' offhand dismissal of the existence of the occult.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Below Churchill's cabinet, the various departments and sections were engaged in a virtual scrum, fighting over responsibilities, staff and budgets, even more doggedly than against the Germans. This confusion and politicking allows N's network to exist, as everyone was expected to keep their activities a secret.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Deep inside the caves of the Rock of Gibraltar lies Kingu, a powerful servant of Yig laid to rest by ancient magic until the time comes to rampage across the world in the name of his god. However, enough noise, light and people will awaken him early, allowing him to rampage through Gibraltar and reveal the Mythos to the world.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Some Deep One hybrids, unaware of their origin, volunteer in the navies of both sides, requesting to serve on submarines whenever possible, finding an inexplicable peace under the waves. as they grow in affinity to submersion, their lineage catalyses as a time bomb, causing rapid evolution into Deep Ones. Investigators may be called to investigate inexplicable behaviour of Allied sailors disappearing off the sides of calmed vessels or attempting to exit submarines at cruising depths.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Witches and sorcerers might take advantage of the war to further their own goals – say, by arranging for a battle to take place above the grave of a sleeping god, so the spilled blood feeds their master, by using desperate refugees as subjects in some vile experiment, or simply by engaging in mundane crime to fund their activities.
  • Actual Pacifist: Unusually for an investigator group, members of the Church of the Redeemer avoid violence whenever possible. They see their role as providing succour and sanctuary, not to take up arms. These principles are sometimes shaken when they are forced to defend themselves, but so far the congregation have held fast to them.
  • Affably Evil: Joyce Merchant is a solicitously friendly young woman with a cheerful smile, asking how well people are bearing up and how well they're sleeping. She is also a cultist of Cthulhu who offers blood and death to the god that sends her dreams, and seeks to convert others to her cult.
  • The Alcoholic: After Des Merrill saw the shoggoth on the Isle of Dogs, he turned and fled, barely escaping. He has hardly spent a moment sober since then. Even when utterly drunk he is reluctant to tell people what he saw for fear of being called mad. All he will say is that there is something dangerous in the old bombsite and that no one in their right mind should go anywhere near it.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: In 1626, Sir Francis Bacon conducted experiments to prove that freezing would preserve meat. He slaughtered a chicken, plucked it and stuffed its carcass with snow, but contracted pneumonia in the cold and died shortly afterwards. Since then, there have been reports of a phantom resembling a white, plucked chicken racing around Pond Square in Highgate. Were Bacon's experiments actually a cover for some darker arts? Or was this story a cover for a battle against a Mythos entity that killed Bacon?
  • Cassandra Truth: The Rat Catchers find it difficult to recruit new members, as telling people that there are man-eating creatures lurking beneath London risks ridicule at best and a trip to the asylum at worst.
  • Chest Monster: The injured shoggoth in the Isle of Dogs has learned enough about people to mimic them in a rough manner. In the dark, the forms it creates from its protoplasm are convincing enough to bring curious souls within striking distance. As soon as someone comes within range, the shoggoth strikes.
  • Continuity Nod: The Rat Catchers, who seek to make London as unwelcoming for ghouls as they could, originated from a group of people who researched the source of a mysterious outbreak of anthrax in the 1920s and uncovered the existence of ghouls in the tunnels and caves that riddle the ground under London. The Deep Ones in the Thames and the sewers were attracted by the experiments of the Society of London for the Exploration and Development of the Esoteric Sciences in the 1920s. Both of these groups were originally mentioned in the Keeper's Guide for London for Cthulhu Britannica.
  • Darkness Equals Death: During the Blitz, as night falls and the blackout comes into effect across London, Auxiliaries might well benefit from the ability to skulk about London unseen. But suspicious or overly cautious Auxiliaries will do well to think twice before setting foot on the streets after dark. After all, as well as providing the perfect cover to their own nocturnal activities, it conceals the creatures of the Mythos as well and emboldens them to stalk where they might once have been reticent. Auxiliaries have good reason to fear the dark.
  • Demonic Possession: Some stray animals or vermin on the Isle of Dogs have consumed smaller fragments of the local shoggoth when it was blown apart by a bomb. A few of the fragments manage to retain autonomy, controlling their new hosts like puppets.
  • Due to the Dead: Since the war began, the Friends of the Cemeteries of London have seen strange inhuman things, and meet in secret, planning ways to protect the graves from the creatures and cults that would defile them. When more Londoners than ever are dying, the Friends consider it their mission to protect the sanctity of the dead.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Blitz has encouraged many of the ghouls who fled the Rat Catchers in the 1920s, as well as other ghouls from across the UK, to move to London in search of human flesh. However, those who have returned to London have not always found their old tribes welcoming, and the newcomers have upset the balance of power and territory badly. Any ghoul may betray a rival tribe to the investigators if it suits its purposes.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Since the Blitz began, the Deep Ones have grown bold and started using the sewers to penetrate further into London. This has led them into conflict with ghouls, occasionally escalating into secret pitched battles under London.
  • Human Popsicle: During the fall of Valusia, a small cabal of serpent folk science-sorcerers, fearing the total destruction of their civilisation at the hands of human usurpers, entered stasis pods that would preserve them for 100,000 years, long enough for human civilisation to grow and collapse, after which the serpent people could awake and retake the world. On the 14th of October 1940, an enclave beneath Balham was prematurely awakened by a Luftwaffe bomb.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Under the guise of helping victims of the Blitz, the Harvesters have been quietly murdering them, dedicating their sacrifices to Cthulhu. Because these murders are often carried out in sight of other rescue workers, they often involve smothering or breaking the necks of the victims, as bodies stabbed or disembowelled with knives will raise questions.
  • Mysterious Employer: Not all members of N's Auxiliary network meet him, and some have only the vaguest idea of who they are working for. N's trusted operatives are usually vague when approaching potential recruits, hinting that they are part of the security services.
  • Mystery Meat: Simon Graves has killed and slaughtered a few Deep Ones and carved 'shark steaks' from the corpses, selling them on to an acquaintance and claiming them to be thresher shark meat. Unknown to the customers who bought and consumed the mystery meat, they now exude Deep One pheromones, and even those who escape the Deep Ones' revenge will find that the pheromones are only the first stage of a gradual, inevitable transformation.
  • Nightmare Sequence: While Londoners have proven to be a hardy lot throughout the Blitz, not everyone copes as well as appearances might suggest. Many barely sleep any more, haunted by the horrors they have seen and the losses they have incurred. Their nights are broken by incessant bombing runs and the fear they bring. And the dreams of Cthulhu reach out from below the Pacific, touching the minds of the sensitive and damaged.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Lydia Gardner tries to cover her East End accent with practised posh enunciation, believing that this gives her more authority; her accent slips when she becomes excited or upset.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Sister Maria Francis, the Matron of the St James Boys' Orphanage in Sydenham, is a recent convert to the cult of Cthulhu. Since her conversion, a number of boys have apparently run away in the dead of night, never to be seen again.
  • The Pig-Pen: Kenneth Hodge smells a little worse than most Londoners of the time, as his rootless life makes it difficult for him to wash himself or his clothes.
  • Properly Paranoid: Zigzagged with Improperly Paranoid. Since they lost the ability to identify disguised ghouls, the surviving Rat Catchers have become trigger-happy, willing to kill anyone suspected of being a ghoul without hard proof. Some have argued that this increased paranoia makes it almost impossible to recruit new members, dooming the organisation to decline and dissolution. Kenneth Hodge, in turn, argues that such heightened caution is the only thing keeping the remaining members alive. Both sides are correct.
  • Saintly Church: The clergy and congregation of the Church of the Redeemer have been organising charitable efforts since the start of the war, helping Londoners injured, bereaved or made homeless by the Blitz. This has brought them into contact with people who have faced other dangers, hunted by creatures or dark forces that stalk the night. Although their knowledge of the Mythos is minimal, often seen through a more Christian lens, the congregation do what they can to protect those who ask their help.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: In 1031, unable to kill a shoggoth summoned by Deep Ones on the Isle of Dogs, local humans dug a pit and lured it there through guile and sacrifice. They buried the creature alive and laid heavy stones over the pit. Centuries later, future generations built docks and warehouses over the forgotten pit, oblivious to the horror that still writhed below their feet. On the 6th of January 1941, a Luftwaffe high-explosive bomb blew the pit open.
  • Secret Identity: Auxiliaries continue with their normal lives until N has a mission for them. When this happens, they are expected to drop everything, making excuses to family, friends and colleagues before throwing themselves to the task allocated them.
  • True Sight: When smeared on each eyelid, the Ointment of True Seeing allows the user to see through magical disguises.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: After stealing Basil Forbes' pouch containing the leftover shards of the Shining Trapezohedron, Charlie Keene retreated to Camden Town Underground. As he examined his haul in a sealed-off construction site, he sneezed, scattering and inhaling the shards, turning both himself and the construction site into portals to the realms of night where the Haunter of the Dark lurks.
  • Walking Wasteland: Charlie Keene's flesh is suffused with shards of the Shining Trapezohedron, and it has changed him. If Keene's body is in darkness, things from other dimensions can move through him to kill nearby people. He has contemplated suicide, but he is not sure if he can even die.
  • Was Once a Man: Those who have joined Lionel Downey's blasphemous rituals are changing as a result. Most of the cultists are now stronger and more resilient than normal humans. Some have increased or transformed musculatures, walking with distinctive rolling gaits.
    Cold War 
  • The Alcatraz: Since the 1928 Innsmouth raid and crackdowns on the Cthulhu cult in subsequent years, the US government has imprisoned several hundred Deep Ones and hybrids on Palmyra Island, an uninhabited, remote protectorate in the Pacific. The jail is heavily fortified, equipped with enough explosives to reduce the island to gravel should the Deep Ones escape. A small airstrip and patrol boats keep it safe from discovery.
  • Ambiguously Human: N's research indicates that Ismael Mifsud, an Egyptian Army colonel, is not as human as he first appears. His family has ties to a small, notoriously insular fishing village on the northern coast. While it is possible that there is a perfectly innocent explanation, his protuberant eyes and shambling gait raise suspicions.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • The historical Skoptsy were a underground heretical Christian sect in the Russian Empire which disappeared after heavy persecution from both Imperial and Soviet governments. Or so it seems; a Skoptsy cell has survived in Prague and is striking back against their oppressors, creating a grand work to invoke their patron deity Tulzscha.
    • The true nature of Philip K. Dick's paranormal experiences is up to the Keeper to determine, whether it is the manifestation or avatar of a known Mythos figure such as Daoloth, Hastur, Yog-Sothoth or Nyarlathotep or a more obscure entity. His experience of parallel consciousness in the modern world and ancient Rome are also well in keeping with the Great Race's time-travel. Or perhaps Dick is suffering from delusion, perhaps schizophrenia, and that none of his experiences are real.
  • Covert Group: Almost no Section 46 agent actually works for the department. Many do not even work for SIS. N's network is now almost completely unofficial, extending into other intelligence agencies, the armed forces, the civilian world and allegedly beyond the Iron Curtain. Even within SIS, Section 46 agents almost all work for other departments, hiding their involvement with the strange little office on the tenth floor.
  • Demonic Possession: An unlucky few whose minds were touched by Cthulhu in the guise of B'moth the Devourer when flying over R'lyeh have their minds consumed completely, replaced by disjointed fragments of Cthulhu's dreaming mind. When they wake, nothing of the original personality remains, not even the ability to speak in human languages. Their limbs are uncoordinated and balance poor. Some perform strange rituals and acts of sickening violence, while others may carry out actions that make no sense to human minds.
  • Dug Too Deep: N believes the people of Vịnh Mốc have burrowed deep enough to make contact with ghouls or warrens leading to the underworld of the Dreamlands, when communications from them abruptly stopped.
  • Enchanted Forest: The Colville National forest was once home to many Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath and the results of their unnatural unions with humans—usually witches making pacts with these creatures in return for secrets of lore and transformation. The native Kalispel tribe spoke fearfully of the strange and monstrous Before People, who inhabited the woods before they came. Today, the area is barely populated, home to artist retreats and communes, with a number of private cabins whose inhabitants inevitably flee or become 'inspired' and vanish, delving into the dark, foggy depths of the woods.
  • Enemy Civil War: In north-eastern Uganda, the Sudnaic peoples have long dealt with secret cults worshipping Cthugha, but a small civil war is starting to flare up as competing cults of Nyarlathotep have begun to infiltrate the country.
  • Enemy Mine: While it may be acceptable to work with someone on the other side of the Iron Curtain to defeat a greater evil, agents should never assume that they're an ally. They should be treated as assets, to be used and disposed of as necessary for a greater good. And in no circumstances should agents work with one cult against another.
  • Eye Scream: As the final part of her dedication to her new goddess, Grace Kosinski gouged out her own eyes as a sacrifice to Atlach-Nacha. She now wears dark glasses to cover her empty eye sockets.
  • Fantastic Drug: The Black, the dried blood of Yibb-Tstll, increases magical potency at the risk of losing one's soul to Yibb-Tstll. Its side effects include a dreamlike, euphoric state, and its relative unavailability and reputation have made it coveted by wealthy, famous connoisseurs of fine opiates.
  • Green Aesop: The Diocese of Dust is a group of individuals who inhaled dust from the Dreamlands, which subjugated their minds, took control of their bodies and seeks to spread through smog-filled air. They use their influence to combat environmental movements, organise protests against nuclear power plants and try to ensure that the smokestacks of the world keep burning. They have quietly arranged for environmental activists and campaigning journalists to disappear.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The physicians at Burne Hall, who offer services of artificial insemination, have no use for the father's sperm. Instead, they summon the Twin Blasphemies Nug and Yeb and fill the drugged mothers, who act as a focal point, with two embryos, each bearing the mark of one of the dark gods. The following morning they wake up happy and refreshed, unaware of what has transpired. Some of the children have started to take on aspects of their true fathers, consuming their human parents to fuel their transformation into monstrous demi-gods.
  • He Knows Too Much: Dimensional shamblers are beginning to manifest with appalling frequency in laboratories where experiments concerning superstring theory and parallel dimensions are conducted. It is unknown whether these creatures are drawn to such places like moths to a flame, or whether it is a concerted effort to stymie this research.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The leaders of the Order of the Solar Temple (a real cult linked to a series of murders and mass suicides in 1994 and 1995) serve Nyarlathotep in several of his masks, and have also incorporated elements of worship towards Shub-Niggurath.
  • Honey Trap: There is a disturbing rumour that some honey traps in Belgium targeted at members of NATO are not the work of the Stasi, but may have been set up by associates of the Sons of the Hands that Feed, a cult of Y'golonac.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Even a decade after the betrayal of Kim Philby, there is still ongoing paranoia about moles in the SIS. An intelligence officer subverting operations to combat eldritch horrors risks being mistaken for an incompetent at best, or a Soviet double agent at worst. This means that a Section 46 agent sometimes has to take extreme actions to cover up their involvement, especially when these actions are noticed by the wrong people. This may require creating a plausible web of lies, finding a scapegoat or, if there is no other choice, blackmailing, intimidating or killing witnesses.
    Cold calculations are our business, and if you must feed an entire platoon into the maw to advance our fight, do so, and do so without remorse.
  • Infectious Insanity: The dreams of the Choir of B'moth infect those who spend too much time around them, dragging their sleeping minds down to the depths of R'lyeh.
  • Information Broker: Once a senior CIA intelligence analyst, Grace Kosinski is now a freelance information broker. If there is a secret to be learned, Kosinski will find it for the right price. The only secrets she will never part with are her own.
  • Knighting: Following World War Two, N has been given a peerage, becoming known as Lord Brichester.
  • Mad Artist: For several years, conceptual artist Maya Carvalho has been working fervently on an installation, which she calls her most important work, and which claims her every waking hour, often keeping her awake for days on end without rest. Her assistant claims that the piece is comprised of a convoluted geometric arrangement of plastic and metal rods, silvery spheres, glass hemispheres and prisms, is constructed entirely in pitch darkness and is intended for exhibit in similar conditions.
  • The Mole: There is a leak at the Signals Analysis Section of the CIA listening station at Pine Gap near Alice Springs. N has discovered that the station has received sporadic signals from outside the human sphere. Microwave transmissions are coming in from the outer solar system, most likely from Yuggoth. Even more troubling is that signals have been sent in the other direction.
  • Mole in Charge: The United Wa State Army has been co-opted and infiltrated by the Tcho-Tcho, many of which hold high-ranking positions in the militia.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: When Grace Kosinski is alone, she gives birth to a near-constant stream of small, fleshy spiders with disturbingly human eyes.
  • Mysterious Waif: Since World War Two ended, increasing numbers of Agents have reported meeting a young, ethereal woman speaks directly to the dreamer in a clear and direct manner. She displays knowledge of the agents, their roles within Section 46 and their missions, and often offers advice about what actions to take. While her suggestions are often helpful and she never seems hostile, N is cagey about her and insists that she is pursuing her own agenda and sees his agents as nothing more than pawns. Those who have addressed the woman as H (as N does) in dream conversations have found that she responds to it, usually with a wry smile.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Debriefed Cambodian refugees in Thailand indicate that some starving Khmer Rouge officers have resorted to cannibalism and are turning into 'cats'.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Spiritual Light Brotherhood's is publicly a welcoming pan-denominational church focused on personal betterment, spiritualism and the reconciliation of Judeo-Christianity and physics, and prophesying a oneness with the greater galactic fraternity of enlightened beings. In truth, the Brotherhood's teachings are a direct evolution of those espoused by the Starry Wisdom Church, and the shining tetrahedron it used as its symbol leaves little doubt to its true nature as a cult of Nyarlathotep.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Lieutenant Colonel Michael Ware is an unrepentant racist who has spent the last 15 years of his life making money out of the misery of various African wars. Since bringing an indescribably ancient relic out of the Congolese jungles in 1964, he has been tapping the power of the artefact to increase his ability to kill those he despises, which means the majority of black Africans.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • Not even the most fervent Azathoth cultists are working actively to provoke nuclear war. If humanity wipes itself out, the nuclear explosions that they see as holy rites will end with it.
    • While the serpent people live in ancient underground cities, they still rely on the surface world for food, and worry that idiotic humans will now destroy it with a nuclear war. For survival, serpent people in human guise have become active in the anti-nuclear movements across the globe.
  • Scam Religion: The Order of the Solar Temple's public goals are the unification of the world's major religions, changing society to emphasise the spiritual over the material in everyday life, divine beings that may be all-powerful aliens, preparing the way for the arrival of a new solar king/saviour/messiah, abolishing the tyranny of existing authorities and governments, and so on. These idealistic claims are a sham, hiding disturbing rituals, sexual abuse, brainwashing and a cult of personality towards the leadership. Recruits are frequently asked to contribute vast sums of money to the inner circle, and threats are made against those who attempt to leave.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: With no sight of her own, Grace Kosinski sees through the eyes of her thousands of spider children.
  • The Spook: H is potentially even more mysterious than N. She only appears in dreams, and she prefers to recruit agents through consent but is willing to manipulate the minds and memories of those she considers useful. H's true nature is up to the Keeper: a spy who disappeared on a mission to Moscow in 1917 and now appears in others' dreams, a resident of the Dreamlands who seek to protect the waking world, a sorcerer who covets items and tomes of power, an inhuman creature from the Dreamlands who tries to undermine humanity, or a mask of Hypnos.
  • Time Master: During the Great Depression, the bankrupt financier Albert Haldon found an ancient manuscript containing a ritual of Temporal Liminality, invoking the power of Aforgomon, an avatar of Yog-Sothoth. Through this ritual Haldon was able to wind back time by 10 hours. Clever use of this ritual allowed him to rapidly become one of the richest men in the United States.
  • Time Travel: Word has filtered through from Kashmir of a white man claiming to be an British Army officer who disappeared in 1902. His claims of being an Imperial soldier from several decades ago seem rather outlandish, but the records show that a punitive expedition did go missing in that area at that time, apparently when suppressing the activities of an obscure and secretive cult operating from an isolated monastery high in the Karakoram. (Michael Moorcock fans might recognise this guy as his universe-hopping Captain Oswald Bastable.)
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Marginalised by other Asians, the Tcho-Tcho immigrants in America have formed criminal cartels linked with their homelands, facilitating the influx of heroin into the United States, as well as focusing on local criminal activity such as prostitution, gambling, smuggling and even contract murder.
  • Undead Child: N has learned that the Indonesian Army medical team has ties to a Nyogtha cult of Javanese wizards known as dukun, who are raising an army of undead infants, known as jenglot, using ancient spells. Once enchanted, they can be used to gather information and terrorise the population.
  • Un-person: After the fall of the Third Reich, when several East German officials discovered Cyäegha and the rites conducted by the residents of the nearby town of Freihausgarten to keep it imprisoned, they evacuated the town, eradicated all traces of it from the public record and blocked all roads to and from.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
    • In Calabria, there is a version of the myth of Scylla and Charybdis, involving monstrous fish/human hybrids. N believes this may indicate the historical presence of Deep Ones off the coast of Calabria. The fact that they have avoided detection for so long is troubling.
    • The broken piece of Sybil's golden branch which led Aeneas on his night journey into the underworld is suspected to allow dreamers to project their waking minds into the Dreamlands, although the myths linking the branch to Hades has led to concerns that the user's mind may end up somewhere less pleasant.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Some contemporary worshippers of Ithaqua are American and European environmental activists who hope to direct his wrath against logging and mining concerns near the Arctic circle.