Sunday, 19 April 2015

A monster for the Weekend, Sir? Gnawing Horrors of the Witch-House.

"That object—no larger than a good-sized rat and quaintly called by the townspeople "Brown Jenkin"—seemed to have been the fruit of a remarkable case of sympathetic herd-delusion, for in 1692 no less than eleven persons had testified to glimpsing it. There were recent rumours, too, with a baffling and disconcerting amount of agreement. Witnesses said it had long hair and the shape of a rat, but that its sharp-toothed, bearded face was evilly human while its paws were like tiny human hands. It took messages betwixt old Keziah and the devil, and was nursed on the witch's blood, which it sucked like a vampire. Its voice was a kind of loathsome titter, and it could speak all languages. Of all the bizarre monstrosities in Gilman's dreams, nothing filled him with greater panic and nausea than this blasphemous and diminutive hybrid, whose image flitted across his vision in a form a thousandfold more hateful than anything his waking mind had deduced from the ancient records and the modern whispers." - The Dreams in the Witch-House, H.P.Lovecraft.

Rats! Rats have a strange effect on people.
Now don't get me wrong, rats are amazing. They are social mammals, with relatively good problem solving skills. They are hardy, adaptable and really beautiful creatures. The domestic rat are among the best pets it is possible to play host to, who can be as affectionate as any larger mammal. But humans are stupid barely evolved monkeys, and for some reason, many of my fellow species mates have an irrational loathing of them. 

Even I, as a lover of the species have to say that there is something about the experience of living in a house that plays host to wild rats is an experience that can slowly eat away at your nerves. For other, less rational (and rat obsessed people), is very close to madness inducing. 

Lovecraft wrote two stories that really worked to express this feeling, that the scamper of tiny clawed paws and the incessant sound of gnawing can induce. One  

The Dreams in the Witch-House is arguably one of  HPL's most important works, it is here that the link between mathematics and magic is firmly cemented, leading to the creation of the Laundry many years later by the incomparable Charles Stross.  The story also led to the inclusion of Rat-Things in Call of Cthulhu, and scenarios like Ghosts of the Florentina by Bret Kramer.

Gnawing Horrors

Gnawing Horrors turn up on occations in areas where the vile magic of the outer ones is performed or studied by humans. These rat like creatures make their nests within the homes of dark wizards and priests of the crawling chaos. During the life time of such evil men and woman, the Gnawing Horrors often act as familiars and servants. However, they present their greatest threat after such men and woman pass from this world. For as ages pass, and others make their home where the gnawing horrors nest, they make new sport for themselves.

A Gnawing horror will often single out a single person who moves into their domain, and begin to tutor them. They do this by whispering dark secrets to their victim in the dead of night, slowly wearing away their sanity, for each month that a Gnawing tutors a victim their intelligence is increased by one and their wisdom reduced by one. When their wisdom is reduced to zero, they are driven from any semblance of sanity, into the worship of the crawling chaos. Once a subject's intelligence reachs 18, it can be raised no further, and the Gnawing horrors begin to teach the sorcerer to be the secrets of hyper-geometry, of time and space, and other mythos magics. The pupil learns one mythos ritual or spell per month until he knows them all. (See Mythos Sorcery). Neither intelligence gain, nor wisdom loss can be reversed by any magic short of a wish.

When their pupils are asleep, the gnawing horror may direct their actions, as though under the effect of

Meanwhile, the gnawing horrors do all they can to drive others from their student, from their constant gnawing, the sound of which force those who sleep within the house, other than their student, to make a save each week, or loose a point of wisdom. This wisdom is recovered once the targets has spent a week recovering in an environment free of the sound of rats.

A gnawing horror can summon a rat swarm to defend itself, should it ever be attacked, causing 3D6 giant rats to appear on the following turn.     
  • Gnawing Horror: HD 1D4; AC 4 [15]Atk Bite (1D3); Move 12; Save 12; AL C;
    CL/XP 3/60; Special: Horrid Truths, Somnambulant Command, Dreadful Scratching, Summon giant rats. 

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