Campaign of the Month: November 2010
Cthulhu Supremus Est
(includes excerpts from A Sourcebook for the 1920s)
Cults are a group whose beliefs or practices are generally considered strange. They are denoted by a series of ritual practices, and are often regarded as authoritarian, exploitative, and often dangerous.
While cults are sometimes classified by its members’ adulation of a charismatic leader, more often they are classified by the worship of an alien entity.
The cults of alien entities all have certain facets in common. They are led by a priest/priestess. The priest/priestess may have acolytes with powers similar, though generally weaker or less developed, than the priest/priestess. The priest/priestess will know, perhaps, minor protective or summoning spells, which will summon the alien entity or a race that serves the entity. The priest/priestess might also know how to dispatch the entity or its servants.
The priest/priestess often holds some arcane knowledge, lore, or items which are valuable to the cult. They might have magical books or scrolls for their spells, or might have amulets of protection or communication. Whatever the case, the priest/priestess always has the force needed to cow a congregation and lead the ceremonies.
A priest/priestess is, almost by definition, permanently insane. They have devoted themselves to the worship of the alien entity and have viewed it many times, losing more and more sanity with each viewing.
It is possible that the priest/priestess maintains the ability to act, rather than go into a crazed, trance-like state, because they voluntarily began the worship of the god. However, this does not protect their sanity; it only makes the priest/priestess into a slave of the entity worshiped.
Worshipers, often referred to as cultists, are the most common and most visible part of a worshiped entity’s presence. They are usually primitive and always a bit deranged, having viewed the unspeakable ceremonies and manifestations of the alien entity.
The common brand of worshipers is quite insane. This is characterized by their fanatical devotion to their religion. They are also likely to be as frightened of the priest or priestess as they are of the alien entity.
They are generally capable of great actions when in a frenzy, but quite unlikely to be capable of intelligent actions, especially after or during their profane services, or when spurred on by their priest, priestess, or alien entity.
In some places there are cults consisting of non-human or mutated human creatures. These monstrous cults are always well-hidden and their ceremonies are kept a great secret.
Even so, their priests will be quite insane, their ceremonies wild and frightening, and the worshipers fanatical beyond all reason.
Worship may take several forms, but in general the worshipers admit their inferiority to the alien entity they worship, sacrifice something to the entity to show their respect and submission, and occasionally receive something in return. It is quite likely that the cultists will sacrifice living humans to appease the alien entity.
The victims chosen for sacrificial rites may be random (usually kidnapped), or someone picked for certain characteristics (blond hair, for example) or their devotion to the worshiped entity. Whatever the reason, the sacrificial rites will always be a full ceremony requiring the full participation of its worshipers to generate enough frenzied and insane energy to summon the alien entity.
The victim may be thrown in to the summoning circle, be given to a servant of the alien entity, or ripped to shreds by the worshipers. Perhaps the summoned entity will appear and indiscriminately destroy random members of the congregation.
Other items can be sacrificed, but they are unlikely to appeal to the alien entity without being accompanied by senseless brutality and meaningless loss. Furthermore, failure to appease the alien entity through ritual sacrifice can have dire consequences for the worshipers.
Benefits of Worship
The unimaginable benefits derived from worshiping insane beliefs are left to the perverted minds of the worshipers, but one can imagine that they believe themselves somehow chosen by the alien entity for some greater glory.
It is likely that worshipers know all too well the real dangers of the entity and receive some protection, limited or full, for their support. The priest or priestesses will always benefit most, their acolytes derive the next greater benefits, and the worshipers get the least.
Cost of Worship
For whatever benefits they receive, or think they receive, the worshipers of these foul entities all suffer for their unguided piety. They are all insane after participating in a few ceremonies. As such, all worshipers lose their individual identity, and become the pawns of manipulative priests, priestesses, or alien gods who have no regard for the worshipers’ beliefs, desires, or intentions.
In general, worshipers lead sub-human lives of vile motive and of desperate meaninglessness. As reward for their lives and souls, they receive small tokens from their priests, priestesses, or alien entity; such rewards are illusory compared to the cost. The constant anger of the worshipers comes from their unconscious realization of the cheat – and their inability to do anything about it.