Nodens and the Elder Gods
I was pondering what to add to you all for a big reward for your loyalty. I didn’t want to make another “Dire” sculpt, largely because I am really happy with the other Great Old Ones. And I wanted something new, anyway. Felt you deserved it. I pondered new Great Old Ones … Cyaegha? Hypnos? The Man With A Thousand Legs? Nothing seemed important or “cool” enough.
Then it hit me – probably the most important missing god-level being from HPL’s works. NODENS! I know what some of you are thinking. “Isn’t Nodens a good guy?” August Derleth & other authors have even positioned Nodens as a member of a pantheon opposed to Yog-Sothoth, Cthulhu, et al.
Well, my answer follows. First, HPL calls Nodens “Lord of the Great Abyss” which doesn’t particularly sound like a goody two-shoes. Second, Nodens in the Dream-Quest controls the Nightgaunts, which are explicitly malign and terrible, and are found guarding relics of the Other Gods (such as Azathoth). Please note that in Cthulhu Wars I posit that the nightgaunts serve Crawling Chaos, either tricked, converted, commanded, or enticed away. Also the nightgaunts obey Nyarlathotep’s orders when he gives orders. So, anyway on with Nodens.
Third, the main evidence from HPL of Nodens being “good” is that the creepy guy in the Strange High House in the Mist hangs out with him (hardly decisive, and possibly even a contraindication) and that Nodens is pleased when Nyarlathotep fails to capture Randolph Carter. But this last isn’t so much Nodens favoring Carter as taking delight in Nyarlathotep’s discomfiture.
So while Nodens may not be as terribly malign as Hastur or Ithaqua, he certainly can be dangerous. Really, we have as many examples of people speaking amicably to Nyarlathotep or Tsathoggua yet no one thinks THEY are good guys.
THE ELDER GODS
Let me be clear. I do not regard the “Great Old Ones” as a pantheon, but as a certain level of power. Any entity that has reached this level, by any means, is termed a Great Old One. This is why, in Cthulhu Wars, I freely term beings such as Shub-Niggurath or Yog-Sothoth as Great Old Ones (instead of Outer Gods or whatever). Because they’ve reached that level of power.
Think of it as a parallel to Earth’s “nuclear club”. Our world’s nuclear-armed powers aren’t necessarily friends, nor co-operative, nor even equal in might, but they are at a particular level – they all have the means to employ nuclear weaponry.
Now, because of the immense cosmic significance of Azathoth & his court, certain beings derive at least some of their might directly from the Daemon Sultan. These beings are sometimes called Other Gods or Outer Gods. Again, they are not necessarily pals nor a true pantheon, though they do sometimes appear to act in concert.
Nodens is often called an Elder God. But I suspect that this, too, is not a pantheon, but indicates some other status. It certainly does NOT indicate friendship towards Earth life. Read Lovecraft’s stories of “The Temple”, “The Moon-Bog”, or “Hypnos”, for examples. All three, in my educated opinion, have to do with Elder Gods or their equivalents. For that matter, I consider Hecate, referenced by HPL as “Gorgo, Mormo, thousand-faced moon” as an Elder Goddess. And also possibly the Magna Mater. So the Elder Gods are clearly able to be inimical.
Asenath Waite and Brown Jenkins
I loved Brown Jenkin from the first moment I read Dreams in the Witch-House. He was an amazingly creepy character, seemingly anchored in old-school satanic imagery, but yet instead he turns out to be a gateway into Lovecraft’s mathematical and scientific Beyond. On one side, we have a cackling witch with her familiar, the dread Black Man and his hellish contract, and child sacrifice . All conventional terrors. But then it turns out that the witch and her familiar are visiting other dimensions, interacting with alien races, and even the Black Man is not the devil, but something much worse. And it’s all based on transcendental mathematics. What a head trip. And even more, my mind swirled with the implications. Why did Keziah want to kill children? What does this have to do with using advanced geometry to visit other universes? Why did the hero need to sign his name in blood, for a multiplanar being? Do they care about contracts, even? And where the heck did Brown Jenkin come from? As we dig deeper into the mystery it’s clear that the Christian Hell and Lucifer have nothing to do with this menace. It’s all from Beyond. What a tale.
Some history: way back on the very first Cthulhu Wars kickstarter, just before it started, we were discussing adding a figure for a first-person marker. My partners at the time wanted me to add something that was a “little bit sexy” to use their words. Not cheesecake, really, but not just another horrible monster. I think they felt some of Kingdom Death Monster’s success was due to the buxom female sculptures included (me, I liked KDM’s monster). “So, Sandy,” they asked. “Did Lovecraft write up any attractive women?” Internally, I rolled my eyes. Then, I decided to play a joke on them. “Yes!” I replied. “There are two prominent ones. Asenath Waite, a sophisticated society woman, and Lavinia Whateley, a fresh blonde farm girl.” (Albino counts as “blonde”, right?) +I didn’t tell them anything else about those two “attractive women”. (Those who are wondering why this was a practical joke should read “The Thing on the Doorstep”, and “The Dunwich Horror” to find out the real truth behind these two characters.)
My partners selected Asenath Waite, and so she became the very first first player marker we did. Rich Luong did a great job in portraying her. (Those interested in seeing her without her cloak of tentacles should check out Fenris Games “Succubus Queen” figure.)
Anyway, she has not been available since the original campaign back in 2013. Now, we are releasing her again, though in a different color (thus maintaining the exclusivity of the original model – as Petersen Games has always defined KS exclusivity). In addition, she now comes with a loyalty card and abilities, should you wish to use something else as your first player marker, which would free her up for unit duties.
HOW DOES SHE WORK?
Asenath is a Terror, in game terms, though her combat is 0. (Zero combat terrors seem to be cropping up of late, what with Brown Jenkin and all.) She has THREE special abilities. Her first is Seductress, which enables any player to summon her. “Why would they do this?” you ask. Good question, since even if another player summons her, she stays under her original owner’s control. Her second ability is Eidolon, which means she cannot be moved by the Move action. She can still be Pained, retreated, or affected by move-like abilities such as Submerge.
So once she is summoned, she tends to stay put, until she is killed.
This is where her third ability comes into play: True Vision. This kicks in during the Doom phase. At this time, the player with the highest “ranking” unit in Asenath’s Area gains an Elder Sign. (This is in addition to any Elder Sign gained via doing a Ritual of Annihilation or other means.) The unit ranks, from lowest to highest, are: Cultist, Monster, Terror, Independent Great Old One, Faction Great Old One. (In case of a tie, all participants gain the Elder Sign).
What happens in play? Well, other players try to get their highest-ranking nearby unit into Asenath’s area by the end of the action phase, so they can get their Elder Sign. Meanwhile, the owner is trying to kick them out of the area, to preserve Asenath for himself. If another player manages to kill Asenath, he can re-summon her somewhere more convenient for himself. The end result is everyone is fighting over her area, hoping to score their Elder Sign in the next Doom phase.
She results in a lot of interaction and play value.
Neutral Monsters vs. Independent Great Old Ones
This article is inspired by (and based on) a great discussion from BoardGameGeek. Thanks to all the Cthulhu Wars fans who brought up these ideas, to which I’ve added a few of my own.
To get a neutral monster, you have to pay doom, and later on, usually some power. To get an independent Great Old One, you only have to pay power, and it’s usually only about the same as a high-dollar monster. Both have special abilities, but the Great Old One can also get a spellbook, plus it’s a Great Old One. Why waste your time with an expensive monster instead of the Great Old One? Here are some reasons:
REASON ONE – LOYALTY
Once you hire a monster or terror, it stays hired. A great old one can be awakened by someone else after it’s killed.
REASON TWO – DEFENSE
Monsters enhance your board presence. They give you shields and let you hold onto more gates. Independent Great Old Ones actually constrict your board presence, since they require you to use other units to guard them.
REASON THREE – SYNERGY
Monsters have great combos with several factions. The Dhole is not only a good deterrent, but his Elder Sign production can be a keystone to a win. The Yellow Sign loves Ghasts, because he gets all of them at once, and they can garrison Desecration tokens without weakening your battle. Tsathoggua loves Gugs, because he can get his “roll 6 combat dice” in the second turn easy with those babies. Cthulhu is a big fan of Spiders of Leng, because they ensure he gets his “kill a dude” spellbooks. And so forth.
REASON FOUR – INSTANT GRATIFICATION
You can get a monster in the first Doom phase, and their special ability is ready-to-go. To get an independent great old one, first you have to awaken your own great old one (typically turn 2-3), then get the independent. This means you only really get the use of the independent great ole one for a couple of turns. While the monster is with you from the start of turn 2 on.
In other words, monsters are an early game boost, and great old ones are a mid-to-late boost. It’s common to see people take one of each. It’s rare to see a player take more than one monster type or more than one independent great old one (unless Gobogeg rears his ugly head).
Really, monsters and great old ones simply fill different niches – they’re hard to compare directly. Both have their uses, and there’s no reason to deny yourselves one of them.