Whence the Ancients?
The Ancients are the new faction for Onslaught 3. They are a human-oriented faction, and are particularly unusual, because they don’t have their own Great Old One. The Tcho-Tchos are, of course, also a human-oriented faction, but play quite differently from the Ancients.
Some fans have expressed curiosity about the origin of the Ancients. Lovecraft once ghost-wrote a story called “The Mound” for a Zealia Bishop. No doubt she provided him with some of the plot (for example, it is one of the few Lovecraft stories with something approaching a love interest), but HPL took and ran with her ideas, and added a massive amount of depth.
Now, I won’t defend “The Mound” in terms of its quality as a horror tale – like Lovecraft’s other rewrites, it is crippled by the pedestrian nature of his erstwhile collaborator’s ideas. But, it is a treasure trove of concepts which can be adapted to a gaming setting.
In brief, deep below the earth is the colossal blue-lit cavern of K’n-Yan. There dwell a race of humans (of Amerind descent), who are highly advanced scientifically, but exceedingly decadent in their ethics and morals. They have access to genetic engineering, are able to transform humans into plasma-like gaseous entities, and reanimate the dead. (They also hold torture sessions in colosseums with audiences of thousands.)
My concept is that when the Earth starts to fall apart at the start of Cthulhu Wars, the Ancients seize the opportunity to return to the surface in an attempt to thwart the Great Old Ones, and rule the Earth for their own good pleasure. Now, you can portray this depraved, but effective society in Cthulhu Wars.
They have four unit types, and a unique building.
Their acolyte cultist functions much as anyone else’s. To celebrate their tech-savvy nature, we have given them a unique cultist, who is dressed futuristically, rather than in hooded robes. She brandishes an ominous-looking eye-like device. She is based on the uniforms from one of my favorite science-fiction movies of the 60s – Planet of the Vampires, by the genius Mario Bava. (As a kid this movie scared me so much I tried to crawl under my chair at the theater.)
The Un-Men were once human enough. They are taken from the ranks of madmen and criminals (and Lord knows what crimes are dire enough to deserve this fate among the sordid Ancients!). The Ancients use their science to transform the victim into a gas-like form, and then assign them as guards, scouts, and spies. At first, the Un-Men retain their former appearance, though of course they are far more elastic and mutable. But over time, as they lose their memories of what it was like to be truly alive, the Un-Men degenerate into a parody of humankind, and eventually become wholly monstrous. While they cannot easily interact directly with solid matter, the Un-Men still retain potent psychic abilities, can read minds, and can drive victims insane. THE
The Ancients often need a more … solid … guardian than the immaterial Un-Men. They have a method of restoring a sort of pseudo-life to a corpse – or even a partial corpse – and are known to attach machinery and electronics to the newly-animated form to make it more effective. Often they use deceased victims of their torture sessions as raw material for their Reanimated specimens.
In “The Mound”, they often just use unmodified corpses, but I reasoned that in the tough environment of Cthulhu Wars, the Ancients would take care to upgrade their living dead warriors with weaponry and defenses – they have to face down terrifying shoggoths, byakhee, and worse!
Deep below the blue-lit cavern of K’n-Yan is the red-lit cavern of Yoth. Lovecraft is quite clear that at one time this was inhabited by a race of intelligent reptiles, though now extinct. I have posited that a few of them are left (since such prehistoric lingerers are common in HPL’s works), and they are working with the Ancients, whether willingly or coerced, it matters little.
Because these are extinct reptiles, I decided they must be gigantic. Because they are from Lovecraft’s tales, I decided they must be hideous. You must decide for yourself how well we succeed in portraying them (but I really like these guys).
The Ancients had no “state religion”, but worshiped a wide variety of great old ones, including even Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, and so forth. Though such worship was often banned (no doubt out of fear of strengthening their potential rivals), it was never actually stamped out.
The Ancients, uniquely among all factions, are able to use the Create Gate Action to construct something besides Gates – namely, their Cathedrals. These are only in part areas of worship – they also hold technology, computers, and genetically- and surgically-modified workers to extend and confirm the sway of the Ancients over the surface world.
Like Gates, Cathedrals can’t be moved once placed (since they are not Gates, they are not vulnerable to Opener’s “Beyond-One” ability or other gate-affecting effects). These structures help the Ancients to substitute (partly) for their atheistic lack of any Great Old One.
The bottom line is that the Cathedrals are NOT some kind of “substitute” for a Great Old One. They are quite different, and serve different purposes. However there is a bit of overlap. For example, the Ancients have to pay between 4-10 Power over the course of the game to get their Cathedrals placed, which is comparable to a Great Old One’s price. But the real value of the Cathedrals comes in with their spellbooks, which I will now examine in some detail:
- Worship Services – This spellbook takes effect in the Gather Power phase. For each Cathedral that shares an Area with an enemy faction, you earn 1 Power, and so does that faction. This tends to encourage you to place your Cathedrals in enemy lands, and of course likewise encourages that enemy to let you do so unmolested. Free power is free power.
- Unholy Ground – Their signature spellbook. If a battle happens in an area containing your cathedral, you can destroy a cathedral (from anywhere) post-battle to eliminate an enemy Great Old One that was in the battle. This is pretty scary for your enemies, and means their Great Old Ones tend to avoid your Cathedral areas.
- Consecration –If you have a Cathedral when you perform a Ritual of Annihilation, gain 1 Elder Sign. If you have all four Cathedrals, gain 2 Elder Signs.
The fundamental dialectic for the Ancients is that their Unholy Ground spellbook has to be balanced off against their Worship Services and their Consecration spellbooks. Worship Services tends to make you want to put ALL your Cathedrals in enemy-held areas. But then you can’t use them to defend yourself against enemy Great Old Ones! Also, if you sacrifice a Cathedral to save yourself from Ithaqua (or whoever), then you might not have all four when you need to Ritual next, so this costs you an Elder Sign.
If you are forced to destroy a Cathedral using Unholy Ground, typically you don’t want to destroy the Cathedral actually in the Area where the fight just happened, because that’s your key site of vulnerability. This means you have to destroy a Cathedral in someone else’s area, which means you’ll need to hike back over there to replace it. Or at least hike SOMEWHERE to replace that Cathedral, or do without. The King in Yellow has to travel all over creation, but at least once he’s placed a Desecration it stays put.
All of this means that the Ancients can’t just turtle in a corner and feel safe, unless their opponents are really passive. You have to get out there are constantly interact, and your Cathedrals are a key path and reminder that you must do so.