Madness in yellow shreds

”You are speaking of the King in Yellow,“ I groaned, with a shudder.

“He is a king whom emperors have served.“

“I am content to serve him,“ I replied.


Night fell and the hours dragged on, but still we murmured to each other of the King and the Pallid Mask, and midnight sounded from the misty spires in the fog-wrapped city. We spoke of Hastur and of Cassilda, while outside the fog rolled against the blank window-panes as the cloud waves roll and break on the shores of Hali.

—The King in Yellow, Robert William Chambers, 1895
a man shaped thing wearing tattered yellow rags and a pallid mask
King in Yellow by Brad Hicks

The King in Yellow is more of a concept than a real entity. He stands for decay and decadence, for alienation and doubt, for anxiety and fear. No one has ever looked behind the pale mask that the King in Yellow tends to wear and remained sane. He may be the avatar of many beings who embody chaos. He is the quintessence of entropy, which runs counter to all order and tears it to shreds – just as the robe of the King himself hangs from his body in sickly yellow rags.

In all ages, power and arrogance brought powerful people closer to the King in Yellow. And quite a few of them paid for it with their sanity or their lives, and in many cases still dragged whole kingdoms down with them. Less influential people are also attracted to this being, but his power does not affect them any less horribly. The King in Yellow is a virus, a corrosive force that leaves chaos and destruction wherever it appears.

There are countless reports of incidents from all over the world and from different times that are associated with the King in Yellow. Again and again, similar patterns of behavior, constellations of people, events and dangerous thoughts manifest themselves in completely unrelated situations. Each incident on its own may be disturbing, but grasping the big picture is highly worrisome.

Some sources also establish a relationship between the King in Yellow and the Hastur cult. Is the King in Yellow a servant or even high priest of Hastur? An answer to this question can be found at most by a thorough study of the play of the same name. And reading it is a direct path to madness.

This city of great black buildings, labyrinthine alleys and even stranger inhabitants, is located in the Hyades star cluster. Carcosa itself is located on the shores of Lake Hali, whose dark waters do not even reflect the light of its two moons or that of Aldebaran, the main star of the constellation of Taurus.
In Carcosa, the King in Yellow reigns and few have made the journey to this city and returned from it. Those who have seen the flowing shreds of his garb and what lurks behind his pale mask find themselves in the bare rooms of a psychiatric ward or in the filthy alleys of the big city, stammering incoherent words to themselves: “Shadows … in lost Carcosa.”
Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.

– Cassilda’s Song, Act I, Scene 2


Great Old One: The being is so powerful that it exists and acts outside the human imagination system. Therefore, it does not have values and the game master freely decides the consequences of direct contact with this being. However, an encounter usually means certain death or madness for humans.

Decadence and Decay: The influence of the King in Yellow reaches everyone who deals with it – be it in a play, a poem or a computer game. If a player fails a SAN test, the character goes on a downward slide of sanity, accompanied by debauchery and decay. Things beyond the general taste norm now shape the perception and actions of the player character, whereby lust is always part of the drive. Parallel to this occurs the loss of 1d4 SAN and 1d4 WP. The whole thing repeats itself every time a new act begins, which is meant both literally and figuratively. Should the player character fall below 2 WP, the act becomes increasingly impetuous and eventually escalates into a passionate frenzy that does not stop even at 0 WP and can lead to death by exhaustion.

Mask of the King: Those who claim to have seen the King in the flesh report that he wore a yellow mask. Often these testimonies are only the incoherent stammerings from the dark rooms of a psychiatric ward or come from the poor souls rolled up in rags under the bridges of the metropolises. In very few of these remarks do the words “Mask? No mask!”.

Unnatural Knowledge (+1d10): An encounter with this entity necessarily increases the player character’s Unnatural Knowledge by +1d10 points. The player character then simultaneously loses sanity points equal to this amount and suffers the usual consequences. No sanity check protects against this trait. Unnatural Knowledge occurs immediately after the regular sanity check and regardless of its result. 

Yog-Sothothery: No one can say for sure who or what is behind the mask of the Yellow King. Perhaps the whole appearance is just an empty shell, dressed in pale rags and represents the result of decadence and decay. Perhaps the mask hides a mirror of one’s own worst fears. It is also possible that this being is merely a projection screen for the degenerate state of society.

KING IN YELLOW, Madness in yellow shreds
Sanity Loss: 1d10/1d100 (see also Unnatural Knowledge).

This creature description is translated from the German version published by FHTAGN-RPG.

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