About Artifacts

A prime example of an Unnatural Artifact featuring in a H.P. Lovecraft tale is the Shining Trapezohedron, which features in the short story “The Haunter of the Dark”. This strange stone grants insights into time and space – and even seems to be able to contact Nyarlathotep himself.

Since many unnatural rituals can take a long to learn or cost too much to readily be performed in a scenario, a GM seeking to insert a showy supernatural effect into a game might choose an Artifact instead. Such weird objects can serve as a scenario hook, be turned against the player characters, or be the solution to the problem for them – naturally at a terrible cost.

Unnatural Artifacts

This format for describing an Unnatural Artifact is as follows:

Rituals: which Unnatural Rituals (from those described elsewhere on the Open Mythos pages) may be cast by using the Artifact.

Activation Cost: WP cost to activate the Artifact.

SAN Loss: The mental damage created through the use of the artifact to tap the forces of the unnatural.

 

Cthulhu Idol

Obscene alien statuette

Rituals: Aklo Sabaoth (Cthulhu) and Call of Cthulhu (see entity write-up for Great Cthulhu).

Activation Cost: 1D6 WP (for the Aklo Sabaoth). The Call of Cthulhu emanates passively and continuously from the statuette and cannot be activated or deactivated.

SAN Cost: 1D10 for the Sabaoth.

The crudely carved idols that serve as the holy relics at the center of the disparate collection of Cthulhu Cults are all remarkably similar in appearance. They are small, only about 20 cm (8 inches) tall and rather crudely crafted figurines depicting a vaguely anthropomorphic, bloated-looking creature. Its alien outlines feature an octopus-like head with antennae and tentacles, as well as a scaly, rubbery body equipped with enormous claws on its hands and feet. The form also has long slender wings. The strange form squats on a pedestal whose base is covered with illegible characters.

The idol inevitably evokes a sense of malevolence and revulsion in the viewer. The peculiar figure seems carved from an unknown soapy, greenish-black stone that has golden flecks. The style of the sculpture cannot be readily attributed to any known human culture, yet the idol appears to experts throughout to be unimaginably ancient.

Possessing the statue makes it far easier for worshipers of the Great Old One to contact their deity. At the same time, the statue amplifies the psychic call of Cthulhu, making it possible for these malevolent horrors to force their telepathic messages into people’s dreams. The proximity to such an idol exerts a destructive influence on the untrained and receptive mind. This manifests in the form of nightly SAN tests as long as the statue is in the vicinity. The SAN losses depend on the content of the dreams received.

Yog-Sothothery

The followers of Cthulhu know that his statues are not of terrestrial manufacture, but were brought from the stars by the Great Old Ones themselves. Unnatural vibrations emanate from the idols, prophetic notions of a new time, a new world order – a world in which the Great Old One will rule.

 

Golden Tiaras of the Deep Ones

Ominous jewelry from the deep

Rituals: Aklo Sabaoth (Dagon and Hydra), Summon Entities (Deep Ones).

Activation Cost: 1D6 WP; note that the artifact must be knowingly and consciously activated by the wearer.

SAN Cost: 1D10

The weird headdress made by the Deep Ones have a strange, elliptical shape that doesn’t quite fit a human head. The tiaras are each ornately crafted from a gold alloy which has a peculiar luster, likely due to odd properties of the other metal(s) involved. The bas reliefs and decorations around the outside depict geometric and maritime motifs that inspire gloomy thoughts. They depict monstrous forms that are half-fish, half frog-like beings and walk upright like people. The headdresses have an alien look to them and cannot be tied to any contemporary style or historical art movement, nor to any culture in the world.

Traditionally, these tiaras were mostly worn by hybrid priests of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Using them allows the priests to achieve contact with their deities (Dagon and Hydra) more easily, and also to summon Deep Ones from the water. Priests of the Esoteric Order do not suffer SAN from using one of the tiaras in this fashion, although anybody else would lose at least a few points from the unpleasant mental impressions involved.

Yog-Sothothery

One such gold tiara is known to be in the collection on display at the Historical Society of Newburyport near Innsmouth. This piece arrived at the museum after a sailor from Innsmouth pawned it. After he was found dead, the pawnbroker donated the tiara to the Society. The Marsh family of Innsmouth has been trying to buy the piece back for large sums of money ever since – without success. Another similar example may be found in the museum of Miskatonic University.

“It took no excessive sensitiveness to beauty to make me literally gasp at the strange, unearthly splendor of the alien, opulent fantasy that rested there on a purple velvet cushion. Even now I can hardly describe what I saw, though it was clearly enough a sort of tiara, as the description had said. “

— The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1936.

 

Great Race Mental Projection Apparatus

Enables Body Swap across space and time

Rituals: Open Dimensional Rift, Body Swap (both effects combined in a cryptic and unknowable way).

Activation Cost: 1D8 WP.

SAN Cost: 1D8 SAN.

The Great Race of Yith uses this curious mechanical device to assist in their bizarre form of mental time travel. Through inhuman technologies they are able to exchange their minds with others living in different regions of time and space. The Yithians call this process projection.

The consciousness of the victim targeted by the device becomes thereby transferred into the Yithian’s body, whether that individual consents to the process or not. At the same time, the Yithian mind is transferred into their body. The Yithians like to perform such swaps to study and document different times and corners of the universe.

Usually the exchanges are temporary. At the end of the period of study, technical and ritual methods are enacted to effectively cause the Eradicate Memory effect to be applied to the mind that has been living in the body of a Great Race creature. Such methods ensure that all recollection of that alien imprisonment is fully erased, however the process is not always completely successful.

If someone is targeted by the consciousness swapping apparatus, he or she can attempt to resist its powers. This involves making an opposed test of POW vs the Yithian individual’s POW. If the non-Yithian target is successful in the test, the process does not succeed, although the target will still suffer a mild headache and potentially a short period of nightmares. The victim may not even be aware of the failed attempt. Repeated attempts within a few days intensify the symptoms and cost the affected targets 1/1D4 SAN each time.

The Apparatus of the Great Race is not very large, just over half a meter (two feet) high and about 30 cm (a foot) wide and long. It consists of numerous parts, some of which require special manufacture by craftsman able to produce scientific apparatus to very high tolerances. The rods, wheels and mirrors are connected in a way that cannot be understood by rational means, with a round convex mirror forming the centerpiece of the abstruse construct.

Every mind-swapped member of the Great Race has the necessary knowledge to build such an apparatus, or to have it built. When its study period is completed and the Yithian wishes to return to its own time and body, it arranges for the machine to be constructed.

Notably, even though the purpose and workings of the weird apparatus is unfathomable to a human mind, there is nothing to prevent a person from using such the projection machine … or at least trying to do so.

Yog-Sothothery

“Here I installed a mechanism of the most curious aspect, constructed piecemeal by different makers of scientific apparatus in Europe and America, and guarded carefully from the sight of anyone intelligent enough to analyze it. Those who did see it — a workman, a servant, and the new housekeeper — say that it was a queer mixture of rods, wheels, and mirrors, though only about two feet tall, one foot wide, and one foot thick. The central mirror was circular and convex.”

— The Shadow Out Of Time, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1936.

 

Jade Soul-Amulet

Jade artifact of the corpse-eating Ghouls of Leng

Rituals: Summon Entity (Hound of Death).

Activation Cost: 1D4 WP (automatically activated once you take the amulet).

SAN Cost: None.

This strange amulet, hewn from a piece of green jade, appears on the surface to be little more than an example of exquisite ancient oriental craftsmanship. Albeit one whose execution and artistry seem strange and exotic. The designs on the Amulet depict a creature with the appearance of a crouching winged dog, or perhaps a sphinx with a dog-like face. The facial expression of the malign creature is repulsive and evokes sensations of death, beastliness and malevolence. Underneath the carved figure is an inscription written in some illegible, unknown script. On the back of the piece is engraved a grotesque skull design, perhaps intended to represent the seal or signature of the artist.

Some hints relating to the symbol carved on the amulet may be found in the Necronomicon. In that terrible tome it is said that the sigil is the “soul symbol” of a cult of corpse-eating monstrosities living in the isolated Leng plateau in Central Asia. It hints that the markings on the amulet are somehow tied to mysterious and unnatural manifestation of beings that disturb the rest of the dead. Or perhaps consume the bodies of the dead.

The Jade Soul-Amulet is a sacred relic of a Mythos Cult known as the Cannibal Cult of Leng (see the Open Mythos Cults section). For that terrible group, it serves as both an identification sign and also a method of recruiting of new members.

Yog-Sothothery

A Jade Soul-Amulet evokes in anyone who lays eyes upon it, an overwhelming desire to possess the odd jewelry. This attraction is particularly pronounced if the viewer has a certain “ghoulish” disposition (grave robbers, body snatchers, and archaeologists fall into this category).

Those who have become owners of the amulet (legally or otherwise) inevitably activate it as soon as they spend significant time alone with it. This summons a Hound of Death, who seeks to track down the new owner of the Amulet and slay him. If the unfortunate individual is mauled to death by the Hound, he or she will inevitably be transformed into a Hound of Death themselves. After their transformation they will also be welcomed into the cult.

Each member of the Corpse-Eating Cult has his or her own copy of the Jade Soul-Amulet. They use it as the focus of their spiritual and physical transformation as well as a convenient way of recognizing other cult members.

“Immediately upon beholding this amulet we knew that we must possess it; that this treasure alone was our logical pelf from the centuried grave. Even had its outlines been unfamiliar we would have desired it, but as we looked more closely we saw that it was not wholly unfamiliar. Alien it indeed was to all art and literature which sane and balanced readers know, but we recognized it as the thing hinted of in the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; the ghastly soul-symbol of the corpse-eating cult of inaccessible Leng, in Central Asia.”

— The Hound, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1924.

 

Mi-Go Brain Cylinders

Extraterrestrial technology for long-distance travel

Rituals: None, it is alien technology.

Activation Cost: 1D4 WP.

SAN Cost: Using a brain cylinder costs 0/1D4 SAN. A consciousness transported in a brain cylinder suffers a loss of 1D4/1D8 SAN.

The Mi-Go use a special surgical technique combined with their extraordinary technology to extract and preserve the brains of beings who would not normally survive a flight through the cold and vastness of space. By doing so they can take them on journeys to distant places.

The Mi-Go process involves gently extracting the individual’s brain and artificially keeping the associated body alive (if they so choose), while placing the gray matter in a cylinder-like vessel made of a metal mined on Yuggoth (Pluto). In this container it is suspended in a special nutrient solution and is connected to a collection of electrodes, which are wired to connectors on the outside surface of the cylinder. These are arranged in the shape of a triangle.

In order to provide sensory input and communication to the mind enclosed in the brain cylinder, various devices can be connected to provide vision, hearing and speech through special machines. In the case of non-human races, other sensory input can be provided through the connectors.

Yog-Sothothery

The Mi-Go also use brain-cylinders to enable members of their own race to travel between star systems should their bodies be incapable of traversing such vast distances. Through this technique, the Mi-Go gather travelers, explorers, and curious minds from distant worlds across the cosmos and learn from their diverse knowledge. Whether the Fungi will ever free a brain taken into their possession, allowing it to return to its own body is, naturally, highly questionable.

 

Mi-Go Communication Implant

Unnatural communicators of Mi-Go construction

Rituals: None.

Activation Cost: 1D4 WP (each time used, cost incurred once per day).

SAN Cost: 1/1D6 SAN (once upon implantation).

This highly advanced piece of Mi-Go technology can be implanted in the neck of a human or animal, just below the ear. Inserting such a device involves a frightening surgical procedure, which leaves wires and electrodes protruding from the subject’s body. These filaments — made of an unnatural material – painfully search their way through the subject’s flesh until they reach the inner ear and larynx (or similar structures in other species), where they connect to these organs. The communication implant allows the wearer to understand and speak any alien language, but the process of implantation costs 1/1d6 SAN and is reversible only at the cost of permanent damage.

 

The Shining Trapezohedron

Home to the Haunter of the Dark, capable of opening windows in space and time

Rituals: DHO-HNA formula, Summon Entity (Hunter of the Dark).

Activation Cost: DHO-HNA Formula 1D4 WP (is automatically activated as soon as someone looks into the Trapezohedron). It is not known whether the complete DHO-HNA formula can be triggered by means of the Trapezohedron. 1D10 WP and several human sacrifices are required to allow the Haunter to physically manifest out of the dark.

SAN Cost: depending on where you look, up to 1D6 SAN.

This ancient artifact looks like a pitch-black crystal with fine red veins. It has the shape of an approximately oval or egg-shaped polygon about 10 cm (4 inches) long. The numerous irregular sides are polished to a mirror finish and it is hard to tell whether it is a natural crystal or an artificial object.

The Trapezohedron rests in a kind of suspension made of metal strips in an irregularly shaped box made of an unknown yellowish metal. The box is adorned with monstrous, strange engravings, which obviously depict living beings that are completely unknown on earth.

The Trapezohedron is an object which exerts a huge fascination for people; those encountering it can hardly resist looking upon its shiny facets. When looking at the countless shimmering surfaces, one could get the impression that the stone is actually transparent. The viewer then experiences fascinating views of strange worlds and countless wonders (the triggering of the DHO formula), because the crystal is a window into time and space.

In the dark, a strange, fine glow emanates from the Trapezohedron. But there is still something hidden in it. There is a kind of observing consciousness emanating from it. Something that can be invoked. 

The Haunter of the Dark

The Trapezohedron is both a dwelling and a prison for the Haunter of the Dark. If contact were to be established with this consciousness from the darkest abysses beyond space and time, it can be conjured up by activating the Trapezohedron through several human sacrifices. The creature’s physical form consists of a large, fuzzy cloud of darkness with black wings and a triple burning eye. Its manifestation is accompanied by a penetrating stench. The creature cannot tolerate light of any kind, so it flees into the darkness even in dim light. If it is exposed to stronger light or even daylight, it is driven out and returns to the abysses beyond.

It is said that the Haunter of the Dark possesses endless unnatural knowledge and passes it on to his worshipers — for a monstrous price. The Haunter either kills its victims through mental violence or simply dissolves them.

Yog-Sothothery

Each time a person looks upon the Trapezohedron, a morbid longing sets in. A yearning which grows, becoming stronger and stronger. Eventually this begins to affect a person’s dreams and everyday life.

Some believe that the curse of the Trapezohedron are a product of the visions of distant alien places it offers – but that is incorrect. The true curse is something much worse. Because, any time someone looks upon the strange stone – even unknowingly – it risks creating the conditions which would allow the Hunter of the dark to break its bonds. Even simply drawing the attention of this alien monstrosity is hazardous: for it is said that the Trapezohedron is not merely a one-way scrying portal … but that the cosmic terrors on the other side can see back into our world. Even Nyarlathotep might chance to take an interest in such casual observers – and an encounter with that terrible god is something that no healthy human mind would survive intact.

History of the Trapezohedron

The Trapezohedron is said to have been made on the Yuggoth eons ago. What is certain is that he came to earth in pre-human times and wandered from people to people. Sometimes it disappeared for millennia — but it kept reappearing. Sometime later the Elder Things created the metal box which currently holds it. The Serpent Peoples found it in the ruins of the Elder Thing cities before they made their way across Lemuria, sunken Atlantis and Crete, to the lightless crypt that Pharaoh Nephren-Ka had built. This was where Professor Bowen found it in 1844. And while the metal box and Trapezohedron were sunk in the deepest part of Narragansett Bay in 1936, it is only a matter of time before this unnatural artifact reappears.

 

“Of the Shining Trapezohedron he speaks often, calling it a window on all time and space, and tracing its history from the days it was fashioned on dark Yuggoth, before ever the Old Ones brought it to earth. It was treasured and placed in its curious box by the crinoid things of Antarctica, salvaged from their ruins by the serpent-men of Valusia, and peered at aeons later in Lemuria by the first human beings. It crossed strange lands and stranger seas, and sank with Atlantis before a Minoan fisher meshed it in his net and sold it to swarthy merchants from nighted Khem. The Pharaoh Nephren-Ka built around it a temple with a windowless crypt, and did that which caused his name to be stricken from all monuments and records. Then it slept in the ruins of that evil fane which the priests and the new Pharaoh destroyed,till the delver’s spade once more brought it forth to curse mankind.”

— The Haunter of the Dark , Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1935.

 

The Silver Key

The key to Earth’s Dreamlands

Rituals: DHO-HNA Formula (limited to a single location, namely Earth’s Dreamlands).

Activation Cost: 1D4 WP.

SAN Cost: None.

The Silver Key is, as the name suggests, a large and ornate silver key with mystical decorations on its tarnished surface. It is commonly found stored in an old oaken box with fearsome carvings. This container smells aromatically of unknown spices. The key sits carefully wrapped in an old faded parchment with characters and hieroglyphics of some unknown language.

Some say the Silver Key is a unique Artifact which comes originally from the Dreamlands; others believe it is merely the manifested allegory of the key to one’s own subconscious mind. This latter theory suggests a connection between ability to access to one’s “inner child” and a talent for contacting the Dreamlands of Earth. In this sense, the Silver Key is a manifestation of the “Sense of Wonder”, common in children but often absent in adults.

Yog-Sothothery

Randolph Carter, who disappeared without a trace in the mid-1920s, is said to have inherited such a key from his ancestors. He discovered it in the attic of his ancestral home shortly before his mysterious disappearance.

Anyone who finds the Silver Key begins to dream vividly and imaginatively. They begin to feel a sense of child-like wonder, and bit-by-bit they gain more tangible access to the worlds beyond the Wall of Sleep. For each person who finds the key, the path is different, however. This is because the gate to which the key fits is (a version of? a memory of?) some place with special childhood associations. If the right gate is found, the Silver Key unlocks it, enabling one to physically cross over into the Dreamlands. Naturally such a journey has its consequences.

“There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine; and from what I know of Carter I think he has merely found a way to traverse these mazes. Whether or not he will ever come back, I cannot say. He wanted the lands of dream he had lost, and yearned for the days of his childhood. Then he found a key, and I somehow believe he was able to use it to strange advantage.”

— The Silver Key , Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1929.

 

 

GM RESOURCE: DESIGNING NEW ARTIFACTS

 

Creating a new Unnatural Artifact is a straightforward – simply describe the physical appearance of the unusual item, which unnatural effects (e.g., rituals) it generates, and whether the triggers for its powers require conscious intent or are not. Based on the effects created, a WP cost to activate can be assigned – and a SAN loss calculated.

Because the forces of the Cthulhu Mythos are alien in nature, it is almost always the case that using an artifact has some kind of negative effect on the user. After all, accessing knowledge mankind was never meant to know must always have some kind of price.

The following tables provide some ideas of possible physical and supernatural aspects of an Unnatural Artifact. You can either use them as a source of inspiration or to quickly roll some dice to build a quick artifact found in a dark and lonely place.

 

Artifact Generator

 

“What follows next is a description of the curious object, whose true origin will probably never be determined. I shall attempt to render it with the greatest effort and accuracy, within the limits of modern sciences and the assembled expertise of my educated peers. Nonetheless, I must temper the reader’s expectations for it must be clearly stated that the present scientific vocabulary is insufficient to properly describe the Artifact in its true detail.

At first appearance, it is an object consisting of …

  1. a solid unit
  2. a single component
  3. a part of something larger
  4. an ominous fragment
  5. a fragment of something unknown
  6. two different parts
  7. two identical pieces
  8. three different components
  9. several pieces
  10. countless intertwined elements
 

The material from which it is constructed is best described as …

  1. dark wood, almost entirely black; possibly from the heart of a very old forest, whose trees seem to have already witnessed many strange eons.
  2. a type of clay or pottery that has taken on a dark red, almost brown color, and in some places seems mildly glassy in appearance.
  3. milky glass, whose surface is covered in streaks, resembling the immense purple cloud banks of an impending storm.
  4. a type of crystal with oddly shaped inclusions, whose origin or meaning is entirely unclear.
  5. mother of pearl, but without the noble and sublime about it, but more like a pale, almost sickly hue, resembling a dead fish.
  6. bronze or a bronze alloy that has oddly shaped blotches in a few places.
  7. silver, already tarnished in some places; whether due to the ravages of time or a reaction with other substances is not apparent.
  8. gold; but dull and lustreless, likely possessing little of its original beauty.
  9. organic albeit in of an unknown form; obscene and unpredictable changes in the items composition can occasionally be seen, usually out of the corner of one’s eye. These make it unpleasant to look at.
  10. not characterizable by the methods known to science. The object simply defies definite classification and this permits only one fearsome conclusion – namely, that it may not be of terrestrial origin.
 

Compared to routine and every-day objects of a similar sort,  the artifact can best be described as …

  1. extremely tiny
  2. very small
  3. about the size of a fist
  4. person-sized
  5. squat
  6. frighteningly wide
  7. too big
  8. typical
  9. too large to be easily transported
  10. indescribably large
 

Its outlines most closely resemble …

  1. a cube.
  2. a tetrahedron.
  3. a pyramid.
  4. a prism.
  5. an octahedron.
  6. a cylinder.
  7. a cone.
  8. a sphere.
  9. a ring.
  10. a shape that seems non-Euclidean.
 

… although the precise shape of the item defies easy categorization and would likely be hotly debated scholars, perhaps even challenge the established laws of geometry.

A general estimate of the item’s estimate might lead one to think …

  1. it must be very old, perhaps thousands of years.
  2. it looks almost impossibly new.
  3. it looks as good as new.
  4. it must have been exposed to great heat or high pressure over a very long period of time.
  5. it must be at least several hundred years old.
  6. it must be 10,000 years old or more.
  7. it must date back to sometime during the last ice age.
  8. it is probably of recent origin.
  9. it must have been hidden away for eons.
  10. its age cannot be determined.
 

Inspecting the Artifact more closely, one cannot help but notice that it seems to be …

  1. curiously transparent
  2. elastic in a strange way
  3. very hard
  4. unnaturally warm
  5. disturbingly cold
  6. magnetic
  7. possibly hollow
  8. surprisingly light
  9. inexplicably heavy
  10. blasphemously luminous
 

Such detailed examination, however, only serves to reinforce the odd ways in which the item exceeds the limits of known science, leaving the inquisitive somewhat baffled and disturbed.

Leaving aside the boundaries of established sciences and instead appealing to certain mystical forms knowledge about the hidden world, certain effects surrounding the Artifact become apparent. In some cases these odd powers are immediately apparent associated with the item; in others, they only become obvious after certain rituals or other blasphemous actions have been carried out. The artifact …

  1. surrounds its user with a kind of natural armor (+1D6 Armor points), which also has a highly repellant effect on other people.
  2. creates a feeling of serenity and security which leads to an increase in sanity (+1D6 SAN).
  3. produces a feeling of restlessness and anxiety which leads to a decrease in sanity (-1D6 SAN).
  4. allows willpower (1d10 WP) to be kept in reserve, after a certain period of meditation. Such reserves can be called upon later when they are needed.
  5. has a poisonous effect (-1D6 HP) on every living thing in the immediate vicinity.
  6. steadily but very slowly, cuts through all matter upon which it lies or stands (1D10 structural damage per day). This corrosive effect only stops when the object comes into contact with water, earth or stone.
  7. triggers a supernatural effect (a ritual of the Game moderator’s choice), which does not need to be known beforehand by the user of the Artifact. Usually, the costs of this effect (in terms of WP and SAN) is the same as if the ritual were carried out by more traditional means. However, rituals that are especially taxing (cost more than 1D10 WP to activate) are substantially easier to bring about (have half the WP cost).
  8. radiates light, sound, heat, or cold to a degree that is possibly life-threatening.
  9. harbors or imprisoned something – perhaps living, perhaps incorporeal – that will do anything to free it bonds.
  10. utterly annihilates everything in the area immediately surrounding it.Canniba
 

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