Great Old Ones

According to the Elemental Lords the Great Old Ones appeared in an invasion of alien entities into Porphyra, an attempt to break down the paradise the Elemental Lords had created for themselves. The Old Ones claim that this world originally belonged to them. They say that the Elemental Lords were the slaves of the Old Ones, slaves who wrongly rebelled and brought about a stunted world, a world where dull matter inhibits free will.

This war was named “Dey Ayun Marek” or “Old One’s Defeat” by the victorious Elemental Lords. It pitted the ego of the Great Old Ones against the natural order of the Elemental Lords. The Elementalists won, establishing the natural laws of the elements. In a way, this war was an act of creation, because a world held together by psychic power alone, without natural law, has no consistency and cannot meaningfully be interacted with except by powerful psyches. Such a world can be said to not exist at all, we simply cannot fathom what the world of the Old Ones would be like. Historians speculate that this war happened around 2,500 BC, more than three thousand years ago, but even time is uncertain that far back.

Today Porphyra is governed by a set of laws that are not fully understood, but at least are consistent enough that each of us can foresee the immediate consequences of our actions. In the world of the Old Ones, reality is maintained by ego and psychic power alone, and reason as we know it is useless. This is how the magic of the Great Old Ones works, those of strong will can rebel against natural law. By refusing to accept the reality around them, followers can impose their own will. Many of the changes imposed by this power are subtle; reality resists gross changes. This is part of the reason why those who follow the Great Old Ones are so hostile to normal life and even to the very world itself, reality is seen as an impediment to living their own truth. Following the example of the Great Old Ones, such a seeker would rather see the entire world come to a horrifying end than to restrain their own impulses and accept the droll reality around them.

When the Great Old Ones were defeated, the victorious Elemental Lords erected planar barriers to prevent a return of their defeated foes. For over two thousand years, the blockage of planar travel was absolute. When the Elemental Lords shut off Porphyra from the greater multiverse, any remnants of the Great Old Ones on Porphyra were stymied. The cosmic horror which is a Great Old One exists in several worlds at once, and any body a Great Old One still had on Porphyra was effectively dead, shut off from the greater part of itself. This ward was finally broken in the Calling and the NewGods War. The victorious Deists felt an instinctive revulsion at what they found in the old north, and erected their own porphyrite barriers where the wards of the Elementalists had failed. The Purple Membrane that covers the sea north of Tuthon in a soft purple glow is whispered to be only a continuation of the Elemental Lord’s old wards over the sunken tomb-city of R’lyeh. But this barrier is not as absolute as the old one, as the gods themselves need to pass to and from the realms beyond Porphyra. The same paths that allow the gods to use their powers across many worlds also allow the Great Old Ones to live and walk again on Porphyra.

There is no land in Porphyra where the Great Old Ones are worshiped openly, but their presence is felt strongly in the lands of the north. Primitives in the Sikoyan Tundra find strength in dread Tsathoggua. In the Barony of Tuthon the icy winds from the north carry a wordless dream-message from dead Cthulhu, while the followers of Dagon thrive in the reefs off the Boroughs of Dunmark. Even the Sikoyan slave population in the deep Ghadab desert still honor a half-remembered bond to the Great Old Ones as they labour away in the hot sun that is so alien to their pale complexions. Primitive humans honor the Great Old Ones in half-forgotten rituals. Educated and urbane Kayanoi often refuse to believe the Great Old Ones ever existed, but when they look for answers to the great questions, they end up finding answers from ancient texts in the city libraries in Tuthon, texts that speak of Nyarlathotep and Yog-Sothoth, patron of wizards.
Among non-humans, the Great Old Ones are less popular. Grippli sometimes seek Tsathoggua’s power, and the serpentfolk honor Yig as their creator. The zif (See Zif of Porphya) certainly draw power from Cthulhu, and this might even be called worship, but their clerics are very much aware of the threat Great Cthulhu represents and exploit its power without what others would consider faith.

The Great Old Ones still play a role all over the world in inspiring free-thinkers to new ideas. Helping people overcome the restraints of the mundane, these gifts can make a person a creative genius - or push them over the brink of insanity where they can no longer tolerate the world around them. Other gifts of the Great Old Ones are scientific and magical insights, the Sikoyans have always been wielders of firearms, and the Kayanoi have some of the world’s leading mages and naturalists among their numbers. Even here the impulse to explore can lead to maddening insights. Reality never lies, but mankind is not ready for the truths it can reveal.

What they lack in adherents, the Great Old Ones makes up by being active and involved in the world, even though barriers and wards keep them away except at certain times. Such inauspicious moments can be triggered by mortals but are more often cosmic events beyond even the gods, such as stellar conjunctions or the rise of mountains, continents, or seas. Depending on the strength of the barriers keeping them out and the power invested by the Great Old Ones, these manifestations range from strange moods, thoughts, and dreams to visual hallucinations, enteric manifestations, servitor monsters, lesser avatars, to full physical manifestations powerful enough to blast a county into oblivion.

This all sets the stage for stories of cosmic horror. A genre where humankind (and other folk) are temporary things, and human skills and striving only serves to reveal the ultimate insignificance of life and the amazing potency of the Great Old Ones. In cosmic horror, inventing a new spell or succeeding at a quest only delays the inevitable at best and might just as well lead to realizations that make the threat of the Great Old Ones more immediate. In gothic horror, it is our flaws that crush us. In cosmic horror, it is our virtues that turn on us.

Great Old Ones

The Madness of the Mythos World
This section presents ideas on how to incorporate the Great Old Ones in your game. The Great Old Ones and their worshipers are mostly presented as mad, nihilistic, and self-destructive. But the Porphyra Roleplaying Game allows the exploration of any viewpoint, the patchwork world is morally neutral and has a niche for everyone and everything.

Player-Character Cultists
In general, anyone professing worship of a Great Old One would be seen as a holy madman at best and a dangerous heretic at worst. But the Great Old Ones are wise and secretive. Unlike the brazen New Gods and the haughty Elemental Lords, they do not demand open respect - what they need from their faithful is just that they subscribe to the Great Old Ones’ view of the world and, by this belief, move Porphyra closer to the great Old One’s return. They are not choosy, and anyone turning their way might be rewarded. Those who follow a Great Old One can access spells with the “mythos” descriptor. They seek out minds they can prey upon and set deadly traps to catch the unwary. Thus, a PC can unknowingly draw power from the Great Old Ones, especially a human of Sikayan descent or a member of a race favored by a particular Old One. Such a character, even a cleric, does not have a code of conduct or rules to follow, the Old Ones are amoral and all they want is for their thoughts to reside in an active mind to subtly spread their influence, preparing for when the stars are right and they can return. A cleric of the Old Ones can even persecute other cultists of the same patron without consequence.

OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a - All text is Open Game Content.