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I like the ghoul/Tcho-Tcho rivalry; the conflict between who gets to eat the long-pig, and whether it's fresh or gamy. Each side would definitely see the other as encroaching on their territory.
Ghouls are usually portrayed as having a "hands off, just wait" policy, as everyone comes to them eventually. They get annoyed with cremation, though, for obvious reasons. Here's a less obvious idea that would really tend to piss off the Tcho-Tcho: The ghouls see themselves as FARMERS of the ripening fruit. They don't kill directly, but when the time is right, when circumstances permit, when humanity's numbers have swelled, the ghouls do occasionally manipulate events for a harvest. Then they feast. Imagine ghouls triggering war, famine, plague - BUT only after an appropriate span of time has passed, and in different parts of the world. Like a farmer rotating crops, and allowing some fields to lie fallow for a season or two before planting them again, and then encouraging them to grow. It would explain a lot, wouldn't it?
The ghouls see those damn Tcho-Tcho as crop stealers, or possibly mutant weeds displacing their crops, plus the Tcho-Tcho themselves may taste awful and/or be otherwise inedible. Maybe they are poisonous to ghouls, or have other detrimental effects.
Finally, the ghouls occasionally allow some of the exceptional fruit to transform into family, perhaps only after it breeds, so as not to remove desired traits from the gene-pool. The Tcho-Tcho aren't anywhere near as egalitarian, and their practices would eventually eliminate the ghoul population.
The Tcho-Tcho get pissed off at ghoul activities because they get caught up in the wars, famines and plagues the ghouls trigger (with the aid of their Charnel God?). Ultimately, the Tcho-Tcho would like nothing more than vast herds of tamed and domesticated long-pig breeding stock so they can quietly go about their animal husbandry and various dark rites to Shub-Niggurath, aspects of the King in Yellow, etc. Perhaps they had this in the distant prehistoric past, say ~10000-15000 years ago or more?
Instead, the Tcho-Tcho have to deal with wild/feral long-pigs running around killing each other, dropping bombs, and sometimes even turning into those nasty ghouls who insist on not only taking all of the long-pig for themselves, but then letting it spoil before eating it! Note - Maybe the Tcho-Tcho don't like cheese, either, seeing it as rotten milk.
Advantages/disadvantages of each side:
#1) As the Tcho-Tcho naturally and non-magically appear to be normal humans of East Asian descent, it's easy for them to get around, send underlings out to perform tasks (mundane or otherwise), interact with normal humans, etc. They don't have to hide nearly as much as ghouls do. Some may have access to the Consume Likenesses spell if they need to change appearances - bon appétit. If not, Cloud Memory would probably work almost as well.
- The version of "The Ghoul Manuscript" on pg58 of the DG sourcebook lists Consume Likeness as one of the spells contained within. As per Agent Nancy, a ghoul utilizing this spell can appear as a normal human (once the corpse/victim has been eaten). Ghouls can thus move around in human society, but gaining that ability takes some effort. I would assume that this spell is more widespread in the ghoul community than the Tcho-Tcho community due to sheer necessity.
#2) IIRC, it's implied that ghouls can naturally and non-magically consume memories (similar the spell on pg109 of the DG sourcebook) for 24hrs with a MP expenditure, or a POW expenditure if they want to make it permanent.
- I like this, plus I like the idea of ghouls naturally being able to take on the appearance of those they consume as well, even if only for a day or so. It would allow a ghoul to eat someone and have access to their likeness and memories for a brief time, perhaps just long enough to accomplish some task. Makes 'em nastier and sneaker, with more potential SAN/MM loss - "What do you mean Agent Ed died last week?! I just met with him yesterday; he was passing through town & needed the keys to that green box we set up in Austin, the one where we stashed that weird metal skull sculpture."
- The DG fiction seems to go even further, implying that if desired the memories can be permanently consumed with little effort; there should be a big/progressive SAN/MM loss for any PC ghouls who go this route, though; perhaps a la "Dune", one so consumed who has a higher POW/INT or MIND traits than the consumer can attempt to dominate or take over the consumer? And if the consumed can do this once, even briefly, then it becomes easier & last longer next time? Maybe this should be a potential but unmentioned downside to the Consume Memories spell, only ghouls are less susceptible…
#3) Speculation - Can a Tcho-Tcho consume the memories of a captured ghoul? If so, does the Tcho-Tcho get JUST the ghoul's memories, or the memories of everyone the ghoul has permanently consumed as well? How 'bout a ghoul consuming a captured Tcho-Tcho, especially if the Tcho-Tcho has previously and permanently consumed lots of memories?
- I guess that should be a generic question: does consuming memories get one just the memories of the entity consumed, or do you also get all of the memories that that entity has consumed as well? I would argue the latter (perhaps at a higher SAN loss/MM intensity, could be fun if the consumer didn't expect the flood of additional memories), due to info in the "Tiger Transit" scenario & the whole "racial memories/knowledge passed down from one's ancestors" meme (see also Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" series, Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear", etc).
- The latter option would also have some very interesting implications for older Tcho-Tcho and lesser ghouls (who, though they live much much longer than normal humans, still slowly age). As the elder Tcho-Tcho or ghoul - who has presumably consumed many memories and likenesses on a permanent basis - begins to weaken and suffer other effects of old age, they are going to look for a new and younger host body to take over or transfer into. Likewise, the more ambitious younger rivals are going to see the accumulated memories (knowledge is power, after all, especially if you've eaten a lot of interesting people)(hmm, raising the dead and consuming their memories/likeness too?) and likenesses as very tempting resources to acquire. For the longer-lived ghouls and the Tcho-Tcho making use of Steal Life and Food of Life type rituals, such plotting and planning could easily extend over centuries. Same deal with ancient human wizards.
- Can ghouls utilize Food of Life? Or does the feast have to be fresh? Maybe a variant spell exists?
#4) Note that both ghouls & Tcho-Tcho seem to be able to access the Dreamlands, though perhaps not exactly in the same way.
Ghouls seem to be able to physically able to move into and out of the Dreamlands at will (though perhaps not necessarily easily)(maybe older ghouls need to train younger ones, otherwise the younger ghouls will only enter the Dreamlands non-physically)(do ghouls sleep?).
It's implied that the Men of Leng are the Dreamlands aspects of the Tcho-Tcho, though IIRC the Tcho-Tcho are also mentioned in some of the fiction as existing in the Dreamlands alongside the Men of Leng (I can't provide a source for this, unfortunately; note that Lovecraft only mentions the Tcho-Tcho twice - once in "The Shadow Out of Time" and again in "The Horror in the Museum" - neither mention is in conjunction with the Dreamlands).
As stated in a previous message, I like the idea of the Tcho-Tcho being to the Men of Leng as humans are to ghouls. It would explain why there are no Tcho-Tcho ghouls (that we know of, anyway; would Mordiggian permit it?), the rivalry between the Men of Leng and the ghouls in the Dreamlands, and reinforces some of the speculations in the Ice Cave noting that while almost identical in many ways to humans, the Tcho-Tcho are NOT entirely human but instead are Something Else.
Maybe the Tcho-Tcho/Men of Leng have a sort of dual existence. The lesser/younger Tcho-Tcho usually know nothing of the Dreamlands. As they grow older & more powerful, they begin to experience their Dreamlands lives while their earthly bodies sleep. Eventually, they are one consciousness in two bodies and two realms; interesting implications if that consciousness can experience both realms simultaneously and coordinate actions between them. Physical transference between Earth and the Dreamlands might be impossible for them in that case (as they're already in both places at once), though the more powerful may still open gates so that Earthly and Dreamlands objects can be permanently moved back and forth between realms.
- If one goes with the dual existence/consciousness route, what happens if one body dies but not the other? Can a Tcho-Tcho/Man of Leng regain an existence in a realm where one of their bodies had died by consuming another human/Tcho-Tcho/Man from Leng capable of experiencing the other realm?
- If so, would they have to move physically (ie - via a gate or in an area where the Dreamlands touches on the waking world) to the realm where their other body died and consume the denizen there? Or would consuming the memories and likeness of a being able to enter the realm where the Tcho-Tcho/Man of Leng lost it's body be enough? Maybe the Tcho-Tcho/Men of Leng have a ritual for this?
- If not, maybe the Tcho-Tcho/Men of Leng fall upon the one unfortunate/unlucky/careless enough to die in the other realm and devour him.
- Note that Tcho-Tcho woman REALLY seem to get the short end of the stick. Maybe the Tcho-Tcho keep them around to ensure a replacement brood queen if necessary, as POW/lifeforce sources, ritual sacrifice subjects, for non-Tcho-Tcho brothels and the sex-slave trade (inc kiddie pr0n), porn/torture/snuff film stars (who can be raised/reanimated), as objects to consume so they can reenter realms where one of their bodies has died, etc.
- Speculation re: Tcho-Tcho heretic cults - Shub-Niggurath is usually seen as a "feminine" deity. Maybe a group of young Tcho-Tcho women got lucky & slaughtered/consumed their men, offered sacrifices to Shub-Niggurath (or Nyarlathotep) in exchange for knowledge and power, and now there are some Tcho-Tcho matriarchies. The Men of Leng Dreamlands counterparts to the slain Tcho-Tcho males are pissed. The women have the men's waking world memories - would this extend to their Dreamlands memories? Why or why not? If using Consume Memories and the "Dune"-like possession possibility, have any of the Tcho-Tcho women who revolted been (re)possessed? What about the female Tcho-Tcho's Dreamlands counterparts? Slain? Hiding? What does a Woman of Leng look like in the Dreamlands? Have there been female Tcho-Tcho dreamquests to slay the Men of Leng counterparts of the murdered male Tcho-Tcho who were in the waking world, thus lessening the likelihood of revenge and retribution? Would ghouls help or hinder such a situation? Ideas for how this could show up in the waking world, and how DG might be drawn in?
Ways to ghouldom:
#1) Read a copy of the cursed tome "The Ghoul Manuscript". One theory proposed somewhere was that the books themselves were infested with spores or possibly airborne bacteria/viruses that could carry transmissible spongiform encephalopathic pathogens (in the form of specific prion proteins), possibly alter DNA (though I think the ghoul report in DG: Countdown says that there are no radical genetic alterations, and that at the genetic level ghouls and humans are identical) and cause one to change. That's the scientific explanation, of course. Mordiggian influence, predisposition, etc. are among the other ideas.
- Mordiggian/Keeper's choice as to whether EVERYONE who reads the book changes; perhaps some go violently insane and die horribly of a weird rotting disease that leaves gaping pus-filled holes in their brain instead of transforming into ghouls, and the ones who change are the ones who either WANT to change and/or Mordiggian finds them worthy in some way. Maybe some readers get stuck halfway.
- "Nancy's Notes" - C'mon folks, that's a tomb begging to be created. Suggestions? What does DG know about ghouls, now that they have one on their payroll? Agent Nancy should be good at writing clear and detailed scientific reports, based on her PhD in Forensic Psychology and MD in medicine from Temple U., as well as her years in the FBI's PCU. Surely she's transcribed everything she can remember from reading "The Ghoul Manuscript", added her speculations and experiences, and even detailed her Dreamlands experiences (if one wants to include the DG fiction). Attached to this file would be the results of medical exams, blood workups, X-rays, CAT scans, PET scans, MRIs and every other test A-Cell can get away with running. Remember, Nancy's hoping they can somehow change her back again someday, so I imagine she'd be eager to go along with most medical exams and tests. Maybe A-Cell isn't in such a hurry to lose this most valuable asset, however…
- If one includes DG fiction, then Nancy has eaten some MJ12 stooges & DG should have more info on MJ12 than MJ12 has on DG. Except for that interesting Agent ADAM issue…
- Copies of "The Ghoul Manuscript" are handwritten in "subliterate" English. Historically, wouldn't there be variances between copies, perhaps wide variations (and contradictions even?), and a lot of older copies NOT in English? Why would Parisian ghouls from the 16th century who hang out in the sewer system, for example, have ancient copies of this tome written in bad English? Maybe individuals copies are almost like diaries.
- re: Variations and contradictions. Why should ghouls worshiping Mordiggian be any more united in their beliefs, rituals and books than humans who refer to themselves as Christians? How many different Mordiggian sects might there be? Traditional, Orthodox, Reformed, Gnostic, Protestant, Evangelical (uh oh), heretics and the anti-Mordiggian cults - what else? The ghoulish equivalent of Satanists, who worship Azathoth instead? What would their holy book and their behavior be like? Or the ghoulish equivalent of Mormons - they have an entirely new section added to their holy book that NONE of the other Mordiggian cults accept (heh, their leader was a Scientologist a few decades ago, before he changed, and incorporate large portions of Scientology into the new section; imagine what THAT "Ghoul Manuscript" would be like). What suppressed or apocryphical ghoulish tomes might exist, both here and in the Dreamlands? What about their various holy artifacts? What about the previously mentioned/hypothesized Evangelical ghoul cult that believes that Mordiggian wants them to "spread the Good Word" and grow? A lot? Model 'em on Southern Baptists & TV preachers…
#2) Be a changeling. A further creepy twist to this would be to NOT allow ghouls to breed (else they'd be everywhere, right?), and have a changeling child be an immaculate conception triggered by Mordiggian. Also, Does the changeling child, the fruit ripening within the ghoul-mother's womb, eat its way out? Does the changeling child have ghoul racial memories from mom? Does the child have the memories of those mom has consumed? Touched by Mordiggian, essentially the son/daughter of a god - what does that imply?
#3) Be susceptible to and/or chosen by Mordiggian. Have the "right" mindset, the desire to become a ghoul, perform the right rituals, live among the ghouls, eat a lot of dead people… This ties in with the Dreamlands "spirit possession" stuff - the ghoul to be is actually touched/possessed/blessed/cursed/whatever by Mordiggian.
Probably rare to nonexistent in the waking world, especially today. As the Favored of Mordiggian, I'd see them as priests in the Charnel God's cult, a la the Clark Ashton Smith stories. Perhaps they are the dominant or only form of ghoul in the time of Zothique, with all variant cults gone, destroyed, or having died out - only the True Church of the Charnel God remains, unified in Word and Thought and Deed. The surviving greater ghouls are ancient beyond belief, some older than continents, with the memories of millions upon millions of individuals contained within them.
"Recruits" or new ghouls might be rare in humanity's waning days. Perhaps after several millennia, if a greater ghoul has not served as faithfully as demanded, the ghoul feels compelled to gorge; upon reaching sufficient size (ie - obscenely, grotesquely and morbidly fat), the greater ghoul enters pupae-like phase. It prepares and area, vomits a stinking mass over itself that hardens into a sticky shell, and eventually several adult "Acolytes" - powerful lesser ghouls, or less powerful greater ghouls - emerge with abilities and memories of the original ghoul divided between them.
"The Eternal Blessing" - Extremely ancient greater ghouls who have severed Mordiggian faithfully and selflessly may enter a phase of final transformation; their body begins to putrefy and they are consumed (while still aware) by Mordiggian; memories and awareness are absorbed and become part of Mordiggian, who can allow the ghoul or any beings fully consumed & absorbed by the ghoul to manifest if summoned with the right rituals and appeasements, as a sort of conscious and aware ghost. Mordiggian is not only the total sum of all ancient ghouls it has consumed, but also all sentient beings ever consumed by the ghouls as well. It's power and awareness grow over time.
Implications: Mordiggian is weaker in the past, and has less influence. In the distant past (ie - today), there may not be an greater ghouls. This may be why present-day Mordiggian cults are fragmented. Maybe future aspects of the Charnel God are being shaped today. A gate from distant, future Zothique with greater ghouls there attempting to manipulate events in the present towards their desired outcome would reinforce events in "The Realm of Shadows" (PAG1006).
Mordiggian knows all that it's priests know, sees through their eyes, hears through their ears, tastes and feasts and revels in their feeding. Mordiggian can access the memories of the consumed dead within any ghoul. Perhaps even use the host ghoul as a vessel, allowing the memories (possibly even the appearance) of the consumed the illusion of life.
Maybe the ultimate destiny of humanity is to feed the Charnel God so it can take it's place in the Court of Azathoth.
The Tcho-Tcho are probably long extinct by the time of Zothique.
This article was written by John Nyx.