Elder Things

…Scientists to the last - what had they done that we would not have done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! What a facing of the incredible, just as those carven kinsmen and forbears had faced things only a little less incredible! Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn -whatever they had been, they were men!

Howard Phillips Lovecraft

I swear, those leathery five-sided frond wavers are about the closest thing to a friend we're going to find in a CoC universe. The fact that we can understand their art and their angles don't bite our faces off is a good sign.

Mark McFadden

The Elder Things (also known as the Old Ones and Elder Ones) are fictional extraterrestrials in the Cthulhu Mythos. The beings first appeared, although not named, in H. P. Lovecraft's short story "The Dreams in the Witch-House" (1933). Additional references to the Elder Things appear in Lovecraft's short story "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936), and the novella At the Mountains of Madness, which is the main source of information about them.

In The Antarctic Covenant, the Elder Things trade shoggoth technology to the Mi-go in exchange for brains and nervous systems for the God Trap. The Starkweather Foundation and "Resolution Zero" (The Black Seal, issue 3) also postulate modern-day dealings between Elder Things and humanity.

From the data in At the Mountains of Madness, it seems the Elder Things are closer to us in psychological makeup and general outlook on things than the Mi-go will ever be. The unpleasantness in the story (we dissect one of them, they dissect one of us and kill the rest in a fit of rage and frustration) looks like a border incident between two similar civilizations. It isn't malicious or fundamentally alien. Their historical bas-reliefs also make sense to the eyes of human observers.

Fan speculation

copy.png Material relevant to this article has been archived by the Fairfield Project at Elder Things discussion.

The Elder Things affected the evolution of life on Earth, including human life. It is unclear just how actively they interfered, and why. The Elder Things can be implicated in past extinctions of terrestrial species as a form of intelligence pogrom. Perhaps a faction in their civilization feared the results of unrestrained evolution, culling the more dangerous products. Another faction had the equivalent of a transhumanist mindset, weeding the evolutionary garden to bias it towards the production of an Elder Thing-like intelligence.

Like it or not, we are walking in their footsteps. Maybe they designed things to go this way. As with the Deep Ones, Delta Green fans have proposed a close relationship. Elder Things may have deliberately transformed themselves into the human race. Perhaps the old race wanted a fresh start, or saw a need for change and abandoned most of their biology.

Flying polyps, as they appear in Masks of Nyarlathotep, can be seen as degenerated and Mythos-worshipping descendants of the forces crushed by the Ets and later by the Great Race of Yith. (A one-shot scenario: Players are members of a task force sent to sabotage the Flying Polyp gravitation sling. Their hidden agenda is setting up the thing so that it will act as an evolutionary tool to help the growth and development of an Earth-based Elder Thing-analogue intelligence.)


Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness and the Chaosium campaign Beyond the Mountains of Madness feature Elder Things in Antarctica. In Delta Green canon, the Mountains of Madness are gone, but there may be Elder Things left in the region, such as a small city beneath the Weddell Sea. A colony of them may be implicated in the disappearance of Sandy Island.

There are supposed to be highly-developed Elder Things somewhere amongst the stars, but they never appear in stories. The original Elder Things on Earth may have been a frontier outpost or terraforming operation. A different group of Elder Things could come looking for its fellows and renew their efforts (cf. the ungluing virus in Ender's Game). William Timmins' Endtimes material includes technology and aid from the Elder Race.

Protomatter, shoggoths and Mi-go

Davide Mana suggested that the Elder Things created the first RNA/DNA molecules as a suitable basis of evolution by natural and artificial selection. Perhaps they also created the first protomatter to make the eventual products competitive, by upgrading the tissue types. The shoggoth would be one such product.

The modern form of protomatter, seen in Convergence, could be an attempt by Mi-go to reverse-engineer shoggoth-related technology, while preserving the control that the Elder Things lost. The susceptibility of humans to Mi-go protomatter would be a natural coincidence. In this model, the Mi-go are endeavoring, first of all, to create a stable form of protomatter. After they figure out how to get it stable, they'll modify it slightly, injecting some DNA of their choosing until they've got appropriate servants with the illogical advantages of terrestrial life. (This is why the Mi-go acquired a complete understanding of the human genome, which the Grays then shared with MJ-12.)

The Elder Things have a similar mental process to humans. This may include the intuitive leaps that Mi-go are not capable of. Therefore, the Mi-go could be studying human psychology in order to unlock and reverse-engineer more Elder Thing technogy.


List of pages tagged with elder_things:

See also

A Colder War by Charles Stross (external link).


Much of the material here is from the Elder Things discussion and other exchanges on the DGML, assembled principally by James Haughton and converted into an article by Viktor Eikman.

The intellectual property known as Delta Green is ™ and © the Delta Green Partnership. The contents of this document are © their respective authors, excepting those elements that are components of the Delta Green intellectual property.