A list of freakish, mind bending, disquieting, unpleasant, psyche traumatising occurences with which the King in Yellow and his court, his city of Carcosa and suchlike may be foreshadowed, anticipated and essentially shown to the agents in small, survivable amounts. Ration carefully.
As the agent peers through a set of books, files in a cabinet, or similar, the next title he looks at will change to "Royalty". Now all the titles are disquieting words: "Ashes", "Bones", "Charnel", "Despair", "Entrap" etc. And then they notice that every author's name is there own. If they do not immediately pull away, they see one volume rock slightly, or simply seem to call for their attention. It is again labelled with their name, and "Future". Should they remove it, they may read. They will gain a suitable amount in Mythos Lore, a Luck roll at a suitable future moment when at least part of the memories of what they read return, and lose an amount of SAN and the memories of whatever they read. They awake in a few minutes time, and the bookshelf is untouched.
Signs of the Times
Whenever the agents have a brush with danger, they see an advertisement for a brand- e.g. Red Apple Cigarettes. However, an Idea roll tells them that no such brand exists, and that the name and adverts have only appeared when they are in a near-death situation. For added effect, have an article (in this case, a packet of cigarettes) about their person change to this brand, although they certainly did not buy it. When an agent dies, have an advert involved- his blood spilling onto the bottom of the billboard, a flyer blowing across the windscreen of the burning car. And they never hear of the brand again. Until they see it over the mantle of a shop in Carcosa…
Computer Research / Hacking
The investigator that is actually at the key board begins to hear organ music coming from the computer's speakers. His screen glitches, and then begins to show scenes from Nosferatu. It is at this point that the investigator finds himself sitting in a darkened theater watching the screen where Nosferatu is showing. The subtitles are in the original German. He is seated before an elaborate organ. He can hear murmured voices behind him. Turning, he sees that the theatre is full of people and that many of them are beginning to look at him. Several point at him while speaking to each other in hushed tones. They are dressed in twenties-era garb and are speaking in German.
If he does not play then the crowd becomes more agitated. They begin yelling at him. Some of the rowdier ones even throw things. At this point the crowd surges into action and attacks the investigator. He then finds himself back at his keyboard, possibly morphing into being shaken by one of the other investigators.
If he begins to play along with the movie, or even attempts to play, then he finds that he can, with no difficulty. The crowd goes back to watching the movie. On the screen, the scene comes up where the vampire is destroyed by the light of the rising sun. At the same instant, the theatre begins to fill with an unsavory yellow light. The light casts disturbing shadows on the walls around the investigator. It is at this point that the investigator finds himself back at his keyboard. He has typed the following:
"I raised my seared eyes to the fathomless glare, and I saw the black stars hanging in the heavens: and the wet winds from the Lake of Hali chilled my face.
And now, far away, over leagues of tossing cloud-waves, I saw the moon dripping with spray; and beyond, the towers of Carcosa rose behind the moon.
Death and the awful abode of lost souls, whither my weakness long ago had sent him, had changed him for every eye but mine. And now I heard his voice, rising, swelling, thundering through the flaring light, and as I fell, the radiance increasing, increasing, poured over me in waves of flame."
The movie in question in not Nosferatu, but He Without Name. As he watches the movie and plays along, he begins to hear disturbing noises from behind him, maniacal laughter that is suddenly muffled, much rustling and stomping and sound of movement, shrieks cut short by a death rattle, meaty thuds and the splintering of teeth, and what sounds like several muffled sexual assaults being perpetrated at once. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees what looks suspiciously like blood come flowing down to the base of the screen in a huge puddle. It would seem that an orgy of violence is ever-so-quietly being conducted right behind the investigator. This happens at the same moment that the cultists in the movie are summoning He Without Name. On the black and white screen a bright, special-effects glow is growing. From behind the investigator the theatre is beginning to fill with an unsavory yellow light. The light casts disturbing shadows on the walls around the investigator. It is at this point that the investigator finds himself back at his keyboard, having typed the message above.
Breaking and Entering
At some point during the break-in, one investigator notices that he can see his breath, as if it were very cold in the room and that he can smell fatty candle smoke. Out of the corner of his eye, he notices an object suspended in the air. Turning to look, he sees the body of a man dangling from the end of a poorly fashioned noose. He is dressed in a sort of long shapeless dress, kind of like a bathrobe that buttons up the front. His blackened tongue protrudes obscenely from his blue lips, his eyes have rolled back in their sockets and his legs hang limply no more than six inches from the floor. It is obvious that his hanging was botched and that he strangled rather than having his neck broken. It is also clear that he has been dead for over a day. If there is a window, outside the window, the investigator sees the view from the second floor of a building in a sprawling antique city (Elizabethan London).
The room is a shambles. The smell of tallow is heavy in the air, mixed with the pungent reek of alcohol. In fact, empty bottles of gin lie scattered around the room. Many of the bottles have dead candles stuffed into their necks, dried wax forming intricate stalactitic formations over the glass.
On the far wall above the hearth is a crudely painted Yellow Sign, smudged and dried in drips, running thickly down the plaster wall.
On the floor, several of the bottles, each with a guttered candle affixed in the neck, stand in a rough circle above which dangles the corpse. Filthy clothes lie strewn around the floor. A half-eaten leg of lamb lies dried and forgotten on a plate, along with a stale loaf of bread and small knife with blood on the blade. Scattered throughout the room are hundreds of pages bearing a variety of cramped scripts, as well as two small volumes. When the investigator attempts to closely examine the items on the floor he will have to stoop over. When he stands back up again, he will experience vertigo that causes him to swoon. When he recovers his bearings, all these things are gone.
The investigator does not swoon when he stoops to examine the items on the floor. Of the volumes, one is the diary of John Croft. There are only ten entries in it, from 10/19/1602 to 1/1/1603. The other volume is the diary of Christopher Marlowe, containing a great many entries from 1590 to 1593.
The scattered pages are the loose pages of two plays, Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, written in Marlowe's own hand and included new text, and The King in Yellowe - A Playe in Three Actes begun by Christopher Marlowe and completed by John Croft and Will Shakespeare.
Some text from The King:
He comes tonight,
In sundered raiment, like foul Charon beckoning on the shores of Acheron,
Each quiddity of his terrible aspect
Brought forth by mine own cantickle.
The King in Yellowe doth sup upon my soul
As a babe ravens at his mother's breast.
- The King in Yellowe Act I Scene III
Render up thy essence, so that I may feast. - The King
- The King in Yellowe Act II Scene I
At some point, the investigator's gaze will encounter the painted Yellow Sign again. When this happens, he will experience vertigo that causes him to swoon. When he recovers his bearings, all these things are gone.
The investigator finds himself sitting cross-legged on the floor in a poorly-lit room strewn with yellow sheets of paper, the kind torn from a legal pad. Open in his lap is a battered old leather folder. On the cover is printed Le Roi dans Jaune, and small Yellow Sign. The pages are brown and brittle and marred by dark patches of mold. They are in French and appear to be scripts. Notations have been made in the margins. He is naked except for a pair of dirty socks and stained boxer shorts. He is also spattered with blood, especially his hands, where the blood has caked and dried in mats of cracked and flaking clot. There is a bloody box-cutter in his right hand. The yellow pages are scrawled with stream-of-consciousness gibberish such as:
The sun, buttercups, yield signs, the yellow signs are everywhere. Rags and tatters and tater tots. Yellow lights and yellow leather, corn on the cob, corn in a can, corn in my shit, gone to shit and trash and rags and tatters and signs. Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs, signs that say yield and children at play and yellow grass in the summer under the yellow sun."
From outside the doorway of the room, the investigator can hear weak, wet moans; labored breathing; and coughing. Exiting the room, a woman can be seen on the floor of a hallway that leads to a door. The door has a very nice frosted and beveled glass oval window set in it, and apparently leads outside. The woman is very slowly and painfully crawling on her belly towards the door. She is spattered with blood and is leaving a long bloody snail-trail behind her as she crawls. The hallway is littered with the yellow pages also, and they are sticking to her as she wakes her way through them. She looks like a wounded animal feebly attempting to escape a hunter; crawling through the leaves of a forest floor.
If examined, it is discovered that her face has been peeled off. She is a Gray's anatomy study in human facial musculature from which blood sobs down soaking her blouse and puddling the floor. It is at this point that the investigator realizes that he is wearing a mask of some sort. He can barely make out the ragged edges of the eye-holes.
A harsh yellow light fills the hallway. It is shining through the window of the front door and casting a silhouette of someone on the other side. The door latch rattles, the doorknob turns, and the door begins to open; flooding the hallway with the hot yellow light. At this point the investigator finds himself back from whence he came.
The yellow light floods the hallway and a man steps into the door. He is short and bald, with a wide, splay footed gait. His face is bland and flaccid like a water balloon, with pale curd colored skin, which is mottled with uneven patches of yellowish purple, like faded old bruises. He has wide dull eyes that are golden with a jaundiced yellow sclera around the iris. He smiles weakly at the investigator, his rubbery lips stretching in a grin which almost reached his undersized ears. The effect is predatory, with his small, sharp, gapped teeth becoming exposed. He walks over to the investigator, reaches up, and says "The time has come to unmask."
The investigator sees himself reach up and remove the mask from his own face. It is, of course, the woman's peeled face. The man takes it from him. He then removes his own mask, another peeled face. At the point where his true face would be revealed, the yellow light brightens and becomes blinding. It then subsides as the man is tucking the edges of his new face in place.
He turns back to the investigator as he casually tosses his old face aside. "It is obvious that you have found the Yellow Sign. Are you ready to fall into the hands of your new King?" He smiles again. "Very good!"
The investigator then sees himself take the box cutter and begin slicing his arms open from the hand to the elbow.
For several hours after this, the investigator is beset by sharp pains in his wrists and the feeling that he is wearing a heavy, warm, wet mask.
Inspecting Crime Scene
While poking around the crime scene, the investigator begins to hear circus music. Then a spotlight comes on with an audible snap from an unknown source overhead, and the music stops. Standing in the light is a circus ringmaster, all decked out in ostentatious circus finery. He addresses the crowd in a language that the character does not understand, but it is obvious from his tone and cadence that he is introducing and act. When he finishes his intro with a flourish and a bow, the light snaps off and he vanishes along with it. However, another light snaps on a few feet away, illuminating the new performers. At first, they appear to be a big pile of torn cloth. However, music starts, and the pile begins to move. It soon sorts itself out into a trio of dancers. They are clothed from head to toe in shreds and strips of ragged cloth. The cloth is in a great many shades of yellow, ranging from electric to so pale to be almost white. The faces of the dancers are covered by veils, so they appear otherwise identical. The music is mainly drums, some sort of woodwinds, and what sounds like a harpsichord. It begins in a very slow tempo and quickly builds. The dancers writhe and twirl and weave about one another. They dance in accompaniment to the music, but they somehow manage to never quite be in time with the music. The effect is very unsettling. As the tempo builds, the dancers begin to twirl faster and faster, weaving ribbons of their tattered costumes about them. When they dance close to the investigator, he can see that their rags are actually very dirty. They appear stained and even crusted with yellowish filth. Just as the investigator realizes that there seems to be a fine powder or mist being flung off of the dancers as they twirl, a swath of cloth from one of their arms whips sharply across the investigator's face, and the music stops. In the involuntary blinking of the investigator's eyes, the trio is gone.
When the investigator is struck, the trio is still there afterwards. They are standing very still and appear to be staring at the investigator. Behind them, the other spotlight snaps on again revealing the ringmaster. He declares: The time has come to unmask! The trio reach up and remove their veils, revealing faces that been eaten away, as if by acid, and covered with yellowish pustules. Where their eyes should be are patches of what appears to be a yellowish powdery fungus.
The investigator's face and eyes then begin to burn and sting. A yellowish haze covers his vision, his mouth is filled with a bitter taste, and he is assailed by a smell like old, moldy fabric. The pain causes him to close his eyes and touch his face. What he touches feels very hot, wet, and pulpy; like badly rotted fruit. Then, just as suddenly as it came, the vision is gone and all is normal.
Conducting or Observing an Autopsy
(Note: This Manifestation was originally written for a specific scenario. The scenario involved an autopsy conducted while in hazmat gear. If this is not the case for your scenario, then I suggest you have someone insist that they wear protective face shields or at least goggles, to jibe with the "smeared face shield" affect to follow.)
The agent will be standing there watching the body cut open. As he is concentrating on the body, he realizes that his surroundings have changed. There is a body being autopsied on a old slate dissecting table. It is surrounded by several doctors dressed in voluminous yellow smocks that have been stained with blood. Besides being stained with blood, the smocks appear old and dirty; mildew is clearly visible stippling the fabric and there are other stains darkly streaking the smocks. The doctor's faces are hidden behind their surgical masks. They wear no face shields. Beside the autopsy table is a smaller table with an instrument tray on it. There are all manner of instruments on it, most caked with gore, as is the pan. The agent finds that he cannot turn his head or blink his eyes; in fact, he appears to be completely paralyzed. Also, his view of the room is a bit bleary, as if his face shield were oily. His vantage point appears to be from the foot-end of the body, about five or six feet away and to the left, and a bit high up, as if he were standing on a stool. He can see the two opposite walls clearly but can only see the other two obliquely, as if he were near the corner.
The room that they are in is covered with white ceramic tiles on both the floor and the walls, and is illuminated by gaslights. There are louver windows at the top of one wall, but it appears to be night outside. There are dark, heavy, wooden doors set in both walls opposite him, and the outline of a door is barely visible set in the wall to the agent's right.
As he watches, the doctors work feverishly to dismember and disassemble the corpse. They toss organs into specimen jars filled with amber fluid that sit on the floor about the operating theater. The door in the periphery of the agents vision to the right opens. A crudely fashioned wooden wheelbarrow can be seen emerging, its contents piled high and covered with a sheet. As the wheelbarrow advances into the room, its wheel suddenly comes loose, and the barrow tips over, spilling its contents into the room. The load hits two of the doctors and send them sprawling. They in turn slam into others of the autopsy team. One of them is sent stumbling backwards into the agent.
The agent finds himself tumbling end over end at an impossible speed. The tumbling stops with a jarring crash and a deafening shattering of glass. The agent's vision is now all too clear of the earlier blurring.
The agent can tell that he is now on the floor of the operating theater. His vantage is exceedingly odd. It is as if he were buried in the floor up to his neck. Looming above him he can see and hear all. The spilled contents of the wheelbarrow are the naked bodies of his cell members. The corpse on the slab now hangs off it a bit, and he can see that its head has been sawed off at the neck. The doctors have leaped to their feet and are howling at what was pushing the wheelbarrow. With the blurred vision gone, the agent can see that the doctors are diseased behind their masks. Their eyes are a bright jaundiced yellow shot through with blood, and their skin is scabrous. Their smocks are stained with blood from countless corpses, mold and mildew, and rivulets of a bilious fluid that well up from their bodies.
The agent can also see what was pushing the wheelbarrow. It is a huge black horror the size of a horse with claws and wings. With a screech, it leaps past the doctors that crowd to scold it, and darts forward to snap its steaming jaws onto the agent's head.
(Note: For those of you that didn't get it, in this Manifestation, the agent is a severed head in a jar filled with formaldehyde, sitting on a shelf. The shelf gets bumped, the jar falls and shatters, and the byakhee of burden eats him like a snausage.)
Voyage at Sea
Note: This Manifestation was used while running "The City in the Sea" from Chaosium's old "Cthulhu Now" supplement. It involves the players going aboard a research vessel named the Architeuthis and finding Atlantis.)
Aboard the Architeuthis, while one of the agents is walking on the deck or looking out at sea, she suddenly finds himself aboard a completely different ship, but standing in roughly the same spot. He can see the Architeuthis about fifty yards away. In the spot where he was, he sees a figure in a dark gray robe who appears to be wearing a white mask over his face. The figure waves slowly at the agent as the two boats swiftly pull away and a yellowish fog rolls in, obscuring visibility. The agent is now aboard what appears to be a turn of the century ocean liner. It is decked out with Bon Voyage streamers and bunting and confetti, but it all looks like it has been exposed to the elements for quite a while. The sounds of a party can be heard from elsewhere in the vessel, but attempts to seek it out are fruitless. All that can be found are rooms where a party has taken place and moved on.
Soon the boat shudders and groans. Outside, the yellowish fog has turned to a thick rolling mist that smells strongly of the sea. Visibility becomes minimal and the agent has the distinct impression that the ship is plunging downward. What sounds like whale-song can be heard overhead, and the ship shudders again and the mists eddies as if something huge has just passed by. The agent hears a shriek from around the corner. If approached, all that can be seen is a very old bloodstain, strange tracks in the blood, and the crusty remains of animal droppings. A faint flapping can be heard to recede.
With a horrible suddenness, the ship is filled with people as it suddenly begins to plunge downward in earnest. They are all in Victorian formal dress, as if they had been attending a ball aboard the ship. Everyone begins screaming as they have to grab a hold of the ship to keep from being flung overboard. The agent's grip fails and he falls away from the ship as it plummets away beneath him. As he falls the mist thickens rapidly until it coalesces into water. The agent then breaks the surface of the sea and finds himself overboard beside the Architeuthis.
While Staying in a Hotel Room
(Note: This Manifestation is designed to be used when you are planning to later run the players through "Night Floors" from Countdown. It references the NPC of David Langford, the cable guy who is trapped in the Night Floors building.)
At some point during the investigation, when the agents are in their room, they see that the curtains to the windows of the rooms across the courtyard from them are open, revealing a lavishly appointed but darkened and empty ballroom. It appears as if a party or ball has taken place. There are banquet tables here and there in the room, with the remnants of party fare scattered about on them. The floor is littered with discarded napkins, tableware, confetti, and torn streamers. A man walks into view. He appears to be in his late forties or fifties, and is wearing some sort of workman's uniform (New York Bell Cable), and he looks as if he has not groomed himself or changed clothes in several days. He proceeds to eat the food remnants from the tables, and then suddenly stops. He appears to have heard something that he is desperately afraid of. He darts underneath one of the tables to hide.
Double doors into the room swing open, admitting illumination from a well-lit hallway. Silhouetted in the doorway are several people. The agents realize that they are looking at themselves, just as the curtains swing closed.
(Additional Note: All you have to do now is (When you run Night Floors) have them stumble across David Langford in just this fashion and have them see themselves out the window of the ballroom that he is hiding in. And then the curtains swing closed. It will give them no end of shivers.)
Random call from a phone booth
i was driving out to visit a friend of mine this saturday, and i made a stop at a rest area to get some money from an ATM. One of the pay phones was ringing, and seeing as how i've been watching the Matrix all week, I picked up the phone and in as deep a voice as i could manage, said "TANK, I NEED AN EXIT!"
it was kinda quiet for a beat, and then the guy on the other end says "I'm sorry, i have the wrong number."
I tell him (and this is why i'm telling you guys this story) "NOTHING HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT. HAVE YOU SEEN THE YELLOW SIGN, MY BROTHER?"
He hung up.