Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gazetteer of the Wasted Lands 5: Hastur

The Realm of Hastur is a blighted realm of pure, alien sickness and madness. If Ashurii is decadent and corrupt, Hastur is debauched and entropic. If Khem is a paragon of law and civilization, Hastur is one of chaos and violence. The land is jointly ruled by two mad kings who some say are living embodiments of the Ancient One, Yhtill.

The land in Hastur is entirely blighted. Grass and trees are yellow or brown, and even the people appear jaundiced and sick. The streets themselves are coated with sickly yellow dust or pale green slime (some of which may actually be Green Slime--the monster). Nothing grows, which leads one to wonder what sustains the inhabitants.

The King in Yellow is the supreme ruler of Hastur and lord of its capitol, the jaundiced city of Carcosa, while The Phantom of Truth lords over the city of Aldebaran. The Yellow King, also called the Last King, is seen only as an emaciated figure wearing tattered yellow robes that seem to blow as though in a desert wind, and wearing a pallid mask; those who see the truth behind the mask are doomed to forever lose their mind, soul, and humanity to worship the King. The Phantom of Truth is adorned in pallid yellow, like his liege the King, but is less tattered and more formal. His face is never seen, but it is whispered that he is a living cancer, and one who looks upon his visage sees the depth and totality of corruption that resides at the center of all things; the Phantom of Truth is said to be the writer of the Yellow Book, the bible of Yhtill, and the creator of the Yellow Sign.

Hastur itself is a sickly, pallid realm where madness, insanity, decadence and hedonism reign supreme. There are two major cities in Hastur: Carcosa and Aldebaran. The cities are connected by the cloudy, murky river Demhe, which flows from Lake Hali, on whose shores Carcosa, the capitol city of Hastur, rests. Lake Hali and the River Demhe are both infested with the fish-like Deep Ones, said to be the spawn of the Old One Dagon. The Spawn of Dagon are anthropomorphic fish-frog creatures that serve Dagon, Hydra, and Cthulhu, mating with humans to do so. Humans can reproduce with these fish-men, producing a new generation. Likewise, humans who mate too often with Dagon-spawn begin to mutate themselves, turning into the amphibious creatures.

The King in Yellow rules over Carcosa with his bride, the mad Queen Cassilda, while his prince, the Phantom of Truth, rules Aldebaran with his duchess Camilla at his side. Camilla and Cassilda are sisters, once human, pure and virginal, who were altered and corrupted by the “Truths” revealed to them by the King in Yellow when he revealed that his Pallid Mask is indeed his true face. Rarely seen themselves, it is said that the Gray Sisters are possessed of an unearthly beauty and that within their black eyes lies a taste of the madness that consumed them, that all who look upon their faces and meet their gaze become enamored, enslaved, and insane. The Sisters are now the ultimate temptresses and seduce men and women to the service of their lords with succubus-like glee.

There are few laws in Hastur, most of these being related to pre-meditation. That is to say, murder is perfectly legal so long as it is a crime of passion, rage, and emotion, performed in the moment. Anyone who plans or plots such an act, however, is the worst kind of criminal. People in Hastur are not permitted to think things through--they must be ruled by their passions, and the Corruptors of Yhtill roam the land, seeing into the hearts and minds of men to ferret out those not overwhelmed by madness.

Buildings in streets in Hastur seem to conform to no logical pattern or architecture, being completely random. Some streets curve through alleys and even through buildings, only to stop at a dead-end, and it is said that the streets themselves shift and alter their positions, layout, and form at random. The debauchery one sees in the streets of Khem during their annual religious festivals is in Hastur a daily and even constant occurrence. Torture, murder, rape, cannibalism, and all manner of moral deviance are the norm here.

There have been in the past efforts to invade and "clean" Hastur by both Ashurii and Rossika, but these assaults have failed as soldiers upon entering the borders with hostile intent often go inexplicably mad and defect to fight for Hastur. Failing active invasion attempts, assassination attempts have taken place targeting both the King in Yellow and the Phantom of Truth. To date, ten assassination attempts have failed, eight agents of which have never been seen again, the remaining two having re-surfaced altered to the form of rabid beasts kept as slavish and fanatically loyal pets by the Gray Sisters.

At this time, Ashurii and Rossika have settled for shoring up their borders against an eventual invasion by Hastur, and both nations live in fear that they will be unable to stand against the dark magic of the King and Phantom. However, the very madness that makes Hastur so threatening is also its Achilles' Heel: the inability of the people of Hastur to plan and engage in strategy keeps them from mounting a war effort. They have settled thus far for a more insidious form of corruption. A play about Carcosa called The King In Yellow, and a mysterious set of scrolls, the Scrolls of the Yellow Kind, have made their way into Ashurii and Rossika, and some say copies have even made it as far as Hyperboria and Khem. It is said that all who view the play are driven incurably insane, and yet people are somehow irresistibly drawn to see the play whenever a performance is staged, and the Scrolls are hotly sought after by sorcerers and wizards of all persuasions due to the ancient arcane truths they are said to contain.

The core of the madness in Hastur is the idea of entropy, that all things are subject to decay, corruption, and eventual destruction, and the King in Yellow and the Phantom of Truth wish to engage all societies in this nihilistic outlook, falling and regressing to the basic drives and instincts of the beasts we all are at heart. However, due to this fact another Ancient One who inexplicably still walks the land uses his own power to hold the forces of entropy at bay: Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, despises Hastur, as entropy leads to nothingness, and in nothingness, Nyarlathotep realizes, there is no more chaos. Thus, Nyarlathotep seeks to temper the bestial drives of humankind with a need to fight against the darkness, so that the cycle of war and death continues for all eternity.

Population by Age:
0-14 years (infant to adolescent): 250,000
15-64 years (young adult through middle age): 400,000
65 years and over (elderly): 100,000

Racial Breakdown: Hasturim 40%, Khemite 10%, Atlantean 5%, Thule 10%, Ashurii 15% , Rossikan 15%, Other 5%
Religions: Cult of Yhtill: 100%, other trickster deities 15%
Government Type: Tyrannical Monarchy.
Capitol: Carcosa
Heraldry: The Yellow sign on a field of sickly green and brown.


Military: Hastur doesn't have a military as much as it does maddened hordes. When its borders are threatened, every man, woman, and child undergoes an horrific transformation into a near-human beast with fangs and wicked claws, and attacks the invaders en masse like rabid beasts. The mere sight of such an assault, combined with the mystical plague of madness that overs over the kingdom, sends those invaders that don't themselves fall mad and join the hordes into a frenzied police.

Legal System: The Corruptors of Yhtill roam the land, reading the hearts and minds of the inhabitants seeking rational thought.

Crime and Punishment: Those found guilty of rational thought or scheming are carried off by Shantaks and the Servitors of Yhtill. Shantaks are huge, scaly, birdlike creatures with batlike wings, slimy skin, and two strong talons that live in the Cold Waste of Earth's Dreamlands. Shantaks are sometimes summoned to serve as steeds.

Servitors of Yhtill are hybrid winged things, a sick amalgamation of crows, moles, buzzards, ants, and decomposed human beings, mutated together into a single, horse-sized abomination.

Those poor souls carried off by Shantaks and Servitors of Yhtill are tortured in the dungeons of the King and Phantom for hundreds of years, the tortures overseen by the sadistic Gray Sisters. Eventually, the criminals will be transformed into new Servitors, Corruptors, or hound-like beasts colloquially referred to by enemies of Yhtill as "Hell Hounds." Cassilda and Camilla keep packs of Hell Hounds as pets and playthings for their twisted pleasures and sometimes release random people into the wilds to lead their pets on a hunt.

The God of Hastur
Yhtill: Yhtill’s stock in trade is madness, zealotry, famine, and plague, and those who read his holy words or are captured by his Yellow Sign go mad and become fervent and desperate zealots in his service. His cults are dangerous and insidious, and are violently rooted out wherever they crop up. One thing is known: Nyarlathotep and Yhtill despise one another. Why this is no one knows, and neither deity has seen fit to reveal the source of their enmity, but some scholars believe that the two are brothers, both emanated from Azathoth and competing for dominance. Others believe that Yhtill was once a Mask of Nyarlathotep who somehow gained an identity of its own, and turned on its cousins. Still others believe that Yhtill was spawned from a different god altogether, perhaps a wayward child of Shub-Niggurath who seeks an ordered slide into decay rather than the explosive chaos Nyarlathotep champions, or that Yhtill is the rebellious and incestuous child of Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath. It is also possible that Yhtill himself is a corrupted form of an ancient god named Hastur, who was once a chthonic deity, patron of shepherds, until he stood face-to-face with the timeless void of Azathoth, carried by Yog-Sothoth. As he knew the terrible truth of the Old Ones, Hastur himself joined their ranks and became Yhtill, the Phantom of Truth. Likely, the truth will never be known, and civil wars have erupted amongst Yhtill’s own cults over various interpretations of the deity’s origin and writings. For whatever reason, feuds between the cults of these two deities are bloody and all too ubiquitous.

It is said that like Nyarlathotep, Yhtill may have other guises in which he moves amongst humanity, spreading his seed of decay and entropy, and that in fact the Phantom of Truth and the King in Yellow may simply be faces or avatars of Yhtill. Like all Old Ones, Yhtill is connected to the stars; in his case, the Hyades constellation, which has not yet altered enough to send him into the torpor that entraps the rest of his kin, though the stars are moving and his power is much diminished. Still, Hastur slowly grows outward, like a cancer, absorbing the surrounding lands and towns, and if something is not done soon, many fear the burgeoning world of men will be consumed by this mad plague.

Game Notes for Hastur
Characters who choose to adventure in Hastur should be subject to a truly alien, creepy and maddening experience. It is recommended that any DM wishing to run adventures set in Hastur read the fiction of Robert W. Chambers, as well as certain H.P. Lovecraft stories, amongst these, "The Festival," which is the first appearence of the Servitors of Yhtill.

Adjudicating madness in an OD&D game is not an easy task--there are no Ability Checks per se, though if the DM wishes, for every day spent in the kingdom, players can roll 3d6, attempting to stay under their Wisdom score, to avoid developing madness of some sort, perhaps with increasing penalties per each day or week spent in the kingdom. The game effects of madness are left to the DM, though the d20 Hypertext SRD offers good descriptions and guidelines for game-related madness and sanity that could be streamlined and adapted for use in OD&D.

Cassilda and Camilla should be treated as 15-HD Succubi with AC 3 and the following additional abilities:

* Regenerate 1d6 hp of damage per round.
* Drive hopelessly insane any who mate with them. Victims will be slavishly devoted to and obsessed with serving and pleasing their new mistress. Should any victim be reduced below zero energy levels by a Gray Sister's energy drain ability, he (or she) becomes a Hell Hound in the service of the Sister.

Hell Hounds use the statistics for Werewolves (Lycanthropes, page 14, Volume 2), save that instead of infecting victims with Lycanthropy, they infect victims with an obsession to seek out Cassilda or Camilla (whoever the hell hound serves).

Statistics for succubi can be found in Supplement III, pages 27 and 33.

The Phantom of Truth, should he be encountered directly, will have the same statistics as Coeus on page 15 of Supplement IV.

The King in Yellow the same statistics as Loki, on page 26 of Supplement IV, save that the Yellow King also has the ability to instantly drive any creature completely and irrevocably mad by showing the face behind his mask.

Shantaks Use the statistics of Wyverns (Monsters & Treasure p 3, 11).

Servitors of Yhtill have the following statistics:
#App:1-6
AC: 8
Mv: 10/25
HD: 5
Sz: Large
% in Lair: 5%
Treasure: Nil

They attack with claws or a bite.

Deep Ones use the same statistics as Sahuagin (Supplement II, p.14, 21-23). They appear as follows:
Their predominant color was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked ... They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the nameless design - living and horrible.

Corruptors of Yhtill have the following statistics:
#App:1-3
AC: 4
Mv: 6
HD: 10
Sz: Medium
% in Lair: 5%
Treasure: I

Corruptors of Yhtill are 7' tall and clad in rotting, tattered robes the color of dead flesh. They carry a sickle in one hand and a scourge (cat o' nine tails) in the other. But the physical damage from their weapons is incidental, for every time they hit the victim must make a saving throw against Death or suffer 1d6 points of damage to his Wisdom score, which recovers at 1d6 points per week after the victim leaves Hastur. If Wisdom ever reaches zero, the victim is permanently insane and subservient to Yhtill. Victims reduced to 0 Hit Points before Wisdom reaches zero are carried off by Servitors of Yhtill to be tortured by Camilla or Cassilda until they become Hell Hounds.

Likewise, the Corruptors have an energy drain attack, which causes the victim to lose one level if the victim fails a saving throw against Death. Victims drained of all levels from this attack become Corruptors themselves; Corruptors save this ability for those specifically chosen to join their ranks.

Corruptors do not attack just anyone; they are able to use the second level Wizard spell ESP at will. This they use to detect rational thought and premeditation in those they encounter; any with blank or random minds are left alone. Those acting with distinct purpose are criminals and instantly attacked.

2 comments:

  1. That's pretty nifty. It maybe runs a bit long. It woudl nice to see some adventure ideas as it's hard to see why anyone would go to or be able to operate in Hastur.

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  2. Hastur is one of those places where you're not really intended to adventure for long stretches. These are one of the several countries where the eldritch horrors live, to paraphrase Boromir, "for hundreds of years held at bay by the blood of the people" of Rossika, Ashurii, and even Khem. You might undertake a sojourn into the city to kidnap a powerful (but insane) wizard who has a lost spell, or maybe there's some ancient artifact of the Old Ones that is needed to heal a plague (or even act as a weapon against one's enemies). But you'd want to be in and out fast, fast, fast. The statistics for Corruptors, Hell Hounds, Deep Ones, Shantaks, Servitors, etc., are in case a DM wants to have border skirmishes (or even cults of Yhtill in other places) summon these creatures.

    The gazetteer would've been incomplete had I just thrown in a sentence about Hastur being an alien kingdom of madness, though, so I gave it a full writeup for completeness' sake and so people could understand the mindset and threat of the region.

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