Behind the Curtain: The Red Eye of Azathoth
What could be the harm? It’s only a book.
If the Blind Idiot God has its way, you’ll be holding The Red Eye of Azathoth before you know it. This adventure anthology, guided by the superbly capable hands of Joshua Stevens, is Open Design’s very first Call of Cthulhu patron project, featuring a senses-shattering series of adventures cast throughout history.
The five scenarios can be run independently or linked for one time-spanning mega-scenario. Two scenarios are already in editing and the others are well on their way to completion. Consider this your handbook for the coming reign of chaos that only Azathoth can bring.
From the Mouths of Madmen
KQ: I caught up with Josh at the asylum… er, rather, while on vacation. In a rare instance of lucidity, he told me all about the project…
JS: ‘Tis said that kings die and nations crumble when the Harbinger Star arcs overhead like an angry scar across heaven’s womb. Ever since men first etched paintings onto the walls of their caves, strange murals smeared in the blood of the slain have depicted the legendary Harbinger Star. Few learned minds give these tales from the misty annals of pre-history much thought, believing the Harbinger Star to be little more than myth.
The night sky is awash with a sinister, crimson hue. After centuries of tracking it on charts etched in bile, using profane instruments that would destroy weaker men, it has finally returned from the darkest reaches of space.
The Harbinger Star is here, and the End is nigh.
The Red Eye of Azathoth is a Call of Cthulhu anthology of five disturbing adventures, spanning five different eras. The adventures are linked together with a new mechanic that allows investigators to recall events from their previous lives, or the adventures can be freely played as standalone one-shots.
What’s it all about? Over 4,000 years ago, in what we now call China, a pig herder tending his swine felt an alien presence approaching. The Harbinger Star called to him like it had no other, and the pig herder knew the star for what it truly was—a link to dread Azathoth. His mind touched that of the slumbering idiot god and was forever shattered. Climbing the nearest peak, the formerly illiterate pig herder lived out his days scribbling strange runes on the flayed skins of his pigs and collecting them in a massive tome. Known as the Codex of the Harbinger Star, this tome contains numerous queer passages presaging the coming of Azathoth and holds the secrets to summoning him.
Madness such as his could not be contained to one lifetime though. Working eldritch blood magicks upon himself, Lei Peng the pig herder became Azathoth’s one and true prophet and has worked throughout history to awaken his god, reincarnating again and again to achieve his ends.
Lei Peng has unlocked the secrets of the five Darkest Rites necessary to awaken Azathoth, cause the Harbinger Star to crash into the earth, and end life as we know it… if we’re lucky.
Unraveling the mysteries of the codex could be the investigators only hope.
Each adventure takes place during a critical moment in history, whereby Lei Peng reincarnates anew to undertake one of the five Darkest Rites. Soon, the investigators will learn that the Denizens of Leng are involved, and they share a mysterious and dark link to the mad prophet. Will the investigators be able to discover this link, stop Lei Peng, and uncover the truth behind the Red Eye of Azathoth in time?
Each adventure takes place in a different age, based upon a different foreboding line in the Codex:
- “That which is Dead Shall Refuse to Lie,” by Tim Connors—This scenario takes place in 887 around Lindisfarne. The investigators play as either Vikings or monks.
- “The Silence of Thousands Shall Call to Him,” by Mike Furlanetto—This scenario takes place in 1287 in Japan. The investigators play as noble samurai.
- “Fires from Heaven Shall Stain the Sky,” by Joshua Stevens—This scenario takes place in 1487 in Valencia during the Spanish Inquisition. The investigators play as either church officials or Moors facing down mass execution.
- “A Cold Shadow Shall Swallow Man,” by Phil Surette—This scenario takes place in 1587 in Roanoke. The investigators play as famous colonists surviving in the Lost Colony.
- “And Waves of Blood Shall Devour the West,” by Edward Reed—This scenario takes place in 1887 around Arizona in the wild west. The investigators play as gunslingers and cowboys trying to stop Lei Peng from completing the final rite.
We have many of the pre-gens turned in for all of the adventures, and believe me, these are pre-gens you will actually want to play. The first two adventures have been turned over to the editor, the third and fifth adventures are near completion, and the Roanoke adventure is still under development.
KQ: Turns out that several of the scenario designers were staying in the same resort, so I got the scoop on their contributions straight from the source.
(Be warned. There are spoilers beyond that will twist your mind and blacken your soul. Make a POW check to continue.)
Tim Connors, “That which is Dead Shall Refuse to Lie.” It is 887 on the tidal island of Lindisfarne in English Northumbria.
Vikings have crossed the North Sea, slaughtered the monks at the holy island, and plundered its priory. Darkness falls, and the blood-spattered pagan invaders sing, drink, and dance around bonfires that ring the priory mount.
For the few surviving Christian monks now in slave chains, it is the eve of the feast of St. Walpurga—the night witches rule before the dawn. For the Viking invaders, tonight commemorates Odin’s death—the night chaos reigns and the dead have full sway upon the earth.
Just after dark, a 3-mile swathe of risen tide swamps the Pilgrim’s Way and isolates Lindisfarne from Northumbria’s east coast. A storm flashes over the North Sea and moves toward the holy island in ominous defiance of the prevailing winds. A mysterious red comet appears in the sky. The tide, which should already be at its height, continues to rise. Blood rain falls upon the bonfires. Tears stream down the captive monks’ faces as they kneel in the mud, raise their fettered wrists to the heavens, and shout fervent prayers in Latin.
As the storm swirls overhead, a man in a bishop’s miter stands atop the priory tower. He appears to command the storm, and with each lightning flash, his colossal shadow spasms upon the smoke of the bonfires.
In this scenario, investigators are a mix of pagan Viking invaders and enslaved Christian monks, forced to work together to survive the night’s horrors. If they fail to work together or if they fail to stop the mysterious figure, not only does everyone die, but a Lovecraftian nightmare swallows everything from Edinburgh to Newcastle.
Michael Furlanetto, “The Silence of Thousands Shall Call to Him.” The red comet returns from the frigid darkness in 1287 amidst the chaos of Kamakura Japan. The emperor struggles with the shoguns of Kamakura to regain the power seized from his ancestors. The great clans fight each other for dominance, respect, and honor. Although the samurai repulsed Kublai Khan’s invasions, the conflicts nearly bankrupted the state. The years to come promise rebellion, invasion, and disaster.
As samurai, the investigators are in the service of the shogun. Each—a hidden scion of an outlawed clan, a genius with the paintbrush who lets his libido run wild, a battle-mad husband desperate for glory, and his ruthlessly ambitious wife—begins determined to fulfill personal and clan goals. But the code of bushido further demands that they be willing to give their own life for their shogun’s honor and survival.
Burdened by these conflicting demands, the samurai embark upon a quest to the birch-clad, steep mountain valleys of northeastern Japan. There, the village of Iwaizumi thrives quietly. The secret of its peaceful prosperity will permit the shogun to rebuild the empire and safeguard his own position. Trapped by snow in Iwaizumi, the investigators discover that while hogs snort, chickens cluck, and rivers babble, no one laughs, no one cries, and no one speaks. Silence rules the town.
Soon, investigators learn that the secrets of Iwaizumi transcend mortal concerns. The villagers have been cultivated for decades. Now the time has come for their role in a millennium-spanning plot. The investigators must foil this plot with their courtly sophistication and their sharpened steel. If they fail, their shameful deaths only presage the horrors in store for the rest of humanity.
Joshua Stevens, “Fires from Heaven Shall Stain the Sky.” The year is 1487, the place is Valencia, and the Spanish Inquisition is in full swing.
The newly christened “Spanish Empire” is aggressively expanding across Europe like spilled ink on unsuspecting parchment. It has been a long 8 years since King Ferdinand ascended the throne of Aragon and merged his lands with that of his wife, Queen Isabella. Valencia, formerly a small independent kingdom in its own right, has begun the slow transitioning process into part of Ferdinand’s new Spanish Empire.
Before Ferdinand officially merges Valencia with Spain, however, Valencia must become a proper Christian holding. To that end, Ferdinand has appointed the young Archbishop Esteban del Cassandro, the “Bull of Valencia,” to oversee the Inquisition’s progress there. Tasked with rooting out and eliminating all remaining moriscos (Spanish Muslims who have converted to Christianity in name only, but continue to practice Islam) and other undesirables, the archbishop has taken to sanitizing the streets of Valencia in the blood of heretics, both real and imagined.
A stifling climate of fear and suspicion grips Valencia by the throat. Few people can be trusted, as neighbors turn on each other, selling friends and family to the Inquisition’s agents, never to be heard from again. The walls of every building seem to have ears ready to devour any whispered secret and deliver it unto the agents of the church. Racial tensions between the native Valencians and those of Moorish descent continue to build, spilling into open bloodshed with increasing frequency. Suspected heretics are regularly seized in the night, tortured and maimed, and soon burned at the stake in public squares following mockeries of proper trials.
Amidst this bleak landscape, rumors abound that the Moors have taken to fighting back. Several priests have recently turned up dead, gruesomely slain by Moorish assassins. As if all of this weren’t cause enough for concern, an impossibly large wingspan was seen last night against the backdrop of the full moon. Many say that it was an angel, come to pass judgment upon Valencia, as Sodom and Gomorra were judged so long ago.
With an angel’s judgment hanging heavy over the kingdom, the Holy Spanish Inquisition, tasked with separating the righteous from the condemned, will surely step up their efforts to identify the wicked for the good of the empire and all of the Christian souls within it.
Either as agents of the church given orders to find and apprehend these Moorish assassins or as Moors trying to stem the coming genocidal tide, the fates of thousands now rest on your shoulders.
The days to follow will be bloody indeed…
Edward Reed, “And Madness Shall Devour the West.” It is 1887 in the Arizona Territory as Lei Peng races to complete the final steps to summon Azathoth in this anthology’s explosive magic-and-gunpowder climax.
Sandstorms of near-hurricane force, stalked by things worse than wind, have sealed off a lonely mining town now known only as Desperation. The gale howling across the badlands carries so much sand that a false twilight of shifting shadows fills the streets by day. At night, the Harbinger Star’s lurid glow pierces the dust with uncanny clarity, creating a haunted landscape of silhouette against the red. Haunted and afraid, with little more than stealth, cunning, and swift justice of their revolvers, investigators must navigate through a community tumbling over the brink of starvation into madness in order to unravel the last skeins of the mystery before confronting the full Mythos horror of The Red Eye of Azathoth.
Check out The Red Eye of Azathoth while you still have some SAN to spare. The Crawling Chaos commands it.