Deep Ones! With Guns!
In my Cthulhutech game yesterday, the PCs were dealing with a group of Deep Ones who have apparently taken up residence within the Shore area of Edinburgh. If you’ve read HP Lovecraft’s Shadow over Innsmouth (you can read it here, along with other works of HP Lovecraft at http://www.dagonbytes.com), you’ll know what I’m talking about:
I think 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.
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
For me, what makes the Deep Ones truly horrifying is the fact that they are often descended from humans (and can also breed with them). They are just as intelligent (if not more so), are practically immortal, and have their own civilisation. In the Call of Cthulhu RPG they’re often portrayed as being little more than savage fish-men, there to be gunned down by Investigators – they are brutes hurled at the PCs in order to wear them down. Some of the concepts from Cthulhutech may make some readers uncomfortable, but I should point out that Cthulhutech is supposed to be a game of horror, and you should be horrified at how the Deep Ones act.
However, not all Deep Ones are inhuman – hybrids become more like Deep Ones with age, likely losing more of their human emotions but they can still retain some human emotions and intelligence. What happens when a Deep One hybrid begs for mercy? They will also retain much of their knowledge – remember that Deep Ones are effectively immortal – and they retain any skills and training they might know.
Beneath this placid surface lies monsters
Deep Ones provide a GM with the means to show what the future of humanity might be – from the oceans we came, and to the oceans we may return – and that maybe Earth’s future belongs to the Deep Ones, not humanity. They are the only other intelligent race indigenous to Earth. The numbers of Deep Ones are unknown, but they may rival humanity, especially given that oceans cover 70% of the world’s surface. The Deep Ones also have cities – G’ll-h0o near Surtsey in Iceland, Y’ha-nthlei off the New England coast, and Ahu-Y’hloa near Cornwall – and there are hints of many more. In Cthulhutech, R’lyeh (where Cthulhu’s tomb is located) is lost to the Deep Ones and they are continually searching for it – but its not just lost on earth, it is lost in time.
They can hit any sea coast in the world, and use rapid hit-and-fade tactics when their normal techniques of gradual assimilation fail. Deep Ones likely use the night as cover for their attacks, as the darkness is no problem for them: they are used to the gloom of the deeps, so prefer to avoid bright lights. It also gives them cover as their eyesight is likely poor – much of their long range capability is also reduced by their need to remain close to the water. Hybrids and human lackeys are more likely to provide long-range fire support to enable the Deep Ones get close enough. However, their most favoured tactic is the gradual assimilation of a town, going unnoticed until too late: when they can simply escape into the waves. If you’re a Call of Cthulhu player or Keeper, Escape from Innsmouth covers the infamous raid on Innsmouth which pretty much details such an event.
Deep Ones freely make use of creatures such as dolphins and sharks to spy for them or even hunt for them -such as the prehistoric Megalodon AKA Great White Death in Cthulhutech. Deep Ones will make use of weather sorceries to becalm vessels or conjure storms to cover their attacks. A vessel attacked by Deep Ones will likely never know it is under attack as sentries are silenced, the propellers fouled, and rudder broken. Then the true horror begins as the Deep Ones swarm over the gunwales, cutting down the sleep-befuddled crew with their coral acrutha spears and sreltha knives. When they leave, they take the bodies with them, leaving the vessel adrift as another maritime mystery or sinking it.
Deep Ones are also scavengers of technology and make use of their hybrids and followers in that sense to supply or develop technology. That’s why this entry is titled the way it is. In Cthulhutech, The Deep Ones are part of the Esoteric Order of Dagon (or EOD), and they are part of the EOD military machine – not only do they have weapons, but they have mecha and powered armour. Their weapons use much of their technology (including deep-sea toxins), and they utilise their home turf – the oceans – to their advantage. In many cases they may also utilise other mythos creatures, such as the shoggoths as servants.
They also use infiltration techniques as they did in Ponape and Innsmouth, also using their own “breeding”program in occupied EOD towns – which has lead to some criticism of the Cthulhutech setting. I should point out that the concept of the “rape camps” is pretty much a horrendous concept in itself, and that is mentioned once in CT (and does not go into any detail, thankfully). We know the Deep Ones are alien and emotionless, yet this whole premise adds to the horror as they are driven by base desires.
In the Through the Looking Glass game I’m running the PCs have split into two groups and raiding a former fertility clinic (a long story), used by Deep Ones and their hybrids. However, two of the group have got there first and are heading into the building – and the Deep Ones inside are possibly armed with guns, a fact that the players are only just beginning to recognise… and it has made them pause.
In Call of Cthulhu (and Delta Green), Deep Ones can cause SAN (sanity) loss. What should really worry the PCs is passing the roll and realising that the Deep Ones are packing Uzis. So if you really want to make your Deep Ones really scary, make them unseen, and give them guns.