Friday Game Notes 20: The Book of Excruciating Knowledge

Friday Game Notes are a weekly post of the random and essentially unedited setting and character notes I wrote before the game. This was written for my home group and was never meant to be seen online. BE WARNED!

Hello, my name is Ink and I am the spirit of an ancient dead sorcerer and I am writing this book that you hold in your hands, or at least are looking at. I’m am writing it through the hands of Leslie Middleton, another sorcerer of some power whom I inhabit. The topics I shall write down are the true nature of the universe in as close as a way as you can understand as I am able to put down, almost as I explained it to Leslie.

First I shall give a short and modest account of myself. I am, or really was (I was annihilated for what I knew and perhaps impiously commented on) a massively powerful entity that humans would describe as a sorcerer. Whether I was a human or not is rather immaterial at this point, since my consciousness soon eclipsed the potential for my possibly human brain. All you need to know is that I was around in Hyperborea, I even knew Ibon before his heyday and before the inquisition chased him off to Saturn. Later I kept my head low until after the Hyborian Age. The ancient cults began springing back up in the wake of that mess, so I scuttled back out and joined up with some of them. But I got zapped a little bit later and got all tangled up with some scrolls and then buried in a lead box. Rather inconvenient. But eventually I got dug up and I showed a young man some interesting spells.

Then Leslie & co. found me and I hopped to Leslie for a bit of change of scenery.


Azathoth Explodes

You know, that theory about an egg of all matter and energy exploding into the universe you guys have is pretty close. Though so are pretty much every myth cycle starting “first there was nothing and then there was something.” You guys have the gist. First there was nothing, then there was Azathoth. He/it/whatever is sort of like… a big ball of nuclear explosions. Some books say he is daemon sultan sitting on a massive throne in the center of all chaos. Imagine there suddenly is a giant explosion but that explosion keeps on exploding and Azathoth (not his real name btw) is at the center with all of these universes and dimensions folding and orbiting outwards from him. At the same time there was the Nameless Mist and Darkness. You know all that stuff you guys can’t find? Yeah, that’s them. Dark energy and dark matter respectively. But you can’t have anti-something without the something right? Though really it’s the other way round. So from Nameless Mist we get Yog-Sothoth and from Darkness we get Shub-Niggurath. (Sort of their real names, so much as things like them can have names. Also they don’t really have gender but I’m going to call YS a he and SN a she just to make the sexy parts later make more sense to you.)

Your mystical people, and even Ibon, who I guess got it all wrong when he was listening to Tsathoggua, seem to think that YS and SN are actual gods or something, but really they just are. Like I said Azathoth is the center of chaos, all the other stuff (but not the Nameless Mist and Darkness, you guys don’t need to worry about them)  is SN and all the overlaps between all the dimensions and layers and galaxies and things are YS. And when I say everything and all I mean it. SN is  all matter and YS is all energy and the gate and the key and the always etc. etc. bla bla bla.

Here comes the fun bit though, while YS is sort of chilling out being a hole in everything and SN is filling up everything with stuff well the two of them get chatting and out pops Nyarlathotep. (I’ll use “he” again, but again isn’t really applicable, honestly if it didn’t confuse you all so much I would just use “entity” or “constant” or something, but I guess personification does work alright) Nyarly, the old boy, is the stuff that SN and YS do to each other. It’s pretty gross at first but soon there’s more high brow stuff forming, like sounds. Nyarly really has to pull to get stuff into high culture and he just keeps trying the poor guy. He’s gotten it so there are some pretty intelligent life forms, and even you apes can put 2 and 2 together even if occasionally it doesn’t. You should really think about any consciousness as Nyarly, though again you guys like to make out he’s some special god.

So there we go, matter is Shub-Niggurath, energy is Yog-Sothoth and the interplay between them all is Nyarlathotep, all leading off from the stupid center of it all, Azathoth, hogger of all glory. Funny how you guys are scared of the dark, really you should be scared of the light, it’s Azathoth after all that keeps on making things brighter and he is far scarier than whatever would happen if he went away. He’s that trend towards everything getting more chaotic and simple. But in the process sometimes his bits rub together and we get more stuff. Imagine if that all went away and everything got all ordered, all long lines and piles each perfectly lined up. Perish the thought. It’s only because Azathoth is so horrible that you humans have gained that weird proclivity for organizing stuff. Like this book, all in chapters and words all linear down the page.


Stuff Actually Starts to Happen

So anyway, that’s how all matter and energy and thought were created. But YS and SN weren’t done. While bits of old Shub were everywhere most of her was trapped in one particular fold of Yog-Sothoth, his cosmic puncture wounds just weren’t large enough to let her fill everything at once. So she grew and grew and grew. You can’t really say it was all one entity. Like I said SN is all matter, so I guess you should just say it filled up, but she does have a sort of mindedness. How could so much stuff not have a mind. Maybe we should say there are tons of little Shub-Nigguraths who keep on making more and more Shub-Nigguraths, and more and more. And all of these start squishing together and that just gets them horny and they make more and more. You get the whole picture. Poor Nyarly is stuck being the contact between them all. It must have been a pretty humiliating process, what with him making music happen and all elsewhere. He’d been rigging up flute players around Azathoth to get the old mad guy at the right rhythm so he would stop making things like SN and YS again when old Shub fills up every part of her dimension.

It’s still there, all squishy with lots of eyes and teeth and other things not at all like eyes or teeth. If you ever feel a wave of dread wash over you, you probably have just walked through SN in a dimensional point close to her. Or maybe not, there are a lot of reasons to feel waves of dread. Maybe a goose walked over your grave in the future. Speaking of which, oops. I guess I’ve made this sound all linear. Don’t forget that isn’t super true all the time (ha). Imagine that Azathoth’s existence is one of those approaching infinity things except not really at all. Think about a mobius strip but worse and then melt it into a single point and feed it to a dog. That’s what time is like for Azathoth and family. (I’m a distant cousin 100,000 times removed)

With SN all filling up a whole dimension (which is super hard to do btw) everything becomes quite a bother. Traveling through hyperspace gets a bit dodgy. You’re ripping past the local groaning polyhedron arabesque and find yourself in amongst SN and when that happens you’ve just put a little bit more stuff where there already is infinite stuff. It makes every thing stretch a bit. That’s why Yog-Sothoth has holes in him. Every time that happens a little bit of true SN leaks out, and that can be bad for whoever finds it in their backyard. Have you heard of the things Druids were supposed to ride? There was only one real one and it made more. Luckily Cthulhu (he’s a cousin, I’ll explain later) squished it.

So SN and YS are dependent on each other. SN can’t survive without YS letting bits of her out and YS can’t be the stuff between everything if there is no stuff and that stuff is SN. And bits of one shoots through the other and eventually we get Nug and Yeb. Nug and Yeb are just names, (not that you guys care, just stick an altar down and you’ll worship anything) they’re just names for all the physical stuff that exists, the stuff in atoms basically. Nyarly feeds a bit of stuff into some of it so that everyone has something to watch on the tely and bang we have existence.


Shub-Niggurath Fills All Space

But filling up her own space isn’t the only thing Shub-Niggurath does. She likes to fill other people’s space too, forgive the obvious joke. (She is a fertility goddess in a lot of cultures) But she can’t do it completely alone, ever since she first began spurting matter everywhere life has begun to go hay wire. Like on Earth the protoplasmic sludge of existence. Well actually that only happened when the Elder Things created Ubbo-Sathla on Earth and she created shoggoths there and that was the sludge. There were a couple of people hanging out on Terra for a while before that. Anyway after life had gotten away from SN on its own. (So remember that all matter is SN anyway, this is why it’s really confusing, just think about the SN in the filled dimension as one SN and all other matter as new SNs.) For SN to spawn more of herself out of her filled space she needs new stuff. When you have filled infinite space you’ve created all possible outcomes of yourself in that space. So if you can give SN some new stuff she can create a new iteration and can spit out some of her old stuff in its place. That’s what Ibon named Dark Young. Or what Blake thought might be shoggoths. They are pretty much the same thing, but like I said they’re a bit different. The ones that come from her dimension have had an infinity getting squished, so they’re a little nuts and pretty simple.

Most of SN’s worship on any planet or plane or in any dimension is just a way to give her more new stuff. She’s like the most materialistic being in existence except the matter is alive and conscious. Think about all of the DNA you give her every time you spill some blood, each strand is a new pattern for her to weave in herself. Maybe she’s hoping to find just the right combination to turn herself back the other way. For all the hard work people do to help her, she doesn’t really do anything back. You might get a nifty servant from whatever she “spawns” off at the time, but your just as likely to get horribly consumed by a slobbering Yaght or whatever other random thing comes out of there. So really most Black Goat With a Thousand Young  worshippers get the short end of the stick, all pain and no gain.

Old Shuby can push into other dimensions when she needs to. In yours she often appears as a black fog typically near goats of some kind, giving her the nickname. Sometimes she’ll make deals, I think she likes to pretend to care. She’ll promise people children or will protect them herself. Some of the oldest cults deal with her one way or another. All fertility goddesses come from her, and Pan as well. Though Dionysos was Yog-Sothoth’s brat.

Her children don’t really live that long. They are horrible masses of vaginas and dicks and teeth. Multiply that image by three and make all of those things gnash. These things are bad. Often they are just mistaken for Shub-Niggurath in person. These children give off smaller children. These are a little more predictable and usually look like a tree. No one really knows why they do. Her main children and these other dark young are pretty versatile and good at getting new DNA for their mum too. Dark young, which despite their tree forms are often confused for shoggoths, suck the genes out of the people who have the misfortune to get caught. Usually the other children have too much of themselves stuck in other dimensions to do their own catching, so instead they let sex starved kids and cultists bring them sacrifices.


Yog-Sothoth Gate and Key and Massive Bore

Nothing could work without Yog-Sothoth being the energy and the fabric of space and time and other dimensions you don’t need to hurt your head about. But if you imagine all that stuff coming off of Azathoth and sort of forming big folds and overlaps Yog-Sothoth is both those things and the overlaps, gate and key as the Arab wrote. (I knew him too, he tried to read me, and boy was he surprised by what happened.) Some of the Greeks had a crazy notion that the only provable thing was existence and so everything was one big immovable existing thing. They would be right if it weren’t for Yog-Sothoth. Yog-Sothoth is the ability to move for any spot to any other spot. And I do mean any. If you figure out how to get to a hyperspace you have traveled through him.

Most of the time Yog-Sothoth is happy to hang out, but his massive power does mean he gets yanked around a lot by jerks. Really it’s all Nyarlathotep’s fault. The big N. went and told people about Yog-Sothoth and how he could make time travel happen and other powers too, immortality, bringing back the dead, second and third chances at your failure of a life. A whole race took him up on it and decided to express mail their entire species of minds. Took over another planet and another and another. Stuff like that isn’t that healthy and it generated its own problems later on. Luckily because he is the lines and folds between all dimensions YS isn’t in any of them. So when people call on him it can strain everything a lot.

You know how a lot of people say there are holes in time and space and stuff, well they’re right, this is where YS has pushed closer to an actual physical dimension. These are the times when people can see YS properly. YS doesn’t really have a consciousness  as such, not like SN. It’s only when he’s popping into to check on people that he can be said to have any mind. He also can be seen in people’s unconscious a lot. Typically people can’t help but be aware of him being there. If they notice him they often will start obsessing. More than one so called wizard has let themselves be sucked into him and spat back out the other side.

Depending on where someone sees YS he will look a couple of different ways. If you see him in your dreams he might look like a man standing behind a veil. (The veil is to keep you safe, ignore the man behind the veil.) If he’s in physical space his dimensionality is perceived as a reflection of however many dimensions you can see at once. In your 3D space he looks like a whole bunch of soap bubbles. I guess I should explain how this sort of stuff works. I can’t really give you the true run down, honestly you just wouldn’t be able to take it. So Azathoth is the center point, Yog-Sothoth is a whole bunch of lines shooting off into space and time. Some of you humans like explaining dimensions with right angles. You take a point add some lines add a right angle and get a square, add more right angles and get a cube. By then you’ve run out places to put right angles, so you guys stick some right angles in there anyway and get a hyper cube, etc. etc. The easiest way to think of layered dimensions is more like color tints in an ascending order. If like me you’ve learned to actually use all of your senses you can flick through the tints adding a dimension at a time. Another good example is what would happen if an apple moved through a two dimensional space. First a point is visible that grows to a line and then shrinks again. In higher dimensions, lets say tinted red you can see a larger slice. If you flipped quickly from a lower dimension to a higher dimension you would see some beings that appear as a small bird here but gets bigger and bigger and bigger until it’s a tentacle covered monstrosity. Looks kind of like a cone.

This makes Shub-Niggurath even scarier if you think about it. She is all matter (including you) so when you start looking in higher and higher dimensions the connection to her gets more and more visible, everything starts looking like it has strands stretching off into space which eventually gets thicker and thicker and thicker until we see her wholeness. If you ever have the misfortune to visit the higher dimension which SN has filled you would be able to find the portion that is your mother in lower dimensions. That’s why it’s so bad to add more stuff to her.

You probably shouldn’t think about YS as a person or god or anything, just use his name to describe the stuff between. That between stuff is potent as anything that has been squished into an infinite small place. It tends to have a pretty bad effect on any normal matter it touches. That’s why YS made Nug and Yeb with SN and why some wizards have gotten YS to make babies with their wives. YS is a subtle one since he’s just always there. Every time anything else shows up YS is there a little bit, as the gate that they traveled through or the hole they ripped in the universe.

You can actually travel through YS if you want. If you think about how your three dimensioned space is made up of an infinite amounts of two dimension planes and how much quicker it is for you to move through those than something that was stuck at 2D. Well travelling through YS is like that, a lot quicker moving through space and time than you can do under your own power. We can call this hyperspace for ease of use.

Of course hyperspace is pretty weird for lower dimensioned creatures like you so it can be pretty disorienting. Everything appears like an abyss of twilight color filled with sound. There isn’t really any of that grey infinite plane you guys always describe, instead it’s a sort of colored space filled with objects, organic and inorganic. You move through it, pushed and pulled and only partly under your own motivation. Your physical shape you don’t want to see. Like I explained how you might look at a higher dimension, now you’ve been projected into a sideways dimension.

A lot of other things are visible in hyperspace. This will be both objects and living entities. The objects will mostly appear as masses of shapes and crazy buildings. The living things are usually more abstract, like weird collages of other animals or art work. Your own perception has a lot to do with it. As stuff moves through hyperspace they appear and disappear, and you can pretty easily enter and exit if you know how to do it, what angles to use and such. But knowing where you will exit is usually the problem. You might end up on a planet with twice your normal gravity or you might end up squished into Sub-Niggurath.

What a lot of artists miss is the sound of hyperspace. It’s filled with the sound of Azathoth, all pounding rhythmically, in tune with Nyarly’s pipers. Shub-Niggurath hums along in her own dimension and over all it all sounds like a constant roaring. Don’t be in hyperspace close to important moments when Azathoth or someone else is especially close to it because you will be made deaf.

Entering Yog-Sothoth is can be done several different ways. If you know the angles closest to the angles of YS near you and can imitate the lines and curves there you can simply step through it. These can look like all sorts of things, an intersection of three lines one place, a complicated pentagram elsewhere. Stone towers are a useful place to make these since YS is often simplest the closer to the edge of a bubble you are.

Once you’ve learnt to get to Yog-Sothoth you can either enter him or use him yourself. You can learn a lot talking to hyperspace, whispers of other places and distant entities. Not to mention rocking out to the tunes of Azathoth and company.

Because of his usefulness a lot of more powerful wizards like to use YS and call on him. Unlike SN where most of his worshipers get the short end of the stick those who make use of YS telephone system tend to get more out of it than he does. Of course you have to be more willed than your average pest or you can be sucked into hyperspace and never return.

Ibon made use by traveling to Saturn to escape the inquisition, and quite a few people like to call him to rid places of harmful matter. This will eventually happen to Earth, wiping all the humans away. Since YS is made up of infinitely small infinitely big weird matter when he pokes through into other spaces things tend to disappear and go haywire. Recently he had a son with some degenerate people on Earth. These abominations soon collapsed in on themselves, but were close to ending humanity as you know it. Lucky for you all of that culture and writing that Nyarly instils in species let some lucky people know how to stop those abhorations.

YS having kids is actually pretty common and it happens a lot when you have young newly pregnant women around gates into hyperspace. Children in general are very susceptible to Yog-Sothoth’s radiation. Just getting close to our dimension causes his radiation to infect kids.


Nyarly brings the Culture

You may have notices that the entities so far are all pretty dumb. Yog-Sothoth abides and Shub-Niggurath just spits out babies constantly. Well, they aren’t entirely stupid, because when they bothered rubbing together communication was born. And communication is Nyarlathotep. Every thought, every word, ever time some sees some other creature move and processes it that is Nyarlathotep. He both invents sentience and is sentience. You humans seem to think you are the epitome of an intelligent creature. Really everything alive has some level of though, some level of this electron makes this electron move in a complex fashion.  But you can thank Nyarly for high culture and all the good novels you’ve read recently.

Nyarly is also pretty at fault for plenty of other stuff too. Frivolously letting things think can be pretty bad. SN and YS “think” in the sense that they just do what they do. But if it wasn’t for Nyarlathotep the living things SN throws up actually can’t do anything. At his base level Nyarly is the need for sex that SN’s brood started with. But Nyarly is by nature always bored and soon wanted more. His first deed was to take some of SN’s Young and stick a flute in their mouth. It keeps Azathoth busy to watch their music and dancing. That way Azathoth will keep this little merry explosion going and won’t make more YS or SN than we already have. Can you imagine what would happen if we had two dimensions filled with fleshy SN blobs? And then they met?

Then Nyarly set about giving his newly created “thinking” to other things, some of SN’s more independent dingle berries and soon we had species of creatures that weren’t always mutating as soon as they moved. Cthulhu and the star spawn formed, much later the Elder Things and the Mi-Go were born. Somewhere the original minds of the Yithians tried out time travel for the first time.

Time didn’t exist as a concept until Nyarly made things think. Turns out time doesn’t matter if you can’t die, but if you’re thinking time slowly runs out it turns out you get an awful sense of linearity.

Nyarly is pretty wide spread then. You could probably say he is the closest thing to a God this existence has. Ironically he is usually coterminous with whatever the culture’s concept of evil is. Ungrateful things. He probably thinks that’s pretty funny. He did invent humor after all. He also invented the concept of evil. Again I can’t stress enough that he isn’t simply the “god” of communication and thought, but that he is communication and thought. If you could see him you would see him everywhere, black strings attached to everyone’s minds.

The whole concept may seem a little mystical. I guess it kinda is. I guess the only other thing remotely like him is Yog-Sothoth, in the sense that he connects all minds together like YS connects all space and time together.

The others let Nyarly pretty much run the show since he’s shut up Azathoth. YS and SN just want to exist, Nyarly is permanently bored so he wants to see new stuff happen. He likes to set upon a society and let it run into the ground. He experiments and tinkers. Why do you think humanity invented electricity or the nuclear bomb? Ever heard of Tesla? Or Dr. Dexter? Since Nyarly is culture he can look like whoever or whatever he wants. He can look like anything people believes him to look like.

Nyarly isn’t all fun and bombs, he has a pretty major job to do keeping Azathoth from destroying everything. He scoops up willing subjects to make them into flute players. He has a couple cults that do that for him.  The flute players are probably the most important entities in the continued existence of… well all of this. Nyarly likes his sand pit, so he keeps them playing. Azathoth hums along, reverberating through the universes but keeping everything solid. It keeps YS and SN going and it keeps entropy in check. Without Azathoth continuing his explosiveness we wouldn’t get the complex energy systems that result in things like human bodies. Without him everything would die and line up in rows.

Like I said Nyarly has a sense of humor. Part of that is the cosmic joke he has played on SN and YS. By being communication he is the reason anyone calls on the pair. They get dragged around and poked and prodded because of him. A lot of Nyarly worshipers also worship elements of the other two. This is why Nyarly is often likened to a messenger of the gods. Some of you fools have the silly idea he might be some rebellious servant. Bah. No rebellion, more like a man with a plan who can harness chaos itself. Speaking of which if you have ever wondered why Nyarly has bee called the crawling chaos, think about what your local film culture is like. Crawling? Chaos? Yup.

Also unlike YS and SN Nyarly likes to get personal, he goes and meets his creation in a way that YS and SN don’t like to do. Being constantly bored is something I am not a stranger too, so I really get where old Nick is coming from. I think his only frustration must be that no one else gets the ultimate joke all of creation’s existence. Ever think about those pleasant moments you are relaxing somewhere feeling warm and good and then imagine how horrible that recent earthquake or war must be, how someone somewhere is screaming in pain and hunger or someone is dying slowly crushed under rubble. That’s why wizards happen. People who want to break away from it all, grow bigger, learn more. Nyarly humors them, shows them the places they can get close to YS or find some of the great great great great… great great… great grandkids of SN to summon.

These people begin using understanding to build themselves up and make themselves immortal. Several clever ones have checked out how the future goes and one of them painted it in big Mobius strip of an underground tunnel. Of course Nyarly likes setting these guys up and pushing them down, promising great power and then letting some underdog stab them in the back. I’m not bitter at all.

He also has countless cults all worshipping him in different forms. They understand how important he is, just not how he’s important. There are savage cults of murderers, cults of surgeons who want to live forever, and witch cults worshiping the Black Man.

He must sound pretty cool, but Nyarly isn’t all powerful. Like YS doesn’t have big enough holes to let much of SN through, Nyarly just can’t fit enough of himself into certain dimensions. You should be glad the important parts of you exist in such a low dimension. It keeps Nyarly from just blowing Earth’s dust away wholesale. Instead he has to finagle work arounds. The other day he tried to get his cults to work together to bring him enough DNA to build an earthly body, but then he lost interest and set some humans up to knock it apart again. I think Earth has become a bit of a pet project for him.

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Author: Nicholathotep

I am a LEGO builder, writer, and traveler.

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