Silent Legions is an OSR Loftcraftian toolbox game. It has a simple system, mostly the same one powering many of his other releases (like the amazing Godbound). But Silent Legions isn’t just a CoC-style investigation game. Instead it’s a toolbox for creating your own Mythos -- elder gods, aliens, cults, relics, tomes-- and using them in a sandbox horror game. It also isn’t a Cthulhu game, instead it provides amazing random generators to build an experience that feels like one. That means even CoC vets remain uncertain about what they’re facing. Crawford's smart use of walk-throughs for many the many tables keeps the book together.
And at the back of Silent Legions there’s a one-page set of Luchadore variant rules. They’re one of several bonus pieces that came from Kickstarter backer requests. These rules make the characters closer to Godbound’s heroes. Heroes can dish out and take serious punishment in combat. They’re still limited on skills, saves, and sanity but they can go toe-to-toe with the baddies.
To run my two sessions I worked through all of the book's tools. That splits into two parts. First, generating the Mythos itself. That includes the pantheon, an alien race, an otherworldly place (called Kelipots), a cult, and an alien artifact. The second part, adventure creation, builds on that. Silent Legions is intended to be a sandbox game. You generate a region, a set of locations, and then troubles in those places. Then you can drill down to generate ideas for a specific scenario for the evening.
Below you’ll see what I generated. Most of it’s the raw material I created. Crawford’s book covers fleshing those details out. But since I’d only be doing two sessions, I just generated the basics for outline and inspiration. At the end I sketch out the my scenario built on this. There’s a ton of unused material. I really only worked with two the nine locations generated. I could easily run a longer weird investigation game from this. You can check all that out below. If you want to see the Actual Play videos, I’ve posted them (Session One, Session Two). If you just want to hear the group’s thoughts about play, we take couple of minutes on that at the end of S2 (2:11:30 time-mark).
Theme: Malevolence and Violence
Five Deities, all connected to the same pantheon. Aspected: The gods each have multiple aspects with different apparent personalities.
- Ungycrig Kegil: Empty Sky Diviner
- Sharp-sided W’thoth: Sultan of the Greys
- Cxidaoath: Bloody Thirsting Serpent
- Burning Rnyc’mu: Smoking Disease Seer
- Yaim-Zu: Ravening Feaster of the Wastelands
- Arrived within the past thousand years or so.
- Not known because some humans work to assiduously clean up evidence.
- A selection of alien technology kept by human heirs remains.
- They were colonists seeking to expand their species’ influence.
- Humans are wondrous and utterly fascinating to them.
- Some animals are secretly under their control.
- Their human minions ran wild and slipped their control.
- They lost influence when those human minions ran wild and slipped their control.
- They prefer to work through human agents and catspaws.
- They have an advantage through knowledge. They know what others have forgotten.
- They’re in this region because this location provides ideal spawning material for them.
- They fear rivals. Some other aliens threaten their destruction
- They control minions through bribery. The pay is far more than minions can earn.
- They admire devotion and blind worship by those beneath them.
- They hate faith and piety, hating human religions and having none themselves.
- Congery of geometric shapes: roiling mass of infinite tubes. Parasitic eggs, poison, viciousness, slenderness. Weeping sores.
- Digitigrade arms. Small mouths on hands. Mantis-like head. Flayed skin. Obese torso. Fanged Jaws. Metallic Tentacles.
- Liquefies its food. Shrill and piping voice. Moves as if to strange dance. Feeds on the Sick and Weak.
- They inject an enslaving ichor in prey, forcing a Mental Effect save or the victim becomes their helpless thrall.
Thuagn, The Monstrous Underhaunts
- An Earthen Swamp which is a Home for Dark Things. What flora there is resembles animals. What fauna there remains is insectile.
- There is a population here inspired by a twisted version of Pre-Columbian New World (Aztecs, Incas, Mayans). They’re frozen at this technological and cultural level, the very nature of the Kelipah keeping them locked in place.
- The people only exist in settlements scattered around the region.
- Despite that rigidity and dwindling populace, they possess a striking technology, indistinguishable from magic. They hide any real magic they possess from strangers.
- Thuagn is ruled over by an autarch. His reputation keeps any and all in line.
- As a culture they possess hatred for any who show weakness. The rulers desire more strength and throw themselves into strange rituals and sacrifices to gain the attention of their dark gods. Outsiders bring a panic to the people- they fear their presence may disturb prayers and supplications or even bring the wrath of their gods upon them.
- Ritual Tribute to the leaders dominates their production.
Pact of the Illuminated Messenger
- This cult was founded within the past few decades, being a recent formation. An artist driven by visions of something vast created it. It met resistance from the common folk and rural peoples who dreaded their exactions and sacrifices.
- The earliest recruits numbered the desperate, wretched, and outcast of the society. They had violated the laws and customs of their communities and families and had been cast out as a result.
- The original artist who founded the cult was a washed up hotel landscape painter. He wanted to be the next Thomas Kinkaide. Instead he found mystic truths he used to blast the reason of cultists. So far they’ve managed to hide in plain sight as a seemingly harmless group of artists and craftpersons.
- The cult itself is coldly rational, using the cult’s powers as a mundane tool. They meet in a repurposed school used as an arts center for the region. While the founder once held control, it has become an acephelous group, acting according to alien compulsions. They have cells which share agendas and purposes.
- The cult wants to create an enormous atrocity or disaster. They have vast amounts of mundane wealth. That’s come from a relentless network of market manipulations for their eerie paintings and crafts. Ebay provides their backbone.
- The most knowledgeable cultists serve an avatar of their patron, almost uncontrollable in its terrible power and summoned only in dire need. It is summoned through paintings. They have at their disposal a reporter who pretends they’re really just investigating.
Mask of the Unchanging Shadow
- What do the legends say? Nothing. It is completely absent from occult literature. Despite that, it was was part of the defeat of a great eldritch abomination.
- It was created roughly a thousand years ago by an outer deity for nameless ends. It is said even its creator has no idea why they made it. But it was hurled from its maker in a magical accident.
- Like all such objects it bears a curse. But this one is more minor and annoying than destructive. It causes users to be especially weak against the undead. But that triggers seemingly at random. It is said that magical spells of dispelling will end the curse’s effects.
- The item itself is a mask. It is said to be able to soak up a massive amount of harm. But that protection is limited, being only effective against blunt weapons and fists. Still it projects all of the wearer’s body from such harm. The potent magics can only be used once a day, for about an hour. When struck, the body lands with no visible effect. In order to use recharge the item after a use, the bearer must spend their own HP.
Region: South New Mexico
THREE URBAN LOCATIONS
The locals can’t seem to get enough of killing each other. The homicide rate is enormous for a site of its size, and the local police seem largely incapable or uninterested in checking the violence. The bloodshed might be largely restricted to a certain class of people or certain criminal groups, with the local cops indifferent to who kills who among them. At other sites, it might be endemic through the population, or even the product of a corrupt police department.
- Enemies: Police chief-slash-gang boss, Illicit arms supplier, Homicidal criminal warlord, indiscriminate vigilante
- Friends: Police internal review investigator, Outside government inspector, Local peace campaigner, Local being hunted by killers
- Schemes: Seize a cache of military weaponry, Get their enemies disarmed by the law, Kill a troublesome politician or cop, Make a near-military assault on an enemy-held neighborhood
- Secrets: Firearms are stringently regulated for the law-abiding, The gangs are proxy armies for feuding politicians, The cops are just one more gang with restricted turf, The gangs are seeking to seize full control of local government
- Places: Heavily-trafficked gun shop, Emergency room full of bodies, Constantly-active funeral parlor, Scene of a random drive-by shooting
A blind and terrible power is buried or otherwise sealed away at the site, and a cult desires to remedy this confinement. The power may be an unnatural wound in the fabric of the world, a gate to a strange Kelipah, or an alien intellect that chafes at its imprisonment. The power has drawn a group determined to liberate it, even if they don’t fully understand their own strange urges, and their efforts may range from physical digging to the enactment of rituals.
- Enemies: Obsessed archaeologist, Cultist construction company owner, Maddened local occultist, Alien minion of the trapped power
- Friends: Owner of the land over the power, Rare book collector, Curious geologist, Heir to the family keeping the power sealed
- Schemes: Physically excavate the entity’s prison, Perform the rite that will break the ancient seals, Arrange the bloody deaths that will awaken the power, Foolishly seek to bind the power to their own purposes
- Secrets: The power creates a subtle but unnatural effect on the surroundings, The power is sealed by several important objects, The power grants gifts to those who seek to free it, The locals retain legend of the last time the power was free
- Places: Ancient buried chamber, Park with strangely charged atmosphere, Hidden ritual room, Tightly-secured digging site
The locals have given up. Whatever the cause, they no longer have any hope for the future, and seek to numb themselves with transient pleasures and destructive distractions. Corruption, crime, loss, and oppression are seen as inevitable facts of life, and they will resist any attempt to persuade them otherwise as merely a cruel attempt at deception.
- Enemies: Purveyor of chemical distractions, Predatory loan shark, Political machine boss, Heartless industrialist employer
- Friends: Crusading preacher, Embattled community leader, Successful expatriate returned home, Local determined to break free
- Schemes: Quash a troublemaking local leader, Spread a profitable addiction among the locals, Shut down a project that risks empowering locals, Discredit a source of hope as a mere trick
- Secrets: The local elites rely on a crushed populace, The locals were once rich and important but lost it all, Faith and community were ruined by a sequence of betrayals, Constant plans for renewal always disappoint
- Places: Abandoned church, Decaying crack house, Riotous illegal drinking hole, Street with half the houses empty
THREE RURAL LOCATIONS
High End, Gated Community. This is what I focused on.
The site is being primed as the location of a truly enormous ritual. Building geometry, street layouts, concentrations of people and industry, and other features of the location are being brought into harmony as part of a tremendous work of occult power. Some rituals may require the entire physical geography be molded, while others might only need the right masses of people enlisted. The resulting effect may be subtle, but its successful execution is bound to result in some sort of terrible summoning, lasting curse on the land, or warped apotheosis for the high priest who enacts the rite.
- Enemies: Crazed Masonic architect, Occult-wise tycoon, Mayor-cum-high priest, Diabolical performer
- Friends: Resident displaced for rite, Relative of new cult enthusiast, Engineer concerned over senseless digging, Conspiracy theorist who's right
- Schemes: Arrange carefully-coordinated local disasters, Seize a local building that's a linchpin of the rite, Destroy a local structure that interferes with the spell, Create a large-scale "celebration" that triggers the magic
- Secrets: The ritual has already failed with impending dire consequences, The ritual’s preparations cause echoes of eldritch anomalies, The ritual is embedded in part of a public celebration. The ritual masquerades as a performance or public art piece
- Places: Baffling tangle of streets, Strangely-gutted building, Defiled church, Huge concealed ritual chamber
Has a Dollar General
The site has recently received an influx of migrants. Some might be looking for better jobs, while others might favor the local climate, low taxes, cheap land, or some other point of allure. For small communities this influx can change the character and culture of the town overnight, provoking fear and anger from locals who see themselves suddenly becoming political, cultural, or racial minorities in their own homes. These tensions can easily provoke antipathy or outright violence.
- Enemies: Bigoted local reactionary, Colonization-minded migrant leader, Ruthless native social elite, Migrant political machine boss
- Friends: Resident with ties to both groups, Cooperative group leader, Peacekeeping police chief, Local religious leader
- Schemes: Migrants seek to take over local government, Natives try to effectively outlaw the migrants' culture, Migrants try to drive out natives from "their" neighborhoods, Natives seek to terrorize the newcomers
- Secrets: One group considers itself plainly superior to the hick / infidel / one-percenter / atheist / prole others, The migrants have no other real choice of places to go, The natives are being swamped by newcomers, The migrants want to make the place the same as the one they left
- Places: Newly-built migrant social club, Native-only bar, Old house full of new people, Shop catering to a different language or culture
Orogrande (SR 54)
Kratos Defense & Security, Middle of Nowhere RV Park, Trader Jerrys
Theft and corruption are a way of life among the site’s leadership. Every ambitious local knows that the fast track to wealth and power is to get a position with the local authorities. These men and women methodically plunder the taxes and government grants they receive, keeping the lion’s share for themselves and passing out smaller tastes to those businesses and people who cooperate with their wishes. Even heinous crimes can be hushed up for a bribe.
- Enemies: Glitteringly corrupt mayor, Cynical neighborhood alderman, Political machine bagman, Graft-enriched construction company owner
- Friends: Distressed government accountant, Frustrated tax collector, Suspicious outside investigator, Cheated local business owner
- Schemes: Loot a charity for personal profit, Cover up the dangerous corners cut in an important local infrastructure building, Buy off or kill a persistent troublemaker, Protect a murderous lackey who makes them money
- Secrets: The locals feel no outrage over the graft and consider it only normal, The machine steals from one disfavored group in order to finance amenities for another, Local criminals are untouchable as long as they pay "taxes", Most civic construction is somehow dangerous due to malfeasance in building it
- Places: Crumbling stadium, Impure water purification plant, Building stripped of its interior fittings, Luxuriant government building
Sierra Blanca Peak
Located on edge of the Mescalero Reservation
There is a portal to a Kelipah somewhere at the site, most likely to a particularly unpleasant one. Something may be creeping through the gate, or it may be under the care of a devoted cult, or the portal may be sealed for now but weakening under the effects of time or a cult’s machinations. The Kelipah beyond may not even be miscible with human existence, and whatever comes out is certain to be unwelcome among the locals.
- Enemies: Escapee from a hellish world, Seal-breaking cult zealot, Local possessed by a will from beyond the gate, Blindly reckless sorcerer
- Friends: Heir to a seal-guarding family, Local aware of illegal digging, Victim of a Kelipah escapee, Scientist picking up odd readings
- Schemes: Reach a precious artifact in the Kelipah, Escape from the Kelipah into a delicious world, Widen the door to absorb a building or whole town, Infect local reality with some aspect of the Kelipah beyond the door
- Secrets: The door is not to a Kelipah but is to a different time or planet, Opening the door will cause great local destruction, The door is accessible only when the stars are right, The door is one-way
- Places: Mossy overgrown arch in the forest, Abandoned subway tunnel that sometimes isn’t, Alleyway that twists in alien ways, Nexus of cabalistic streets and monuments
Lost town off of the Sacramento canyon
A place of dread holiness is present at the site, a locus for the power of an outer god or other ineffable power. This altar may predate human settlement of the area or it may have been constructed more recently by devout servitors. It forms a place of pilgrimage for the faithful and tends to warp local residents in ways pleasing to its patron deity.
- Enemies: Demented cult leader, Dream-driven native, Awakened alien high priest, Otherworldly avatar of the deity
- Friends: Afflicted local resident, Concerned native clergy, Relative of a new cultist, Archaeologist who’s discovered too much
- Schemes: Destroy a structure that’s sealing away the holy site, Perform a mass ritual around the altar, Recover a removed piece of the altar, Summon an avatar of the patron deity
- Secrets: The altar has innocently been incorporated into an important building, The faith has infected a local church, The altar is calling cultists from distant places, The altar is changing the natives in subtle ways
- Places: Ill-litten unnatural cavern, Desolate glade, Hidden conjunction of tunnels, Secret chamber in a major building
Overlooking White Sands Proving Grounds
The location was the site of a major disaster. A recent calamity can still be felt, while older disasters were so profound as to permanently scar the site. The locals have tried to accommodate to the new conditions, but many find it difficult, and much that was important here was destroyed or damaged in the event. Fires, floods, earthquakes, plagues, hurricanes, or droughts might all have marked the site.
- Enemies: Religious zealot blaming the sinful, Local official using the disaster as a power-grab excuse, Slum lord housing evacuees, Greedy "collector" of damaged goods and land
- Friends: Determined aid worker, Local trying to make a new life, Disaster relief official, Wearied medical worker
- Schemes: Plunder wealth left unguarded by the disaster, Mobilize the unhomed for a dark cause, Blame an unpopular group for the catastrophe, Use the trouble as cover to eliminate existing authorities
- Secrets: The disaster was man-made, Local elites are stealing the aid, The aid or reconstruction officials are incompetent, There's reason to think the disaster will happen again
- Places: FEMA camp, Neighborhood scarred by the disaster, Ragged reconstruction site, Ruined monument from before.
CULTS AND ALIEN RACES
The Iron Society
They serve Cxidaoath, the Bloody Thirsting Serpent. They’re more openly malefic and destructive. They sacrifice and rather than transform or indoctrinate. They’ve adapt bastardized Aztec rituals and use that as a kind of cover for their work. They’re at the root of violence in Almagordo.
Pact of the Illuminated Messenger
Cult in the service of Burning Rnyc’mu, Smoking Disease Seer. The cult described above. Primary antagonist for the first adventure. They’ve made the arrangements in Cloudcroft, building the community that way for their ritual.
The alien race mentioned above. They serve Yaim-Zu, Ravening Feaster of the Wastelands. They’ve been infiltrated into this area for generations. The Roswell incident arose from their conflict with their rival alien race. Tied to the incident at the Wofford Lookout.
Default scenes of the Hook, the Introduction, the Investigation, and the Resolution.
Beginning from resolution: A hidden Place contains the key to a Scheme. The Place’s existence and the nature of the key is revealed by the investigations, and the PCs must reach it and obtain the crucial object by overcoming the Enemy’s vigilance and concealment.
- The Actor has been killed or kidnapped, and an agent of the Enemy is serving as an impostor to ensure that any inquisitive troublemakers are aimed in the wrong direction. Overcoming a challenge will clue the PCs that something is wrong.
- The clue is tied up with a local Secret, such that finding it means discovering the Secret and drawing attention from those that don’t want the Secret revealed.
- A Friend is actively trying to get the clue to the PCs or other related allies, but their attempt is being hindered by the actions of the Enemy or some intrinsic challenge to the exchange.
A Friend from the site sends word asking for help due to intimations of a Secret or a recent Crime involving them.
The PCs have screwed up very badly and angered the wrong Enemy. A small group of professional assassins is stalking the PCs and will strike at the most inconvenient time possible, but are more interested in dropping them all than doing control shots.
The Enemy is massing their physical forces to stop the PCs, visibly gathering thugs, cultists, followers, or other agents.
Infiltration: The site is set back with little cover for an approach to it.
Finding an Object: It’s buried beneath a drift of unimportant objects.
Information: Information written in a rare ancient language.
Hidden Fact/Needed Skill: Repair the object that hides a vital clue.
People Want: They want a thing, and someone else stole it from them.
People Fear: They fear their professional negligence will be shown.
Hostile: A victim of occult powers transformed into a monster.
Environmental: Toxic dust or residue taints tools or objects within.
OK, so here’s what we’ve got based on those notes:
The Pact of the Illuminated Messenger have been working to craft their plan, a mixture of illumination and madness. Eventually they hope to enact a ritual to spill that madness across the region. To that end they have spent years in a couple of operations. One of those has been the creation of their paintings. They’ve created a regional phenomenon, based on the art of Gabriel Zoido. He’s a Thomas Kinkaide-like figure, the secret master of this particular faction.
Zoido has become a kind of avatar for the infectious madness of his master, Burning Rnyc’mu. He’s become transformed- which has become a problem in some respects. It means that Zoido has become a kind of recluse, still churning out his “masterworks.” These are accessible, lovely, and compelling Southwestern landscapes. They’re super-appealing and have a collectible aspect to them. His Am-Way like network operates to sell and distribute these.
But these paintings conceal something more sinister. Many of them are painted over dangerous works of art: done with special pigments and a vision of the abyss. Then others go through and paint these appealing landscapes upon them. They conceal much but work in some of the original colors and elements. Many of these paintings are actually portraits of what Zoido has become.
In order to do this work however, Zoido’s crew needs artists. They’ve begun to burn through them at an alarming rate. So they’ve turned to kidnapping in some cases and art recruitment in other places. They’ve offered scholarships for low-income art students, they sponsor contests at local schools, and generally cast their net wide.
It was not this net that caught Alana Rubio. Instead one of the cultists spotted Rubio’s talents. She’s a grade-school teacher, but on the weekends goes to local art fairs and shows to do sketches and caricatures. At one of these, a cultist forced on her a Zoido painting, even though she regarded it as trash. She took it home on a lark, hoping to use the frame. The cultists then used the picture to track and kidnap her.
Alana’s father, Arturo Rubio, discovered Alana’s absence. He’s contacted the police and raised a ruckus. In a stupid move, one of the cultists tried to run Arturo off the road—convincing him that something more sinister was afoot. And so through a friend of a friend, he heard about the Luchadores and their skills. He suspect’s he’s being followed or watched—so he surreptitiously goes to the PCs dressing room during their match to leave a note. He then goes to his daughter’s small house.
There he’s ambushed and killed. He’s replaced by one of the Painted Ones, a doppelganger with limited skills and abilities. The cultists are engaged in other activities and will come later to pick up the body. The Painted One’s merely a distraction. He can summon other painted horrors should he need to.
- Alana Rubio’s vanishing
- Arturo Rubio’s efforts
- The Strange Paintings—one of them standing out as weird. Perhaps the body of Arturo Rubio painted in it?
- The Cultist Who Gave Her the Painting: Isaac Huff. Works as a salesperson for the Zoido Galleries.
- Attack on Arturo Rubio: Police notes. Not taking him too seriously. Semi-corrupt cops. Tracing damaged vehicle back. Able to link it to the Ziodo Arts Center in Alamagordo.
- Vanishings of Other Artists: Strange pattern in the area.
- The Zoido Group: Philanthropy
- The Zoido Workshop: Just outside of Cloudcroft. Chemical evidence.
- The Cloudcroft Community: Suburban area. The Zoido Estate. Center of the location for the group.
- Location a tome of unspeakable knowledge: The Sketchbook of Cristóbal de la Cavallería
- Dominica Barnett, Faithless Reporter and Agent for the Cult
- The Painted One and Children’s Painting Nightmares
- Attack by Rudo and associates, hired anonymously. Street Toughs.
- Nameless Painting Horror.
- The Cultists. Zoido as Sorceror. The Avatar of their God.