All The Easter Eggs in Creep, Skrag, Creep
By Stephen Newton
“They fastened around my waist another black and silver symboled belt, and set upon my head a chaplet of the black oak leaves. De Keradel drew from his belt the maul and put it in my hand. I shrank from its touch and dropped it. He picked it up and closed my fingers around it. I tried to unclose them and could not, although the touch of the maul was loathsome. I raised the maul and looked at it. It was heavy and black with age… like the belt… like the chaplet. It was shaped all of one piece as though carved from the heart of oak; shaft in center, ends of its massive head blunt.
The mael bennique! The beater in of breasts! Heart crusher! And I knew that its blackness was less from age than from red baptisms.”
– Creep, Shadow! Abraham Merritt
This article is a follow-up to my Developer Diary article for my latest adventure, Creep, Skrag, Creep!. In that article, I noted that two of the strongest influences for the adventure were Abraham Merritt’s 1934 novel Creep, Shadow!, and the 1979 film Alien directed by Ridley Scott—as well as other films like Halloween and The Thing.
Fans of those books who have read Creep, Skrag, Creep! may have spotted some familiar names nodding to those sources, and now I’ll just lay them all out here for your reading pleasure. As always, spoilers ahead, my friends…
Most of the names of the crew of the ship, The Star of Nostro, as well as the backstory as to the PCs being recruited and duped, are an homage to A. Merritt’s novel. That novel is a story within a story—there is the protagonists’ contemporary setting, as well as their “past life memories” in the mythical city of ancient Ys— and I make references to both. Specifically:
- Well, I suppose you could start with the title of the adventure, but that seems obvious…
- Captain Kristene de Keradel: pays homage to the novel’s antagonist Dr. Rene de Keredel.
- The priestess Stone Dahut: pays homage to the novel’s other antagonist – the femme fatale The Demoiselle Dahut d’Ys (also known as Dahut the White when she’s in ancient Ys)
- Warlock Tirrem: Merritt backwards…
- McCann, Lowell, Riccori: all characters from Creep, Shadow! or A. Merritt’s related novel Burn, Witch, Burn!
- Alkar-Az and The Gatherer in the Cairn: while Alkar-Az provides backstory in Creep, Skrag, Creep!, the entity is the driving force of the novel. This is also why Dahut becomes “Stone Dahut” – and all the references to the adventure’s stone demon.
- The Mael Bennique: the dreaded maul used by de Keradel for his human sacrifice ceremonies. By referring to it prominently (without actually making it available in the adventure), judges may sow the seeds for a “quest for it” artifact which can eventually be made available to your players.
By the way, if there was ever a DCC module waiting to be made, it’s chapter 9 of Creep, Shadow! as Alaine requests Dahut to give him the keys to the sea gates—forged by the gods and symbol of Ys—to destroy the city…
- The Creature: The Creature was heavily influenced by the xenomorph from the film Alien. It starts as a small creature and eventually grows larger as it feeds the PC’s livers to its young. The egg sacks which the PCs may find in the bilge are an homage to the eggs where Alien’s “face-hugger” first emerge. The acidic nature of the egg sacks burning their way up through the hull is also an homage to the acidic nature of the young alien creature. Similarly, I didn’t want The Creature to have a specific name, but a name that indicated a presence similar to “The Thing” or “The Shape” or “The Alien.”
- The Star of Nostro: the ship’s name is a contraction of the Nostromo – the mining ship from Alien. During playtesting, one of the players at the table (I believe it was Maxwell Spann, but it may have been Thom Hall) said, “Wait a minute… what is the name of this ship again?” as it finally dawned on him what they were dealing with.
Making the Sausage
The following are some other “behind the scenes” bits of trivia others might find interesting regarding other elements in the adventure:
- Connant: a character from the John Campbell novella “Who Goes There?” – the story that inspired the movie The Thing.
- The Tacuinum Sanitates – an actual ancient text of medicinal herbs.
- The Klabautermann – an actual mythical water kobold! Included when my nautical advisor (Mr. Jim Graziano) mentioned how ships would sometimes carry symbols of benign spirits to provide good luck.
- Creature retreats after eating two livers: this was a game mechanic I came up to give an in-game explanation as to why the creature continually attacks and retreats… attacks and retreats which is common in these types of stalker films. Some of the abilities of the creature (regeneration, ability to transmute to oil) were also included to make sure the creature could not be permanently killed (or trapped) so that it would continue to be a menace through the adventure.
- The Creature attack in the rigging: this is a technique that I’ve blatantly stolen from Harley Stroh – he is a master of writing adventure encounters where PCs not only face a monster, but they must do so whilst simultaneously facing an environmental hazard.
- The Creature attracts iron and leaves slime: lifted from tropes in literature. Why do vampires shun garlic? Why are werewolves sensitive to silver? No good explanation, but it’s fun to put in “quirks” about your monster. In my case, iron will pull towards the creature like a magnet. No reason for it other than to make it more interesting.
- The Creature crawls upside-down down the hull: this imagery was pulled straight from the novel Dracula. Dracula leaves his castle by crawling down the wall like a lizard—rarely shown in movies. It’s an easy way to add some, “That’s creepy…” imagery to your session.
- “Fakin’ Bacon” – these creatures were originally called something like “Demonic Swine Mimics,” but my playtesters insisted I change their name after their encounter with them.
- The Rope Mermaid: Sometimes your inspiration doesn’t come from novels, but comes from crafts that your daughter receives as birthday gifts from her uncle.
- Ibis Pirates: Having the pirates look like the Egyptian god Thoth was just a way to “re-skin” standard pirates to make them more interesting and DCC-like. Similarly the name “Irdy-Es” comes from researching ancient Egyptian priests.
- Bom Homem: according to Google Translate it’s Portuguese for “Good man” – get it… Goodman…
- Quirks, Tattoos, and Pelagia: we modified several real sailor superstitions and tattoos, tweaking them with in-DCC universe creatures (kobolds), gods (Pelagia), and locations (Black Sea of the Aghartan Underworld) – this last one is pulled from Harley Stroh’s “Journey to the Center of Aerth” – a fabulous adventure and one that deserves the full “box set” treatment one day.
- Giant Beaver: in almost every adventure I’ve written, a giant beaver somehow makes an appearance.
So if you would like to experience some of these things first-hand—whether as a player or a Judge—head on over to your FLGS and grab yourself a copy of DCC Horror #5: Creep, Skrag, Creep! Or, if they don’t have it, you can get one through our online store as well!
Have a happy and Creep-y Halloween!