Elder Sign
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Basic Information

In the Cthulhu Mythos, the Elder Sign is a protection against the minions of the Great Old Ones. However, its description varies widely. In "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", the first appearance of the Elder Sign, it is a gesture made to ward off evil. In "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", 'the Old Ones' signs' are symbol-engraved stones, and it is this interpretation that became accepted in the later Mythos (due to Derleth's use). There are at least two different versions of the Elder Sign in canon - one a deformed star with an eye like shape in the middle and a second resembling a twiggy branch … another version, supposedly similar to a swastika is, for some unaccountable reason, much less widely depicted.

'Star stones' engraved with the Elder Sign are a common fixture in Mythos stories, especially those drawing heavily on Derleth. In the Derlethian interpretation of the Mythos, the Elder Sign was used as part of the sealing in of the Great Old Ones by the Elder Gods. "Star Stones" also appear in significant parts of Lovecraft's own work - At the Mountains of Madness featuring extensive use of them by the Elder Race.

The creation of the Elder Sign has been ascribed to N'tse-Kaambl.

The Elder Sign should not be confused with the Voorish Sign or the Yellow Sign, which are both very different things.


Game and Story Use

  • An invaluable tool in Mythos games; while it may not be entirely reliable, characters in such games need all the help they can get!
    • Speaking of "not entirely reliable", a game needs to decide what an Elder Sign does. Is it a barrier against Mythos entities, a mark that they fear, a spell that reinforces local reality, or just a dangerous illusion of safety?
  • Need to be used with care - it detracts heavily from the "cosmic horror" aspect of the Mythos to have investigators running around waving Elder Signs like a Joss Whedon character with a crucifix.
  • World-builders are encouraged to develop their own esoteric symbols (hopefully not too similar to a swastika), especially if they intent to include eldritch abominations.
    • Those symbols having weird properties (creating a remote presence of the being, repelling the being's enemies, allowing possession of anyone carrying it, decaying any surface it's written on) is optional but entirely in genre. The symbol might have a fraction of the being's power, or might just be the equivalent of a cross necklace or a way of safely writing about "entity-we-will-call-Donald" without using its name.
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