Friday, January 30, 2015

The Miller Chronicles - 'Who Goes There?' By John Campell And Beyond For Your Old School Campaigns

David Bay Miller has been a friend of mine for a few years in the OSR community and last night adapted The John Carpenter Version of one of my all time favorite films, 'The Thing From Another World' as an OD&D style monster with all of the powers and insights into the classic monster. Right over HERE
But there are more permutations to this alien monster then we've simply seen.
According to Wiki : 
Who Goes There? is a science fiction novella by John W. Campbell, Jr., written under the pen name Don A. Stuart. It was first published in the August 1938 Astounding Science-Fiction.
In 1973 the story was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the finest science fiction novellas ever written. It was published with the other top vote-getters in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.
The novella has been adapted three times as a motion picture: the first in 1951 as The Thing from Another World; the second in 1972 as Horror Express; the third in 1982 as The Thing directed by John Carpenter;[1] and most recently as a prequel to the Carpenter version, also titled The Thing, released in 2011.
But the  John W. Campbell, Jr novella goes into even more detail and background on the 'Thing' itself. You can read that right over HERE.
 The PC's are going to have to be very,very, well prepared to deal with an entity of this magnitude. To get into the kind of scale and deal with the issues of this creature, we are going to have to look back into the 1976 issue of Starscream magazine. A classic sci fi comic series which really adapted all of the ins and outs of Campbell's story. 
StarStream was a very cool and interesting comic that cost .79 cents and was a square bound anthology of classic science fiction tales. I haven't got this comic anymore, it burned up in an apartment fire ages ago. But I do have the tale on tap for your  perusal thanks to the Diversions of the Groovy Kind Web blog.
Right over HERE

All of the classic Starstream issues were collected into the classic Questar Illustrated Science Fiction Classics now available on Amazon right HERE

Right away we notice the differences between Campbell's classic and the film adaptation of the story. The comic captures one of the differences right away, the 'Thing's slight telepathic or psychic ability to scan the minds of its prey. If you haven't read the Campbell novella go do so now,please because there's a major spoiler ahead
Even more the 'Thing' in the Campbell original novella has the ability to cobble high tech super science items from ordinary items. According to the original novella,according to wiki: 
When they reach Blair's cabin they discover he is a Thing. They realize that it has been left to its own devices for a week, coming and going as it pleased, able to squeeze under doors by transforming itself. With the creatures inside the base destroyed, McReady and two others enter the cabin to kill the Thing that was once Blair. McReady systematically forces it out into the snow and methodically destroys it with a blowtorch. Afterwards the trio discover that the Thing was dangerously close to finishing construction of an atomic-powered anti-gravity device that would have allowed it to escape to the outside world.
"No, by the grace of God, who evidently does hear very well, even down here, and the margin of half an hour, we keep our world, and the planets of the system too. Anti-gravity, you know, and atomic power. Because They came from another sun, a star beyond the stars. They came from a world with a bluer sun."
 But these are not the only 'things' that are here among us. There's a more highly evolved version of the species that was encountered by Professor Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee), a renowned British anthropologist, from his expedition in Manchuria in 1906. This was chronicled in the wonderful PD movie, Horror Express a favorite film of mine. The film opens with the following narrative: 

"The following report to the Royal Geological Society by the undersigned Alexander Saxton is a true and faithful account of the events that befell the society's expedition in Manchuria. As the leader of the expedition, I must accept the responsibility for its ending in disaster. But I will leave, to the judgement of the honorable members, the decision as to where the blame for the catastrophe lies..."

You can watch the film for yourself, below. Basically Saxton finds what he thinks is a missing link in a cave in Manchuria and tries to bring it back with him to be examined. He believes it to be a fossil. 

The monster in Horror Express is a 'Thing' right out of Campbell's novella and its been among us since the beginning  of the dinosaurs as it explains to Saxton. The monster in D&D terms is in the body of a Yeti or a Voormis.
The thing is able to psychically assault and boil the minds of its victims as it steals their essence, it is able to do this numerous times a day. The victim must save vs death or die as their minds and souls are absorbed by the monster. It gains 3 points of their intelligence and wisdom from their essence. 

Three times per week this 'thing' may body jump as some of its alien material and soul stuff is passed onto its victim who must save vs death or have their souls obliterated as this alien horror possesses them. 

Once per week it may animate its victims as undead psychic puppet parodies of themselves. These monsters are merely shells filled with negative planar energies who can not see and only attack by the senses of smell and hearing. They're eyes and brains are boiled from the psychic attack of the monster.
As its intelligence is raised the monster will try and find a means off planet, as its ability to cobble together low tech items into higher technologies kicks in.
These horrors are partly of an alien life essence and cell material &  they are also very dangerous to encounter. These things have been moving among our societies since before the fall of Hyperborea and Atlantis.
Even eons before the extinction of the dinosaurs.

I personally think that these alien monsters were creations of the Elder Things from HP Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness from the god essence beneath the ice millions of years ago. By instinct and some alien drive they are drawn back to the former dwelling places of their alien masters for unknown purposes.

These alien horrors should not be used lightly on a party of adventurers but the the truth is that they may be encountered literally in any time period of Earth's history or even in the depths of space or time. They're obvious connection to the Mythos is a plus and their a very flexible monster to use with high level parties. David did an excellent job of adapting the John Carpenter film and the prequels.


  1. Excellent article, and Horror Express is an old favorite!

  2. Thanks very much David, that means a lot, I've got more coming up with this obbession of mine coming up soon.
    Cheers and thanks!


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