The popularity of Netflix series Stranger Things has a lot to do with nostalgia for the kid-focused coming-of-age movies of the 80s, but also the sounds, sights, fashions, and that damned game Dungeons & Dragons.
The other fascination comes from the adventure potential of the Upside-Down and the creeping horror within – nicknamed the Demogorgon by the kids, but something else altogether.
The story progression of Stranger Things is not too far adrift of a Lovecraftian tale. A slow progression, with a brooding menace lurking; a group of outsiders with their own agenda at odds with the locals and with common sense; an investigation over a disappearance that starts out as a missing person case but slowly turns into something more sinister. And, a monster that only comes out for a slow reveal mid-way through and only comes face-to-face for a showdown toward the very end.
Here’s my stab at something akin to the creature itself for The Cthulhu Hack, lurking in the mirror world ready to strike.
WARNING! Spoilers. If you haven’t watched the Stranger Things through to the end, then this entry will contain spoilers of one form or another.
The Demogorgon has a body like some sickening collision between an athlete’s corpse and a bulky hunting dog, with a barrel chest, muscular limbs, and a hungry, animalistic gait – as comfortable on four legs as two. In place of a head, the Demogorgon has a pulpy, fleshy ‘bud’ that expands to reveal a fetid maw surrounded by four ‘petals’ of raw, slavering mouth flesh lined with rows of shark-like teeth.
The horror’s raking claws toy with prey like a cat tormenting a mouse, while it’s necrotizing spittle slowly diminishes a victim’s strength to resist. Eventually, a victim either dies and becomes the next meal or remains barely alive serving as a living incubator for the horror’s larvae.
The horror can exist in environments inimical to life, even poisonous clouds or completely submerged. It moves with stealthy, swift, padding steps when ahunt, using its short, muscular tail for both balance and an additional bludgeoning attack. Lacking eyes, if hunts with a keen sense of smell and a blood-sense akin to a shark.
Once in possession of prey, it can vanish in an instant, giving it time to enjoy the poor victim’s final moments – or make the still living prey incubator for a living, hungry larval young.
Actions and Specials
2 Claws (1d3), 1 Bite (2d4), 1 Tail (1d6); Mirror Strike – the Demogorgon always attacks in the first round of combat, unless surprised, with Advantage and +1 to all damage; Whispers – the hypnotic whisper of the Demogorgon means all opponents must Save vs WIS each round to avoid creeping paranoia, allowing the horror to attack with Advantage; Necrosis – the Demogorgon has a necrotic bite, Save vs CON or take d6 damage and lose 1 point of CON per round; Upside-Down – the Demogorgon can phase, or teleport, to a DISTANT location instead of defending itself and if it makes a successful attack on the same turn, it can elect to cause no damage and take the victim with it; Swallow – the gaping shark-toothed maw of the Demogorgon means that any natural roll of 20 to defend results in the horror half-swallowing the victim, inflicting 1d8 points of additional damage; Resistance – immune to poison, toxins, radiation, drowning, suffocation and pressure; Weakness – the Demogorgon takes double damage from fire.
[Smokes] The hunters sit brooding over their drinks, tight-lipped; but, gentle probing gets them to loosen up a bit. “Sometimes the forest can be a dark and unforgiving place and, in the wrong frame of mind, it can feel like you’re the hunted rather than the hunter. Last trip, down near the lake, I heard something slithering near the water side, something that stayed out of view; a shadow out of the eye’s corner, worrying the mind to distraction. The movement and sounds were enough to set a man afraid of everything; then we came across a fresh kill. Blood warm and thick, limbs still twitching. The utter horror on the animal’s lifeless, staring face… well, it can worry even a seasoned hunter like me.”