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The Cult of Ubasti

Source:  "The Return of Chandu," Principal Pictures, 1934

Here are some bad guys to bedevil Astounding Adventurers, Cthulhu investigators, and Superworld crime-fighters.

Based on Magic Isle, a fragment of the lost continent of Lemuria, the cat-worshipping Cult of Ubasti is a global conspiracy stretching its sorcerous tentacles from the South Pacific to posh European capitals to the United States.  Its goal is to resurrect the ancient witch-queen Ossana, an event the cult believes will cause Lemuria to rise above the waves and restore the Ubastian hegemony to power.  Members include turbaned priests, primitive tribesmen, sleek Continental noblemen, brawny cat-costumed fanatics, and crude American gangsters.  The cult is quite egalitarian in its recruitment efforts, but as usual failure means summary execution at the hands of one's supervisor.  Since membership is so heterogeneous, cultists identify each other with coins bearing the visage of Ubasti.

Rank-and-file cultists are fond of knives of all sorts, as well as thrown weapons such as darts.  They're not above using firearms but prefer quieter methods of dispatching foes as befits their stealthy goddess.  Fanatics are brawlers who sometimes employ melee weapons.  Priests are skilled hypnotists armed with a variety of narcotics and poisons and sneaky means of delivering them.  High priests display abilities such as telepathy, mind control and the creation of teleportation circles.  How much of this is stagecraft and how much is actual magic is hard to determine.

The cult's headquarters is a tropical lost worlds set piece.  It features labyrinthine prehistoric stone architecture, deathtraps, hungry big cats, chanting natives, cavernous torchlit rooms, secret passages, rock-hewn dungeons, the Tomb of Ossana, and a massive golden cat idol whose eyes are priceless emeralds.  Ubasti's dark powers, if they exist, are strongest here -- an oppressive atmosphere even the most stubborn skeptic can't help but feel.  Is the island seated atop a tectonic fault complete with uneasily dozing volcano?  Maybe.  Will the whole joint go boom if the High Head Honcho's rituals go awry?  What do you think?

So, how does the Ubasti Cult plan to revive Ossana this time?  Because they've been at this practically forever.  The latest attempt isn't their first rodeo.  Hey, they may be crazy but at least they're persistent.  Some possibilities:
 

Ossana was placed in a mystical/super high-tech slumber to avoid or delay the ravages of a dread disease.  Doctor Whatshisname of the University of Southern Someplace has just announced his discovery of a possible cure for said disease.  Guess who the cult's newest recruit is?

The priests of Ubasti believe they can transfer Ossana's soul into a living host but only if the woman is a descendant of certain ancient bloodlines -- such as the player-characters' latest companion, Miss Lovely McGuffin.

Advanced cloning techniques developed at BigMed, Inc., attract the cult's attention.  Why wait on a cure or chance reincarnation when the Lemurians could manufacture an army of vessels for the witch-queen?

Edited by seneschal
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In preparation for an important holiday the Cult of Ubasti is stealing cat-themed artifacts from museums, private collections, and art galleries around the world.  No item is too precious or too small to avoid being targeted.  Jeweled cat statues or mummified feline remains from ancient Egypt?  Sure.  Original 35mm prints of "Cat People" or Felix the Cat cartoons?  Why not?  A giant fiberglas Hello Kitty effigy from downtown Tokyo?  Absolutely!  The World's Largest Ball of Yarn?  Eh, maybe as an afterthought.  Where is the cult storing all this stuff and what does the group plan to do with it?  Enquiring minds had better find out, quickly.

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2 hours ago, seneschal said:

In preparation for an important holiday the Cult of Ubasti is stealing cat-themed artifacts from museums, private collections, and art galleries around the world.  No item is too precious or too small to avoid being targeted.  Jeweled cat statues or mummified feline remains from ancient Egypt?  Sure.  Original 35mm prints of "Cat People" or Felix the Cat cartoons?  Why not?  A giant fiberglas Hello Kitty effigy from downtown Tokyo?  Absolutely!  The World's Largest Ball of Yarn?  Eh, maybe as an afterthought.  Where is the cult storing all this stuff and what does the group plan to do with it?  Enquiring minds had better find out, quickly.

Holy cat people Batman! This sounds like it's right out of Adam West Batman... I love it! :D I wonder if holding up cat nip would have any affect on the cultists, or using a giant laser pointer for that matter. Good work on the story idea.

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24 minutes ago, seneschal said:

I had visions of Julie Newmar while writing it.  😸

My original plan was to have the PCs battling both cultists and a certain supervillainess (DC or Marvel, take your pick).

That is a rather fun game idea. Lee Meriwether's Catwoman kept floating through my mind while reading the story hook.

I have always loved the feel of pulp games, though I have never tried one, nor have I read any. Perhaps I should try it out sometime, and perhaps bring in The Shadow and Doc Savage for good measure too.

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The movie serial this scenario thread is based on is from the right era, with Bela Lugosi as the good guy for once!  Chandu the Magician was, like The Shadow, a radio hero with mystical powers.  He featured in two shows, one before and one after World War 2.

The Cat aka Selena Kyle aka Catwoman would make her debut in 1940.

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No spoilers, but there is also an obvious "Scooby Doo On Zombie Island" connection that could be made.  Or a link to the Stephen King movie "Sleepwalkers."  An ancient, global religious organization could have a lot of forgotten branches, dissident groups and heretics.

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1 hour ago, seneschal said:

No spoilers, but there is also an obvious "Scooby Doo On Zombie Island" connection that could be made.  Or a link to the Stephen King movie "Sleepwalkers."  An ancient, global religious organization could have a lot of forgotten branches, dissident groups and heretics.

I have not watched either of those, though I can get the zombie island connection. I am actually working on a globe spanning cult of my own for the book I am working on based heavily on a cobination of Cthulhu and Giygas from Earthbound. Hints of this cult can be found throughout world mythologies where the cult had interacted with indigenous peoples in ancient times.

How would this cult of Ubasti have spread so far and gained so much popularity to begin with?

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Lemuria was a continent-spanning empire before the cataclysm, sending traders, explorers, troops and missionaries around the planet to found colonies, gather resources, and counter the schemes of its rival Atlantis (whose emissaries were engaged in similar tasks, the dirty copy-cats).  When war threatened, Ossana used the crisis to overthrow the ruling white wizards, install her followers, and enforce the worship of Ubasti nationwide.
 

Both civilizations fell when their respective continents were destroyed, and each side's survivors founded new nations among their overseas colonies.  The Cult of Ubasti was able to re-establish its authority in some of these nations because Magic Isle provided a continuation of the old Lemurian order.  When later generations rebelled, priests took the faith into hiding, re-introducing Ubasti worship in other guises as opportunity arose and influencing events from the shadows when direct political control proved impossible.

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