I mentioned Masks of Nyarlathotep a few days back, talking about the Pulp Cthulhu handbook.
Now, for the uninitiated, Mask of Nyarlathotep is probably the War & Peace of Call of Cthulhu, if not of the whole horror gaming genre.
Granted, Beyond the Mountains of Madness is bigger, and Horror on the Orient Express is probably creepier, but for globe-trotting variety, implied menace, cast of characters and locations, plot intricacies and sheer gaming goodness, Mask of Nyarlathotep remains a classic, sort of the standard against which Call of Cthulhu scenarios are evaluated.
I played it twice, and now I’d love to do a new take – especially considering there’s a new edition out, that adds a whole episode to the plot, taking the adventurers to Peru.
In part because of this bout of nostalgia, in part because it’s research, in a way, I’ve been reading again that wonder of wonders, the seven times marvelous Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion.
That is one of the things that make Masks a special campaign.
I have the Innsmouth House Press edition, that is a slip of a thing 570 pages thick, and features everything.
Now, one step back – one of the great things about Masks of Nyarlathotep is the fact that each episode is full of historical and geographical detail.
From New York to London, from Cairo to Shanghai, from Australia to Kenya, the Game Keeper gets a load of info to help him really bring the world of the 1920s to life.
In the Companion there’s more.
Past the early chapters that tell us the story of the campaign, how it was developed and received – and throw in a nice interview with the creators – we get a full discussion of all the factors the Keeper should keep (aha!!) in mind to run the campaign as smoothly as possible, for the full enjoyment of his players.
From general gaming logistics to creating fake newspaper articles, from keeping the players financed and supported through key NPCs, to the best use of magic, dreams, mediums, recurring characters…
And then each location is detailed – with a chapter providing suggestions for running the episode, and another cartload of historical and geographical and cultural detail.
Maps? You get maps.
Period photos? You get those too.
What a wonder.
If only I had this back when we ran Masks for the first time – in a time in which Wikipedia was a dream in the Great Programmer’s mind, and we had to check out libraries to take notes…
So now I have one last wish – before I die, I dream of running Masks of Nyarlathotep one last time, with a solid, kick-ass pulp gaming engine, and the wealth of information now at my fingertips.
Then I’ll die happy.