Question Time: Research and source material for the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion

M.J. Medwick asked:

I’m interested in your research process for emulating period-specific media – are there particular online resources the authors tend to favor, or is much of that work done “boots on the ground” in libraries and archives?

Speaking personally, I used a mixture of my personal library, internet research, and a few jaunts to the libary.

My personal book collection includes:

  • My mostly complete collection of Call of Cthulhu titles.  Great for finding scenario connections and to see what has come before.  In this case I made use of Secrets of New York, The London Guidebook, Green and Pleasant Land, Kingdom of the Blind, The Cairo Guidebook, Secrets of Kenya, Terror Australis, Delta Green: Countdown, and (of course) Masks of Nyarlathotep.  There were probably more…
  • The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia by Dan Harms.  This is the one book to get.  It summarizes all the major (and minor) elements of the Mythos plus a helpful guide to the relevant fiction and it is where I turn first.
  • Ex Libris Miskatonici by Joan Stanley.  A fictive catalog of the Miskatonic University library special collection, it was one of the primary inspirations to my approach to tomes in the Companion, treating them as real books, not just generic bits of treasure that confer a few spells and points of Cthulhu Mythos skill.
  • Period guidebooks (Baedeker, Rand McNally, Muirhead) to London and New York.  Those before 1923 can sometimes be found in Google Books, which is also a great place to check.  Also a 1927 World Gazetteer, basically a very small atlas with some national stats in the rear; I used this to double-check placenames… which are often different than modern ones, especially outside of Europe and the Americas.  Ditto for archaic transliterations in Asia (Wide-Giles in China, for example).

Beyond this on specific points it was a lot of internet searches reenforced by trips to the library as needed… the internet, despite certain advantages, has its limits.  Google books is a helpful resource, especially since books up into the 20s are now in the public domain and therefore are available in full text, searchable form.

Finally, the Library of Congress photo archive is fantastic, with lots of high resolution TIFF images available to you the tax payer.  Similar archives exist for the UK and Australia.  I’ve used it as the source for the image on this page, for example.


Any more questions?


MoNC proof-reading and housekeeping

A grab-bag of quick points today:

  • I’ve posted a notice looking for proof-readers for the final round of proof-reading for the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion on
  • I’ve updated the Lovecraftian rpg products for 2012 section of the site to include the first release for Achtung Cthulhu as well as to include the Macabre Tales system.
  • Tom Phinney has decided to give Kickstarter another try with Cristophoro.  He’s lowered the goal total and modified the rewards.  Give it a look.

That’s all for today folks!

Question time: The MoNC and its wider applicability

MJMedwick writes:

[M]y understanding of the Companion project suggests that it could be a useful sourcebook for classic-era scenarios and adventures beyond the Masks campaign itself. Aside from content related to Mythos tomes, any general thoughts to share on the versatility of the book’s content?

Huzzah, a question!

Our goal for the bookI was to write something that would aid Keepers trying to run MoN, so much of the content is specific (articles on the Cult of the Bloody Tongue or the Sword of Akmallah, for example) but, as I’ve found in reading various Call of Cthulhu books over the years, more of it is of general utility than you might expect, given the book’s goals.

Probably of the greatest utility are the location write-ups that anchor the New York, London, Cairo, Kenya, Australia, and China chapters.  Of these places, only Kenya has a sourcebook that I feel adequately addresses the place (David Conyers Secrets of Kenya).  William Jones Secrets of New York while helpfully being in print glosses over logistical issues that may arise in the campaign and, more damningly, utterly ignored everything else ever written about NYC for Call of Cthulhu- no mention of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, no reference to Prospero House, etc.  London, Cairo, and Australia have sourcebooks but all of them are out of print (though available as PDFs at long last) and none are ideal, particularly the stiffly written Cairo book that seems to be primarily based on a single source, the 1914 Baedeker guides.  Beyond supplementing these sources (and I’ll confess the weakest is my NYC one, as it was written first as a model), we have a fully written London AND Shanghai by Kingdom of the Blind author Anthony Warren, not to mention an actual discussion of Hong Kong, a place mentioned but left explored in the original.  These piece might not replace a sourcebook (though in the case of Shanghai, it really could serve as one) but I think they will be of great interest to anyone running a game set in Cairo, or Kenya, or Australia…

Of secondary use I would say are the places we add some depth to the vibrantly painted world described in MoN.  This would include articles about the various Cults in the campaign, Tomes, pieces on building and keeping a party of investigators moving, even the more generic advice on how to run a long-term game or campaign.

Finally, if you are even in need of a last minute investigator, we have almost 30 pregenerated characters handmade by Matthew Pook.

Fonts, stones, and other odds and ends

A couple quite items to note-

First off, Thomas Phinney’s Kickstarter for Christoforo did not make its (admittedly rather high) goal. Hopefully he will not entirely abandon the project.  I do love Columbus.

Secondly, I have dusted off a piece I wrote several years ago and submitted it to the new Delta Green website… I did mention they have a new site, yes?  Oh dear, it looks like I did not.  The item in question, “The Milltrap Stone” was inspired by a visit to “America’s Stonehenge”, among other things.  Not quite a scenario, not quite enough for a submission to the Unspeakable Oath, it has slept on my hard drive until now.

Finally, I will reiterate my offer to answer questions about the creation of the Masks Companion.  Do you have any?  I may eventually solicit the folks at, but I thought I’d start here first as a reward to my three daily readers (and that one guy in Slovenia who found me looking for “tome poisoning“).

Machine Language Gibberish (or Can a Turing Test Differentiate between machines and the mentally ill?)

From time to time, while deleting Spam comments, I come across something so close to approximating human communication but yet get is so fundamentally wrong, a sort of uncanny valley of the written word, that I feel obliged to share it with the world. Today’s gem:

What I don’t understood is in truth how you’re now not really much more neatly-preferred than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You understand therefore considerably relating to this subject, made me in my view imagine it from a lot of numerous angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be interested unless it’s something to accomplish with Lady Gaga! Your own stuf’fs nice. Always take care of it up!

UPDATE: Today we had this delightful turn of phrase,

Yay google is my world beater assisted me to locate this excellent web site! . 751553

It’s the casual use of unrelated numbers that guarantees the delight in this bogus post. 3994848484 Triangle Rhombus Open-Apple G

Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion- first thoughts

I’ve had the draft Companion in my hands for long enough that I’ve actually had a chance to give it a read, all 0dd odd pages of it.  This is not, of course, my first read through of the book, though I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing it all in one titanic file.

MoNC Cover Mock-up

A couple thoughts:

First off, I am still extraordinarily happy with the level of support I received from the community.  It was very heartening that so many people were willing to contribute their time and labor on this project.  I hope that the book reflects their level of commitment.

Secondly, Adam Crossingham has done a splendid job in laying out the book.  Thanks Adam!

Finally, I’d be happy to answer my readers’ (we have three now) questions about the book (other than regarding issues of release date, price, etc).  If I might suggest some possible topics: inspiration, favorite parts, tomes, art, and process.  I’ll post something, but I figured I might as well go with popular interest…   So then, any questions?