Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion: My favorite article

There is a lot to say about the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion but I wanted to start by highlighting my absolutely favorite piece from the book: The Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, written by Anthony Warren.

Anthony had previously written the monograph Kingdom of the Blind, which inspired me to contact him when the original writer who offered to work on our Keeper’s notes for London back in 2008.  Not only did he end up writing London, he took on Shanghai, the Raid on Grey Dragon Island, a history of the Order of the Bloated Woman,and this piece, a reinvention of the Seven Cryptical Books.  Let me quote a short section:

Unfortunately for readers despite some superficial similarities with traditional esoteric works, this is no mere catalog of star charts and mystic formulae. There is no apparent theme or structure. The densely packed symbols give no clue where to begin. Often multiple – even conflicting – meanings are possible depending on the direction the text is read. With time and study, however, it becomes apparent this is more of a puzzle than a text. By ignoring or adjusting rules of structure, and by picking apart twists of language and symbol, endless variations can be uncovered.

Anthony took what was a sort of second-rate Pnakotic Manuscript and turned it into a mind-shredding nightmare text worthy of being the center of the war between Jack Brady and Ho Fong.  I like the Companion, I love some of its parts, but I really, deeply love this re-imaging.  If you haven’t checked out the Companion yet, start on page 436.

Breaking News- The Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion is free*

I probably will never have Breaking News again but I wanted to post here that, at long last The Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion is available for your enjoyment.

See more HERE

I will have more to say soon. Until then enjoy the book.

*Literally and figuratively

Six years of the Masks Companion and other news

The Companion

It is a little hard for me to comprehend, but I’ve been working on the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion for over six years now.  Damn.  In that interval I’ve lost two cats, created a homunculus, and eaten a great deal of pudding.  I hope to have news to announce soon… good news.

In other news Arc Dream has announced its production schedule for 2013, including (ideally) four (!!) new issues of the Unspeakable Oath, release The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man, and a bunch of other stuff.  Hopefully I’ll wrap up my latest submission to the Oath and it will see print soon.  I think it is one of the creepier things I’ve written.

The Dan Harms media empire also had similar news about his Ghouls sourcebook, Tales of the Sleepless City, some secret project (oooooh!), and a bunch of non-fiction about magic (an oxymoron I suspect, save from an academic perspective).

The DGML Shotgun scenario contest has wrapped with a total of six entries.  Members should vote now.

Halloween minus seven days

It’s been a busy month here in WinstonP-land, with family trips, pressing assignments, and an exciting bout of illness keeping me occupied.  To put it another way, it wasn’t until today when I found time to get the Halloween decorations out of the attic… three weeks after my usual unpack the decorations date.

First off, I’ve finished the Hapden County graveyard map.  See it here.

Next, my friends at the Unspeakable Oath have updated their submission guidelines.  On the plus side, the rate for the short fiction “Message in a Bottle” section has been upped to $100.   On the down side, regular pieces like “Mysterious Manuscripts” and “Arcane Artifacts” have been switched from a by the word rate of 4 cents to a flat $20.  Incentive to keep them short I suppose… (and for reference, I was paid around $30ish for my previous submissions)  At least the longer articles remain at 4 cents a word.  I’m still working on a piece for a future issue, pending acceptance (and completion, of course.)  If they don’t have a new episode of their podcast soon though, I might unleash Hecubus upon them again.

Finally, I have updated the 2012 Lovecraftian RPG list to include the latest PDF release from the gang at Pelgrane – Sister of Sorrow; yet another WWI scenario from the fertile mind of Adam Gauntlett… this time, featuring submarines!

That’s it for now… hopefully I will have more news on the Companion… and other projects… soon.  (Oh, and I’ve passed the 4000th page hit.  Thank you Russian Spam millionaires!)

MoN Companion – About Tomes

One topic I’ve been meaning to address for quite a while now is the peculiar approach I took to Mythos tomes in the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion.  When I ran the campaign many moons ago, one of the problems I had arose when the players got a hold of a copy of the Pnakotic Manuscript and, quite understandably asked “What is it about?”  I had no idea.  The campaign doesn’t say and the rulebook (I had 4th edition) didn’t add much.  This was in the mid-1990s so, while I had some limited internet resources (hello Mosaic!), I certainly didn’t have an effective search engine.  Nor did I have Dan Harms excellent Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia (Plug! Now available as an eBook!)  So I fumbled and muttered something about nightmarish text of blasphemy and asked for Sanity rolls.  Later, as I was preparing for the next session, I mustered my limited resources and wrote up a short summary of the book as well as somewhat longer notes for once he finished reading it… in 46 weeks or so.  As the campaign progressed, I did the same thing for some of the other books they recovered.  Those notes, along with all my other material went into a binder, that went into a box, that then sat for quite a while, periodically moved by my girlfriend, then later my finance, then later my wife (I had a far away summer job you see and she was stuck moving us three times.  Sorry honey!)

When the idea for the Companion oozed into my mind, one of the things I wanted to include was expanded versions of my tome notes from my own campaign… now greatly supplemented by the sudden wealth of knowledge at my fingertips thanks to the internet, great books like Dan’s Encyclopedia and the previously praised Ex Libris Miskatonici, the two Keeper’s Companions, a much expanded CoC collection on my part, and the fevered brains of the members of Yog-Sothoth.com.

The entries for each book, which I dubbed ‘write-ups’ for some reason, are based on the CoC rule structure in large part- there is a discussion of the contents as understood by someone skimming the book and a fuller one for those who take the time to study it.  Additionally we provide what information investigators might learn when they try to research the tome, as well as often about its author or the publication history.  To pique player interest we also include an expanded physical description of the book, which I found particularly interesting to research and imagine, as it allowed me to construct a sort of biography for that particular tome… when was it published? Who owned it? How has it been treated? This adds a whole new layer of clues for canny investigators.  Finally, and most importantly, we tried to highlight the contents of each tome as they might connect to the Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign itself.  Does the tome reveal some secret of the campaign, like Life as a God, or is it tangential to things, like True Magick.

I think that Mythos tomes should be far more than simply a collection of spells, Sanity costs, and skill point gains.  While it is impossible to fully replicate the sanity blasting power of Mythos tomes, I think that when richly described, tomes can be both useful props. setting mood and tone, as well as key sources of clues.  When you treat a tome with the same depth and degree of detail your might provide for a villain or a cult, you enrich the play experience for everyone.

After my work on the Companion I had the good fortune of being asked by Dan Harms (who I’d consulted with a few questions about the more obscure texts from the campaign) to create similar write-ups for some of the tomes in his (still in progress) campaign Fury of Yig.  Dan suggested we also include notes about the availability of the tome in question, which was a very good idea.  Hopefully some day we might see some of this work, both for the Companion and for Fury of Yig, in print?

In the mean time, you can see this approach in action in my Notes on the Turner Codex and in my article Saucer Attack 1928: The Dunwich ‘Horror’ in issue 21 of the Unspeakable Oath.

Next Time: More on Tomes?  This time, reading them!