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.

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.