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

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!


Project(s) update

Here is the rundown:

Fury of Yig play-testing: Complete!

Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion: Two chapters in final proof, eight to go

Machine Tractor Interminable Wait-37: Still slowly pending


In other news, Sixtystone Press/The Black Seal have officially announced something I had been working on for a while- The Black Seal’s (Long Awaited) Vietnam Special aka Cthulhu by ARCLIGHT.  They’ve posted a content list here.

The Dreaded Con-Rit!


I contributed two pieces- A Mythos Gazetteer for South East Asia and a regional Bestiary.  For the former I confined myself to the fiction (mostly but not entirely Lovecraft) as well as previously published materials, while for the later I attempted some original research (with the help of some material sent to the Black Seal from another contributor).  I was shockingly disappointed with my local library; their collection was sorely lacking when it came to Asian mythology and legend.  Happily google books was a wee bit more helpful, albeit slightly archaic.

Now I’m off to the library to do some more research on [redacted]!

Fury of Yig Playtest- Endgame

We wrapped our playtest of Fury of Yig last night.

Not to give away spoilers, all I can say is that everyone in involved had a grand time.

Investigator deaths: 0(!)

Odds of the sequential die rolls of the investigators at the climax: 1 in 100,000

Impale results using an RV: 1

Wardrobe of one investigator at end of scenario: Poncho, mohawk, boots

World saved?: Yes

Fury of Yig Playtest 12/15

Sadly due to Cosmic Forces, 1/2 of the group was not able to make last night’s session. Rather than do a 1 on 1 game (“Okay… What do you want to do AFTER Yig eats you?”), we elected to play a bit of Arkham Horror, drafting into play our significant others. Much fun was had, much cheese was eaten (but why oh why does no one understand my love for Stilton?), and, after some close calls involving lonely scientists fighting shoggoths with enchanted dynamite, Nyarlathotep was prevented from entering the world. Huzzah.

Looks like we’ll play next week instead.

General Update 12/9

After seeing others keeping up this sort of thing with much greater regularity (note the recently added link on the right to Badger’s blog about his own RPG writings), I figured I should post, a a minimum, a catch-all update for my various and sundry projects for the benefit of my reader(s?).

Fury of Yig playtest:  Still going great guns (though we’ve barely had any combat, mind you).  The investigators are about 2/3 finished with the campaign, perhaps even further along depending on a few soon-to-be-made choices.  I think the players are having a great time, even if they are a *bit* uncertain of what is going on.  I know I certainly am enjoying running the thing.  I think we’ll keep playing CoC even once ‘Fury’ wraps, perhaps some classic era gaming?  We still had no fatalities, but have have Sanity loss, poisonings, snake bites, gun shots, and a few very unlucky NPC hunters…

Sundry graveyard stuff: I’ve finished nearly all of the on-the-ground research for my Worcester Co. graveyards project and need to begin the volumes of correspondence I’ll probably need to cover all the logistical details I’d like to include (mostly contacting local communities to dig up additional information on cemeteries, getting contact info for local cemetery commissions, etc.  Winter will likely slow down my outdoors work, but if I find some very tempting new site to check out, I’ll no doubt put on the boots and a warm coat…

As for the Lovecraft Country graveyards/cemetery research and writing, I’ve done all the requisite reading of the RPG material and hopefully most of the important fiction, and now need to begin fleshing out my outline.  I’d like to have a draft of something done by say February so that I might get it proof-read and polished up for my target completion date of March.  This is mainly so I can offer it up again to MRP as a second-annual Keith Herber tribute freebie.  I don’t know if they’re interested in doing that again (a la last year’s “Turner Codex” article) but what the heck.  It is good practice for the non-fiction book.

As for the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion, I don’t have much news but, as ever, remain hopeful of actually having something to report soon.  Adam has completed draft layouts for most of the chapters, the handouts appendix is mostly completed, two more maps are being worked on (thanks Steff!), and copyright free artwork unearthed (thank you Library of Congress digital archive!).  Now I wait for news from Adam.  It is tantalizingly close… but I’d rather be done.

Hmm…. I should probably figure out what my various project codes meant…


Playtest update

It has been a while since I’ve updated the status of my playtest for “Fury of Yig”.

We are, err, 13? sessions into the campaign and the investigators have all survived up to this point, though they’ve been shot at once, bitten by a giant snake, and, one of them, looked upon the face of XXXX XXX.

We’ve also had AA meetings, impromptu religious revivals, and a mild bit of numerophobia.  Oh, and lots of plugs for the Double Tree Hotel chain- they have cookies, you know.

Hopefully some day we can release our audio recordings of our sessions- save for two lost due to recorder issues.

Playtesting, session one

Since “Fury of Yig” is still in development, I don’t want to say too much about the details of the session, but feel I should at least note a couple things- We have three investigators- a crime-lab tech, a reporter, and a dilettante (who made his money off a bogus smoking cure). The players dove into the investigation and using a mix of their skills (which nicely overlap, oddly enough) made good progress.

Deaths: 0

Injuries: 0

Sanity lost: 0

(I suspect some of this stuff will change in the next time we play.)

Assorted project updates

Been remiss, but for once this means I’ve been doing some work.  Huzzah.

Project Zero: Finally heard back from Adam C. who is doing the layout.  Unfortunately we’re not at the place I had hoped we’d be by the point (i.e. DONE).  Instead, I’ve worked with Adam to find a pair of experienced volunteers to take some of the load off his shoulders.  Do I have a new estimate for when the Masks Companion will be done.  Sadly not yet.  Hopefully the extra layout gang will have some happy progress news for me soon… I’ll post more when I have it.

Project 1: The Tractor station… I’ve been thinking a great deal about this but that’s about all the actual progress I can report.  I usually have a long period of contemplation followed by a nice sustained burst of work when I get to this point in a project- let us hope that is the case again.  Sorry Dustin.

Project 2: Nothing to report as I’m not putting much effort into this until publisher who shall remain nameless makes progress on other fronts.

Project 3: Done some helpful research on all topics and have a general outline of both the pieces I’m working on for the Unspeakable Oath.  I only have until the 18th to get these done so I’ll be plugging away until then.  I’m happy with what I have so far and am hopeful they will be well received.

“Project 4”: (Do not laugh).  Yeah, I take on too much as once, but I like to work when inspiration strikes.  I had an idea for a piece involving New England cemeteries for one of the CoC licensees.  I’ve done some preliminary research, including mucking about a few old burying yards (one of the perks of living in New England).  Not a priority right now but I think there is enough there to keep this one on the steady burner for a while.

Other stuff: Amusingly enough I finally got in touch with a couple other Cthulhu authors in my neck of the woods only to discover one of them is my neighbor.  Literally.  To celebrate, we’ll be playtesting Dan Harm’s Fury of Yig campaign.  I’ll post oblique updates (since I don’t want to spoil it) as they warrant.