There is never a bad time for a Cthulhu campaign, but as we move into a spooky season, now is a great time to start a campaign. Call of Cthuhu Game. Ask most Mythos fans what their favorite campaign is and they’ll tell you it. Masks of Nyarlathotep. This globetrotter campaign has come back in force in recent years. Let’s take a look at what makes it so great and what a small California company has done to make it even better.
Goodbye, Lovecraft country
Many of the early adventures for Call of Cthulhu followed the pattern of author HP Lovecraft’s stories. Players stumbled upon the cosmic horror nestled in the nooks and crannies of New England using Arkham, Massachusetts as their home base. These adventures in Lovecraft Country are now seen in other games derived from the Myth of Cthulhu like Arkham Horror and Madness mansions.
Screenwriter Larry DiTillio collaborated with game designer Lynn Willis to create Nyarlathotep masks during a writers’ strike. The team leaned across the Lovecraft writer’s side, full of exotic locations and luscious adventures. Their collaboration centered around retracing the stages of the lost Carlyle expedition across the globe in a two-fisted tale that would make Indiana Jones proud.
Indiana Jones but darker
Key to the campaign is the launch script, in which investigators arrive in New York City at the behest of their mutual friend, writer Jackson Elias. He is killed shortly after the story begins, but he leaves behind a collection of flyers, newspaper clippings, and other clues. The players take the lead in the investigation. Cairo? London? Singapore? I’ve run this campaign a few times, and there’s nothing quite like watching players’ faces light up with possibilities as they sort through materials.
The return of creeping chaos
Chaosium updated Nyarlathotep masks in 2018 with a boxed edition that divided the book into two parts. This allowed the designers not only to update the campaign with the new rules, but to add an adaptation to the Pulp Cthulhu a set of rules that turns the game into action. He also added a new opening chapter in Peru to reunite players with Jackson Elias before his untimely demise.
This edition has also improved one of the key elements of a Call of Cthulhu campaign; handouts. When the book first arrived, there was a tear-off section on the back to give players text copies of the clues. This edition offers a complete selection of cardboard pieces featuring reproductions of these clues such as photos and matchboxes. It’s a great upgrade, but with the current popularity of games like Call of Cthulhu and Dungeons & Dragons, there is a market for a luxury experience.
A masterpiece of myth
Fans of the Cthulhu mythos are probably already familiar with the HP Lovecraft Historical Society. They produced films based on his writings, audio pieces of his stories, and a variety of novelty products, including mugs and clothing for the fictional Miskatonic University.
They even tried out materials for Cthulhu games, such as printable props materials based on authentic vintage materials like telegrams and driver’s licenses. For their partnership with Chaosium, they had to go further. In the realm occupied by Beadle and Grimm for the guardian who can afford a luxury immersive experience.
The Nyarlathotep Gamer Prop Set Masks is the first result of this partnership. Every document of the entire campaign has been reproduced down to the rustling of press clippings. Inside the box are half a dozen folders separated by location with all the letters, journals and photographs prepared as if they were ready to be filmed.
There are additional elements that add to the immersion. Instead of just listing the books Jackson Elias wrote, there’s a one-man dust jacket that can be slipped onto a hard cover and handed over to an investigator. Interview transcripts were recorded by professional actors. There’s even an artifact inside, but spoilers prevent it from discussing in too much detail.
I spent a lot of time producing my own props for this campaign. I have run it a few times now and have received compliments on how professional it looks. After looking at the props in this box, I can’t imagine not using the HP Lovecraft Historical Society props. Reading everything made me fall in love with the story again.
The next step in the partnership was funded by Kickstarter earlier this year. Chaosium reprints the original edition of Call of Cthulhu and the Company creates authentic documents for classic book cases. This is an opportunity for fans to discover the foundations of Call of Cthulhu and see why it’s been the gold standard of horror games for 40 years.