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Mask of Nyarlathotep for dummy


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Hi Guys, 

I love BRP and have read the golden book so many times....
Out of D100 enthusiasm I bought some CoC product (like the hardcover rulebook and Mask of Nyarlathothep) and read the core rule book a bit (just enough to know that CoC is slightly different with percent characteristic and no ho hit location as defaul, or maybe only, option) but that's about it...

But now.. it just happen hat we decided last weekend that I was going to master the Mask of Nyarlaththep campaign starting next week.... ooops, I have to speed read it now! 😮 

So any tip to help me transition from BRP to CoC? And other tip to GM Mask of Nyarlathothep?

 

Also, to ramble on sanity, please feel free to enlighten me further...
For starters, I am not into horror, I am going to GM this CoC adevnture as a fantastic story with interdimensional alien or something.... screw insanity! I am not going to make people go insane because they saw an unearthly angle or some impossible geometry.. And as also a Maths and Physics lover, I think extra dimensional experience are something to celebrate!
However.. as I thought of various cause of insanity in BRP, the first time an investigator is pursued by a Mythos horror that can shrug bullet like rain droplet and go through crack in space time... there is good reason to panic right there... And in Mythos books, arguably the distant and occult perspective in those might make readers lose touch with ordinary mortal to such an extent that they might appear insane, though really they just have acquired a different perspective...
We'll see.. maybe I'll use insanity after all.... But I think monster encounter should lead to PTSD and Mythos knowledge should lead so sociopathy... that's my 2 cent.... As for alien geometry of impossible angle, meh, bring it on I say!

Edited by Lloyd Dupont
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Dont start with MoN as your first campaign as a Keeper in CoC!
It is an incredibly good and complex campaign.

Download the free starter rules. Run The Haunting scenario to get the hang of CoC. There are really good free handouts and tips on it to research as well.

And if your stance is : "For starters, I am not into horror, I am going to GM this CoC adevnture as a fantastic story with interdimensional alien or something.... screw insanity! I am not going to make people go insane because they saw an unearthly angle or some impossible geometry.."
then CoC is very much not the right game for you.

CoC is about the horrible and mindwarping fear of being confronted with thing you do not understand and gradially realise is true. That truth is to much to handle and will drive the players insane.

If you want to mitigate it a bit, perhaps concider using the Pulp rules.

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3 hours ago, Ejlertson said:

Dont start with MoN as your first campaign as a Keeper in CoC!
It is an incredibly good and complex campaign.

Download the free starter rules. Run The Haunting scenario to get the hang of CoC. There are really good free handouts and tips on it to research as well.

Agreed, then move onto the starter set, the three adventures in there are excellent. or something from Doors to Darkness.

I ran the Orient Express campaign, only after I'd spent 5 years getting the hang of it CoC.

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Running Masks will be alot of work. I would skip over the Prologue because it does not really give your players a good grounding in the campaign and it happens a few years prior to the actual beginning of MoN. I would say make New York your main focus at campaign start. Do a few pre campaign adventures in NYC to get a good footing on the lay of the land, in fact I would recommend doing side adventures first in each chapter of MoN before tackling the main campaign content, this way you will be acclimated   to the area you are attempting to GM.

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Dear @Lloyd Dupont,

Maybe I am wrong, but I think there are too many unknowns for us to help you effectively. You said that:

  • you have never run CoC,
  • you have read the rulebook a bit,
  • you want to prepare MoN in one week,
  • you are not into horror, you do not like insanity mechanics (am I right?)
  • you want to run it as a fantastic story (if I understand correctly,)
  • you want to try a long and entertaining campaign.

I think this is too little information. If you are an experienced game-master, who loves to improvise and has a lot of free time, then our advice would be different compared to a situation in which you were an inexperienced player, with no free time, and a need to plan everything in great detail. Anyway, I will try to provide below some insight into MoN (best to my abilities.)

CoC rules

If your group does not pay much attention to rules and if you are familiar with bare BRP but not with the CoC rules, I would stick to the former. Assuming you are an experienced GM, there should not be any problem with reworking some rules and rolls from MoN on the fly. However, if you pay strict attention to rules, you need not only to read the rulebook but also should run at least several CoC adventures to really memorize them and get a basic feeling when do they seem to work, and when do they fail at your table. Every group is different and no fixed, written set of rules will satisfy everyone. So it is important to get a practical insight into their positives and negatives, things that help your players or those that are irritating obstacles. In case you decide to wait with MoN and play other adventures before, look for example here:

 

Mood

Probably contrary to many fans, I think that most published 7ed CoC adventures can be run in any style or setting. You do not have to run neither horror (or "purist") MoN, nor "pulp" MoN. You can make it any fantasy game, science-fiction, superhero, comedy, etc. As long as it is an investigative game because the irreducible core of the campaign is a long and complicated investigation. If you throw away the investigation, you are left with many encounters that would be quite hard to connect. On the other hand, the horror mood of CoC is not really something that one finds "in" the rulebook, or "in" the written adventures. It is something achieved mostly by Keeper's (hard and exhausting) work and skill, at the table. So do not worry, if you are not into horror, I do not think there should be any problem running MoN in any style you like. It might be actually an interesting experience. If you can describe to your players e.g. Chakota (in the America chapter) or Hypatia Masters (in the Kenya chapter) just as another monster to be killed, D&D style, you can get rid of any other horror aspect in MoN without a problem.

Preparation time

If you treat published adventures just as an inspiration and can create things out of a thin air, you can just read one chapter ahead and you should be good. If you just want to use the handouts provided with the book, you can prepare the next session in one week. Thus, just read the introduction to the campaign, read the Peru chapter, take notes, and you can start playing. As honorable @sgtscott658 said, the Peru chapter is not the best possible introduction to the main campaign, however, it is still a great adventure, and it is more linear than other chapters, so could serve as a good warm-up. Again, I believe you can do this only if you have either a lot of experience or a lot of talent.

However, if you or your players pay attention to details and want to enjoy a compact, self-contained, and well-written story, then the amount of work one needs to put into a preparation makes it impossible to be finished in one week. As honorable @Ejlertson mentioned, this is an incredibly complex campaign. One can not really understand the meaning of an individual chapter without a good knowledge of all the others. Therefore, before running, you should read the whole book at least once. Best if you can read it two times. And then each chapter again, as you are playing it. Trust me, I was not able to really get some details of the America or England plot until I read the later Egypt chapter. This is not the end of the problems, as reading is not enough. There are many parts of the campaign that are open-ended or "undeveloped" (not literally), which the keeper has to fill with his/her own imagination and work. Many NPCs would feel more "alive" with additional backstory. Many places would benefit from more expanded background information. And so on. There are also many potential handouts described in the text (newspapers, books, artifacts, etc.) that are not provided in the Handout Pack, so, if desired, one needs to create them. One also needs to think through many aspects of running such a long campaign. What if the PC dies? What if players get lost in their investigation? What if an important clue was missed on other continents? What to do if players forgot all the clues from several months ago? So, summing all of that, depending on how much free time you have, I think that over a month is needed to prepare MoN reasonably well.

One could write books with additional material and advice (actually one was written, MoN Companion, around 700 pages, but it is no longer available). It is hard to be more specific here because I do not know what really are your needs, but it is always a good idea to type "Masks of Nyarlathotep" into the search bar on the Yog-Sothoth forum or here. One can find a lot of helpful info this way.

Edited by Tranquillitas Ordinis
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I love improvisation with good but terse supporting materials! (like recurring NPC or threads that slowly become apparent, but were there all along...) 🙂 

Definitely looking to the investigation part! 🙂  In fact it will be my first GMing of a written investigative story. I hope it will help me improve GMing investigations! 😄 
Many investigation I have played (as a player) tend to slog down and be boring, hopefully I can dodge that... Will throw them some bone or misdirection if needed...

I'd like to use the CoC rule if possible, like combat seems simpler and wounding system seems interesting.. I guess I just have to read the chapter again! ^_^ (a 3rd time? I think...)

yes, going to use pulp, seems like a very nice addition to CoC!
 alright.. I guess I really have to read those 270 pages... it's readable in 5 days... 🙂  (and maybe do a second read of first chapter)

 

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I just realized my huge mistake.. the campaign is not 280 pages, it's 670 pages!
(I was confused, I had multiple PDF open at the same time)

Ohoh... to save my aging memory I ordered the hardcover version, It should help, I hope! 😮 

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  • Lloyd Dupont changed the title to Mask of Nyarlathotep for dummy

Remember, Nyarlathotep is known by many names, and one of those is The God of a Thousand Forms.  

My personal opinion is that it would be influenced by Cthulhu Mythos score. A low-level cultist likely would see the Bloody Tongue as an entity in of itself. But a high-level cultist or major Mythos villain may very well know that Nyarlathotep is an Outer God. And that Outer God avatars are influenced by the perspective of the snivelling meat bag viewing it.

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I am early in the book.. and I still have no clue what's happening... except that a solar eclipse will be of significance in helping breaking some mystical ward or something...

Ok, I will roll with it, it's thematic, but personally I don't think it make much logical sense to have great cosmic energy from an eclipse... Then it hit me, a logical and thematic explanation! Indeed during an eclipse the flow of solar power on the earth is strongly diminished. It's not great power, it's great lack of power! Those mystical something were solar powered, and much weakened during the eclipse! quod erat demonstrandum! 😛 

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Posted (edited)

Another question about sanity...

After much thinking about it, I can make sense of it and make the game more fun with it... One inherent contradiction annoys me though. Monster encounter will make sanity go down (people get traumatized with close encounter of the Cthulhu type), and Mythos knowledge (knowing about the ultimate truth of the cosmos make the person much more detached from humanity).

Here is my conundrum.. someone with high Mythos knowledge, hence low sanity will get scared and traumatized easily, whereas one would really expect the opposite!
Did I get that right? How do you work around that?

[EDIT] got an idea!
For frightening situation of occult nature, make Mythos and Sanity combined roll. If the Sanity fail but the Mythos succeed, the person shrug it off!

Edited by Lloyd Dupont
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21 hours ago, Lloyd Dupont said:

Another question about sanity...

After much thinking about it, I can make sense of it and make the game more fun with it... One inherent contradiction annoys me though. Monster encounter will make sanity go down (people get traumatized with close encounter of the Cthulhu type), and Mythos knowledge (knowing about the ultimate truth of the cosmos make the person much more detached from humanity).

Here is my conundrum.. someone with high Mythos knowledge, hence low sanity will get scared and traumatized easily, whereas one would really expect the opposite!
Did I get that right? How do you work around that?

Yep generally it is a spiral - and it is a feature not something to work against.   Also scared and traumatized aren't the only result - they might become manic, convinced that they should usher in the monsters etc.  I also think that re-reading "Getting Used to the Awfulness" in the Keeper's Rulebook will help - as repeated exposures to the same monster doesn't have the same effect.  Also none of the investigators should be starting out with a high Cthulhu Mythos skill (of course their starting SAN could be fairly low though).

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Dear @Lloyd Dupont,

Since against all grim warnings and discouraging comments you bravely decided to run the campaign, I thought it would be nice if we prepared you the best we can for this perilous journey and provided some advice regarding the Peru adventure. It is the newest addition to the campaign and thus, there is much less available information online than for other chapters. Unfortunately, writing this takes much more time than I expected, so I will be publishing my thoughts in parts, instead of waiting until I have all of them ready. I hope it will prove helpful and not a mere prattle of a maniac on the edge of sanity. I will try to give you some ideas about the general Peru plot, particular encounters, relevant game mechanics, handouts, and online resources. Hopefully, other people will add something, too. I will start with Jackson Elias in the context of the Peru chapter alone, avoiding unnecessary references to other chapters.

Observations concerning our good friend Jackson Elias
(SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Jackson Elias is the most important character of the Peru chapter. In fact, the whole adventure was, in a sense, written solely for him. One important thing that the keeper needs to understand is that there are two assumptions on which the scenario is based:

  • Jackson Elias survives the Peru adventure,
  • In the end, he is liked by the player characters and becomes friends with them.

These facts, through Elias, help to ensure investigators' connection to the New York chapter and rest of the campaign. There is plenty of great advice in the book on how to assure all of the above happens. I will not repeat it here. However, I personally think that these assumptions are a problem of the prologue because they very effectively narrow the set of options for both the Keeper and players. So I just wanted to offer some additional ideas.

What if investigators do not like Elias? It often happens that a keeper prepares the most likable character ever, and somehow, just by accident, or for completely irrational reasons, investigators hate him. It might be racism, different temperament or ideology, bad mood, etc. Even when players' characters are reasonable, they might just decide to be indifferent to him. And what if, during an encounter with kharisiri, they use him as a shield? Or just decide to trust Larkin more than him? Or intentionally do something that might get him killed? Should the keeper ignore that? The book does not really provide answers to these questions. There are many possible solutions; I will just mention a few.

Question 1: What if investigators hate Elias?

  • Option A: There is a powerful way to make Elias a likable character. Additionally to creating him as a "cool", competent, and helpful man (which might not work,) the Keeper can consider him taking a role of either a victim (e.g. of Larkin) or a savior (e.g. of PCs). Investigators will definitely feel guilty if an innocent guy, who they did not trust, gets harmed (maybe even killed) because of their indifference. Similarly, if the guy who they hate, at the end becomes the "good one" and their only rescue. They might not like him that much, but the connection will be in place. Even if they do not like him, they owe him. The ultimate solution would merge both options: Elias becomes both a victim and a savior by sacrificing himself, e.g. to save the lives of investigators.
     
  • Option B: If investigators hate Elias, then maybe they are right after all? For some part of the scenario, the keeper can make Elias a bad guy, making him somehow possessed by the presence of Nyarlathotep in Larkin. Then, no matter how bad the relationship PCs have with Jackson the Keeper can "reset" it when Larkin is gone and his influence on Elias disappears. If the players did not like "possessed" Elias's personality, now is the time to make it different. Again, if PCs still do not like him, they anyway become additionally connected to Elias, because they saved him and might feel responsible for him.
     
  • Option Z: If you, as a Keeper, do not care whether PCs like Elias or not, and whether any significant connection was created between them, then there is no point in playing the Peru chapter. You still need to make your players go to New York somehow. One solution would be to make some other characters from your previous adventures, or from your player's backstories take Elias's role. Or you might take some characters from the America chapter like Kensington or Carlyle to hire investigators. Carlyle might say that she had previously hired Elias to solve the case of her brother's death, but have not heard from him in a while. This is how the investigators discover his dead body in New York. This option could require some major reworking of the campaign and I think it is not worth it, but someone could have a different opinion.

Question 2: What if Elias dies?

What if Elias dies because of the player's choices? What if he sacrifices his life to save them, like in option A above? Well, my answer is: let him die. Even if the book says he must stay alive. No, do not worry, let him die and continue the Peru chapter. And afterward start the America chapter with an "earthquake"; saying that several years later, on cold January morning, investigators receive a telegram from him. "WHAT!? But I saw him dead! How is that possible?" And then let them travel to New York to... see him being killed again, in his hotel room, by the Bloody Tounge cultists.

If this is not a sufficient hook for your investigators to go on an adventure around the world, then give up as a Keeper, sell your CoC books, and start playing chess instead. 

If Elias died in Peru, how is it possible that there are traces of his activity all around the world from 1920 to 1925? How did he survive? What was he doing all this time? And why did he have to die a second time? Is he really dead? What is going on? Oh, only now we notice that he published two books in 1921 and 1923. How did we miss that? What do we find inside? I believe these questions are good enough to make your players willing to follow his steps.

And you as a Keeper have the freedom to answer them however you like. My idea is that Nyarlathotep, irritated by his failure in Peru, just for cruel entertainment decided to resurrect Elias, possess him and use him as a puppet. On one hand, he controls all cultists around the globe, preparing the opening of the inter-dimensional gate, while on the other, he controls Elias and tries to prevent that from happening. In this scenario, Nyarlathotep would behave like a spoiled kid, with all humans as his toys, playing with them merely for his own amusement. The gate? He doesn't care, he could open it at any time anyway. And in this way, the whole campaign is about investigators following the steps of Nyarlathotep to stop Nyarlathotep. Isn't it wonderfully call-of-cthulish? Now, this idea comes with a danger that players become more concerned about Jackson himself than about the Carlyle expedition and the keeper would have to rework the whole book. I do not think it is a problem, as Jackson's travel is closely connected to the expedition and the keeper would just need to make investigators believe that the more they learn about Carlyle the more they learn about Elias (probably by preparing several new handouts).

Edited by Tranquillitas Ordinis
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Thanks for your interesting take on the adventure... Definitely going to do the Peru adventure.. if only because I only have to read 50 pages urgently that way! ^_^ 

I will keep your advice in mind, particularly the last one about resurrecting Elias this is quite a fun idea.. we shall see what happens! 🙂 

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6 hours ago, andyl said:

I also think that re-reading "Getting Used to the Awfulness" in the Keeper's Rulebook will help

Yea... I had a second quick and more careful read of the CoC rules in the last 2 days and I found that, which is quite neat 🙂

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10 hours ago, Lloyd Dupont said:

ON the "Keeper Screen" part of the Mask of Nyarlathotep one can see: 
Learning Skills: POW roll grants +4%

What is this about?

+1d4 not +4 for existing skills.  1d10+1 for new skills.

It is about learning and improving skills when travelling (for example on an ocean liner between the US and England).  See Appendix A in the Masks books.

 

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Posted (edited)

OMG! In the Appendices of the The Masks of Nyarlathotep I spotted what seemed to be, correct me if I am wrong please, the most powerful spell of all!

Blessing of Bast: bla-bla-bla..... restores D6 HP and also restores D6 sanity point... (cost: 4MP, casting: instantaneous)

Edited by Lloyd Dupont
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