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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > February 2018 (#15) > Masks of Nyarlathotep

Masks of Nyarlathotep

More than 30 years after it debuted, Call of Cthulhu’s Masks of Nyarlathotep remains one of the greatest roleplaying adventures ever created. With the globetrotting horror tale returning to drive a new generation of players insane, we revisit a true classic

BEHIND THE MASKS

Your friend is dead, the murder victim of a sinister cult after he suddenly sent you a telegram calling for help investigating the mysterious fate of the Carlyle Expedition. Finding the answers will take you around the world and risk the loss of your life and sanity – and the total destruction of humanity should you fail.

This is the opening to Masks of Nyarlathotep, the epic multi-part Call of Cthulhu campaign first released more than three decades ago in 1984 and universally considered one of the pinnacles of roleplaying storytelling since, collecting the 1996 award for Best Adventure from the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design, the precursor to the Origins Awards. Even Psycho author – and friend of H.P. Lovecraft – Robert Bloch was a fan.

Set in 1925 and starring Lovecraft’s shadowy deity Nyarlathotep, Masks was a revelation upon release due to its sweeping tale that saw players globetrot from America and England to Egypt, Kenya, Australia and China, and the non-linear approach used to unfurl its shocking narrative across several interlinked adventures.

Masks’ narrative hook of an expedition missing in Africa was inspired, unexpectedly, by Kenyan politician and founding father Jomo Kenyatta, who had been researched by roleplaying author Larry DiTillio while writing a script for children’s television show Against the Odds. DiTillio was later approached by Call of Cthulhu publisher Chaosium to pitch a scenario for its horror RPG and, despite his initial reluctance, eventually came around on the idea of putting together a story. With Kenyatta’s life still fresh in his mind, DiTillio began to write a scenario featuring a group of explorers that had disappeared in Kenya. The multi-country setting grew out of a need to justify how players’ investigators would end up in the African nation, with DiTillio throwing in extra locations based on some of Lovecraft’s stories.

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About Tabletop Gaming

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