30 September 2018

Kellri's 18 Module Challenge - Day 2: Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio

Day 2 - A Module You Like with a Monster in the Title:  _Masks of Nyarlathotep_ by Larry DiTillio

Masks of Nyarlathotep: Perilous Adventures to Thrwart the Dark God was first published as a 140 page boxed set by Chaosium in 1984, with one scenario from the original box version cut and published in Terror Australis in 1987.  Masks was fully reintegrated with the third printing in 1996's Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep, which also added four new encounters to the campaign.  

Masks of Nyarlathotep 1st edition boxed set and later reprints
grodog's Masks madness - from first edition onward!

Written by Larry DiTillio and developed by Lynn Willis, Masks is a masterpiece of campaign-adventure design, and features the following globe-trotting adventure chapters/locations, each originally published as as stand-alone booklet within the box (with "City in the Sands" in Terror Australis):
  • New York 
  • London 
  • Egypt 
  • Kenya 
  • Shanghai 
  • Australia - City in the Sands (in Terror Australis)
  • Extensive Play Aids and Handouts

The Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion was created by the membership of the venerable Yog-Sothoth.com Call of Cthulhu fan site to add historical resources and context to teh campaign, to fill perceived gaps, and correct errors/omissions in the original text.  The Companion was published in a semi-final form for free in PDF format in 2013.  A print edition was funded via Kickstarter in 2015 in conjunction with Sixtystone Press, and finally appeared in 2017. 

Masks was also recently updated to Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, and vastly expanded in response in part to the Masks Companion's critiques and additions:  the new version is at least 869 pages (with the main adventure book being 666 pages in length!).  An analysis of the expanded content in the new edition was shared by Mike Mason of Chaosium on the YSDC forums.  The new edition is available in PDF from Chaosium, and the print edition will ship in mid-November 2018.  The new edition looks gorgeous:

Masks of Nyarlathotep 7th edition
Masks of Nyarlathotep 7th edition (2018)

I've still not checked out CoC 7e, and doubt that I will pick up the main rules set, but I will definitely get Masks 7e once it's available.

Why I Love Masks of Nyarlathotep

It's #1!  Masks is the best adventure written for any RPG, ever.  I like it better than the Giants-Drow modules for AD&D, better than the Enemy Within for Warhammer FRPG, better than MERP's Court of Ardor, annd better than Paranoia's Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues.  And I do love all of those too; I just love Masks more!

Why you ask?  Well, Masks offers the best of what defines excellence in a role-playing game adventure to me: 
  • Inspires me to dig into the materials, to research and to create more adventure based upon its already-robust framework, in order to make the game shine at the table
  • Epic in scope, in tone/mood, and in execution:  Masks is what I want every game to feel like at the table, no matter what game I'm playing
  • Player choices matter in its sandbox environment, and the players' successes and failures drive the entire scenario---with the fate of the world in the balance!
  • Offers a defining and common play-experience that unites generations of gamers

Three Runners Up

I'm limiting myself to three, otherwise I'll just end up recreating my favorites list with each entry.

This one was hard, since many of my most-favorite adventures don't feature monster names in the titles, so:
  • Dark Druids (Chaotic Henchmen, 2015):   Rob Kuntz's original Greyhawk campaign scenario set in the Gnarley Forest, with wilderness and dungeon environs
  •  "Treasure of the Dragon Queen" by Rutgers University Gamers:  an AD&D convention tourney I played c. 1983
  • Walker in the Wastes (Pagan Publishing, 1994):  Pagan's Ithaqua campagin for Call of Cthulhu

My other posts in Kellri's 18 Day Module Challenge:

  1. Day 1: Empire of the Ghouls by Wolfgang Baur
  2. Day 0: These are a Few of My Favorite Things...

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