Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Masks of Nyarlathotep
Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!
Product– Masks of Nyarlathotep
System– Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition
TL; DR– Ya, this is about as good as it’s gonna get! 98.3%
Basics-Where will you find the Dark God? Masks of Nyarlathotep is one of the granddaddy scenarios for Call of Cthulhu occuring in almost every edition of Call of Cthulhu. Starting in Peru as a backstory adventure or in New York when the main action starts, players find a world spanning cult where different groups worship and advance the goals of an ancient evil creature beyond the stars as they travel the globe. Let’s dig into this GIANT tome.
Theme or Fluff-You might not like Call of Cthulhu or Chaosium, but you can never fault them for their research. First the “main” book clocks in over 500 pages. The original edition of Masks was about 150 pages. That was pretty big for something in the 80s, but HOLY COW! This book has some details that you might never thing to check. When was the first plane the flew over the Andes? The book checks! What is the ethnic makeup of the different locations in 1920s? The book checks! This book has lots of small details provided where you need them. The story has been repeated so many times before, but that doesn’t make it bad, because this is the people who told it before. You’re going to stop a bad thing across the world. It feels like Indiana Jones pulp, but then again, it should. Indiana Jones is 1920s. You just have to choose how much Pulp you want in your Mythos Orange Juice. Whatever your desire, this book is an excellent resource for telling a world spanning mythose tale. 5/5
Mechanics or Crunch– I really like the Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition rules. It’s light and clean. I’d like a bit more character advancement beyond your numbers increase, but overall, it works really well. That’s the rules you get for this book. The people who wrote the rules I like wrote a story they know well. So, unsurprisingly, it’s done well. Now, it’s not perfect. I’d like some more advice on some things, but that criticism goes to the heart of Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition. Some things are hand waved a bit too much for my taste like if I keep the ancient evil gold, how much does your credit rating go up? A bit more advice in those aspects would help, but I don’t think it hurts the product too much. This version of Masks is like the advice given by Michelin Star chefs-simple, well produced ingredients prepared expertly make amazing products. 4.75/5
Execution-GAWDDAMN! So, Masks of Nyarlathotep is a beast at the main book clocking in over 500 pages. But for $60 for a PDF, that would put that at an average price point. (By the way, hyperlinked PDF because Chaosium, while they write about the past, is not stuck in it!) But, IT DOES NOT STOP THERE! You get a handout PDF that is expertly crafted so you can hand that out to your players WITH MAPS! You get a file of NPC portraits that you can show off. You get a PDF of a GM screen and a separate Keepers guide. HOLY COW! You took the time and made this thing amazing. Oh ya, new art, maps, and the layout is great too. That’s usually what I whine about, but those basics are covered so well that I barely felt the need to mention it. Like normal, I skimmed the first section before my first game running it and was able to pull of a great game without having to memorize the giant section on Peru. Digging deeper pays off, but its written well enough that you can just jump in the command chair right away and get running. That’s hard to pull off in a FIVE HUNDRED PAGE BOOK! I really want to emphasise that! I’ve had basic DnD scenarios not be able to pull that off in five pages, so kudos to the writers. The price is a bit steep for some new GMs, but if you can pull the trigger, then you will get exactly what you need to run games for at least a year, if not more. This level of production is well worth the price. BONUS ROUND!!! PDFs should be free if you buy the book. That’s my bold stance. Chaosium agrees. If you buy the PDF from them and then go to buy the physical book from them, then you SUBTRACT THE PDF PRICE FROM THE BOOK! The physical price will be over $100 because it’s over 500 pages (AGAIN THAT’S A LOT!), but if you want a book that can break a shelf at your house, consider ordering form them since you get the PDF for free when you get the physical copy. Also, I LOVE this strategy as maybe I only want one and not the other but might change my mind later. LISTEN OTHER COMPANIES, GO DO THIS! 5/5
Summary-Every DnD player explores the Tomb of Horrors. It’s in almost every edition, it get reprinted, and it’s a rite of passage. Sometimes that reuse of material is throw in a separate book and called good as a slapdash money grap when you don’t have anything better on the horizon. Sometimes the product is nurtured, loved, and cared for till it matures like fine wine. That is exactly what happened here. The 7th edition Masks of Nyarlathotep is an phenomenal product that is well worth the considerable money you are putting into the product. I love the writing, the mechanics, and the overall presence of this thing. It’s got some flaws, but those are minor issues that will not distract from the amazing product her. If you have the money and want to play some Call of Cthulhu, then this is your purchase! 98.3%