Past Prologue (or Should I run Peru?)

Taking place in March 1921, the Peru Chapter offers an optional prologue to the MoN Campaign providing introductions to our titular Mythos villain and our doomed protagonist Jackson Elias. Easily contained within 3-4 sessions, your players will join an expedition with promises to plunder treasure from a remote temple, but instead find themselves fighting off fat-sucking vampire monsters (lipo-pires?), facing a low-level Crawling Chaos minion, and being lightly introduced (hopefully!) to Nyarlahotep’s Peruvian Mask. I can’t overstate how much I appreciate this new chapter in adding to the overall MoN experience. It adds a delightfully pulpy South American flavor to the campaign, which now excludes only Antarctica from the player’s travels. Does anyone smell a Mountains of Madness tie-in for the next edition?

First and foremost, this novel chapter addition serves as a solution to the prior Keeper Quandary of why should your players know or care about Jackson. As such, it’s an excellent opportunity to lay some groundwork for your campaign progression, seeding foreshadowing, and vivid imagery to return to during the future chapters. Before diving into the chapter’s nitty-gritty, let’s do some preliminary thinking about ways this scenario can be approached.

If you have an active CoC campaign running and you would like to work this Prologue in as the prelude to your MoN dive, it can be relatively easy to hook your players with promises of Peruvian gold, particularly if they’ve run themselves into a bit of financial trouble through their other activities. Alternatively, you could have Jackson himself recruit your veteran investigators to prevent any unsuspecting treasure hunters from falling into danger. Maybe your group is already on the ground in South America or laying over in Lima during a planned expedition to Antarctica.

Like many Keepers, you will be running the Prologue as the first session in your campaign. You may consider running Peru as a flashback or as the first in a series of adventures leading up to the main MoN campaign. Some Keepers may like to use the Prologue as one of several excursions with Jackson Elias to further establish the players’ rapport with him; however, this can occasionally be a challenging exercise as you have to keep Jackson safely coated in plot armor so that he can reach his demise in New York. With some smooth framing, Keepers can run the Prologue as a flashback starting with excellent setup text provided in Campaign Book (p.61). You may even want to rewind things just a bit further before you jump to the flashback allowing players just a bit more context.

“With smiles and laughter, you climb the stairs of Chelsea Hotel to the fourth floor. It’s wonderful to be back in the company of old friends once again. You are all eager to see how your dear colleague has fared during the intervening years since you last met…”

A brighter brief interlude before the darker jump cut to Peru may allow your players the opportunity to settle into the idea that they are in New York in 1925 so that the flashforward from Peru is a bit recognizable as you transition to the New York chapter. Another interesting idea is to run the Prologue as a dream, which allows for any number of memorable and horrible things to happen to your players at the chapter’s climax. They could awake from the dream on the day of their planned meeting with Jackson in New York. This could be a nice tie-in if you plan on incorporating Dreamlands-based scenarios at any point in or before your campaign. 

Source: Hubert H. Bancroft, The book of the fair, Chicago, IL: The Bancroft Company, 1893, p. 633.

For traditionalists, the Campaign can simply be started from Jackson’s Telegram leaving mystery lingering in the air. While this may follow the original format, the current Campaign book echoes sentiments of experienced Keepers over the years who have frequently recommended to first-timers that the more your players like and know Jackson, the more they will be committed to investigating his death and doggedly pursuing the truth behind the Carlyle Expedition. This will pay dividends over the long course of the Campaign.  In my opinion, there’s absolutely no downside to running the Peru Prologue. Its inclusion adds tremendous value to the latest edition and everyone at the table will certainly get their money’s worth.

Now, all that being said, you can be a complete iconoclast and omit or recast Jackson Elias. Personally, I love Erica Carlyle as a character and she could play the role of a brilliant, glamorous benefactor in place of Jackson. Starting your campaign in 1920 with Erica’s expedition in search of her brother would be an intriguing substitute for Peru with plenty of opportunities for foreshadowing before resuming in 1925 when Erica receives shocking news that Roger may be alive. Or she is brutally murdered when cultists break in to steal Roger’s books! This could make things interesting allowing players to pick up her companion Victoria Post, lawyer Bradley Grey and bodyguard Joe Corey as inspiration or potential PCs. 

We would love to hear how you launched your Campaign and would be delighted to know if you did anything wild or unusual.

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