We’ve already introduced the idea that the Peru Prologue can provide some excellent foreshadowing for your Main Campaign. Now we will expand upon that by touching on critical parallels that can result in chilling echoes in your player’s minds as they encounter similar situations and characters. In my opinion, one of the best such examples can be found in similarities between Peru’s Nyarlathotep pawn, Augustus Larkin, and the Main Campaign’s critical, but absent NPC, Roger Carlyle. Doing a little extra work to craft memorable similarities can help your Players develop a more nuanced depiction of Carlyle as they move further into their investigation.
Both Carlyle and Larkin originate from wealthy backgrounds with the latter growing up as the eldest son of a wealthy railroad baron in colonial Kenya. The two men follow similar academic and extracurricular pursuits displaying an inclination towards booze and womanizing. While it is suggested that Larkin be cagey and confused when first introducing the players, a shame-filled reference to his ungentlemanly behavior would be very useful in establishing this similarity. It could also serve as an additional means of explaining away his morphine addiction when uncovered. A quick explanation that he has taken to travel and adventure to escape his disgraceful former life can solidify this connection between Carlyle and Larkin.
These two pawns of the Black Pharaoh share an incredibly important friend in the gorgeous, manipulative priestess, M’Weru, who molded both of these weak-willed wastrels into the service of the Dark God. Consider Larkin’s relationship as the precursor to hers with Carlyle, the beta-version. Perhaps when seducing Larkin, she had hoped he would serve the role that Carlyle later fills. For all his faults, Augustus Larking may have possessed a slightly less corrupt soul and moral center, and consequently attempted to flee M’Weru and her fellow Bloody Tongue cultists. Drawing the M’Weru connection between Carlyle and Larkin traverses dangerous, spoiler-filled ground; however, here are few suggestions on how you might try to incorporate this connection into your campaign as it unfolds.
First, Augustus can allude to a beautiful African princess, priestess, or mistress either directly during the initial conversation at Bar Cordero as part of his murky past or during fevered mutterings when found unconscious in his hotel room. If Larkin earns a dramatic death at the hands of Investigators, consider inserting a gasping reference to this same wicked priestess as one of his final revelations as he escapes Nyarlathotep’s grasp. Should the Crawling Chaos reveal himself, he may drop a disdainful remark about how “she” gifted him with this pitifully weak body. If done dramatically, your Players may remember that mysterious reference to an unknown woman. Carlyle and Larkin’s shared connection can serve you well as a small but potentially amazing tie between the Prologue and the Main campaign.
As a result of their respective affairs with M’Weru both Carlye and Larkin have taken to organizing expeditions to advance Nyarlathotep’s plans. My current group of Players frequently refer to themselves as the Successors to the Carlyle Expedition in both their meta discussion, as well as during their roleplay where they employ this position to seek access to information, particularly in London and Cairo. In no way did I suggest this. I consider this to be a brilliant baked-in feature of the Prologue. If you so chose, inquiries from the press before and after the Larkin Expedition can help the Players in establishing this identity. They may wish to use their credentials as participants in the ill-fated Larkin Expedition to (try to) project credibility.
Finally, as pawns rather than true minions, these two men are ultimately pitiful creatures. While they aren’t offered starring roles like Tolkien’s A-lister Gollum, they can each play an outstanding part by drawing the Investigators into the mystery. Larkin actually delivers the plot hook for the Prologue, so do your best to work him in as a colorful piece. If the team eludes him by escaping him, allow him to arrive at the Pyramid for a final encounter. Don’t miss the opportunity to have him manifest as Nyarlathotep, who might drop tantalizing hints about the coming campaign whilst mocking the puny mortals. I personally incorporated Larkin’s tattoo as a call-back during our New York chapter when our always unlucky Dr. Dibden discovered a horrific scar resembling Larkin’s tattoo on the chest of Silas N’Kwane. Trying to save the wounded N’Kwane for further questioning by Lt. Poole, the good doctor immediately connecting the tattoo to Larkin, noted that the chest wound had started exuding viscous, black sludge and failed a Sanity check. Once the dust had settled, the Investigators wondered if N’wane might have also been a pawn under the control of M’Dari. Tying Larkin’s tattoo to a discrete image that can be shown again to the Player’s helps to drive home the impact.
In actual play, unless incorporated in additional pre-Main Campaign sessions of your own design, Carlyle actually only has one chance to make a physical appearance – in China, most likely near the campaign climax. In our campaigns, I try to keep player interest focused on finding Carlyle throughout MoN, and in this run, Erica Caryle has asked Lucia to bring her any hidden truths she may discover about her brother. In our classic CoC campaign, this allows some roleplay focused on the horror of the progressive discoveries about Roger’s fate, and identifies him clearly as Elder God collateral damage.
What other similarities between Larkin and Carlyle have you identified to knit the Prologue and Main Campaign more tightly and how did you play them up?