Conventional wisdom among Keepers for years about Masks of Nyarlathotep, as well as any grand scope TTRPG campaign, strongly suggests (sometimes demands) that prospective Keepers read the entire campaign from cover to cover once, if not several times, before getting players to the table. We won’t argue that more familiarity with and mastery of the material will increase your comfort level before you jump into the campaign; however, many of us may not have the time or patience to plow through the current edition’s 666 pages before getting things underway. We take the position that the latest version of MoN provides you with a user-friendly layout and focused material to cut a more direct path to running the campaign.
First, the aforementioned advice circulated widely when the preceding 4th edition numbered a much slimmer and approachable 228 pages. The very first version of MoN clocked in at only 160 pages, and an initial read-through of all prior editions posed a much less daunting task. Instead of attacking the entire two-volume set, consider an initial pass through the book focusing on the below-selected areas. This incredibly high-yield content totals a much more manageable 59 pages (counting full-page illustrations) and includes the following sections:
Introduction (21 pages total, pp. 8-29) – The essential campaign information can be found here laying out the structure, key plot, backstory, and campaign consideration. If comfortable, you can skip over the information regarding creating Investigators and pre-gens. The Key NPC pages are useful as a reference but needn’t be studied on this first pass.
Peru (4 pages, pp. 47-50) – If you plan on running Peru, read these pages before returning for a complete, detailed review of this chapter’s contents during chapter prep. If you are firmly opting out of Peru, you can pass. If you haven’t decided yet, consider reading this.
America (3 pages, pp. 99-100 and p.106) – You can target the critical information in each chapter by following this first-pass template by reading the introduction followed by must-read headings of Picking Up the Trail, The Carlyle Expedition in New York, Jackson Elias in New York, Running this Chapter and Pulp Considerations. We also recommend learning about the Chapter’s opposition by reading the Cult in Residence section.
England (5 pages, pp. 177-179 and p. 182-183) – Following the template above, read the introduction, Picking Up the Trail, The Carlyle Expedition in London, Jackson Elias in London, Running this Chapter and Pulp Considerations, as well as Cult in Residence.
Egypt (6 pages, pp. 295-299 and p.304) – Same as above with the following Picking Up the Trail, The Carlyle Expedition in Cairo, Jackson Elias in Cairo, Running this Chapter and Pulp Considerations, as well as Cult in Residence.
Kenya (5 pages, p. 385-388 and p. 390) – Same similar to above with the following Picking Up the Trail, Jackson Elias in Kenya, Running this Chapter and Pulp Considerations, as well as Cult in Residence. The Carlyle Expedition information is included in Picking up the Trail and a useful timeline on p.386.
Australia (4 pages, pp.449-450 and pp. 456-457) – Similar to above, but important to note that neither Carlyle Expedition nor Jackson Elias traveled to Australia. The useful headings include Picking Up the Trail, What the Carlyle Expedition Did in Australia, Jackson Elias in Australia, Running this Chapter, and Pulp Considerations, as well as Cult in Residence.
China (6 pages, pp. 519-522 and p. 531) – Same as initial template.
Grand Conclusion (5 pages, pp. 619-623) – Very useful just to get a sense to see where things may be heading at the conclusion of the campaign, how you could follow up its completion, and a clever method to score your investigators’ effort.
Since you’re near the end of the second volume at this point, it’s useful to flip through the Appendices and see what additional information is tucked back there (Travel, Spells, Tomes, and Artifacts) for future reference.
Once you have a broad sketch of the campaign and its chapters, you can readily move on to prepping the first session using the Prologue Chapter or whatever other entry point you prefer. If taking this first pass approach, you can then return to attack a complete read-through of the campaign book once you get your sessions underway. Personally, my ability to filter and retain the massive amounts of information provided in the 5th Edition hinges on my chapter prep work, but it certainly helps to begin unpacking and imagining the chapters by reading all of them in advance.
How did you prepare for your first run of MoN and what edition were you playing at the time?