The Peru Chapter offers a novel Mythos threat in the kharisiri, who serve as the “cultists” of the Nyarlathotep avatar, the Father of Maggots. Originally a small band of 16th-century Spanish explorers seeking plunder, these men attempted to loot the Andean pyramid imprisoning the Father, broke the golden seal, exposed themselves to its infectious, burrowing larva, and transformed into the hungry, half-dead servants of Nyarlathotep.
Before the arrival of Augustus Larkin, these fat-sucking Spanish vampires functioned more as mindless predatory servitors stalking the Andean highlands and providing their master with a steady stream of nutritious regurgitated adipose tissue; however, with the advent of a more intelligent Nyarlathotep agent, the kharisiri begin to expand their numbers by vomiting larval parasites into unwitting hosts. Thanks to these efforts, the kharisiri number in the thirties by the time the Peru Prologue begins. We will explore their function and potential uses as the feature Mythos menace in this chapter.
The players will be introduced to kharisiri almost immediately in Peru when they meet the alpha, Luis de Mendoza, a 402-year-old retired conquistador, now full-time vampire henchman. The quiet, yet physically hostile presence of de Mendoza can put the Investigators immediately on guard. If they succeed in provoking him into speaking, they should be rewarded with Language (Spanish) rolls to identify his unusually archaic speech with a distinctly Castilian accent. If the players fail these rolls, consider allowing Jackson to point this out to them later. When Larkin presents the sample treasure at Bar Cordano, you can consider calling for a Spot Hidden roll to identify an unusual lustful look to pass over de Mendoza’s face and a concerted effort to remove his hands from the table away from the objects demonstrating the kharisiri’s desire for gold. In a similar vein, if players (or Jackson) leave coin tips on the table after dinner, he may be spotted stealing them at the end of the meal.
Depending upon how your Investigators interact with de Mendoza and Larkin, they may conclude that the kharisiri agent presents the primary threat and may even control the weaker Larkin. In our recent campaign, after discovering Larkin’s heroin addiction, the group assumed that de Mendoza manipulated his companion through access to drugs. We ran with this assumption, which allowed us to play upon one of the campaign’s recurrent themes, deception.
Consider yourself an extension of Nyarlathotep in crafting these deceptions with your chapter villains. In Peru, you can continue to mislead the characters into assuming that the wealthy, sickly Larkin serves as the vampire’s puppet or captive. This misdirection can serve several purposes in the Peru chapter. First, it can promote intrigue as your characters attempt to learn the true nature of the relationship between de Mendoza and his master. Second, it can help to preserve Larkin for an exciting climax at the pyramid ruins. Finally, it introduces your Investigators to the murky nature of relationships in MoN, particularly amongst Nyarlathotep’s minions, who can alternate as opportunistic allies and vicious enemies. By experiencing this early in the prologue, it’s very likely your players may seriously question who they trust moving forward.
The campaign book presents Larkin as a skilled liar, even under the influence of narcotics, and should be played as such, repeatedly and without reserve. This stands in stark contrast to the glowering and intermittently explosive de Mendoza. Having Larkin aggressively and convincingly cast blame on his kharisiri agent and express relief at his defeat or incarceration will accentuate the surprise when de Mendoza potentially returns and Larkin unveils his own dark secret.
Unless your Investigators meet kharisiri on the streets of Lima or outside Sanchez or Rizo’s homes (Pedro de Velasco, p. 64), de Mendoza will likely represent their only kharisiri encounter until arriving in Puno. If any of the Investigators are light-skinned (or enjoy wearing wide-brimmed hats), they may meet locals that view them with caution or fear. Further questioning can reveal the disappearance and death of locals suspected to be related to the kharisiri. You may increase tension by allowing the Investigators to spot white travelers or shadowy figures wearing wide-brimmed hats. You can decide whether these are truly kharisiri or if all the actual threats resemble the locals. If visiting the market or a festival, a fearful young child can describe his missing older brother, which can foreshadow the appearance of the teenage kharisiri stalking Nayra on the lakeshore. The campaign book suggests the kharisiri steal a boat; however, the encounter may be more frightening and surprising if the creatures arise directly from the water during any lake encounters.
The campaign book suggests that the kharisiri in Puno receive a telegram from de Mendoza. We had a difficult time imagining these feral creatures reliably checking in for messages. Instead, we like to believe that they will be paradoxically drawn to the Golden Ward, which operates as a beacon. The creatures will intuitively know that the Ward presents a threat that they must eliminate, as well as a tantalizing hunk of gold that they covet. You may elect to have the kharisiri preferentially attack the Investigator carrying the ward or attempt to retrieve it from their belongings at their hotel or campsite. This could potentially lead to some interesting scenes where the kharisiri injure themselves and demonstrate the power of the ward to the PCs. In turn, creative Investigators may decide to employ the ward as a weapon against the kharisiri. Imagine the results of the Ward plunged through a kharisiri heart or employed as a larva smasher.
While de Mendoza flees without his victim in the museum basement, many kharisiri will often dispose of their prey at the pyramid, as suggested in the campaign book. Perhaps they travel with their victims to the site of the temple to complete feeding or offer the remains to their brethren. Afterward, they will deposit the desiccated body into the large pit where it joins the ever-growing pile. Alternatively, they could bring the corpse with them to their lair under the ruins for further consumption.
If de Mendoza lacked the opportunity to infect Professor Sanchez with his larva back in Lima, you may want to simply swap the kharisiri feeding for a larval infestation during the encounter with the farmers. This would allow your players to see the larva before the pyramid and begin to understand the threat they pose.
As they travel deeper into the highlands, the Investigators may follow two kharisiri to the temple ruins and witness their offering to the Father of Maggots. You may wish to depict them carrying an inert body with them in a crude sling stretcher as they move through the grass finally depositing it in the pit after their offering. If pursued or hurried, the kharisiri may choose to abandon a victim for the Investigators to discover along the trail. If the kharisiri have killed Nayra, you may consider having a pair of them transport her remains to the ruins for a shocking discovery.
Some details to consider at the pyramid ruins include mention of the kharisiri sleeping in their treasure room. This appears to contradict an earlier statement that de Mendoza does not sleep in his room at Hotel España (p. 64). We prefer to consider the “sleep” at the ruins more of a post-evacuation torpor rather than actual rest. Perhaps the kharisiri commune with the Father Maggots at this time, as well.
Once they have restored the golden ward, the kharisiri will begin to die off. A climactic encounter with de Mendoza may not be possible due to his earlier defeat. Other options include calling back to the younger kharisiri from Puno that arrives at the pyramids just in time to wither away. If the players have a harrowing encounter with Larkin-Nyarlathotep, a kharisiri lunging through the bushes may catch them off guard before it collapses in terrified shock. If you feel merciful, recently turned kharisiri may return to their human form by regurgitating the larva; however, the survivor will likely never be the same and may babble insane descriptions of the Father of Maggots on the way back to Puno. If your players behave responsibly, this should be the only physical account of the avatar they receive.
The Peru Prologue provides an exceptionally pulpy introduction to the MoN campaign, and you should take full advantage of the chapter’s fat-sucking vampires to drive tension. The museum incident should clearly establish the threat and each successive encounter serves to reveal a bit more about their enemy. Once they hit the Andean Highland Trails, they should be suspecting every farmer in a broad-brimmed hat as a potential danger. Although they represent a minor, and somewhat campy, threat on the Mythos scale, your Investigators should be deeply unsettled and fully invested in eliminating these monsters by the chapter’s climax.
What other ways did you choose to use the kharisiri? How did they fit into your chapter climax?