Robert Huston – A Deeper Analysis – Part 2

In the first part of our discussion, we deepened Huston’s backstory and explored his role in the Carlyle Expedition. Here we incorporate Huston’s personal expertise into the Great Plot, which allows you to widen the scope of your campaign beyond the confines of Australia. 

Huston and the Great Plot 

Eventually, the doctor arrives in Australia in 1920 at least four months following the expedition’s “disappearance” in Kenya. No doubt Nyarlathotep imparted some knowledge about the Great City in Western Australia, but how has he found it, and where did Huston establish his relationship with the Haunter in the Dark? We feel the answer lies in Dr. Huston’s expertise in psychoanalysis, dreams, and the collective unconscious. While Nyarlathotep has promised Huston the entire material world upon the opening of the gate, we imagine he first seduced Huston by offering a kingdom to rule in the Dreamlands. 

As a despot in the Dreamlands, the megalomaniacal Huston can tolerate dwelling in tunnels, leading a small band of cultists in the Australian frontier, and playing second-fiddle to Aubrey. Thanks to the Haunter’s dark blessing, he can travel freely between reality and the Dreamlands. We believe this alteration can serve the Keeper in a number of ways.

First, this allows you to incorporate Dreamlands scenarios in your campaign. Elements and scenes from The Dreaming Stone or The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man can be added to your campaign, as an addition to or in exchange for the Australia Chapter. Both of these published campaigns feature Nyarlathotep as the overarching Mythos villain, and you may like to use Masks of Nyarlathotep as a springboard for your next campaign. Of course, you can also create your own Dreamlands scenario or use small-scale dream scenes so your characters may interact with Huston or gather clues from afar during other chapters. We expect the breadth of options available to Keepers to expand with Chaosium’s eventual publication of a new Dreamlands sourcebook. In the meantime, the 5th edition Dreamlands sourcebook is available in PDF at the Chaosium site.

© 2011 Chaosium Inc.

Second, you may use Dreamlands events to circumvent a great deal of the travel required in Australia. You can use dream revelations to direct your Investigators to the Great Sandy Desert or Darwin, particularly if they make the very rare choice to travel directly to Australia. You may allow Dreamlands events to disrupt Huston’s plans in reality; the consequences of Investigators’ actions could affect their excursion into the Great City, positively or negatively. 

Third, it allows you to further develop Huston as a key villain in the campaign. If he visits, threatens, and attacks them through dreams the Investigators may choose to hunt him down more aggressively. In the Dreamlands, he may assume a different guise, something more god-like, yet grotesque creating an intriguing mystery for the Investigators. You may choose to allow your group to confront Huston in the Dreamlands. Should Australia serve as your campaign’s climax chapter, an epic surreal encounter in the Dreamlands to fully defeat Huston could be incredibly memorable for your players. 

Finally, you could potentially use the Dreamlands as a means to distort time for dramatic purposes. Just as Huston may have disappeared into the Dreamlands following Kenya only to emerge months later with a fully-formed plan for his Australian enterprise, you may wish to run down the campaign clock for your Investigators after a dream interlude. We envision Investigators having a nocturnal exposure to the Haunter in the Dark along the coast of Australia, which plunges them into the Dreamlands. If they survive, they collectively emerge from comas months later in a rough Australian hospital bringing them ever closer to the eclipse date. 

A Multi-Pronged Threat

Earlier editions of Masks of Nyarlathotep suggested deploying cult agents across the world at the direction of Dr. Huston. We particularly like this idea, as it allows the Keeper to maintain a constant cult threat. Perhaps these agents have been recruited remotely by Huston’s dream influence and have given themselves crude Sand Bat tattoos or scars. These threats could appear on freighters, trains, and buses. They could tail the Investigators to Hong Kong or various layovers on their travels. They may dissipate following an Australian victory or murderously seek retribution. They may emerge at any point in the campaign, but we certainly imagine that the encounter with Nyarlathotep in Egypt will alert Huston, who may enjoy regular contact with the Crawling Chaos in the Dreamlands.  

Prior editions suggested deploying shadowy cultists under Huston’s control.

Even though Penhew spent years in the service of the Black Pharaoh before his journey to the Bent Pyramid, we believe that Dr. Robert Huston had spent his life unknowingly preparing to serve Nyarlathotep. As a consequence, we prefer to consider him as the more dangerous and multi-dimensional adversary, who harnesses his depravity, love for technology, and analytical pedigree to destroy troublesome Investigators.