Even if you won’t be keeping score for your Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, the Eye of Light and Darkness (EL&D) plays a critical role in disrupting the cultists’ efforts to open the Great Gate. This powerful warding spell relies upon clues scattered unevenly across the globe, and the impact of the spell in your campaign depends heavily upon your players’ destination choices. If your group travels to China initially they will rapidly uncover the entire truth about the ward; however, if they travel the conventional London-Egypt-Kenya route they will slowly uncover this end-stage element of the campaign all while lugging around a useless stone MacGuffin. We offer some suggestions and tweaks to make the broken ward and its associated spell play a more integral part in your player’s decisions and build up to an impactful role in your campaign’s climax regardless of location.
Ultimately, the purpose of the E&LD is to prevent the opening of the Great Gate, by disrupting one (or all) of the three sites of power points on the ritual triangle (China, Australia, and Kenya). In scoring the Ultimate Outcome (pp. 620-1), the campaign suggests Egypt as an alternative site for the Great Rite. While New York and England do not offer Mythos–infused sites of power, they offer additional casting locations in the event of a particularly unusual campaign trail.
Prologue and New York:
While the main event is years away, the excellent Peru Prologue foreshadows the importance of the EL&D through the restoration of the Golden Ward beneath the Father of Maggots’ stepped pyramid. The investigative trail for the EL&D begins in New York with Besart’s letter (p. 122) obtained in Jackson’s Chelsea Hotel trove. Events and clues in America otherwise provide no additional information concerning the EL&D.
As written, England provides no information concerning the EL&D, and this offers an opportunity for Keepers to stimulate intrigue and foreshadow the ward’s existence. Consider adding additional correspondence between Gavigan (White Jackal) and Penhew (Pale Viper) or M’Weru (Green Mamba) concerning Brady and a dangerous missing artifact. Perhaps Gavigan has insolently tasked al-Shakti to recover the missing Egyptian fragment, while Penhew searches for Brady in China. Due to infighting between al-Shakti and Gavigan, the Egyptian Brotherhood’s leader has potentially ignored or prolonged his efforts to unsettle his English rival. If it suits your narrative, feel free to misdirect or lead the players in alternative directions in search of the Egyptian EL&D fragment.
Green Mamba, you were explicitly instructed to recover the broken seal and destroy it. These are no trivial details to overlook. Now we must rely on the Egyptians to handle the matter!
– White Jackal
Pale Viper, I have learned of the sale of an Egyptian artifact resembling the broken seal. I shall investigate personally if needed. If necessary, I can travel to handle this myself, but I prefer not to abandon our preparations here.
Once in Egypt, the investigation of the EL&D truly begins to take shape, and Nuri of El Wasta (p. 320) is the chapter’s linchpin presented in the written campaign. Investigators learn of Nuri and her son, Ubaid, from either Faraz Najjar (p.316) or Warren Besart (p.319). Due to her injuries, she simply provides the broken stone (EL&D) to the investigators. According to the campaign text, Nuri recovered the stone, but we like to add Ubaid to the tale as the one who recovered the stone and brought his mother to the site. This allows Ubaid to convey limited, but interesting information to the investigators, which helps point them to the Red Pyramid at Dashur and explicitly ties the stone to the Carlyle Expedition. If investigators overlook Nuri, an anxious Ubaid can seek out the group in the aftermath of their Egyptian adventures to hastily hand over the stone and successfully plant the seed for this investigation. Conferring with Ali Kafour provides the Keeper a means to deliver useful information about the ward, including an attempt to recreate or repair it. Visiting the top of the Red Pyramid reveals no sign of the ward’s origin (as per Brady’s account, p. 582), but provides a cinematic location for a cultist encounter.
Unless the investigators travel to China first, Kenya is where the group learns the name and full significance of the EL&D (p.423). If they reveal a fragment to Bundari, he imparts additional wisdom about the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan (p.648), which contains the spell to create the EL&D (p.634-5). Once investigators travel to China and meet Brady, this information becomes completely superfluous. In an early China chapter campaign, inserting flawed information in Mu’s translated text (p. 584) prevents successful casting and allows Bundari’s spiritual conference with Hsan to provide valuable information (modified incantation, ritual, or ward creation). If they have not been to China, he emphasizes the dire need to recover the Seven Cryptical Books by indicating it serves as the only means to completely foil the Great Plot.
According to the written campaign (A Real Eye Opener, p. 578), Brady and Mu discover that broken fragments cannot be used to create a functioning ward. This piece of information works well when China serves as a campaign climax, but it derails a lot of the excitement and investigation for groups visiting Shanghai early. If a group arrives early in China, consider excising this bit of information, and replacing it with a requirement to recover the missing fragment and clarify information contained in the Seven Cryptical Books, as discussed above. This minor tweak infuses campaign motivation to travel in search of the missing fragment. It allows investigators to disrupt the plans at Gray Dragon Island but leaves the risk of the Great Rite fully unresolved. Other viable options include altering Brady’s statement to indicate only half of the ward is useless, and the second half must be recovered to successfully renew the protective power once again. Or the text lacks critical information for creating new wards only revealed by studying the second fragment. Alternatively, an interesting dilemma would be offering the option to cast the EL&D without recovering both fragments, but increasing the already steep costs (in life, POW, etc.) dramatically, as the study of both pieces ensures the safe and correct design.
The time requirement for Mu Hsien to decipher the Seven Cryptical Books (1D8+4 or1D4+4 with assistance) offers an opportunity to create tension during the end stage of a campaign . Events leading up to the translation of the text potentially force investigators to launch their assault on Gray Dragon Island before completing the translation or it can introduce a dilemma about whether to forestall their attack. The translation delay creates a perfect window for intervening cultist attacks, meddling by Madam Lin (pp. 569-71), and mounting complications that help build towards the campaign’s end.
If investigators reach Gray Dragon Island and fully uncover the Great Plot mystery in an early visit to China, the EL&D provides the incentive to continue traveling the globe and putting a final stop to the cult’s attempted summoning and rebirth. The location of the fragment remains a mystery and cultists react to the disruption of Penhew’s missile base by aggressively seeking out the EL&D and removing the threat. As a result, the hunt for the second half of the EL&D becomes a driving goal. This dramatically incentivizes an active search, and the Keeper may use Brady (or Carlyle) to dangle leads about various other locations, including a fun sidetrack to Vienna (more to come regarding this soon).
Invoking the Ward:
If the EL&D occupies a vital role in your campaign as an action driver, consider requiring specific locations for investigators to place the ward. This works particularly well when revealing all the secrets regarding the EL&D during an early China chapter. The Mountain of the Black Wind in Kenya, and Gray Dragon Island are obvious sites. In the Great City, the Purple Dome Temple (pp. 494-496) offers a particularly evocative setting, as well as Mythos Threat in the form of the Guardians of the Sand Bat. Egypt offers the possibility of returning to the Red Pyramid of Dashur, while bold investigators could attempt to place the ward in Nyarlathotep’s Great Chamber beneath Giza as part of a campaign climax involving an appearance by the Black Sphinx.
The EL&D provides an incredibly dramatic set-piece to help conclude Masks of Nyarlathotep. Since information about the powerful spell spans multiple chapters, it helps to develop a flexible plan on how to best unveil its secrets. Measured use of the established clues, NPC interactions, and items in each chapter (excluding Australia) helps orchestrate a timely use of the spell for maximum dramatic impact during an exciting conclusion.