Returning to the 4th Edition, part 1

The creative team behind the latest edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep brought some great changes and a wealth of useful information to Keepers tackling this epic adventure. This version is far and away the best version of this campaign, but it stands atop four phenomenal earlier editions. In this process of growth, some interesting pieces of the campaign fell away. Some things changed for the sake of balance, consistency, and inclusion. We particularly appreciate the presence of Zahra Shafik over Tewfik al-Sayed. 

Others alterations stand out as creative choices. A few, surprisingly represent a loss of granularity, for better or worse. We will tour some of the smaller differences between the fourth and fifth editions of Masks of Nyarlathotep in the interest of curiosity. Perhaps this nostalgic review sparks inspiration in a few Keepers or allows them to revisit some fine moments from their gaming past. In the first of two posts, we will discuss the Introduction, America, England, and Egypt.


Dr. Huston: Keepers are encouraged to maintain a mobile cultist unit under the direction of the good doctor. When not overseeing operations in the City of the Great Race, Huston himself joins these traveling malefactors. These encounters provide opportunities to gain clues about the cult’s efforts in Pnakotus and help direct the Investigators to Western Australia instead of searching the great continent for answers.

”Jack Brady is the key”: this confession reveals that the Great Plot and Carlyle Expedition mysteries really hinge on Roger’s bodyguard. We address this very matter in our discussion of the “Three Mysteries.”


Andrew Dickson White, cofounder and president of Cornell University.

Cowles Lecture Flyer (Carlyle Papers America #7): a correction to the original spelling in the latest version. The handout is inserted between pages marking the beginning of Chapter XIV, entitled “From Fetich to Hygiene” in Andrew Dickson White’s A History of Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (vol. ii). In the current edition they correct Fetich to contemporary spelling. An interesting little detail with an odd spelling. 

Research of Jackson’s forehead wound: successful Library Use identifies cult as that of Bloody Tongue with a reference to a god detailed in the G’harne Fragments (Keeper Rulebook, page 228), a Mythos tome possessed by the Penhew Foundation. Another piece of bait drawing them to Penhew and setting off  Gavigan’s alarm bells. Do they still have the reference or has Gavigan hidden it? 

People of the Monolith: replaced by Amongst the Stones, originally bound in the skin of a chthonian (to match events in Egypt). The hunting horror substitution bears out as an excellent thematic and consistent choice for the campaign. 

Phal-arope: corrected to Phalarope in current edition. This is the freighter Jackson Elias took from London to New York after wiring Kensington. Jackson sends his telegram to the investigators from aboard this ship. A phalarope is a small shorebird related to the sandpiper but distinguished by lobed toes and a preference for swimming. A wooden vessel named the Phalarope sank in Lake Erie in 1872 with a cargo of coal. The hyphen may represent the lingering residua of a word-break in an earlier edition. 


Crafted by Uncle Selrach’s Dunwich Church Supply.

G’harne Fragments: Located on the bookcase in Gavigan’s secret room and replaced by the Équinoxe Divisé in the current edition.  The removal of this Mythos tome aims for consistency, as this grimoire does not contain spells related to Nyarlathotep and focuses on Chthonians and the great worm, Shudde M’ell. Some purport the original authors to be the Elder Things. On the other hand, contents of the text were recovered from the African interior (though, some sources say North Africa) by explorer Howard Windrop and translated by sole surving expedition member and archaeologist Sir Amery Wendy-Smith.  If you are planning to resurrect this retired tome, it’s possible the expedition notes include references to the Bloody Tongue. 

Ssathasaa’s Grimoires: a collection of spells in serpent tongue (Naacal) essentially inaccessible to the investigators. Removed in the current edition. This opens a potential tie to other campaigns, such as Two-Headed Serpent, or provides a means to learn Naacal for the linguistically inclined.

Eloise Vane: originally a werewolf instead of a ghoul to evoke some American Werewolf in London vibes in Lesser Edale. Acknowledged in the 4th edition to be a complete red herring. For more on the updated version of this sidetrack see XPLovecat’s guest post

Body Warping of Gorgoroth Scroll: locked in Zahra Shafik’s desk this papyrus scroll contains the cultist’s most potent (and potentially game-breaking) spell. The current edition swaps this spell for instructions on using the Mirror of Gal. Could be quite fun to put this back in investigators’ hands with escalating consequences. 


Ibn Tulun Attack: instead of a hunting horror, a chthonian under the control of the Brotherhood burrows into the subterranean room where the ulama guard the Girdle of Nitocris. According to the text, this attack occurs if the investigators do not take or immediately destroy the Girdle. As before, this was a great thematic choice stepping away from the Mythos menagerie tendencies of the 80s while creating a viable combat encounter.

Events beneath the Sphinx: Initially a D20 table, though 1-4 yielded no effect. Personally, we prefer more options on our random tables for inspiration, but the current edition does a great job converting the more adventurous results to Pulp options. The removed and Pulp-shifted options include:

  • Another fall with no damage, but torn skirt/trousers.
  • Foul-stench engulfs the investigators requiring a CON roll to avoid vomiting. Puking pairs nicely with an unopposed Listen roll by cultists.
  • A small rock falls from the ceiling requiring Luck roll and striking the highest roller resulting in 1D2 damage.
  • Spot Hidden avoids falling down a narrow pit (of varying heights) resulting in 1D6 damage for each 10 feet (1D4 x 10 feet).
  • Branch tunnel option: cave-in occurs requiring Dodge rolls to avoid 2D6 damage. A 12 results in rocks completely blocking passage.
  • Branch tunnel option: abruptly sloping passage requires Climb roll or fall and suffer 1D4 points of damage after subsequently failing a Dodge roll to avoid sharp rocks.
  • Branch tunnel option: a chasm of 1D4 x 5 feet width blocks the way if the investigators forgot rope forcing them to turnaround and seek a different direction.

While the original table creates a dungeon crawl-feel to exploring “The Horrors Below,” the large number of encounter-roll markers relative to available results do not provide an adequately varied experience for the investigators. To handle this, the current edition removes the markers and leaves use of the Events up to Keepers. If planning on a more extensive crawl, consider adding back some additional events, including 1-4 “No Effect” and setting event markers. A good rule of thumb is one roll for each side tunnel entered. As the investigators move closer to the Great Chamber consider using Listen, Spot Hidden, Track, or Navigate rolls as suggested in the latest edition to guide them to the finish and avoid an unwieldy number of event rolls. 

Overall, the Mythos changes feel more intentional and cohesive in the latest edition. A great deal of effort was taken to respect the original version of the campaign while strengthening it for both Keepers and players. We will return soon with a closer look at Kenya, Australia, and China in part 2.