Returning to the 4th Edition, part 2

We return to our review of the fourth edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep to survey the Kenya, Australia, and China chapters. As the campaign moves further away from America, a lot of the poorly-aged choices and depictions become more apparent. The intent is not to belabor them in great detail but point out some of the more salient decisions made in the latest version. Once again, we engage the older edition with an open mind and an eye for discarded components that could be re-incorporated or further modified to augment your campaign. 


“Expect massive Sanity loss in this chapter. Don’t be squeamish in applying it.”

The dangerous road to the Mountain of the Black Wind.

Previously Kenya served as a near-direct path to a series of really brutal Sanity rolls culminating at the Mountain of the Black Wind. The intensity of the experience almost certainly demolished a large number of adventuring parties. The latest edition expects far more player agency and intervention, which hopefully derails the crushing mental assault, offers some sky-high stakes, and ends with a rewarding victory over M’Weru’s cult.

Mau Mau Rebellion: This poorly deployed historical reference, referred to in the text as the “Mau Mau Terror campaign”, was removed as it attributed real-life events in Africa to the Cult of the Bloody Tongue. Chaosium has wisely avoided such conflations in contemporary publications. 

Cthäat Aquadingen: Replaced in the latest edition with The Black Tome. This Mythos tome is a creation of Brian Lumley and does not seem to really jive with Taan Kaur’s personal interests. According to the Keeper Rulebook (p. 227), the body of this text provides a detailed discussion of deep ones. It also contains a number of spells associated with water-borne entities, as well as Tsathoggua and Yibb-Tstll. If aiming to reintegrate this text into your campaign, Shanghai seems a fitting chapter. Apparently partially composed in R’lyehian, this might be found in Carl Stanford’s room.

The Small Ghouls: Replaced by the revenants as the primary Mythos threat in “The Game Lodge” sidetrack. The tasteless and completely ludicrous basis for the seething masses of mini-ghouls relied upon a local tribe practicing infanticide with a communal burial ground. Here, the fictional Boyoyva tribe both abandoned unwanted children and allowed Endicott to build his night platform. Of course, “his shooting of predators does make the burial ground safer to visit.” Yikes. The revised version pulls in the Carlyle Expedition and adds a nice bit of variety. 

Okomo: Old Bundari’s young assistant is written to be abrasive, but much less difficult in the latest version. Previous editions required successful Fast Talk or Persuade rolls to convince him the investigators deserve an audience with the wise elder. Now, they must only pass a Hard Fast Talk after lying to avoid a stern dressing down. On the flip side, Okomo used to provide a great deal more information in earlier editions, including revelations about the Eye of Light and Darkness. This fittingly has shifted to Old Bundari, who wakes up from his interdimensional snooze after 1D6+6 hours to converse, as before. 

The Waiting Game: In the prior editions, Bundari and Okomu required time to study the Eye of Light and Darkness in order to learn how to use it. There was a 5% chance they would succeed…each month. For each month the investigators wait for results, they got to roll again…with a 5% chance. This very hard pause helped the Keeper run down the campaign clock but also assumed the investigators would simply wait around and not find another solution elsewhere. Fortunately, in the latest edition, Old Bundari makes no such offer, instead, he takes another 1D6+6 hour transcendental nap and comes back with some intel about the Seven Cryptical Books of H’san solidifying the link with China. 

The Giant Chameleon: Who, the strange caged chameleon, originally turned into a strange and giant chameleon when unleashed. Old Bundari possessing a creature originating from the Dreamlands seems far more appropriate. See this older post for more on Who and other Kenyan artifacts. 

Local Gossip: The current edition provides two additional rumors to the original three. First, the mounting tension is certainly increased by locals mentioning the presence of foreign travelers headed for the Mountain of the Black Wind—suggesting potential encounters with international cultists during the trek. Additionally, this helps to emphasize that the Bloody Tongue cultists are not simply Africans. Further, the regional inhabitants now directly emphasize the evil of the mountain referencing lightning strikes and fell voices on the wind. 

Fire Vampires: Get cut from the Bloody Tongue’s ordinary rites, which now only include shantaks and hunting horrors. Taan Kaur would be disappointed.

Toning it Down: The Ritual of the Birth previously contained a line stating: “men, women, children, and babies are destroyed indifferently.” The implication of horrors remains present but not quite so explicit. 


“The plot does not require they go to Australia—Nyarlathotep’s scheme can be foiled in Kenya or on Gray Dragon Island, near Shanghai.”

Australia did not originally make it into the first cut. It wasn’t until 1996 that it finally found its way into the campaign after an original publication in the 1987 edition of Terror Australis. The chapter contains much promise and actually serves well as a campaign chapter, as well as a standalone adventure. It pairs very well with the latest edition of Terror Australis if looking to expand the chapter’s offerings. The latest revision deals with the still unfolding history of Aboriginal Australians much more sensitively. 

Mackenzie and Canon: Robert Mackenzie makes a cameo in MoN before appearing in Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time in 1934. The original authors explicitly stated, “Do not let Mackenzie die.” The current edition provides Keepers a heads-up but generously permits some much-appreciated latitude in messing with the timeline. 

Perth: “If the investigators come here, let them run around town for a while.” Strangely, this entry was kept in the latest edition. That pretty much sums up Perth’s significance in the campaign. 

The Wycroft Gang: Mortimer previously hung out with a trio of Aboriginal Australian cultists. Far more interesting to replace them with his unruly daughters. Another possibility to consider, the relationships could be easily inverted…Matilda Wycroft and her three sons?

The Buckley Boys: The genders remain the same, but the ages change. The pater familias, Vern, shifts down from 61 to 45, while Frank and Jacko jump from 29 and 23 to 13 and 10, respectively. This creates a much more interesting dilemma, which XPLovecat touches on here.  Between this tweak and the addition of a more nuanced background plot this short sidetrack is massively improved in the latest edition. 

Mimi petroglyphs

The Mimis: These Dreamtime spirit creatures appeared in earlier editions and served as unusual complications and incentives to attack the deadly Flying Polyps. Overall, they seemed a bit too whimsical in their depiction to match the chapter’s tone. If planning to include to tie Huston’s Dreamlands activities with the Dreamtime, you may wish to reincorporate these beings. The current of edition of Terror Australis has a useful profile and stat block (pgs. 186-87). 

The Ambush: In the same vein as the revision to Wycroft’s crew. The latest edition replaces bands of Aboriginal Australians rolling boulders with a hidden sniper. A much more compelling decision departing from the tendency to vilify the indigenous people. 

Grogan’s Dingoes: These outback canines were brought into existence by his potent dreaming abilities and could not be harmed by attacks. Now the dreamed dingoes exist as a Pulp option with the ability to grow in size. 

The Titan Horror: Mercifully toned down the 1D20 Sanity loss for failure to 1D10. Still feels like there should be more here to discover for such a steep price.

A Chronic Omission: Likely due to the originally vestigial nature of the Australia chapter to the original campaign, the earlier editions fail to mention the presence of Huston’s marine chronometer in his headquarters. 


“If they survive, investigators who come first to Shanghai can emerge in good shape for tackling the other chapter locations.”

This chapter features the expected NPC name and gender alterations. Notably, Madam Lin used to be a lecherous old man, engaged in overt slavery who severed the vocal cords of his female “servants” and kidnapped unsuspecting female investigators (now only a Pulp feature) with rather upsetting implications. 

Stanford’s Gate Box: originally linked to Hoosick Falls, New York, which is the same as his gate box twin listed in the Shadows of Yog-Sothoth campaign (p. 26). Could be a nice way to quickly return to the Empire State at the end of the campaign. 

Hunt for Mu Hsien: As in the current edition, investigators received a list from the Shanghai museum consisting of 34 names requiring 1D6+2 days to work through. In both editions, there are six individuals with knowledge of Chinese occultism. The current edition smooths this task by making Mu Hsien more accessible once found. He previously refused an audience unless investigators mention Jack Brady or the Order of the Bloated Woman. In addition, the latest edition places Madam Lin on the list of scholars, as well as adds Chang Ning, a minor NPC. As written, Chang Ning functions as a dead end, but he could refer the stymied investigators to his reclusive colleague, Mu Hsien. 

The Shanghai Courier: Previously simply a record archive where the investigators pulled newspaper clips. The current edition adds Anthony Chang as the newspaper’s editor and spy connected to Nigel Wassif in Cairo. This creates a nice connection with Egypt, as well as deepens the established political intrigue in Shanghai. Offers a great opportunity for quid pro quo information exchange.

China contains a big campaign set piece and the high-probability ultimate climax in Gray Dragon Island. The overall tone and content of this location remain essentially untouched between editions. Many Keepers experience China as a keystone chapter in the campaign, and it is undeniably written as such. As noted above, the chapter itself undergoes many of the necessary cosmetic changes but actually remains relatively unaltered in its content. 

Finally, the fourth edition contained a single-page index dedicated to Shipboard Activities. Sadly, they removed the option to improve Fighting (Brawl) (formerly Grapple and Fist/Punch) in the latest edition, but they included some nice skill suggestions for passage on a Steamer or Freighter. The appendices in the latest edition are quite thorough with six pages dedicated to travel. The addition of an eighth chapter, “The Grand Conclusion,” really helps the Keeper tie everything together for the campaign, keep score, and craft a satisfying end to everyone’s work. 

In reviewing each of these chapters, many of the changes discussed reflect either the inclusive and sensitive approach to tabletop gaming Chaosium now aims for in their products, or the company’s attention to the contemporary shift towards greater player agency and satisfying player-GM collaboration. Overall, this review of interesting and notable alterations revealed yet again, the latest edition is truly the best version of the greatest campaign.