Trimming & Refining Australia

Excluded from the early releases of Masks of Nyarlathotep, the Australia chapter finally saw publication in 1996, and, in many respects, still feels slightly perfunctory and out of place. For one, it lacks the geographic constraints imposed in the other chapters and spans an entire vast continent. While the scale of the search adds to the global flavor of the campaign and helps create late-game pressure by adding in lots of travel time, it also dilutes some of the excitement.  The cursory detail provided in the relatively brief descriptions of each location lacks the flavor and drama present in other chapters. 

The chapter’s true heart lies beneath the parched earth of the sparsely populated Australian Outback. Unfortunately, to reach the Great City dungeon crawl, the investigators must poke around in a variety of Australian locales. Several of these locations lack the depth of intrigue present in other chapters. This is not an indictment of the Australian venues, but the effort devoted to fleshing them out. A Keeper has two options, build upon the investigative elements and ties to the MoN mysteries or consolidate and curtal. Here, we will discuss the latter option in following the order of presentation in the Australia chapter.

Perth: Taken directly from the text: “There are simply no useful clues here…” Mercilessly ignore and cut. Honestly, kinda silly that they left this in as it has no viable links to other chapters that would lead here. 

Sydney: In terms of substantive campaign progression, this location serves only to connect the investigators with Prof. David Dodge and view Arthur MacWhirr’s Diary (Carlyle Papers Australia #1). While there are a couple of other options for investigating libraries, museums, and the university, the content remains thin. If aiming to consolidate, use Cowles to connect the investigators directly with David Dodge and facilitate correspondence by telegram or letter. Set up an expedition to Western Australia in advance to eliminate time in Sydney—don’t forget telegrams can be sent and received aboard ocean liners. Dodge can arrange to meet them en route at another chapter location, such as Darwin or Port Hedland. We left Sydney in our current playthrough and used it to foreshadow future Sandbat interactions and set up encounters with cult agents. It’s nice to juxtapose the city with the remote outback. If keeping Sydney, you’ll probably want to prepare a few NPCs (museum curators, shop owners, librarians, lurking cult agents) in advance since the book offers none aside from Dodge.

The unassuming exterior of the Randolph Shipping Warehouse.

Darwin: Thanks to the Randolph Shipping Company (RSC), the investigators will have links from London, Cairo, Mombasa, and Shanghai to this location. The primary purpose of this stop is to break into Toddy Randolph’s warehouse, glimpse his ledger that directs the investigators to Mortimer Wycroft as well as the other linked chapters, and then inspect a couple of crates. One is a Cthulhu cameo when a Penhew-bound crate breaks open and inflicts some requisite SAN loss. The other crate contains The Device of Rods, Wheels, and Mirrors, which is not critical for investigative purposes, but provides an opportunity for roleplay, Great City hints, and Yithian revelations (more on this later). This location can be consolidated into Port Hedland with some work, as you’ll have to doctor the handouts to direct the players to RSC in Port Hedland, not Darwin. If the players miss or choose to skip Darwin, you can simply place a secondary RSC warehouse in Port Hedland. Local rumors or NPC encounters (including a transplanted Billy Burraglong) can direct them there. Similarly, the Device may be moved and an interesting location would be Wycroft’s apartment above his outfitting shop to be discovered along with Wondrous Intelligences. Perhaps old Mortimer kept something precious for himself but has yet to discover how to work it. When we ran this location, we included it as a 12-hour layover during the voyage from Sydney to Port Hedland. Just enough time for a short split-party session to investigate the warehouse and collect some rumors before quickly moving on. 

Twilight in Port Hedland.

Port Hedland: A must-run location for the chapter, as it is the most likely point of arrival for the investigators. There are three links to Port Hedland, a direct mention by Professor Anthony Cowles plus two internal chapter links (Dodge and MacWhirr’s diary). Depending on preference, Cowles can strongly point the investigators to Port Hedland. To further incentivize this direction of travel, he can state that Dodge is planning an expedition to Western Australia by way of Port Hedland. While this slightly alters the campaign text, it cleanly removes Sydney and connects the players to Dodge and Mackenzie while adding some more clues to this single location. As above, incorporating Darwin’s content into this location increases its significance. Otherwise, it’s simply a short NPC encounter with Mackenzie and the launch point for Cuncudgerie and the Outback. If you wish, Mackenzie or Dodge recommend a bar and/or “friendly” hotel frequented by outfitters, prospectors, and outdoorsfolk that can provide some of the rumors from Darwin and/or Cuncudgerie. This could begin a trickle of rumors related to Huston (John Carver) that intensifies as they reach Cuncudgerie. 

The crush of men and livestock in Cuncudgerie.

Cuncudgerie: This is another key location for the chapter, and where the real Australian adventure begins, as well as the threads for the Bill Buckley sidetrack. As suggested, if anything is missed from above, consider adding to this location, including rumors, artifacts, and NPC encounters. In our current campaign, we have split the Wycroft family with two daughters manning the shop while Dad and a sharpshooting Janice (we modified her Firearms (Rifle) skill) run errands in the Sandy Desert. This encouraged more sneaking around the apartment, as the daughters slept elsewhere…You may wish to use the daughters as dangerous guides or hide a marked-up map in the shop revealing Wycroft’s route. 

To speed movement around Australia, we redlined most travel with shortcut scenes on boats, including strange dreams, a nighttime glimpse of the Haunter in the Dark, and casual cultist encounters (a new recruit en route to Port Hedland). We try to keep the focus on the action and investigation in the early stages of the chapter and use the travel descriptions to highlight the changing scenery as they move from civilization to remote desert isolation.

If you’re looking to expand your campaign, especially Perth and Sydney, you can look to Terror Australis for greater depth. The book contains two scenarios located near Adelaide and Melbourne, one of which involves alien Mythos entities. It provides some useful background about The Dreaming and provides materials on Australian Mythos Cults, including Sandbat, and additional creatures that could flesh out some interesting Outback encounters. The goal of these suggestions is to help the Keeper properly pace their Australian chapter while building the player excitement about what mystery awaits the investigators in the Outback. 

Don’t delay! Adventure awaits in the Great Sandy Desert.