Masks of Nyarlathotep Session Notes

Player characters

Peru session 1, 2018-09-29

You all responded to a newspaper advert looking for participants in an expedition to find an unknown pyramid in Peru, organised by one Augustus Larkin.

In Lima, Peru, you met Augustus Larkin, a sickly looking white man with a British accent, who you noticed is possibly suffering opioid withdrawal symptoms; Luis de Mendoza, a Hispanic-looking man, who is Larkin’s silent and imposing assistant; and Jesse Hughes, an African-American folklorist. “Jesse Hughes” is actually an alias he has given Larkin, his real identity is Jackson Elias, a not-unknown author who investigates and writes about real-world cults.

Over dinner, Larkin gave you an overview of the expedition and what he hopes to find. Afterwards, Jackson Elias revealed that he has doubts: he’s in Peru to investigate an ancient death cult behind the legend of the “kharisiri”, fat-sucking vampires. Mendoza has a fearsome reputation, and Larkin is acting strangely; Jackson Elias thinks that they, the pyramid, and this expedition are all connected to the cult somehow.

You, and Jackson Elias, are staying in the Hotel Maury; Larkin and Mendoza are staying in the Hotel Espana. The expedition leaves the morning of the day after tomorrow to Puno, and from there into the mountains: so you have one evening and one full day in Lima.

The following morning you went with Jackson Elias to meet with Professor Memesio Sanchez, a respected archaeologist and historian at the local university. Professor Sanchez has offered numerous times to help Larkin’s expedition, but been rebuffed or ignored every time. He thinks that Larkin plans to steal the pyramid’s historical treasures and take them abroad, which the law currently does not prevent. He and his assistant, the undergraduate Trinidad Rizo, have been conducting research into the possible location of the pyramid, based on documents in the university archives.

Rizo was taking an unusually long time to arrive at the meeting, so you—not including Jackson Elias and Professor Sanchez—went to the store room to investigate. There you found signs of a struggle, and Rizo’s dead body. Boxes had been knocked off shelves, and she was partly buried. You found the skin stretched tightly over her bones, as if the fat had been removed from her body, and a large circular wound in her chest.

It is now around noon.

Dr. Crane, you were examining the body.

Lady Ashdown, you had found footprints leaving the room.

What are the rest of you doing?

Peru session 2, 2018-10-27

Still reeling from the shock of finding Rizo’s damaged body, Prof. Musgrave ran back to the office to fetch Prof. Sanchez and Jackson Elias.

Dr. Crane, as he finished his examination of the body and climbed to his feet noticed two things previously missed: a sheet of handwritten paper sticking out of Rizo’s jacket pocket, and the glint of gold from a crate next to her body. You all read the paper while you waited for Prof. Musgrave and the rest to return: it was Rizo’s notes on “The Final Confessions of Gaspar Figueroa”, a conquistador who came to Peru in 1541. The notes describe how he and his companions—Hernando Ruiz, Diego Garrido, Luis de Mendoza, and Pedro de Velasco—found an ancient temple near Lake Titicaca full of gold, how they removed some of the gold and, that night, all turned into ravenous monsters who pursued Figueroa. Figueroa eventually arrived in Lima, wasted and weakened by his ordeal, still carrying the gold they removed. For the rest of his days, Figueroa was plagued by hearing the voices of his friends, crying out in inhuman hunger; and another voice, ancient and seductive, promising him eternal life if he returned to the temple.

Musgrave, Sanchez, and Elias all arrived back. Prof. Sanchez, shocked and grieving, collapsed to the floor next to Rizo’s corpse; Lady Ashdown examined the gold in the crate, and found it to be a solid gold band covered in geometric shapes, with ragged edges as if it had been torn from a larger design, and managed to get enough sense out of Prof. Sanchez to learn that this gold was found with the Gaspar Figueroa documents. The crate itself looked like it had been torn apart, rather than being damaged by simply falling to the floor as a shelf was knocked. Furthermore, she noticed that the gold, while cold to the touch, had burned scraps of skin stuck to it, as if someone had tried to pick it up while red hot.

You all argued about how best to distribute weapons amongst the party as you pursued the presumed attacker by following the bloody footprints, until Sanchez cried out “we have to call the police!” You decided to split up: Jackson Elias and Prof. Sanchez would go back to his office to call the police, Wilhelmina would stay here to watch the body, and the rest of you would follow the footprints.

The footprints became harder and harder to track, and you lost them back in the corridor leading to Prof. Sanchez’s office. In front of you was the door outside, to your left were the offices. Lady Ashdown and Jason Steele went outside, Dr. Crane and Prof. Musgrave decided to go check out the offices. As they arrived at Prof. Sanchez’s office, Prof. Musgrave glimpsed a face peering in through the window, which quickly disappeared. The window looked out onto an area behind the university building full of trees and shrubbery, with no paths and few visitors. You both, and Jackson Elias, climbed out of the window, but couldn’t see anyone. Prof. Musgrave heard quiet footsteps not very far away, as of someone trying to sneak away, and ran towards the source.

Prof. Musgrave emerged into a clearing, to find Luis de Mendoza, who turned slowly and fixed the professor with a silent gaze. Dr. Crane and Jackson Elias caught up as you stared each other down. Prof. Musgrave drew a gun, and tried to question Mendoza: silence. Jackson Elias tried in Spanish: silence. Dr. Crane went to fetch the others; after he left, Mendoza charged Prof. Musgrave, who shot him twice without slowing him down. Mendoza barreled into the professor, tackling him to the ground, but got shot at point-blank range by Jackson Elias, flinging him off, and he lay still. Everyone but Wilhelmina, who was still watching the body, showed up a few minutes later. Dr. Crane examined the body and said that no man could survive that. About half an hour later, the police showed up and took over.

You decided to go confront Larkin, to see what he knew about Mendoza and, if nothing else, to tell him he needed a new bodyguard as you’d killed his current one. You arrived at the Hotel Espana and met the aged proprietor, Petronila Cupitina, who directed you to Larkin and Mendoza’s rooms. Both were silent. After fiddling around with lockpicks and considering scaling the exterior of the building, you discovered Larkin’s room was actually unlocked all along, and cautiously entered. The room was a tip, with things scattered everywhere. There you found Larkin, out of his mind on a large dose of heroin, which Dr. Crane estimated would not be fatal, but which would last several more hours. Larkin vaguely recognised you, but was unable to do anything more than suggest that you meet some other time.

You decided to snoop around and look for clues. Wilhelmina unsuccessfully tried to find a map to the pyramid. Jackson Elias noticed that Larkin had a large tattoo on his check: of a person, but in the place of his head was a large spiral. He recognised this as the symbol of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, a particularly violent Kenyan cult, and had no idea what would bring them to Peru. Under the stench of Larkin’s strong cologne, Lady Ashdown noticed the faint smell of rotting meat.

You then broke into Mendoza’s room. In contrast to Larkin’s, it was spotlessly clean, as if it had never been used. Again, Wilhelmina unsuccessfully looked for a map. Jason Steele found a small mirror of polished gold beneath the mattress, the only personal item in the room. Prof. Musgrave examined it… and had a brief vision of white tentacles bursting through a pyramid.

You decided to come back after a few hours to talk to Larkin when he was sober again. Prof. Musgrave went back to his hotel room to rest. The rest of you confronted Larkin, telling him that Mendoza had killed a girl at the university, and asking how long Mendoza had been in his employ. Larkin expressed shock and disbelief that Mendoza would do such a thing, and said that he had only known Mendoza for a few months. Lady Ashdown realised that Larkin was lying. Larkin seemed to have no recollection of your visit that afternoon.

The following morning, you set off to Puno in the Andean foothills. Larkin was determined that the loss of Mendoza not slow down the expedition. This was an uneventful three-day journey by truck, during which you fought off altitude sickness.

You had one night to rest in Puno before heading out the next morning to the pyramid on foot. Most of you chose to stay in the hotel, but Wilhelmina decided to roam the streets. She realised an old woman was following her, and confronted this person. The old woman asked if Wilhelmina was with Larkin and, upon hearing that she was but that she didn’t trust Larkin, the woman said to follow her. She said her name was Nayra, and that she didn’t think it was a good idea to go with Larkin to the pyramid. She told a local legend, of an unknown dark god that fell from the sky into Lake Titicaca, and brought hunger and famine with it. One day a hero lured the god into a cave, which was full of the most delicious tubers and grubs; and sealed the cave with huge rocks. A pyramid was then built over the cave, with spells worked in gold to keep the god imprisoned forever. Wilhelmina wondered aloud if the god had escapedOut-of-character at this point you were discussing a few theories: such as if the golden band at at the university which Gaspar Figueroa brought from a pyramid was part of the golden seal used to keep the god imprisoned, and if Mendoza was some aspect or manifestation of this god who had escaped when the seal was broken.

, at which Nayra crossed herselfNayra seems to follow a mixture of Catholicism and local beliefs.

and shuddered.

The following morning, you discussed what you knew, and sent a telegram off to Prof. Sanchez detailing your findings. You thought that you might need to bring the gold band to the pyramid, so it’s best for him to be prepared.

You then set out into the jungle with Larkin, using pack animals to carry your supplies. No locals would accompany you now. After a few hours you stopped for lunch, and Lady Ashdown spied a majestic jaguar in the distance.

That night around 3am, the noise of one of the pack animals in distress alerted Dr. Crane, who was on watch, and awakened Lady Ashdown, a light sleeper. You found a filthy man, stinking and dressed in rags, pinning one of the animals to the ground with his face pressed into it. Lady Ashdown hit the man in the head with a crowbar, knocking him off the animal, and revealing that his mouth was no human mouth: it was circular and full of sharp teeth, much like a lamprey. The rest of you had awoken at this point, and easily dealt with the man.

It is now around 3am.

You’re all standing around the body of a lamprey-man who was feeding on one of your pack animals, whose head has been smashed in with a crowbar.

What do you do?

Peru session 3, 2018-11-11

Dr. Crane examined the body of the man who attacked your pack animals, and the wound on the animal, and determined that it matched the wound on Rizo’s body back in Lima. He judged that it was probably a similar creature which had attacked her. Larkin appeared shocked, asking “what was that man?”, but you realised he was lying: he seemed surprised that the attack had occurred, but not by the man’s existence. You buried the man and the animal to avoid attracting scavenging animals, and returned to bed.

The second day and night of your journey passed uneventfully.

In the third afternoon, you saw two people heading in the same direction as you, half a mile ahead. Larkin suggested they may be local farmers. You failed to catch up with them.

You arrived at the pyramid, looking down upon it from half-way up a mountain. The plateau which held it had no vegetation, just dirt, rock, a pit next to the south wall, and the part-buried pyramid with a crack running along the top. Two figures were below: you could see one standing next to the pyramid, and one climbing the side. The one climbing the side crouched over the crack for a few minutes, then both went to the pit next to the south wall and climbed down.

The air swarmed with flies, which Prof. Musgrave identified as bloatflies, which feed on carrion.

You descended to the pyramid and had a look around. You found:

You decided to wade through the bodies, following the two people, to reduce the risk of being caught unawares if you used a different entrance. Larkin feigned his illness acting up to avoid going in, but when confronted confessed that he suffered claustrophobia, and didn’t realise just what it would be like at the pyramid. Jason Steele stayed with Larkin while the rest of you descended.

Wandering the narrow tunnels, you found a room full of shiny trinkets from all ages: coins, jewellery, watches, cutlery, and so on; gathered and piled up with no apparent organisation. You also saw the two people from earlier, fast asleep on filthy mats on the floor. They were thin, unnaturally so, but didn’t appear to be suffering for it.

You tried to bind the two people, a man and a woman, without waking them up. You succeeded with the man, but the woman woke up, but you managed to subdue her. You tried questioning her, but got no answer. You tried giving her food, which she ate, but not with the reckless abandon you would expect from a victim of starvation. Leaving them behind, you continued to explore the tunnels.

You arrived at the buried walls of the pyramid, which had a familiar-looking golden band embedded into them. You followed the band, and reached a point where it had been torn away. There was a crack along the wall from the floor to the ceiling, and a hole in the floor which had filled with a rank-smelling white liquid. Lady Ashdown saw rippling in the pool, as if something were moving beneath the surface.

Dr. Crane lowered a sample container into the pool, and the ripples surged towards it. He withdrew the container and examined the contents, but without much insight. He tried setting it alight, and it burst into flames with such a violence he started and dropped the flaming container into the pool, setting the whole thing alight. Black smoke billowed into the tunnel. Jackson Elias dropped to the ground, and to fresh air, dragging Wilhelmina with him; but the rest of you inhaled the smoke and collapsed unconscious.

On the surface, Jason Steele saw the smoke emerging, and tried to move one of the stone slabs covering the shafts, to let the smoke escape more rapidly. As he was struggling with that, he heard footsteps from behind. He turned, and it was Larkin, but not Larkin as you knew him. This Larkin stood straight and tall, with no sign of his usual illness, and his eyes were totally black. Jason Steele felt his mind go blank as Larkin said “you will go into the pyramid and destroy the golden seal.”

Jason climbed down into the tunnels, touching the golden band. He briefly fought to overcome this compulsion upon him, but could not. He struck the band with a crowbar, creating a new crack. A brief earthquake shook the ground.

Lady Ashdown, Dr. Crane, and Prof. Musgrave regained consciousness just in time to see Jason Steele strike the band and feel the ground shake. “What have you done,” Prof. Musgrave cried, and Jason Steele babbled for a few moments about Larkin.

You decided to try repairing the golden band with the gold in the other room, as the band was set into the wall of the pyramid, so it was clear where gold needed to be. Prof. Musgrave hammered the golden mirror he found in Luis de Mendoza’s room into the cavity in the wall. You all then turned to go fetch more gold to finish the repair, and were confronted by Luis de Mendoza, seemingly back from the dead.

“Destroy the seal,” he said, the first words you had heard him speak. He had a gun aimed at you. When you didn’t cooperate, he shot Prof. Musgrave, who failed to dodge, and lay on the ground bleeding heavily. Jason Steele shot Mendoza twice with his shotgun, inflicting a terrible wound, and knocking him back onto the ground, apparently dead once more. The horror of what you all just witnessed began to sink in: a dead man came back to kill you. Dr. Crane picked the bullet out of Prof. Musgrave and bandaged him up. Prof. Musgrave gained a nascent phobia of bullets.

You quickly fetched more gold and continued the repair, but nothing seemed to happen. Jason Steele decided to pick up Mendoza’s body and see if the seal burned it, like the fragment of seal in the university storage room did. But as he picked up Mendoza, the body crumbled away into dust. You dashed back to the room with the two people in, and saw that the man had also turned to dust. The woman was still alive, but looked incredibly feeble, and seemed to worsen before your very eyes. She seemed confused and afraid, asking what was happening. Prof. Musgrave offered her some food, but as she reached out her arm to take it, she fell back dead.

Jason Steele and Prof. Musgrave came out onto the surface to find Larkin sitting down, looking very feeble, with no sign of the power which had filled him before. He told you that he had come to this pyramid once before, with some locals, and that he didn’t really remember what happened. He found himself back in Lima, with a compulsion to find some people to take to the pyramid and destroy the golden seal. He couldn’t do it himself, it repelled the power within him. This is where you, and his expedition, came in.

You then lowered a rope down one of the shafts for the rest of you to climb out. Jackson Elias carried a bag full of golden coins, and said sheepishly “well, this is why we came, right?”

Then we had a time skip to everyone parting ways at the port in Lima.

None of you seemed particularly sad to be leaving Peru, and a few of you said you’d hope to never cross paths with Larkin again. Larkin said that he was just glad everyone survived this expedition, and that he hoped nothing like this would ever happen again. Jason Steele and Dr. Crane realised Larkin was lying; but the point of no return had been passed, and they couldn’t turn back to confront him.

This is the end of this chapter. Bonus sanity points are:

The next chapter is after a four-year time skip. We’ll start with a brief character-tweaking phase where I’ll award some bonus skill points.