The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion – From Humble Beginnings to Rare Collectible

“The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion” is a fan produced supplement for the most celebrated campaign for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, “The Masks of Nyarlathotep”. The companion dwarfs the campaign book by several hundred pages. “The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep” was printed in 1996 is 224 pages, while the companion is a staggering 730 pages. The companion expands and provides a deeper background to the exotic locations in which player characters will be exploring within the campaign. With a very limited number of companion books produced and the limits placed on how they could be purchased it seems “The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion” might rival the “Beyond the Mountains of Madness” in the aftermarket. 

Humble beginnings.

The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion was a volunteer project first conceived by Bret Kramer, editor of the Arkham Gazette fame. Bret Kramer, aka WinstonP as he’s known on Yog-Sothoth.com assembled members of that site, also known as Yoggies, to help him write what would first come to be known as version 0.9 of the Companion. This version was then widely distributed on the site for free and then moved to the pay section of the site. The demand for the document gave a clear indication that Bret Kramer and his fellow Yoggie’s created something special and desirable. This realization led to Brett and the other Yoggie’s to enlist the help of Sixtystone Press to help produce the companion in a printed format with the lion’s share of the profits going back into Yog-Sothoth.com to help pay for upkeep of the site. A Kickstarter was then launched on February 5th, 2015 and fulfilled the physical rewards two years later.

In those two years the companion was expanded upon and got a new layout treatment. The two years in which it took to complete the kickstarter and deliver the books, a financial miscalculations caused the profits that were intended for Yog-Sothoth.com to be used by Sixtystone Press to fulfill the kickstarter. Yog-Sothoth.com was then forced to return £10,000 to Sixtystone press, thus forcing the owner, Paul Maclean to take a very drastic measure.

Fall of the Wall

With Yog-Sothoth.com in need of money to keep the site operating, Paul Maclean owner of the site enacted the Fall of the Wall. He offered up for sale his entire collection of Call of Cthulhu roleplaying material. This massive collection would be the equivalent of going 0-70 mph in one second for a person getting into the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying game. The purchaser would have just about everything produced if not everything for Call of Cthulhu. Paul set a deadline for the whole collection and if that was not met he would start to piece out his collection for sale. Surprisingly a single buyer did arise and purchased the entire collection for an undisclosed amount, though it was said to be in the four digit range. With Yog-Sothoth.com having to return the previously mentioned £10,000 to Sixtystone Press, Chaosium stepped up to the plate and paid for the printing of their licensed copies alleviating Sixtystone Press from their obligation. Chaosium was granted the ability to produce over their 100 allotted to help cover the cost of the printing.

Where we stand today.

The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion Kickstarter is almost completely fulfilled. The sole remaining aspect of the Kickstarter is minor modifications to the PDF in the form of adding bookmarks. As far as physical fulfillment is concerned they are complete and all books have been reported as being shipped. Sadly, If you were not part of the Kickstarter that was launched in February 5, 2015 or were unable to purchase a copy from Chaosium, well you’re out of luck! The only way for you to own a copy will be through the aftermarket. There are currently no plans for the book to be reprinted or the PDF made available to the gamers outside of the Kickstarter.

Right from the start, Sixtystone Press make it quite clear in the wording of their campaign statement that this Kickstarter and Chaosium were the only places to acquire “The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion”. 761 backers took that statement seriously and locked in their places to receive a copy in PDF or printed form. The amount of books that Chaosium were to have were undisclosed at the time so, a lot of people gambled on purchasing one later on.

There are four different variations of the “The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion” or “MoNC” as it commonly referred to. Each one is unique in it’s own way. The most distinguishing feature of each variations is the cover art. Three of the variations use an Egyptian inspired themed image with an alternating color band at top, while the fourth features a black and white collage of images on a field of black.

The Sand Bat edition

This variation is the hardcover book that Chaosium sold through DrivethruRPG on July 1st and earlier at the UK Games Expo. As part of their licences agreement. Chaosium was given only 100 copies to sell. Due to financial issues involving Sixtystone Press and Yog-Sothoth, which I discussed earlier, Chaosium funded the cost of the 100 books themselves and was allowed to produce 55 more to cover the cost of printing. 20 of the original 100 were sold at the UK Games Expo and the remaining 80 were combined with the 55 to be sold later on DrivethruRPG. The Sand Bat edition was only available as a hardcover and featured an Egyptian themed cover with a purple band running at the top. All copies sold out in a few hours on July 1st.

The Black Pharaoh Limited edition

This was a Kickstarter exclusive limited edition hardcover. Each hardcover featured a numbered bookplate. The cover is similar to the Sand Bat edition with a blue color bar at top. There were only 99 Black Pharaoh editions produced.

The Bloody Tongue unlimited edition

This version came in  both softcover and hardcover. The number of copies produced is not publicly known. A few backers were added after funding in the two years that it took to fulfil the project and the number of books produced are also skewed by a last minute upgrade option that was made available to Kickstarter backers who pledged at the PDF level. The total number of backers listed on the Kickstarter page who pledged for a unlimited Bloody Tongue hardcover through PDFs is around 658. 203 pledged at the hardcover version, 309 pledged for a softcover and 146 pledged for a PDF only. To muddy up the waters even more the 309 softcover pledges were allowed to upgrade to hardcover. So unless Sixtystone Press releases the exact number of unlimited Bloody Tongue edition books  produced in both hardcover and softcover we’re just going to have to guess. When it comes to the aftermarket this should be the most common variation available.

Contributor edition

No image has surfaced so far that I know of but a brief description by a contributor gave us some insight into what that version looks like. The contributor edition is said to have the same cover as the Sand Bat and the Black Pharaoh editions with the same Egyptian themed image but the band at the top is yellow.* The exact number of contributor copies produced is unknown.

*An image of this edition surfaced after the original publication.

As of the writing of this article only two books has been sold in the aftermarket. A softcover version of The Bloody Tongue closed on ebay.co.uk for £82 almost three time the kickstarter pledge price. A Limited Black Pharaoh edition sold on Ebay.com for $299, roughly three times the cost to the original backer pledge. With the limited print run and high demand will “The Mask of Nyarlathotep Companion” may become the next “Beyond the Mountains of Madness” of the aftermarket?

Written by:
Stephen Pennisi
(“DadsAngry” on various websites)

Sources:
http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/28367-masks-of-nyarlathotep-companion-kickstarter-now-live/
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/482503977/masks-of-nyarlathotep-companion

Images taken from:
Sand Bat edition – http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/28367-masks-of-nyarlathotep-companion-kickstarter-now-live/
Black Pharaoh edition – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Masks-of-Nyarlathotep-COMPANION-Black-Pharaoh-Limited-Hardback-Call-of-Cthulhu/201972063895?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649
Bloody Tongue edition – Picture by Stephen Pennisi
Contributed edition – picture by Chad Bowser (used with permission)

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The following comments are from the named contributors and used with their permission. All were posted over at G+ in response to a link to this article. 

From Paul MacLean
Just popped by to make a couple of possible clarifications.

1) I was not forced to return the monies, I voluntarily did so! Otherwise a lot of people would not have got their KS copies of the MONC.

2) Chaosium did not take a hit on the Kickstarter by funding their own printing. They were allowed to print an additional 55 copies on top of their 100 copy royalty fee, to cover those printing costs (which was good of them – and fortunately they all sold). Therefore selling 100 copies for $7,500 profit and another 55 copies whose own profit covered Chaosium’s printing costs – meaning Chaosium still generated the 100 copy $7,500 profit due to them, without any financial loss.

MONC Contributor copies are currently in process. Adam should have the final numbers for everything at some point.

From Bret Kramer
To add on to Paul’s comments, the original goal for the MoNC was to take a few articles from YSDC contributors and collect them together for release as a Chaosium monograph. Initially there was a lot of interest and very little submitted. I began to write pieces I wanted to see in the book. Over time, several very large pieces arrived – such as the outstanding Shanghai and London guides – inspiring me to make sure to round out the whole of the book.

At the same time I contracted (the now removed) old team at Chaosium, looking to see if they were interested in releasing what was becoming a very large project as a regular release book. Chaosium dithered a great deal (my guess is because they didn’t have the funds to print it) and we waited for more than a year for a decision about the book. I got to talk to Charlie Krank a lot on the phone (when he answered) and hear a lot of rambling stories and otherwise be put off (usually with a promise to read it as soon as he could).

We reached a point where we decided it was better to just release it as a free PDF (with the hopes someone would donate to YSDC) and gave Chaosium a drop dead date to reply by otherwise we’d post it for free. They never responded and we posted the .9 version.

Once Mike Mason came on board at Chaosium, he expressed interest in the project and we made plans to launch a Kickstarter to fund it. Adam Crossingham, who ran the Kickstarter and laid out the book, worked to expand the book and improve the less-complete chapters like Australia and add additional illustrations. Two years later the book was ready for release, about 150 pages longer (and much improved in my opinion).

Our goal isn’t to produce a book for collectors, but we did promise our backers a limited print run. I would hope that if Chaosium updates Mon for 7th edition, they will make use of material from the Companion. Perhaps we would revisit the book them as well.

 

 

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Ty Snouffer says:

    I was fortunate/lucky enough to grab one of the Chaosium printings last week. I had the 0.9 PDF from back in the day and found it interesting but not enough to get in on the Kickstarter. (Also, I was burned by one of the failed MoN prop Kickstarters so I wasn’t about to rush into another MON Kickstarter.)

    While I am glad (somewhat) that I got a copy I guarantee I wouldn’t have been interested had there not been all the hype around the limited printings. I figured if I could get it, I would, if I couldn’t I didn’t care.

    I don’t know why that limited printed approach was taken. I’d be disappointed if they went back on their word now though. Not that they’ve suggested they would.

    Sad to hear about ys.com. Not sure why they would have been financially hurt by this arrangement. I can see why not getting the $$ was bad but not why they would be worse off to where Paul would have to sell his collection.

    It is all pretty silly when you think about it. I maintain that the gaming hobby as a whole would face a partial collapse if folks could only buy what they play.

    Anyway, nice article about the state of the hobby in one respect.

    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. modoc31 says:

      Ty

      I have not run Mask yet, but the hype surrounding the companion makes me want to have it. Go figure! Do you feel it will add value to play experience?

      ~ Modoc

      Like

      1. Ty Snouffer says:

        For sure, but like any campaign you’re going to get out what you put into it. For a Keeper this gives them more to “put into.” It might be too much though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. modoc31 says:

        Ty

        Thanks for your thoughts. I feel there is always a fine with companion products. If a keeper uses such a product, those with too much info could bog down a game and those with too little are just teases.

        ~ Modoc

        Like

  2. modoc31 says:

    We have updated the original post to now include an image of the Contributor’s Edition that was provided by Chad Bowser and used with his permission.

    ~ Modoc

    Like

  3. modoc31 says:

    More updates and clarifications added to the bottom of the original article. Thanks to Paul and Bret for their comments and clarifications.

    ~ Modoc

    Liked by 1 person

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