Masks of Nyarlathotep begins in earnest in New York City. Friend of player characters and occult journalist Jackson Elias sends the players a telegram which brings them together and inadvertently sows the seeds for what will become a compelling mystery.
Now, much has been said about Lovecraft’s time in New York, it doesn’t seem entirely necessary to hash it out here – suffice it to say, New York did not bring out the best in him (see: The Horror at Red Hook). However, there is a great weird tradition in NYC, which you can bring into your campaign in order to flesh out the New York sections.
Perhaps you’d like to have an introductory adventure or two in New York to build the party up first. Keep in mind that Jackson Elias specialized in the Cthulhu Cult but any sort of cult would probably be fair game – New York City is home to virtually every culture on Earth, it seems impossible that you wouldn’t be able to find some terrible cult worshipping some dark god. Or if you don’t want the villains to be the stock foreign kind, make them villainous Mason-esque Olde Worlde wizards – i.e. Joseph Curwen.
It might be worth noting Dennis Detwiller’s tip regarding Jackson Elias:
Introduce Jackson Elias BEFORE THE CAMPAIGN
In my games, Jackson Elias was not some obscure paper character that suddenly appeared via telegram, the player characters had been through six adventures before Masks, and in three of them, Jackson Elias was a key player.
– Dennis Detwiller’s Masks of Nyarlathotep Tips
To put yourself in the mood, there are various things that I might recommend. Perhaps THE HORROR AT RED HOOK might be a place to start, if you don’t mind the terrible racism of that particular story (really, it’s the worst). Otherwise, check out film noir of the 30’s, the Bogart pictures (THE BIG SLEEP, THE MALTESE FALCON), and the books that accompanied them. The Great Gatsby is a nice bit of preparation for meeting Erica Carlyle.
If anyone has any additional recommendations for either fiction or non fiction works that accurately represent New York in the middle 1920’s, please let me know in the comments.
Additional Resources for Running Masks of Nyarlathotep New York
Secrets of New York
Walking with Cthulhu