Nyarlathotep: The Black Pharaoh's Sworn (H.P. Lovecraft's Nyarlathotep)


In H. P. Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep, we gain our first ever glimpse at the man himself. In this, he is a showman, a visionary, and a mad prophet. His role in this story has been interpreted by many to have been influenced by stories of Nikola Tesla, with Nyarlathotep’s dazzling shows featuring bizarre constructs of glass and metal, and his grand displays with electricity being rather similar to the street shows Tesla put on and the rumors that surrounded these show. Further exaggerating the mystique of Tesla, it is suggested that men and women go mad at night just through the presence of Nyarlathotep’s traveling show.

In the end, Nyarlathotep is presented in this story as a messenger and teacher. Those affected by his shows are sent walking away discussing vividly what they just saw, indeed our unnamed narrator even mentions later laughing off the show entirely, but come nightfall those that witness his show organize amongst one another in a trance-like state that leads them into realms unknown. There they learn a terrible secret that costs them their minds, marching onwards to see the true form of Nyarlathotep.

This story is wildly interpretable, and is the closest thing I have read so far that gets to gleaning any truth about Nyarlathotep’s nature. Here he is unaccountably dangerous and mysterious, teaching truths that most minds cannot handle. He is a purveyor of ambiguous truths, exemplified by the vague nature of his final reveal at the story’s climax.

The element I found most interesting in Nyarlathotep is the Black Pharaoh’s shows. He seems to be a traveller, taking the bizarre glass and metal instruments with him as part of an unknown display, while showing images of a bizarre and inexplicable nature that nonetheless reveal secrets to the individual viewers. Those that are dragged into the night by his siren call, then, are perhaps traveling to serve him in some way. 

To this end, I’ve decided to portray Nyarlathotep’s twisted theater. Statistically, I’m creating it as an Extra for the recently-released FATE Core system by Evil Hat Games. It indicates a character who has been forced to witness the twisted show of Nyarlathotep, and has been forcibly inducted into an alliance with others who have seen the same.


Extra: The Black Pharaoh’s Sworn

Permissions: Players with a skill rank in Will cannot take this at character creation.

Costs: A special pool of aspects, skill ranks, and stunts.

These poor souls have been made witness to the horror of Nyarlathotep’s spectacular and horrifying stage show. They have, either through fate, madness, or an oath of fealty, now been bound inexorably with Nyarlathotep’s plan for the world. When working with others to unravel a potentially apocalyptic mystery, use these stats rather than the ones on your character sheet. These represent your profane knowledge, your relationships with others who have suffered the same, and a small amount of psychic foresight granted by the experience.

Aspects: Demented Insight; Apocalyptic Knowledge; Part of a Grand and Terrible Design.

Skills: Great (+4) Lore, Good (+3) Contacts, Fair (+2) Cthulhu