The Dark Pharaoh
Preview an Ancient One and the Mysteries of Under the Pyramids
The Great Sphinx! God!—that idle question I asked myself on that sun-blest morning before . . . what huge and loathsome abnormality was the Sphinx originally carven to represent?
–H.P. Lovecraft and Harry Houdini, Under the Pyramids
Under the Pyramids, an upcoming expansion for Eldritch Horror, invites you to travel throughout Egypt, to visit her haunted tombs, windswept deserts, and bustling yet ancient cities. The featured side board opens up six new locations, from the glittering, snaking Nile to cosmopolitan Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast. All of these locations are rich with prehistoric and preternatural mysteries, but one mystery is darker and more terrifying than all the rest: that of the Dark Pharoah, Nephren-Ka.
The time has now come to explore that darkness. Nephren-Ka is stirring once again in his tomb. Should he rise again, his tyranny will reach beyond Egypt, dooming all the Earth’s people to terrible slavery. Today’s preview reveals what you must do to combat the Dark Pharoah and warns you how the perils emanating from Egypt may affect the rest of the world.
Some historians say that Nephren-Ka reigned twenty-eight hundred years ago, during the Old Kingdom’s Third Dynasty. Others claim that he dates even father back, that Nephren-Ka was the first king to unite all of Egypt under one crown. Still others allege that he lived in the Twentieth Dynasty, after Rameses II. The truth is impossible to know for almost all evidence of his life has been erased: all statues of him toppled, all hieroglyphic inscriptions carved over, and all papyri burnt. Only his cruelty is certain—he enslaved multitudes and sacrificed countless innocent people in order to grow his own power.
It is also believed that he possessed a powerful artifact created by the Ancient Ones, the Shining Trapezohedron , which could be used to summon Nyarlathotep's avatar. A few scholars even believe that Nephren-Ka was Nyarlathotep incarnate. Either way, the Shining Trapezohedron, if it ever existed, was buried with Nephren-Ka deep inside the strange, lightless Bent Pyramid, southeast of Cairo. Indeed, some awakening power within the Bent Pyramid is calling out, drawing not only Nephren-Ka’s Cultists, but all investigators of the arcane towards it. Resistance is possible, but may very well cost you your sanity.
Those Cultists, impassioned members of the Brotherhood of the Beast, seek to resurrect the Dark Pharaoh and place the Shining Trapezohedron back in his bloodless, bloodthirsty hands. They are your worst and most ubiquitous enemy in the quest to keep Nephren-Ka from rising. Their chief weapon is their black magic, and at every reckoning they use it to drain health or sanity from a nearby investigator. They must also be defeated by magic rather than overcome by physical strength.
To eradicate the chance that Nephren-Ka could reign again, you must solve three of his mysteries before time runs out—no easy task when so little evidence about him remains. Yet searching for knowledge and battling Cultists are not the sum of your quest. You will also face sinister, gargantuan monsters you thought were mythical and other destructive portents of the Dark Pharoah’s return.
For centuries, travelers and Egyptians thought that the Great Sphinx of Giza was only a massive statue with a disquieting, disintegrating face. In fact, the Great Sphinx was merely lying dormant, waiting for the resurrection of its master. Now The Beast has reawakened. Its sandstone face has fallen away to reveal infinite horrors and it has stalked across the desert from Giza to the Bent Pyramid where it loyally patrols Nephren-Ka’s resting place.
You must defeat The Beast if you wish to keep its master asleep and entombed, but it is resistant to magical effects. It can only be harmed by someone possessing at least one Relic, such as a Canopic Jar holding a pharaoh’s brain, or the predynastic Twin Scepters that signify Upper and Lower Egypt. Even with such rare trophies, only investigators with strong wills and the utmost physical strength should attempt to fight The Beast, lest they become trapped under one of its great, living stone paws or lost in the cosmic abyss of its visage.
The Black Wind
Another portent heralding Nephren-Ka’s return is the horrifying tempest known as the Black Wind . It spreads a morbid cloud over Egypt from Alexandria to Tel El-Amarna. To quell this storm, you might appeal to ancient Egyptian gods. A feline avatar of the goddess Bast might appear and lead you through the blasting sands into the storm’s calm eye, where you may be able channel the goddess’s power against the forces of darkness. Or Isis herself may bless you and call upon you to combat the disease and death that the Black Wind leaves in its wake. If you succeed, you’ll both diminish the Black Wind’s strength and save the lives of afflicted Egyptians. If you fail, however, the goddess’s will turns against you and permanently impairs your ability to use lore.
Impairment tokens make their debut in Under the Pyramids. Like improvement tokens, they alter your strength in a single skill, removing one or two dice from your pool whenever you test that skill, down to a minimum of one. Only by improving the affected skill can you remove the impairment token and return that skill to its original strength.
The Litany of Secrets
Under the Pyramids brings six new preludes to Eldritch Horror. Each one creates different starting conditions for your games. The Under the Pyramids prelude focuses the battle against the Dark Pharoah even more intensely upon Egypt, spawning monsters at the Bent Pyramid and the Active Expedition space and causing gates to open in Egypt before the fabric of the rest of the world begins to rip apart. If you are fighting another Ancient One, this prelude offers another incentive to visit Egypt: a close friend, Erich Weiss, has been accused of theft and needs your help.
While Egypt will likely be the heart of your investigations, the battle against the Ancient Ones is always a global effort. Litany of Secrets offers you greater rewards for visiting the far corners and uninhabited wildernesses of the Earth. It creates two ever-shifting Active Expedition sites instead of one, so that investigators may more easily undertake expeditions and reap their immense rewards. Under the Pyramids also introduces new expedition sites, allowing you to discover shrines to Native American gods in the subways of Buenos Aires , or rescue a useful ally from the depths of the Bosphorous Strait .
The Bent Pyramid Calls
Few can resist the silent, persistent summons of the Bent Pyramid. Will you struggle against it in your quest to defeat Cthulhu, Azathoth, or Ithaqua? Will you lose your sanity exploring Tunguska as Nephren-Ka awakes? Or will you succumb to that irresistible lure and traverse the scorching desert sands in the hope of solving the Dark Pharaoh’s ancient mysteries?
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