Our new Pelgrane Video Dispatches series continues with Ken’s favorite GUMSHOE ability. Robin’s was easy to predict. Will Ken’s choice come as a surprise?

Night’s Black Agents by Kenneth Hite puts you in the role of a skilled intelligence operative fighting a shadow war against vampires in post-Cold War Europe. Play a dangerous human weapon, a sly charmer, an unstoppable transporter, a precise demolitions expert, or whatever fictional spy you’ve always dreamed of being — and start putting those bloodsuckers in the ground where they belong. Purchase Night’s Black Agents in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

confidential2Cthulhu Confidential, the flagship title for GUMSHOE One-2-One, is now available for pre-order! GUMSHOE One-2-One is designed for two players: a GM and a player who takes the role of a solo investigator, solving Mythos mysteries. In Cthulhu Confidential our PCs are hard-boiled shamus Dex Raymond, investigative journalist Vivian Sinclair, and private eye Langston Montgomery Wright.

We asked the Pelgranistas—as well as some friends of Pelgrane—which fictional characters they’d most like to have a GUMSHOE One-2-One mystery adventure with. You’ll never guess who is Kenneth Hite’s choice:


ken-and-jason-christmas_400Jason Bourne

I know it’s one of many obvious answers – Randolph Carter, Abraham van Helsing, and Thomas Carnacki also pop to mind – but the challenge of a One-2-One protagonist who must also solve the mystery of his own past while dodging assassins is pretty irresistible. Bourne always has the skills to live another day, but he doesn’t know what he should be living for. Furthermore, the player won’t even know which Jason Bourne they’re playing: is he the novel’s Special Forces hired killer aimed at Carlos the Jackal, or the movies’ CIA super-soldier aiming for revenge?

Preorder Cthulhu Confidential at the Pelgrane webstore, and get the PDF plus a preview of the first Dex Raymond adventure, straight away!


GUMSHOE One-2-One retunes, rebuilds and re-envisions the acclaimed GUMSHOE investigative rules set for one player, and one GM. Together, the two of you create a story that evokes the classic solo protagonist mystery format of classic detective fiction. Can’t find a group who can play when you can? Want an intense head-to-head gaming experience? Play face to face with GUMSHOE One-2-One—or take advantage of its superb fit with virtual tabletops and play online. Purchase Cthulhu Confidential and future GUMSHOE One-2-One products in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The Game’s The Thing Podcast features guest star Kenneth Hite, and they discuss Night’s Black Agents at length. Apparently, Night’s Black Agents is really, really neat.




In the latest installment of their Pelgrane-sponsored podcast, Ken and Robin talk food, imagined worlds, Kenneth Grant, and the War of 1812.

RetroPunk, our Portuguese translators, interviewed Trail of Cthulhu author Kenneth Hite and allowed us to publish the untranslated version here.

How long have you been into RPGs?

I’ve been playing (and mostly GMing) RPGs since 1979; I got into it with Basic Set D&D and then right into AD&D; from there, it was an explosion of games: little-black-books Traveller, Top Secret, some Gamma World. Then in August of 1981 I bought the first copy of Call of Cthulhu sold in Oklahoma, and it was love at first sight. I haven’t stopped gaming since then, although I haven’t played Call of Cthulhu in far too long. Gosh, it’s been five years, maybe longer.

Do you keep up a group of regular play? What are you playing right now?

I’ve been running RPGs on Monday nights ever since I moved to Chicago in 1988. One of the players in my current game was in that first game; although he moved out of town for a while, we got him back. Right now, we’re playing R. Sean Borgstrom’s Nobilis; the next game coming up looks like it might be some sort of world-hopping, parallel-Earths Savage Worlds campaign, unless everyone changes their mind between now and then.

In your opinion, which would be the best systems and scenarios, exclusing GUMSHOE.

Hands down, the greatest RPG ever designed is Sandy Petersen’s Call of Cthulhu. No other game even comes close. The best campaign frames and scenarios for CoC are a little bit more of a judgment call, but Delta Green, “Raid on Innsmouth,” and Masks of Nyarlathotep have to be in anyone’s top five. Outside Cthulhu, I’d give John Tynes and Greg Stolze’s Unknown Armies, Greg Stafford’s Pendragon, Vincent Baker’s Dogs in the Vineyard, and Jonathan Tweet’s Over the Edge as the next four, but you can make principled arguments for six or seven others as absolutely A-list. Stafford’s The Great Pendragon Campaign, for the most recent version of Pendragon, is probably the best single campaign book ever written, although again you can get some worthwhile arguments for other adventures or campaigns.

How was your first contact with the RPG “industry”?

When I moved to Chicago, I started going to GenCon: it was a $20 train ride up to Milwaukee, and if you volunteered to run events Chaosium would badge you in and put you up in a hotel. So my introduction to the industry was as a con volunteer for Chaosium, running Call of Cthulhu scenarios and eating company pizza. A couple of years later, I and two friends submitted a proposal to Steve Jackson Games for what eventually became GURPS Alternate Earths; after several years of me “reminding” him about it at GenCon, he finally read my proposal and hired us to write the book. At almost the same time that Steve was getting around to reading my submission, a friend of mine, Don Dennis, sent me the playtest draft of Chaosium’s version of Nephilim. Don had been in my Call of Cthulhu campaigns in Oklahoma City, and at the time worked for Iron Crown, so he was already an insider; he remembered my game (heavy on the occultism and black magic) and thought Nephilim would be better if I looked at it first. So I read it and emailed Chaosium about 10,000 words of comments and back-sass, and then Greg Stafford — The. Greg. Stafford. — replied and asked if they could publish my comments in the book, and what Nephilim book did I want to write next? After I picked myself up off the floor, I called dibs on the Secret Societies book, and it and GURPS Alternate Earths came out at almost the same time. Suddenly, I was in the “industry,” and could afford a better brand of pizza at GenCon.

How do you see the RPG industry today?

There’s an increasingly stark divide between the states of the industry and the art form of the RPG. I don’t think it’s any secret that sales, player numbers, and any other metrics you want to use show that the RPG “industry” is a shadow of its former self. The CCG boom shoved RPG books out of their previous privileged position in distribution, and the collapse of the d20 bubble destroyed any pretense of strength left in the RPG segment of the hobby. That said, the art form of the RPG is in a fairly robust Golden Age of design: Vincent Baker, Jared Sorensen, Luke Crane, Jason Morningstar, Ron Edwards, Paul Czege, and Emily Care Boss (to name just a few) have been breaking new ground in design; Shane Hensley’s Savage Worlds, the Evil Hat team’s work on FATE, and yes, Robin’s creation of GUMSHOE, have proven that “traditional” RPGs can still be innovative and successful; D&D 4e and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3e are folding new systems and techniques into RPGs from the best-of-breed boardgame designs. In terms of choice, accessibility, and sheer quality available, here’s never been a better time to be a dice-and-pencils tabletop roleplayer.

There is an amazing portfolio developed by you. What motivates you to create more?

Being paid to create them motivates me, first and foremost. My wife is very patient, but my cats aren’t, and they’ve gotta eat. I’m very fortunate, in that I’ve mostly been paid to create games about things I’m already interested in, from occult conspiracies to Star Trek to Lovecraftian horror. And once I’ve created them, I’m always delighted when I see other people playing with things I’ve built: if money gets me going, the fact that I’m actively making other people’s lives more fun (if occasionally more surreal or scary) keeps me going. At this stage of my career, I like the fact that I can sell something to somebody based mostly on what I want to do next: I wanted to do a vampire-hunting spy thriller, and Simon was willing to buy one from me. And with the rise of the PDF direct market, I don’t even have to wait for a publisher’s okay to start writing.

After the play testing phase and official publication of the book, do you play in any table, whether as GM or player? How do you view this experience? Does it makes you take notes of what could be improved, corrected, etc.?

I occasionally play games using systems I’m writing for, because it really helps bring out what kind of feel you need to work toward in the design process. But I don’t usually go back and play my own stuff again, not least because my players are usually all sick to death of hearing about it every week while I’m writing it, or playtesting it afterward. That said, I did run a GURPS Cabal game a year or two after it got published, which mostly made me wish I hadn’t had to write it for the basic GURPS magic system. GURPS has a lot of magic systems that would have fit the setting better, but I was kind of locked into one from the get-go. Sometimes, I run games I’ve written at conventions, but convention play is so wildly different from normal gaming that I’m not sure how much useful feedback I could get out of that noise.

How have you know the “dark” writings of Lovecraft? How did you feel?

I’ve been a Lovecraft fan since I was eleven years old. I first read “The Colour Out of Space” in an otherwise entirely non-scary anthology of science fiction stories, and it terrified the living spit out of me. Two years later, I discovered a whole paperback full of Lovecraft stories in the garage, and the memory of that stark terror made reading the new tales maddeningly wonderful. I rationed them to myself over the next year or so, just to make sure they’d last. And so they have.

What was your biggest motivation to do a game based on the Mythos? I mean, the work of Lovecraft is canonized by fans, how was leaving it with a new “tone” for the purpose of this game?

Simon provided the motivation when he asked if I’d be interested in adapting Call of Cthulhu to Robin’s excellent and exciting GUMSHOE engine. I think I may have waited forty or even fifty seconds before hitting Reply, just so Simon wouldn’t think I was easy. I have two great “first nerd loves” in my life, the original Star Trek and H.P. Lovecraft, and now I’ve gotten to make both of them into games. (If Sherlock Holmes counts as nerd love, I have three … and I have hopes for Holmes, too.) As far as tone goes, I don’t think I brought anything new to the Mythos that Lovecraft and his better disciples didn’t already place there. I put Trail of Cthulhu in the Thirties, but Lovecraft wrote six or seven stories set in that decade; I added wildly variant visions of the gods and titans of the Mythos, but Lovecraft beat me to it with his many versions of Nyarlathotep as mindless beast, dark prophet, mocking villain, and alien deity. I see my job as opening up the box a little wider; maybe as saying to fans, “you’ve canonized this ten percent for a while now, let’s look at some of the rest of it.”

Writing about the Mythos requires a good deal of knowledge about the work of Lovecraft. How have you conducted and prepare your research to write about this universe?

Well, a lot of my “research” into the Mythos consists of stories and novels and books and compendia and fanzines and games that I’ve been reading since I was eleven years old. I’ve been marinating my brain in Lovecraft for three decades now. When Simon hired me to design and write Trail of Cthulhu, I consciously set out to re-read all of Lovecraft’s fiction just so I wouldn’t overlook anything. That reading project turned into Tour de Lovecraft: The Tales, my volume of Lovecraftian literary criticism, and also into the various essays on Lovecraftian magic, horror imagery, and so forth that I’ve put into game books since. But it also informed my decisions throughout the game; things like the various Drives, and which monsters to include, and some of the gaming advice. Alongside all that, I’ve intentionally developed the habit over the years of reading almost everything as possible grist for the Mythos: this probably came out of running Call of Cthulhu for eight years straight and always needing more scenario ideas and weird coincidental stuff to put into the game.

In your view, how was the reception to the Trail? I mean, the CoC is on the road for a long time now and it has a loyal audience, how was presenting Trail to its fans?

By and large, Trail of Cthulhu has had a pretty great reception. It’s still a strong seller, which is not business as usual at this stage in the RPG industry. I see people playing it at conventions, and I read online discussions of the game by active players. It got almost uniformly good reviews, was nominated for an Origins Award, and won two silver ENnie Awards, which is about as good as any non-d20 product does at the ENnies. Even hardcore Call of Cthulhu fans who still prefer the original game mostly find some good things to say about Trail — usually Jerome’s amazing art, but sometimes some of the things I put in the mix.

Did you even fear that your work was compared to other RPGs, especially the CoC?

The liberating thing about designing a licensed adaptation of Sandy Petersen’s Call of Cthulhu is that nothing you do will match the original. Someone on the Internet says “Kenneth Hite is no Sandy Petersen” and I respond, “You said it, friend!” In the introduction to Trail of Cthulhu, I compare adapting Petersen’s game to making a samurai movie out of King Lear. Now, you may wind up making the best samurai movie ever (and Kurosawa’s Ran comes pretty darn close to that) but you’re never going to touch King Lear. It just won’t happen. So you’re freed up to really think about adapting the game to the new system without any pressure to equal perfection.

In your opinion, what is the best point of the setting? Would it be an innovative element in reading the Mythos?

I think the best point of the Trail of Cthulhu setting is that it encourages a second look at Lovecraft. Just moving things out of the bright lights of the Jazz Age into the Dirty Thirties changes the tone of the game considerably. I don’t think it’s particularly innovative per se — Keith Herber was presenting the Mythos against increasingly bleak human backgrounds in Return to Dunwich, among other works — but it’s a change from the received wisdom, switching the default setting from thriller to noir, if you will.

When writing Trail, you allow yourself a certain amount of freedom to create situations under a different point of view of Lovecraft, but have you, at some point, though: “No that would work better this way than the original form designed by Lovecraft”?

Well, as I try to emphasize in Trail of Cthulhu, Lovecraft always put the needs of the story ahead of the continuity of his imaginary mythology. So changing some detail to work better for your game is the original form designed by Lovecraft. I can certainly imagine running a game in which Cthulhu is the sort of mindless extra-dimensional force battering at the walls of reality that August Derleth painted him as, kind of a cross between the shoggoths and Yog-Sothoth, rather than the mere alien invader dead at the bottom of the Pacific that Lovecraft reduced him to in Mountains of Madness. And in Trail, I tried to let the Keeper decide as much as possible about the universe, and about the rules styles: if you want to play Robert E. Howard’s “desperate struggle” instead of Lovecraft’s “doomed destruction,” you can. But as far as the basic core of the Mythos goes, I think Lovecraft built something of supreme power and effectiveness in those dozen or so stories: why change it? If you don’t want to tell Lovecraftian stories, in broad strokes at least, there are plenty of other horror games to try.

There are two styles of play in Trail, which one do you recommend for players who never have contact with the Mythos before? What tips do you can give to novice keepers?

For players who have never encountered the Mythos before … I envy you. You get to run into the Mythos fresh, which is something I can never do again. Of the two styles of play in Trail of Cthulhu, I suspect the Pulp style will work best for gamers who haven’t run into Lovecraftian horror before. It’s a little more survivable, and a little more cushioned; it makes a smoother transition from a conventional fantasy RPG environment. My own first Call of Cthulhu campaign was pretty heavy on the pulp action, as I recall. As far as advice to novice Keepers goes, in addition to the advice in the corebook, I’d say two things. First, don’t be afraid to keep it simple at the beginning. One monster in a ruin somewhere, one haunted house, one murderer with a cursed artifact, is enough for the first story. Concentrate on the scares, and on mastering the art of investigative horror gaming. And second, don’t be afraid of clichés. They’re overused for a reason: they work, and they work reliably. Things always look stranger from the inside; the players may not recognize the cliché you’re using, and if they do, they may lean on it, which will increase their comfort level with the game. Time enough to switch things up when everyone knows how clue spends work, and can guess what a Deep One might be.

The Brazilian market for RPGs is quite restricted. D&D and White Wolf share the spotlight. What would you say to convince the Brazilian players, who know nothing about Lovecraft, to give a chance to Trail?

I’d say that no matter how good vanilla and chocolate are, I shouldn’t have to convince Brazilians of all people, the inventors of feijoada and caipirinhas, that there are more than two good flavors out there. I’d say that Trail of Cthulhu combines player power and character danger better than either D&D or Vampire, and that H.P. Lovecraft kicks elves and vampires to the curb. (Though both elves and vampires are in Trail of Cthulhu. Sort of.) I’d say that knowing about Lovecraft makes you cooler than your friends. I’d say that nothing beats a shotgun down at the old Whateley Place at midnight, and absolutely nothing beats knowing that the shotgun won’t kill the Thing, but going down there anyhow.

How do you see the publishing of the Trail into Portuguese?

I’m excited and hopeful: if my game can introduce Brazilians to Lovecraft, it will justify itself by that alone. I’m interested to see what Brazilian fans make of the Mythos; how they interpret its grand terrors in their own games. I want to see what variations Brazilians ring on the gods and titans of Lovecraftian legendry. And also, I want to go to an RPG convention in Brazil. Especially one held during a Chicago winter. Hint hint.

What should we expect from Trail, written by you, after publishing Bookhounds of London?

I’m not actually sure. I may let Simon pick the next one; I think I’ve gotten to pick the last two or three projects. It might be fun to do a “Project Covenant” book about the U.S. Navy’s increasingly terrified and over-matched secret monster-hunting unit, or a setting book for European espionage in the Thirties with a Mythos flavor (think Alan Furst meets HPL), or another themed adventure anthology with Robin.

The Pelgrane already started publicizing its new scenario for Gumshoe, Night’s Black Agents. What awaits us in this scenario?

Vampires need to be hunted and killed, and not enough games let you do that. Who’s good at hunting and killing things? Jason Bourne. So Night’s Black Agents is my “vampire spy thriller” game. Think of the Bourne trilogy, or the movie Ronin: now add vampires. The heroes are spies and special ops on the run, simultaneously hunters and hunted; all they know is that vampires exist, and that nobody living is supposed to know that. The GM will be able to custom-build her own vampires to suit her individual game; no two campaigns will be alike. I’ll be building high-powered, thriller-style mechanics into the system, along with guidelines for turning any city into a vampire haven. Anywhere might be the center of the vampire conspiracy in any campaign; it’s my shot at opening out the “multiple choice” stuff people liked so much in Trail of Cthulhu even wider. Plus, did I mention hunting and killing vampires?

What do you hope for the future of the GUMSHOE? What can we expect from GUMSHOE next?

I hope GUMSHOE gets even more popular than it is now; I’d like to see another GUMSHOE game — either Night’s Black Agents or Robin’s new SF game Ashen Stars or maybe Will Hindmarch’s post-apocalyptic game Razed — have the success that Trail of Cthulhu has, so that more gamers in more genres can see how well the system works. I’d like to see ten or a dozen solid GUMSHOE games, and I’d like to write about half of them. If Night’s Black Agents does well, I already know what the werewolf game is like. As for what’s coming next, I’m not sure: Simon and Robin and I have kicked around a lot of good ideas. If we wind up doing a third of those, we’ll be beating the average.

Rough Magicks

Rough Magicks coverA magic supplement for the best-selling and award winning Trail of Cthulhu, written by the master of Lovecraft Lore, Kenneth Hite.


The latest eldritch tome for Trail of Cthulhu unfolds the darkest secrets of Lovecraftian magic to the shuddering gaze of Keepers and Investigators alike! Read it … if you dare!


This book assembles the core of Lovecraftian magic from hints and allusions — and blasts all certainty aside with twelve contradictory explanations for it! Keepers revel in a dozen  new spells, and dubious new versions of some old spells, while Investigators find out what their abilities tell them about this stone circle in the woods …


Using the new optional Magic ability has its own costs, and its own rules, revealed for the first time to a quailing humanity! Gain it how you will, from a grinning Nyarlathotep or a groaning tomb, you will never be the same again. Even the lore of Idiosyncratic Magic, strange fruit grown from the seeds planted in the Trail of Cthulhu corebook, will bleed you while worse things wait …


Learn the sorcerous practices of the unthinkably alien and ancient beings of the Cthulhu Mythos, or scan the dizzying heights to which even human wizards may ascend! Poring over this dread work reveals all of this, plus variant Elder Signs, names to conjure with, and other …


Stock #:PELGT09 Author: Kenneth Hite
Artist: Jerome Huguenin Pages: 40


Building on fond memories of other random generators, what might a random Trail adventure generator look like? The tables below generate a highly random Trail of Cthulhu mystery. As with all random generators, the goal is to prompt the Keeper’s creativity in connecting disparate elements – don’t expect coherence from random rolls alone!

Adventure Hook (d12)

Why do the investigators get involved? (You can also use this as a way to determine the theme or atmosphere of the adventure if you’re not using pregenerated characters.)

  1. Adventure
  2. Arrogance
  3. Antiquarianism
  4. Artistic Sensitivity
  5. Bad Luck
  6. Curiosity
  7. Duty
  8. In the Blood
  9. Revenge
  10. Scholarship
  11. Sudden Shock
  12. Thirst For Knowledge

(The drives Ennui and Follower aren’t used in the list above.)

Location (d20)

Where does the adventure take place? The somewhat eclectic list of suggestions below is based on the locations discussed in the Trail of Cthulhu rulebook.)

  1. United States – Rural
  2. United States – Small Town
  3. United States – Urban
  4. United States – Lovecraft Country
  5. Abyssinia/ Belgian Congo
  6. Antarctica
  7. Brazil
  8. Burma
  9. Egypt
  10. Germany
  11. Greenland
  12. Haiti
  13. Mongolia
  14. Peru
  15. Rumania
  16. Saudi Arabia
  17. Soviet Union
  18. Easter Island/South Pacific Mandate
  19. Spain
  20. Thibet

Apparent Situation (roll 1d20)

What are the investigators doing here?

  1. Commercial interest – it’s related to the business of an investigator, like a real estate deal
  2. Investigate disappearance – of a friend, relative or other acquaintance. Or a strange, if the investigator is a police officer, detective or other specialist.
  3. Investigate untimely death – as above.
  4. Investigate cryptic events – lights in the sky, strange footprints, sinister letters.
  5. Investigate criminal activity – bootlegging, extortion, theft
  6. Investigate alleged supernatural event – ghosts, seances, vampire attacks, curses.
  7. Investigate medical mystery – strange disease, sudden madness
  8. Investigate prodigy – fallen meteorite, brilliant scientific discovery
  9. Carry out personal errand – execute a will, return a book borrowed years before
  10. Carry out mundane task – something connected to the investigator’s occupation
  11. Carry out official duties – as above, but a little more formal and significant
  12. Survey site – examine a location in detail, for commercial or archaeological reasons
  13. Report on story of interest – even if the investigator isn’t a reporter, they might be asked to look into a local mystery
  14. Research local history – as a hobby, out of antiquarian interest.
  15. Visit distant cousins or aged relative – haven’t seen them in years, I wonder what they’re up to
  16. Visit old friend or correspondent – as per Henry Akeley in Whisperer in Darkness
  17. Vacation or (recuperation after traumatic experience) – just what you need after that last nightmarish encounter
  18. Vehicle breakdown or travel delay – you’re stuck here for a while
  19. Drawn here by strange dreams – because you’re a Lovecraftian protagonist
  20. Seeking mysterious object or book – that has recently come to light

Horrible Truth (roll 1d12)

What’s really going on?

  1. The Apparent Situation is the true situation
  2. There’s a CULT here, and their activities may be exposed by the Apparent Situation
  3. There once was a CULT here; it’s mostly moribund, but some horror connected to the cult lies buried here and may be exposed by the Apparent Situation
  4. There’s an active and ambitious CULT here; the Apparent Situation is connected to some malign intent of theirs.
  5. There’s a CREATURE here, disinterested in humanity unless provoked.
  6. There’s a CREATURE here, preying on humanity.
  7. There’s a CREATURE here, slumbering – but it may be awoken by the Apparent Situation.
  8. The Apparent Situation was triggered by a TOME OR ARTEFACT
  9. Someone’s using the Mythos for personal gain using a TOME OR ARTEFACT
  10. There’s a GOD OR TITAN slumbering here, and its presence disturbs the world
  11. There’s an ancient ruin or tomb connected to a GOD OR TITAN here, guarded by a (1-3: CULT, 4-6: CREATURE)
  12. There’s a clash between two entities (roll 1d6 for each: 1-3: CULT, 4-5 CREATURE, 6 GOD OR TITAN).


Roll on the the Cult Size, Cult Status, Cult Intent and Blasphemous Rites tables.

Cult Size (roll d6)

  1. A single sorcerer
  2. A small cabal (a single family, a few locals)
  3. A congregation (two dozen or so)
  4. Endemic in the area (lots of people in the area are involved)
  5. Far-flung (only a small cabal here, but the cult is spread across the world)
  6. Great conspiracy (cult is world-wide and exceedingly well connected)

Cult Status (roll 1d6)

  1. Dead – no cultists left, only their works
  2. In decline – only a few left
  3. Secret – cult is hidden and mostly inactive, only performing rites on rare occasions
  4. Active – cult continues its sinister practices
  5. Recruiting – cult seeks new members
  6. On the verge of triumph! – cult is about to take a major step towards its goal

Cult Intent (roll 1d6)

  1. Worship of CREATURE with offerings, sacrifice
  2. Worship of GOD OR TITAN
  3. Study of TOME OR ARTEFACT
  4. Acquisition of power
  5. Keepers of CREATURE
  6. Summon GOD OR TITAN, end reign of humanity.

 Blasphemous Rites Include (roll 1d10)

  1. Worship outdoors at ritual site
  2. Worship at hidden temple, cave or ruin
  3. Bizarre surgical experiments
  4. Congress with CREATURE
  5. Use of drugs or extracts
  6. Ritual initiation
  7. Travel through dreams or magical gateways
  8. Use of ritual magic
  9. Ritual sacrifice
  10. Transformation

Creature (roll 1d100)

1-2 Bat-Thing
3-4 Bhole
5-6 Black Winged Ones
7-8 Byakhee
9-10 Colour Out of Space
11-15 Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath
16-20 Deep One
21-22 Dimensional Shambler
23-24 Elder Thing
25-26 Flying Polyp
27-28 Elder Thing
29-30 Formless Spawn
31-32 Gaseous Wraiths
33-38 Ghoul
39-40 Gnoph-Keh
41-42 Great Race of Yith
43-44 Hound of Tindalos
45-46 Hunting Horror
47-48 K’n-Yani
49-50 Lemurian
51-52 Lloigor
53-54 Masqut
55-56 Medusa
57-60 Mi-go
61-62 Moon-beast
63-64 Nightgaunt
64-66 Raktajihva
67-68 Rat-Thing
69-70 Sand-Dweller
71-72 Serpent Folk
73-74 Servitor of the Outer Gods
75-76 Shan
77-78 Shantak
79-80 Shoggoth
81-82 Son of Yog-Sothoth
83-84 Space-Eater
85-86 Star Vampire
87-88 Ultraviolet Devourer
89-90 Tcho-Tcho
91-92 Vampirish Vapour
93-94 Wendigo
95-96 Worm-Cultist
97-98 Xothian
99-100 Y’m-bhi

Gods & Titans (roll 1d20)

  1. Azathoth
  2. Chaugnar Faugn
  3. Cthugha
  4. Cthulhu
  5. Dagon
  6. Daoloth
  7. Ghatanothoa
  8. Gol-Goroth
  9. Hastur
  10. Ithaqua
  11. Mordiggan
  12. Mormo
  13. Nodens
  14. Nyarlathotep
  15. Quachil Uttaus
  16. Shub-Niggurath
  17. Tsathoggua
  18. Y’golonac
  19. Yig
  20. Yog-Sothoth

Tomes & Artefacts (roll 1d20)

1. Necronomicon, original
2. Necronomicon, modern
3. Cultes des Goules
4. De Vermis Mysteriis
5. King in Yellow
6. Book of Eibon
7. Pnakotic Manuscripts
8-9 Idol of GOD or TITAN
10-11 Idol of CREATURE
12-13 Relic or Mummy of CREATURE
14. Remains of ancient sorcerer or priest
15. Ancient Stone
16. Dust or Elixir
17. Cryptic Machine
18. Weapon or Tool
19. Enchanted Place
20. Gateway or portal

Structuring the Adventure

As a starting point, assume 3-5 core clues must be discovered and 1-3 hazards must be overcome to complete the investigation.

Random Core Clues

Clue Type

1-2 Academic
3-4 Interpersonal
5-6 Technical


  1. Accounting
  2. Anthropology
  3. Archaeology
  4. Architecture
  5. Art History
  6. Biology
  7. Cthulhu Mythos
  8. Cryptography
  9. Geology
  10. History
  11. Languages
  12. Law
  13. Library Use
  14. Medicine
  15. Occult
  16. Physics
  17. Theology
  18. Roll again, but it’s an impossibility
  19. Roll again, but it’s a personal connection
  20. Roll again, but it’s a terrible revelation

An Impossibility: This rock is older than the universe! This painting is moving! This library is carnivorous!

A Personal Connection: Your Medicine can’t tell you anything about this condition – but you do know a retired physician, Doctor Black, who lives nearby. Maybe he can help.

A Terrible Revelation: Oops! I just correlated hitherto disassociated fragments of knowledge. Rookie mistake.


  1. Assess Honesty
  2. Bargain
  3. Bureaucracy
  4. Cop Talk
  5. Credit Rating
  6. Flattery
  7. Interrogation
  8. Intimidation
  9. Oral History
  10. Reassurance
  11. Streetwise
  12. Roll again, but it attracts the attention of sinister forces

Sinister forces: It’s not wise to ask questions about certain topics.


  1. Art
  2. Astronomy
  3. Chemistry
  4. Craft
  5. Evidence Collection
  6. Forensics
  7. Locksmith
  8. Outdoorsman
  9. Pharmacy
  10. Photography
  11. Roll again, but it’s an impossibility
  12. Roll again, but it exposes the investigator to something toxic or hazardous

Exposure: You see a strange light as you look through the telescope; you pick the lock, but discover the door’s a twist in space and time…

Random Hazards

  1. Athletics – a chase scene, a physical obstacle
  2. Conceal – a hidden trap
  3. Disguise – you must infiltrate a group
  4. Driving – dangerous conditions or a car chase
  5. Electrical Repair/Mechanical Repair – a piece of equipment is vitally needed
  6. Explosives – it’s the only way to be sure
  7. Filch – you must steal something
  8. Firearms – a combat scene at range!
  9. First Aid – someone’s dying or badly injured
  10. Health – exposed to a toxin
  11. Piloting – we’re on a boat
  12. Riding – we’re on a horse
  13. Stability – keep it together, man!
  14. Scuffling – a combat scene, up close!
  15. Sense Trouble – there’s something out there.
  16. Shadowing – quick, after them!
  17. Stealth – you must infiltrate a place
  18. Weapons – a combat scene, with sharp bits
  19. Roll again twice
  20. It’s a combat scene, with a complication. Roll again for the second ability involved, other than a combat ability. For example, Riding implies a shoot-out on horseback; Stealth implies an assassination attempt.

Putting It All Together

Let’s roll up a random adventure and see what comes of it!

Our initial hook is SCHOLARSHIP, and our location is ANTARCTICA. Clearly, we’re on a scientific expedition – maybe the Starkweather-Moore expedition promised at the end of At The Mountains of Madness. It’s hardly worth rolling an Apparent Situation in this case. The Horrible Truth is that there’s a CREATURE preying on people – specifically, a BLACK WINGED ONE, the assassins of the Cthulhu cult.

Our key clues are: BUREAUCRACY, ART and OUTDOORSMAN, and our random hazards are FILCH and RIDING.

So… the expedition to the Antarctic includes a secret worshipper of Cthulhu. He summons up a Black Winged One to kill other members of the expedition, for he seeks to get to the glacier where Cthulhu slumbers. Bureaucracy reveals that someone infiltrated the expedition under an assumed name, Art (plus Filch) means the investigators steal the cultist’s sketchbook and see his crazed scribblings of a buried god, and Outdoorsman & Riding imply a desperate sleigh-dog chase scene across the frozen wastes!

Another random attempt yields:

ARROGANCE for our hook, SPAIN for our location, VACATION for our Apparent Situation. That sounds like a bunch of idealists charging off to volunteer in the Spanish civil war. The horrible truth is that there’s a clash between two Cults.

The first Cult is a lone sorcerer who’s on the verge of triumph – he seeks to acquire power, and his blasphemous rites include Ritual Initiation.

He’s opposed by a second cult that Endemic in the Area, highly Secret, and worships… hmm. The Tcho-Tcho. Their rites include congress with a creature – rather an involving a second race, let’s assume it’s congress with Tcho-Tcho. Presumably, there’s a connection between the Plateau of Leng and the Meseta Central.

Obviously, if it’s the Spanish civil war, then the two cults are on opposite sides. A Communist sorcerer? Fascist Tcho-tchos? Or the other way around?

Our core clues are INTIMIDATION (Interrogating a prisoner, maybe?), OCCULT and COP TALK; hazards are Piloting and Sense Trouble.

So – the investigators are volunteers on the Republican side. Interrogating a prisoner, they learn of a fascist plot to bomb mountain villages. (Time to do some research on aerial bombardment and air power during the Spanish civil war; Guernica can be a touchstone here). OCCULT discovers the villages are being targeted because of their connection to the Tcho-Tcho cult; the investigators need to use Piloting and a borrowed biplane to shoot one bomber down before it commits the mass sacrifice needed a portal to Leng and the triumph of the Nazi sorcerer behind the bombing plan. Cop Talk and Sense Trouble warn the investigators that their Tcho-Tcho-worshipping allies will turn on them after the fighting’s done, and they should head back to the safely of the lowlands if they hope to survive…

Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu, and its many supplements and adventures, in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Recruit your team of 2-3 players, or play as a solo contestant, as Pelgrane Press brings convention camaraderie to your screen with its first Pub Quiz. Join us on Zoom on May 27, 2020 at 5 PM Eastern. Vie for semi-valuable prizes with your mastery of Pelgrane game trivia and regular trivial trivia, with questions posed by such stalwarts as Kenneth Hite, Robin D. Laws, Rob Heinsoo, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and Wade Rockett. Hoist the beverage of your choice toward the gallery view!

For Zoom link and password, hop on over to the Pelgrane Discord channel. If you have yet to join us there, get your Invite link to our Discord by dropping us a line at support@pelgranepress.com.

If you can’t join us at the appointed time, you can try to beat the champs when the event is later posted on YouTube.

In our latest virtual panel, Kenneth Hite, Robin D. Laws, and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan are joined by special guest, Chaosium’s Lynne Hardy, to discuss the perennial connection between H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. We cover the core elements of Cthulhu gaming, Call of Cthulhu’s impact on the hobby, striking a balance between hopelessness and flipping out, how gaming changed the mythos, our favorite bits of Yog-Sothothery, and more.

Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

All four protagonist characters

For five more days, the GUMSHOE One-2-One core books Cthulhu Confidential and Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops are available in the Bundle of Holding!

This bundle gives you the entire One-2-One line for a bargain price. For just US$12.95 you get all four titles in our Starter Collection (retail value $46), including the complete standalone 328-page Cthulhu Confidential rulebook and three investigations: The Howling Fog, The House Up in the Hills, and One For the Money.

And if you pay more than the threshold price of $26.42, you’ll level up and also get the Bonus Collection with five more titles worth an additional $53, including the complete 282-page Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s adaptation of Kenneth Hite’s vampire-espionage GUMSHOE game; the first Solo Ops investigation, The Best of Intentions; and three more Cthulhu Confidential investigations: High Voltage Kill, Ex Astoria, and The Shadow Over Washington.

Check it out now! 

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