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Trail of Cthulhu

Trail Cover

Mythos Investigation and Horror in the 1930s

You have to keep the doors to the Outside from swinging open – no matter what the cost in life or sanity. You have to piece together clues from books bound in human skin, from eviscerated corpses covered in ichor, and from inscriptions carved on walls built before humanity evolved. You have to go wherever the answers are, and do what needs to be done to protect humanity. But do you dare to follow… the trail of Cthulhu?

Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning roleplaying game of investigative horror, powered by the GUMSHOE system and produced under license from Chaosium. Acclaimed expert on the eldritch Kenneth Hite weds his encylopaedic knowledge of vivid historical detail to his mastery of H. P. Lovecraft’s classic horror tales to bring their cosmic malignity forward into the 1930s—a time when the creeping madness of the Great Old Ones intermingles with the sweeping cruelty of global totalitarianism.

Trail of Cthulhu is designed for investigative play: the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. The game also offers:

  • Two modes of play: Pulp (for the “desperate action” feel of Robert E. Howard or Indiana Jones) and Purist (full of philosophical horror and cosmic dread)
  • A new take on Lovecraft’s creatures and cults that makes even the most familiar Mythos elements surprising and scary at the gaming table
  • Innovative rules for sanity and stability
  • A Drives mechanic that addresses the perennial horror RPG question, “Why don’t we just forget we saw anything, and go home where it’s safe?”
  • GM advice on how to run a horror adventure
  • Detailed notes on designing an enthralling, cohesive investigative adventure using the GUMSHOE system’s clue structure.

Buy the print edition

Buy the Starter Kit print bundle

Buy the PDF

Trail of Cthulhu won two ENnie awards for Best Rules and Best Writing, as well as receiving an honourable mention for Product of the Year. It’s now in its third print run, and currently available in five languages.

Support for Trail of Cthulhu includes award-winning adventures, supplements, and campaigns from designers such as Kenneth Hite, Robin D. Laws, Jason Morningstar, Will Hindmarch, Jeff Tidball, Adam Gauntlett, Graham Walmsley, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and Bill White.

You are among the few who suspect the truth about the mad gods at the center of the universe, about the Great Old Ones who dream of clearing off the Earth, about the extra-terrestrials who use mankind in their experiments, about the ancient legends of undying evil that are all coming true. You have to make sure nobody else ever finds out — or the world will wake up screaming…

Review Highlights

See the complete reviews to date here.

.…I was concerned that my traditional style of low prep freeform gaming would have trouble with the GUMSHOE clue system included here… I quickly discovered that this was not an obstacle at all, … it was very easy to constantly push new clues through different Investigative Abilities. In fact, I found that the game worked spectacularly well with this style as the nature of these Abilities encouraged me to constantly engage each of the players thereby resulting in a mystery that was continuously moving forward to its PC driven conclusion. My play experiences have been far more satisfying than I would have expected, though my group has largely avoided physical conflict whenever possible.

CW Richeson on rpg.net

Overall, this is a masterful melding of the Gumshoe system with classic Cthulhu Mythos gaming, an inspired match. There’s so much goodness in this that I’ll be back again and again, not just to play but to mine for ideas whatever I am doing.

Megan Robertson on rpgnow.com

By now it should be evident that I really love Trail of Cthulhu. I think it manages to capture the feel and style of HPL’s stories, particularly when played in Purist mode, with rules built to complement the stories. GUMSHOE is a perfect fit for investigative type adventures, and well-suited for a plotted out set of scenes. It also is simple enough to be run in a more “off-the-cuff” improvisational style and doesn’t require a great deal of prep on the part of the Keeper.

Michael Harnish on RPG Geek

…the section on the Cthulhu Elder Gods/Outer Gods is superb and packed with so many incredibly insane ideas for running plots it is hard to talk about it without waving hands around incoherently. One small sentence about Elder Gods as meme loads was so compelling it was a hot topic in my house for three days. If you’re into CoC at all, this is worth getting to juice up campaigns and take them to 11.

Emily Dresner

The Gumshoe system is an investigation-oriented one, and this orientation is well suited to many Mythos scenarios. We enjoyed playing our characters and didn’t have too much trouble picking up the system. I’d recommend it.

Duncan Hunter on rpg.net

This book is gorgeous; my copy is a lovely 248 page hardcover. Jérome Huguenin does a masterful job with art and layout. That art is consistent throughout– something not to be underestimated as a key to make a game feel complete … Worth buying for any gamer interesting in horror or Lovecraft.

Lowell Francis on rpggeek.com

With enough for everyone and a system flexible to have from a purely investigative adventure to a action fuelled Indiana Jones style game, if you like Lovecraft, you simply can’t go wrong with it

Paco G Jaen of G*M*S Magazine

Related Links

Stock #:PELGT01D Author: Kenneth Hite and Robin Laws
Artist: Jerome Huguenin Format: 248-page, two-color, smythe-sewn hardback

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Contents

Wallpaper

Demo

Forms and Handouts

Character sheets

  • Download the character sheet and other forms as a small PDF.
  • Download the Cthulhu Apocalypse Character Sheet.
  • Download a character sheet formatted for A4 by Przemyslaw ‘Marksjus’ Ryba.
  • Download a two-page character sheet.
  • Download a character sheet that includes the Magic ability from Rough Magicks.
  • Download a simple, black-and-white character sheet with no background.
  • Download another two-page character sheet.
  • Download a fillable PDF character sheet, courtesy of Josh Clark – Myca in our forums
  • Download a Pulp character sheet (A4) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a fillable Pulp character sheet (A4) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a Pulp character sheet (US letter) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a Purist character sheet (A4) by Tony Williams
  • Download a Purist character sheet (US letter) by Tony Williams.
  • Download an antiqued blank character sheet by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download an antiqued character sheet with a period male character portrait by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download an antiqued character sheet with a period male character portrait by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download an antiqued character sheet with a period male character portrait by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download an antiqued character sheet with a period male character portrait by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download an antiqued character sheet with a period male character portrait by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download an antiqued character sheet with a period male character portrait by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download an antiqued character sheet with a period female character portrait by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download an antiqued character sheet with a period female character portrait by Joachim Stjernberger
  • Download Dreamhounds of Paris character sheets with surrealist images by John Potts
  • Download Dreamhounds of Paris character sheet (A4) by Tony Williams.
  • Download Dreamhounds of Paris character sheet (US letter) by Tony Williams.

Adventures and campaigns

  • Download a free adventure by Will Hindmarch, The Murderer of Thomas Fell, as a zip file from here.
  • The RPGGeek GUMSHOE competition-winning Purist adventure, The Keepers of the Woods by Frederick Foulds, is available to download now.
  • Altus Affero is a campaign frame for Trail of Cthulhu, based around an occult journal.

Call of Cthulhu Adventure Conversions

Chaosium and other companies have very kindly agreed to let us put conversion notes for their excellent adventures up here for ToC users. You’ll need the original CoC adventure, of course! Special thanks to Arseny Kuznetsov for this section.

Trail of Cthulhu Adventure Conversions

And the other way around; here, our Trail of Cthulhu adventures have been converted for Chaosium’s classic Call of Cthulhu. You’ll still need the original Trail of Cthulhu adventures to play these!

First time GMs and player resources

  • Page of resources, for first-time GMs and players – includes links to Actual Play posts, videos and podcasts
  • The Enchiridion of Elucidation, a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game by Tony Williams

Articles

Bookhounds of London resources

Eternal Lies resources

Be warned – these links will contain game spoilers, so if you haven’t read the campaign or you’re hoping to play it, don’t read these!

Trail of Cthulhu on social media

Miscellaneous

P115_InvestigatorMap-greyRickard Gudbrand was so inspired by the image on page 123 in the Eternal Lies book (left) that he decided to do a similar thing himself, to be able to give his players during the game.  Then he realised that he’d have to update the map as the investigators travelled to different locations, and possibly in a different order after the initial chapter.

The result is a beautiful interactive PDF map with layers, which the Keeper can use whatever order the players decide to travel in, as each layer can be activated individually and then printed (it’s designed as an A3-handout, so some fudging might be required to print to US letter size).

The PDF-reader must support layers for it to work. As it is very much a spoiler to a big part of the campaign, Rickard has protected it with a password: the first word on page 376 in the Eternal Lies rulebook.

You can download Rickard’s interactive map here.

Pregen-Table-set Rickard Gudbrand has designed another handout for his upcoming Eternal Lies campaign which he’s happy to share with everyone. This is cards for the main NPC’s of the campaign, intended to be printed, cut out and placed in suitable plastic card sleeves.

As not all of the NPCs in the book have pictures, he’s used all the pre-gens in the Eternal Lies book – as well as some NPCs from other Trail of Cthulhu books – to give a unified look to the NPCs.

The results are lovely – you can download them yourself here.

The man who gave Night’s Black Agents its sleek carnivorous look, Chris Hüth, has designed (and posted on his blog, The Elder Sküll) a modified Night’s Black Agents/Trail of Cthulhu Burn/Dust mode character sheet with slots for Magic, Mediumship, and Clairvoyance, should you want to play a paranormal spies vs. the Mythos game a la the sadly unproduced British TV series Rough Magik. You know, maybe I’d better let him explain it.