Those of you receiving your Cthulhu Confidential books will notice an unsettling difference between the print version and the PDF: an empty, white void at the top of page eight.

The missing text is a bit of GM advice that’s repeated in all our other books, and it’s in the PDF version of Cthulhu Confidential. Its absence is my fault: when I was checking the physical proof I thought that blank space was part of the design, and so I approved it. The error was spotted only after the files had been printed, and were in the process of being drop-shipped from the printers. We strive for a high level of quality in every game we make, and we’re very sorry for this error.

In a comment thread, a Pelgranista referred to a “second print run”, which might have given the impression that we’re reprinting the book in response to the error. To clarify, that print run — if it happens — is years away. Given the cost of printing and shipping, a do-over just isn’t an option.

How we’ll make it up to you

When we make a mistake, we like to make it up to our customers somehow. Many of you have asked us to put the game’s Problems and Edges into a printable PDF card deck—so that’s what we’re going to do, and we’ll upload it to your Bookshelf for free. We’ll send out an email notification once we’ve uploaded it.

I’ve gone ahead and closed the comments on this and the Cthulhu Confidential product page, but we’re always happy to answer any questions about this, or any customer service queries, if you drop us an email at support@pelgranepress.zendesk.com.

Thanks for your patience. We hope you enjoy Cthulhu Confidential!

— Cat “They Don’t Call Her Eagle Eyes For A Reason” Tobin

The scene in which the hero is taken prisoner by adversaries is as deep a staple of adventure fiction as you could ask for. In roleplaying this basic scene has always acted as bugaboo. Players cling vehemently to their characters’ agency. Some would rather have their characters killed than tossed in a cell.

If we think about these sequences in movies and fiction, they always afford the hero a way forward, after a suitable period of frustration. The hero learns something about the antagonist, gleans some other key bit of information, or makes a key alliance that drives the story forward.

While designing The Yellow King Roleplaying Game I’ve found a way to get around the traditional reluctance to play that type of sequence. But we haven’t even Kickstarted that yet. But I can adapt the same principle to GUMSHOE One-2-One, which like YKRPG uses cards to represent ongoing consequences that affect the character over the course of the scenario. (Though the two games implement this differently.)

When you think your player’s Cthulhu Confidential detective ought to be knocked on the head, as happens from time to time to any self-respecting noir hero, offer this Problem card:


When You Regain Consciousness

Problem

You are knocked out and will wake up in the foe’s clutches. When you either escape, or gain a core clue while in custody, discard this card plus any one other non-Continuity Problem card you can justify to the GM.


Tell them that they can accept the card and forgo a Challenge to avoid being knocked out. Or they can take their chances on the Challenge, which might still wind up with imprisonment, plus one if not two worse Problem cards.

This signals to the player that, a) absolutely, there will be a way out of the imprisonment, b) interesting things will happen during the imprisonment and c) here’s a nice extra bribe for you.

This turns a situation in which the player fears loss of agency to one in which she has a choice and can feel in control of a temporary loss of control. As paradoxical as that may sound.

The Armitage Files is Robin D Laws’ groundbreaking adventure of improvised Mythos investigation.

Cthulhu Confidential is Robin D Laws’ groundbreaking game of solo Mythos investigation.

Putting two groundbreaking products together is hazardous for Gamemasters. You run the risk of collapsing the ground beneath you.

However, the risk can be worth it: improvised play supports the deep investigative dives of one-on-one play.

Improvising On The Run

In a Trail of Cthulhu game using the Armitage Files, the Keeper can take advantage of the times when the players are arguing or speculating amongst themselves to plan ahead and decide on what the players might find when they follow the next clue. While the players argue whether or not they can trust Austin Kittrell, the Keeper feverishly reads over the Sinister and Stalwart versions of the Kingsport Yacht Club that Kittrell mentioned and decides which incarnation the players will encounter.

There are few such downtimes in one-on-one play. You can stall the player by giving them a handout such as a new Armitage Letter, but mostly the game will be relentless investigation and action. (There’s a reason that Cthulhu Confidential scenarios tend to be longer and more intricate than regular Trail games.) The best approach is to study the Armitage Files material thoroughly in advance, internalising it as much as possible so you can decide on the fly to connect the Yacht Club to the Nophru-Ka Panel, which of course means a visit to the Anthropologist and he can see invisible horrors clinging to the investigator which means you’ll need to set up an invisible horror encounter before the player gets there…

Sketch out potential plots and connections in advance. Identify (or ask your player) which clues are most likely to come up in the next session, work out two or three follow-ons from each clue and then pick the most appropriate one in response to player decisions. It’s a gamemastering high-wire act.

Where possible, bend the plot around the protagonist. The Armitage Files includes several handouts that reference player characters by name (Document 3, Document 4, Document 6, Document 9) – but is otherwise light on personal connections to the investigators. After all, in a regular Trail of Cthulhu campaign, there’s every chance that one or more investigators will perish before the end. That’s not the case in Cthulhu Confidential, so take advantage of the protagonist’s privileged status to ensure that the mystery revolves around them. (For those fill-in-an-investigator’s-name gaps in the handouts, put the investigator’s name in one of them and fill the others with Sources and compelling GMCs.)

Look For Solid Ground

Cthulhu Confidential uses cards to track Problems and Edges and to give detail and texture to the character’s experiences. Instead of just losing four Health, the investigator might have been Clawed by a Deep One or Punched by Butcher Brown or Fell Down A Hole – each of which causes an injury, but has different consequences and solutions. In a regular scenario, these cards can be designed in advance because the GM knows the likely encounters lying ahead. In an improvised campaign, this approach is reversed –  design the cards, and then improvise encounters that lead to those cards. For example, if you’ve prepared the Fell Down A Hole problem or the Mob Tie edges, then look for ways to push the protagonist into a pit or get a favour from a mobster. Prepare a stack of Problems and Edges in advance and look for ways to bring them in (start with the Mythos Problems articles by Robin, as well as the Generic Edges and Problems in the Cthulhu Confidential appendix and build from there.)

Of course, improvised games always include unexpected events, so have a stack of blank cards to hand that you can fill in when warranted. Mark important plot twists and consequences by turning them into Problems and Edges.

For Problem cards, include specific ways to remove each Problem. For Edge cards, note exactly what benefit it gives and when it can be cashed in. Be as concrete as possible – if that Mob Ties edge gives you a bonus when dealing with mobsters, then that’s a prompt for the Gamemaster to include some mobsters to justify the Edge’s existence. (Improv thrives on constraints and prompts.)

Problems and Edges usually arise as a result of challenges; have a copy of the Challenge Difficulty table on p. 45 of Cthulhu Confidential to hand while running the game.

The Armitage Sources

The various academics and scholars in the Armitage Inquiry make excellent sources for most topics. Between them, they cover virtually every academic investigative ability imaginable, with non-academic assistance provided by the redoubtable Mrs. Pickman and Dr. Sprague. With so many professional abilities available through sources, the obvious route for the protagonist is to concentrate on practical investigative abilities like Streetwise and Evidence (although any of the usual Cthulhu Confidential protagonists could be used in an Armitage Files campaign by transplanting them to Arkham country.)

Dreadful Correlation

To reiterate – running an improvised One-2-One game isn’t easy. Don’t pick up the Armitage Files and assume that you’re good to go. In a conventional improvised campaign with multiple players, the Keeper has a whole group to riff off and steal ideas from. Here, it’s just you and one player, alone in a whirlwind of possibilities. Running this sort of game will be tough and exhausting – but it will also be a genuinely terrifying experience for one lucky player.

 

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. This is GUMSHOE One-2-One author Ruth Tillman’s choice:

ruth_400Miss Phryne Fisher

Kerry Greenwood’s irrepressable Miss Phryne Fisher, as so ably portrayed by Essie Davis, is my dream One-2-One player. Her willingness to ask “why not?” and simply dive in through a window would create the perfect table atmosphere where all bets are off, even with a tightly-written scenario. Fortunately, the author just wouldn’t care because you’d both be having such a good time. Phryne would somehow manage to make even the most basic use of Flattery a Push. She’d would always go for an Extra Problem if she thought she might pick up an Edge and follow up to ensure the folks hurt during the scenario got everything sorted out at the end. Her jazz age soundtrack would easily fit in with the noir feel of Cthulhu Confidential and, while she’s never met a mythos horror before, you can’t tell me she wouldn’t stare it down over her tiny pistol–probably before making the sanity-saving choice to flee.

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.

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. This is Simon Rogers‘s choice (but not apostrophe preference):

susan-and-simon_400Robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin

As a teen, I enjoyed Isaac Asimov’s robot stories, collected in I, Robot. In particular I loved his main protagonist Dr Susan Calvin, chief robopsychologist at US Robots and Mechanical Men. From that phrase alone you’ll see they are a little dated, and there are certainly issues with Asimov’s portrayal of Dr Calvin as an Ice Maiden stereotype. But One-2-One lets the player tweak the character to make her your own, so this issues can disappear in actual play. Robots are governed by the famous Laws of Robotics, and the mysteries revolve around robots apparently disobeying these Laws – but in many cases it’s humans who are the true culprits. Within the narrow confines of the Laws, it would be tough to write adventures, but as the player – that’s not my problem! With Calvin’s fearsome intelligence, patience and keen insight into robotic minds, and the setting, which explores the nature of humanity and the minutiae of ethics, she’s my choice for a One-2-One game.

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.

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. This is Cat Tobin‘s choice:

cat-and-precious_400Mma Precious Ramotswe

At the age of 34, Mma Precious Ramotswe set up the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and became the only lady detective in Botswana. “Women”, she says, when challenged about her chosen career by an upstart male lawyer, “are the ones who know what’s going on.”

Mma Ramotswe believes that crimes are committed by people, and her investigative method centers around that. She looks at the situation and the people involved, and tailors her approach to the principal actors. Whether it’s uncovering straying husbands, or finding missing people, she always gets results for her clients – and if she doesn’t, she waives her fees. She’s an intuitively moral woman, who believes strongly in doing the right thing, telling the truth and catching wrongdoers. She’s both practical, and methodical; her process of listing the likely sources of information, then seeking them out, makes her an ideal GUMSHOE investigator (and means she wouldn’t be put off by any intimidating Charlie Gotso or Mickey Cohen types, which is vital in a One-2-One adventure). And yet, despite her brilliance as a detective, she understands the importance of taking a moment to look around her Gaborone base, drink bush tea, watch the sun set and enjoy being alive, so I’m sure she’d be excellent company as a player.

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.

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. Intern extraordinaire Will Jobst’s choice is:

will-and-doc_400Larry “Doc” Sportello

The stoner PI from Thomas Pynchon’s (and Paul Thomas Anderson’s) Inherent Vice is my ideal One-2-One. Hippies, drug-fiends, surfers, and cops, Doc’s hazy 70’s comes with a hit of the absurd with the backdrop of southern California. The playlist makes itself, including CAN, Minnie Riperton, and the killer Jonny Greenwood (bonus points for vinyl). The fuzzed out noir provides psychedelic scene setting and pacing (“I woke up where?!”). And the web of Sources that hurt as much as they help, introducing Trust and paranoia to your One-2-One. It says stoner PI right up there. The kaleidoscopic web of characters, motives, and conspiracies filtered through Doc makes a cat’s cradle of the typical corkboard and string, encouraging a sandbox out of la-la land.

At least we’ll get the “You’re Freaking Out, Man” card. Now, is that an Advantage, Edge, Setback, or Problem…

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.

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. This is One-2-One author Chris Spivey’s choice:

sisko-and-chris_400Captain Benjamin Sisko

Captain Benjamin Sisko is my first choice, followed closely by The Doctor (7th or 10th) and Nick (and Nora) Charles. Why Sisko for One-2-One? Sisko is a soldier and a diplomat, and he understands the complexity of racial history. He has all of the Starfleet values and a brilliant mind, and it would be an incredible ride to watch him unearth the horrors of the Mythos. He’d punch out racist cops and, at the end of the day, do whatever it takes (breaking laws and compromising his values) to do the right thing. Sure, he’ll feel remorse for those actions, but he knows he would do it again. Sisko lives within shades of grey so that others can live in the light.

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.

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.

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. This is TimeWatcher Kevin Kulp’s:

kevin-tree-trimming

Constable Peter Grant

A young half-British, half-West African officer with London’s Metropolitan Police, Constable Peter Grant is on a miserable overnight stakeout when he learns that there’s such things as ghosts. He’s soon recruited into the one-person branch of the Met that deals with magic and the supernatural. Before he knows it he’s negotiating a peace deal between the bickering gods of London’s many rivers, solving horrendous supernatural crimes, and training to be the first new apprentice wizard in over 70 years.
Peter is eminently practical, looking at the supernatural through the eye of science and deconstructing what generations of wizards have taken for granted. For all that he’s not a particularly talented wizard, his stubbornness and talent as a good cop pay off. He tries to use good, solid police work and investigation work to forestall supernatural horror and tragedy — if not always successfully.
Peter Grant appears in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, beginning with the novel Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US). He’d be a superb character in a Cthulhu Confidential game; his dogged stubbornness, reliance on proper protocol, and nearly unique ability to combine mystical knowledge with traditional police work make him an ideal person to encounter Lovecraftian mysteries and monstrosities without losing his sense of self.

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.

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