Reviews

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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Ruth, over on the Illuminerdy, reviewed the Doomsday Edition of Cthulhu Apocalypse. Thanks Ruth! You can find the entire review on the Illuminerdy. Ruth says,
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“I found the Apocalypse Machine engaging in its versatility. It allows for an immense variety of apocalypses with even more resulting situations. A lot of post-apocalyptic writing, even in gaming, locks you into a very specific vision of the apocalypse. I think when it comes to horror gaming, the effectiveness depends in part on what people find personally horrifying. The machine allows a GM to tinker to her and/or her players’ fears about the end of the world and provides ample support for creating whatever world they end up in.”

“That part of the book fascinated me more because it had potentials I haven’t seen in most other post-apocalyptic games. What I appreciated most about the scenarios was that the path they followed was one which again diverges from the “standard” post-apocalyptic game settings.”

“Ultimately, if you want to play Trail of Cthulhu but you’re tired of stopping the apocalypse and want to try something different, this is the book for you. I found it thorough in imagining how things might play out, throwing off suggestions while leaving room for your improvisation. The character-building section was a strong Trail hack. And whether or not you play the scenarios as written, reading them will help any GM who’s trying to figure out how to run post-apocalyptic Investigations vs. post-apocalyptic shoot-em-ups.”

Pick up Cthulhu Apocalypse at the Pelgrane booth at GenCon, or pre-order in the store (PDF included).

Dulce_Et_Decorum_Est_cover_400Pookie reviewed Dulce et Decorum Est on Reviews from R’lyeh. You can check out the full review here. Thanks Pookie!

“Dulce et Decorum Est gives the tools for the Keeper to run scenarios set during the war, plus numerous good ideas…Physically, Dulce et Decorum Est is solidly presented. The art is excellent”

On the Vaterland scenario:

A relatively short, straightforward and confined affair, ‘Vaterland’ is a primarily interesting because of its setting, one that plays against our anti-German notions of the period. The inclusion of Hearst as an NPC adds an interesting wrinkle and a certain impetus to the scenario.

On the Dead Horse Corner scenario:

“it nicely builds on a strong sense of isolation and of the three scenarios in the book, is probably best suited to add to an ongoing campaign set during the Great War.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.

Eternal_Lies_cover_mockupOn the Flames Rising blog, reviewer Steven Dawes says about the epic Eternal Lies campaign:

“Eternal Lies is simply the most well developed and well designed adventure book I’ve ever seen!”

Steven adds, “The campaign storyline is loyal to and very worthy of the Cthulhu Mythos. The rules and organization of the book are easy to follow, and even the artwork and illustrations in the book were perfectly for the settling. Everything you need for an epic mythos adventure is in this outstanding book! But the authors and the maniacs who run Pelgrane Press must have fallen in love with this book just as much as I did…”

Finally, “Eternal Lies really raises the bar for RPG campaign books. Kudos to the authors, Pelgrane Press and everyone who was involved with (or is still involved with) this incredible book.”

You can read the full review on the Flames Rising blog here.

Dreamhounds_of_Paris_400Jason Thompson, over on his blog, mockman.com, reviews The Dreamhounds of Paris. Jason says,

This is great stuff. The Surrealists and the Mythos belong together.

Adding, “The idea of the Surrealists being Randolph-Carter-level Dreamers (or even better than that Carter dude) is genius; I can’t imagine historical figures who fit the role more.

In short, this is a fascinating, challenging campaign that pays homage to Lovecraft’s ‘canon’ Dreamlands, but, since it simultaneously upends and mutates them, might be just as well suited to people who *hate* the Dreamlands (shame on you). If I had one wish, I could have used more of everything…

You can check out the full review here. You can purchase the Dreamhounds of Paris Bundle, featuring The Book of Ants, at the shop.

Eternal LiesGames reviewer Endzeitgeist declared Eternal Lies the Best Non-Pathfinder RPG Adventure of 2013, in the new issue of Pathways magazine. (Download a free copy.) He says:

Eternal Lies ranks as one of the best campaigns I’ve seen for any Cthulhu-system – it’s glorious and I’m not going to SPOIL the awesome premise here. Every Keeper should check this out – it’s one magnificent beast.

Get Eternal Lies at the Pelgrane Shop or at DriveThruRPG!

Eternal LiesOn the Dreams in the Lich House blog, reviewer Beedo says about the epic Eternal Lies campaign:

“After spending the past few weeks reading this 400 page monster, Pelgrane has far exceeded my expectations.”

Beedo continues, “The overarching theme of Eternal Lies is corruption, and the adventure does a fantastic job of grinding stability and sanity from the investigators and threatening them with effects that corrupt their character’s thoughts, souls, and ultimately, their physical bodies.”

Adding that “This is an excellent campaign, highly recommended, which confronts the players with a diverse series of locales and investigation types, while showing off the strengths of the Trail of Cthulhu rules set”, Eternal Lies is top of Beedo’s queue for next games to run.

You can read the full review on the Dreams in the Lich House blog here.

Trail_300Over at his defective yeti blog, Matthew Baldwin has rapidly become a fan of Trail of Cthulhu. We are delighted to hear that it’s thanks to Trail of Cthulhu that Matthew can “at long last, add the title of ‘roleplayer’ to my gaming resume without resorting to exaggeration or wishful thinking.”

In great detail, Matthew examines the core Trail of Cthulhu rulebook and the elements of the game that he most appreciates, as well as referencing some of the Trail scenarios he’s played (collected in Stunning Eldritch Tales, Out of Time and The Final Revelation). He says “Chock full of ideas … the Trail of Cthulhu book will be of interest to anyone fascinated by the Mythos — even those who have no intention of ever playing the game.”

You can read Matthew’s thoughtful review on the defective yeti blog here.

Kafka over at RPGNet has given an in-depth, 9/10 review of Out of Space. There is a slight error in the review when he says we have included nothing extra in the book, when in fact there is an extra 10% (8,000 words) but this is acknowledged in the thread below the review. You can review the full review here.

Pelgrane Press always manages to create such a visually beautiful product and one that will have additional rules to make it all worthwhile. Thus, despite my misgivings about nothing extra added to these scenarios – they are all first rate and play as one or two shots. Even, if you do not play Cthulhu and have a generic horror game that will explore the “real world” through a distorted mirror of the occult and otherworldly horror…you will find that this is a rich mine for your nightly game.

 

Two wider geek-media huzzahs for Pelgrane core games hit this week, and by some kind of odd coincidence, they both feature interviews with me.

Andrew Girdwood of Geek Native shares the news of how you can get Trail of Cthulhu for 55% off at DriveThruRPG if you haven’t bought it yet, and asks me all manner of questions including “What music goes well with Trail of Cthulhu?” You know I plugged James Semple’s amazing soundtracks, but click through to see what else I suggested.

Ed Grabianowski, meanwhile, gives Night’s Black Agents a very flattering review at io9.com (“Filled with innovative features that help create a unique gaming experience”) and asks me, among other things, about playtest highlights I didn’t mention in the “DVD Commentary” sections in the book. Find out where the giant stone vampire head was, here.

On RPG.net, Darren MacLennan gives Trail of Cthulhu a 5/5 playtest review. Despite encountering some of the usual roadblocks for players new to GUMSHOE, Darren concludes:

On the other hand, Trail of Cthulhu taught me how to write an investigative adventure, has a ton of useful resources for Call of Cthulhu – and if you’re not married to Call of Cthulhu already, like I am, it’s entirely possible that it’ll work better for you.

He also calls Trail “an ultralight glider,” which is a lovely metaphor of gameplay to shoot for, I think.

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