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

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

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

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

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


78 Responses to “Trail of Cthulhu”

  1. […] Warum? Zum einen wegen Hillfolk, zum anderen aber wegen der Stretchgoals in denen es heißt das Gumshoe von Pelgrane Press als System und eben auch Hillfolk unter eine offene Lizenz veröffentlicht […]

  2. […] Hite är inte bara en av världens mest kända spelmakare, med spel som Trail of Cthulhu och Night’s Black Agents på cevet – sedan ett år tillbaka skriver han också […]

  3. […] game publishers and allowing Pagan Publishing, Miskatonic River Press, Cubicle 7 Entertainment, Pelgrane Press, Goodman Games and Sixtystone Press—to name a few—to produce sourcebooks, scenarios, and […]

  4. […] the Call of Cthulhu version, although it is available for other systems, notably Savage Worlds and Trail of Cthulhu. All of this is a very good idea, as it quickly became clear that for most people, the game will be […]

  5. […] the second-best roleplaying game (Trail of Cthulhu), […]

  6. […] mythos. Where The Deep Ones Are and The Antarctic Express introduce children to cosmic horror. Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning roleplaying game that draws players into the world of H.P. Lovecraft. What […]

  7. […] are Chad Bowser (writer of Cthulhu Invictus), Adam Gauntlett (writer of numerous historically based Trail of Cthulhu scenarios), Stuart Boon (line developer of Cthulhu Britannica), Bret Kramer (editor of the Masks of […]

  8. […] one-shot adventure using the GUMSHOE game system from Fear Itself. If you have The Esoterrorists or Trail of Cthulhu, though, you can probably still make this scenario go—the ability lists and mythologies are […]

  9. […] My conversions provide statistics and rules, including, of course, Trail of Cthulhu‘s method of providing clues. While these scenarios have more opportunities for furious action than Lovecraftian ones stereotypically do, they have many of the familiar qualities of investigation, cautious approaches, and mind-shattering horror. If you are unfamiliar with Ken Hite’s Cthulhu Mythos version of Robin D. Laws’s GUMSHOE rules, more information can be found on Pelgrane Press’s website. […]

  10. […] post is part of the H. P. Lovefest. TL;DR: I have rapidly become a fan of the Trail of Cthulhu roleplaying game, a modern, player-facing alternative to Call of Cthulhu that highlights the […]

  11. Luis Dantas says:

    Is there an errata file for the Trail rulebook? I think I found a couple of mistakes in pages 27 and 49.

  12. […] Press: Toda os livros para o sistema GUMSHOE, que inclui a linha Rastro de Cthulhu, Esoterroristas, Cidade Mutante, entre […]

  13. […] Pedro Godeiro      Rastro de Cthulhu já é um RPG velho e conhecido. Lançado em 2008 pela Pelgrane Press com uma proposta mais light, narrativista e focada em manter as personagens sempre em movimento […]

  14. […] games. How big? So big that, for the purpose of my latest RPG campaign using the wonderful Trail of Cthulhu game by Kenneth Hite based on the Gumshoe rules by Robin D. Laws, I made a vintage-looking map of a […]

  15. […] a lot more than in previous years, currently soaking in as many RPG systems that I can (reading Trail of Cthulhu right […]

  16. Alex says:

    Gamer Group Bundle Q

    So this is equivalent to buying multiple copies of ( 1st ed D speak ) the Player’s Handbook along with a DM’s guide w The Keep on the Borderlands ™ , correct?

    I want to buy Gumshoe for my gaming group.


    • Alex Roberts says:

      Great question! In D&D terms, the Trail of Cthulhu Gamer Group Bundle is like buying multiple copies of the Player’s Handbook for the players, and a stack of books for the DM consisting of the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Monster Manual, and Keep On The Borderlands. Everything you need to run a game.

  17. John Gonzalez says:

    I’m curious to know if the most recent printing of the Trail of Cthulhu core book is the same as the copy I bought in 2008. In particular, whether some of the rules included in the ToC condensed rules (surprise, lighting effects, continuing challenges, etc) were incorporated in later printings. Thanks!

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi John. Nothing has been added to, or removed from the original print of Trail of Cthulhu. So if you bought a copy now it would be exactly the same as your copy from 2008. Thanks, Becky.

      • John Gonzalez says:

        Thanks for the reply! Love ToC as it is, but I won’t hesitate to buy a second edition, should one ever come along. I imagine you’ve heard that before. :-) Cheers.

  18. Javier says:

    Hello! Are there plans for a Trail of Cthulhu second edition? It’s about time! :) Thank you in advance.

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Javier. We will be doing a second edition, but we’re already got our schedule for this year set out, so it won’t be until 2022 at the earliest. Thanks, Becky.

Leave a Reply to Golden Goblin Press Launches with Kickstarter | Christopher Smith Adair