by Adam Gauntlett
Dos comes in. Has found out Robles executed. Wants to investigate. Discuss with Hem the danger of D investigating. R had fair trial – gave away military secrets. Josephine Herbst, a novelist and columnist covering the Spanish Civil War, wrote that entry in her diary after a post-artillery bombardment drinking session in Hemingway’s room at the Hotel Florida. It was the first indication of what was to become a serious rift in the friendship between Hemingway and Dos Passos, over the fate of Jose Robles, a mutual friend who had been taken by the authorities. Hemingway believed the action, and execution, had been justified; Dos Passos was appalled that a secret trial – if trial there had been – could result in summary execution. Was this Madrid, or Chicago under Capone?
That event is the inspiration for Soldiers of Pen and Ink. Imagine a world in which anyone could be snatched off the street and just vanish, as if they had never been. Imagine what your friends would say. Would they be like Hemingway, unquestionably accepting your guilt without demanding evidence? Would they be like Dos Passos, an anguished man trying to find out what happened to his friend? Would they do as Robles’ own son did, and publicly accept his father’s guilt for the sake of the Republican cause?
Even now nobody really knows what happened to Robles. None of the people who were there at the time agree; was Robles a Fascist spy, caught with sensitive documents in his possession? Was he falsely accused? Was his knowledge of Soviet backstage shenanigans inconvenient to the Stalinists? Was there even a trial? Was he shot by firing squad, assassinated by the NKVD, or did something else happen to him?
That kind of world seems, in retrospect, to be almost a fever dream. I’m irresistibly reminded of Through the Looking Glass, in which the Mad Hatter is accused and sentenced, not of a crime he did commit, but for one he might commit at some future date. Or perhaps he won’t commit it at all, but since when did Wonderland care about these piffling details?
Fever dreams lead, of course, to Carcosa, in the Lovecraftian mythos. I’m particularly fond of John Tynes’ take on the concept: It breaks things down not from without, but within. As perfect a description of the Fifth Column as you could wish for, and what is Carcosa in this context if not the ultimate Fifth Column, with the ultimate goal of making all things like itself, in the end?
Or put it another way:
The Tattered King may be symbolic of the beginning of the end, its shredded form a warning that the viewer is reaching lethal mneme toxicity. That would suggest the Tattered King is not actually part of the Hastur mneme at all, but a projection of the viewer’s own mental state. That would make it a kind of forerunner of destruction, the Pallid Mask the viewer’s own face, so distorted due to the influence of the mneme that the viewer can no longer recognize it.
I trust you’ll enjoy your time in Madrid. You may never want to leave …
by Adam Gauntlett
That primal fear of dissolution survives in metaphor. Corruption scandals are still branded ‘a moral Caporetto’. Politicians accuse each other of facing ‘an electoral Caporetto’. When small businesses are snarled up in Italy’s notorious red tape, they complain about ‘an administrative Caporetto’. When England lost to Northern Ireland at football, it was ‘the English Caporetto’. This figure of speech stands for more than simple defeat; it involves a hint of stomach-churning exposure; rottenness laid bare.
Mark Thompson, The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front.
In October 1917 the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, also known as the Battle of Caporetto, began near the town of Kobarid, in what is now Slovenia. By the time it was over the Italians had 10,000 killed, 30,000 wounded, and over a quarter million taken prisoner, most of whom surrendered willingly. This is the battle at which Irwin Rommel, then an Oberleutnant, made his famous capture of 1,500 men and 43 officers; Rommel had only 3 riflemen and 2 officers to help him take control of his prisoners. Hemingway became a household name after Caporetto, with his novel A Farewell to Arms. For Italy, it was the defining moment of the war.
It is impossible to discuss an event like the Great War if you only talk about the trenches of the Western Front, and confine the discussion to the Somme and Ypres. It was a world event; it touched everything from the farthest islands in the Pacific to the emerging nations of the Middle East. Even today they still retrieve frozen corpses of Italian and Austrian soldiers from the Alps, and shelling during the White War was so intense it shortened a mountain, San Mateo, by twenty feet.
Yet the trenches exercise a peculiar horror that draw every historian’s gaze towards them, and not just because poets wrote heart-wrenching lines about gas attacks. The trenches were beyond imagination. They exist in that special corner of history reserved for great atrocities, and can still be traced, often by the shell holes left behind.
The Great War is horror, in all its masks, from the sudden shock of a jump scare to the lingering paranoia that comes with suspense; from the decayed death’s head of mortality, to the silent, steady loss of function brought on by frostbite. It is waiting, trapped, in an American port with little chance of repatriation. It is the sudden tragedy of 1,195 people, mostly civilians and many children, drowned at sea. It is sudden, searing death at Hooge. It is a knife in the back in some trackless desert, and it is the systematic extermination of over one million Armenians.
The Great Lie must have been overjoyed, to have such a feast laid out for it.
While I tried to present as much of the conflict as I could, there was never any hope I’d be able to portray all of it. There’s too much there there, as Gertrude Stein didn’t say. It is something that has fascinated me for a very long time, and the chance to represent it in fiction was too good to pass up. I trust the purists out there will forgive me reinventing Mordiggian slightly, but of all the Old Ones who might be interested in the Great War, the Charnel God seemed above all other contenders the most likely.
Yet for all that, we are but bait …
by Adam Gauntlett
As I write this, The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby has been out for about a month. It’s been favourably received – many thanks to those who reviewed it, and I hope those who play it enjoy it – and I’m told sales are going well! Especially the limited print run that Paul Maclean of YSDC kindly put together; round of applause for that man!
So, why do it at all? Well, back when the GUMSHOE OGL was being promoted, it occurred to me that this was a good opportunity to get my work out there. As it happened I was in the UK on other business, and had a chance to talk to Paul about collaborating, as soon as we had a better idea what the license would offer. He’d publish via YSDC, I’d write. That was how it stood for a while: we waited until we knew more, but there was a deal on the table.
Then the license came out, and I began talking with Simon to get a better understanding of what I could and could not do with it. Simon did one better than the license: he offered to let me write it for Trail of Cthulhu, provided all profits went to YSDC. Trail is something the license wouldn’t let me touch, and it’s a system I’m already very familiar with. I didn’t have a problem with that, and so we forged ahead with Edward Bigbsy.
Bigsby isn’t going to be the only scenario I publish via YSDC. There are several others, some of them already written, which will come out over the next year or two. Eventually I plan on taking another stab at the GUMSHOE OGL, which means I won’t be writing a Trail scenario, but it will be horror. I already know what I want to write; the only question is when.
Next up, The Long Con, a Trail/Bookhounds scenario set in London. I don’t want to talk too much about that here, but it will be available in .pdf very, very soon. A brief teaser:
Sidney Pryce wants the protagonists’ help to set up a Big Store, to sucker a rich American into thinking he’s buying into a Burnt Auction. The rewards, Pryce promises, are incalculable; but soon after Pryce enlists their help, strange bird-creatures haunt the protagonists. How, they wonder, does Japanese folklore figure into it?
I hope you enjoy Bigbsy! Look forward to more, coming soon!
And the dead were the dead; this was no time to be pitying them or asking silly questions about their outraged lives. Such sights must be taken for granted, I thought, as I gasped and slithered and stumbled with my disconsolate crew. Floating on the surface of the flooded trench was the mask of a human face which had detached itself from the skull.
- Siegfried Sassoon
This collection of adventures considers the Great War, 1914-18, from the perspective of Trail of Cthulhu. From the conflict in the air, to the depths of the sea, the home front and the different battle fronts, the Great War affects the lives of countless millions of people. It also brings humanity into conflict with elements of the Mythos, and in particular the Charnel God Mordiggian who, for the first time in centuries, may actually have more to devour than it can stomach.
The forces of the Gods do not take kindly to being disturbed, and nor do they usually play favourites; unless your players are careful, they may find themselves attacked and wiped out in an instant, caught in an otherworldly crossfire they can only hope to survive, not understand.
Dulce et Decorum Est features GUMSHOE adaptations and new abilities for war in the air, and on the sea and land, and how the mythos might interact with the horrors of the war, and the participants.
Dulce et Decorum Est – Great War Trail of Cthulhu contains the following scenarios:
The once-mighty Vaterland is a prisoner of politics. She is trapped in New York Harbour, as war rages in Europe. Her crew and Commodore are just as much prisoners as the ship herself, though they are making the best of their captivity by hosting concerts in support of the German relief effort. You’ve come aboard at the behest of John Rathom, editor of the Providence Journal, in hopes of uncovering a German plot.
Dead Horse Corner
The protagonists discover that a trench which ought to have been occupied by their fellow soldiers has been abandoned. Twenty men vanished without a trace, food still on the table and coffee cooling in their mugs. Was it an enemy attack, or something less ordinary?
The crew of German U-boat UC-12, is sent on a standard mission; penetrate the North Sea defensive zone, make their way to Tyneside, lay their mines and return. But nothing in the Great War is that simple. While underwater, the crew start to hear a strange, muffled booming noise, ringing like a sequence of church bells. It’s not whales. It’s not enemy forces. Something else is down here. While settled on the sea floor to get some much-needed rest, the crew starts to act suspiciously. Someone is up to no good. The ship’s cat disappears and a strange weed is found growing on board.
Then the tapping on the hull begins…
|Stock #: PELGT32
||Author: Adam Gauntlett
|Artist: Jérôme Huguenin, Leah Huete, Phil Reeves
||Pages: 112 page perfect bound
Soldiers of Pen and Ink is a Trail of Cthulhu campaign set in the dark heart of the Spanish Civil War
A comrade is lost. Enemies surround you, and your fellow soliders cannot be trusted. Can you rescue your friend while retaining your sanity?
Madrid, 1936. The Investigators have come to Spain to shoot a documentary on the war sympathetic to the Republican cause, but find themselves trapped in the Siege of Madrid. One of their team goes missing, and their literary colleagues say it’s pointless – even dangerous – to ask what happened to him.
In a war of competing ideologies, unorthodoxy can merit the death penalty, even amongst those opposing Fascism, but is this Communist oppression or something more sinister?
Players need have no knowledge of the Spanish Civil War to experience this adventure – their Investigators can be naive idealists, and Keepers can be confident that the text explains historical background.
Dare you negotiate steely-eyed Communist ideologues, blood-thirst fascists and the horrors of an inhuman cult to rescue a friend?
“[I often have] the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world….From the anti-Fascist angle one could write a broadly truthful history of the war, but it would be a partisan history, unreliable on every minor point. Yet, after all, some kind of history will be written, and after those who actually remember the war are dead, it will be universally accepted. So for all practical purposes the lie will have become truth.”
- George Orwell, “Looking back on the Spanish War”
|Stock #: PELGT36
||Author: Adam Gauntlett
|Artist: Jerome Hugenin, Melissa Gay
||Pages: 72 page perfect bound
Dare you face the horrors Out of Time?
Pelgrane Press presents four century-spanning adventures for Trail of Cthulhu by three Mythos masters. From war-damaged soldiers on the Western front, to chthonic forces in the remote Kergueln archipelago, from atomic tests on Bikini atoll to occult machinations in the Mojave Desert, Out Of Time will take your Investigators into the far reaches of madness and beyond.
Created by Call of Cthulhu veteran Adam Gauntlett; Jason Morningstar, award-winning creator of Fiasco and the Shab-al-Hiri Roach and Bill White, creator of Ganakagok, Out of Time features:
- Not So Quiet: Bullet-ridden, bruised and bloody, the Investigators, soldiers and nurses in the Great War, are brought from the frontline to Military Hospital Number Five. Once the haze of morphine clears, they sense a brooding malevolence and they will soon realise there are worse things in this life than a bullet wound.
- The Black Drop: Something slowly gathers strength beneath the frozen basalt of the Kerguelen archipelago – a monstrous thing once worshipped and then betrayed, a terrible god from the antediluvian past. Its time has come again, and mysterious forces gather. Will the Investigators usher in its rebirth – or put an end to it forever?
- The Big Hoodoo: Play sci-fi great Robert Heinlein, his ex-Navy engineer wife Virginia, renowned editor and mystery writer Tony Boucher, or a young Philip K. Dick as they confront the lunatic fringe in La-La Land, and find themselves caught in a charlatan’s web of chicanery, mendacity, and deceit-laced with a strong strand of Mythos menace.
- Castle Bravo: It’s March 1954. The Investigators are sailors and scientists deployed aboard the USS Bairoko to the South Pacific as part of Joint Task Force One to participate in a series of secret thermonuclear test shots in the Bikini atoll called Operation Castle. After the first detonation, the PCs will have more than just radiation to fear.
Out of Time also features extensive handouts, pregenerated characters and exclusive new essays from the authors.
You can read Castle Bravo actual play here.
See the complete reviews to date here
The very title of Out of Time hints at the desperate nature of the four scenarios in the anthology. Three of the four also take Trail of Cthulhu out of its traditional period of the 1930s, while the fourth, “The Black Drop,” certainly takes Trail of Cthulhu far from civilisation. All four though continue Trail of Cthulhu’s tradition of strong strong with well written and well realised scenarios.
|Stock #: PELGT22
||Author: Adam Gauntlett, Jason Morningstar, Bill White
||Pages: 160pg Perfect Bound