Trail of Cthulhu

Trail Cover

Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning standalone game produced under license from Chaosium, set in the 1930s, now in its third print run, and produced in five languages. Trail of Cthulhu uses the GUMSHOE system, which is finely tuned for investigative play – the challenge is in interpreting clues not finding them.

It supports both Pulp (for Indiana Jones, Robert E. Howard, thrilling locations sorts of games) and Purist styles of play (for intellectual horror and cosmic dread). HP Lovecraft’s work combined both, sometimes in the same story.

It includes a new take on the creatures, cults and gods of the Lovecraft’s literature, and addresses their use in gaming. It adds new player backgrounds, and bulk out the GUMSHOE system to give intensive support for sanity, incorporating into the rule set the PCs desire to explore at the risk of going mad.

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.

Trail of Cthulhu is a very well supported game, with award-winning supplements by Ken Hite, Robin Laws, Jason Morningstar, Adam Gauntlett, Graham Walmsley, Gareth Hanrahan and Bill White.

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

  • Sample pages from Trail of Cthulhu.
  • Order from the Pelgrane Press Store
  • Visit Yog-sothoth – the Trail of Cthulhu forum.
  • See the complete reviews to date here.
Stock #:PELGT01D Author: Kenneth Hite and Robin Laws
Artist: Jerome Huguenin Format: 248-page, two-color, smythe-sewn hardback

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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!

Contents

Wallpaper

Demo

Forms and Handouts

  • Download the Trail of Cthulhu condensed rules PDF by Tony Williams.
  • Trail of Cthulhu Cheat Sheet by Yunus Wesley
  • Download a fillable PDF Investigator Matrix.
  • Download a Keeper’s Investigator Ability Matrix (A4) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a Keeper’s Investigator Ability Matrix (US letter) by Tony Williams.
  • Download Stunning Eldritch Tales hand-outs.
  • Download a map of the Cleveland Torso Murders by Enrique Esturillo
  • High-resolution maps of Cleveland for the ToC example adventure.
  • Download Arkham Detective Tales hand-outs
  • Download Bookhounds of London rumours
  • The Armitage Files handouts (for purchasers for the Armitage Files only). The password of the zip file is the first word on page 38 of The Armitage Files.
  • The Armitage Files Excel spreadsheet of all the NPCs, organisations, places and magical tomes, thanks to Scott C Bourgeois. Download it here.

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 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 a Bookhounds of London Pulp Character Sheet (A4) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a Bookhounds of London Pulp Character Sheet (US letter) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a Bookhounds of London Purist Character Sheet (A4) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a Bookhounds of London Purist Character Sheet (US letter) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a Bookhounds of London Bookshop Record Sheet (A4) by Tony Williams.
  • Download a Bookhounds of London Bookshop Record 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

Adventures and campaigns

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!

Articles

Miscellaneous

Dulce et Decorum Est coverAnd 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 – Great War Trail of Cthulhu contains the following scenarios:

Vaterland

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.

Sisters of Sorrow

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.

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?

Status: Art being done

ErnestHemingway“[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”

The protagonists, sponsored by the Paris-based political organisation BNVS, have come to Spain to shoot a documentary on the war, and find themselves marooned in 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, but is this Communist oppression or something more sinister?

Status: Art being done

Playtest feedback for Dreamhounds of Paris, the upcoming Trail of Cthulhu campaign sourcebook in which you play the major figures of the surrealist movement wreaking –psychic-revolutionary havoc in Lovecraft’s eerie fantasy realm, is in. Participants should pat themselves on the bat for a collectively great job. They’ve turned in detailed, thoughtful responses that will make the book better. This must have the highest ratio of comments made to comments used of any project I’ve received playtest feedback on.

Because the campaign strongly encourages you to play real historical figures, supplied for you in the book, we can do a fun thing that doesn’t usually arise from playtest reports. We can see who the most popular of the 20 supplied characters were, and in what proportion. Here’s the breakdown for the six most chosen characters, in handy pie chart form.

Clearly, seeing to it that you have Dali or Cocteau along is the Dreamhounds version of making sure somebody’s playing the cleric.

I’m pleased to announce a new project, in scope and scale similar to Eternal Lies. It’s The Poison Tree – a multi-generational Lovecraftian epic.

If that’s not exciting enough, the authors will be Paul Fricker (CoC 7th Edition), Matthew Sanderson (Love of Money), and Scott Dorward (Final Revelation). And Kenneth Hite will act as advisor and sprinkler of fairy dust.

We’ll have more for you at the end of January.

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.

Slaves_Cover_finalThe long-awaited conclusion of the Cthulhu Apocalypse campaign.

Three years ago, the world died.

Horrors now stalk the empty and overgrown streets of the civilisation that once existed here. The passage of three long, strange years has transformed the world into an unrecognisable landscape of horrors. There are a few survivors, living in the ruins of the past, but under the unfathomable pressure of the Mythos, their humanity is slipping away, cracking and moulting in the process of becoming something new.

Will the Investigators survive to the end – or will they even want to?

Slaves of the Mother contains the final three scenarios for Graham Walmsley’s Cthulhu Apocalypse. Written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, it is supported by the Gold ENnie-winning The Apocalypse Machine campaign setting for Trail of Cthulhu.

 

Stock #: PELGT31D Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Graham Walmsley
Artist: Alessandro Alaia Pages: 76pg PDF

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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 on his own, 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.

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