Reviews

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

Buy

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.

Kafka at RPGNet has given Adam Gauntlett’s Sisters of Sorrow 10/10. You can read the full review here.

The grouping of the imagery of life aboard the U-Boat, is counteract the quixotic, almost valiant accepted wisdom that many of us have about submarine warfare thus producing an excellent adventure that incorporates the horror war with the supernatural horrors of Lovecraft. All things considered a decidedly pleasurable and admirable mood piece for a simple one-off adventure sure to bring pleasure to players and Keepers alike.

Pookie over at Reviews from R’lyeh has written a detailed and positive review of Adam Gauntlett’s 1760s scenario, Hell Fire. You can read the full review here.

Hell Fire does a good job of bringing Lovecraftian investigation to an interesting period of history, whilst the period itself brings a sense of Hogarthian horror to Lovecraftian investigation.

Pookie over at Reviews from R’lyeh has posted a review of Adam Gauntlett’s (Not So Quiet, Hell Fire) newest Trail offering, Flying Coffins. You can read the full review here.

Overall, Flying Coffins is a very different one-shot, one that captures both the uncaring nature of the Mythos and the uncaring nature of early aerial warfare.

Pookie has reviewed our charity adventure, The Millionaire’s Special, over at Reviews from R’lyeh. You can read the full review here.

A unique setting serves to tighten a well-worn plot and so make RMS Titanic: The Millionaire’s Special a memorable one-shot.

All proceeds from the sale of this adventure will go to the Heroes in the Dark charity.

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