- Hardcover: 248 pages
- Publisher: Pelgrane Press; 1st edition (2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1934859079
- ISBN-13: 978-1934859070
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.9 x 11.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #697,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Trail of Cthulhu Hardcover – 2008
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Trail of Cthulhu is a new standalone GUMSHOE system game under license to Chaosium, set in the 1930s. 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 Lovecrafts work combined both, sometimes in the same story. It includes a new take on the creatures, cults and gods of the Lovecrafts 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.
Top customer reviews
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All I can do is report how it plays at my table, and the answer there is "very smoothly". I now prefer this to Call of Cthulhu for several reasons: making up characters is faster, especially for new players; there's less stuff on the character sheet for players to keep track of; there's less mechanical stuff for the Keeper to keep track of; and the gradual erosion of ability pools over the course of a session means that pretty much every session ends in panic and desperation. That's a nice parallel with SAN loss, and it really makes the game feel more like a Lovecraft story in actual play.
As far as how hard this is for players: I made up my own character sheets and wrote right on the page "These are for finding clues" next to the Investigative Skills heading, and "These are for spending to improve die rolls" next to the General Skills heading. No-one has had any problem picking that up. In fact, the system gets out of the way of gameplay more than just about any other that I have run.
Beyond the system, the book is both a gorgeous physical object and chock-full of interesting ideas, about the Mythos and its entities and about how to run atmospheric games. Even if you end up not running this system, the book is still a gold mine of inspiration. But do give the system a chance--it plays easier than it reads, and you can run an awful lot of story on a couple of simple game mechanics.
I only have good words to Chaosium and his original work since I began to play in the 90s I enjoyed every night of tension and doom. I went through Advance DnD , Vampire the Masquerade, Mage, 3.0 and others but I always return to the cyclopean ruins, hopeless runs and total madness. I learn to love Call of Cthulhu and forgive its annoyances, and I still do.
But I have to admit, I like what’s Pelgrane Press did with the gunshoe system, it’s simple and clever. And now I love it too.
Trial of Cthulhu is now my favorite take on Lovecraft horror and I praise the people involved in this project, I actually bought some of their modules and the writing is fantastic.
The book itself has a layout that evokes the old newspapers and the pictures are well done. The take on the mythos are particularly exiting and hands down the best part of this book, I was a little confused with some of the rules and only got it right after a couple of sessions but after that it were smooth and as said before very clever. As game Trial of Cthulhu is awesome in its own right.
My copy of the book came not pristine, it has a little crack bottom in the spine but in general I’m very please with my purchase.
The mechanics are light enough they never get in the way of the story (or the gaming). PCs have a high level of competence, never failing at something that supposed to be their area of expertise, yet can still be easily devoured or driven mad by various eldritch abominations. It's not diceless, but the dice come out only when something really dangerous is afoot. It really captures the feel of the source material quite well.
The GM's section on the Great Old Ones and Elder Gods is hands-down the best Cthulhu brainstorming I've ever seen in print. Too many other gaming products have focused on the game stats of Cthulhu and his ilk; Trail of Cthulhu understands that what's interesting is the cosmic truths, the symbolism and metaphor, not how many bullets Nyarlethotep can soak up before he runs out of hit points. Fans of Cthulhu will be blown away by this game's GMing advice.
For fans of Gumshoe, this is also a treat, regardless of what you think of Lovecraft. Trail of Cthulhu does a great job of porting Gumshoe to a less-CSI setting. It has a simplified skill list that's less crime-scene oriented than Esoterrorists, yet not as stripped down or oversimplified as Fear Itself. Optional "Pulp" and "Purist" rules allow you to customize the system to whatever style of game you prefer to run. Breaking Stability out into two stats (Stability and Sanity) allows for greater control (and variation) of player's decent into madness, and NPC Pillars of Sanity and Sources of Stability give you ways to pull them back from the brink. There's tons of useful stuff here for GMs to steal for their own campaigns.
Don't miss the "Idiosyncratic Magic" rules hidden away on pgs 212-213. Though brief, they are the usable framework for a magic system that's playable yet retains a sense that it is creepy and supernatural... as magic should be.
I like the Gumshoe style of game, and putting it with a Mythos style game just makes sense. Give the players what they need, and let them dig into the problems out there. I also appreciate that they have a Pulp option, along with the Purist style.
Most recent customer reviews
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Keeper's Screen and Resource Book - A very good idea, worth your time and money