I'm assuming at this point that no-one reading this blog needs to be told anything about Lovecraft or Cthulhu or, indeed, Chaosium's venerable Call of Cthulhu rules. CoC was the first game I ever ran and we played it every Saturday night for years before we moved on to other games. But CoC is almost as old as D&D and the rules are a little creaky.
Trail of Cthulhu, then is a newer game. It's about 10 years old - I've just not had a chance to run it till now.
The main rules change is reorientating the focus on investigation; in any horror game the key is always in figuring out what has happened and how to stop it. ToC assumes that the player characters are competent - a strange feeling for anyone who's played WFRP - and that they will immediately find any clue they are capable of finding if they look for it. So someone with Geology who looks at the weird rock will immediately gather that it is from some strange underwater environment.
The key thing here is that the emphasis immediately shifts from finding the clues to interpreting the clues - and in the modern gaming environment that's genius.
What do I mean like that?
Like most people I don't have a regular rpg group who love near me any more. So this game, like most others I've run over the last few years, was done over video conferencing. The advantage of any system which forces the players to talk to each other and try and deduce what's going on is clear in that kind of environment.
The rules for general abilities are pretty elegant, using a points spending and resource management system to allow the players to be proactive and competent.
Overall, ToC is a cracking game which works well for playing over the Web. It's well worth checking out and is supported by a wide range of supplements. One thing I will flag up is that my hardback is.coming apart at the spine. It was one of the first print run so I don't know if any newer editions would have the same problem.
Now plan the next story...