Television is rather a frightening business. But I get all the relaxation I want from my collection of model soldiers.
Peter Cushing

Sunday 30 October 2016

On the Trail of Cthulhu

This is the first of two posts this weekend; this one is a kind of review of Pelgrane Press' Trail of Cthulhu RPG while the second will be a write up of the actual game.

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...


  1. Whilst aware of the Lovecraftian world, I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I have not read any. Would I be right in saying that the Call of Cthulhu would be he place to start?

    1. You can find the stories for free online and on kindle; they're out of copyright. The ones that are definitely worth reading are:

      The Call of Cthulhu
      The Whisperer in Darkness
      Herbert West: Reanimator
      The Dunwich Horror
      The Shadow Over Inns mouth
      The Rats in the Walls

      There's a lot of other good ones but those should give you a solid idea whether you want to read.more or not.

    2. Thank you for that, off to the kindle shop then.

  2. I have, but haven't played, Trail of Cthulhu; I've been pretty content with Call, especially as the new 7th edition has finally made some real upgrades and has given the game a more modern feel to it. I'm looking forward to reading your play report!