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Trail of Cthulhu Player's Guide $10.95
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Berin K. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/10/2010 12:44:02
This is Ken Hite rewriting Call of Cthulhu to match the sensibilities of modern Lovecraft scholarship, where not every character goes insane or does, the protagonists survive and often win, and different types of stories can be told. It takes the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game as its template, overlays it with Robin Laws' investigation-oriented GUMSHOE system, and then expands it to include oft-overlooked elements of Lovecraft's stories along with other pulp elements and historical tropes from the 1920s. What you get is a very nice period piece that accomodates various styles of play and allows you to more accurately simulate the feel of classic Mythos stories.

The primary concieptt of the GUMSHOE system is that you're going to find the clue. You don't have to roll to try to find that piece of information needed to launch you into the next scene or the next encounter. You find it. The academic checks the library stacks, the doctor goes through medical records, the private investigator questions the witnesses, and they get the clues. It's not about gathering data, it's about figuring out what it all means.

Some of the game is resource management; you get a pool of points to spend, if and when you want. You find the clue, but by spending a point or two you can gain some benefit, like finding out shoggoths are sensitive to electricity before you actually encounter the shoggoth. Important stuff. Skill tests are done on a single d6, with difficulty ranging from 2 to 8; you can spent points ahead of time to add to that.

Trail of Cthulhu also breaks character madness down into two pieces: classic Sanity, which measures long-term mental deterioration, and Stability, which measures your ability to function in a reasonably normal way. When you see something scary and freak out, you've lost Stability. You'll compose yourself eventually, with little or no long-term harm. On the other hand, you can be quite insane from exposure to the Mythos, with a low Sanity score, and still be quite functional and even pass for normal with a high Stability. This allows for not only more nuanced player characters, but far more frightening villains.

Overall a very nice update and expansion to Call of Cthulhu's style of play, with far more possibilities given to those who don't enjoy playing characters who will (not might) inevitably be destroyed during the game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Trail of Cthulhu Player's Guide
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