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Trail of Cthulhu: Soldiers of Pen and Ink

Soldiers of Pen and Ink

This mini-campaign is set to embroil the Investigators in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The hook provided has them sent to Madrid as a documentary film crew, and this is supported by the pre-generated charaters provided, but you may have your own ideas about how to entice them over there. Like many idealists, they may even have gone to fight... fascism, supporters of a democratic republic and communists are involved in the conflict.

The Horrible Truth reveals what is really going on, and then the Spine lays out the sequence of events which begin with one of the party's associates disappearing. There's even the chance to catch up with Ernest Hemingway as the search progresses. There's loads of supporting material here, from some wonderful pseudo-science to 'explain' how the Mythos is working in this instance to details of what a besieged Madrid is like (the fascists are trying to dislodge the republicans, the communists are bickering with the republicans whilst trying to keep the fascists out...) and notes on typical characters likely to be encountered. There are some new archetypes - the extremist, the volunteer, the spy and the black marketeer - all commonly encountered, orwhich can be used by enterprising players if they don't fancy the documentary team idea. It's suggested that the Investigators, whoever they are, enter the game not knowing much about Spain or what's going on there, not only is it likely that your players are equally ignorant, so were most of the people who went there to fight or report on the situation. This enables you to drip-feed information as necessary rather than giving them a massive info-dump before the game begins. Given that most Keepers probably don't know much either, there's loads of background material here to draw upon. Not all is completely accurate, but it all suits the purposes of the game well... this isn't supposed to be a history text, after all!

So, on to the adventure itself. It is fast-paced, beginning with the party's hotel being subjected to an early-morning artillery barrage. Scene piles upon scene as the Investigators try to stay alive, make their film, and discover in the midst of all this that their local contact or fixer has gone missing. Loads of people to meet, to interact with or maybe to fight, there is a lot going on, several whole strands of which any or all may be followed. Clues of course abound, and as they mount up they will lead the Investigators more closely to the truth. Along the way there a bureaucrats to argue with, people of various political opinions to debate with or defend themselves against, academics to visit and the odd chance to evade arrest... until the final scene in a bullring.

Despite an exciting and compelling plot that should grip your party, possibly the best bit about this adventure is the sheer scope - if the setting appeals, there's plenty here to use in your own adventures. Perhaps the party survives and continues their exploits in Spain. This could turn into a whole campaign if you are of a mind. Well-resourced, there are even references to further reading if you want to do some research. Bring this oft-forgotten sidenote of history to life, with opportunities for various Mythos powers to meddle. It's a cracking adventure, best played Pulp but there are some Purist elements as well.

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Reviewed: 20 April 2017