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Trail of Cthulhu: Cthulhu Apocalypse

Cthulhu Apocalypse

The Introduction reminds us how in most horror situations, the horror can be ended: leave the haunted house and leave the ghosts behind, the police can catch the serial killer, and so on. The Cthulhu Mythos always promises apocalyptic horror from which there is no escape - and this book gives you the means to present it to your players.

The first part is The Apocalypse Machine, presenting advice and additional rules for running Trail of Cthulhu in a post-apocalyptic setting (as if either the Mythos or an apocalypse weren't enough to cope with on their own). This pitches the Investigators as some of the few human beings to have survived whatever disaster occurred, trying to cope with the situation... and finding that the Mythos has survived as well! Or may even have instigated the apocalypse... Information here ranges from designing your own apocalypse to new Occupations, Skills and Drives appropriate to a post-apocalyptic world (and notes on how existing ones will work in the new setting). It assumes a Pulp style of play, although it may not be quite what you are used to. It also splits the setting into two periods: Aftershock, when the apocalyptic event has just happened, and Wasteland, set some time later when things have settled down a bit, or at least folk have realised that this is their new reality.

One of the most interesting parts of this section is the material to decide what happened to bring about the apocalypse, to destroy the world as you know it. Certain criteria are set. Humanity is well-nigh gone, some 99.99% of human beings have died in the event although the Investigators have survived (or their ancestors did if you have taken your Wasteland plot a generation or two into the future). The effects must be global, there's no scampering off to take refuge in an unaffected part of the world (well, maybe the Antarctic bases have survived...). Oh, and Mythos entities are taking the opportunity to arise, even if it wasn't them behind the apocalypse in the first place. So, the cause of the apocalypse may be human-driven, it may be the Mythos or it could be a vast natural disaster - the next dinosaur-killer asteroid, perhaps. Or a disease, or earthquakes or... get the picture? Life on earth is quite fragile when you start thinking of ways to wipe it out.

Once you are equipped with these resources, there is a whole campaign's worth of adventures to play. Quite a lot of the material has been published before as The Dead White World and Slaves of the Mother, but even if you already have these, this book is worth a look because there's a lot more new material here! New adventures have been added, firstly two to the Dead White World phase - an uncontaminated lake to investigate, and an unaffected woodland around an ancient barrow - both drawing on the underlying concept of contamination spreading across Britain (and indeed the rest of the world) and the search for refuge that the Investigators undertake in order to survive. Although they've been put after the original adventures in Dead White World they work better if they are interwoven with the others, after The Dead White World and before the climactic Sandgrown.

The remainder have been added at the end of Slaves of the Mother, which takes place three years later. At the end of the last adventure in the original Dead White World the party had to make a decision. They are now living with the result: England is now either overrun with strange white flowers or crawling with Deep Ones. Throughout, notes are provided to cater with both options, with them being referred to generically as 'Creatures'. The scene is set in the Introduction with explanations of the likely state of play depending on what the party is having to contend with, this will help you set the scene as the game begins. Thereafter, when the effects are different depending on what is there, this is clearly indicated.

The first three adventures - Bright Futures, The Nation Set Free and Slaves of the Mother - remain the same, but there are an additional seven complete adventures. These follow after Slaves of the Mother, in which the characters are faced with awful truths and have to decide whether or not to carry on or kill themselves out of sheer despair, as those who survive escape Britain in an aircraft and make it to America (the actual trip is left to you to manage, whether as an adventure in its own right or hand-waved to get them there).

Of course, all is not well in America either. The place is overrun with whichever set of Creatures you decided were the problem, and the few people left alive are attempting to survive just as those left behind in Britain were. The adventures address various ways of surviving and even flourishing in the aftermath of the apocalypse, each presenting considerable risk to the Investigators and even offering them a chance to put things right (or at least substitute something else) or to remain trapped forever where they have been taken... either way, this last adventure ends the campaign.

The additional material makes this the book to go for if you fancy taking your Cthulhu apocalyptic... even if you have the three volumes that make up the major part of it. The scope is here for memorable adventuring, the sort of campaign that is talked about for years afterwards by those involved. It may not be for everyone, thinking about the world as you know it being destroyed can be quite tough, but for those who do this is excellent.

Return to Cthulhu Apocalypse page.

Reviewed: 8 May 2017