Herewith a collection of four adventures for Trail of Cthulhu, all firmly set in the Pulp style. No preamble, guess the assumption is that you know what you are looking for when you pick this up, just straight in to the first adventure.
The first adventure - 'The Devourers In The Mist' - is quite short, intended to be played in a single session, and could serve as an introduction to the game system or as a convention game. The author has peppered it with notes indicating which bits need to be highlighted (or omitted) depending on whether you are running it as a one shot, the introduction to a campaign or a mid-campaign adventure, a nice touch that adds to its versitility. Ostensibly it's a survival scenario, beginning as the characters wake up on a Pacific island as the survivors of a shipwreck. Being a Chthulhu adventure, all is not what it seems, the shipwreck was no accident and the characters have to track down and destroy the cause... but because it is a survival situation they also have to cope with their needs for food, water and shelter. For those using this as an introductory adventure for a campaign, there's an interesting note on the use of flashbacks to introduce characters. Survival aspects are also well-covered, making it a mechanically-sound part of the adventure but also interesting and involving from the role-playing point of view... and carefully introducing bits of 'wrongness' that should lead the characters towards the mystery they have to solve. It should keep the characters nicely on edge, while leading them towards what they have to do. Six pre-generated characters are provided for convention use, while for those planning an extended campaign this adventure will serve as splendid introduction to a world swarming with Things That Should Not Be.
The second adventure - 'Shanghai Bullets' - involves the search for a missing missionary who's an amateur archaeologist and, as the characters will discover, has found things best left unfound. It's a heady romp around the classic pulp locale of 1930s Shanghai, with plenty in which the characters can get involved, from Triad bickering to international espionage, never mind retrieving that artefact that Ought Not To Have Been Found...
Next comes 'Death Laughs Last' which brings the archetypical Pulp masked vigilantes and colourful villians crashing headlong into the Cthulhu Mythos as the characters are asked to investigate the death of a millionaire philanthropist. Again there is plenty going on, this time in the eastern seaboard of the United States with - due to the dead man's social status - quite a few of the moneyed classes around... as well as the seamier side of life from the vigilante angle. And of course, a mysterious Oriental gentleman.
The final adventure is 'Dimension Y' which draws together the best of pulp science-fiction with matters unspeakably abnormal. An experiment goes awry... and then Things Start to Happen... and as ever, it's up to the characters to find out what is going on and deal with it... before it deals with them! Murders and madness abound.
Four cracking adventures, utilising the Gumshoe system to the full as well as exploring the Cthulhu Mythos with a sure touch... marred only by what seems to be a pre-production copy of the PDF where all the page references, both internally and to the core rules, have been tagged as 'see p.XX' - just as well the core rules have an excellent index! Never mind that, if you want a varied set of adventures which mix Pulp tropes with Mythos horror, this is well worth getting.
Return to Stunning Eldritch Tales page.
Reviewed: 21 July 2009