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Trail of Cthulhu: The Final Revelation

The Final Revelation

Although this book contains four previously-published adventures - The Dying of St Margarets, The Watchers in the Sky, The Dance in the Blood, and The Rending Box - this is more than a mere compilation.

The work begins with a short additional scenario called The Final Revelation. Its purpose is to provide a framework that can allow the other four to be played as a short campaign in the Purist mode. If you know the other adventures, you may be scratching your head at this point: although they are all set in the same time period and take place around the United Kingdom, there isn't anything else to link them together. If you use the pre-generated characters (who are ideally suited to the scenario for which they are provided) they do not carry over well, and even if you generate your own it is hard to come up with Investigators who would be interested enough in all four situations to get involved.

The solution is ingenious in the extreme. You start playing The Final Revelation and at certain points come across a core clue that points to one of the other adventures... at which point, you play the adventure indicated. The Investigators used to play The Final Revelation are not used for the other adventures: either use the pre-generated ones or once made using the guidelines provided. The core concept is that the original Investigators are a group who sound pretty much like conspiracy theorists, gathering together information on some pretty weird stuff, and their research leads them to the material in the other adventures. What they ultimately discover, the final revelation itself, is hardcore Purist in nature and if they are not already unhinged by then, they will wish that they were!

Sample pre-generated Investigators for this overarching scenario are provided, as well as guideline for those who prefer to create their own. Five pre-gens are provided, but you will have to transcribe them onto character sheets to make best use of them. Each has an intriguing backstory, which could easily be used to spawn other adventures of your own making should the players be interested in digging in to them, although this is not necessary to discover the ultimate shocking truth. Various notes are also provided on how best to handle clues, directed scenes and going mad, and the main NPCs in the overarching scenario are introduced.

The adventure itself begins with the Investigators arriving for the first meeting of the group. One invitee is missing, and following that up leads to the first core clue... and it's time to haul out The Dying of St. Margarets. This tells of a brooding clifftop school on a Scottish island, lurking horrors below and the disappearance of the last lot of Investigators to go there. Will your party fare any better?

The starting premise is that your Investigators are part of, or at least familiar with, the "London occult set" and will be familiar with a bunch of their peers who wanted to investigate the strange aftermath of a meteorite which landed in the vicinity of the school and eventually took jobs there as a means to this end... but who have not been heard from for several months. The Keeper is encouraged to talk to the players in some detail about their characters' involvement: who was it that they knew amongst the disappeared fellows, what sort of job do they intend to take up, and how well (if at all) do they know the rest of this party? This information should be kept and referred to frequently to personalse the adventure to each character in the group. There are notes about generating characters for this adventure - it is, it seems, better suited to being a one-shot than part of an on-going campaign, although you may decide differently. This includes a discussion about Drives, and how each will interact with events in the adventure. Other dramatic tips are also discussed.

The adventure proper starts as the party arrives at St Margaret's, but it is suggested that flashbacks and directed scenes are used to backfill just why they are all on the ferry. Then it's on to the school with notes on the main members of staff (complete with suggestions for role-playing them that verge on acting - posture, voice, mannerisms - little things that help them come to life for your players). From then on in, school routine takes over and the party will have to slot into it as appropriate for the post they are filling. Note that posts are pretty dependent on your social standing (as determined by Credit Rating) although with cunning use of Disguise characters may attempt to seem what they are not.

There are, of course, loads of clues to be had. Each one comes with an array of ways to discover it, which brings the whole thing to life and enables you to weave them in seamlessly to conversations and explorations. There are locations to visit, each with their own array of clues, and eventually the party will be led to the source of the problem... and it is left to them how they cope with what they find. Perhaps they give up and die, maybe they escape at least physically (but probably go mad...

Returning to the overarching scenario and its Investigators, the truths discovered begin to warp their reality, with some cunning minor clues provided to help you create the desired effects. So, on to the next week's meeting and events soon launch you all into The Watchers in the Sky. In it, there are strange birds around... from those surrounding a mental patient to others who hang around watching, watching... and when dissected, they're not quite right. Purge all thoughts of Hitchcock's The Birds, this is far worse!

The horrible truth is revealed straight away for the Keeper and then there are notes on how the party actually gets involved. Those with connections to medicine or psychiatry may hear about the mental patient who is convinced that the birds he feeds are watching him. Scientifically-trained ones may get involved in research that appears to suggests that the results of experiments change when these weird birds are around. A biologist or vet might catch one and cut it up... all roads lead to a university library where there are further clues as to the location of where these birds roost, and a couple of deaths will likely precipitate the climax of the investigation... entering the caves from whence the birds come.

Shaken, no doubt, return your players to the overarching scenario and provide them with more unsettling hints that reality is changing about them (or are they just perceiving it more clearly?) as you move on to the next stage where things are getting even stranger even before clues are found that send you off to The Dance in the Blood, which starts with the Investigators gathering in an hotel in the Lake District, not knowing each other and mostly a bit baffled about why they have even come there... then they see the photograph. That alone should rock them back on their heels, but it is only the beginning. Strange dreams, events, encounters... and no matter what their Stability score says, they will probably feel that they are going mad.

Back home again, it's time for a few directed scenes poking at the Investigators' Sources of Stability which have, along with everything else, warped a bit yet still remain recognisable... and things are even worse when they reassemble for their next scheduled meeting. A clue thoughtfully takes them swiftly into The Rending Box, which concerns an antique box, which the Investigators are asked to take from London to a contact up in the Lake District, a professor who studies folklore. Put it this way, this box makes Pandora's Box look like a benign ornament. The adventure piles detail upon detail, clue upon clue, leading the party inexorably on to their fate. At some point, probably, they will open the box. Don't push them (most Investigators will not need to be persuaded to take a peek), although there are some hints to help whet their curiosity if they seem reluctant. That's when the fun really starts... and it doesn't stop when they return to a London warped out of all recognition, back as their original characters. A horrifying final twist ends the tale.

The whole thing is a delightful conceit, which should delight all Purists. It brings out all the horror and hopelessness that this style calls for, stirs up emotions and shows that nothing at all can be relied upon. Bleak, yes, but that's what Purist is all about. It's a triumph.

Return to The Final Revelation page.

Reviewed: 18 April 2017