A while back we had a creepy rhapsody over archived crime scene photos from the NYPD, as useful handouts in Trail of Cthulhu games. On a like note, let’s applaud the team who took historical photos of New York as digitized by the New York Public Library and keyed them to a map of the city. Now whenever your investigators prowl the streets of the Big Apple in search of shoggoths and/or Nyarlathotep’s pulsing network of financial interests, you can call up images of their locations rife with period flavor. Not all of the images date to the 20s and 30s, but enough of them do that an exploration of the map is well in order for any GM planning an excursion into urban terror. You can easily use your Keeper’s license to pretend that the photos depict street scenes of other large American centers. The NYPL has not licensed the images for commercial use, so I’m going to respect that by linking to the images rather than embedding them.

At Grand and Ludlow we see a fortune teller with kid sidekick, plus parrot to bring in business. Talk about your combination of evocative details you’d never think to make up!

Or how about this excavation on Court Street in Brooklyn, from 1926, near the events of “Horror at Red Hook”? You decide what’s lurking in its shadows at night. You could even sell it to your players as the aftermath of the building collapse mentioned in that cringeworthy entry in the Lovecraft canon.

In need of inspiration? Click on a dot in the map and find what it throws up as the site of your next unspeakable incident. Hey, here’s the Brooklyn Eye and Ear Hospital, in all its stolid, sepia glory, overshadowed by the gothic heights of a German evangelical church. What this tells me is that Mi-Go have occupied the hospital on a tissue harvesting mission, and have installed a beacon in the church spire to guide the mothership back to them when the time comes. You of course might interpret these elements entirely differently.

At Manhattan and Wooster we see two lonely figures walking together in what I can’t help seeing as the early morning gloom. This historical-geographical flashcard might inspire you to think about a surveillance scene, in which the investigators will want to shadow these guys and find out what they’re whispering to each other.

I’m sure no Trail Keeper needs any more prompting that that, so I’ll leave you to it. If you find a shot of ghouls dragging a victim into an alleyway, I’m not sure I want to know…


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

Dulce_Et_Decorum_Est_cover_400Pookie reviewed Dulce et Decorum Est on Reviews from R’lyeh. You can check out the full review here. Thanks Pookie!

“Dulce et Decorum Est gives the tools for the Keeper to run scenarios set during the war, plus numerous good ideas…Physically, Dulce et Decorum Est is solidly presented. The art is excellent”

On the Vaterland scenario:

A relatively short, straightforward and confined affair, ‘Vaterland’ is a primarily interesting because of its setting, one that plays against our anti-German notions of the period. The inclusion of Hearst as an NPC adds an interesting wrinkle and a certain impetus to the scenario.

On the Dead Horse Corner scenario:

“it nicely builds on a strong sense of isolation and of the three scenarios in the book, is probably best suited to add to an ongoing campaign set during the Great War.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

Jay Draper over at The Mad Adventurers Society reviewed Trail of Cthulhu. Full review here, thanks Jay!

trailofcthulhu300wide“Overall, I really enjoyed playing Trail of Cthulhu. Despite it sharing the same setting as Call of Cthulhu, it is a far simpler game that is definitely more suited to the narrative, roleplay-focused style of gameplay that is popular at the moment. There’s also a more cerebral element to the game, through the resource management of skills and the fragility of the characters, though not to the extent of Call of Cthulhu. The more cerebral element also comes through in the  shift in focus towards players working together to solve the clues as opposed to turning clues into abstract dice rolls to succeed or fail at, as so many roleplaying games try to do when they attempt mystery elements. With an array of optional rules and the purist/pulp dials, there are plenty of ways to customise your Trail of Cthulhu experience, and the rules are lightweight enough to not intrude as you craft a thrilling story of Lovecraftian strangeness for your players to investigate. If you like mystery investigation or cosmic horror, there is no reason why this book shouldn’t be on your shelf.”

“I’ve got to say it was great to return to the Cthulhu setting with Trail of Cthulhu. The Cthulhu Mythos offers such a rich tapestry of foes and lore to tap into, and combined with the social issues that go hand-in-hand with Depression-era America, you’ve got a great start to any game. The way the Mythos is addressed in Trail of Cthulhu makes it very approachable for those without a lot of experience in using or playing within the Cthulhu Mythos.”

“One thing I particularly liked about the point-spending nature of the tests is that for stability, the skill that represents the ability to withstand mental trauma, is that in order to pass the frequent tests against stability loss, players must spend stability points to avoid losing more. It seems futile at first, but once you get a feel for the nature of the setting, it suddenly makes sense that whilst you might be resisting being pushed over the edge towards insanity, you’re still cracking and undergoing a slow descent into madness, even if it feels like you’re winning for the moment.”

 

“I particularly liked the use of the purist and pulp rules throughout the book, they definitely expand the options the game offers and its re-playability by essentially presenting two very different games within one book. Purist is more well-suited for old school Call of Cthulhu fans and folks who prefer gritty, challenging realism, with investigators being far more fragile and less able to weather physical and mental trauma, as well as being less able to defend themselves. Pulp suits the more adventurous players, who want to play something more heroic and that suggests a higher rate of survival.”


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

Dreamhounds char sheet page 1By Tony Williams

This exercise was far more difficult than previous character sheet designs I’ve done. My first problem was getting past the intimidating presence of the great art in itself and then the second was doing something I felt lived up to the design work put into the book.

I was flummoxed trying to think how I was going to incorporate the art into the character sheet; part of the problem is that the design work is meant to fade into the background behind the character stats so how could I use “artwork” and then hide it anyway ? Besides which art should I use ? Who actually represents *all* surrealists ?

I had put the problem on the backburner but later the decorating was looming and I needed an escape project ( I am a master procrastinator ).

So I turned my attention back to the problem and considered how I had approached my Bookhounds character sheet. The idea for that had been “What would one find on the desk of a Bookhound in the rear of his shop ?” Thus: “What would be found lying around the table of a Dreamhound in their dingy garret ?” Suddenly things seemed to fall into place.

Finding decent representational iconography required a lot more strenuous Google-Fu than previous sheet designs but finally I managed to find the stuff I needed to collage the sheet together. There was a lot more “hacking” the pictures in GIMP this time around as well, but I got there in the end.

Here’s a bit of design explanation:

The general tone is greens ( absinthe ) and murky browns ( down at heel ). I learned how to turn an electric blue pencil into a green pencil in GIMP this time around.

Surrealism – the starving Dreamhound was in his bathroom practising drawing his own eye in the cracked wall mirror when he needed to sharpen his pencil. The nearest thing to hand was, of course, his razor. He put the razor down casually across his drawing when he noticed a trail of ants on the floor and had to follow them out into his bedsit to foil the little beggars. He found them supping on a sugar cube he had left next to his absinthe spoon – curses! To calm his nerves he needed a little pipe tobacco whilst he perused the catalogue for the upcoming “Exposition Internationale du Surrealism” at the Galerie Beaux-Arts. If I have to spell it out for people – the pipe is a nod to Magritte, the razor on the eye is Buñuel’s “Un Chien Andalou” and the catalogue is self-explanatory ( durr… ).

Paris – well, ( Mon Dieu! ) the Galerie Beaux-Arts is *in* Paris, for Pete’s sake ! Absinthe seems an appropriate Dreamhound Parisian drink and any good absinthe drinker needs a supply of sugar cubes and an absinthe spoon. A photo of a typical Parisian street in the Pigalle area would be an easy representation of the city too.Dreamhounds char sheet page 2

Lovecraft – hmmm… that photo looks suspiciously like two investigators approaching Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol with great trepidation to me.

I chose an empty square to represent running out of Instability to reflect the ‘void’ of creativity it brings, it is also meant to be a blank canvas ( since you can no longer create meaningful art ) and a vague reference to the fact you are now a ‘square’ ( in the beat poet sense ) rather than a ‘happening’ radical artist.

And how come that absinthe spoon looks somewhat like a silver key – coincidence ? I think not !

Finally, a technical point – the General Abilities that can have Dreamscaping pool points added to their test rolls when in the Dreamlands are in a brown font rather than the standard black. As represented by the brown “think bubble” next to the Dreamscaping ability. ( Even finding the “right” think bubble was a saga in itself. )

Sadly I’m not happy with the sugar cube. Finding a top-down picture of a sugar cube results in few decent hits – “Damn you interweb !” ( shakes fist ). Maybe I’ll actually resort to photography for a fix down the line…but don’t hold your breath as I have some bloody decorating to do now. I don’t mean “bloody” as in I’m going to murder someone, or *do* I ? Ha, ha, ha, ha…

You can download Tony’s character sheets here:

  • Download Dreamhounds of Paris character sheet (A4)
  • Download Dreamhounds of Paris character sheet (US letter)

It was our intention with Eternal Lies, our epic Trail of Cthulhu campaign, to create a book to be brought alive by actual play, not just a handsome shelf-filler. And so it’s proved, with an Eternal Lies Keeper’s Community on Google+, advice and historical props over on the Yog-Sothoth forum, an interactive campaign map and tons of actual play reports such as this by Aviatrix over on Story Games.

Eternal Lies for Call of Cthulhu

Many Call of Cthulhu Keepers, while happy with their own system, are intrigued by our Mythos adventures, and Eternal Lies is the biggest eldritch beast we’ve put out there. Fortunately, Andrew Nicholson has converted Eternal Lies for use with Call of Cthulhu – a free download here – and Paul of Cthulhu and the Innsmouth House Players have experienced the entirety of Eternal Lies, recorded in  in 22 audio episodes available to yog-sothoth patrons. The finale was sombre and breathtaking.

Paul has made the first two episodes freely available over on yoggie, and I was impressed by his clever use of an iPad Mini and iPhone built into a Keeper’s Screen to share maps and images of NPCs in an unobtrusive fashion with his players.

A New Ending for Eternal Lies

We want Eternal Lies to stay alive, and so we’ll continue to provide new material for it, and in that spirit, we’ve just released an a new section written by Lauren Roy, which ties all the threads of the campaign together to deliver an entirely different ending.

For Pelgrane Press mail order customers the new ending is available through your order page – check Customer Service if you have problems finding your email. We’ll upload the new ending to Bits and Mortar (for retail customers) and DriveThruRPG soon.

What More Would You Like To See?

We have the book itself, James Semples music and Will Wheaton’s voice over, plus the community-created additions, so what next? In May we’ll release the faux leather limited edition version of Eternal Lies.

What would you like to see for Eternal Lies? Authentic props? New sections? Keeper’s commentaries? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you’ve run or played Eternal Lies, we’d love to hear from you, too.

A flood of vintage NYPD crime photos will be resurfacing digitally, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Many date from the prime period of Lovecraftian horror, making them ideal handout fodder for your Trail of Cthulhu games. These images, including crime scene images from murder investigations, bring real-life grit to a time we often imagine in a prettier, Hollywood studio production design.

First of all, this jury-rigged combination knife-gun-brass knuckles is a wonder to behold. If your investigators aren’t soon discovering it on the body of a murdered thug, there’s really nothing any of us at Pelgrane can do for you.

A prior batch of these are already available online, licensed for viewing but not commercial use. The big images have been watermarked into uselessness for home handout purposes. But if you hit the link for printer-friendly versions you’ll get a smaller but large enough version to pass around to your players. At this scale the watermarks are absent or can be mistaken for photographic imperfections. Keepers with high Credit Rating abilities might decide to spring for actual prints.

Right now most date from 1916-1920, but the grant covers a much longer period.

You will find plenty of actual murder images, who in your version weren’t bumped off by spouses or criminal accomplices but no doubt by tcho-tchos, cultists, and perhaps a star vampire or two.

Each Keeper will have to judge for herself whether the use of very old pictures of very real murders lie within the bounds of horror fan tastes. Poll your group before springing any graphic death photos on them.

However, not all of these pix can be overtly identified as the work of crime photographers. This evocatively empty tenement courtyard shot could easily represent the home of an urban witness your investigators have to find.

Want to see the badge your NYPD inspector might flash?

What creature did this damage to some unfortunate’s unfortunate living quarters? Felonious assault? That’s what they want you to believe.

Surely your characters will sooner or later find themselves in the dispiriting confines of the police psychopathology lab.

You can improvise your way to an urban period investigation by picking out a handful of shots you find evocative, then constructing a mystery that will take the characters there. For an improvised, Armitage Files-style game, have a bunch on hand to spark ideas during play.


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

Soldiers_of_Pen_and_Ink_CoverAwarding Soldiers of Pen and Ink a 10/10, kafka says,

“Gauntlett marvelously captures this mood and weaves a Mythos tale of intrigue and clandestine activity with the strong affinity of good Mythos literature”

“Players looking for the buzz of an alternative and peculiar locale outside Lovecraft country … should look into  Soldiers of Pen and Ink.”

Regarding the Purist and Pulp modes, kafka assures players, “In my humble opinion, this adventure transverses both worlds giving players a chance to experience both.”

“This is an excellent scenario set in the chaos of the Spanish Civil War… it harkens to a time when suspicious was rife and a new world seemed to emerging on the horizon. Instead, it was a clash of totalitarianisms and a prelude for the titanic struggle that was the Second World War.”

Read the entire review here. Pick up Soldiers of Pen and Ink at the shop.

 

Eternal_Lies_cover_mockupOn the Flames Rising blog, reviewer Steven Dawes says about the epic Eternal Lies campaign:

“Eternal Lies is simply the most well developed and well designed adventure book I’ve ever seen!”

Steven adds, “The campaign storyline is loyal to and very worthy of the Cthulhu Mythos. The rules and organization of the book are easy to follow, and even the artwork and illustrations in the book were perfectly for the settling. Everything you need for an epic mythos adventure is in this outstanding book! But the authors and the maniacs who run Pelgrane Press must have fallen in love with this book just as much as I did…”

Finally, “Eternal Lies really raises the bar for RPG campaign books. Kudos to the authors, Pelgrane Press and everyone who was involved with (or is still involved with) this incredible book.”

You can read the full review on the Flames Rising blog here.

Dreamhounds_of_Paris_400Jason Thompson, over on his blog, mockman.com, reviews The Dreamhounds of Paris. Jason says,

This is great stuff. The Surrealists and the Mythos belong together.

Adding, “The idea of the Surrealists being Randolph-Carter-level Dreamers (or even better than that Carter dude) is genius; I can’t imagine historical figures who fit the role more.

In short, this is a fascinating, challenging campaign that pays homage to Lovecraft’s ‘canon’ Dreamlands, but, since it simultaneously upends and mutates them, might be just as well suited to people who *hate* the Dreamlands (shame on you). If I had one wish, I could have used more of everything…

You can check out the full review here. You can purchase the Dreamhounds of Paris Bundle, featuring The Book of Ants, at the shop.

Well, it’s almost that time, the turning of the Ken Writes About Stuff volume year. If you’ve been a subscriber in the past, many thanks for your support. If you’re a subscriber in the future, future thanks — the first issue of KWAS Volume Three is Hideous Creatures: Tcho-Tchos, which you should get by April 1. (The “bonus content” for KWAS Volume Two subscribers, Foul Congeries 2, is coming after we get Dracula properly staked and in his coffin.) I didn’t have the word count in that issue to cover all the possible varietals of Tcho-Tcho, so here’s another shoot from that dubious vine.

In his 1931 novella “The Horror From the Hills,” Frank Belknap Long mentions a tribe of abominable (and amphibian) dwarves who worship Chaugnar Faugn on the hideous Plateau of Tsang in Tibet, implying their descent from the “Miri Nigri,” a black, stunted tribe of the Pyrenees dreamed up (literally!) by H.P. Lovecraft. I believe it was William Barton (in his Call of Cthulhu adventure “The Curse of Chaugnar Faugn”) who decided that Lovecraft and Long’s black, “squinty-eyed” tribe and Derleth’s Tcho-Tchos were one and the same people, at opposite ends of their migration, in a sort of conservation of cannibal pygmies principle.

If we take, for the time being, this insight as useful, what we need to go looking for is some indication of the Tcho-Tchos among the peoples of the Pyrenees. Millennia before Lovecraft’s beloved Indo-Europeans got to the western edge of Europe, those hills were home to the Basques, whose antiquity can be judged by the Basque saying: “God made man out of bones from a Basque graveyard.” And what do we find up in the Pyreneean hills, shunned by even those ancient folk, but an even more obscure people called the Cagots — a word multiply etymologized, often from gahets meaning “lepers,” although I like cas Got or “dogs of the Goths” best, as having that inhuman touch we need for our Tcho-Tchos. The Cagots were shunned and persecuted by their Basque and other neighbors for reasons nobody seemed to be able to articulate (although they were accused of being Cathars 300 years after the fact).

Elizabeth Gaskell of all people wrote an essay on the Cagots, enthrallingly titled “An Accursed Race,” from which we learn wondrous facts like the Cagots’ reputation for sorcery and alarming body heat (even withering apples by their touch), their reputed cannibalism and tainted smell, and the near-universal prohibition on allowing the Cagots to drink from town water supplies or even use the same holy water fonts in the churches — which Cagots had to enter through special, lower doors. They also had to wear a red duck-foot symbol, or even the webbed foot of an actual duck. The laws in some towns forcing the Cagots to remain shod at all times likewise imply their webbed or inhuman feet, and perhaps more Deep One ancestry than Tcho-Tcho, although there’s no reason not to link Cthulhu and Zhar-Lloigor, for instance. As a point in our favor here, I’ll mention that the suggestive Basque word txoko means both “cuttlefish” and “angle,” which gets us not just Cthulhu but Lloigor, the Many-Angled One. Similarly, the Cagots’ cultural role as woodworkers and carpenters might tie them to Shub-Niggurath cultism.

The best thing about the Cagots, from a Tcho-Tcho adventure design utility standpoint anyhow, is that they can infiltrate Basque, Spanish, and French populations and from thence travel to America in the 15th century. (Basque sailors served with Columbus, and Basque fishermen almost certainly found Newfoundland’s Grand Banks by 1475 and just didn’t say anything about it. While I’m inside this parenthesis, Basque whalers traded with the Greenland Inuit in the 17th century, another possible Cthulhuvian cult connection.) You can thus put Cagot-Tcho-Tcho (Tchogot?) clans in Quebec, Boston, and Boise, Idaho (home to the largest Basque population in the U.S.). They’re also pretty unmistakably white (indeed sometimes described as pale compared to their Basque neighbors), which can take some of the sting off the Tcho-Tchos’ “yellow peril” origins.

True, the Cagots are sometimes described as taller than average — although those little doors might indicate otherwise — but I think we can let that pass. They’re also described as red-haired and bristly-haired, as sickly and as stocky, as dark and as grey-eyed, as thin-fingered and as thick-footed. This only shows the Tcho-Tcho tendency to blend in, or the truly amphibian nature of their Miri-Nigri DNA. The only true test of the Cagot (besides the tainted aura and the “invisible leprosy” they carry) is this: Their ears are “differently shaped from those of other people; being round and gristly, without the lobe of flesh into which the ear-ring is inserted.” The Comtes de Bleuville in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (born without earlobes, as Blofeld discovers) are thus exposed as ancestral Tcho-Tchos — and if Blofeld’s imposture bears even a hint of truth, perhaps the next Tcho-Tcho villain in your campaign can run a network of master criminals from a hidden modernist fortress while petting a white (Saturnian?) cat.

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