This volume is a dead tree/hardcopy adventure compilation for Trail of Cthulhu that previously existed as separate PDFs that could be downloaded from Drivethroughrpg or the Pelgrane website. They represent the more popular selections from their offerings and ones that give a representative sample of the two major eras of play – the 1930s & the 1950s. Pelgrane has offered a discount for all those who downloaded any of the original PDFs, but they have gone further by adding content that was felt absent in the original making this a meaty volume in turn (do not be fooled by its slender size). Kudos to Pelgrane on both accounts.
• Not So Quiet: Bullet-ridden, bruised and bloody, the Investigators, soldiers and nurses in the Great War, are brought from the frontline to Military Hospital Number Five. Once the haze of morphine clears, they sense a brooding malevolence and they will soon realise there are worse things in this life than a bullet wound.
• The Black Drop: Something slowly gathers strength beneath the frozen basalt of the Kerguelen archipelago – a monstrous thing once worshipped and then betrayed a terrible god from the antediluvian past. Its time has come again, and mysterious forces gather. Will the Investigators usher in its rebirth – or put an end to it forever?
• The Big Hoodoo: Play sci-fi great Robert Heinlein, his ex-Navy engineer wife Virginia, renowned editor and mystery writer Tony Boucher, or a young Philip K. Dick as they confront the lunatic fringe in La-La Land, and find themselves caught in a charlatan’s web of chicanery, mendacity, and deceit-laced with a strong strand of Mythos menace.
• Castle Bravo: It’s March 1954. The Investigators are sailors and scientists deployed aboard the USS Bairoko to the South Pacific as part of Joint Task Force One to participate in a series of secret thermonuclear test shots in the Bikini atoll called Operation Castle. After the first detonation, the PCs will have more than just radiation to fear.
Each of these scenarios, I have reviewed separately on this site – kindly look them up. Needless, to say, I am most impressed with quality and attention that Pelgrane spends on these scenarios, as they are radically different than Chaosium’s offerings and really set a refreshing tone to Cthulhu scenarios. They are short and a bit more work is needed by the Keeper but at the same time excellent. They show the results of being thoroughly play tested and re-edited from the original PDFs to become clearer and more concise. However, they are quite merciless when it comes to Sanity and Stability loss.
Speaking of drawbacks is the lack of a link to the handouts and props. As there is no indication if the props/handouts will appear on the Pelgrane site, otherwise, the Keeper will have to photocopy and cut out –this lack of supporting material from their website that is a bit of drawback but one easily remedied. As it is not certain, if the binding would hold up. However, I am sure that Pelgrane is at work doing just that, as they are just that type of gaming company – loyal to their customers and knowledgeable to what is needed.
The book also includes a short section by each author deliberating upon their scenario (although, it might have been fun to hear what many of these talented writers thought of the scenario of their peers). The authors appear to have been left to their own discretion what to include, so one gets Adam Gauntlett providing a superbly long account the myriad of ways that one may possibly be horrendously mangled in the trenches of World War I, Jason Morningstar discusses about how it might be amusing to set an adventure on the Kurguelens during the Gaslight era (during 1874 transit of Venus, as opposed to the current 1930s), and Bill White presents one incredibly extensive play test notes on “The Big Hoodoo”. In my opinion these alone add enough value to the book if you’re one of those PDF readers who already bought all four but found something lacking (they will be rewarded with insight into the minds of the demented yet genius creators). For regular readers know that I am a RPG junkie who loves insider information. But, if you feel that you have wasted your money twice – surely the cost of printing these ink-heavy adventures is now reduced as you hold this exquisite monograph? No… then why are buying reprints?
Like the original adventures, they are gorgeously illustrated by Jerome Huguenot and I am really looking forward to some sort of art book that Pelgrane could put out as a book of props just containing his art prints blown up to 8x11 (A4). They have even it appears thrown in a few extra pieces into this work. Jerome Huguenot really and truly captures the mood and feel of Call of Cthulhu in spooky and downright distributing vibe and wish that Chaosium would have employed his talents for the anniversary edition (which is where I feel my money has been wasted somewhat – for 30yrs seem to be an industry benchmark and I expected more from Chaosium [but that is a rant for another day]). This is why I include Jerome as an author, for his work makes the whole set of adventures come alive that while the text is excellent, it is marvelously complemented by the efforts of this phenomenal artist.
What is my main grip about the product? Only that the adventures could not be linked in some way – as it is quite impossible for not only do they cover different epochs but the adventures chosen cannot share the same Player Characters. Also, sadly the player character portraits were not included, as per my original grip of some of the above mentioned adventures, save, I guess, what I am after is a globe spanning Trail of Cthulhu Campaign, I understand one is being prepared but I am impatient for the quality of the Pelgrane’s work just keeps getting better. Hopefully, with the recent publications, it will mark a move away from PDF and more into hardcopy.