Tabletop RPG Review: The Compact Trail of Tsathoggua

Trail of Tsathoggua cover

These two connected Call of Cthulhu scenarios by Keith Herber have a lot of potential, but as is, they’re sort of representative of what’s sometimes wrong with Chaosium‘s published scenarios and campaigns. The stories are sound, but this will require a lot of Keeper re-working to make them play well.

First, the investigators go to Greenland with an expedition to check out a giant stone object that’s been kicked up by a glacier. Strangeness ensues. The second story involves following one of the NPCs from the first scenario out to Western Canada where more weirdness ensues. OK. Great. Throughout, I found bits and pieces that I think would be really cool to work into an ongoing game. However, it frequently seems like there’s too much; too many different and disparate ideas running around. And seriously. Again with the Sasquatch?! At least this time, there’s an effort to tie the Sasquatch into the Mythos (not the case in Spawn of Azathoth). With some work, I actually think they could make for a cool, ongoing element in a campaign. Heck, if you were to run Spawn of Azathoth after this, players might not be so confused by why there are Sasquatch in a Call of Cthulhu game.  I’m still against using traditional monsters in Call of Cthulhu, but if you do, the least you can do is make them fit with the Mythos. Remember, Lovecraft presented a universe without God, no Devil, no Heaven or Hell. So ‘demons’ and ‘ghosts’ and ‘vampires’ and the like don’t really fit, unless you do some work to make them fit.

So, I think with a great deal of work, you could pull enough out of this book to be useful in making a couple of adventures for an ongoing campaign (put a few other scenarios in between part one and part two of this book). However, as is, it’s a bit of a mess. And like so many other scenarios of its time, feels weirdly deadly in ways that don’t seem fun. Lots of chances to just die because ice falls on you, or you slop off a ledge, or whatever. It’s one thing if you’ve gotten into combat, but for the most part, being one failed roll away from the scenery killing you doesn’t make for a game I’d want to run, much less play.

Published scenarios are always a bit wonky for me.  They don’t tend to be written in ways that mesh with my way of running games, and often expect or even require players to be of a certain type or with certain drives.  This book requires characters who are physically active (strong climbers with healthy constitutions and preferably experience in extreme cold weather environments), and really demands archaeologists and anthropologists with varied specialties.  Does that reflect your Call of Cthulhu party? Probably not. And compared to the requirements of Spawn of Azathoth, this one is relatively generic.

I guess I’m saying, mine this for ideas, but I don’t think it’s especially good.


Check out my Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.  And take a look at my Patreon page, where I’m working on a novel and developing a tabletop RPG setting. You can also read my fiction over on Amazon.

One thought on “Tabletop RPG Review: The Compact Trail of Tsathoggua

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s