Category Archives: Gumshoe System

My experiences with “Trail of Cthulhu”

Trail of Cthulhu coverAs I’ve written in my “Happy New Year” post just a couple of hours ago, we played “Trail of Cthulhu ” tonight. And it was a blast.

We had a lot of fun and even though I never ran any Gumshoe system game before, it went without a hitch. Alas my players didn’t manage to solve the mystery of the "”torso murders” before we decided to call it a day, but they are all eager to find out who killed all that people and what causes these strange phenomena in the slums of Cleveland.

And not having to make any checks on investigative skills really is a godsend. Playing with almost no skill checks all evening felt a little weird in the beginning, but it actually worked quite well. After a few hours into the adventure we really didn’t think much about it, it felt just natural to us.

There even was a short fight when the investigators defended themselves against one of the suspects. The combat rules in the Gumshoe system are very simplistic but serve their purpose well. And because of the simplistic nature of the combat rules, combat didn’t feel detached from the rest of the game at all. I wouldn’t use the Gumshoe system for any combat-heavy game but it works well in the given setting.

The adventure I am running, “Kingsbury Horror”, is from the back of the core rulebook and a perfect introduction to both the setting and the game. It features a lot of weird phenomenon but it’s actually not a full-blown Mythos story, so the GM can use it to ease the players into the setting. What really makes the story of the “Kingsbury Horror” so disturbing is the fact, that the premise of the adventure is based on a true crime.

Ok, it’s after 4am right now, and I really should go to to bed, so I think I will conclude my post about my experiences with ToC now. If you have any questions to ask or thoughts of your own to share, feel free to do so in the comments below.

Happy New Year

New Year’s Eve is upon us and as last year I have invited my gaming group to try out a new game. This time we are going to play “Trail of Cthulhu” by Pelgrane Press.

This is actually the first time I am running a game using the GUMSHOE rules and I wondering how it will turn out. Aside from being pretty rules-light, you don’t need to roll on investigative abilities in that system. All clue-gathering skills succeed automatically. Which removes the old problem that the players have a hard time solving the mystery, because of one or two failed skill checks while gathering information.

If you want to learn more about the GUMSHOE system, you definitely should check out the interview I did with Robin D. Laws in September.

I will now return to my preparations of tonight’s New Year’s Eve party. Take care and have a happy new year 2010!

Confessions of a lazy GM

A Dungeon Master, but probably not of the lazy variety. I am a very lazy when it comes to preparing roleplaying sessions. When other GMs plan and prepare for weeks I usually make some preparations just mere hours before I start running a game. Sometimes I don’t prepare at all, hoping that my improvisation skills save the day. If everything else fails, a nice tavern brawl keeps the players occupied for long enough to give me some time to make up something in the back of my head.

Of course this doesn’t work in every game. I am currently running a Savage Worlds game using the Rippers plot point campaign. And if you ask me, SW is perfect for the lazy GM, especially when you use it to run any of the plot point campaigns. In most cases you sit down at the table, read the next plot point description and the rest is done by hand waving.

You have to be thinking on your feet all the time, making up NPCs on the spot and coming up with encounters on the spot is vital for the lazy GM. And alas this doesn’t work in every game. You should never try to run an investigative game that way. It just doesn’t work. Ok, if you have read every murder mystery novel on the planet you may be able to pull it off, but in most cases it’s near impossible to be successfully lazy when investigative games are concerned.

But especially when you and your players favor action over complicated stories, you can easily have a lot of fun without hours of preparation. And being a lazy GM although helps you in well-prepared games or when you are running and commercial module. When things go awry, you can always rely on your improvisation skills, that you have trained while being the lazy GM, to save the day.

There’s even a reason why being a lazy GM can also improve your game. Some GMs tend to meticulously plan their adventures which may lead to the focus being shifted from the players and their characters to the background story and the NPCs. If you don’t plan ahead you usually rely on your players to drive the action while you improvise on the spot.

Recently my group asked me to run “Trail of Cthulhu” on New Year’s Eve. I fear I will have to do some preparation for this session after all. As I wrote before, it’s extremely hard to pull off a great investigative game without some preparation. But in the long run I will probably always be a lazy GM. 😉