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Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
Average Rating:4.9 / 5
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2017 08:20:18

Written completely in-character, this work is subtitled "The Investigator's Guide to Occult London" and is purportedly based on the research of the recently deceased Augustus Darcy. Perhaps, if you are using Bookhounds of London, this has turned up in your characters' bookshop. Or, in any campaign, it has come to the Investigators' attention in some manner, a useful resource if their investigations take them to London.

If you are the Keeper, a thorough study of this tome will reap great rewards in terms of local colour and the myriad ideas for plots that will spawn as you read through it. Do, however, share it with your players; let their characters consult it during the game or even let them read it at their leisure between games.

The main part is a discussion of places, an occult gazetteer. Divided into geographical areas (beginning with the Square Mile of the City of London itself), entries are then alphabetical, making it relatively easy to find the one that you want. For each location there are notes on relevant occult connections (note: occult, rather than Mythos), with frequent references to ghost sightings, inexplicable feelings or smells and the like. Much lies unexplained - and that's the fun part, any one might become the basis of one of your plots, or at least be part and parcel of it. You barely need to lay out the clues, they are here for the party to find for themselves! Period images mingle with snippets of lore at every turn.

There is also a section on various people, some historical like John Dee, others supposedly contemporary figures of the occult scene. Perhaps the Investigators will encounter them in their travels, or seek one out if their knowledge is appropriate to the matter in hand. Again, reading many of these entries suggest encounters and plots a-plenty.

As a casual read this is a fascinating work. Even if you are not a role-player, or prefer other genres of game, it makes for an entertaining read if you have an interest in occult lore or indeed if you know your way around London - if you are not near to there, you can pull up most of the locations on Google Maps! (Or if you have Bookhounds of London, the extensive 1930s London maps therein will come in handy in orienting yourself.) If you do play any Myths-related game, or one based in the 1930s or thereabouts, it becomes an invaluable in-character resource.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2015 04:12:18

The Book of the Smoke is an oddity. The intentional use would be as an in-game prop for any setting where an occult London would be researched; however, it is best suited for Trail of Cthulhu, particularly the Bookhounds of London (a great read, by the way).

The text itself is a look at London’s occult scene. It is separated by places and persons. The majority of the book deals with places for investigators to, well, investigate. This is the genius of the book.

With a style similar to one found in a folklore journal, the author lays out rumored locales of high strangeness. These places, seeds really, are left wide open for clever keepers to nurture into something else.

The best part: After an investigation check, the Keeper can hand a tattered page or two from the book as a clue for the players to take in. They can make what they will of the academic, somewhat biased text. Since it’s a text clue, the Keeper can save his poker face for bigger moments in the game.

And it keeps in flavor with the game.

Some figures are well-known (Aleister Crowley, for example); others are not. The author does well making the read sound authentic. It’s “written” by a contemporary of the occult movers and shakers and it reads like it.

Overall, The Book of the Smoke feels like an extremely focused product, which is a disservice to it. There is a great deal that can be mined from this book, but it’s not as readily available (or advertised) as that. If you’re a fan of supernatural horror, take the time to check out this read. It’s system neutral, but tied to the late 1800s and 1900s (some times vary, but the majority fall there).

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/15/2012 14:26:18

A terrific edition to a ToC: Bookhounds campaign, The Book of Smoke is both an interesting source supplement and an in-game artifact. As such it has a ton of potential. About the only down side is that to get the most out of it, you really need players to read the book and we GMs all know how difficult it can get players to read even short summaries. However, for the right group, this book is pure gold.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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