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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London $19.95
Average Rating:4.8 / 5
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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 08:33:26

Most Investigators are accustomed to having, in the course of their investigations, to consult the odd musty tome in the library - but have they ever wondered how they got there? The core idea of Bookhounds of London is that the party consists of book-dealers who hunt down and sell said dusty old tomes, and get dragged into dealing with what some of them cover almost by accident...

The first section, Bookhounds, is all about creating appropriate characters from somewhere in the rarified yet disreputable book-dealing world. (OK, I know it's set later and is about the Devil rather than the Mythos, but the movie The Ninth Gate keepts floating around my mind at the moment.) There are some new occupations directly engaged with the rare book trade as well as suggestions about how to twist existing ones to suit. There's also a fascinating new Ability called The Knowledge, which - similar to a London black cab driver - confers an encycopaedic knowledge of what's to be found in London and the best route to get there.

Next, a look at Bookshops. The idea is that all Bookhounds (which is what Investigators are called in this campaign) are based in and around a store, run by one of them who has taken the Bookseller occupation. There are various rules for defining stock and other such matters (if you want to go into so much detail) but the real purpose of the bookshop is as a focal point for adventures and a home base for the Bookhounds themselves. Various types are discussed, from a book-barrow under Waterloo Bridge to fancy high-end stores and high-end auction houses.

Appropriately, the next section is The Purchase of Curious Tomes. While the book trade itself is important in this type of campaign, it's not central and some groups may wish to keep it more in the background than others. The rules here enable the simulation of a thriving book store's operations without bogging down in too much detail, and there's enough terminology to make you all sound the part. For those too young to remember 'old' British money, a complex system ditched in 1971 in favour of the decimal system in use today, there are notes on that, although it's suggested that you abstract rather than getting too bogged down in your pounds, shillings and pence. Estate sales, auctions... complete with dramatic rules for auctions when you want to play one out.

Next come Libraries. The sort we are interested in here don't lend, you have to go there - and be allowed in - if you wish to consult their books. Even when you have gained admittance, the sort of books that interest us here may be on restricted access. Several suitable libraries in London are described, with notes on how to get in and the books to be found there... and then of course we have the Books Themselves, beginning with physical details and then moving on to notes on the different kinds of occult works to be found. Sample genuine historical occult books are listed for some local colour, before moving on to Mythos Tomes with again a few examples.

We then leave the books aside, with a massive section on Thirties London. There's loads of flavour text to help you get a feel of it, with rumours and contacts galore. Different sections of London are outlined, and it makes for a fascinating read never mind a useful resource. The survey is followed by a section on The London Mythos which discusses cults and individuals, complete with plot hooks and other notes to get them mixed up in the stories that you have to tell. Many call upon monsters, so the next section is London's Monsters. Each comes with copious notes to make them easy to use when the need arises.

Then comes the strange magick of Megapolisomancy. This weird art uses the city itself to cause change to occur in accordance with will - it may be something you can study like other arcane arts or perhaps it is used insinctively by those steeped in a city's lore. The extensive material here will let you incorporate it into your game: whether you let the party use it or reserve it for NPCs is up to you.

Now to practical matters with a section on Running a Bookhounds Campaign. There are plenty of styles to conjure with here, read through and decide what will suit the group and the stories you have to tell best. Ideas about, enough to spawn several campaigns... and that's before we reach the NPCs. There are example bookstores, complete with owners, staff and their own bookhounds, as well as individuals of interest. Even if you don't want to run a Bookhounds campaign, these could come in useful if more regular Investigators want to interact with them during the course of their adventures. These NPCs come with a range of options, shaded to suit the style and needs of your campaign: customise them to your heart's content.

The discussion then moves on to Scenarios. Like any other for this game, they provide a series of encounters and clues that lead to an horrifying glimpse of the Mythos lurking just beyond the ken of normal folk, occult mysteries revealed. Structure and pacing are discussed, mechanical tools that if used during the design process ensure that the whole thing stays on track and delivers suitable horror-laced entertainment to your group. Use maps liberally to give a feeling of location and with liberal use of plot hooks, character-driven adventures, and contacts you will soon be up and running. As an example, there's a whole adventure, Whitechapel Black-Letter, to get you going. There may be a book at its core, but this scenario provides scope for plenty of action as well!

Appropriately for a book about books, there is an extensive bibliography in back, along with some floorplans. Perhaps the Mythos is loose in the Palace of Westminster (home of the British Parliament), or there are clues to be found in the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum or even London Zoological Gardens. The Tower of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum (the Vic and Al, as it's known to locals) or the British Museum itself might contain that for which you seek. There are plenty more maps as well, street maps of most of London (I can even find the street where I grew up!), plenty for your group to explore. Various forms and appendices round this work off.

Not only does this provide a very novel slant to adventuring, there's the tremendous resource of London laid out for you whatever you want to do there, and an inside look at the book trade that provides the tomes your Investigators (be they Bookhounds or not) find themselves pouring over. And there's a cracking adventure to boot!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Jeffrey V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/24/2012 01:30:26

This is a pretty interesting variant on the usual "heroic Investigators versus the great unknown" theme of most CoC campaigns (or Tail of Cthulhu campaigns for that matter). While most of the stuff published for Trail thus far has been the dark and depressing kind (which, while it's true to the spirit of most of HPL's works is nonetheless...well...dark and depressing), and this one is too, this one at least provides a structure and REASON why the players are acting that way. Not because of their inherently nihilist state of mind, but rather because they need to make a quick buck (or pound, in this case) in order to put bread and milk in the icebox. The investigators can be one of several types of "bookhounds" which are specialty occupations (with their own advantages and disadvantages) in search of those rare tomes and volumes so desperately sought after by evil wizards and "Dudley Do-Rights" alike, with the added incentive of being able to discover nefarious plots and decide what to do about them. The characters are gritty, no better than they have to be, and just as likely to commit a crime in order to accomplish their goal as not. Sort of like Kolchak: the Night Stalker in that sense -- balancing on that thin gray area between the legal and the downright illegal, and frequently crossing from one side to the other as the adventures go on.

The book provides a campaign setting based in post-Great War London, though it would be relatively easy to transpose it to any major western city (such as New York or even LA for that noir effect) or time. The rules are complete (though you DO need Trail of Cthulhu to understand the mechanics of the game system), and provide plenty of ideas and concepts to allow you to run your players through this type of campaign. While as I noted above pretty much all of the stuff published for Trail to date have been darkly themed, and this one isn't that much different, it feels more pulpish than the others and, as noted, could easily be transformed into something a little less "futile" in terms of long-term outcome. Really the premise of the campaign setting is absolutely brilliant -- where else can you come up with a valid reason for allowing the players to get their hands on something truly awesome in terms of forbidden lore without having them actually confront Great Cthulhu in the process? Plus, given that the business they are in is SELLING BOOKS, you can just as easily take it away from them ("What, that old leather-covered Manuscript with the cramped lettering by Olaus somethingorother, and the worm damage?" the aged proprietor responded to my urgent question; "I sold that to a gentleman that came in last week. Got a tidy sum for it too. You really need to see if you can find another copy!")

All in all, Kenneth Hite continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best horror and fantasy authors writing today. This supplement is a must-own for any Keeper looking for a new hook to get his campaign off the ground. As always it is well written, succinct (which might just be another way of saying "well written"), with plenty of great ideas and plot seeds for the alert GM to follow. I strongly recommend this volume to everyone!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2011 11:17:13

Bookhounds of London expands upon a campaign frame originally presented in the Trail of Cthulhu rulebook, providing in-depth information, inspiration, and details to run a campaign centered around unscrupulous book collectors. As the name suggests it's set in London during the 1930s. Overall, this is my favorite of the campaign arcs because it's both unusual and morally-grey which makes for much more interesting story development. The PDF is very nice although this is a book that I think paying either for a hard cover copy or at least having the book printed through RPGNow's P.O.D. service is well worth the extra cost.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2011 20:40:04

This book is far beyond the usual one-shot adventure for Trail of Cthulhu. The book provides an entire campaign setting set in London during the standard 20's/30's Lovecraftian time period. The cool part is that you aren't necessarily an investigator of creepy paranormal activities. You are a collector of rare books, which often happen to discuss rituals, truths, and mysteries that are better left buried in the annuls of time. As you try to buy and sell these books, you are invariably pulled into terrifying situations that will test your sanity.

The book includes character suggestions and motivations, extremely detailed maps of London at the time, rules for upgrading and managing your shop, and of course story hooks for adventures. This is an amazing resource that you can read almost like a novel even if you aren't planning on running the game. If you are interested, this is for a more advanced player as the history is pretty deep. However, use what you want and roll with it if you are a novice. This is a great setting that can be used to really play into the everyman pulled into extraordinary scenarios in a Cthulhu setting. Love it.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/30/2011 01:41:22

'Bookhounds' is a fine addition to the Cthuhlu Mythos and really plays to my sensibilities of what a Cthuhlu game is all about - the price of knowledge. This supplement offers your characters the opportunity to track down rare books of forbidden knowledge (for a variety of reason) through estates, auctions and even word-of-mouth in 1930's London. the new Occupations and Skills are well-matched to the setting, and the new rules on creating Bookshops are a lot of fun (in terms of making a Keeper and the players seriously think about the tone of the campaign). Whilst the Occupations are clearly designed to be integrated as a party, there are enough subtle differences to ensure the party cohesion will be tested from time to time.

The sections on the Book Trade, running a Book Hounds campaign and the sample module are all well-written, thoroughly engrossing sections that offer more inspiration than a rational (?) Keeper could realistically achieve. It sets out very clearly that there are a number of themes that can be explored and no two 'Bookhounds' games need be the same.

Likewise, the Monsters section is focused and useful - I can see plenty of opportunities for any of these to insinuate themselves into the game in a meaningful way. The last chapters of the book have a slew of maps, floorplans and reading lists - all of inestimable value to an enterprising Keeper.

In all, the book wieghs in at 185 pages, but the skill of the authors means that there is a lot more information in here than you'd think. The writing is very focused, but incredibly engaging and the general themes of the game are explored in a thought-provoking manner. I'd recommend this for any game that uses exploration of the unknown, such as Dark Conspiracy, Mage or even Nephilim. There are simply too many ideas to pass up. If you'd like to play in a 1930's 'Cthuhlu meets Warehouse 13' game, then buy it now.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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