Published by Pelgrane Press, $4.95
By Graham Walmsley, art by Jérôme Huguenin
Reviewed by Matthew Pook
The Dying of St. Margaret’s is a downloadable one-shot scenario for Trail of Cthulhu, Pelgrane Press’ RPG of Lovecraftian investigative horror set in the desperate decade of the 1930s. It is written for the game’s Purist style, wherein each Mythos entity is less quantifiable, the investigators cannot regain Sanity lost to a Mythos encounter, and any resort to the use of firearms is futile; it’s a combat-free affair. Its five pre-generated characters are amateur occultists, self-styled “Seekers of Truth” following fellow members who disappeared while investigating a mystery near a girls’ school on a remote Scottish island.
Mechanically, the author uses each character’s Drive (his Drive being the aspect of his personality that compels him to investigate the horrors of the Mythos) to pull him into the scenario through various scenes. One scene shows the Drive in action, another boosts it by having the investigator make successful discoveries, while the last undermines it in the scenario’s end confrontation with the Mythos.
Multiple avenues of investigation are presented, each based in social class (measured in game terms by an investigator’s Credit Rating value). This effectively highlights the British class system of 1934 while enabling each investigator to shine as they interact with the staff and servants at St. Margaret’s School, and with the island’s local inhabitants. All of these NPCs are well drawn, each with useful portrayal tips.
The investigators join the school as new staff and servants and will be slowly drawn into its bleak and grey world, led by clues but pushed by their Drives. The final reveal and confrontation with a Mythos entity is anticlimactic, but the downbeat ending is suitably stark and Lovecraftian. The entity will be familiar to most players, but the author does much to render it unknowable.
Although notes are provided to run this in more traditional Pulp style and with ordinary investigators, they are superfluous for what is an unflinchingly grey and somber one-shot. With its strong sense of deterioration and dilapidation, The Dying of St. Margaret’s is well deserving of eight phobias out of ten.
This review appeared in The Eye of Light and Darkness in The Unspeakable Oath 18.
Reviewed items are rated on a scale of one to ten phobias:
1-3: Not worth purchasing.
4-6: An average item with notable flaws; at 6 it’s worth buying.
7-10: Degrees of excellence.