A Lazy Sequence

Trail of Cthulhu: Shanghai Bullets

I’m started running some pulp Trail of Cthulhu scenarios from the Stunning Eldritch Tales book for my game group. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a decade and for whatever reason never actually run anything from it. We finished up Shanghai Bullets last night.

Overall I’m happy with how things ran. We have been away from Gumshoe, and this was a good refresher and a great first scenario for a group of characters. While the mythos plays a key roll, much of the scenario is about the gangland and political intrigue of Shanghai in the 1930s. Due to some shrewd plan making and a couple of big spends on important rolls, the players managed to mostly avoid directly confronting the mythos in our play through.

I really love Gumshoe’s preparedness ability. A smart use of it in the last session was likely the difference between them making it out of a shootout alive and not. Ambushers in their hotel room were using their shotgun against them; the preparedness roll was for having stopped up the barrels to cause it to misfire catastrophically.

A shoddily built pinboard with map prior to the first session. The back has two layers of heavy duty corrugated cardboard for rigidity and to ensure that pins don’t go through into the table below.

I made up a portable ruggedised pin-board for the game, and printed out a period map of Shanghai (10mb) at A2 size. In addition to writing their own notes, the players pinned notes clues onto the board. We found this to be a helpful aid for play, both for organising clues, and as a focus point. I would recommend this as something to try for your games.

A few things could have gone better though. There were a couple of scenes that had I adjudicated NPC actions better, would have been markedly more tense and meaningful. Instead I ended up letting the players off lightly.

A GMing technique I’m actively trying to work on is soliciting player details about the world and scenes from the players, especially when they as questions.

Up next, Death Laughs Last. I’m excited; from reading the scenario, this should be a blast.

22 April 2019