The Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep
Why Play Trail of Cthulhu
Why play Trail of Cthulhu? The Keeper has her reasons, detailed below.
Masks of Nyarlathotep is an amazing narrative, and a crunchy system that made its presence constantly and intrusively felt would detract from the experience, in the humble opinion of the Keeper.
That, and she could go a long time without hearing the words “Attack of Opportunity” again.
Here’s the meat of why the Keeper wants to use the GUMSHOE system. The ability to find clues just by virtue of being experts, and the point-spend system, give the players a great deal of narrative freedom and ability to control the gameplay. This brings delight to the Keepers cynical heart.
Still, point-spend is a bit of a different concept, so let’s step through a few details.
Point-Spend as a Spotlight Economy
One of the more interesting problems a game master faces is making sure that there is some balance in the “spotlight time”, the points during a game where one PC or another is featured. In practice, this can be difficult, especially if there are mechanical imbalances between characters (casters vs. martial in d20, for example.)
Trail’s point-spend system lets players balance themselves, by having an actual mechanic to control spotlight time. If this works at all, it should increase everyone’s enjoyment.
Point-Spend as a Narrative Control
We’ve all been there: you make a great speech, one that has the other players staring in awe at you and the GM crying quietly behind her screen. And then you roll a 3 for Diplomacy.
Or you’ve finally cornered the villain who killed your whole family, stole the royal jewels, and unleashed an army of disco-dancing orcs on the world. You grip your Holy Artifact of Huge Plot Resolution and swing with all your might at him. And roll a natural 1. Fumble!
GUMSHOE avoids this situation by allowing the player to be able to influence the roll. Want to make sure you hit? Spend some points! The plot will thank you.
Two Great Tastes…
Sometimes you won’t have enough points to solve an issue. Maybe you blew threw all your Pilot pool barnstorming earlier, and now the cultist air force is on your tail. But how can it be that you’re not as good a pilot as you were earlier?
Not to get too Meta, but it doesn’t—it just means that piloting won’t solve this issue. After all, you had some spotlight time before. An aerial chase isn’t going to be solved by sheer flying skill—maybe it’s time for the guy with Mechanic to soup up the engines, or the guy with Firearms to dogfight those cultists out of the air.
Or the guy with Scuffling to lighten the plane by tossing out some deadweight! The possibilities are endless.