On the Shelf Review – The Dying of St. Margaret’s

Based on past rants about purist Trail of Cthulhu, I am probably the last person to review the latest Trail of Cthulhu adventure, The Dying of St. Margaret’s. Nonetheless, Simon Rogers of Pelgrane was kind enough to send me a copy, so I’ll see what I can do with it.

This tournament adventure takes place at a girl’s school on a lonely island off the coast of Scotland, which is not as naughty as some of you are thinking. Recently, a number of occultists working at the school vanished. Their associates, the investigators, have taken up their posts at the school to attempt to unravel the mystery.

I’m most impressed with the quality of this adventure, especially having read hundreds of Call of Cthulhu scenarios. The atmosphere is creepy, the characters are memorable, and the clues necessary to move the adventure forward are available through multiple paths. The climax itself could have been stronger, but its handling of the denouement was impressive and in keeping with the setting.

I did have a few questions about the set-up. Notably, there is little consideration of what might happen if the investigators question the girls at the school rather than the staff. One trail of clues leads to an encounter in the island’s town; not only does it involve the investigators “remembering” something that is never told to them in-game, but the vanished people do not have any motivation to confide to the person in question. (They do suggest another method of handling the situation in the scenario, however.) Finally, though the antagonist is quite appropriate for a purist game, it’s one that’s been used several times in other game scenarios recently.

Nonetheless, this is a chilling scenario epitomizing Lovecraft’s cosmic horror. It not only recommends itself to Trail of Cthulhu purist players, but it’s also an excellent resource for Call of Cthulhu players who want more cosmic horror in their games.

UPDATE:  Author Graham Walmsley and Pelgrane have already responded to this review by creating a new set of clues to address the point stricken out above.  Nice job, guys!

Published in: on April 12, 2009 at 8:47 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That’s wonderful, Dan, thank you for the positive review. I’m glad you liked the creepiness.

    What’s this thing about the investigators remembering something that’s never told to them?


  2. G,

    To give SPOILERS, they’re suddenly supposed to remember that someone used to work for the school. That’s never mentioned, but they supposedly picked it up through osmosis and just happen to come up with it at the pertinent moment. A shame, as there are solid narrative techniques that would have had the same result.

  3. Gosh, you’re right. And I’ve used that in both versions of that clue, haven’t I? It’s something our group likes to do (“So, you remember this thing from earlier…”, but it was remiss of me to have both versions rely on that.

    Thanks again for the review. Simon and I are plotting further Purist things.


  4. So, if you bought the adventure before this modification, can you re-download the fixed version?

    • Andreas, I’ve just noticed your comment. Apologies for the long delay.

      Yes, you should be able to redownload the updated version, from whoever you bought the original from. If you have any trouble, get in touch with us.


  5. […] another work by Graham Walmsley, author of “The Dying of St. Margaret’s,” which I previously reviewed here, and it constitutes another work along the “Purist” tradition.  Such works seek to […]

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