The Rending Box is Graham Walmsley’s latest Purist scenario for Trail of Cthulhu. It signifies the ending chapter in his “Lake District” series of adventures for the game.
As the scenario begins, the investigators are asked to carry a package from a London antique store to a professor of folklore at his hotel. Matters take a turn for the worse when the investigators open the box – the scenario does not require it, but we are assured that it almost always happened in playtest. Needless to say, neither the box nor the professor is all that they appear to be, and the investigators soon find themselves fighting forces against which they cannot possibly win.
It’s difficult to talk about this scenario, because most of it is based around two particular Mythos entities, and revealing them gives away most of the scenario. This is not to denigrate the approach – the parts dealing with the first entity are perhaps the finest to ever treat of the topic. There’s no new interpretation or presentation, mind you, but Walmsley has done an excellent job of moving the creature’s best aspects from literature to gaming.
As for the second creature, I’m more ambivalent. Even someone with a small amount of Mythos lore wil likely soon guess the secret, and I wish the approach toward it had been a little more mixed up with folklore and other topics so that it came as more of a surprise. It seems to have made it through playtest unscathed, but I think I would downplay some of the hints here if I ran this, lest the players see it coming a mile away.
That having been said, most of the rest of the scenario deserves applause, in terms of its setting, characterization, and the ability to capture the purist mood. The scenario provides pre-generated characters, along with rules for modeling Stability and sanity loss that evoke the mood of subtle doom and give investigators more freedom to drive themselvers mad. Although “The Rending Box” is the last in the series, it can nonetheless stand alone. Indeed, it must, as most of the previous scenarios in the series would have ended with the investigators dead or insane anyway.
Overall, this is another excellent contribution to the Trail of Cthulhu line. Over the next week, I’ll be reading Cthulhu Apocalypse as well…