Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/11/tabletop-review-the-many-deaths-of-edward-bigsby-trail-of-cthulhu/
For those not in the know, Yog-Sothoth.com is one of the best pages on the Internet for all things related to Call of Cthulhu gaming. This includes other systems, like Cthulhu Dark, Trail of Cthulhu, Cthuhutech and anything else Mythos related. What you might not know is that, slowly but surely, YSDC has been releasing gaming materials of their own. Almost a year ago, they released a systemless supplement known as The Archeologist’s Handbook. I reviewed it in June of last year and found it enjoyable, but a bit pricey for what you got. YSDC’s newest release is an actual licensed product this time around, and it’s for Pelgrane Press’ Trail of Cthulhu rather than Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, which was an unexpected choice. I’m happy to say that the adventure is one of the better ToC products I’ve reviewed, and that you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. There are a few oddities about the release, but nothing that should detract from your enjoyment of the adventure.
Let’s talk about those (minor) oddities first. First, the piece devotes three pages to the Open Game License from Wizards of the Coast. I found this really odd, since Trail of Cthulhu uses the GUMSHOE system. There’s nothing in it resembling D&D 3.0/3.5. I went through my other Trail of Cthulhu first and third party releases, as well as issues of The Unspeakable Oath with ToC adventures, but none of them have the D&D OGL in them. So I’m not sure why YSDC did this, aside from covering all the bases JUST IN CASE. This strangeness is simply peculiar and worth noting, if only simply because like the adventure itself, it’s just plain weird. It’s also so that you don’t pick this up and think GUMSHOE is a d20 product or that you somehow confuse this with the d20 version of Call of Cthulhu.
The other oddity is that The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby does not contain any original art. They are all public domain pieces. Usually commissioned art accounts for a decent chunk of the price tag of an adventure. So without any original art, the $6.95 price tag attached to The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby is a bit high, especially compared to other Cthulhu based PDFs. Most Trail of Cthulhu adventures that are around the same price have original art and a much higher page count, so you could easily go elsewhere and get more for your buck/quid, but that money wouldn’t go towards keeping YSDC running in addition to giving you a fun set of gaming sessions with your friends. So yes, some people might be turned off by the inflated price and/or the lack of original art, but in the end, quality is king, and since The Many Deaths of Edward Bigbsy is one of the better ToC adventures out there, it’s worth picking up if you’re a fan of the system.
So let’s talk content. The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby tells you what you need to know just in the title. Poor Mr. Bigsby, a friend of an acquaintance, has come to the Investigators for help. Why, exactly, you don’t know, as he dies horribly in front of your eyes as he tries to tell you what exactly is going on. As players will discover while they try to unravel the mystery, this is only the first time they will see Mr. Bigbsy meet his demise. As the story unfolds, players will explore 1930s Soho (London, not New York) and run afoul of a Chinese triad, a Bohemian group, some potentially perplexed police, a slightly evil wizard and a few green doors that appear to be the root of the problem. If players are really unlucky or bad at solving adventures like this, they just might run into Yog-Sototh itself… which never ends well for anyone involved.
The adventure is a fun, open-ended piece of detective work. The scenes presented might not play out in the order they are provided in the adventure, but that’s based mostly on the direction the Investigators decide to go. The adventure is also unique in that things can get quite comical (in a cosmic horror sort of way) once duplicates of the late Mister Bigsby (and potentially other characters as well) start turning up. One could easily run this adventure as either a straight forward, grim, weird tale, or as a farcical comedy of errors, especially when duplicates encounter each other with unexpected results. I think this is the first Trail of Cthulhu adventure I’ve encountered where the potential for (purposeful) comedy is this high. Again, though, it’s all in how your Keeper runs the piece, so don’t go into this adventure expecting the equivalent of a Warner Bros cartoon. However, if you are a Keeper and your players seem sick of the usual grimdark Mythos pieces, running this with a decent amount of comedy could keep The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby fresh rather than stale.
I also liked that there are several different ways the adventure could end, depending on how thorough the Investigators were in the adventure. If they fly through things, they’ll find the core adventure really “easy” in terms of lack of chances to die or go insane, but the end scene being quite hard to deal with. Conversely, if players are extremely careful, checking every little detail about a scene and the like, the end scene is pretty straightforward and simple. It’s kind of a reward for player diligence. I should also point out that players will need access to the Elder Sign in order to really get through this adventure. If these are new characters, or the adventure is being used as a one-shot, the adventure will be EXTREMELY hard if they do not come across how to make this symbol in the adventure. The text gives a way for Investigators to come across one, but because of this issue, The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby might be best left with more experienced characters. Unless, of course, you’re up for an extremely uphill battle for the Investigators. Not having the Elder Sign doesn’t make the adventure impossible to get through, but it does make it pretty hard.
I have to say I really enjoyed The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby. The adventure was pretty unique, the core problem that players had to solve was an original and entertaining one, and as I’ve said, the adventure works equally well as a comedy piece as it does one of unexplainable horror beyond human comprehension stories. We tried it both ways and players had a blast with it – even those that aren’t a fan of the GUMSHOE system. The adventure offers a really entertaining cast of NPCs for the Investigators to interact with, and this is a great first start for YSDC and Innsmouth House Press with regards to releasing licensed adventures. I’m really excited to see what they put out next.