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Eternal Lies (2013)

Eternal Lies (2013) aims to be Trail of Cthulhu’s Masks of Nyarlathotep, a massive globe-trotting sandbox of death and madness. It largely succeeds! And I mostly can’t discuss it because a box early on in the book politely asks for folks like me to not divulge plot details on the internet. I shall honor that as best I can. Of course, if you’re going to play, or might want to play based on what I’ve already said, stop reading!

The first thing I like about Eternal Lies is that that investigation spins out of an earlier investigation by other characters ten years previous. The players need to piece together the climax event and tidy up the loose ends, which actually wind up being attached to a pretty big carpet. This is a great set-up.

The second thing I like is the twists and turns of the central mystery. These do a couple of novel things. For starters, it gradually establishes that the villains don’t really know what they’re doing, something that doesn’t often come through in other Cthulhu scenarios — these are unknowable horrors for both sides of the struggle. Second, metaphysical questions central to the plot allow player meta-knowledge of the mythos to come into play, usually muddying the waters in a way I appreciate.

My appreciation for and my issues with how Trail organizes its scenarios is magnified in a story of this scale. On the one hand, it is lovely to have everything so rigorously broken down for you. On the other hand, I think the story ultimately ties up too neatly (at least on paper, nothing is ever so tidy in play) and I find the mechanical nature of the framing, how cause and effect it is, pushes me into a kind of autocratic, linear mindset. I think some folks will excel with these tools, but I fear they’d make me a monster.

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