Pacing in Horror Games

We’re back and we’re putting ourselves through our paces. Over on our Google+ Community, Tore Nielsen recently asked us to explain a little more about how we handle pacing in games. It’s a topic we touched upon back in our discussion of Beginnings, Middles and Ends. We hope there is enough new material here to justify a new episode. We certainly found plenty to say on the subject.

Paul making strange noises

And anyway, people are normally more interested in shutting us up.

Main Topic

Controlling the pace is an essential part of being a GM, especially for horror games. Nothing kills the sense of dread more than long, drawn-out conversations about rules or possible strategies. Similarly, rattling through a scene too fast makes it difficult to build any atmosphere. It is not always easy to tell if you should be speeding your game up or slowing it down. It’s even harder to actually make this happen. We share what tips we’ve learnt during our horrifyingly many years at the gaming table.

I swear I still had skin when we started this campaign.


Our news segment is somewhat brief this time. We are not long back from our trip to Necronomicon in Providence and simply haven’t had a chance to meet and record inserts. Paul has provided a short solo update to tide you over. There is so much we want to tell you about our visit to the US, however, and we promise to do so next episode. The short version is that we met many wonderful people and had a delightful time.

Although not everyone we met was alive at the time.

If you want to get some idea of what we got up to before next episode, we have posted some videos documenting our adventures. There are a couple more still to come, so keep an eye out on our YouTube channel.

Other Stuff

Our inability to meet this week also stopped us recording our usual thanks to new Patreon backers. We have two new songs bubbling away, ready to serve up to new patrons and splashed wantonly over the rest of you. They shall have to wait until next episode, however. That may prove a mercy, as our voices have been made even more gravelly and inhuman by jet lag and con crud. You are safe until September.

R’lyeh Roulette III: Monster Madness

Main Topic

We’re back and we’re giving the wheel of misfortune another spin. In our earlier R’lyeh Roulette episodes — 37 and 60 — we rolled for random spells from the spreadsheet that would one day become The Grand Grimoire of Mythos Magic. This time we’re using the Malleus Monstorum as our roulette wheel, rolling for random Lovecraftian monsters. Our format is unchanged, however. We improvise a variety of scenario seeds based on the results, trying to find unusual ways to use these monsters. Some of the ideas we come up with may not exactly be canon, but they amuse us.

The suggestion for this topic came from Danial Carroll, over on our Google+ Community. Danial has a special affection for Lovecraftian monsters. You may recognise him as the creator of the Brawl of Cthulhu blog, where he discusses all the entries in the Malleus Monstorum. If you like monsters (and who doesn’t?) then you should find plenty of wriggly inspiration there.


In our news segment, we share some further details of our programme at Necronomicon this week. In addition to the events we mentioned last episode, we will be signing books at the Chaosium stand between 3-4 PM on Saturday the 19th. We will also be in New York City on the 21st of August, signing books at The Compleat Strategist between 4;30 and 6 PM. If you are in the area and would like to meet up, please come along. Alternatively, if you’d like to meet us for a drink or a meal, drop us a line to make alternative arrangements.

We mention that Matt has arranged to run his Intersections mini-campaign from the World War Cthulhu: Cold War core book for the Into the Darkness crew. Scott is also in the process of running his Blackwater Creek scenario from the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition Keeper Screen pack for the players at the How We Roll podcast. We will let you know when the recordings are available and link to them from our Actual Play page.

Speaking of actual play, Marty Jopson has been running The Two-Headed Serpent and posting it online. The AP recording themselves are only accessible to patrons of, Marty has, however, filmed a series of videos about his experience of running the game, called The Keeper Diaries, and made them publicly accessible. The most recent diary includes an interview with Mike Mason about Pulp Cthulhu. Marty has also interviewed Paul about the opening chapter and will talk to Matt and Scott as their chapters come up. Be warned — these videos are spoiler-heavy and designed for people running the campaign.

The final bit of news is Chaosium have released the PDF version of Kevin Ross’s Down Darker Trails. This is a setting supplement for Call of Cthulhu detailing eldritch horrors in the Old West. Paul worked on the book, updating the text to 7th edition and fleshing out the content. The print edition should be out later in the year.

Other Stuff

And monsters aren’t the only terrors you’ll find in this episode. We also sing. If you’re wondering why we sing, we ask ourselves the same question all the time. The horrible and unbelievable truth is that people have asked us to do so. When a brave and generous person pledges to back the podcast at the $5 level on Patreon, we commemorate them through song. Given our complete lack of any musical talent, the ongoing success of this confuses us as much as it does the rest of you. Once again, we have built up a small backlog of people to sing to, but have limited ourselves to two songs per episode. There will be more next time.

The Call of Cthulhu part 2

We’re back and we’re still being haunted by those hellish dreams surfacing from lost R’yeh like bubbles of pure madness. This is the second part of our discussion of Lovecraft’s classic weird tale, The Call of Cthulhu. Last episode we talked about the first two acts of the story. This time, we wrap up the synopsis, discuss adaptations and influences, and look for gaming inspiration. There are a surprising number of elements of the story that have seen little examination in RPGs, despite its fame.

Including what kind of saving throw you would need to avoid contracting piles from spending strange aeons squatting on a cold stone plinth.

No discussion of The Call of Cthulhu would be complete without a look at the 2005 film by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society. This is the definitive adaptation, faithful to Lovecraft in a way few other films even attempt. Happily, Sean Branney and Andrew Leman of the HPLHS were able to join us for an extended interview. They offer their thoughts on the story and insights into how the film was made. They also share a few tantalising details of current and future projects. One of the most ambitious of these — an audiobook of Lovecraft’s complete fiction — is available for pre-order now.

Time and holidays have worked against us this episode. We were unable to meet to record our usual last-minute inserts. This means that the news segment is shorter than usual. We still managed to slip in a mention of the new Kickstarter campaign for Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Wars Onslaught 3. We were unsure of the launch date when we recorded, but the campaign has now started.

Enough new playing pieces to rupture the fabric of space/time itself.

The other result of our inability to meet was a further delay in thanking new backers. A number of generous people have pledged money via Patreon recently and we promise to thank them all next episode. Two of them (so far) have backed us at the $5 level, which means we shall sing to them. Expect a pair of sanity-blasting exultations of horror next time!