This is a review of Chaosium’s Gateways to Terror, containing three beginner friendly Call of Cthulhu scenarios, written by Leigh Carr, John Hook, and Todd Gardiner.

Gateways to Terror Review – Call of Cthulhu

This is a review of Chaosium’s Gateways to Terror, containing three beginner friendly Call of Cthulhu scenarios, written by Leigh Carr, John Hook, and Todd Gardiner. You can find the text version of this review on There are also reviews and replays of each individual scenario, available here.

Gateways to Terror’s tagline appropriately reads ‘Three Evenings of Nightmare,’ as each of its three scenarios can quite easily be run in a little over an hour if in a hurry, and rarely reach two hours even with plenty of room to breath. The scenarios are all bottles with constrained time limits and clear and present dangers to uncover, understand, and survive. They are extremely simple to run as a Keeper, and likewise smooth to experience as a player.

While leaning on the pulpier side of Cthulhu adventures and being very similar in structure to one another, the three still manage to give a wide range of samplings of the system’s features. Players will get well acquainted with pregenerated investigators and have chances to use a wide variety of skills, as well as plenty of opportunities to try out seventh edition’s new success level, opposed tests, Luck, and Pushed Roll mechanics. They also will get to experience three classic scenes, from delving an Egyptian tomb, poking through a dusty basement, and investigating a crime scene.

Given the scenarios’ limited scopes, there are some features of the system that you won’t get to taste, and while the stories are varied, they are all comfortably in the survival horror camp compared to more heavily investigation-focused scenarios. Not surprising, given how little time they have to play out, but it would have been nice to have one scenario based solely on solving a mystery that didn’t directly threaten the investigators’ lives. The scenarios rarely feature NPCs, and that could have been a good excuse to have one strong roleplay, social skill, and investigation heavy session.

Chaosium has really leaned into making Seventh Edition beginner friendly with its free Quick-Start Rules, free scenarios like The Haunting and The Lightless Beacon, the Starter Set, the Keeper Screen, the two Rulebook scenarios, the three scenario collections in increasing complexity and length, starting with Gateways to Terror, continuing with Doors to Darkness, and ending with Mansions of Madness, and finally loading into the ‘simplest’ of the campaigns, A Time to Harvest. Gateways to Terror fits very snuggly in its position as being some of the first scenarios a new gamer may ever run into, and they are written perfectly for that situation.

The scenarios are extremely detailed for how small they are, with ample suggestions and tips for the Keeper, with little blank space they’d need to fill in themselves. The opening chapter also explains the basic rules, along with page references to both the Starter Set and full Keeper Rulebook for further explanations. Even on its own, a group could get through these three sessions without needing to crack open any rulebooks, as long as they don’t stray to far from what’s written on the page.

Art is in abundance, as is standard with Seventh Edition books. The Indiana Jones-esque cover by Mariusz Gandzel promises some pulpy thrills, and the insert pieces by Chris Huth light up the pages (especially the five beautiful full page pieces – I particularly like the one for What’s in the Cellar). The text is nicely broken up with boxed text, lists, handouts, and plenty of stock art, which ranges from matching exactly what is being described, to being nice mood and setting dressing, to occasionally just taking up space.

While generally simple notes or journal pages, the handouts are welcome, Matt Ryan went above and beyond making the three maps. While depicting tiny locations, they make up for it with excessive detail, showing almost every object described in the text for players to poke and prod. Seventh Edition is generally good about including both Keeper and player maps, though not always, so its nice to have unlabeled player maps available here.

Leigh Carr’s The Necropolis is the first of the three scenarios and likely the most played. It is a dungeon crawl. Not being euphemistic – the players crawl through a dungeon, and in the best way possible. Even forced into a tiny space, the scenario still gives players a great deal of agency, and has a great build up of tension to an action packed conclusion. You can read or listen to my full review and replay as well.

Jon Hook’s What’s In The Cellar? is my favourite of the three, though perhaps the least focused. With an office briefing introduction, trying to prove someone’s innocence, uncovering a dark family past, and rooting around in a dark, spooky basement, What’s In The Cellar is the closest it can get to feeling like full-bodied, classic Call of Cthulhu scenario while still clocking-in at an hour run time. Once again, here is the full review and replay.

Todd Gardiner’s The Dead Boarder is the last and tightest of the lot. It is the easiest to fit into an hour or less time slot, and it has the best pregen investigators. With strong connections to the mystery, fleshed out traits and motivations, some of which conflict with other investigators, any new player will find themselves plenty of roleplaying hooks to sink their teeth into. Here again, a full review and replay.

If you are new to Call of Cthulhu, or want to introduce new players to it in small bite sized sessions, Gateways to Terror is one of the best ways to do so. And if you are looking for equally short scenarios but with a bit more variety and complexity, Type40’s Seeds of Terror can provide 12 more spooky evenings without unneeded hassle.

You can purchase Gateways to Terror on DriveThruRPG, Chaosium’s website, Amazon, or your friendly neighbourhood game shop.


Before you go, though, maybe you would be interested in reading some other scenario reviews? 

MJRRG: Branches of Bone – Cthulhu Dark AgesA Chill in Abashiri – A 1920s Taisho-Era Japan

Seeds of Terror: Series OverviewThe Mummy of Pemberley GrangeEndless LightOne Less GraveHand of GloryTickets Please , Fish in a Barrel

Miskatonic Repository: Dossier 1 – The Maw

Chaosium: Amidst the Ancient TreesGateways to Terror OverviewThe NecropolisWhat’s in the Cellar?The Dead Boarder

Japonism: Do Gods Dream of Digital Drugs?

Bibliothek 13: A Cup of Horror, Erich!

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