The Rules

Terror and Tentacles is super easy to play!

A quick note: The rules for Terror and Tentacles are based largely on the rules we learned playing games by Elder Entertainment, a delightful group that runs Cthulhu Live at various cons, including Gencon. Great people, great games; if you have a chance to play in one of their games, you should take it.


  • If you are going to engage in a scuffle, be careful with each other. Accidents happen and no one likes being poked in the eye.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, so that your maddened flailing does not knock everything down.
  • Sometimes props are breakable. Be careful with them! Broken glass = a Very Bad Day.
  • Although we will never have REAL weapons at games, there are still things that could hurt someone if they got poked or jabbed with them. So look out for each other, never aim something at someone’s face, and never assume that something CAN’T hurt someone.


  • All the time, every time!
  • The GMs will tell you what you see, what’s happening in the scenario, if something is affecting you, if you get hurt, everything. When the GM tells you something is happening, that is what’s happening, no argument.
  • If a GM holds up crossed fingers and says “HEY YOU GUYS!” or similar, or starts clapping their hands, it is time to stop what you’re doing and pay attention.


  • NEVER touch another player without their permission. If you know someone and want to work out with them ahead of time what’s cool, that’s fine. Otherwise ASK first.
  • Respect non-players. Mostly that means keeping the volume down just low enough that no one outside of the play space is disturbed.
  • Don’t be a cheaterpants. There may be a time when you see or hear something you shouldn’t, that you know the answer to the puzzle just because you know it, or are able to fiddle the lock open because it’s just a button. It’s up to you to not take advantage.
  • “I will not allow my fun to come at the expense of anyone else’s fun.” This is a cooperative game. Don’t do things that will ruin the game for someone else.

Rule #4a: BANG

  • If you want to hurt someone with LETHAL damage, say BANG, hold up crossed fingers and call for a GM. Then you can describe what you do and act it out.
  • Lethal damage is getting shot, stabbed, bashed in the head, or any other attack meant to cause serious injury. It might cause unconsciousness or not, depending on what you do.
  • If you shoot someone, you say BANG loudly, because gunshots are loud. If you stab someone all sneaky like, you can say BANG quietly.
  • If you get a BANG, you get a red ribbon. If you get three red ribbons, you die. If you die, the GM will tell you what to do. You are never out of the game, so don’t be afraid to die.


  • If you want to hurt someone with NONLETHAL damage, say POW, hold up crossed fingers and call for a GM. Then you can describe what you do and act it out.
  • Nonlethal damage is being punched, slapped, hit with a a frying pan or the butt of a gun, etc. It is usually done when you want to knock someone unconscious, but not SERIOUSLY injure them.
  • POWs can be loud or quiet, depending on what you do.
  • If you get a POW, you get a yellow ribbon. Two yellow ribbons = one red ribbon.


  • Most of the time, combat in Terror and Tentacles is supposed to be rare, and SERIOUS, just like how stabbing someone in real life is rare and serious. This does not mean you cannot go nuts and get stabby. You sure can! Just be aware.
  • Fisticuffs and scuffles: If you and another player decide that you want to engage in a scuffle, a brawl, a wrassle, a fistfight, etc, but NOT exchange BANGs or POWs, you can do that amongst yourselves and that’s fine. But we will give out ribbons if we think it’s reached that point.
  • Dramatic, exaggerated, movie-esque combat is always cooler than subtle combat. đŸ™‚

Rule #5 PING

  • A PING is what happens if you experience something otherwordly, super scary, creepy, or just plain off. PINGs make you crazy.
  • GMs will tell you if you get a PING, and if its a regular PING, big PING, little PING etc. Sometimes everyone in the room will get a PING, sometimes just one person. The GM might tell you what you are experiencing to get the PING, or you might just FEEL something without knowing exactly what is going on.
  • PINGs are cumulative. The more you get, the crazier you go. At first you might just feel slightly unsettled, eventually progressing to full on insanity.
  • You get to decide exactly how your character will react to a PING and how crazy you will go. Some ways a person might go REALLY insane:  paranoia, ranting and raving, obsession, suicidal, murderous, babbling, catatonic, etc.
  • When deciding how crazy to go, consider erring on the side of crazier. The madder the merrier! The game gets more exciting when people get crazier.


  • If you need to speak out of character, hold up crossed fingers.
  • If you need a GM, hold UP crossed fingers and call GM!
  • Some characters have special powers. To use your power, call a GM. (See Basics for more info on Special Powers)

Rule #7 (Optional) AWESOME TOKENS

  • Some games might have combat as part of the story, like swashbuckling pirates. In these games, we don’t want people to have to refrain from cool combat scenes to avoid death, so we will give out Awesome Tokens.
  • You will get three Awesome Tokens per game, each of which can reduce damage that you have just taken by one step. So a BANG becomes a POW, or a POW is dodged entirely. (Yes, you can use two tokens at once to dodge a BANG entirely.)
  • To use, call a GM. Describe the SUPER COOL thing you do to avoid the damage. Act it out to the best of your ability. Hand over your token.