I'll be running a new system in my next session; Trail of Cthulhu.

I expect I'll be needing a few minutes between scenes to read up on what happens next... I'm not going to memorize the published content before the session.

How do I keep players occupied during these short breaks to keep them motivated, interested & on topic?

  • \$\begingroup\$ How short is "short" and how frequently does that happen? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Jan 3 '16 at 12:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Short = a couple of minutes. No more than 4 or 5. As for how often? No idea. Haven't played a session yet. \$\endgroup\$ – ajberg Jan 3 '16 at 12:50
  1. During Whodunit Sessions

In all GUMSHOE games, since there is a strong investigative element, the players will often be engaged in long "what is going on" discussions. (as in 15 minutes if you're lucky, hours if you're not!) Use these either opportunistically as they come up, or at the end of each chapter say "this would be a good time for everyone to share their information and their thoughts on what it means with the other experts..." and read while they do that.

  1. During Breaks

I often go for immersive RP during sessions - no OOC talk, etc. - and I find that to be enhanced with something like 50 minutes on, 10 minutes break every hour, so OOC talk, getting snacks, going to the bathroom, etc. can be done in the breaks. You could then use some of this time to read (at the cost of your own breaks).

  1. Don't do that, it will suck

However, you shouldn't do this. It's one thing to make up an adventure as you go, it's another to try to use a published adventure without reading ahead - they are NOT constructed for you to be able to do that - that is not a use case adventure designers (especially in GUMSHOE adventures) bother to organize information appropriately for. If you don't know what's coming up across the whole adventure from the beginning, it will end up flowing poorly as you find things you made up on the fly conflicting with facts in later chapters. And you will be distracted from actually listening to your players while you read, and a good GM uses things like whodunit sessions to weave in player ideas to the game. So read the adventure ahead of time, otherwise you are deliberately crippling how good your game is going to be. "Time" is not a valid excuse, you could have read one chapter in the time it took you to post this question. Read a chapter every time you're on the can or something if you truly are time crunched.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Happy to read the adventure ahead of time; but I won't retain it all. I am looking for ideas on how to set them onto a minigame, or something productive, while I refresh my memory on details for the next scene... \$\endgroup\$ – ajberg Jan 5 '16 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I wonder then if you should be asking a question about your real problem - "How do I prep a published adventure and remember what's in it" - as opposed to one very narrow solution you've pre-decided on. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jan 5 '16 at 12:43

With Trail specifically I would put each Mythos tome the group acquires on its own index card. Have the players consult and update them during the breaks, noting specific things they find about and within each book, keeping track of who read each one, et c.

Also, try to schedule these breaks for times that the action has paused, and the characters are healing or doing things during down time (like spending time with Sources of Stability). Even coming up with what an investigator is doing off-screes will take up a few minutes.


Never read. Is like giving a lecture reading a book. It's extreamly boring. Instead learn the structure of the adventure and improvise the details from there.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you experienced this working well in the Trail of Cthulhu / Gumshoe system? It doesn't tend to be friendly to improvisation. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 26 '17 at 13:09

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