I absolutely love Call of Cthulhu and one of the most important steps of playing is building yourself an investigator. Today I’m going to focus on the 1920’s Era Investigator as it is my go-to Cthulhu setting. Many times when you buy an adventure module, the starter box or other Call of Cthulhu products from Chaosium there will be blank investigator sheets or even a selection of pre-made investigators within the pages for your own use. For example; picking up the booklet “Missed Dues and Blackwater Creek” there are 13 different characters already pre-made that are usable. Before I go into the whole Character building process please know that as a Keeper I view Call of Cthulhu as a high role play game and using a pre-built character is a valid way of engaging in a game. I personally prefer building a character to play but there are lots of pre-made options to get the same playing experience.
Let's Begin: Characteristics
In the Call of Cthulhu game there are eight main characteristics that appear at the top of your character sheets. Here are what they are and what they mean. Note that some of these attributes have direct correlations to other parts on your character sheet.
Rolling the Dice...or Not
The way that this fox prefers to allocate numbers is through the rolling of dice. However if the dice are not rolling in your favor you can also allocate the following numbers into the eight characteristics: 40, 50, 50, 50, 60, 60, 70, 80.
Let’s get rolling!
Adding Things Together
Skills and Occupations
Though player characters are referred to as “investigators” there are so many jobs, occupations and tropes that you can have your character become a part of. Each occupation has a variety of skills that are attached to that occupation. Examples of this are professor gets library use, other language, own language, psychology and four other skills as an academic/personal study; whereas private investigator has skills in art/craft (photography), disguise, low, library use, one interpersonal skill (charm, fast talk, intimidate or persuade), psychology, spot hidden and any one other skill (such as locksmith, fire arms, etc.). The beauty of Call of Cthulhu vs. other ttrpgs is you are not limited to just a selection of a few classes. Any occupation available during your C.O.C scenario setting is available to you. Looking through the list of occupations and not finding something you like, you can create a new occupation or a more specified occupation with your keeper! In the Investigator's Handbook you can find over 110 occupation options in pages 68-93; anything from accountant to zoo keeper.
When looking at each of the different occupations you will find the credit rating, suggestion contacts and eight skills attributed with that occupation. The last bit of important information that is given with each occupation is how many skill points you get. Different occupations have a different way of figuring how many skill points you will get to use. An example of this is an Acrobat gets skill points equal to (Edu x 2) + (Dex x 2) but a Hacker gets points equal to four times their Edu. You use these points to increase the base numbers in parenthesis for your occupation skills and credit rating. You then get a second pool of points to spend of personal skills which is calculated by Int x2, to give you a pool of skill points that you can put into other skills that you want to increase to round out your character or give them flavor.
The Fox's Rules on Credit Rating
Half and Fifth Characteristic Values
Let’s talk about Luck:
The Rest of the Sheet
There are a lot of spaces on your character sheet that goes beyond the rolling of dice. Call of Cthulhu is very role-play based as a game and there are many ways that you can make your investigator unique to you. From describing what your person looks like, their ideologies and who is "significant" to them are all things that you the player get to write on your character sheet. If you are at a loss you can roll on some of the many tables for inspiration or things to write down on your character list. There are even percentile charts (pgs. 54 & 55 of the investigator handbook) to help you create period styled names. Backstory things can be completely from your imagination or can also be done in collaboration with your Keeper to give you advantages/ knowledge of the locations of your scenario if you are a local.
Remember, that there are also a ton of pre-made characters in the scenarios as well. If you are looking to see what the scenario thinks is important for a player in that scenario specifically you can look at these for inspiration. Again, there is also no reason for you to not use a pre-made character if that is what feels best for you. Other backstory pieces could be done in a session zero if you are trying to get all of your players connected (as either family members, members of the same society/university or even investigators that survived other scenarios together). Motivation and secret goals can also be fun to give to your investigators to help guide their game play.
Campaign vs. Scenarios
While creating your characters it is also important to figure out whether you are playing in a Call of Cthulhu Campaign that will take many hours and many sessions or if your are playing in a shorter scenario (one / two shot). If you are playing in a long term campaign having intricate backstories that are more tied to the game could be more important. You can work with your keeper to see if there are any people specifically in the campaign that you can add to your "Important People" list that you may have interacted with before. I personally am more careful in my game play if I know my player needs to last numerous sessions. If I'm playing in a scenario where my character will be done at the end of a few hours of game play, I am usually more of a risk taker with pushes and luck rolls because if I die or go insane there is less of a consequence.
Lovecraft, H. P., & Mason, M. (2018). Call of Cthulhu: Starter set. Chaosium.
Petersen, S. (2013). Call of Cthulhu: Quick-start rules. Chaosium, Inc.
The game Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition was created and published by Chaosium Inc. This article was made with love in hopes to navigate new players through the complicated process of making a new character so others may also come to love this table top role playing game. Game mechanics all belong to Chaosium.