Hello everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Last time I gave you a brief introduction on getting started with the horror themed tabletop role playing game Call of Cthulhu. If you missed that post check it out right here.
In this post we’ll go over how to make an investigator for the game in five steps. There will be a little bit of math involved but most of the steps are fairly understandable. I’ll also give you a guided tour of the character sheet and go over a couple of alternate methods people use for creating their characters.
In order to go through the process of character creation we’ll also need to define a few terms on the way. A lot of them are self-explanatory but we’ll go through everything so you have a thorough understanding of what each term and step means.
I’ll also provide you with some links and resources to help you get started with your own character. We’ll start by defining exactly what an Investigator is and what that means in Call of Cthulhu.
What is an Investigator?
In most contexts the word Investigator brings to mind the image of a sleuthing detective such as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot trying to find the answer to a mystery. Maybe it makes you think of a police procedural show such as CSI or Wallender. While these types of characters can inhabit the world of Call of Cthulhu, Investigators are not limited to police and detectives.
Investigators come from a huge variety of backgrounds. They have different personalities and occupations, hopes, interests and dreams. In short, people from all walks of life can be an Investigator in Call of Cthulhu.
What ties all these people together in this game is that they have seen or will soon see a peek into the unknown. They have pierced the veil of our ordered world and can see there is something lurking in the background. And while they may not understand exactly what that is, they know it’s malevolent and hungry. The difference between a normal person and an Investigator is that they know the truth and plan to do something about it.
In game terms an Investigator is a character a player controls in a scenario. The scenario can be run by a Keeper of Arcane Lore (Keeper for short) or if you are playing a solo adventure the narration of the adventure acts as your Keeper. Since our Investigators are characters I may use these terms interchangeably at times.
Because you’ll be spending a long time inhabiting this character, whether you are playing alone or with a group, you’ll want to take a good amount of time thinking about who your character is, what kinds of things they have experienced, and how they might behave in a number of different circumstances.
Some people love to have a really well thought out character before they put anything on a page and others like to be informed of who their character is as they play along. Either way there are some basic things you’ll need to know about your Investigator.
What You need Before you Start
Before we even get started with making our Investigators you are going to need a few things. My first recommendation is that you grab some scratch paper and a pencil with an eraser. You’re also going to need some six sided dice. (That’s the kind you find in a Monopoly game) I would suggest you get at least 3 of those but you may want to grab as many as six of them. You should also have a percentile die and a 10 sided die. If you don’t have a percentile die you can use two 10 sided dice just make sure you are consistent with which one is the tens place and which one is the ones place.
If you are like me and are occasionally mathematically challenged a calculator can be good to have on hand as well.
If you have all of those things the next thing you will want is a character sheet to fill out.
The character Sheet
Whether you are playing the classic version of the game set in the 1920’s, a modern game set in today’s era or in the dark ages or wild west you are going to need a character sheet. This series of posts is concentrating on playing the classic version but for the most part the steps of character creation are the same.
You may be wondering how to get a character sheet. There are a few ways to do that and your preferred method may depend on how you are playing. If you are playing strictly online a great resource is The Dhole’s House. You can sign up for free and save Investigators online. They also have resources for handouts, older versions of the game, and allow you to use several different methods for creating your character. If you are playing with a group, be sure to clear it with your Keeper before using any alternate methods of character creation.
If you are playing face to face with pen and paper there are two great resources you can use. I like to use the sheets you can find on drivethrurpg.com. They don’t cost anything and they cover most versions of the game you are likely to play. Plus that website has lots of other supplements you can get for playing whether you are a player or the Keeper.
Finally, you can go directly to the source of the game and get character sheets for all of the versions of the game at Chaosium.com.
The best thing about all of these sheets is that you can use the auto-calc function on these which helps with some of the math here.
Step 1: Generate Characteristics
Our Investigators are characters so what we are going to start with is finding out what characteristics make them up.
Call of Cthulhu has a set of rules defined by dice rolls and numbers on your character sheet. Every Investigator has a set of eight characteristics, with numbers associated with them, which create the foundation of the character. Let’s take a quick look at each one.
Up above you can see there are spots to put an Investigator’s name, Birthplace, Pronoun, Occupation, Residence and Age. While these are generally self-explanatory, hold off on entering Occupation or Age at this point. If you have a name, birthplace, residence and pronoun picked out feel free to fill those in now. And if you have a nifty portrait you’d like to use for your character feel free to put that up there in the corner.
What we need to look at in depth here are the eight characteristics. We’ll go over what they are and how to determine them. Now is the time you are going to want to pull out your scratch paper, pencil and dice.
STRENGTH – STR
STR stands for Strength and is just what it sounds like. It’s how strong you are. It will help determine things like how much your Investigator can lift, if they have the strength to hold on to the side of a building and how much damage they do in hand-to-hand combat. If your Investigator is at 0 Strength they are an invalid, unable to get out of bed.
Roll 3d6 (three six sided dice) and multiply the result by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under strength.
CONSTITUTION – CON
CON stands for Constitution. This represents how hale and hearty you are. It’s your overall health and factors into things like resisting poison or surviving an attack. If your Investigator is at 0 Constitution they are dead.
Roll 3d6 and multiply the result by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under constitution.
DEXTERITY – DEX
DEX stands for Dexterity. This determines how quick, nimble, and flexible an Investigator is. This is used to find out things like if your Investigator can outrun an opponent, dodge out of the way of a falling object, or accomplish some delicate task that takes a lot of coordination. This number also determines who goes first in combat. If your Investigator is at 0 Dexterity they are uncoordinated and unable to perform physical tasks.
Roll 3d6 and multiply the result by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under dexterity.
INTELLIGENCE – INT
INT stands for Intelligence. Intelligence is what it sounds like. It’s how well your Investigator learns, remembers things, analyzes situations etc. This number is also important for a couple other reasons. It determines your number of Personal Interest points (we’ll get into those later in this post) and is used for both Idea rolls and Intelligence rolls during the game. We’ll get into those in a later post. If your Investigator is at 0 Intelligence all they can do is babble and drool.
Roll 2d6 and add 6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under intelligence.
SIZE – SIZ
SIZ stands for Size. This averages your height and weight into a single number. This is how big your Investigator is and is used to check if you can do things like squeeze into a tunnel or see over a fence. This number also helps determine your Hit Points and damage bonus and build. If your Investigator has 0 Size they have disappeared into nothingness.
Roll 2d6 and add 6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under SIZ.
POWER – POW
POW stands for Power. Power is your force of will. This should not be confused with strength which is a physical feature. POW also helps to determine what your sanity is in the beginning and if you have any magic points. We won’t get too much into detail on either of those in this post but we’ll talk about them in future posts. This is one category where if you lose points in POW it’s unlikely you will get them back in the game. If your Investigator has 0 POW they walk around in a zombie-like state without purpose.
Roll 3d6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under POW.
APPEARANCE – APP
APP stands for Appearance. Appearance is what it sounds like in that your physical appearance is a factor here. But it also includes your personality. In some games this would be called Charisma. In other words someone could have a hideous scar but be enough of a charmer that they still have a high number in APP. This number is mostly useful in social encounters. If your Investigator has 0 APP they are not only terribly ugly on the outside, they are also an incredibly unlikeable person.
Roll 3d6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under Appearance.
EDUCATION – EDU
EDU stands for Education. Education again is much what it sounds like. It’s the formal schooling your Investigator has undergone. It is also the formal and factual knowledge an Investigator has. This means your Investigator could possibly have no formal education but have enough self-learning to still have a high EDU. However, this is different than Intelligence so try not to mix these up. If you have EDU of 60 your Investigator has graduated High School. 70 would mean at least some college and 80 or over would be graduate level. EDU also helps determine Occupational skill points. We’ll get into those later in this post. This is also used for the Own Language skill which we’ll go over in a later post. Finally, EDU is used when making Know rolls which we’ll talk about in a later post. If your Investigator is at 0 EDU it would mean they were like a newborn baby or someone waking from a coma without much memory.
Roll 2d6+6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under Education.
I realize this doesn’t come next on the character sheet but we’re going to do Luck first because there is less math here than in some of the other attributes. Luck is important in this game and can sometimes get you out of serious scrapes. You’ll want to roll high here. We’ll get more into how luck is used in a later post.
Roll 3d6 and multiply by 5. Write that number on your scratch paper under Luck
Age is how old your Investigator is. No surprises there. However, unlike some games, age actually makes a difference in your other attributes. Most of the reason for the scratch paper is due to the fact that what age you choose for your Investigator influences several other numbers. You can play an Investigator aged anywhere from 15 – 90 years old. There’s a huge variety of physical and mental differences in this age range so the game has laid out some rules for age. You may want to look at how this changes your Investigator before you decide on their age. The breakdown is below.
15-19: If you choose this age range, deduct 5 points among STR and SIZ. The way the rulebook reads this can seem confusing. What you are doing here is deducting a total of 5 points from STR and SIZ. This means you could deduct 2 from STR and 3 from SIZ if you want or 4 from STR and 1 from SIZ. As long as it adds up to a total of 5 points deducted from those categories you should be good here. Once you have done that, roll twice to generate a Luck score (see above) and use the higher score. This will now be your luck score.
20-39: If you choose this age range you are going to make an Improvement check for EDU. To do this, you are going to roll your percentile die. This means if you have a D100 and a D10 go ahead and roll them at the same time. If you have two d10’s roll both of those but remember which one is the tens place and which one is the ones place. If your result is greater than what your EDU currently shows you get to roll 1d10 and add that number to your EDU. This is your new EDU score. If your result is lower than your current EDU score the number does not change. For example, if my Investigator had an EDU of 40 and on my Improvement check I got a 50 I would then roll 1d10. If I got a 4 on that roll, my EDU is now 44. On the other hand if I rolled a 30 in my Improvement check, my EDU remains at 40. One final note is that EDU cannot exceed 99.
40-49: If you choose this age range you are going to do a few things. First you are going to make two Improvement checks for EDU (described above). Follow the same steps both times. If you are successful both times your EDU improves each time. If you are unsuccessful both times your EDU remains exactly the same. If you have one success you improve it by the result of that success. Whatever results you end up with is your new EDU score. Next you are going to deduct five points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 5 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 5 points deducted. Next deduct 5 points from APP. What can I say, the world belongs to young people and the rest of us are just living in it.
50-59: If you choose this age range you are going to make three Improvement checks for EDU. This is described above. Use the same steps three times and record your new EDU score. If you have three failures, apparently you didn’t pay much attention in school. Next you are going to deduct ten points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 10 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 10 points deducted. You will then need to reduce your APP by 10. The wrinkles are starting to show.
60-69: If you choose this age range you are going to make four Improvement checks for EDU. This is described above. Use the same steps four times and record your new EDU score. I hope you didn’t fail all of these checks but if you did maybe you should have spent more time reading and less time listening to that new-fangled radio. Next you are going to deduct twenty points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 20 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 20 points deducted. You will then need to reduce your APP by 15. You’re getting into the “get off of my lawn” phase of your life.
70-79: If you choose this age range you are going to make four Improvement checks for EDU. This is described above. Use the same steps four times and record your new EDU score. If you failed all four of those checks I guess you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Next you are going to deduct forty points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 40 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 40 points deducted. You will then need to reduce your APP by 20. Looks like people are a bit concerned for your health and start to wonder if you should, “be checked into the home” at this point in your life.
80-89: If you choose this age range you are going to make four Improvement checks for EDU. This is described above. Use the same steps four times and record your new EDU score. If you failed all those checks you’ve been too busy with life to learn from books so who needs it anyway? Next you are going to deduct eighty points from among STR, CON, or DEX. Again this is a total of 80 so you can decide how you split it up as long as it is a total of 80 points deducted. The body is still holding up but it’s not what it used to be. You will then need to reduce your APP by 25. Sure, you may not be the hot date you once were but at least you’re still around.
For any ages outside of these ranges you’re going to need to consult with your Keeper. I suppose there could be a 99 year old Investigator but this life is hard so it might be time to think about retirement.
One word to add here is that although you do get some penalties for being in the higher age range categories that does not mean an older person makes a poor Investigator. Not everything is physical in this game and being highly educated can come in very handy especially when you need to research something about a monster you have heard is roaming around town. I would say the majority of people play in the age ranges of 20-49 but it’s really up to you and how you see your Investigator so go with what feels right to you.
Once you have decided what your Age is write that on your character sheet.
At this point it’s safe to start writing numbers into your character sheet. Take your final totals for the eight characteristics we went through and put those in now. You’ll see that there is also a spot for half and fifth results of those numbers. For the moment feel free to leave those blank as I’ll have a handy little cheat sheet for you from the rulebook below.
Hit points, like in most tabletop role playing games, is how much health you have. You can gain or lose these points depending on what happens in the game. Typically in Call of Cthulhu you are much more likely to lose Hit Points than gain them. In general it’s better to have more hit points but the cosmic horrors coming for you can crush a large man as easily as small one so be warned.
Add your CON and SIZ together then divide the total by 10. Round down any fractions. Write the total in the Hit Points section of the character sheet.
For just a moment we are going to skip over Magic Points. In the Sanity box write your POW score. You’ll see that there is a spot for Starting, Current, and Insane. Your POW score goes in the Starting section. We’ll talk about the ways you lose Sanity and potentially go insane in another post.
Your Magic Points equal one fifth of your POW. If you want to do the math and fill that in now go ahead. Otherwise you can take a look at the cheat sheet from the rulebook below. Your Magic Points go in the spot that says Maximum.
HALF AND FIFTH VALUES
To determine your Half and Fifth values do the following. For half values divide the percentage value by two rounding down and add that in the half box for each characteristic. For fifth values divide the percentage value by five rounding down and enter that into the fifth box for each characteristic.
I’ve found this chart in the Keeper’s Rulebook to be invaluable in figuring this out.
Of course if you are using an online character sheet with auto-calc you don’t have to worry about this at all as the math is done for you.
Congratulations, your top portion should now be filled out. But before we move onto the next step I want to bring your attention to another section of the character sheet.
Somewhere on your character sheet you should see the fields for Move, Build, Dodge and Damage Bonus. Let’s determine those scores now.
MOVE is the distance your Investigator can move in one round. This usually comes into play during combat or chase scenes. There is a formula for determining Move.
If your STR and DEX are both less than SIZ your move is 7.
If either your STR or DEX is equal to or greater than SIZ or if all three are equal your move is 8.
If your STR and DEX are both greater than SIZ your move is 9.
There are some penalties to move based on Age.
If your Investigator is in their 40’s take 1 point away from move.
If your Investigator is in their 50’s take 2 points away from move.
If your Investigator is in their 60’s take 3 points away from move.
If your Investigator is in their 70’s take 4 points away from move.
If your Investigator is in their 80’s take 5 points away from move.
Write your MOVE score on your character sheet.
BUILD AND DAMAGE BONUS
BUILD AND DAMAGE BONUS relate to how much damage your Investigator can do in combat in relation to their size. The Keeper’s Rulebook has a little chart for us to use here.
Use the chart above to fill in your Build and Damage Bonus on your character sheet.
DODGE is just what it sounds like. It’s your ability to move out of the way when you are about to be hit with something. The baseline of your DODGE score is half of your DEX score. However, you may want to leave this blank for the moment as you can user Personal Skill points to increase this number if you choose to do so. We’ll talk more about Personal Skill points later in this post.
Whew! After all that work, Step 1 is complete. It’s time to move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Determine Occupation
Your Investigator is going to have something they do as a day job. There is a really wide range of occupations to choose from available in this game. There are far too many for me to list out and go through in this post. However, if you have the Keeper’s Rulebook or the quickstart guide you should be able to find occupations listed there. The Investigator’s Handbook has the most extensive listing of occupations so you may want to look there if you have it.
You’re going to want to choose one occupation. It’s best if you can find an occupation that you think suits your character. For example, a 70 year old is not likely to be an Acrobat. Also, a 15 year old is unlikely to be an Antiquarian. I’m not saying there are no cases where this is possible, it just would be less likely to fit a character. For the purposes of this post I am going to select an occupation for an Investigator I might make and show you how we use it. It should also be noted this is how an Investigator makes their living but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a job in the traditional sense. For example, criminal is an occupation you can choose but it’s not like your Investigator is going to write that on their tax form. There are also many occupations here that do conform to a normal job. For example, doctor of medicine is an actual occupation and one your Investigator can have.
When I think about what occupation to give my Investigators I usually have a few factors in mind. First, I want the occupation to suit my character’s personality. If I have an Investigator who is a strict rule follower, criminal is not going to be a good occupation for him. Second, there are bonuses associated with each occupation you can find in your source material. There may be some occupations that might not make sense for the campaign I am in even if they suit my character and give good bonuses. For example, if I am playing in a 1920’s era campaign where my very intelligent Investigator is looking into the unknown I would not want to choose the Hacker occupation even though it would give several good bonuses. Finally, if I am playing with a group of people I would probably not want to choose the exact same occupation as someone else in my group. While you could have two Police Detectives in your group it might be more beneficial to have on person be a Police Detective who has contact with law enforcement while another player is an Antiquarian who is very knowledgeable with research.
For my example I am going to say I am creating an Investigator named Bob Wilkes. He’s in his early 20’s and is connected to the mob. He’s had a revelation after he went to toss someone in the Boston Harbor and saw something he can’t quite explain come up out of the water as he did it. He’s still a tough guy but he’s trying to make some amends. That doesn’t mean he won’t use his mafia connections to his advantage, however.
To me, the occupation that makes the most sense for Bob is Criminal. Listed below is the description of that occupation from the Keeper’s Rulebook.
CRIMINAL—one interpersonal skill (Charm, Fast Talk, Intimidate, or Persuade), Psychology, Spot Hidden, Stealth, plus four specialisms from the following: Appraise, Disguise, Fighting, Firearms, Locksmith, Mechanical Repair, and Sleight of Hand.
Credit Rating: 5–65
Occupation Skill Points: EDU × 2 + either DEX × 2 or STR × 2
I’ll make note of what some of these things mean as we move into Step 3. Once you have chosen your Investigator’s occupation you are ready for Step 3.
Step 3: Decide Skills and Allocate Skill Points
On your character sheet you should see a list of skills that looks something like below.
You will see check boxes next to the skills. For the moment leave those blank. Those will be used during game sessions but not during character creation.
Next, you should see in the occupation you selected a list of skills you can choose from, a credit rating range, and a formula which tells you how to calculate how many occupation skill points you have.
In my example I get a few skills to choose from for an Interpersonal Skill. My choices are Charm, Fast Talk, Intimidate or Persuade. I decide I want Bob to be a bit of a tough guy so I choose Intimidate and I write that on my scratch paper.
Next, I get to write down Psychology, Spot Hidden and Stealth.
For the next group of skills I have to choose four out of the seven skills considered “specialisms”. I can choose from Appraise, Disguise, Fighting, Firearms, Locksmith, Mechanical Repair, and Sleight of Hand.
I decide Bob is a bit of a scrappy fighter who knows how to get up to no good when he wants to. I choose Fighting, Firearms, Locksmith and Sleight of Hand.
For the most part Skills are what they sound like so usually you can choose what fits with your idea of your character.
There are a few things to note here. One, no skill can start at above 75. You may be able to increase that skill during play but you can’t start any skill that high.
Additionally, no character can add points to the Cthulhu Mythos skill. The game assumes your character hasn’t really been exposed to this, even if, as in the case of my character, they have seen something strange in the past.
Next I will calculate my total Skill Points I can spend. To do this I use the formula given by the occupation. In my case it is EDU × 2 + either DEX × 2 or STR × 2.
Here are the stats I rolled up for Bob so far.
As you can see Bob’s EDU is 65. His STR and DEX are both 70. So what I do to determine my points is EDU = 65 x2 = 130. DEX = 70 x 2 = 140. 130 + 140 = 270. This gives me 270 points to split up among the eight skills I have based on my occupation. I can allocate those numbers however I want as long as no skill goes over 75.
We’ll get more into what each skill is for and why you may want to increase those in a later post. For now, just split those in the way that seems most reasonable for your character. For example, if I wanted Bob to be really good at getting into locked places, I might put a little more into his Locksmith skill than I do in his fighting skill.
Before you actually write in your totals on your character sheet you may want to write them down on your scratch paper. For one, this allows you to think about how you may want to balance your character, but also you’ll need to choose some Personal Skill points as well.
People are made up of more than just their professions. They also have hobbies and interests and things they just happen to know about. Your Investigator gets to allocate points for these types of interests as well. These points can, in fact, go into the same skills you used for your Occupation if you so choose. But again, you can’t start any skill over 75 and you can’t use Cthulhu Mythos as a personal skill.
To determine how many Personal Skill points you get, simply multiply INT by 2. For Bob, his INT is 40 so he gets 80 points to use.
At this point, go ahead and fill in all of your skill values for Occupation and Personal Interest skills. Again, if you are using the auto-calc sheet, the half and fifth values will be calculated for you, otherwise you can use the handy chart above.
You may be wondering how these skills numbers are used in play. We’ll talk about this in a future post but for now just know if you have a higher number in a skill, you are more likely to succeed when making a check during the game.
WEAPONS AND FIREARM SKILLS
Just a quick word about weapons and firearms skills. Your occupation may or may not have given you the option to choose a particular type of firearm skill. Even if it doesn’t you can still choose to spend personal or occupation skill points in these categories. However, you’ll probably want to speak with your Keeper to make sure any particular kind of weapon is appropriate for your campaign. If your occupation didn’t give you a firearm specialization, you get to choose what that is. For example, for my Investigator Bob, I decided he would be more likely to have a handgun than a rifle so that’s where I put my points for firearms.
There can be a huge range of Credit Ratings in this game. Investigators can be penniless drifters to swanky debutantes. The more points you have in your Credit Rating, the more comfortable a lifestyle your Investigator leads. Bob has a range of 5-65 for his credit rating. This is because a Criminal could be a small time, street-hustling thief all the way up to the leader of an organized crime family.
You’ll want to decide how much you want to put into your Credit Rating based on who your character is and what they might be doing in life. Bob is still fairly young and not likely to be on the highest end of his CR so I decide he’ll live within an Average Credit Rating. For the 1920’s this is from CR 10-49. I give him enough points to have a CR of 30. To find out exactly what your CR is, you can look in the Keeper’s Rulebook on page 47 for a table that will show you what assets and cash your character has.
For Bob, with CR 30 his cash equals CR x 2 so he has $60 on hand. His assets are CR x 50 so his total asset worth is $1,500. And his spending level for an Average CR is $10. This means Bob can get by with spending roughly $10 a day and he is unlikely to go broke. How closely this is monitored will depend on your Keeper and how they wish to track money in your campaign. In most of the games I have played in, money was not a huge factor unless there was some significant financial component within the campaign. For example, it can be hard to stay at a luxury hotel to spy on a nefarious gentleman if you happen to be a penniless drifter. There are probably ways to do it but paying for a room next to the gentleman is unlikely.
Once you have your skill points allocated you are ready to move on to the next step.
step 4: Creating a Backstory
This is my favorite part of character creation. You’ve probably already thought a little bit about your character just from choosing an occupation, allocating skill points, and thinking about what kind of scenario you might be in. Here in step four is where you flesh out the background of the character and give them a bit of life.
This is also the step where I can give you the least relevant advice. Each Investigator is an individual and who they are is truly up to you.
On your Investigator sheet you will see a few different sections under background. The ones to think about first are Personal Description, Ideology/Beliefs, Significant People, Meaningful Locations, Treasured Possessions, and Traits.
These are categories that both inform who the Investigator is as well as ties them into the world they live in.
The best advice I can give you on any of these categories is to try to be as specific and personal as you can. You may know your investigator has a son. In that case, think about who the son is, what their name is, and how they act toward your Investigator. Is the son resentful of an absent father or does he play baseball with his pops every Saturday and want to be just like him? As you can see there is a huge variety you can choose and it’s what helps to make the game interesting.
The six categories listed above are the most important to your Investigator. The reason for this is these are the people, places, and things that can tie your Investigator to the mundane world. This is how your Investigator maintains their sanity. These personal connections can save an Investigator from madness. Alternately, the loss of some of these things may drive your Investigator to madness on an accelerated scale.
The Keeper’s Rulebook has a few random tables you can roll on for each of these categories as well if you are stuck for ideas.
Just to make sure we know what each of these categories means I will list a quick description of what they are.
This is what your character looks like. I always think it’s fun to come up with a description first and then see if I can find an old stock photo that fits what I have in my mind. You can do this any way you like. Just make sure to have some kind of description here.
This is how your character thinks about the world. Do they answer to a higher power? Are they analytical and precise? Perhaps they live for money and will do whatever they can to get more.
Who is important to your Investigator? This can be a friend, lover, colleague, neighbor, child, parent or any person that just has a strong connection to the Investigator. Think about who this person is for your Investigator and maybe a little bit about how their relationship is now. This doesn’t even necessarily have to be someone they are currently in regular contact with. An ex-spouse could be a significant person even if it’s been decades since the Investigator last saw them. Or maybe they have a sister who they hang out with all the time and this is the person they feel closest to. Make it your own.
I think this one is obvious but it’s any place that is extremely significant to your Investigator. This could be where they live or work. It could be a place where a significant event happened to them. It could even be a place they want to go to but haven’t yet they feel a strong connection to. If your Investigator loves everything French and wants with every fiber of their being to visit Paris for the first time ever, this can be a meaningful location to them. It can be really fun to have locations that are in your campaign be significant to your Investigator. Of course to do this you’ll need to have an idea from your Keeper where your campaign may take your party.
Does your character have a lucky rabbit’s foot? A set of loaded dice? A locket with a picture of someone important in it? Maybe they own a car they spend every free hour working on and putting their soul into. These would all be treasured possessions. Whatever it is that is important to your Investigator should go in this category. Sometimes having this possession with them can bring them back from the brink of insanity as they think about the world.
I don’t know how other people decide their Investigator’s traits but the way I look at this is how would someone else describe the Investigator. Would everyone in the room see your Investigator as menacing? Generous? A talented musician? A bad dancer? Whatever the case is be as specific as you can but also try to make it recognizable to other people. Your Investigator’s traits are probably something other Investigators are going to notice.
Key Background Connection
Once you have all of the six categories listed above written out, it’s time to choose your Key Background Connection. There is one entry out of these six that is the most significant to your Investigator. This is the one thing your Investigator feels they can never lose. This can be a place, person, possession, ideal or belief. Whatever it is go ahead and underline or highlight it on your sheet because this connection is extra special.
In games of Call of Cthulhu your Keeper can sometimes take away connections your Investigator has. Your Investigator might lose their Treasured Possession for example. Or perhaps a Significant Person dies in the course of the game. However, your Key Connection cannot be taken away without the Keeper allowing you to make a dice roll of some kind to save it. The way I like to think about this Key Connection is this is the one thing your Investigator simply can’t lose without becoming a broken individual. If they lose this, they lose everything. And, if it does happen that your Investigator loses their Key Connection permanently they may lose their sanity for good. So choose wisely.
Other Backstory Categories
You’ll notice we have not yet talked about Injuries & Scars, Phobias & Manias, Arcane Tomes & Spells, or Encounters with Strange Entities.
While your Investigator may start the scenario with a few scars or a fear of spiders, there is also the possibility they may end up gaining some of these things during game play. If you put anything in these categories do discuss this with your Keeper first. The Keeper will likely be fine with your Investigator having a scar across their cheek but may not be okay with your Keeper having Arcane Tomes & Spells or one of the other categories above. We’ll talk more about these things in a future post.
If you haven’t already filled out the sections for Birthplace, Gender, Name and added a Picture, now is the time to do so.
After that it’s on to step five!
Step 5: Equip The Investigator
Your Investigator may or may not have stuff at the time of creation. The better your Credit Rating, the more likely you do have stuff. You don’t usually have to keep a super detailed itemized list of what your Investigator owns but if they have anything significant like a car or a weapon you’ll probably want to write that down. It’s also possible your Keeper will let you purchase a number of items for your Investigator depending on the scenario. In the Keeper’s Rulebook there are equipment lists on pages 396-400 and a weapons table on pages 401-405. Take a look at these lists and tables before deciding how to fully equip your character.
That’s really all there is to this step. It’s a pretty easy one but it can be fun to figure out what your Investigator might have and why. Just remember having a pistol is not going to help a lot when the Old Ones awaken and decide to destroy the planet.
Alternate Investigator Creation Methods
The process I described above is the most common way of coming up with an Investigator but there are a few other ways you can do it. While I am not going to give an in-depth explanation of each of these I will describe what they are briefly.
Start Over Method
Sometimes you just roll terribly and you end up with an Investigator who has very low scores. Some Keepers will allow you to re-roll everything if you end up with three or more characteristics under 50.
Modifying Low Rolls Method
This is somewhat similar to start over. In this case, if you have three or more rolls lower than 10 you can roll an additional 1D6 and share the extra points among the lowest roles before multiplying by five.
Choosing Where to Place Rolled Characteristics
For this method you roll for your characteristics but you don’t assign them to each characteristic specifically at first. You would roll five rolls of 3D6 and three rolls of 2D6+6. Multiply each of these eight results by 5. Then you just decide where to put the numbers. This is a fairly common method and a lot of Keepers allow this but be sure to ask first before doing it.
Point Buy Method
I recommend this for more experienced players than beginners. This is because beginners will not always know the best place to put their points. For this method, you start with 460 points you put anywhere you want in the eight characteristics as long as it is within the 15-90 range. It is always recommended that INT and SIZ have a minimum value of 40. Of course if you speak with your Keeper there may be exceptions to this.
Once you are a more seasoned player this is a common method of creating an Investigator and can save some time in the character creation phase.
Quick Fire Method
This one gets a little technical and I don’t recommend it for new players. Basically you get an allotment of values to place in your characteristics and do a kind of accelerated version of everything I listed in the basic method. If you have an experienced Keeper who can help you with this method it may be worth doing. You won’t have any extremely low numbers with this method but you also won’t be rolling exceptionally well either. You will have a well balanced Investigator but it does limit a little of the fun you might have while making your character. If you want to use this method be sure to ask your Keeper first. If you are a Keeper using this method, you can find detailed instructions for it on page 48 of the Keeper’s Rulebook.
Heights of Human Potential
You’re not likely to use this for your first game but I’ll just make a note of it here. While you normally cannot have a skill exceed 90 with this method you can add up to 9 more points to reach maximum potential in a skill. This isn’t exactly an alternate method, more like an optional rule, and it can be used with any method of character creation. I’ve never played in a game where this was allowed but if you play often enough you may come across this. Rules for it are on page 48 of the Keeper’s Rulebook.
Optional Rule: A Cap on Starting Skills
This is technically an optional rule and not a creation method. But, most Keepers will use this rule. This caps your starting skills at 75. The idea behind this is to make sure nothing your Investigators are facing will be too easy for them. After all, if there is no challenge, there is no fun in playing a game. Unlike the Heights of Human Potential rule, this is one I would recommend new Keepers and players use. If you don’t use it, there is still the chance of failure on your rolls because you will sometimes have to roll the half or fifth values. And if you ever roll a 100 that’s always a failure. This is an optional rule I like but that doesn’t mean you have to use it at your table.
By now you should have a complete Investigator sheet which will allow you to play in a scenario for Call of Cthulhu. I realize it can seem like a lot to go through but if you go one step at a time you’ll get there. One of the best bits of advice I can give you about doing this is to play with someone who has played before and have them go through it with you. There is a fair amount of pre-work that goes into playing. For a player, the bulk of this is in creating their character. The Keeper has a much bigger job as they need to prepare for the entire scenario or campaign. The Keeper should also take a close look at all of the player’s Investigator sheets to make sure everything makes sense and fits within the parameters of the campaign.
While we’ve done a bit of the pre-work here, we have not yet gotten into gameplay. Before we get entirely into how a play session works we’ll touch on it briefly in the next post. Next time I will be taking a deep dive into Skills. I’ll tell you what they are and how they are used in a game session.
If you have made an Investigator for Call of Cthulhu before I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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