Happy New Year!

Hello internet and Happy New Year! Slick Dungeon here back to welcome you into the year 2023. Today I thought I would do a more casual post wrapping up a bit of last year and letting you all know what to expect in the dungeon for this year.

Above you can see some of my posts from last year so if you haven’t checked those out please do.

2022 was a great year for this blog. I had an increase of views of 116% from 2021, an increase of visitors of 140%, an increase of likes of 77% and an increase of comments of 127%. If any of you reading this contributed to that increase, thank you! It’s genuinely appreciated and I hope you’ll stick around.

Here are links to the top 5 most popular posts on this blog for 2022. These go from least viewed to most viewed.

  1. An Interview with Zamil Akhtar, Author of Gun Metal Gods and Conqueror’s Blood
  2. Top 5 Tabletop RPG’s to play in 2022
  3. How to Play Call of Cthulhu Part 2 – Creating an Investigator
  4. Top 5 Campaigns for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition
  5. Top 5 Horror One Shots for Dungeons & Dragons

Going down this list above, Zamil Akhtar will be publishing new books this year and I fully plan to review them, so look forward to that. I will be posting a top 5 list of tabletop RPG’s to play in 2023 so keep an eye out for that. I will also continue my How to play Call of Cthulhu series. And I am sure I will have more top 5 lists related to Call of Cthulhu and Dungeons & Dragons this year.

I’m hoping to have an even better year in 2023 but of course that depends on you and it depends on what kind of content I deliver.

Here are a few of the things you can expect this year.

  1. More movie reviews
  2. More book reviews
  3. More Marvel reviews
  4. More TTRPG content
  5. More short fiction written by me
  6. A new challenge list for books, movies, and TTRPG’s
  7. Reviews of Star Wars content
  8. Announcements of upcoming projects
  9. Surveys about what direction to take this blog
  10. Random stuff that comes up I just want to talk about

There will be more coming which you have not seen yet but I’m not quite ready to talk about but I will keep you updated throughout the year.

I’m really excited about all of these things coming up and I hope you’ll follow along with me. Also, I am always looking for fellow blog writers to follow so if you have a blog that might line up with some of what you see here, let me know in the comments. I only follow those who have similar interests to mine but I would love to see what everyone is up to in 2023.

Have a great year everyone!

Positively yours,

Slick Dungeon

Call of Cthulhu Review – An Amaranthine Desire

Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hello Keepers and Investigators, it’s Slick Dungeon. I’m here to review the first of the scenarios in Chaosium’s 7th edition anthology Nameless Horrors. As the name implies, these scenarios are not based on any monsters, creatures, or cosmic entities you might find in the Keeper’s Rulebook. The idea here is that every scenario should have a threat unfamiliar to even the most seasoned Investigators. There are six scenarios in the anthology and I will be reviewing each of them one at a time. They are set in different time periods and locations and can all be run independently of one another. And while some may be good to drop into existing long running campaigns, others are less suited to that purpose.

Please be warned, especially if you are in Investigator, there will be some spoilers in this review. If you are planning to play in this scenario as an Investigator stop reading now. If you are a Keeper who is considering running this scenario or thinking about purchasing Nameless Horrors feel free to continue. The review begins below the image.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Nameless Horrors, created by Paul Fricker, Scott Dorward, Matthew Sanderson with Cover Art by Victor Leza published by Chaosium Inc.

An Amaranthine Desire is initially set in the Cthulhu by Gaslight era with the Investigators all taking part in a covert smuggling operation in the city of Dunwich. Nope, not the one you are thinking. This is not the Dunwich of The Dunwich Horror but rather the Dunwich in England which is known as the capital of of the Kingdom of the East Angles but has since eroded into the sea due to multiple instances of intense storms.

The era in which the Investigators begin doesn’t have a ton of bearing on the scenario itself, so if you are running a campaign set in a different era and still want to run this one, it should work with only a few minor adjustments.

As the Investigators are about their secretive and illegal work, a major storm hits. This storm, along with the sound of church bells ringing, transport the group back in time to 1287, the year of the first massive storm to hit Dunwich. The scenario gives the reason for the storm and puts the Investigators into a situation where they need to find a way back to their own time, possibly find a powerful item wrapped up in the history of Dunwich, deal with the burning of an accused witch, and contend with one another’s various motivations.

The idea of the scenario is quite fun as there is a constant time loop that happens, sort of a Lovecraftian Groundhog Day if you will. And with the completion of each loop the Investigators age each time so the situation does become deadly. The time loop alone is not the only danger here and I would honestly be surprised if any party makes it out with no deaths at all.

I’m not going to give away any more of the plot here but I would like to call out what I find good and bad about the scenario.

In the good category, this is a really inventive situation and because there is no real warning about the time shift, your players will have to be creative and come up with solutions quickly to save themselves. Also, there are several NPC’s here who can be played in a multitude of ways from pure evil to morally ambiguous, making it a much more interesting scenario to run, with some replay potential for the Keeper with a different party. The pre-generated characters all have decent story hooks and good reasons to be smuggling at the beginning. Several of them also have connections to the events of the past which helps to move the story along. This is a one shot scenario made for around 4-6 characters and running it in 1-2 sessions is definitely doable here.

In the bad category, there were multiple instances of frustrating spelling and grammar errors in the scenario. Overall, this is a minor but distracting issue. The scenario itself is fairly complex and has a good amount of NPC’s so as a Keeper you’ll want to take notes as you read through. This is not so much of a “bad” thing, it’s just worth mentioning. The last thing which might be considered a negative is for the scenario to work best, it really does make the most sense to use the pre-generated characters. For that reason, I don’t actually recommend dropping this into an existing campaign without making some major changes to fit your current party of Investigators.

Overall, the inventive nature of the scenario, the unexpected twists, and the potential for surprising your players puts An Amaranthine Desire into the extremely fun to play category. Like with all scenarios, I do recommend reading the whole thing through once, then reading again to take notes, and skimming once more immediately prior to a session as there are a lot of moving parts here.

If you are looking to purchase Nameless Horrors you have a couple of options.

You can purchase it on drivethrurpg as a PDF here. Right now it’s on sale for $12 but it usually runs for $15. With this version you do only get the PDF so if you want a physical book this is not the best way to purchase. However, if you have the PDF you can probably just print out the relevant pages and handouts.

You can also purchase the softcover, which includes the PDF, from Chaosium’s website here. The cost here is $35. This version does have the advantage of being physical so the layout is easier to flip through and since you get the PDF, if you are willing to pay a little more, it is the better version.

So, have your played An Amaranthine Desire? If so, how did it go for your group? Let me know in the comments.

Namelessly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Campaigns for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here. I hate long intros to top 5 lists so we’ll get into it pretty quickly.

Before we do that I just need to clarify a couple of things. A campaign is a long form of story for Call of Cthulhu, meaning it is multiple scenarios played over multiple sessions.

Also, for most of these you will need at least the quick start rules for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. More likely, you will want the Keeper’s Rulebook for 7th edition so be sure to get your hands on those before diving into these campaigns.

These are my five favorite campaigns for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. The Alone Against Series

Alone Against the Flames: Written by Gavin Inglis, cover artwork by Petr Stovik, published by Chaosium Inc.

One of the great things about Call of Cthulhu is that it’s fun to play not only with a group of people, but also by yourself. I would be remiss if I did not include at least one solo play campaign here. Now, technically the Alone Against series is not a linear campaign where you’d play one investigator going through a series of events from start to finish. Instead, all of the Alone Against books stand on their own but are thematically tied in that… you play alone. I’ve also played this where I was the Keeper and I had one person playing on the other end and it worked really well so you could play this with two people. The one to begin with would be Alone Against the Flames, which not only is a great adventure but also, helps introduce new players to how to play Call of Cthulhu. For new Keepers, it’s a must. But once you finish Alone Against the Flames, there are several other adventure books you can play including, Alone Against the Tide, Alone Against the Frost, and Alone Against the Dark. Different people prefer different ones in the series but they’re all fun to play in my opinion and if you want a way to make your solo play last longer, playing through the series is a great way to do it.

There are several ways to get the Alone Against series of books. You can get them from drivehtrurpg.com. You can also purchase them directly from the Chaosium website at Chaosium.com. And, if you get the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition starter set, Alone Against the Flames comes in it so you can get it that way. The prices can vary between Chaosium, drivethrurpg, and based on if you want the softcover or just the PDF so I recommend doing a little comparison shopping but you can get each one for less than $20 typically which is a great price for hours of entertainment. Do note that on drivethrurpg you can only get the PDF so if you know you want the softcover, Chaosium is the way to go.

4. The Children of Fear

The Children of Fear by Lynne Hardy and Friends, Published by Chaosium Inc.

This is a sprawling, epic, multi-part campaign with several scenarios in it. It’s very player-led so the story can go a ton of different ways. This takes the Investigators through parts of Central Asian and Northern India in the 1920s. It’s also scalable on the mythos spectrum, meaning you can have small time cultists facing your group or you can throw the Outer Gods right at them if that’s what’s right for your party. This one is definitely on the mature side and there’s a content warning here for that reason. While I would say a lot of Call of Cthulhu campaigns are around a PG-13 rating, this one is solidly in the R rated camp.

This being flexible and modular is great, however, it does require a fair amount of preparing on the part of the Keeper for that reason. You’ll need to know the story enough to improvise in case your Investigators go somewhere you weren’t quite expecting.

The handouts here are incredible and the artwork is spot on. Although this takes some improv skills and a bit of fine-tuning from the Keeper, it’s well worth the ride.

You can get the PDF from drivethrurpg for $27 at the moment. Or, you can get the hardcover and the PDF from Chaosium.com for $53. If you know you’re going to run the campaign I’d recommend going the Chaosium route but if you are only considering, or if you don’t have room for another hardcover book on your shelf, buying the PDF alone might be the way to go.

3. Beyond the Mountains of Madness

Beyond the Mountains of Madness by Charles and Janyce Engan, published by Chaosium Inc.

Who doesn’t like the idea of a horrific adventure in the frozen tundra? This campaign is actually a campaign from 1999 for the 5th edition of the game. It’s written as a playable sequel to the H.P. Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness. If you are the Keeper running this campaign, you’ll want to be familiar with that story before you start play. Also, since it is written for 5th edition you’ll need to do some work to convert the rules if you’re playing 7th edition. That part shouldn’t be too dificult.

You do get a lot in this book. It’s over 400 pages long so that alone should tell you, this will take some time to prepare and run. You’ll need to do your homework and there are some things in the campaign that may not be necessary for your group so you may be reading through some things you won’t use. There are a lot of handouts here but keep in mind it was made in 1999 so some of the handouts feel a little dated. But if you love that classic RPG feel, you’ll be right at home here.

If run well, this is a great and potentially lethal campaign, with lots of opportunities to drive your Investigators to the brink of madness and beyond. If you don’t prepare beforehand, it can be a complicated mess of checking through pages, tables, etc. so be warned. It’s very much worth it if you can pull it off, however.

You can get the PDF version on drivethrurpg for $20 or you can get the hardcover on Chaosium for $50. In this case, because there is a bit of shuffling, cutting things out and rearranging likely to happen, I actually recommend getting the PDF rather than the hardcover. You will get the PDF with the hardcover if you buy from Chaosium but I find this one just suits my needs a little better loose leaf where I can take out what I don’t need and reshuffle.

2. Horror on the Orient Express

Horror on the Orient Express, Published by Chaosium Inc.

At the heart of the game of Call of Cthulhu is mystery. There’s a reason the players are called Investigators, not heroes or travelers or something like that. One of the best known mysteries is Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie so it’s only natural to decide to turn this mystery into a Lovecraftian nightmare.

Three identical men are all found dead on the same night, in the same room, all dead of stab wounds to the heart. This intriguing incident is what sets the Investigators off on this huge adventure. It will take Investigators across Europe. I don’t want to get into spoilers here but this campaign is a joy to run. It’s got deep mystery, weird happenings, a ton of handouts and a great hook to start the campaign. The Investigators get immersed quickly in this one which is great for any scenario but especially good when you are talking about a long campaign.

Like most of the campaigns on this list, there is prep work needed on the part of the Keeper but it’s well worth the effort.

You can get the PDF for this on drivethrurpg for $40 at the time of this post.

But, if you are willing to splurge, you can get an absolutely gorgeous edition of this campaign split into two volumes on Chaosium.com for $90. I know that’s a hefty price tag but if you want to run an epic and amazing campaign this is one of the best ones there is for Call of Cthulhu.

1. Masks of Nyarlathotep

Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry Ditillio and Lynn Willis

Masks of Nyarlathotep is my absolute favorite Call of Cthulhu campaign hands down. It’s epic and sprawling and can keep your Investigators busy for at least a year easily. This is a globe trotting adventure with tons of adventure, surprises and horror abounding. Nyarlathotep is ready to usher in a new world but the Investigators must stop him. They’ll need to use all their wits and cunning to figure out how and somehow remain sane long enough to do it.

This one absolutely takes a lot of preparation to run as a Keeper and it’s one I recommend reading a couple of times through before even proposing to run it for your players. But if you do, it is so worth it. It’s an incredible experience with tons of twists and turns. You’ll definitely need to make adjustments for your group as some hints, clues, handouts and locations will be better suited to some people than others. Just be aware of that before running it and you should be okay.

Considering the epic scope of this campaign it doesn’t run cheap.

You can get this on drivethrurpg as a PDF for $18 which is your cheapest option. If you’re just curious about the campaign and not sure you want to commit to it, this is a good option for a first read through.

On Chaosium’s website you can get a few different versions.

You can get the omnibus PDF edition for $60 which has rules for both Call of Cthulhu and Pulp Cthulhu.

Or you can get the slipcase set for $129 which has two volumes for the campaign, a Keeper screen, all the handouts and maps, and the pre-generated character sheets already printed for you.

And if you really want to spend some money and have some impressive looking books too you could go for the leather slipcase set for $250. This includes all the same stuff you get in the slipcase set but the books are leather bound. At the time of this post, this version is on sale for $199 but I have no idea how long that will last. It’s a lot of money still but you’re saving a bit. And if you do buy this set, you’ll have a gorgeous looking set of books totally appropriate to wow your Investigators with.

Do you have any favorite campaigns you’ve run? Let me know it the comments and Happy Halloween month!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Hammersmith Haunting: A Call of Cthulhu Adventure Review

The Hammersmith Haunting by Kat Clay
The Hammersmith Haunting by Kat Clay

Hello horror RPG fans, it’s Slick Dungeon and I’ve got a neat little Call of Cthulhu adventure to review for you today! It’s set in London in the 1890’s and was created by Kat Clay. The adventure was created for three to five players and is meant to take one to two sessions to complete. It’s a ghost story with a whole lot more going on and is called The Hammersmith Haunting.

I’m definitely not going to give everything away here but if you are a player who might play in this scenario, stay away, as there may be some spoilers. If you are a Keeper looking for an adventure to run, I’ll give you a short rundown of the scenario and let you know my thoughts on whether this would be a good one to run.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Keeper’s Eyes Only – What you Get

If you are a player and not a Keeper, don’t read past this sentence.

In this adventure you get five pre-generated characters for your players to choose from, five NPC’s with detailed descriptions and stat blocks, four player handouts, and three maps. There’s also a bit of historical commentary on a real world incident related to the events in the scenario, several photos and bits of artwork you could either show to players or keep to yourself for inspiration, and some tips and advice for running the adventure.

The author makes no secret that the scenario is a fairly linear storyline. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing and, in fact, may be helpful to newer Keepers who want to run something which won’t take months to complete and gives a bit of guidance on how the story should play out. But, it is something to keep in mind if you and your players really love more open ended scenarios.

The story is divided into three chapters and a conclusion, allowing for good stopping points if you can’t complete the scenario in a single session.

The scenario is set in 1890 so this is more suitable for those interested in playing in that time period.

The first chapter does a nice job of setting the mood and increasing the fear of both the investigators and those affected by the haunting in Hammersmith. There are a couple of rather memorable NPC’s in this section. Again, this is a linear storyline, so there may be instances where you’ll need to nudge your players in one direction or another a bit to keep the story moving. But, there are enough locations that virtually anywhere the Investigators end up, they’ll be able to get back on track to the main story.

In the second chapter the Investigators learn a little bit more about what is going on in Hammersmith and why. The creepiness factor increases and there’s a fairly intense scene which comes into play in the last chapter. This chapter also does a nice job of making the haunting personal but also connecting it with a larger cosmic mythos, so the stakes feel high.

The third chapter is the confrontation of the entity causing the problems in Hammersmith. This part is no joke and it will be a difficult confrontation for the Investigators. What’s more, depending on what actions the Investigators took in the first two chapters, they may be at more of a disadvantage against their enemy.

There are three given possible conclusions and an additional outcome depending on what the Investigators did. At least two of the conclusions could lead to longer campaigns and would be a good beginning to explore a lot more of the cosmic horror to be found in Call of Cthulhu.

While I don’t want to get much more specific for fear of spoilers, there is a lot of good horror to work with here so the scenario can definitely get that fun and creepy vibe that makes some of the best Call of Cthulhu scenarios.

Who is the Adventure for?

This scenario is suited well for those who like to play in the Gaslight era. It’s good for a group of 3-5 people who want to have a one shot scenario which takes one or two sessions at most. It’s also good for a Keeper who wants to have a bit of direction on how a story might play out, rather than having a sprawling sandbox for their players.

The adventure is quite well written, which is no surprise, as Kat Clay is also an author. This does lead to moments where perhaps more player agency could have been allowed but a good Keeper would be able to still improvise enough to get players to make choices where it feels like they are the ones driving the story rather than the Keeper.

The villain in the story is also nicely set up where, depending on how things go, they could make an appearance, or even be a major part of, future scenarios. I don’t know if Kat Clay has any plans to expand this but I could see this becoming a whole campaign if she wanted to make it into one.

If you are looking for a solid one shot scenario set in the gaslight era for Call of Cthulhu this is going to be a fun one to run. All you need is the adventure itself and the Keeper rulebook to run it.

How to get the scenario

The cost is quite reasonable. You can get the PDF version for $4.95, the softcover for $9.95, or the softcover and PDF for $14.90 all on drivethrurpg. If you are going to use the softcover at all, I highly recommend getting the $14.90 version so you get the PDF along with it, that way you can print again to play with another group if you ever want to.

Also, if you want a bit more background on how this scenario came to be and what inspired the author to create it, check out her video below.

The Hammersmith Haunting – A Call of Cthulhu scenario

Have you run this scenario? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

How to Play Call of Cthulhu Part 2 – Creating an Investigator

Cthulhu Rises

Introduction

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.

Upper Portion of a 1920’s Classic Era Investigator Sheet

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.

LUCK

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

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

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.

SANITY

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.

MAGIC POINTS

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.

Handy chart for calculating half and fifth values

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

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.

Build and damage bonus chart from the Keeper’s Rulebook

Use the chart above to fill in your Build and Damage Bonus on your character sheet.

DODGE

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.

List of Skills on the Investigator Sheet

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.

OCCUPATIONAL SKILLS

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.

Bob Wilkes Characteristics

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.

PERSONAL SKILLS

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.

CREDIT RATING

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.

Personal Description

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.

Ideology/Beliefs

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.

Significant People

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.

Meaningful Locations

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.

Treasured Possessions

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.

Traits

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.

Additional Details

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.

In Conclusion

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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How to Play Call of Cthulhu Part 1 – Getting Started

Cthulhu is calling

Introduction

Hello everyone, it’s Slick Dungeon here. Over the past couple of years I have posted on this blog about my love of role playing games and I have mentioned Call of Cthulhu as one of the games I play several times.

I thought for those who are unfamiliar with this game and how it works I could do a series of posts to help you get started. I’ve seen lots of articles like this but they all seem to assume you’ve at least played role playing games before and sometimes that you’ve played this role playing game before.

These posts will be for those who are interested in playing the horror themed tabletop role playing game but are newcomers to it. I’ll be starting with the basics and give you a rundown of more of the nitty gritty rules in future posts.

If you’ve ever considered playing this game but might be on the fence, let me be your guide and you can decide if it is right for you. Also, let me know if you find this useful or have any feedback for me so I can tailor these entries towards those most interested.

Just in case you have never heard of this game and have no idea what a tabletop role playing is, let me lay it out for you.

A tabletop role playing game is a shared narrative between a group of people. Typically it involves one person taking on the role of a Game Master (in Call of Cthulhu referred to as a Keeper) who guides the group through the story. Not only does this individual control the monsters and other villains who populate the game, they play all of the non-player characters as well. If you were to think of this in video game terms, it’s like being the writer of the game or the developer of the game. Only, unlike video games, the Keeper can actually adapt the story to what the players are doing in real time. The Keeper is also the final arbiter of the rules deciding what does and does not succeed in challenging situations. This usually takes a fair amount of preparation as well as a lot of improvising on the part of the Keeper to pull off well. But it can be a very rewarding experience.

The rest of the people playing are characters. Their characters are who play through the game. In video game terms this would be your avatar. Only, unlike video games, you won’t hit any walls you can’t go past or things the computer just doesn’t allow you to do. You can try to do anything. You may not succeed but in almost all cases you can try. In Call of Cthulhu these characters are called Investigators.

Telling a shared narrative where many of the outcomes are determined by a random number generator in the form of dice is a unique experience and can be seriously rewarding. If you find a like minded group of people to do this with, you will be in for life-long memories. I recommend giving it a try at least once in your life.

If you want to play a game like this which is horror themed, Call of Cthulhu is out and out one of the best games there is to play. I’ll give you a quick overview of it below and provide you with some resources so you can get started with your very own campaign if you decide you want to try it.

The Cthulhu Mythos

Call of Cthulhu is all about Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Cosmic horror is otherworldly, immense, and unknowable. It’s the strange haze in the sky that seems to be making everyone who sees it sick. It’s the unseen bump in the night ready to grab you with its slimy, flesh rotten fingers. It’s the creatures from the depths of the ocean you never knew existed reaching over the side of the railing on your boat before you can do anything about it. It’s alien gods come to toy with humanity in unknown ways for unknown reasons. It’s your sanity slipping away as you finally come face to face with what the universe truly holds.

While there were some instances of cosmic horror prior to H.P. Lovecraft, he was the first one to create a whole mythos around these types of stories. You see some of the same characters, creatures and settings in different stories of his, creating a shared universe.

You don’t need to know a lot about cosmic horror, or H.P. Lovecraft’s work to play this game. There are some who would argue the game is even better when you don’t know about these things because you’re more likely to be surprised by what you are confronting.

In my opinion it can go either way. I have read several Lovecraft stories and other cosmic horror stories and I find knowing these stories does not take away the fun I have playing this game. I also know some people who play this game and have never read Lovecraft but still have a great time playing.

More important than knowing what cosmic horror is would be understanding what you’re comfortable playing with in a horror game. Call of Cthulhu is generally considered to be equivalent to a PG-13 rating as far as horror goes. I don’t know about you but I have seen some disturbing things in PG-13 movies I might not be comfortable role playing so knowing your limits is good before you get into this game.

In a future post I’ll have some advice on how to know your limits and if you are the Keeper, know how to stick to the limits of the group so everyone has a good time.

While the broad theme here is cosmic horror, there are all kinds of scenarios, time periods and different ways to play this game so you won’t necessarily be fighting against some horrific alien god. It just depends on what your group wants out of the game.

The Cthulhu mythos was invented by H.P. Lovecraft but tons of other writers have added to and re-interpreted these stories. So, while the mythos is the basis of the game, it’s not the only aspect of it out there. Don’t let the theme of cosmic horror limit your fun. Just know it is a horror game with horror elements so make sure you can handle that before you start.

H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft was an America pulp fiction writer in the 1920’s. He wrote stories such as The Dunwitch Horror, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, At the Mountains of Madness, and of course, The Call of Cthulhu. His stories sparked a legion of horror fans imaginations although he didn’t get much credit at the time. Notable authors from Stephen King to Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman and Matt Ruff were all inspired by his works in one way or another.

While it would be nice if we could believe all H.P. Lovecraft gave us were scary stories that are fun to read in the night, we have to address the racist in the room. Lovecraft, as a person, was a bigoted, xenophobic, racist person who wrote some truly awful things. If you don’t want to play this game on the basis of that alone, I cannot blame you. You would be justified in that decision.

However, one thing to keep in mind here is that the game is not the same as the man. Lovecraft did not come up with the role playing game and the makers of this game have repeatedly acknowledged the racism Lovecraft showed in his life. Even the Lovecraft Society who tries to keep his stories alive in the public disavows all of the racist history of the man.

I think one of the best shows to take on who Lovecraft was and show how his creations could be used while not ignoring his racism has to be Lovecraft Country. It’s a great show, full of cosmic horror and you can watch it on HBO Max. Do be warned though it’s graphic and violent and very bloody.

While some people might say you should read a lot of Lovecraft before playing this game, my recommendation would be just to read cosmic horror written by any author you enjoy. One I can recommend is Gunmetal Gods written by Zamil Akhtar. You absolutely do not have to have read H.P. Lovecraft to know what cosmic horror is.

All of this is just to say that while Lovecraft’s works clearly inspired this game, you do not have to agree with his view of the world to enjoy it. This is a diverse game that can be enjoyed by a diverse audience whether or not you know anything about H.P. Lovecraft. And in fact some of the best cosmic horror is set in Lovecraft’s mythos but written by diverse voices with interesting things to say about what might be found out there.

What You Need to Play

There are several ways to play Call of Cthulhu and as I mentioned there are versions of the game that are set in different time periods, some that are more action oriented, and even games you can play where you don’t need anything but yourself, a pencil, and a scenario to follow along with. For the purposes of these posts I am going to focus on the traditional version of Call of Cthulhu which usually takes place in the 1920’s in America. I should also mention this is for the 7th edition of the game which is the most current edition.

I’m going to list out everything you need to get started so let’s get right into it. You only need 4 things to get started.

1. Rules

To play this version of the game there are some things you need. First and foremost you need the rules. The quickstart rules are free on drivthrurpg.com or you can get them on the Chaosium website but you may have to pay for them there. Quickstart rules are the bare minimum of what you need to play but there are other books you can purchase if you know you are going to really get into this game.

You can also get the Keeper’s Rulebook and the Investigator’s Handbook. These are both available as PDF’s on drivethrurpg.com or if you want hardcover books you can get them at the Chaosium website.

Just to make it clear, you don’t need to buy either the Keeper’s Rulebook or Investigator’s Handbook in order to start playing. They’re nice to have and they are great books but test out the quickstart rules prior to paying for any hardcover or PDF books.

If you know already you plan to play this game longterm you will want the Keeper’s Rulebook. The Investigator’s Handbook adds a lot of value for players but it is not required to play the game. For that book I would recommend one person in your group have it and it be shared around with people at the table.

2. Dice

This game involves dice roles so you need some dice in order to play. While any standard set of gaming dice which includes a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20 and percentile die will do, for this game the most important dice are the d10 and percentile dice. A d10 is a ten sided die with numbers 0-9 on it. The percentile die is also a ten sided die but it usually has the tens places on it so 00-90. If you don’t have a percentile die you can simply use two d10’s as long as you are always consistent with which one is the ones place and which one is the tens place.

Another secret here is that while the set of 7 gaming dice will do, you actually do not need a d12 because Call of Cthulhu does not actually use that die for anything. If you play other role playing games it can be good to have though so I’d go for the set of seven dice.

3. Pencils and paper

You’ll need something to write with and to write on. Most likely you are going to want character sheets for your investigators. This is another free resource you can get on Drivethrurpg.com. You’ll probably want some extra paper as well just to jot down notes of what is happening during the session. It may not seem significant in the moment but if you end up playing long term this can be key to remembering what happened previously.

As far as what to write with I recommend pencils with erasers but if you want to live on the edge and use a pen, you do you.

4. People

You are going to need at least one person to play Call of Cthulhu. And by one person, I mean yourself. You can actually find several single player scenarios for this game if you don’t have other people to play with. I recommend starting with Alone Against the Flames. It not only has a compelling story, it also teaches you how to play and fill out the character sheet. If you are going to be the Keeper, I recommend playing this at least once on your own before playing with a group. And if you like it, there are several follow ups which are equally as fun but you will have to pay for those.

If you want to play with friends you can have as few as one other person to up to 4 other people play. Beyond that the groups can get a bit unwieldy to manage and with more people it does become harder to convey a horror feel. Some of the most intense games can be 1 on 1 where you just have a Keeper and an Investigator.

So find some likeminded people who are into role playing games and horror and you will be ready to get started. But, I have one more tip for you before you start. There is one great way to start with this game and while it isn’t completely free, it’s very reasonably priced.

The Starter Set

As far as everything I talked about that you need to start this game, there is one way I think is the best way to get going. You get the most bang for your buck with the starter set. If you already have dice then your best bet is getting it on drivethrurpg. And right now you can get it for $4.19. That’s a very good price to pay for hours of role playing. That will only get you the PDF’s however. If you want the full set with everything you see below get it on the Chaosium website. That will run you a little more at $24.99 but it’s cheaper than buying any of the hardcover books.

Call of Chtulhu Starter Set

This set is my favorite way to get new players involved in this game and it’s tons of fun. I’ve never regretted spending on this set and if you take nothing else from this post, this is my number one top recommendation of how to get started. Just find some friends and buy the starter set and you will be able to get going.

In Conclusion

Hopefully this post helped you to know where to start with playing Call of Cthulhu. As for whether or not this game is for you, that’s for you to decide. But if you do decide to play and want a more in-depth look at the game, keep your eye on this space as I walk us through the game.

Next time, I’ll take a much closer look at the character sheets and show you how to create an Investigator to play in your own scenario at home. In the meantime, if you’ve played this game, I’d love to hear how it went for you and what some of your top tips are for playing. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

And if you would like more free content about role playing games, consider signing up for my newsletter below.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

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Top 5 Tabletop RPG’s to play in 2022

You probably don’t need this many dice to play but it can’t hurt

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I wanted to talk about the top 5 roleplaying games I think you should play this year. Just a note, this list is designed for people who are newer to role playing games so if you are an experienced player or game master there’s a chance you already play several of these games. But you never know, maybe you’ll find something here you haven’t seen before!

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Without any further ado let’s get on with the list!

5. Call of Cthulhu: 7th Edition

Call of Cthulhu Starter Set

After Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu is my favorite role playing game of all time. Unlike the sword and sorcery of D&D this game starts its characters from a realistic place. Sure, you will end up fighting cosmic monsters, weird things from beyond the grave, and the unknowable fathoms of human evil but your characters are fundamentally fragile. In this game, a bullet is more than enough to kill your character. It’s usually best to avoid combat whenever possible but if you do get into combat, it’s usually a lot of fun. While this is a horror game, the horror level tends to be a roughly PG-13 vibe although as Keeper you can increase or decrease the intensity however you want. The rules system is pretty easy to learn although it does take some time to get used to. However, my main reason for putting this game on the list here besides all of that is the phenomenal starter set you can get for this game. In the set you get character sheets, dice, introductory rules and a couple of scenarios. You get all of this for $5.99 but right now on Drivethrurpg.com you can get it for just $4.49. And one thing to mention is that the scenario Alone Against the Flames which comes in the box, is a solo campaign. This means if you’re on the fence about whether your group will enjoy it or not you can play through a whole scenario (which also does a great job of teaching you the rules) by yourself to see if it’s something you are into. The price is really good here for what amounts to hours of fun. If you want to get the set and help out this blog click the image above or click right here to order your own set!

4. Tiny Dungeon: Second Edition

Tiny Dungeon: Second Edition

Tiny Dungeon is minimalist fantasy role play and when the game designers say that, they mean it. You can literally fit everything you need for your characters on a 3×5 index card. You only need d6 (the typical dice you find in most board games) and two people to get started. It is recommended you have one game master and three adventurers but you can do this game one on one and have a great time. If you have younger kids this can be a gateway into other role playing games as they get older. Also, if you have always wanted to play a role playing game but were intimidated by all the fancy books, little set pieces, and number of dice you see on a table, this is the perfect antidote to that problem. It’s fast to learn and fun to play. For this game there is not a starter set but it’s straight forward enough all you really need to start is in the PDF you can get on Drivethrurpg.com. That version retails for $17.99 but it’s on sale for $11.69 right now. But if you get are like me, you like to have your hands on a physical book. I’d recommend going with the PDF + Softcover black and white book option. This is usually $42.99 but you can get it today for $28.25. Again, if you want to help out this blog you can but through the image above or click here.

3. Traveller

Traveller Core Rulebook

A top 5 list of tabletop rpg’s would not be complete without at least one space game. There are licensed games for Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien just to name a few. I thought about putting one of those on this list but I think Traveller is great because it does not fall into our preconceived notions of those franchises. You get to have your own version of space in your head as you play. This book walks you through the rules, how to create characters, and basically everything you need to create an adventure to go explore the galaxy. Be forewarned, much like Dungeons & Dragons, there are a million books out there you can get so if you do start Traveller and enjoy it, you can end up getting in deep fast. If you are into space travel games this one is a great choice and it’s been around for a long time so it’s easy to find other people who have been playing a long time who can give you advice about running the game. Usually this book sells for $30.00 but you can get a mild discount today with a price of $25.50. Get your copy at the image above or by clicking here.

2. Worlds Without Number

Worlds Without Number by Kevin Crawford

In my mind Kevin Crawford is one of the most outstanding game designers out there. He has an excellent space rpg called Stars Without Number. It’s an expansive game with pretty clear rules and it was a definite hit in the tabletop rpg world. Now he has set his mind to sword and sorcery fantasy with Worlds Without Number. It’s fully compatible with its predecessor but you do not have to play that game for Worlds Without Number to be enjoyable. I would say this game is a little more gritty than D&D but it sort of takes the best parts of the OSR rules system and allows the great narrative of the 5th edition rule set of Dungeons & Dragons. The rules are unique to this game but if you have played D&D of any version you’ll catch on very quickly. It’s got a very sandbox feel, meaning you can make any kind of adventures you want to without feeling restricted by an adventure module of some kind. The best part of this, however, is that you can start this game for nothing. The free set of rules is quite comprehensive and does give you everything you need to get started. If you’re not sure if this game is for you, you can get the free version. Just scroll down on the description when you click the link in the image or click here. If you already know you like sword and sorcery role playing games, I do recommend you get the PDF which you can get for $16.99 today by clicking here.

1. Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition

Dungeons & Dragons Photo Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons & Dragons is the undisputed king of all role playing games. It’s the most popular, it’s hitting the cultural zeitgeist harder than ever before, and it’s easy to find in pretty much any book store, hobby shop, or toy store you go into. While not everyone in the world loves the game, and there is valid debate as to which edition is the most fun to play, I think the best version of this game ever is the 5th edition. It’s extremely flexible, it’s hours upon hours upon hour upon hours of fun. It can be full of humor, drama, horror, and lifelong memories. It’s understandable if you are intimidated by the sheer volume of what is out there but that’s part of why this game is so great. There are any number of resources at your fingertips. And while there are a million books for D&D 5th edition (not to mention miniatures, maps, and other supporting materials) you do not have to buy a single one of them to start playing. I always recommend new players simply go to the Dungeons & Dragons website and download the Basic Rules. The website will try to get you to buy the starter sets and essentials kits and stuff like that. Don’t start there. Take a look at the basic rules and give them a read through. If they are something you are into, get a group of friends together, play a game and decide if you want to commit to any more before you spend a dime. One thing you may need to pay for is a set of gaming dice but honestly, if you are okay just using an app on a phone, you don’t even need those. Also, if you happen to have kids who want to play this game but you’re not sure how to begin, check out my series on playing D&D with kids called Kids Kill Monsters. Honestly, I can’t recommend this game enough.

Well, that’s the list. What games are you looking forward to playing in the coming year? If you have any good recommendations drop them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Learn to Play Call of Cthulhu by Yourself for Free

Alone Against the Flame

Hey horror rpg fanatics, Slick Dungeon here and I want to tell you how you can learn to play Call of Cthulhu 7th edition for free, on your own time, with nothing to bother you except the terror of your own imagination.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Last week I named in my Top 5 Horror Tabletop Roleplaying Games post Call of Cthulhu as the number one horror RPG. I realize I haven’t talked much about this game on my blog but I have played and enjoyed it quite a lot.

However, one of my favorite ways to play this game is not with a gaming group at all but inside on a dark and dreary night with low lighting all by lonesome. I find this increases the scare factor considerably and luckily Chaosium has published several scenarios (what you would think of as an adventure or one-shot in D&D) where you don’t need a GM. You pretty much just need some dice, some paper, and something to write with.

While there are some options to purchase items in this post, if you just get the Alone Against the Flames and Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick Start Rules PDF’s you don’t have to pay anything to learn to play this game. I recommend starting there before getting your wallet out for anything else. Of course, if you’re like me you may be hooked and want to buy some further scenarios and rulebooks.

The way I learned to play the 7th edition of this game was with a scenario called Alone Against the Flames. To play the scenario you will need the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick Start Rules. You can get the PDF of both of these for $0. If you’re willing to spend just a bit of cash you can get a softcover edition of both of these books for $11 and $10 respectively. If you decide to pay the higher price, be sure to select the option that gives you both the PDF and the softcover. When you select the softcover you get the PDF for free so take advantage of that.

Personally, I recommend the softcover for Alone Against the Flames just because it’s easier to write in a book than on printed out pages that fly all over the place. I think it’s less essential for the rules but it can be nice to have a book to flip through.

Alright so what exactly is this scenario and why should you play it? That’s an excellent question I have asked myself. Here’s the answer. This scenario is set in the 1920’s in America, the classic setting for most of the CoC scenarios. This gives you a good feel for the tone of the game and the encroaching cosmic horror you will be facing off against.

In many ways it is like a choose your own adventure book but at the same time you will be building a character and learning how the rules of the game operate. Truth be told, as much as I love Dungeons & Dragons, I wish they had something like this. It can be hard to learn a new rule system in front of people so having an adventure (or scenario in this case) you can play to get a feel of both story and mechanics is extremely valuable.

I don’t want to give away spoilers for the scenario here but suffice it to say your character will end up somewhere that is not friendly and things are not at all what they seem.

I definitely recommend playing this alone because it just makes it more fun. It’s pretty easy to scare yourself but when you play with someone else there isn’t the same amount of terror you can feel. However, if you really want to play this with someone else, you definitely can. One of you would need to be the Keeper (Game Master) and the other the player. The scenario will still walk both of you through the rules and gives a great intro story.

Watch out for the ancient ones

If you do play this there are also some great follow up scenarios, although you are going to have to pay for those. To play them you would need the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Keeper’s Rulebook. You can also get this on drivethrurpg as a PDF but it’s going to cost you $27.95. If you’d rather have a hardcover you’ll need to go to the game publisher Chaosium’s website where you can get it for a heftier $54.95. While it’s costlier I do recommend the hardcover for this since it’s a book you’ll likely reuse.

The follow up scenarios are Alone Against the Dark another solo scenario which takes you to the year 1931 where you will travel from New York City to Greece, Egypt, Germany, and Antarctica. It’s guaranteed dangerous, meaning the scenario is going to be more challenging than Alone Against the Flames but if you have played that scenario, you’ll have a much better idea of how to survive this one. You can get this one for $6.95. Then there is Alone Against the Frost for $9.99 but this one can be used with the starter set if you have that. Here you go into the Canadian Northwest Territories in the 1920’s. this time they give you a character to play rather than one to create. Finally there is Alone Agains the Tide for $6.95 which can also be used with the starter set. In this one you take on the role of an investigator traveling to a remote lakeside town where strange things are happening. This one has a pre-generated character but you could also use one you have made yourself. All of these are pretty fun scenarios to play by yourself or with one friend. All of them are also good introductions to how to play the game. If you play all of these you’ll definitely understand how it works and maybe you’ll be inspired to play a live game with others or even become a Keeper.

My recommendation is to play at that time of night when you hear bumps and creaks at home and think, “what was that noise?” and answer, “It could be anything.” It makes it a lot more terrifying.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Horror Tabletop Role Playing Games

Storytellers Vault

Hello internet, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I hate when people go on with long intros in their top 5 lists so I will get right to the point. These games are fun to play if you like horror. Check ’em out!

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. Vampire the Masquerade

Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition

Most people think the world is how it seems. Nothing supernatural or strange happens to most of us. Until you are turned into a vampire and enter a complex, violent world full of political intrigue, horror, and most of all a never ending hunger that cannot be ignored. The fifth edition of Vampire the Masquerade is the most current but this game has been around for decades. The idea of it was that players could get to be the monsters. This one is definitely not for children and comes with a warning that it’s for the mature. If you play this game with your gaming group, make certain everyone understands what lines they would not want crossed while playing. It can be a ton of fun to play a bloodsucker in the night who not only has to control their hunger but also needs to keep from ticking off the much older, much badder vampire who doesn’t want them around. It’s a surprisingly complex game but the rules are pretty quick to learn and it has endless opportunity to touch on themes of horror, death, and what it truly means to live. You can get the core rulebook as a PDF from the Storytellers Vault for just $25.

4. Alien: The Role playing Game

Alien: The Role Playing Game Starter Set

In space and on your tabletop no one can hear you scream. Watching Alien was one of the first times in my life when a film experience truly terrified me. The tabletop RPG is great at evoking the same feeling. I recommend dipping your toes in with the starter set which comes with the rulebook, a scenario to play and 5 pre-generated characters plus a bunch of supporting materials like maps, markers and cards. You can get it on drivethrurpg for just $20. The rules take a minute to get used to but if you are an experienced role player, you’ll catch on fairly quickly. This one is also not recommended for kids but if your kid loves watching scary movies like I did, you can always adapt it a bit and make it more action-oriented and a little less graphic. It is pretty heavy on the body horror so if that is not for you, well, you’re probably not an Alien fan in the first place. One thing to note is that the starter set does not involve the Xenomorph, the most well known of the creatures from Alien. Some people complain about this but when they do I remind them that Ripley doesn’t really go toe to toe with the queen until the end of the movie, so it makes sense not to just pull that out right off the bat.

3. Dungeons & Dragons: The Curse of Strahd

I know, D&D is it’s own RPG but when it comes to 5th edition there is no horror campaign that surpasses Curse of Strahd. What’s great about this book is how flexible it is. While it touches on dark themes and can be as scary as Vampire the Masquerade if you want it to be, you can also make it a bit goofy and silly making it a good one for kids. Just read ahead before you play with kids so you aren’t caught off guard by the hags who cook children or anything along those lines. While it’s definitely on the pricier side, I really like Curse of Strahd: Revamped. This gives you the book, maps, a super cool stat block for the big bad guy, a tarokka deck to use in the adventure and some gothic postcards that perfectly capture the feeling of Barovia in the domains of dread. This particular campaign is super fun to both DM and to play in.

2. Kids on Bikes

Kids on Bikes

The Goonies, E.T., Stranger Things, what do they all have in common? There are kids. They are on bikes. As simple as it sounds this is the perfect set up for a horror themed RPG. It’s set in the days before your mom could text you to make sure you were safe or you could google who died in the creepy old mansion before you enter it on a dare. The rules are very quick to learn and the game play starts right up. You can sort of ratchet the horror level to what you like as far as fear goes so this is good with a group of kids or adults. You can get the core PDF for just $10 on drivethrurpg. Another really interesting aspect of this one is that you co-create the town as you play and it has powered characters who can be influenced by both the GM and the players. This makes things go from predictable to unpredictable very quickly.

1. Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhu

There is a reason this RPG shows up at the top of everyone’s horror list. There is no better game at setting the mood for terror and delivering abject horror to your players. While it’s most often set in the 1920’s America, you can actually place this game in virtually any time period. The game is based on Lovecraftian stories and creatures but it does incorporate more than that if you want it to. This is another one where I recommend first getting a little taste with the starter set. You can get the starter set on drivethrurpg for just $6 at the time of this posting. In there you get an intro book, a rule book, three starter adventures, five pre-generated investigator sheets, some blank investigator sheets, and player handouts. In total you get four different adventures in one box which is more than I can say for any other starter set I know of. The theme of the game is cosmic horror but it touches on all kinds of terrors. Your characters aren’t wizards and barbarians who don’t ever truly feel threatened because they can just heal after combat. Instead you are human investigators, susceptible to all the pain and damage a human can take and your job is to take on strange, alien creatures from deep in the cosmos, all while hoping to retain whatever sanity you have. This is a game where some kids can handle it and some can’t. If you play with kids who grow super attached to their characters, this game is not recommended because they are extremely likely to die. Also, one thing I do like about this game is that they make several solo adventures (one of which is included in the set) so even if you can’t get your gaming group together, you can still play.

Well, Happy October everyone! I hope you liked my list. Did I miss your favorite horror game? If so, let me know in the comments! Also, if you have played one of these, how did you like it?

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon