New Year, New Character Day 17: Call of Cthulhu
New Year, New Character
Call of Cthulhu
To some, it can come across as overly dark and nihilistic. Why bother finding out what the mysterious statue represents, or what happened to the eccentric artist cousin of yours, if all you were going to find was death and madness? The stars will, one day, be right, the Old Ones will arise, and the age of man will come to a close, after all. But, for me, it's the very bleakness that makes the glimpses of light and the potential heroism of the PC's that much more bright. Yes, the Old Ones will arise, but through your skill, luck, and determination, you might be able to push if off for one more century, or year, or even a single day. It may mean nothing in the long arc of the universe. Hell, our lives may mean nothing in the long arc of the universe. But, for that one day, your lives mean everything. And that is a victory all its own.
There have been a number of editions for CoC over the years, and one of its great virtues is how compatible they all are with each other. From 2nd-6th edition, the rules changed only slightly, and an adventure or supplement written for one could be run pretty much "as is" with any other. 7th changes things up slightly, but the core is still the same, a testament to how much they got right the first time. Since I am limited by my self-imposed rules for this series to only use games I have in print, I will be using the 5th Edition of the game.
Call of Cthulhu's Character Creation is a bit of a mishmash. There are 9 attributes which are rolled randomly (most on a scale of 3-18). From these, one then generates varied derived stats, such as Idea, Hit Points, and Sanity Points. The attributes also determine how many skills points one gets to spend, and skills are based on a percentile skill. The main choice a player can make is in their Occupation, the closest thing the game has to a "class," though it just boils down to a select list of skills that they can put their "primary" pool of skill points into. I'll explain in more detail as we approach each step.
Step 0: Concept
I don't necessarily need to do this step, as what decisions I do need to make will be as a result of the characters attributes. There are a few things I want to set ahead of time, though. This character will take place in the "classic" CoC era of the 1920's, as opposed to the modern world or the 1800's. For gender, I flip a coin and decide this character will be a woman. I then turn to the Everyone, Everywhere List and go to the "pulp/noir" section. Her name will be Patsy McLeod.
Step 1: Determine Characteristics
Now I need to roll Patsy's attributes. Different attributes use different dice to roll them. Most will use 3d6, so I start with those. Here's what I get:
- Strength (STR) 14
- Constitution (CON) 17
- Power (POW) 10
- Dexterity (DEX) 12
- Appearance (APP) 14
- Size (SIZ) 13
- Intelligence (INT) 15
- Education (EDU) 20
As the example above should so, Call of Cthulhu's Character Creation is...fiddly. Lot's of rolling, and then calculating based on those rolls, and then pools for THESE kinds of skills, and a different pool for THOSE kinds of skills. Honestly, trying to explain it can make it sound overwhelming.
But, the book does a wonderful job breaking it up into manageable chunks, allowing even novices to quickly and easily create an interesting character. Not only that, but it can be quite fun, as you're never quite doing the same math or the same decisions twice. The only real concern I have with CoC is the "the more skills, the dumber the character" that affects such systems. But, this isn't as bad in CoC as it might be in another system, due to the game's emphasis on how tiny, weak, and fundamentally mortal the PC's are. Besides, creating a new character is fairly quick, all things considered, so when Patsy goes mad or is devoured by something from beyond human ken, making a replacement character won't keep me out of the game for long.
Here's her final sheet.