Many of you have heard of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game made by Chaosium, but it doesn't quite enjoy the popularity of a game as big as D&D so maybe you aren't as familiar with it. For those of you looking to play a game of Lovecraftian horror, I'm here to de-mystify the process a bit. We'll start by making a character. We'll be using the 7th edition quick start rules for the game, which are available for free in digital form from Chaosium. The rules here are identical to those found in the full rulebooks, barring a few less occupations and the exclusion of the optional magic rules. So let's go step by step.
1. Determine your characteristics- The characteristics are your stats or attributes that define your character. They are as follows:
2. Note half and fifth values- Okay so we need to do a bit of math now. but doing it now saves us from doing it later. Every characteristic you just assigned? Write down half of the value and one fifth of the value. For example this means that a 40 would have a half value of 20 and a fifth value of 8. If you're using the official sheets, they'll have a space for this next to the full value. Why are we doing this? Because sometimes the game calls for harder checks. normally, you'll roll against your full value for checks. But for hard checks, you might have to succeed at a target of half values, or fifth values for extremely difficult checks.
3. Secondary attributes- Roll your luck stat, and then derive your build, damage bonus, hitpoints, and sanity from your other stats. You'll be needing these later. Especially that sanity score.
4. Pick your occupation- This is kind of like your character's class. It's what they do for a living, and sort of the role they fill in the story. Mostly, it just determines where you can put your skill points. The quick start rules gives you a short list like antiquarian and doctor of medicine, but there are more in the full rules, especially the Investigator's Handbook.
5. Spend occupation skill points- In the quick start rules, you're given some fixed number values for skills, and you can put them anywhere among your occupation's list of approved skills, as well as Credit Rating, which everybody gets. Go ahead and do that. in the full rules, you get skill points to allocate here, not fixed values. There's a reason for this, which largely has to deal with the next section. Make sure you're looking at the skill's base value as well, as indicated on the character sheet. Be sure to add that to any skill points you spend in that skill, as well as fill it in for any skills you don't raise at all.
6. Spend your personal interest skill points- In the quick start rules, you get some fixed number values to assign to any skills not in your occupations skill set. These are lower than your occupation skills, and generally represent a "hobby" level of training rather than true proficiency. In the full rules, you can actually put these points in any skills, including occupational ones, if you wanted to raise those higher. Make sure you're looking at the skill's base value as well, as indicated on the character sheet. Be sure to add that to any skill points you spend in that skill, as well as fill it in for any skills you don't raise at all.
7. Note half and fifth values (again)- As you did with stats, note half and fifth values for skills. Again, this bit of math is so you don't have to do it later, when those hard checks are called for.
8. Name, Personality, Backstory, Equipment- this is where you fill in the juicy bits that make your character unique. The character sheet has some suggestions (important places, important people, important items etc.) but ultimately it's up to you. Having at least one primary connection is important though, so make sure you have at least something to that effect. likewise, equipment is handled a bit more freeform here, as your wealth isn't tracked and spent in the same way as most games. Check with your Keeper (that's Call of Cthulhu's GM) to see how they want to handle that.
And that should be all you need to play Call of Cthulhu. Well, that and a Keeper to run the game for you. Unless of course you want to play by yourself. Which you can totally do. Call of Cthulhu has several scenarios designed for solo-play, including the free Alone Against the Flames put out by Chaosium explicitly for new players, or my own popular scenario Alone Against the Tide, which is available for PWYW (including free). Either way, you're ready to play.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. For more from me, feel free to check out my personal blog. Until next time…Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.