Now Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition goes some way in allaying this issue. In presents numerous Occupations, but also encourages a player to create a Backstory, including Personal Description, Ideology/Beliefs, Significant People, Meaningful Locations, Treasured Possessions, and Traits. Optional rules also provide alternative means of creating Investigators, as well as Experience Packages that can further round out an Investigator, though at a cost of some Sanity. What though, if there was a volume which would go even further, to help a player create even more interesting Investigators, with detailed backgrounds and histories, which would be even more engaging and interesting to roleplay and interact with? Heinrich’s Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation is such a tome.
Heinrich’s Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation is inspired by the series of books published in the early nineties by Task Force Games that include Central Casting: Heroes of Legend, Central Casting: Heroes Now, and Central Casting: Heroes for Tomorrow. They provided tools for interesting Player Character generation—in addition to the mechanics and numbers provided by the roleplaying game that the Player Character was being created for—for their respective genres, and so does Heinrich's Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation. The book also works with Pulp Cthulhu: Two-fisted Action and Adventure Against the Mythos as some of the entries do veer into the fantastic. The volume takes the Investigator through the four steps of his life prior to becoming involved with the Mythos and entering play, from Origins through Childhood and Adolescence to Adulthood, the player rolling on the tables as necessary, and sometimes also being asked to make skill or attribute rolls as well. What is made clear is that neither the player nor the Keeper has to adhere to the outcome of any roll. Indeed, both are encouraged to cheat if it will make a more interesting Investigator or NPC, and anyway, even if not using dice the entries on the innumerable tables in the Heinrich's Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation are ultimately nothing more than prompts to the imagination.
To it necessary to really see what we are contrasting in Heinrich's Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation and so the following is an Investigator who has appeared in numerous forms. He is a Boston antiquarian, a would be academic whose experiences in the Great War left him partially deaf and unsuited to the rigours of university life.
age 44, Antiquarian
STR 40 SIZ 85 CON 45 DEX 70
APP 75 INT 80 POW 65 EDU 91
SAN 58 Luck 75 Damage Bonus +1d4 Build 1
Move 7 HP 12
Brawl 35% (17/7), damage 1D3+db, or by weapon type
Rifle/Shotgun 35% (17/8), damage 2D6/1D6/1D3 (Ithaca Hammerless Field 20G 2.75” calibre shotgun)
Handgun 30% (15/7), damage 1d10+2 (Colt New Service (M1909) .45 LC calibre revolver)
Dodge 35% (17/7)
Skills: Appraise 45%, Archaeology 26%, Art/Craft (Book Restoration) 49%, Art/Craft (Painting) 26%, Artillery 40%, Climb 30%, Credit Rating 45%, Firearms (Handguns) 30%, Firearms (Rifle/Shotgun) 35%, First Aid 50%, History 55%, Library Use 50%, Navigate 20%, Occult 20%, Persuade 40%, Pilot (Boat) 26%, Psychology 31%, Spot Hidden 45%, Stealth 25%, Swim 40%, Track 20%.
Languages: Ancient Greek 41%, English (Own) 91%, Latin 51%.
Personal Description: Tall and thin, just shy of infirm, bespectacled and inquisitive.
Treasured Possessions: Latin-English Primer
Traits: Introspective but curious, softly spoken, but firm in manner
Phobias: Ligyrophobia – Fear of loud noises.
Notes: Immune to sanity losses resulting from viewing a corpse or gross injury.
Heinrich's Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation will build in elements that will potentially include Personal Description, Traits, Ideology/Beliefs, Injuries & Scars, Significant People, Phobias & Manias, Meaningful Locations, Arcane Tomes, Spells, & Artifacts, Treasured Possessions, and Encounters with Strange Entities, but begins with a point spread of characteristics. Similarly, it assumes a similar point spread for both Occupational skills and Non-Occupational skills, and builds from there. What the volume does not do is include tables to determine the Investigator’s race, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, these being all very personal choices and it should not be a case of a random roll determining something that a player might uncomfortable portraying in game. Similarly, the tables do not reflect the social, cultural, and legal prejudices prevalent during the Jazz Age or the Desperate Decade, the primary settings for Lovecraftian investigative roleplaying. Again, such choices are very much left up to the Keeper and her players to decide upon.
The creation process is methodical, step-by-step, sometimes sending off the player or Keeper off to a separate table way in the back in the book—so it does involve a lot of flipping back and forth—to roll on another table to get another detail. Some entries instruct the player or Keeper to add a detail here or assign there. For example, ‘Bookworm’ is an entry in the ‘Childhood Events’ table and informs the player or keeper that the Investigator or NPC was studious and curious as a child, always asking questions or reading a book. The Keeper or player is then instructed to assign the highest remaining characteristic score to the Education of the NPC or Investigator and suggests ‘Book Dealer’ and ‘Librarian’ be listed under Potential Occupations.
age 44, Book Dealer
Place of Birth: Germany
Social Status: Extremely Wealthy
Occupation: Book Dealer
Potential Occupations: Librarian, Book Dealer, Professor
STR 40 SIZ 50 CON 50 DEX 50
APP 50 INT 70 POW 60 EDU 80
SAN 60 Luck 84 Damage Bonus None Build 0
Move 8 HP 12
Brawl 25% (12/6), damage 1D3+db, or by weapon type
Rifle/Shotgun 45% (22/11)
Dodge 35% (17/7)
Skills: Accounting 45%, Appraise 55%, Art/Craft (Painting) 21%, Credit Rating 70%, Cthulhu Mythos 05%, Drive Auto 60%, History 75%, Library Use 70%, Navigate 30%, Occult 45%, Own Language (German) 80%, Other Language (English) 61%, Other Language (Latin) 61%, Persuade 50%, Pilot (Boat) 21%, Psychology 30%, Swim 40%
Albert Johansen was born in Germany to an Extremely Wealthy family and was expected to be a great scholar (Destiny). He was brought up by his mother, his father having been killed in an automobile accident which left her blind in her right eye. He has a younger sister. During his childhood, he was frightened of taking a bath, believing there to be a monster in the water pipes, but as he grew older, the members of the hunting lodge his father had belonged to took an interest in his upbringing and encouraged to learn to shoot and enjoy other field sports. As a boy, he was studious and religious coming to believe that he was Blessed (gains the relevant handout which grants bonuses in play, plus extra Luck) after adopting the faith of his father (Turn of Faith). He was surprised to receive an invitation at Miskatonic University (Invitation to Study), having expected to study at home, but there discovered the Professors’ Conspiracy investigating some dread powers. Your involvement led to an encounter with a living flame, which injured your throat (gaining the handout, ‘The Injured’), scarring your neck (Body Scars) and leaving you with a raspy voice. You returned home and much to your family’s surprise entered the book trade. You were apprenticed to Herr Emil Winter, who provided to be more than a book dealer. Indeed, he was a Magician who was able to teach him one spell at least.
This is only the start and it is possible to explore numerous aspects of the Investigator or NPC. Events can occur as part of his Occupation, he can engage in romances and build a family life, suffer fortune and misfortune, join the military, get caught up in crime and even end up incarcerated or institutionalised due to mental illness, go on an expedition, including to the Amazonia and Antarctica, come to the attention of a secret government agency, and even venture into the Dreamlands and other dimensions. There is the chance of experiencing some kind of event that will become part of a campaign—as decided or chosen by the Keeper, that the Investigator or NPC be kidnapped or have to put up with a nosy neighbour, be possessed, and a whole more, all supported by table upon table! Handouts cover strange events which will have long lasting in-game effects, such as suffering ‘The Innsmouth Look’ or becoming ‘A Friend of Ghouls’. These do push the campaign towards a more Pulp style, but add flavour and detail. Even at the most basic functions, the tables in Heinrich's Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation are just lists of prompts—certainly too many to count. If perhaps the one table that is underwhelming, it is the one of names, but to be fair, covering that in this book would probably double the page count!
Physically, Heinrich's Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation is busily laid out with table upon table. It is decently written and liberally illustrated with both period photographs and painted pieces.
Heinrich's Call of Cthulhu Guide to Character Creation is fantastic toolkit. Of course, it is too much perhaps to create an Investigator or NPC with any rapidity. There are just too many tables to roll on and options to choose from, but between games, this is a superb resource to consult and gently create interesting and detailed characters. It very much has the feel of a solo adventure book, but one which creates a character by the end rather than at the beginning, equipped with a treasure trove of experiences and details that the player or Keeper can draw upon.