Default Skill Characteristics in Call of Cthulhu

I like the skill-based system in Call of Cthulhu, but I’ve always thought that characteristics are somewhat underutilised, so I’ve decided to add the following house rule to my game…

A player may suggest the use of a characteristic instead of a skill roll to increase their chance of success, attempting the roll at one level higher difficulty: Normal requires a Hard Success, Hard an Exceptional Success, and Exceptional a Critical. The Keeper must deem the suggested characteristic appropriate: such as DEX for Throw or CON for Swim.

Example: Harvey Walters is facing a Dark Young, armed with a bundle of dynamite. The Keeper asks for a Normal Throw roll. Harvey only has Throw 20%, so his player asks if he can use Harvey’s DEX 55 characteristic instead. The Keeper agrees, pointing out that the difficulty will increase from Normal to Hard, so a roll under 27 is still required, only somewhat improved.

A successful characteristic roll that is also successful against the original skill will result in an experience check for that skill. This effectively makes it a combined characteristic/skill roll with a different level of difficulty between the two. If you don’t like the crunch, ignore this part of the rule.

Example: Harvey chucks his dynamite, rolls a 17, and it lands at the monster’s feet. There’s a bang and bits go flying. The Keeper gives Harvey an experience check in Throw because he rolled under his original skill as well as succeeding with his Hard characteristic roll.

Skills aren’t tied to a single characteristic. The applicable characteristic might vary depending on the situation: DEX instead of Firearms skill to fire a weapon; EDU instead of the same Firearms skill to determine its antiquity.

Final Thoughts

I like this house rule because it always seemed odd that an investigator could have a particularly high characteristic without being any better than the next individual when it came to related skills, especially those with a physical aspect like Climb or Swim.

This house rule might also help to level out any inconsistent ‘value’ between different characteristics. APP (Appearance) becomes much more useful as it’s the logical choice to use instead of the social skills Charm, Fast Talk and Persuade. And it seems logical to use SIZ (Size) or STR (Strength) instead of Intimidate.

I’ve seen other folks suggesting variations of the same house rule, so my suggestion certainly isn’t a new idea. I think it could be particularly suitable to Pulp Cthulhu with those extremely high characteristics for Archetypes.


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