Call of Cthulhu Investigator Relationships, Fiasco-style
After years of D&D, Eclipse Phase, and Pathfinder, my gaming group is finally getting down to some Call of Cthulhu. And since we’re not fucking about, I’ll be running Chaosium’s legendary Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign.
I played my first game of Fiasco at PAX East last weekend. I decided on the spur of the moment to grease the wheels on our character creation session a bit by stealing Fiasco’s index card method for setting up relationships between characters.
I put an index card between each player at the table. Their PC would have a strong tie to the person on their left, and to the person on their right — strong enough that following them to chase down murderous cultists wouldn’t be implausible.
It worked great! We ended up with the following PCs and relationships:
- A skeptical ex-soldier who’d been conscripted into the Great War early in his university years, employee of a wealthy antiquarian.
- The antiquarian, once an artifact hunter for a government agency, now a supplier of ancient curiosities to museums and collectors. He in turn regularly employed…
- …a smuggler, formerly an acquirer of officer luxuries for the Army quartermaster corps during the Great War.
- The smuggler’s uncle, a successful lawyer, who during the War gave legal counsel to the skeptical soldier.
My fifth player wasn’t present, but to keep things symmetrical, her character will know exactly two other PCs.
Since it’s a globetrotting CoC game, I then had the group come up with one NPC contact on each continent (they don’t yet know which ones will be relevant). Each of these NPCs has a strong connection to at least one PC — strong enough to step in as a group member if anyone dies or goes insane far from the investigators’ home base in Chicago.
I didn’t have a chart of relationships handy for our group, but here’s one you can use for Masks, or for just about any 1920s CoC campaign.
It’s given in the numbered format used by Fiasco playsets, but I don’t actually recommend randomizing like you’d do in Fiasco. Give it to players as inspiration. Unlike Fiasco relationship charts, these relationships are designed to encourage cooperation between investigators, rather than setting them up for later conflict.
- Home Town
- Aunt/Uncle & Nephew/Niece
- Old School Chums
- Spiritual Leader & Congregant
- Businessperson & Employee
- Shopkeeper & Supplier
- Secret Society Members
- Student & Advisor
- Museum Curator & Acquirer
- Doctor & Patient
- Librarian & Researcher
- Greek House Members
- Chattering Classes & Bohemians
- Correspondent & Editor
- Entertainer & Fan
- Reporter & Source
- Artist & Patron
- Revolutionary & Tradesperson
- Occultist & Aspirant
- Officer & Soldier
- Comrades in Arms
- Civil Servant & Official
- Cop & PI
- Party Operative & Supporter
- Agent & Asset
- Fence & Contact
- Smuggler & Customer
- Prostitute & Client
- Lawyer & Defendant
- Hired Gun & Boss
- Detective & Snitch
- The Smart Set
- Sporting Partners
- Financial Professional & Client
- Alienist & Patient
- Dilettante & Bodyguard
- Collector & Antiquarian
- Heir/Heiress & Advisor
Important thing to keep in mind: These relationships don’t have to be in the present; they could well be in the characters’ pasts. But if so, they should have been strong enough for the characters to trust each other and work together years later.
Going insane is so much better among friends, after all.