Tabletop RPG Review: Call of Cthulhu Investigator Handbook

As I mentioned in my review of the Keeper Rulebook, I had been pretty annoyed when I saw that the 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu was going to be split into two books, one for keepers, one for players.  Maybe if I’d done my research, I’d have found out that it wasn’t and that the Investigator Handbook is a nice resource, but not a necessary one.  Shows me, I guess. 

While not necessary, the Investigator Handbook is an excellent resource, especially for new players.  It features the H.P. Lovecraft short story The Dunwich Horror, so if your players are unfamiliar with Lovecraftian horror, they can get a nice primer for mood and content.  After that, there’s a section on creating your investigator.  While this pretty much covers the same territory as the Keeper Rulebook does, it adds more depth and options.  There’s more with occupations your investigator might have, a more thorough explanation of skills, and more.  Plus there’s a great deal of setting information peppered throughout.  This book is definitely aimed at folks playing in the 1920s.  Not to say it wouldn’t be useful for other eras, but a lot of the sidebar information is specifically about the early 20th Century. 

After that, there’s a section about Investigator Organizations.  Now, this is something I’ve experimented with recently, but had never really gotten into in my earlier days of playing or running Call of Cthulhu.  I definitely see how useful it could be if you’re planning a longer term game.  The only time I ran anything like a ‘campaign’ where the same players with the same characters returned for further adventures in terror, the Investigators weren’t part of an official group, but all remained in contact after the shared trauma of what happened when they first met.  Perhaps, had the game continued or I had pushed them in the right direction, they’d have formed a more codified organization, but that’s not where my head was at then.  I think in the future, if I were to run a game intended to be long form, I’d push for the players to use an organization.  Either to make their own or to use one provided here.  In something like Masks of Nyarlathotep, it would be a huge help to have a reason for new Investigators to join in the fun after others get munched.  

Following that, there is a section exploring the 1920s, giving the player a sense of the time.  Then there’s a chapter of advice for players.  This is great, giving the players a sense of what they can do as well as how they can be an active and helpful part of the game, helping to make it more fun for the Keeper.  Then we move on to the final chapter which covers some general reference material, from a timeline through equipment and maps.  At the end, you’ve got character sheets for the 1920s and Modern that you can photocopy, or you can download them free from Chaosium and print them out, which is probably a better option in today’s work.

Overall, this is a really nice book.  It’s filled with evocative art, plenty of setting color, lots of useful advice and helpful hints, and generally handy material for a player in Call of Cthulhu.  It’s not at all a must have, but I think it could do wonders for new players.  I plan to have it out on the table when I run the game and to encourage players to flip through and check things out.  I’m not big on loaning out $45. books, so I won’t be sending it home with players so they can read it at their leisure.

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