Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Ernest Hemingway - Cthulhu Investigator!

With a new Call of Cthulhu campaign imminent (Kelvin will be running Tatters of the King), I've turned my attention to generating a character. The game begins in London in 1929, I believe, and we're meant to be rolling up characters who live within the artistic community - actors, artists, drug dealers, etc. After mulling this over, I thought it might be fun playing a character who was - or would become - famous. I might risk changing the course of history, however, if he dies or goes mad in the course of his adventures, but with the Keeper amenable, I have alighted on American author Ernest Hemingway.

A young Hemingway
As with any CoC character, you need to generate stats first. For this, I needed to look back over Hemingway's early life, to try to get a feel to who he was as a person and thus a measure of some of his key physical attributes.

Hemingway graduated from high school, but did not attend college, so taking his high school graduation age (17) and subtracting his starting school age in Illinois in 1904, I get an EDU of 12, which seems appropriate ("an Education of 12 suggests a high school graduate," confirms the Call of Cthulhu core rules). I'll add an extra point due to some work experience at the Kansas City Star to take it to 13.

While not university educated. Hemingway was obviously intelligent and a keen observer of human behaviour, so I feel this warrants an above average INT - I'll go with 16. "Intelligence represents how well investigators learn, remember and analyse, and of how aware they are of what is around them," say the core rules. This was Hemingway down to a tee. Perhaps even 16 is too conservative?

Hemingway was also something of a ladies' man, and had a number of wives in the course of his life. By the time he was 30 he was already on his second wife, American fashion journalist Pauline Pfeiffer. I allocated him an APP score of 16, although APP rarely seems to have much of a mechanical role in CoC.

While it is difficult to assess whether Hemingway had any access to magical spells, Power is an indication of "force of will" say the core rules. I'd argue that Hemingway at 29-30 was still a man possessed of a high degree of force of will and personality, and certainly above average in that respect. It ought not to be in the average range of 9-12, but neither as high as 16. I go with 15.

Hemingway in his WW1 uniform
Hemingway was a man interested in sports, although not necessarily an amazing athlete. He was, by the age of 30, already a keen fisherman and sailor (he visited Key West for the first time in 1928). This requires a decent STR and CON score. He was still a healthy man, although he occasionally succumbed to illnesses in hostile climes. He contracted anthrax while on honeymoon in France in 1927, and later contracted amoebic dysentery while on safari in Kenya (1933). He also succumbed to pneumonia in the Hurtgen Forest while covering the fighting there in WW2 (although he was admittedly older by this time in his life). This points to a susceptibility to disease, although it would hard to describe him in his twenties as sickly, and he bounced back from serious injuries sustained during the First World War. Hence, I give him a STR of 13 and a CON of 10. In terms of size, he was not a large man, so again, a more average stat is needed here - 12. It is very difficult to assess his physical speed and reaction time, but as he does not seem to have been a natural athlete, I give him a DEX of 10, average, but not ponderous.

Hemingway served as a medical corpsman with the Allied armies in Italy in 1918, where he was wounded and almost lost his leg. He was also witness to the shelling of a field hospital by Axis forces. Hence, I trim some points of SAN from his initial score, which would have been 75. I dock him four points for his war service, leaving him at 71.

Hemingway (left) in Paris in the 1920s
Onto the skills. I am using the Foreign Correspondent template from the excellent Investigator's Companion (Chaosium, 1994). Hemingway had already published some short stories and his first successful novel by 1928 - The Sun Also Rises - and was just finishing off his second book, A Farewell To Arms. However, he was still sustaining himself via his career as a columnist and journalist, writing articles for newspapers and magazines in the US. Hemingway gets Bargain, Conceal, Fast Talk, Hide, Other Language, Persuade, Psychology and Sneak. On top of that, he is well-connected, although his connections at this stage in his career were more in the literary and artistic fraternity. While living in Paris in the Twenties, he regularly went out drinking with the likes of Pablo Picasso and James Joyce, and was also friends with Gertrud Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Hemingway has 15 x EDU to spend on his career skills, giving him 195 points. I first spend some points on his languages: Italian 15%, Spanish 25%, and French 40%. Psychology ought to be fairly high for a man with such an eye for the human character, so I give him 50 points, for a total of 55%. Fast Talk and Bargain are next in priority, so I split 30 points between them. This leaves me with 30 points for Conceal, Hide and Sneak - I put 10 points in each.

On to his general skills, and here we get 5 x INT. Again, Hemingway scores well, with 80 points to spend. Looking over the CoC career list we find a few skills that ought to be purchased to account for his background. I put 15 points into Art (this man used to hang with Picasso in Paris), 20 into First Aid (he was a trained medical orderly), 25 into Credit Rating, five into Pharmacy, and 10 into Rifle (to reflect his military training and his early interest in hunting).

Ernest Hemingway, American writer and journalist, 29


STR 13, CON 10, DEX 10, INT 16, APP 16,  SIZ 12, EDU 13, POW 15, SAN 71, Hit Points 11

Dodge 20%; Luck 75%, Magic Points 15, Damage Bonus: +1d4

Skills: Art 20%, Bargain 20%, Conceal 25%, Credit Rating 40% (50% in the US), Fast Talk 20%, First Aid 50%, Hide 20%, Pharmacy 5%, Rifle 35%, Sneak 20%.

Other Languages: Italian 15%, Spanish 25%, French 40%.

Background: Ernest Hemingway is in Europe to research a new book. He is visiting London partly to promote his recently-published work, A Farewell To Arms, and raise his profile with the British public. He is planning to continue his journey to Spain in the near future to research a new work on bull fighting, but is lingering on in London for a few more weeks. His wife and two sons will be joining him in Spain.

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