Monday, 29 October 2018

Generating a new player character for The Laundry RPG

For those not in the know, The Laundry was a tabletop roleplaying game published by Cubicle 7 and based on the Laundry Files books of Charles Stross, a British science fiction writer. The stories tell the tale of a group of misfits working for the Laundry, a top secret UK counter intelligence agency that is tasked with protecting Britain - and the world - from various supernatural threats.

The stories, and the game, are a little more tongue in cheek than, say, Delta Green, and one of the biggest threats characters may face are the horrors of bureaucracy and inter-departmental politics which seem to crop up in any large organisation. The setting does have a typically British sheen to it, however, worthy of Ricky Gervais' The Office.

I'm exploring the core rules a little in the odd moment of spare time - work has been very busy of late, and as ever, I try to teach the rules to myself by first generating a player character. I find groups these days don't have the time for longer character generation sessions as we once did, hence like to have pregens, at least initially, when they are getting to grips with the system.

Hence, I sat down last night to create Harold Whitepole. Attributes are rolled in a similar way to Call of Cthulhu, on which The Laundry is based - it uses the same rules as Chaosium's BRP system, but with tweaks. The core attributes are the same, so I rolled and came up with:

Strength 14, Constitution 8, Power 8, Dexterity 11, Charisma 13, Intelligence 10, Size 16, Education 11.

This provides some derived attributes, as per CoC, including a +1d4 damage bonus for melee combat, a Dodge score of 22%, Sanity of 40, and 12 hit points. The Laundry gives him two additional derived attributes, a Major Wound Level of 6 and an XP bonus of +5%. The first measures whether or not he blacks out from serious physical injuries and the second aids him in learning from his experiences.

I also rolled for his age randomly, and came up with 24.

Based on Harold's attributes, I coloured in a bit of background for him, making him a big, cheerful chap, but a man out of shape, with a bit of a drinking problem (fond of too many beers with the lads) and a 40-a-day cigarette habit.

The Laundry approaches skills a little differently, and is more reminiscent of Cubicle 7's World War Cthulhu in that skills are determined by training and background packages. I rolled for Harold and came up with a Leader personality type, which gives me his first set of skills. This is then followed by his pre-Laundry background. I can see from his poor Education that he left school at 16. He was already coming to life in my eyes.

I decided to base Harold on some of the people I was at school with: privately educated but not very academic, Harold left school at 16 and has spent time in France, had a French girlfriend for a bit and also worked for a while at a major telecommunications firm, possibly in a job at Carphone Warehouse which his father secured for him.

Harold comes from an affluent background, his father is a successful lawyer and he has spent some time interning at his father's law firm. However, the law did not appeal to Harold, who preferred playing rugby and partying in London. His job at the Laundry has also been procured through family contacts. I gave Harold Dilettante as his background, which makes him Affluent in Laundry terms, although he's not been able to hold down a proper job to date. You can spend quite a few points on these skills.

A further batch of skills occur once you choose a department within the Laundry to work for, at least initially. I decided that Harold's father has got him a job in the Interdepartmental Liaison Group, where he has been working as an assistant liaison with the Home Office. A final basic training package comes at the end of the entire process, once the Laundry decides the character is needed for a stint 'in operations.'

His skill package now looks like this (operations training in parantheses):

Appraise 60%, Athletics (rugby forward) 45%, Bargain 25% Bureaucracy 35% (40%), Command 25%, Computer Use 15%, Etiquette 60%, Fast Talk 25%, Fine Manipulation Knowledge - Politics 35%, French 45%, English 75%, Perform - Act 25% (Drama GCSE perhaps), Persuade 45%, Sense 30%, Firearm - Shotgun 50% (killing pheasants), Firearm Pistol - 25%, Drive 45%, Research 70%, Pharmacy 26% (recreational drug habit which he is keeping to himself), Technology - Communications 40% (Carphone Warehouse job), Knowledge - Law 30% (internship with father's firm), Status 25%.

Seasoned CoC players will notice that the game has quite a few new skills - some are fairly self-evident, for example Research is like Library Use, but boosted to cover online research, government archives, and the Laundry's own internal resources, the dreaded Stacks. Status is actually the character's own standing within the organisation, and reflects his/her ability to get things done with other employees. "It is a combination of rank, political pull, favours owed and standing. A character with low Status is an anonymous drone..." I quite like this. No skills are allowed above 75% at character generation.

Some initial equipment is available for characters that cross 50% skill boundaries, another nice touch. In Harold's case, this gives him certification to carry a pistol on duty, even though his high score is in shotgun - the Laundry has decided he can handle himself around weapons of this nature.

So there you have it, my first Laundry character. The core rules contain some further pre-gens, plus some of the characters from the books who can easily be co-opted as player characters.


  1. I enjoyed the stories -- Delta Green by way of Yes, MInister, I thought -- and was this close to getting the rpg, but I reasoned that it would never get to the table; I imagine the game is unavailable -- at least for a decent price -- now that C7 has lost the CoC licence.

    If you run a game, let me know!

  2. Why did you think it would never get to the table? It seems great fun!