Character Origins and Creation

You can find a PDF of the Chaosium's 1890 sheet here. We're going to assume for now that you've generated Runequest or Call of Cthulhu characters before.

Generated Characteristics

Generically, roll 3d6 for STR, CON, POW, DEX, and APP; roll 2d6+6 for SIZ and INT; roll 3d6+3 for EDU. Players are however encouraged and expected to use any of the following methods of generating stats:
Better Average - Roll 2d6+6 for all the stats except EDU; roll 3d6+3 for EDU.
Shuffle - Roll the 'generic' values, then reassign them to stats as you wish. STR, CON, SIZ, INT, POW, DEX, and APP cannot exceed 18; EDU cannot exceed 21.
Move Some Points - Move 3 points from one 'generically' rolled characteristic to another; do this up to three times.
Distribute Total - Distribute 80 points as you wish; STR, CON, SIZ, INT, POW, DEX, and APP cannot exceed 18; EDU cannot exceed 21.

Derived Characteristics

Sanity is POW x 5. Damage Bonus comes from the usual RQ/CoC charts (we can get you the numbers if you don't have any of the books). Hit Points are CON + SIZ divided by 2.

Social Class

Players may choose an approximate social level for their characters, mostly as a guide to what's likely or unlikely: Working Class, Middle Class, Gentry, or Aristocracy. In England and Wales, the Gentry and Aristocracy (and Royalty) comprise the "Upper Ten Thousand" persons, out of 30 million people.


Lower Class characters attending British parish and government-run grammar schools rarely exceed EDU 8; Middle Class persons can easily reach EDU 12. The Gentry and Aristocracy usually attend privately-operated ("public") schools which also provide EDU 12 (and many social opportunities in later life). Continental schools (especially in France and Germany) can turn out persons with EDU of 14 easily (well, not easy for the poor, overworked student!).

Notable "public" boys' schools of note in England are:

Eton - the most aristocratic and elite
Harrow - nearly as elite as Eton; teaches modern foreign languages
Winchester - fairly elite
Wellington - many army officers went here
Rugby - very sports-oriented
Westminster - the most academically effective public school
These accomodate boys aged 11 to 18 years. Educationally, classical languages (Latin and Greek) are stressed; modern history and languages are rarely offered. In 1884, Eton employed twenty-eight classical language masters, six mathematics masters, no modern language masters, no science masters, and one historian.

Really, a proper accent, good manners, stoicism, truthfulness, Christian character, and upper-class behaviour and beliefs are the point of these schools. The system places boys in a primitive environment with bad food and few bodily comforts, allows him to be bullied by the older boys, and expects him to keep himself reasonably clean and properly dressed, to engage in active sports, and eschew sex.

About 80% of the British aristocratic boys are educated at "Public" schools; some are sent to German, French, or Swiss boarding schools, and a few are schooled at home by tutors.

Working class girls can attend grammar schools; Catholics also have the option of convent schooling. Middle class, gentry and lucky working class girls have the option of attending several girls boarding schools, such as Cheltenham, Culcheth Hall, Godolphin, or the St. Margaret's schools (in Herfordshire and Edinburgh). Gentry and aristocratic girls also have foriegn girl's schools, most typically in France or Switzerland, to choose from; they may also be educated entirely by privately-engaged tutors.

Oxford, Cambridge, and Trinity (in Dublin) can produce graduates with EDU of 16, and doctorates up to EDU 21; however, they do not offer engineering or medical degrees. Only about 350 degrees in mathematics, science and technology are granted each year by English and Welsh universities combined -- compared to 3000 engineers alone each year in Prussia. For medicine, go to St. Bartholemew's in London, King's College in Dublin, or any of the universities in Scotland; for engineering and other 'technical' degrees, go to Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Aberdeen in Scotland, London University, Durham University, or the new (1884) Victoria University; all of these are open to women (Oxford and Cambridge have admitted women since the 1870s). Most of the major European universities include medical and technological programs. Lawyers attend Oxford or Cambridge, and then go on to the Inns of Court, in London, for their law degree.


Characters will discuss their beginning situation, income, possessions etc. with the referee; but the following will give some ideas:

Working Class people would have an income of £ 50 or £ 100 per year (even less for women, unskilled servants or farm labour). Engineers earn about £ 120 per year, putting them near the top of the "laboring classes" in income; Metropolitan police officers are paid £ 52 per year; sailors earn about £ 40 per year, but of course have fewer expenses. Possessions are unlikely to exceed 4 weeks income; savings, another 4 weeks of income.

Middle Class and Gentry characters are typically earning £ 100 to £ 1000 per year; although some rich merchants and other people in commerce are vastly wealthy. Middle Class characters might have 6 months of income worth of possessions, and the same amount in savings; the Gentry, including the professional, mercantile and business classes, might have 5 years of income as possesions and savings.

An Aristocrat can expect to have any income from nothing to £ 10,000 per week; £ 200 to £ 400 per year is a typical income for a younger son of the privileged classes. Junior officers in the Army or Navy earn £ 150 to £ 200 per year; even a colonel only receives about £ 600 per year. An official of the Colonial or Indian Civil Service might earn £ 300 per year; clergy might earn £ 300 to £ 500 per year, plus free housing (but a "poor [middle-class] vicar" might only receive £ 50 per year). Possessions may total up to a year's income for a "younger son or daughter", but up to a couple hundred thousand pounds sterling when inheriting a rich title.

Careers, Occupations and Pastimes

Multiply the character's EDU by 20; these are applied only to the skills listed for their occupation. They are added to the 'base' percentages, and the total for each skill may not exceed 99%. Multiply the character's INT by 10; this gives points to add to any skill (including occupational skills), again not exceeding 99% total. Of course, any skill taken should have some a role-playing justification. The following lists are examples; don't feel bound by only those professions, or by the skills listed for each. And of course not all the skills listed for a profession must have points allocated.

Actor/Performer/Entertainer/Musician/Demimondaine - Art (choose), Craft (choose), Disguise, Dodge, Fast Talk, Listen, Psychology, any one other skill as a personal interest

Aerial or Ether Flyer Pilot - Astronomy, Climb, Electrical Repair, Flyer Pilot, Mechanical Repair, Navigate, Operate Heavy Machine, Physics, any one other skill as a personal interest

Clergy - Accounting, History, Library Use, Listen, Other Language, Persuade, Psychology, any one other skill as a personal interest

Detective - Bargain, Conceal, Dodge, Fast Talk, Grapple, Law, Listen, Persuade, Psychology, Spot Hidden, any one other skill as a personal interest

Diplomat/Colonial Official/Foreign Office Agent - Bargain, Law, Other Language, Persuade, Psychology, Ride, any one other skill as a personal interest

Engineer - Electrical Repair, Mechanical Repair, Operate Heavy Machines, any one other skill as a personal interest

Explorer/Missionary/Big Game Hunter - Craft (choose), First Aid, Mechanical Repair, Medicine, Natural History, Navigate, Persuade, Ride, Swim, any one other skill as a personal interest

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dilletantes, the Idle Rich - Art (choose), Craft (choose), History, Other Language, Ride, Shotgun, any two other skills as personal interests

Lawyer - Bargain, Fast Talk, Law, Library Use, Persuade, Psychology, any one other skill as a personal interest

Medical Doctor - Biology, First Aid, Other Language (Latin), Medicine, Pharmacy, Psychology, any one other skill as a personal interest

Reporter/Journalist/Writer - Fast Talk, History, Library Use, Occult, Other Language, Own Language, Persuade, Photography, Psychology, any one other skill as a personal interest

Scientist - Bargain, Library Use, Other Language, Persuade, Psychology, and any two of the following as a personal specialty: Anthropology, Archaeology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Electronics, Engineering, Geology, History, Law, Medicine, Natural History, or Physics.

The skills most useful for inventing are Biology, Chemistry, Electronics, Engineering, Geology, Medicine, and Physics - usually at least 75% to actually invent anything interesting. Mechanical Repair, Electrical Repair, and various Crafts may be needed by the inventor, or by his or her staff, to actually construct examples of inventions.

Seaman - Climb, Craft (Carpentry), Craft (Rope and Canvas Work), Mechanical Repair, Navigate, Operate Heavy Machine, Pilot Boat, any one other skill as a personal interest

Servant/Butler/Maid/Valet/Driver - Conceal, Craft (choose), Drive Carriage, Sneak, Spot Hidden, any one other skill as a personal interest

Thief/Criminal/Revolutionary/Anarchist - Bargain, Conceal, Disguise, Fast Talk, a melee attack, Locksmith, Sneak, Spot Hidden, any one other skill as a personal interest

Military Careers

Artillery Gunner - Cannon, Drive Carriage, Handgun, Machinegun, Mechanical Repair, Ride, Rifle, any one other skill as a personal interest

Cavalry Trooper - Handgun, Lance, Ride, Rifle, Sword, any one other skill as a personal interest

Infantry Soldier - Bayonet or Knife, Dodge, Fist, Rifle, any one other skill as a personal interest

Medical Orderly/Bandsman - Art (Play Instrument), Dodge, First Aid, any one other skill as a personal interest

Sapper - Dodge, Drive Carriage, Hide, Mechanical Repair, Rifle, Sneak, any one other skill as a personal interest

Army Officer - Bargain, Law, Persuade, Psychology, Ride, Sword, any one other skill as a personal interest

Naval Sailor or Officer - Astronomy, Cannon, Electrical Repair, First Aid, Handgun, Mechanical Repair, Navigate, Operate Heavy Machine, Pilot Boat, Sword, any one other skill as a personal interest

The referee can help provide much background on military careers: schools, likely campaigns, regiments, awards, final rank, etc.

Other Character Background

Family information, finances, reputation, organization memberships, possessions, prior career highlights, etc. will be determined by the player and the referee. Some elements of English behavior (cribbed heavily from Marcus Rowland's article in Forgotten Futures:

Class Consciousness - Persons of all levels are far more aware of, and protective of, their "social class" than anyone we game-players are likely to ever meet. This attitude can get supremely snobbish and annoying in some places and countries (German "gentry" for example, are touchy beyond belief about 'defending their class'); it also manifests as deference, dutifulness and satisfaction with position among the working class. People acting out of accordance with their apparent class will often be seen as somehow 'wrong'.
Achievement and Improvement - Contrasting with the class consciousness of the period is a strong sense of work ethics and self improvement. The middle class, in particular, expect to be able to educate and better themselves, and to rise in circumstances (though not in class). Helping others raise and educate themselves is another common middle class and gentry attitude (the "white man's burden" (to enlighten and uplift the 'native' races) is a feature of this attitude). Americans are especially likely to exhibit this attribute.
Noblesse Oblige - As with the upper classes in any country, the aristocrats (and gentry in their turn) believe they are superior by breeding and upbringing to foriegners and those of lower classes. They will sacrifice many things, including their lives, to protect family honour -- sometimes against the wishes of other family members. Physical sport, card playing, a lack of technical skills, and religious moderation are a mark of these classes in England.
Piety - The middle class produces the most fervent missionaries, reformers, tract-writers, and clergy. However, essentially all Englishmen are practicing Christians; mostly Anglican.
Women's Equality - Women are to be protected from physical and moral danger; to which a corollary is that women are expected to avoid danger. Suffragettes and other women's rights activists are treated with suspicion.
Chauvinism - Foreigners tend to be disrespected, and disregarded as mental, physical, or moral equals.
Hanky Panky - Girls and young women are often chaperoned, and sexual relations are not a polite subject for conversation (especially among the middle class and gentry, who are the most repressed and prudish). Indelicate situations are referred to obliquely, or occur "off stage".
Britishness - Qualities of politeness, formality, fair play,emotional reserve, courage and stubborness are seen as being national traits. The gentry hold most firmly to these attitudes, followed by the middle class and aristocrats, and least by the working class. Note that piety, intellectual activity, creativity, and obedience are not on this list.
Characters shouldn't embody all of these traits, or even most of them; but society will react to variations from these ideals. A foriegn, outspoken lower-class woman, believing in "free love" and violent anarchistic revolution, is not going to get on very well!


Physically Fit Adult Males
Height  5' 1"    5' 2"    5' 3"    5' 4"    5' 5"    5' 6"    5' 7"    5' 8"    5' 9"    5' 10"    5' 11"    6'    6' 1"    6' 2"    6' 3"    6' 4"  
Weight 128# 135# 142# 149# 152# 155# 158# 166# 173# 181# 186# 190# 200# 220# 235# 250#
SIZ 9 10 11 11 11 11 11 12 12 12 13 13 13 14 15 16

The average 18 year old military officer cadet is 5' 8", 140 pounds; the average enlisted soldier, 5' 4". No-one is enlisted to the British Army under 5' 3" in height, or less than 115 pounds weight (officers are exempt from these requirements). Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby was 6' 4" tall, weighed 280 pounds (SIZ 17), and was the strongest man in the army ("known on occasion to lift a small pony with one arm" = STR 25, and thus had a +2d6 damage bonus!), also the tallest British officer. Weights of people are often given in "stones" of 14 pounds each; thus: "He weighs 13 stone, 4 pounds."

Gaslight 1889 Index Page