Cthulhu Squad

A game of occult horror and investigation in the 1920’s & 1930’s by John Powell
Based on the excellent Dungeon Squad by Jason Morningstar. Cthulhu Squad is provided under the Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 2.5 Creative Commons license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/)

What you need

Some paper, pencils, friends and polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20) - preferably a set for each player and the gm. A dark gloomy place to play (with snacks and beverages) helps too.

Character creation

Decide on your Character’s Name, Age and Profession.

Example: Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 40, Writer

Characters have one d4, d8, and d12 to represent aspects of themselves - Reason, Influence and Physique.

Example: I want to make my character an introverted writer, so I choose Reason d12, Influence d4, and Physique d8. Hopefully I have a friend to talk to the police after the Corbitt house is burned down!

Characters have a d6 and a d10 to describe stuff they normally use - weapons, vehicles & extras.

Example: For my introverted writer I choose a d6 pistol and d10 Dodge.

Characters have a d20 for Sanity, and 0 Insanity to start with. Witnessing shocking horror increases your Insanity. If Insanity ever reaches 20, your character goes permanently insane and is removed from play.

Characters have fifteen Hit Points. Damage reduces these directly. Characters at 0 or less Hit Points are unconscious, and those at -10 or worse will die if not immediately helped.

Write a few sentences of background and motivation to tie it all together.

Example: H.P. Lovecraft grew up a lonely introverted man. Through dreams he became aware of the occult and is now driven to investigate and write about it.

How to do things

To accomplish tasks in the game characters roll a die associated with that task against a target number set by the gm. Target numbers are typically set at 2, 4, 6, or even higher for really difficult tasks. If a situation gives a character an advantage, the gm may allow the character to roll one die type higher than usual, i.e. a d6 instead of a d4.

Profession is automatically an advantage for tasks that involve that profession.

Example: My writer wants to look up anything he can find out about old man Corbitt. This is just the kind of research writers always do, and so my character can roll a d20 for Reason instead of his normal d12.

Reason is the die used for tasks involving general knowledge, library use, figuring out puzzles and noticing stuff.

Influence is used for conversation, persuasion, fast talk and seduction.

Physique is used to meet physical challenges, including sneaking up on someone or hitting in combat. In melee combat 2 or better is needed to hit a weak foe, a 4 or better to hit an average foe, and a 6 or better to hit a tough foe. For ranged combat, all targets require a 2 to hit at close range, 4 or better at medium range and 6 or better at long range. Additionally in ranged combat, only even results on the die hit - If you roll odd you miss.

Sanity is used for resisting the soul-destroying horrors of the world. Rolling a 2 or better is sufficient to overcome minor shocks, 4 or better for average shocks, 6 or more for major shocks. Add your current insanity points to the difficulty of this roll. If you succeed in the roll you are protected from the shock, but still gain 1 insanity point. If you fail the roll you gain 2 insanity points and must either fight or flee (player’s choice) whatever caused the shock for d4 rounds. Declare whether your character fights or flees first, then roll the die. If neither fight nor flight is an option, you are reduced to a gibbering idiot for d4 rounds.

Stuff that needs to be assigned a d6 or d10

Characters start with 2 things described by dice. They may accumulate up to four such things during play.

Weapons - Handguns, sword canes, cudgels and other readily concealable weapons are typically d6 weapons - that is they do a d6 of damage to a target’s Hit Points when they hit. d10 weapons include rifles, fire axes and shotguns. Explosives are also rated d10. It takes an average Reason roll to to use explosives properly, but they do d10 times 3 damage against everything nearby!

Vehicles - d6 vehicles include motorcycles, small cars and small boats. A d10 vehicle could be a luxury car, truck, yacht or even an airplane!

Vehicles, like characters have 3 aspects and 15 Hit Points. Vehicle aspects are Speed, Handling and Toughness. When a character takes a vehicle as an extra he assigns that die to one of those aspects, and the other two aspects are assigned a d6 and a d4.

During the game characters may come across military vehicles, which sometimes have an additional aspect, Guns. Guns is usually equal to a vehicle’s Toughness.

Extras can be assigned either a d6 or d10.


Initiative - all creatures in a combat roll a d12 and go in order from highest to lowest. The gm can opt to group his characters in one or more groups that share a single roll.

Combat rounds are equivalent to about 3 seconds of real time. On their turn, characters can do as much as the gm thinks is reasonable given the situation. Usually this is moving, attacking, or doing something else.

Damage - Make a physique roll to see if you hit. If you do, then roll the damage die for the weapon, subtract any armor, toughness or dodge dice the target has. Any damage left over reduces the target’s hit points. Unarmed damage is always d4.


Chase rounds are variable in length depending on the nature and the intensity of the chase. Chases only occur when there is a chance of escape for the one being chased. You can’t outrun an airplane if you are on foot (unless you can hide in a cornfield and cause the plane to crash into a power line or something). Usually chases are on even footing - both parties on foot, in cars, boats, etc.

Winning a speed or physique contest (player character rolls a die against a gm character’s die) allows you to catch up with someone you are chasing close enough for ranged combat. Another victory brings you close enough for hand to hand combat, or in the case of vehicles, collision or boarding actions.

To maneuver close enough for a boarding action or force a collision you must win a handling contest.

In the case of a collision, add the toughness dice for both vehicles and the speed die for the attacker. If the collision is head-on, add the target’s speed die as well. Total the damage, then let each side roll toughness again to reduce the amount of damage taken for their respective vehicles.

To escape someone chasing you, you need to win two consecutive speed/physique contests.

Professions such as cab driver, pilot, or skipper can be used to increase the die type of one aspect of an appropriate vehicle. Which aspect is improved is decided at the beginning of each chase round.

Recovering Damage

Any damage not healed by first aid will heal slowly over time, at 1 hit point per full day of bed rest. Being cared for in a hospital may increase this somewhat.

Advancement & Reducing Insanity

At the end of each adventure the gm awards experience points (xp). These xp may be spent increasing hit points or decreasing insanity on a one-for-one basis. Once per adventure 5xp can be spent to increase one of a character’s dice one step, up to a d12.

Any insanity not eliminated by psychology or spending xp will slowly deplete over time, provided the patient is kept away from any further mental shock. Quiet rest in comfortable surroundings will reduce insanity at one point per week. A stay in a reputable sanatorium will reduce insanity twice as quickly.


All foes need a 4 or better to hit a player character.

Cultist Attack with d6, players need 2 or better to hit, hp 7
Reason d6, Influence d6, Physique d6
Weapons: d4 unarmed, d6 clubs, guns

Sorcerer Attack with d10, players need 4 or better to hit, hp 10
Reason d8, Influence d8, Physique d8
Weapons: d4 unarmed, d6 sacrificial dagger, d10 spells


All monsters need a 4 or better to hit a player character.

Zombies Attack with d6, players need 2 or better to hit, hp 4
Reason d4, Influence d0, Physique d6
Weapons: bite d6
Shock: 2 (Walking dead)

Ghouls Attack with d8, players need 4 or better to hit, hp 8
Reason d8, Influence d8, Physique d8
Weapons: d8 claws, bite
Shock: 4 (Ghastly grey cannibals that smell of corpses)

Cloud Beast Attack with d8, can only be harmed by spells, hp 10
Weapons: d4 grab and constrict, drop d12. Nothing physical damages the cloud beast’s vaporous form. If the players struggle, they will be dropped.
Shock: 4 (Vaporous pseudopods descending from the sky)

Leng Spider Attack with d10, players need a 4 or better to hit, hp 15
Weapons: d6 bite + d4 poison/round (When at 0 Hit Points the poison has paralyzed the victim - it takes d10 days to wear off.) Toughness 6 webbing (non-flammable)
Armor: d6 Chitin
Shock: 6 (20' purple spider)

Optional rules for Sanity & Spells

If you own the Call of Cthulhu game from Chaosium, you can use their d100 rules for Sanity loss and Spells in your Cthulhu Squad games. Instead of a d20 for Sanity, give characters 75 Sanity points. Or you could base the amount of starting Sanity on the Influence aspect, say 60 Sanity for d4 Influence, 75 for d8, and 90 for d12.

Final Word

Thanks for making it this far! If you ever play the game, please let me know how it went. Email me at john(at)jetcity(dot)net.

Check Yog-Sothoth.com for cyclopean quantities of free adventures to use with Cthulhu Squad!

© 2007 John Powell We