I'm going to run a game set in the Call of Cthulhu (6th edition) on the 20 ages (I'm going to throw the players inside The Masks of Nyarlathotep).

Because of this, I've acquired the Investigator's Companion for the 1920s. In here, there's a reminder on how a player character is created, and I've found a difference between the Core book and the Companion: The income an Investigator has at the start of the game is different.

At the Core book, it says that he has an amount of money, properties and other things equivalent to 5 years of salary, but in the Companion, it gets only the equivalent to 1 year of salary. I don't thing that the second gets the right amount for starting, but the first is so high I don't know what to chose.

Which should I use for my players?


3 Answers 3


Research time!

Let's look at some numbers: The average yearly income of 1920 was $3269.40citing the IRS. That implies about $62,87 per week without vacation or 10,90 per day for 300 work days (=sunday off+13 other days). Note though, that that is the average income in 1920 and the variance between factory workers and magnats was high. Looking at the cited source's source for the average wage, the IRS report, allows to make average wages for the different states by dividing the gross income by the number of returns.

Another list of wages per insustry was tabelerized by the Missouri libraries. One example for 1928 from there shows that a tutor at Yale university earns about $1500 to $2500, an assistant professor $3000 to $4000 and a professor $5000 to $8000. The principal of a junior high school with 30 classes would have earned $5500 to $6500. One of his teachers would have earned $2040 to $4200. A Fireman in Yale earned $1440 to $1500.

Taking these estimates as a baseline, and assuming that the investigators have a standard of living equivalent to an a university assistant or a young junior high teacher, they need to earn between $1500 and $3000 a year. This means about $30 to $60 a week. Assuming the 1920s common 6-day-week, this their expected income should be $5 to $10 a day.

However, detectivework and investigations are nothing that is available every day, so the rate to hire an Investigator should be about triple per day (ca 15 to 30$).

Of this income, the Investigator has to pay expenses. The two main expenses are food with about $461.5 to $521 in 1920 for an average household (estimated from retail prices) and 19.3% on rent.

This leaves us with the spendable "free" income of about 689.50 to 1529$ per annum for our teacher equivalent: That's not bad for that time, but it does not account for other, miscelanious expenses like going ot to eat or new clothes. A good estimate that at best half of this might be saved for other spending ($344.75 to $764.5).

One year's worth of salary saved up is added together between 3 and 5 years, depending on the exact saving behavior.

By the way: Minimum wage was only invented in 1938 at $0.25 per hoursource.

And the Books!

The Good old 1920s Investigator Companion lists $1500 to $2500 per annum as "lower middle class"1920s Investigator Companion v2 (1994) p9 and tells it is a "modest apartment" in a decent area, possibly with a phone, and with some saving a car.

Ok, some time saving for a car? A new 1918 Buik 6-cylinder 170-cubic-inch costed $665 to $965here, a new 1915 Caddilac Eight V8 60HP 315-cubic-inch one costed $1975. That's about 2 to 6 years for a new car! Or, in 1927, a model Ts for $2801920s Investigator Companion v1 (1994) p32. Matches nicely, right?

I would assume the following:

Characters should have saved up for at least 5 years and in this time obtained one year's worth of income in moveable goods and other items.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good investigation work but... It doesn't answer my question... By the way, thanks for that amount of information, as long as it's going to be really useful in my game! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2018 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the result of not fully reading the question. This is what I thought it was about too when I read the title (and would have made it an off-topic real history research question), but reading the body I realised the question was different. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2018 at 16:04
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Historical research and call of cthulhu walk hand-by-hand. Upvoted, I see no reason for a downvote as this clearly could help deciding which of the two rules are correct, or none. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Nov 29, 2018 at 17:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SliferDragon I did put in more effort... and came to a conclusion that reconciles both rules to some degree XD \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Nov 29, 2018 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Regardless, questions that are historical research are off topic. It was even questions for use in a CoC game that lead to us deciding that. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 30, 2018 at 15:30

This is a question you'll have to answer yourself... Both 5th and 6th edition rulebooks state that "there is a way to calculate income" (and thus assets) but these are not rules, only suggestions.

This is an unfortunate example of "do whatever you want about the rules", but you could note that the companion's "assets = yearly income" mode is consistent with the 5th edition core rulebook. I also think that 5 times the yearly income seems a bit too much. It could be realistic for upper class characters, not really for the rest.

If you're going to run MoN, you could use the trick that was introduced in the re-writing of the campaign:

Jackson got hold of a large sum of money (that is explained in prequel scenarios) and has a trust fund he gives to the investigators in his will if they "continue his work", which makes the finance part of the investigators' problem kind of moot.

You could elaborate around this idea to incorporate it in your setting (I don't think physical resource management should be a big deal in a CoC campaign, but you can of course do as you see fit).

Have fun!


The income is not the "starting money" the PC has in his pockets. It's the money he can earn from his job.

It defines the "level of richness" and his life wellness. With this money he can have: a house, a car, an office, a collection of books...

In the italian version of Call of Cthulhu 6th ed. there's a schema with all the formulas for: 1. properties 2. funds (available after 1 month, if I remember well) 3. cash in his pockets

When I am the GM, I'll ask to the players what are the properties of the PC and I'll check if they are consistents with che income. For the game, the PC has 1/100 of the income of the year in his wallet.


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