Character a day #3: Professor Challenger

More characters for Inferno. This time it’s Professor Challenger, the moving force in Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. He’s presented here as he appears in that book, mostly because I haven’t yet read the other stories he appears in.

Professor Challenger, House Capricorn

The character: The physically and intellectually imposing Professor Challenger provides the inciting incident for The Lost World with his claims to have travelled deep into the Amazon and found proof that dinosaurs are still alive. Professor Challenger has a violent temper, and is widely mocked by the scientific establishment for his outlandish ideas.

House choice: House Capricorn is the House for scientists who are obsessed with a single objective. In Professor Challenger’s case, proving the existance of dinosaurs. Members of House Capricorn often have a somewhat loose grip on their sanity, something else that fits with Conan Doyle’s descriptions of Challenger.


Professor Challenger is regularly described as a large, powerful, physically imposing man, and early in the narrative throws the narrator (an international rugby player) out of his house. Prowess 4. He is unable to control his temper and constantly offending his peers and companions, so Influence 1. He is absolutely a great mind – Genius 3, but his plans often go awry – Focus 2.


During The Lost World professor Challenger comes up with a number of practical scientific ideas, most notably an attempt to create a hot air balloon, although they don’t all come off. So we’ll go for Engineering 2, we’ll also add Investigation 2 to reflect his pursuit of evidence about the lost world.

For Genius related skills we’ll go for five points of science, and two points of observation.

In Influence related skills two points of intimidate and a single point of leadership are perhaps the most he deserves.

Under prowess skills we’ll take a single point of athletics, and two points of scout, and one point of ride/pilot to reflect his previous experiences in the Amazon.

Talents and Reputations

We’ll start out by taking ‘Obsessive Focus’ from the House Capricorn options as a talent, allowing Professor Challenger to shrug off concentration damage. We’ll also take ‘Boundless Comprehension’ from the Earth Houses list, granting the professor bonuses whenever he encounters novel or inexplicable phenomena.

From the general talents we’ll take Enormous Strength, giving him +2 on strength related challenges, and remarkable physiognomy, for +2 on intimidation tests.

That leaves just one point over for Reputations, we’ll give him a single point reputation as a ‘Member of the Royal Society’, reflecting the fact that he is a well known scientist, even if he’s not particularly well regarded.

Secrets and Scandals

To earn some extra character points we’ll give the professor both a secret, and a scandal. His secret is his violent temper, which if exposed will give him a negative reputation as ‘a brute’. His scandal is ‘Believes dinosaurs walk the earth’, which gives him a negative reputation of the same name. This will count against him in any situation where it might come up.

Spending the extra points

Those earn us three additional character points which we’ll spend on a one point talent (pugilist) and 100 points of prestige with the Inferno club. Those prestige points translate to a single point of House Capricorn reputation which he can use to call on the resources of the house, and mean Professor Challenger will start the game knowing some of the secrets of the club.

What are House Capricorn’s resources? Members of the House with sufficient prestige can access

The Tabula Creationis: Sometimes called a map, the Tabula Creationis is really a collection of maps, rumours and accounts detailing all known geography, including accounts of lost continents, hollow earth realms, and other planets. 

Remote residences: House Capricorn’s vast knowledge of the world means they are well placed to locate hidden islands, concealed valleys or habitable plateaus where members can pursue science uninterrupted by the world.

The Arsenal: It’s not clear why House Capricorn maintain an arsenal of devastating weapons,suitable for mounting on the largest of their members’ creations, but they do. 

Relocation: Members of House Capricorn frequently find themselves the target of outraged publics, angry mobs and furious governments. House Capricorn are experts in helping their members disappear, often seemingly dead, only for them to quietly recommence their work elsewhere.  

In game terms this means Professor Challenger can add one card to an appropriate challenge to reflect his access to House Capricorn resources. As he rises in seniority within the Inferno club (where no-one is foolish enough to question the possibility of dinosaurs) his House Capricorn Reputation will rise, allowing him to make greater use of the resources.

Where he fits in

Professor Challenger is first and foremost an excellent scientist who will quickly make sense of unusual discoveries. He is a social disaster, and should be kept away from social challenges, unless they relate to intimidation. His physical presence makes him a useful back up character in a fight.

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