Charon's Obol
The Ferryman's Pay


Item. Relic.

Cost: –. XP: 1.

Permanent. Exceptional.

When earning experience during the resolution of a scenario, if you were not defeated during that scenario, you earn 2 additional experience. If you were defeated during that scenario, you are killed.

Stephen Somers
Dim Carcosa #308.
Charon's Obol
FAQs (taken from the official FAQ or FFG's responses to the official rules question form)
  • Q: Can multiple investigators in the same group purchase Charon's Obol? What happens if they do? A: Multiple investigators could technically purchase the card, but only one copy could actually be put into play when the game begins. Since each of them would be put into play at the same time, the investigators would decide which one is put into play first (with the lead investigator breaking any conflicts). The other copies of Charon’s Obol would not be put into play, nor would they be shuffled into their owner’s deck (as per the rules for the Permanent keyword). Only the investigator with Charon’s Obol in play would receive its benefits (or its consequences, for that matter).

  • Q: If I purchase a permanent card for my deck, like Charon's Obol, can I later remove it from my deck? A: Not unless an effect explicitly allows you to do so. Generally cards are only removed from your deck if you purchase a new card and must swap out an existing card in order to reach your investigator’s deck size. However, since Permanent cards do not count towards your deck size, they cannot be swapped out in this way. There is no rule which allows you to remove cards from your deck at will. - FAQ, v.1.3, May 2018

  • Q: Does Charon's Obol trigger its effects if a resolution instructs me to replay a scenario? What about in between Heart of the Elders V–A and V–B? A: Charon’s Obol’s effects occur “When earning experience during the resolution of a scenario…” Therefore, Charon’s Obol will not trigger when you are instructed to replay a scenario, because such resolutions state that “No experience points are earned from your previous game.” However, in between Scenarios V–A and V–B, experience is earned, so Charon’s Obol will indeed trigger, even though players are not allowed to spend those experience points until after they have played Scenario V–B. - FAQ, v.1.4, September 2018
Last updated

I was extremely excited when I first saw this card. I thought I was going to immediately buy it in every Rogue deck I ever played. XP is incredibly powerful and fun in this game, after all. But the more I play with this card, the less I like it.

The odds that your character dies at some point in missions 2-7 of your campaign (if they die in mission 1 or mission 8, that's not really relevant for the Obol) are just way too high. Even if you run "I'm outta here!" and Cheat Death, I just think the risk is too great. Starting over midway through a campaign at 0 XP is a truly terrible feeling. In solo, maybe it doesn't feel quite so bad, but I really would not recommend this in multiplayer.

Note that "I'm outta here!" is far from a perfect failsafe here. Many scenarios don't have a resign space or have one that doesn't show up until the final Act. It won't save you then.

Moreover, Charon's Obol can also hurt you even if you don't die. This is because the Obol makes you play scared. Vastly increasing the consequences of dying makes it harder to play effectively. A very common situation in this game is the following: your investigator is severely hurt, down to 1 or 2 health or sanity remaining, but only a couple of turns away from a potential victory. What should you do? A normal investigator can go for the win. Sure, you might take a trauma, but that's not really a big deal at all. And you might win! With the Obol, you can't really do that any more. The consequences of defeat are too high to take otherwise profitable risks.

Furthermore, playing the Obol can force you to stuff your deck with durability cards (like the aforementioned "I'm outta here!" and Cheat Death), at the expense of better cards that actually help you win the scenario directly. This hurts your deck and can mean that your deck's power level isn't that much higher than a deck that doesn't run the Obol, but also doesn't have to run these cards.

Still, I can see the temptation here. If you like the thrill of risk and are OK with a strong chance of having to starting over, go ahead. But personally, I find the game much less fun when I'm running the Obol. And setting considerations of fun aside, if I were just trying to maximize my odds of winning the campaign, I do not think I would take it.

CaiusDrewart · 2745
What this card boils down to is this: Get an extra 13 xp over the course of a campaign. (5 if playing Night of the Zealot)(2 of that xp only counts if you carry the character over, so really 11/3) In exchange, tension is considerably higher, as every failed chaos pull or monster becomes magnified. If you like the tension, take it; if you don't like tension, then ask yourself if that 11 xp is worth all the stuff Caius listed above. — CecilAlucardX · 10
Check your math. The Obol is exceptional, so it costs 2 xp, and since you can't buy it until after the first mission, you only relevantly have it for 2-7 (if you don't carry over) in a campaign or just 2 in NotZ which makes it worth a net 10 xp in a campaign or a net 0 in NotZ. — Death by Chocolate · 1209
If you're forging your own path in TFA it will net you 14xp including the final scenario (12 that you can actually use without carrying it over). Unless my math is way off. There's two extra scenarios, and one scenario where it gets removed from your deck ahead of time, so you don't get the XP. — Zinjanthropus · 209

A few questions about Charon's Obol.

1.)Are you playing a Rogue? - Yep? Okay good! Stick around.

2.)Can you take the pressure of knowing that any game might be your last for this investigator? - Awesome! Take some free XP!

3.) No number 3. That is really it. This card is a playstyle card, but I think every rogue should take it regardless. If you are worried about getting taken down, you might invest in a copy of the next card, but I still think EVERY ROGUE should play this.

Unless you are in an all rogue group... then it is really a matter of first rogue to it (or to stick around).

Also, don't buy this late game. You need to buy this in the first scenario for optimal gains.

Myriad · 1144
Wendy can take this, and she is exceptionally good at staying alive. — SGPrometheus · 664
Are you useing ultimatum of finality — Chaos1842 · 7
Not sure if this is the right place to ask, but can you take a permanent out of your deck in-between scenarios? The longer you have this in, the more it will hurt if you die and have to start with a new investigator. Can I use it for 3-4 scenarios and then drop it? — FutilityJones · 1
#FutilityJones: Outside of a formal ruling, I would say no. Under campaign play, when a non-permanent card would be added, a different card must be removed to maintain deck size. Since removing the permament wouldn't sastify the deck size limits, you cannot choose that to be removed, and must therefore choose something else (i believe). HOWEVER, if someone else can purchase and use the card, only one of you can have it in play, so only one of you takes the risks (and gets the benefits). Thematically, The Ferryman will always want his due; if you buy this, it is yours for YOUR life. — CecilAlucardX · 10
One major problem with this card is that, even if you find a way to consistently manage to stay alive, with or without Cheat Death, is that you might be defeated as a part of a scenario ending effect. A few days ago, me and my friends finished playing Scenario 6 of Carcosa cycle and didn't manage to reach a resolution, as the agenda advanced before we managed to advance the act deck (we were 1 turn away btw). As a result, all investigators were defeated. I wonder if Obol would trigger in this case, but I believe it would. — matt88 · 2607
It absolutely would. Defeated means defeated. — Death by Chocolate · 1209

I think, the review by CaiusDrewart holds really well over the years, showcasing how bad this card really is. However, there had been two cards released in the meantime, that invite me to compare them to this card, just based on the XP earned from them (not taking into consideration other facts, like that you tend to play timid and therefore bad with it): Arcane Research and In the Thick of It.

It's no surprise, that Arcane Research beats the crap out of "Charon's Obol". It gives the same 2 XP per scenario two scenarios earlier, for a much lesser price. But at least the Obol should be much better than In the Thick of It? I mean, it's a class card vs. a neutral card. Class cards have to be better? And the neutral gives you just 3 XP, the Obol so much more, right?


To compare these cards, you have to put into account, that XP earned early in a campaign provide you with better cards for more scenarios, than if you get them later. XP earned in the sixth scenario are double the value than XP earned in the seventh, because you net profit from them in two scenarios, rather than just one. Therefore, XP earned after the first scenario is worth 7 times as much as after the seventh, and XP from the start of the campaign even 8 times. If we take this into account, the XP*scenario value you gain from these cards are the following (assuming a standard 8 scenario campaign without any side quests):

  • (Double) Arcane Research: 14+12+10+8+6+4+2=56
  • In the Thick of It: 3*8=24
  • Charon's Obol: 10+8+6+4+2-2=28

You have to consider, that "In the Thick of It" gives you the 3 XP for 8 scenarios. While "Charon's Obol" delays your other purchases after the first scenario by 2 XP, which would be actually worth 14. Sure, you get them back a scenario later. That's why I count them only as -2. Hence, from a strict mathematical point, the XP you gain from the Obol are only slightly more than the ones from "In the Thick of It", at a much higher risk. So go for the Obol, if you think, the game is boring without it. To raise the stake and gain some thrill out of it. But never ever buy this for the gain in XP instead of "In the Thick of It". You are much better served with the neutral card in that case!

Another option would be taking "In the Thick of It" to purchase the Obol at the start of the campaign. This is of course the highest stake, but at least it offsets the XP cost of the Obol. The XP*scenario value gained from this combo is 64 (assuming, you get to the last scenario with this investigator), the same as from "Arcane Research" plus 8 times the spare point from "In the Thick of It". This indeed looks much better. But it also increases the risk of succumbing to the Obol, starting with 2 traumata from the beginning and making being defeated in the first scenario relevant. I still think, it's bad, for the reasons mentioned by CaiusDrewart.

Susumu · 222
doesn't this all kind of assume XP earning power in levels in infinite?, the reason earning early XP would be more valuable than later is if you earn more XP/rewards because of it, but that isn't always true, you can max out on VP and rewards on levels with or without high level cards in a lot of cases. — Zerogrim · 256
You say this, but in lets me afford Golden Pocketwatch...which saves the party 4 encounters and 1 doom. Rogues love risk & XP. — MrGoldbee · 1267
I played Rogue characters with GPW without the Obol. I get, that it is a spot on theme card for Rogues, but it makes them too much of a liability. Consider a three player party in a scenario without resign space. The rogue has already played his or her YHTO, and there is one card of Rotting Remains left in the 20 size encounter deck. On a 5% chance, that the Rogue would get a mental trauma, the Mystic will likely play the D2D. On a 5% chance, that he or she pays the obol, likely not. So yeah, the Rogue gets 2 XP more, but the team gets 3 XP less because of that. In our group, players picked up the obol twice. And both times, it was worth a very cinematic narative, but very unfavorable for the group. One player as Leo was killed, because we only made it to the forth level on "Depths of Yoth", and I as Trish didn't made it out of the temple in "Return to The Doom of Eztli". But that's not the point of this review. It is rather about delaying XP to later scenarios is hardly worth it. It's the fact, that you first have to pay 2 XP to get a boost in XP from 2 scenarios later onwards, which makes the card obnoxiously bad. And even ItToI a comparably better card. — Susumu · 222
Use In the Thick of it to buy the Obol. What are you even here for if you don't want the risks. — Lailah · 1
That's an option, I already wrote about in the last paragraph. It sure offsets the cost of initial XP to pay for the Obol, and Rogues have good use for the spare XP in a Lockpick or 3 Easy Marks. But it makes the investigator more fragile, and changes nothing on the fact, that ItToI provides almost as much as the obol on it's own at a much lower cost. 2 traumata are nothing compared to risk of resuming with a new character or tanking a scenario fur the group, because you have to resign too early. — Susumu · 222
Easy, just take the Obol and don't lose. — suika · 8687

I'm starting to hate this card. First, it's Exceptional so it costs 4xp, you won't take any advantage of it until advancing to 5th scenario. Second, it is a selfish card: if you are defeated you are killed, that probably means that you broke the whole campaign. In my case, I've used it twice playing with two friends (I own the game so I'm the host)

  • In the first campaign I was defeated in the first scenario after purchasing it (prior, I couldn't upgrade my deck bc I spent all XP in this card). So, what do you do after that? what do you tell your friends?
  • In the second campaign, after the feeling of the first time, I decided to resign too early so my partner was defeated.

This is not risky, it's selfish unless you plan to ignore the "killed" side of the effect.

joster · 33
4 XP? It's 2 XP, isn't it? — Kendro · 1
1xp is doubled to 2xp, not 4, so you should be able to take it after the first scenario. Also, it's a rogue card: it's supposed to be selfish. If your character got murdered mid-campaign, just roll a new one; I reject the assertion that that would break the campaign. The obol is both risky and selfish; in short, it's a rogue card. — SGPrometheus · 664
Rolling a mew character mid campaign isn’t inherently going to end the campaign. Plenty of gators do well at level 0. You take Obol when your build that you have planned out requires more XP than can be reasonably provided by the campaign. The big catch with Rogues is low sanity and low willpower, so it works best with some defense put into your deck, which inherently makes you less likely to to die in a scenario, which is ironically more helpful for the rest of the team. — StyxTBeuford · 12723
New* — StyxTBeuford · 12723
And yea, it’s 2XP. Which is a low price for the 14 it gives back, net 12. — StyxTBeuford · 12723
The net value is actually 10. It doesn't provide XP after the first scenario, and the XP from the last scenario come too late to be of any value. Thus, you receive 12 XP from the six scenarios in between. But you also have to pay 2 XP for the card itself. Thus, you gain 10 XP net (without including any side quests of course). — Kendro · 1
Fair, most investigators stick within one campaign. Still net 10 is nice. — StyxTBeuford · 12723
Also, apart from TFA, how are you supposed to get all those sweet high xp Rogue cards without this? — Zinjanthropus · 209
If you feel duty bound to generate as much XP as possible, yould could pack in some of the side adventures. Which, I admit, rarely makes narrative sense to me -- "Hey, we just finished the Depths of Yoth, but let's do a side quest to Venice and then a hotel!" It takes me back to those JRPGs were you would often take time off during the apocalypse to level up ypur master weapon or do a couple of sidequests...." — LivefromBenefitSt · 910
And is it actually selfish? Rogue has arguably the strongest upgrade pool out of any faction. Filling your deck with cards and combos that win games is anything but selfish. — MiskatonicFrosh · 139
Most campaigns have one or two points where side adventures can be fit thematically. True, after Depths of Yoth it doesn't make sense to visit Venice. But you could visit Venice, the Hotel, that weird asteroid impact, and then hit up New Orleans on your way to Mexico all after Threads of Fate. — Yenreb · 15
Sorry, I misread the card's level so it's 2xp expensive. Yes you can play another investigator, but it'll be very weak in the begining. And what happens with the story assets you'd have in your deck? — joster · 33
My understanding is that upon being killed, those story assets are lost. There is no general rule saying that they would be given to your new investigator, and story assets can only ever be added to your deck when a campaign guide instructs you to do so. However there are some campaigns that tell you specifically that if an investigator with a story asset leaves the campaign for any reason (including death or insanity), that card must be added to someone else's deck. — MiskatonicFrosh · 139

This card is powerful but as one might expect, you are playing with fire here. Just be aware that you spend 2 xp to get it and then it grants you 2 xp each time from then out. This means that should you buy this after scenario 1 (the only reasonable time to get this) you don't really get "bonus" xp until the conclusion of scenario 3, as following scenario 2 it just pays for itself.

(MILD SPOILER) Without spoiling too much there are scenarios which kill your investigator if they are defeated Obol or no Obol. So the total number of scenarios you have to survive with Obol is slightly lower than one might initially think since you would be killed with or without Obol in these cases. (END SPOILER)

It is also worth noting that Ursula and Leo can take this card. Easy to miss it.

Complete list of people who can play this as of FA: Skids, Wendy, Jenny, Sefina, Lola, Leo, Ursula, Finn.

This is worth getting if you are comfortable with the risk involved. But you must get it early, otherwise just leave it behind.

Soloclue · 2351
Playing this as Ursula is risky, because you don't have cards like Elusive to bail you out if things go wrong. — Katsue · 9

As I play through Arkham Horror I like this card less and less. Some scenarios just aren't meant to be survived. The small exp buff this provides isn't enough to deal with the instant death from failing these scenarios.

Maybe good in a campaign that doesn't have an auto fail... but otherwise skip.

drjones87 · 65
What scenarios aren't meant to be survived? — Nenananas · 220
Theres not a lot I'd call auto fail. Maybe Depths of Yoth if you've really been pissing Yig off? Even so: I think in the trickier campaigns you'd still be fine if you just run I'm Outta Here. — Maseiken · 1
I think it's good some people are hesitant to take this. If that weren't the case it would pretty much be free XP for every single Rogue. When you take this you're taking a risk, but that's the Rogue life. What is less fun though is that if the person taking this DOES end up dying, they might just not want to continue the campaign rather than pick a fresh investigator. I think once can always pick an OP investigator that requires little XP and still do fine in the later scenarios. — Nenananas · 220
I took it once in Trish, because I was lured by the interaction with Whitton. Played "Return to the Doom of Eztli" with it. I had the rope and the option to span over the Viper Pit with it, so that everybody can bypass it, or simply "get outa there", and leaving the others, including the one carrying the Relic of Ages behind with no chance to get out. I choosed helping the others and died in the next mythos phase. Still think, this was the right choice, because failing to recover the RoA in that scenario bears a bigger disservice for everybody (either trying it again with less time or piling up on vengeance) than starting with a new level 0 character in "Threads of Fate". — Susumu · 222
@Susumu Picks Charon's Obol, still sacrifices themself to benefit the team. A true Arkham Horror hero (insert good guy greg meme here) — snacc · 802
The consequences of either having +10 Yig's Fury or retrying the scenario with 1 less round and potentially completely wiping out the party seemed to be a worse choice to me than sacrificing Trish. And I could have been lucky to survive the mythos phase and be outa there next round. But that's the problem with the obol, imho. That it makes the Rogue a liability for the whole group. You either try to protect them, possibly forfeiting XP for the group like with "Delve Too Deep", because a "Rotting Remains" might kill them, or they possibly have to resign before they have done their job, failing scenarios because of that, or they have to restart a new level 0 investigator mid campaign. Either option is not great for the progress of the game. — Susumu · 222

Ok, so I have a probably very niche question:

So the card reads "When earning experience during the resolution of a scenario, if you were not defeated during that scenario, you earn 2 additional experience. If you were defeated during that scenario, you are killed."

My question focuses on the last "that". My reading is that if you were defeated but did not earn any experience, you wouldn't die. Because the "that" is referring to a scenario in which you earned experience during the resolution. Is this reading correct?

PanicMoon · 2
Every scenario has the investigators earn experience as part of its resolution, even if the amount earned was zero, so I think your reading is not correct. To the best of my recollection, every resolution that doesn't involve the investigators being killed has the phrase, "The investigators earn X experience, where X is equal to the amount of victory points in the victory display." It is during this step that the obol would trigger and kill you, even if X=0. — SGPrometheus · 664
There are a few exceptions where no experience clause exists. Although without explicitely looking them up, the one I specifically remember involves redoing the scenario instead of advancing. — Death by Chocolate · 1209
That's an interesting case Death by Chocolate brings up. It does specifically say to resolve investigator death IIRC (or maybe it was just defeat?). I always assumed that was code for "Yes, you still get Obol'd, even though everybody else gets to try again." lol — Zinjanthropus · 209
But, say if you are defeated and get no XP but instead have to redo the scenario: what happens when you then get to non-redo resolution next time around? I mean you were still defeated 'during this scenario' even if it wasn't this latest attempt. Surely the XP line kills you now, even if the redo gave you a brief unexpected reprieve? — RichardPlunkett · 12

I have a question about how this card interacts with setup for City of Archives.

You're instructed to remove all unique item cards from your deck during setup, but the Obol is permanent.

Does it get removed or not? I know the RR states that permanent cards cannot leave play, but is the Obol already in play by the time you work through setup? I have a feeling it is...

It gets removed from your deck before CoA. This means that you can't get the extra 2xp from it. — Zinjanthropus · 209
Thanks. I've had conflicting comments about this. I'm fine with not gaining the XP; it was the permanent issue that caused the headache. — MagnusLothar · 1
Aren't items returned to you during city of archives at a certain point? If so, wouldn't the Obol return before the scenario is up and therefore grant the XP bonus? — LaRoix · 1595
Agenda 1 stops you putting items in general into play and that effect goes away on the flip side of that agenda, but *unique* items are set aside in set-up and IIRC never given back. So I think if the obol gets set-aside , it stays gone... — bee123 · 24
It's very clearly the intent that Obol wouldn't be in play. I do believe strictly by rules as written the Obol would be in play already and couldn't be removed, although throughout TFA scenario setup instructions occur out of order with regard to investigator setup, and it's unclear when exactly Permanents are put into play. — Yenreb · 15
If you look at Appendix III: Setting Up the Game, I suspect step 4, "Assemble and shuffle the investigator decks" is when Permanents would be put into play, since they are not shuffled into the decks. The entry for Permanent just says "starts each game in play and is not shuffled into your investigator deck during setup." The special instructions for this scenario occur later, "before drawing opening hands" (which is step 8). On the other hand, if "begins the game in play" doesn't actually put it into play *until* the game begins (after step 13) I guess it's technically part of the 'deck' (in the deckbuilding sense, just not in the shuffled sense) and could be removed. — Yenreb · 15
That can't be right, though; there are Permanents which affect starting resources or the starting hand; Permanents must be in play already before those steps. By RAW the Obol must be in play already at that step and can't technically be removed. — Yenreb · 15
Whether the Obol is in your deck or in your play area doesn't affect at all. Because the setup says each investigators searches his/her deck and play area, and unique items are 'removed from the game' ,not 'discarded'. — Tzolkin1065 · 146