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Review: Call Of Cthulhu London Guidebook

Reviewed By Joseph Teller

(ISBN 1-56882-027-5; Chaosium, Inc.) Although designed for use with the Call of Cthulhu game and background, the London Guidebook can be of use to nearly anyone interested in running a roleplaying game in that city before the coming of WWII.

Lucya Szachnowski and Gary O'Connell have done an excellent job at researching the history and folklore of the city from its humble importance under the Romans thru to the 1920s when the British Empire believed it truly was the "Capital of The World". Filled with solid facts and tempered with the observations of those who spent time there over the years, this book is a definite asset.

"London is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, anomalies, hobbies and humors." said George Santayana. While Percy Shelley simply said "Hell is a city much like London - A populous and smoky city." London indeed, as presented in the Guidebook, is all this and more.

The Guidebook is extensively illustrated with authentic feeling artwork of the period, along side some stock photos and difficult to find maps and building interiors that can make playing the city more realistic and alive.

Here are the folks who made the city the scandalous and exciting place it was from the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods of England's history. From promiscuous actresses, famous authors, strutting gentlemen and dangerous dabblers in the occult, all come alive in the pages for you to draw forth and introduce into a campaign, adding color and style that both GM and player can appreciate.

Here too, for the Cthulhu/Horror Fan are plenty of plot hooks and adventure ideas mingled into the pages (including a short scenario). Also included is a selection of descriptions of 'True Crimes' that occured in the history of the period, and plenty of info on the cemeteries of the city and the infamous activities that might take place within them.

What does it lack? Well it might have been a better idea to expand the volume to encompass the information planned in the rewritten "Cthulhu By Gaslight" London in the 1890s, since its been stated that the other volume will be a 'compact' edition compared to the original. That or perhaps they might be advised to take the 1890s book and expand it to cover the 1800s of England in General to make it more useful to folks who have bought the 1920s London Guidebook.

Also a bit more on the clothing, social 'rules' and another page or two on the entertainment possibilities in 1920s London would have been helpful in setting atmosphere. Adding some basic concepts for the American audience, who have very little understanding of things like how cricket is played, or exactly what the political situation was in the world at that time and how England fit into it all and what exactly were the possessions of the Empire before and after the war for possible travel ideas, would also have impoved the guidebook.

Despite these minor failings it is an excellent book and a welcome addition to my gaming reference shelf. I've been using it as a reference in my FR:Perilous Earth which is set with London as a main base of operations for the characters, and despite the fact I'm dealing with modern London, its rich maps and information on the history of the city are proving quite valuable in weaving plots and conspiracies dating back to the turn of the century and earlier.

Overall the book gains a solid A- grade and is definitely recommended.

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