Berlin: The Wicked City, hardback supplement for Call of Cthulhu, by David Larkins with Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy
“Unveiling the Mythos in Weimar Germany
In the aftermath of the Great War, Berlin has a reputation for licentiousness. A place where anything may be had for the right price. It is both a city of hedonism and a city of business; its streets overflow with disabled veterans, prostitutes, destitute immigrants, and political agitators—all rubbing shoulders with buttoned-down businessmen, scholars, and artists. The gutters run with the blood of political assassinations, where Communists and völkisch Nationalists clash with each other, as well as with the police. Long into the evenings, Berlin’s world-famous cabarets offer music, dance, and titillating entertainment in stark contrast to the grey buildings that run on for endless miles along the sprawling city’s byways.
Into this bubbling stew, Secrets of Berlin introduces the weird elements of the Cthulhu Mythos. A hotbed of occult organisations, strange cults, and half-whispered lore. Amid the wicked air of the world’s capital of sin, the very nature of what it means to be human is questioned. And, as the city hurtles toward its inevitable dark destiny, the oppressive atmosphere pushes the sanity of investigators to its breaking point.
This book presents an overview of 1920s Berlin as it would be experienced by visitors and residents of the time. Guidelines are presented for creating investigators for a Berlin-centric campaign, as well as investigator organisations to help bind groups together. Notable personalities, key locations, and a system for generating details of the urban landscape on the fly are provided. With crime and punishment, the city’s underworld, and also its high culture detailed, the tools provided help the Keeper gain an understanding of what makes Berlin unique.
Three scenarios, spanning the history of Berlin between the end of the Great War and the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, contain colourful details of Berlin and its inhabitants and may be run as stand-alone adventures or linked together to form a mini-campaign.
The Wickedest City on Earth
“The city of Berlin, I recognised, had a definite colour of its own; it had, plainly, become a world metropolis… now Berlin had acquired an authentic entity. It resided in the young, and was composed, mostly, of a direct recognition, a faintly bitter but undisturbed acceptance, of all, all, the realities of existence. It was an attitude nowhere, that I could see, irradiated by hope. The customary optimism, the romantic confidence, of youth, were absent in Berlin… So much, the bearing of the young showed, had failed them, turning out false or hypocritical or insubstantial, that they had concluded all the celebrated reassurances and rewards were lies.”
—Joseph Hergesheimer, Berlin
Chapter 1: The City, presents an overview of 1920s Berlin. Creating investigators for a Berlin-centric campaign, as well as advice for bringing in existing player characters. Investigator organisations and Experience Packages are designed to add new dimensions to investigative groups. The chapter includes an overview of Berlin’s history, as well as its topology, identifying key districts that best reflect the city’s character. Details are provided on travel, communications, housing, crime and punishment, drug abuse, the city’s underworld, and its high culture.
Chapter 2: Uncovering Berlin contains a range of locations of interest for investigators, from libraries and museums to cafés and nightclubs. Due to the city’s sheer size, we eschew a block-by-block description, instead highlighting locations of interest and filling in the blanks with a system for generating details of the urban landscape on the fly. Berlin’s predilection for hedonism centres on the city’s relationship with prostitution, food and drink, and cabaret. Guidelines are provided for a range of investigator contacts and the chapter concludes with details on neighbourhood street encounters, all providing the Keeper with inspiration for cabarets and clubs, architectural details, and businesses. With the tools provided in this chapter, the Keeper gains an understanding of what makes Berlin unique and has the tools to bring the city to life at the gaming table.
Chapter 3: Oh! You Pretty Things details notable historical personalities to provide colour and insight into the city. Whether Marlene Dietrich or Joseph Goebbels, short biographies highlight the time certain individuals lived or worked in Berlin, providing inspiration for encounters and scenarios.
Chapter 4: Strange Berlin considers how the Cthulhu Mythos festers in the dark corners and shadows of the city. A range of scenario seeds and cults ensures the Keeper has the material for creating a decade-spanning campaign of horror.
Three scenarios spanning the history of Berlin include more of Berlin’s colourful details. Each scenario may be run as stand-alone episode or linked together to form a mini-campaign.
In The Devil Eats Flies Germany teeters on the brink of economic ruin and political chaos. The ghost of a madman stalks the city, turning its own citizenry against itself. To stop a demonic spirit and save a Russian princess in exile, the investigators must strike a bargain with other sinister forces and ask themselves: who else are we prepared to see die in order to save the city?
Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy takes place in the city’s golden years, when things have become superficially stable and prosperous again. A bungling sorcerer, a debauched dancer, and a strange cult of gnostic Saturn-worshippers threaten to put all of that to an end and turn Berlin into a pit of madness and depravity.
Schreckfilm sees Berlin racing toward its grim future. The investigators come face to face with a shadowy cabal of the city’s movers and shakers who are determined to turn the city’s world-famous film industry toward ill ends. Trapped in a labyrinth of their own making and hounded relentlessly by dark forces beyond their ken, the investigators must confront the fundamental question of what is real and what is illusion.
Concluding the book is a selection of inspirational media, including books, film, and websites for those wishing to delve even deeper into the mysteries, history, and geography of Berlin.
For Mature Readers – this book deals with mature themes, including drugs and sex, and is intended for mature players.”