The Spirits of London
Have you ever read a game supplement and thought, that was great, but it would be better if they had included <insert topic>. That’s how I felt after reading Hudson & Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure. It was a great product but seemed like there were a few elements missing; nothing detrimental to the setting, only things that would make it that much better. Enter The Spirits of London.
As part of the Hudson & Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure Kickstarter, The Spirits of London, a chapbook released separately, features new and varied material not included in the main book. This short supplement brings spiritualism and things that go bump in the night to life into the setting. It provides Keepers with a short, concise, and detail-packed supplement to help address its themes in their game. I liken it to the material that didn’t make the final cut for the original book. That is not to say that this bonus material wasn’t worthy of inclusion in Hudson & Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure. On the contrary, it was likely a layout decision due to page count constraints. However, it came to be, it is great little chapbook that adds some fun new material to Hudson & Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure.
Clocking in at only 22 pages, what could you possibly be getting that is worth the additional cost above and beyond the main book? I can tell you the material is great, but let me lay it out in a little more detail so that you can see the value for yourself.
Introduction – The introduction connects the topic of the chapbook to the heartbeat of London itself. London, in the Gas Light era, is rife with spiritualism, ghosts, and all manner of things that go bump in the night.
Spirits in London – Nine vignettes address some of London’s most horrific and historically factual events spanning from the time before the Romans founded Londinium through 1867. There is plenty to whet the whistle of Keepers who might want to then explore a specific event in great depth elsewhere.
Spirit Sites – This section covers physical locations in London that are known or believed to be the site of spirit activity. For example, we all know that historically the Tower of London is reported to be haunted, but did you know that the Viaduct Tavern (which still stands today) is rumored to be a site of poltergeist activity? How about the British Museum? This section gives Keepers a concise summary of where the location is and why it might be a site of spirit activity. These are great investigation seeds for creative Keepers.
In Game Atmosphere – A very short (3 paragraphs) section on how Google is your best friend in finding ways to best describe the uniqueness of London in the Victorian era. Having to tell readers that Google is their best friend seems silly to me. The remaining two paragraphs are useful! They are dedicated to London’s famous Pea Soupers, that famous London fog that would roll in and linger for days. If a resourceful Keeper opts to add a Pea Souper, there are some slight in-game modifications—increased Spot Hidden difficulty and a benefit for those being chased (if using the Chase rules).
Encounters in London – This section brings in an element of randomness to your Call of Cthulhu game. For Keepers who want to dress up street scenes or present sinister portents, the author has provided two random charts that can be referenced. I see a lot of value, not in the randomness, but rather in how random “dressing” can liven up an existing scene or even provide the Keeper with a seed to build something more specific and intrinsic their story. The Sinister Portents chart is very interesting; it can be used at random or selectively by a Keeper wishing to subtlety foreshadow some future event.
The Gateway Beyond Spiritualism – A short and concise treatise (if it can call it that) on spiritualism, more specifically seances in London and some of the key of figures. It also provides Keepers with some background information for what lies beneath the surface of it all. It’s quite an interesting read.
Where Mythos Meets Myth – Addresses how to use existing Mythos creatures in a supernatural way or how Mythos creatures might be mistaken for supernatural beings. Several creatures and NPCs are highlighted for Keepers’ use and ways to incorporate them without diminishing the sense of the supernatural.
Devices and Equipment – Provides some very interesting things Keepers can add their game. There is a selection of Tomes that can be introduced to Victorian London and a Mi-Go Trans-Reality Bridge table that could be absolutely horrific or hilarious depending on what type of Keeper you have.
Additions to the Grimoire – This final section wraps up the chapbook. “The easiest way to deal with the addition of new abilities concerning ghosts is to treat them like spells, as in essence that is what they are.” (p. 20) This section outlines the spells associated with ghosts and spirits. It’s a quick reference of sorts.
As with Hudson & Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure, the artwork throughout, of which there is plenty, is evocative of the time period. It helps readers to get immersed right from the start. The layout of the chapbook is clean and well-organized. It was a pleasure to read with only a few editing oddities that most people would glance over, never noticing them unless you’re editor or proofreader.
So, back to the original question. What could you possibly be getting that is worth the additional cost above and beyond the main book? In its 22 pages, The Spirits of London provides quite a bit of additional material that can help flesh out this particular vibe in your game. If you want to introduce ghosts in your Gas Light game, this is well worth picking up. Even if you prefer to keep your game more traditional (Mythos versus supernatural) there is enough historical material here to also make it worth picking up. The two random charts will be useful for resourceful Keepers in any London-based Gas Light era game. Robert Grayston and the entire Stygian Fox team have done a great job and have added yet another useful book, albeit a short one, to the Gas Light era.
If you’re interested in my review of Hudson & Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure, please take a few minutes and have a look at it – Gaslight Never Looked so Good; Hudson and Brand: Inquiry Agents of the Obscure
If you’re looking for investigator or NPC portraits, have a look at our Investigator Images: A Curated List of Yearbooks For Call of Cthulhu. We think you’ll find it a great resource. Don’t forget to bookmark it.
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