After writing Call of Cthulhu scenarios in the 1890s, 1920s and the French Revolution I decided to explore a new historical period. I’ve long had a fascination with Restoration London (1660s) probably thanks to my father who spent of the latter part of his life on a definitive volume of the works of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and favorite of King Charles II. I have read and re-read Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, and I have a deep and abiding fondness for the period diarist, that old rogue Samuel Pepys – nor am I alone, see the wonderful @samuelpepys where internet snark meets 17th century morals.
My first scenario set in Restoration London has the brief – for the period – title “A Most Bloody, Horrid and Lamentable Account of a Popish Plot Against James I of England and VI of Scotland, with many curious Particulars” (on the grounds that Particulars are all the more Curious when Capitalised). My playtesters created an intrepid family of investigators, Kentish apothecaries who farmed the medicinal Romsey Marsh leech and were keen to bring their strictly scientific leech-based cure to the London. Here’s a sample of some of the other medicines from the time:
- MOSS – Dried and powdered moss grown on the skull (used in many pills);
- SNAILS – to remove warts, take three snails and gash them, then take the liquor that comes out of them and anoint your warts.
- SIR DIGBY’S WEAPON SALVE – if wounded rub this salve upon the weapon that hurt you and your wound will be cured; also an infallible remedy for toothache.
I disinterred Black Dog Court and Seething Lane, long buried under the ashes of the Great Fire and the skyscrapers of modern London, as a setting for the investigators to rent their new house in.
Chaosium ran the scenario for Arcanacon in Melbourne and I’ve had good reports all round – my favorite response was the anguished cry of a 17th century apothecary, “It’s science but not as we know it!’.
We’ll be running the scenario again for CarcosaCon in Czocha Castle, Poland, in March and Chaosium Con DownUnder in May. I look forward to seeing how it is received and to writing more scenarios for this fascinating time, so no spoilers for now, except for a quote from Defoe:
Another ran about Naked, except a pair of Drawers about his Waste, crying Day and Night… this poor naked Creature cry’d in the streets O! The Great, and the Dreadful God! And said no more, but repeated these words continually, with a Voice and a Countenance full of horror, and no Body cou’d ever find him to stop, or rest, or take any Sustenance…
Finally, this long view of London etched by Wenceslaus Hollar in 1647 is a Keeper’s screen waiting to happen. (You can download it in its full 72 MB high res glory here.)