The England chapter offers a dramatic range of settings and encounters for your players to explore, and you can unveil a variety of locations and characters to create a dreadful, and even gritty, depth to this corner of the campaign. We like to imagine our Investigators arriving in London with visions of Downton Abbey and Oxford professors only to find themselves soon mixed up in the seedy underbelly of the city.
For an inspirational piece contemporary to the setting, we strongly recommend Hitchcock’s 1927 classic silent thriller The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. The plot, based on Marie Belloc Lowndes’s 1913 novel, centers on the hunt for the “Avenger”, a serial killer who preys on young blonde women. The opening scene depicts the discovery of the latest victim on a foggy, nighttime London street, which provides some great suggestive visuals. You may also find inspiration for Miles Shipley and his dutiful forays in service of “Bertha.”
If you prefer dialogue with exquisite period detail and set design, we highly recommend Peaky Blinders. Although set in land-locked Birmingham, the show presents rich depictions of criminal activities during the era, which may feature prominently in your Limehouse scenes. The first season of the Netflix show, The Queen, dramatically depicts a particularly deadly version of London’s thick, dangerous fog. If looking for additional ideas for anthropomorphizing the weather and depicting the Fog-Spawn, Carpenter’s 1980 classic The Fog may provide some ideas. While set in California rather than London, this cult favorite will be worth your time. Best to avoid the 2005 remake, though.
The campaign book suggests both movies The Devil Rides Out (1968) and the Night of the Demon (1957), which we wholeheartedly agree with for both this campaign and all of Call of Cthulhu. You can check out Dennis Wheatley’s novel of the same name for the former film, as well as M.R. James’ 1911 short story “Casting the Runes” from which the latter film was adapted. We portray Gavigan similarly to the antagonist from “Casting the Runes” deploying his Fog-Spawn as a stealthy means for vengeance while maintaining an air of respectability. The Devil Ride Out features a fantastic turn at protagonist portrayal by Christopher Lee and provides some nice set pieces for your Misr House rituals.
The Chelsea Serpent:
For the Chelsea Serpent, we have several entertaining examples to draw from. We recommend sticking with the 1966 Hammer classic, The Reptile, in which the daughter of an English doctor undergoes a disturbing transformation resulting from a Malayan curse. This is not to be mistaken for A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, which was a 1971 giallo film set in London in which a respected politician’s daughter experiences sequential vivid, psychedelic sexual nightmares punctuated by her graphically murdering a neighbor. You may enjoy the lurid content, but you will find no actual reptilian content. You can probably altogether pass on The Snake Woman (1961), which features a Scotland Yard detective investigating a series of deaths in a Northumbrian village by snake venom. Critics, then and now, have struggled to find nice things to say about it. Finally, we cannot resist suggesting the original Conan the Barbarian, which depicts some great snake-people content and always deserves another rewatch. We personally imagine Ssathasaa very much resembling Thulsa Doom.
The Derbyshire Horror
For this sidetrack, we delighted some of our players with a Downton Abbey-style setting, while drawing upon An American Werewolf in London. You might also enjoy the 1988 horror-comedy The Lair of the White Worm, starring Hugh Grant with Peter Capaldi. Set in Derbyshire and loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name, this film provides a glimpse of the local environs, as well as some “interesting” sacrifice scenes. If you intend to go to the source material, be warned that H.P. Lovecraft himself states in his 1927 essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” that Stoker “utterly ruins a magnificent idea by a development almost infantile” in describing the novel.
Finally, we would like to return to one of our childhood favorites, which features a murder investigation, an Egyptian cult, a London warehouse, and an underground pyramid. Fans of the greatest detective may be offended by this departure from canon, but Young Sherlock Holmes, a mid-80s product from Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, touches on so many aspects of this campaign chapter that we would be remiss to exclude it. Consider giving it a revisit.
Given the broad scope of England and its two sidetracks, we acknowledge that we will be overlooking some outstanding reference works, and we would love to know what material you drew from to set the chapter’s tone.