Getting a Feel for London 1889

My initial Penny Dreadful Cthulhu game was postponed by a week - I had to do some unexpected repair work on our front yard zombies, taking up time I'd planned on doing homework. Real world can be a bit rough sometimes... But hey - check out zombies at the end of this post.While the first game has been delayed a week I do have the first adventure ready - though I might do a bit of refining, map-making, etc.

I do have to confess I find Victorian London to be a bit challenging. None of us are British so there's going to be no one going after me on details, but one thing I find intimidating is there is so much information available on Victorian London it is possible to fall victim to analysis paralysis. Part of the challenge is London is a real city that I don't know all that well - I've only been there once so I don't have an intuitive feel for it. When making a superhero city or a game set in a fictional city, I feel a bit more emboldened to make it my own. The odd thing is London in a Gaslight-era Pulp Cthulhu game is most certainly a fictional city in many ways.

What am I doing to combat this? First, I am accepting I'm not going to get everything right. I'll have a train stopping at a time when none would stop, a policeman doing something he wouldn't do etc. At the end of the day, I'll need to live with it. I'm also planning on having the occasional jaunt to New York City. I've been fascinated for several years by Gilded Age New York City and, while not living in the City, once once upon a time a Brooklyn Boy of PS 206.

However, I have been doing some reading and viewing to help me get that Victorian London feel. In no particular order:

  • From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Gritty look at the lives of Jack the Ripper's victims. I really enjoy how they became real people, not just statistics.
  • Ripper Street - British television show about police in the Whitechapel area. 
  • The Great Stink by Clare Clark. Novel taking place as the sewers of London are improved so they stop dumping sewage right in the Thames. Nice look at lower and middle class people in the era, including a tosher (a sewer scavenger) and a veteran of the Crimean War suffering from PTSD. Thirty years before our era, but still a great book for capturing the feel.
  • The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman. Not focused on London or even the UK, but rather an overview of the world from 1890 to 1914 in the form of numerous essays around various themes. Nice way to get a feel for many of the issues of the period.
  • Baedeker's London and Its Environs, 1900. Clearly a touch after our period but still great resource in providing a contemporary tourist guide to the city. It was a little easier on my eyes a few years ago before I needed bifocals/progressive lenses... 
  • Dickens Dictionary of London 1888 - Written by Charles Dicken's son, perfect for our era. An odd treasure trove on the city, though another work a little tough on aging eyes...
  • Lots of map reprints from the era.

And now, the front yard zombie crew:


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