Berlin: The Wicked City (2019)

Berlin: The Wicked City (2019) explores the intersection of hedonism, decadence, artistic expression and horror (both supernatural and all too human) in Germany’s Weimar Republic. In doing this, it winds up being one of the very best sourcebooks I’ve encountered, for Call of Cthulhu, or any RPG, honestly. Its just so relentlessly useful. It’s authors know what you need: detail, but those that make for the construction of interesting games. Too often (like the Call of Cthulhu “Secrets of” line of regional sourcebooks) books like this are full of dry history a GM is going to struggle to find a use for and profiles of notable people most players will never encounter. Not so here, where daily life and culture is the focus. This book constructs a Berlin that players will explore.

Which is to say, it is a Berlin full of both beauty and atrocity. While a haven for queer folk and artists of the time, it was also a place were drug abuse, sexual exploitation and racism ran rampant. It was, after all, a city in free fall, where the fabric of society was unraveling in prelude to one of Europe’s darkest chapters. The book presents both sides of the coin in balance. Wicked City’s treatment of queer culture is on par with Harlem Unbound’s treatment of race and for that alone the book should be on every Keeper’s shelf. But it is also sourcebook for a horror game that tackles mature subject matter without flinching, so think honestly about your group’s comfort level before introducing the setting.

Included are three scenarios, all rich with symbolism and themes that connect them to the social and political currents of their historical moment. Each feels like a distinct sort of horror and each covers unusual ground for CoC. The potential twist in “Dances of Vice, Horror and Ecstacy” is particularly daring. I’d say more but maybe just find someone to run them for you.

As with most of Chaosium’s recent publications, this one is gorgeous through and through. I particularly like the cover art, and that sweet King in Yellow.

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