Berlin: The Wicked City
Berlin in the 1920s was a chaotic soup of economic uncertainty, rising political danger, and brash personal expression through art and sexuality. What could make such a mixture more extreme? Eldritch horror. With Berlin: The Wicked City, Chaosium adds a new, exciting, and dangerous expansion to the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game world.
The supplement gives Keepers and players alike a new playground to explore and investigate a vibrant city constantly on the verge of falling apart to human and outer horrors alike, or just enjoy a lovely evening at the cabaret however and with whoever you choose.
The brainchild of David Larkins (my interview with David about Berlin: The Wicked City can be read here.), this 272-page tome covers the people and places that brought Berlin to life in the 1920s, as well as the lurking cosmic atrocities that seek to bring down Berlin and the world beyond.
Chapter 1: The City covers what life was like in Berlin during the 1920s in granular detail. The different districts of Berlin are extensively written, giving each one's points of interest both monstrous and mundane as well as insight into each district's nightlife and criminal problems.
The chapter also gives an in-depth course in the history of Berlin, going from Albert the Bear's reign in the 12th century all the way through the Great War and on further through the Greater Berlin Act of 1920 when Berlin incorporated surrounding several towns, villages, and estates into the city. The line of Berlin's history is an excellent read unto itself, and gives an excellent framework for the troubles that investigators can experience in-game.
Many other details of living in Berlin are explained as well. Weather, transportation, as well as the city's crime and punishment measures are given fine overview. Of interest to the game itself is the subsection on alcohol and drug usage. Heroin and Opium require a Cthulhu Mythos roll so yeah maybe you don't want your investigator to try those. Unless of course you do.
Chapter 2: Uncovering Berlin details the culture of Berlin during that time. Overviews of the libraries, museums, and other cultural centers are noted for exploration. The day-to-day life of Berliners is gone over as well to give a good vision of what the city's streets were like.
Berlin's nightlife is a thing of legend even today, and Berlin: The Wicked City spares no little bit of space describing it. The cabaret and bar culture of the city is described extensively as well, from the upper crust to low depravity. The aesthetic of the 1920's Berlin cabaret scene is steeped with mystery and the sinister. Tentacles swirling in the blackness with cigarette smoke to some of the darkest music of the time is not difficult to imagine.
Of particular interest in this chapter is the section illustrating the inclusion of info for having LBGTQI investigators in the game. Berlin had a huge non-heterosexual population for the city's size in the 1920s. To quote Berlin: The Wicked City: "having an LGBTQI investigator in the game is not only possible but probable." This isn't to say that Berlin was completely open arms with their LGBTQI community. There was still plenty of repression. Still, not including this pertinent element of Berlin life would've been conspicuous by its absence. It gives an excellent depth to the game experience.
Chapter 3: Oh! You Pretty Things gives background for some of Berlin's luminaries of the time. These include Berthold Brecht, Marlene Dietrich, and Albert Einstein, as well as asshats like Goebbels. Incorporating them or others into a scenario can lead to some entertaining and unique scenarios; What if Einstein needed to get back a notebook that cultists stole that had his equations he did not want seen?
Chapter 4: Strange Berlin gets into the dark places that probably didn't earn Berlin the title of "Wickedest Place on Earth" but definitely would have. Berlin's priestess of Nyarlathotep emceeing cabaret shows. A restaurant temple to Y'gonolac. A gang of feral youth out in the Grunewald doing the bidding of Shub-Niggurath. All of these plus a couple handfuls of utterly decadent scenario seeds gives a Keeper plenty of raw ammo to build their own Berlin Call of Cthulhu scenarios.
If you don't want to start writing your own Berlin-based scenarios yet (but you really should), Chapter 4 consists of three ready-made scenarios for you to run and for you and your players to familiarize yourselves with Berlin:
The Devil Eats Flies- Berlin is awash with senseless murder after a woman who may be Russian royalty is almost killed by a cannibal. Then it gets weird.
Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy- The investigators are invited to see a performance by an infamous dancer. What happens next threatens the sanity and lives of all of Berlin and beyond.
Shreckfilm- A dropped dossier leads to terrible realizations involving the Berlin film community.
In closing Chaosium has put together, in my opinion, one of their best and immersive supplements for 7th edition Call of Cthulhu to date with Berlin, The Wicked City. If you want to explore an already dark city made horrifically darker, definitely buy this. Berlin: The Wicked City can be purchased directly through Chaosium.