Masks of Nyarlathotep
Arriving in England
As international air travel is not available for most of the 1920s, an ocean voyage is required. The leading operators are the White Star Line and Cunard Line, offering First, Second, and Third Class accommodation, depending on the investigators’ funds. The crossing takes around nine days; as long as the weather holds good, it can be as little as five days. On arrival in Southampton (or Liverpool), passengers can catch a train headed into London (taking half to a full day’s travel).
Firearms in the UK
Clever investigators, who plan ahead, may discover that firearms may be shipped with them if their travel documents prove they are passing through Britain on their way to another country (such as Africa or China). Of course, such investigators are reminded that their weapons must remain secured and unused while in the UK.
British subjects and permanent residents may, of course, bring firearms into the country
providing they have been issued with a firearms certificate by the chief constable of their home district. Weapons (non-automatics) and ammunition may be purchased at hunting and department stores, specialist sellers, or on the black market. Reputable sellers will ask to see the buyer’s firearms certificate (except when buying shotguns).
Obtaining a firearms certificate is usually very time-consuming for foreign visitors. It is unlikely that a tourist would be issued a certificate; occasionally, a chief constable might grant a certificate to an “upstanding foreigner” with references from a reputable UK source, as long as they are of “sound mind” and without a UK criminal record—a letter of recommendation from a US law enforcement authority may help, if provided within a suitable professional context. Anything from a couple of days to two weeks might be spent waiting for the paperwork to be approved and signed.
Shotguns are not considered a firearm under British law, so do not require a firearms certificate, and may be brought into the country (“for hunting game”) without undue officialdom. Equally, tourists may purchase shotguns while in Great Britain. Of course, a reckless investigator will be stopped and probably arrested by the police if found walking around Central London (or anywhere else, apart from a country estate) with a shotgun cocked over their arm.
Great Britain’s currency is the Pound Sterling. One pound (£) is divided into 20 shillings (s) or 240 pennies (d), with 12 pennies making 1 shilling. Prices are quoted in pounds, shillings and pence, written as £/s/d. For conversion, there are, roughly, $5 US dollars to £1 (one pound).
Setting Information: London
For generations, London and its suburbs have comprised the greatest city known to man. Approximately seven and a half million people live in the Greater London area. Not only the largest, London is also the wealthiest city in the world. In later generations, New York overtakes the sprawling city on the Thames but, just now, London is the queen of civilization and the heart of the British Empire—but the cracks are beginning to show.
A dark scar lies beneath the fields of England. The Great War claimed a generation, with most families losing two of their number in the conflict. For many of the aristocracy, heirs have been lost, servants no longer serve, and the power once guaranteed by bloodline is being usurped by nouveau riche industrialists. Behind the facade of the Roaring Twenties, the British class system is slowly bleeding to death. Laborers strike for more pay and better conditions, and those going about London’s streets are likely to see picket lines from time to time.
The County of London covers approximately 116 square miles (300 square km). It is ridiculously easy to hide (and get lost) in its warren-like streets. The wealthiest portions of the city are north of the Thames: the West End and most of Westminster, extending into Chelsea, Kensington, Paddington, and Marylebone. Within Westminster rest the palaces and government offices commonly thought of when the word “London” is mentioned. The most fashionable addresses include Mayfair (just east of Hyde Park), Belgravia (south of Hyde Park), Kensington (west of Belgravia), and Chelsea (to the south of Belgravia and Kensington).
The district of Soho, an area bounded by Oxford Street, Regent Street, Charing Cross Road, and Piccadilly, is among the most ethnically diverse areas of London. It is home to the Berwick Street Market (one of the oldest street markets in the capital), where flappers can find ready-made dresses next to all manner of other items and produce. Truly cosmopolitan, Soho is also beset with crime, prostitution, and other urban vices.
The actual City of London covers about one square mile just north of the Thames, within London’s medieval walls. Rail terminals funnel commuters and travelers to the commercial heart of the British Empire. Further north, the districts are predominantly artisan or middle class. The mean streets of the East End: Stepney, Bethnal Green, Limehouse, Shoreditch, and so on, form a distinct and abruptly contrasting poverty, a state also normal along the south bank of the Thames from Battersea to Greenwich. A writer of the time noted, “Even in the richest quarters, in Westminster and elsewhere, small but well-defined areas of the poorest dwellings occur…” Further south of the Thames, the districts become progressively more middle class and suburban.
The Great War interrupted the growth rate of London but building construction and renovation has since renewed despite ongoing labor unrest (that comes to a head in 1926 with the General Strike). The period between 1920 and 1930 sees rapid expansion and modernization of transport networks, with the further development of the London Underground and electrification of commuter railways. War rationing has ended and nightclubs and cocktail bars flourish, both frequented by the Bright Young Things.
While modernization grips London, the overall economic position of England is not so good. Immediately following the Great War the economy boomed but, by 1920, the economy has slumped and industries like coal are in decline. Unemployment rose when servicemen returning from the front found no jobs, which only added to the general rise of joblessness that would not dissipate until the onset of the Second World War. Signs of unemployment and poverty are most noticeable in the East End working-class areas of London but the jobless may be seen on many London streets, sometimes agitating for political change.
Getting About in London and Further Afield
The investigators are spoilt for choice with the range of transport services available to them. All of the following provide relatively easy means to travel to anywhere in London during daylight hours, although nighttime services are often limited or non-existent.
The “Tube” offers a cheap and convenient method of travel around London but note that the majority of stations are closed between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Double-decker open-top buses run by competing independent companies. Night buses to larger community centers in London have been available for the last few years. Such services are very rare outside of London.
London’s famed motorized black taxicabs operate across London. Taxis, able to carry four people, can be found in ranks in high footfall areas or can be hailed from the street as they pass by. Horse-drawn hansom cabs continue to offer an alternative to the motorcar and can seat six people in relative comfort.
Convenient hop-on, hop-off transport running weekdays only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Automobiles may be hired from garages by the hour, day, week, or month. On average, a week’s hire costs around £35, while a month could cost £130. The number of cars on Britain’s roads sees a rapid rise during the 1920s (over a million by 1930), although horse-drawn carriages could still be seen in most walks of life. Garages are rare and the speed limit is 20 mph (not that anyone seems to take notice of such restrictions). Hiring a car provides an extremely convenient means of transport not only in London but also for journeying beyond the capital.
Trains from London to other regions are operated by four privately owned groups: the London, Midland, and Scotland Railway (LMS), the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), the Great Western Railway (GWR), and Southern Railway (SR). First (private compartment) or Third Class tickets (communal seating) could be purchased. The rail network crisscrosses the land and is the main (and cheapest) method for traveling around the country.
While in London, the investigators have a choice of highend to low-rent accommodation.
The cheapest rooms can be found in slum hotels, usually in the heart of the poorest and least salubrious areas, where crime is rife. Taking a room in such downtrodden places offers the possibility of anonymity but risks being shoulder to shoulder with all manner of criminals, ne’er-do-wells, and others who would take advantage of gullible “tourists.”
An alternative could be the ubiquitous bed-and-breakfast in the suburbs and countryside—one or more rooms in a private residence (often advertised in newspapers or with a card in a front window saying “B&B”). While discrete, the investigators may have to comply with the landlady’s rules (such as curfews and no guests) and be subjected to all manner of nosy questions.
For investigators prepared to spend more, average to grand hotels probably fit the bill. At the top of the scale are the Ritz (150 Piccadilly), the Savoy Hotel (Strand), Claridge’s and Brown’s Hotel (both Mayfair), and the Waldorf (Aldwych), all of which are located in Central London. Alternatively, the Cavendish, Grosvenor Court, and Langham hotels offer good rooms without the glamor.
The London Fog
London in the 1920s is famous for its fogs, known as “London peculiars,” caused by coal fires and factory pollution. Also called “pea-soupers,” the fogs were often so dense and unpredictable that people caught in them found navigation very difficult, if not impossible. Due to the industrial pollution, the fogs came in a range of colors, from yellow-brown to green, as well as being damp and cloying. While not recognized in the 1920s, it was estimated (in 1954) that such fogs had actually claimed the lives of around 12,000 people (total) due to the fatal properties of the chemicals contained within them.
As the investigators are unlikely to spend prolonged periods in the fog, its health consequences can be ignored, although particularly harsh Keepers may call for a CON roll if they deem a particular patch of fog to be highly polluted. If failed, the investigator is partially incapacitated by coughing for 1d6 rounds, with a penalty die applied to skill rolls during this time.