Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lovecraftian Thing a Day No.224: Cthulhu Britannica - London

Continuing with the Call of Cthulhu theme, today we present the marvelous Cthulhu Britannica: London boxed set by Cubicle 7, which just won the Silver Ennie award for best production values in a gaming product at GenCon this year.

A while back I made a tidy sum when I sold off practically all of my old Call of Cthulhu material (which included a good few rarities). The reasons for this were twofold: firstly, I hadn't played the game in years; secondly, as a consequence of the digital revolution much of the old material was available to download relatively cheaply - and as my iPad had become my preferred means of reading, I had already begun to purchase most of my gaming material in electronic format. This was also compounded by the fact that I was rapidly running out of storage space. In any case, pretty much all of my Call of Cthulhu gaming material went, and my intention was to only purchase rpg material electronically.

Then 7th edition appeared.

It is not so much the game mechanics themselves, but the fact that 7th ed. seems to have aesthetically revitalized Cthulhu gaming that has led back to collecting Call of Cthulhu material. As a case in point, Cthulhu Britannica: London is tangibly a gorgeous piece of art - a collector's item if you will; something one might like to smell and stroke (probably in a slightly sinister - and not entirely appropriate - manner) whilst quietly whispering 'the precious' to oneself. And let's not forget the maps. The lovely, lovely maps...

And then there is the matter of the (equally lovely) handouts. I mean to return to this issue in more detail with tomorrow's offering, but I believe I have mentioned previously the tradition of engendering verisimilitude in Call of Cthulhu roleplaying via the production of authentic-seeming handouts; this tradition has, I believe, played a not insignificant role in shaping both the content and production of contemporary Lovecraftian material culture: many Lovecraftian artists now, for example, package their wares in ways that narrativise their work as seemingly-authentic material manifestations of the Cthulhu Mythos. An item may come in 1920s packaging, or is accompanied by a typewritten note explaining its provenance, and so on. For collectors like myself, there is huge enjoyment in participating in this shared suspension of disbelief, especially insofar as the fictions become all the more credible due to their apparent corporeality. Indeed, this blog itself is, in a strange sort of way, a manifestation of that process in the digital realm: take for example the 'flash fiction' I produce in relation to some of the items presented here, which tells a story as much sbout the object in question as the particular ways I engage with that object and, through it, the wider Lovecraftian milieu. Except of course, that none of what I have written is fiction - every single word of it is true. Now you'll have to excuse me - there is an extremely unpleasant smell and strange tittering noise emanating from the Cabinet of Curiosities at this very moment...

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