Secrets of San Francisco
A New 1920's Call of Cthulhu Sourcebook for Spring 2006.
February 8, 2006 Update: This title is in final layout and editing and is expected to go to the printer soon.
SECRETS OF SAN FRANCISCO
A Resource Guide for Call of Cthulhu
By Cody Goodfellow
& Diverse Hands
There is no more perfect intersection of climate, culture, and colorful history than San Francisco. It is a culmination of Manifest Destiny, the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean, and the treasure house of the wealth of the great California Gold Rush.
The origin of San Francisco Bay is shrouded in speculation. Costanoan Indian legend maintains that the bay was formed when a god stumbled. His arm crushed the ridge connecting the peninsula with the Marin headlands and water of the ocean rushed in to fill the valley. A San Francisco historian believes that the bay was formed by a single geological event — and that it occurred within the last 500 years. Why had Drake and the Spanish explorers sailed along the coast in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and anchored close-by, without ever seeing this portal to the Bay? The simple answer could have been fog, which often obscures the mile-wide passage. But speculation suggests only a solid wall of mountains in Drake’s time, and an earthquake must have occurred between 1609 (when Sebastian Vizcaino failed to spot the Golden Gate) and 1769 (when Gaspar de Portolá stumbled across it after having overshot his goal of Monterey).
San Francisco is deceptively ancient, and its history is hidden behind a false domesticity. The Bay Area changed hands many times, each caretaker leaving a distinctive mark upon the land. Home to tribes of Indians for thousands of years, the founding of the first European settlement coincided with the signing of the Declaration of American Independence. San Francisco blossomed into an American boom town, attracting fugitives and practitioners of unorthodox faiths from across America. Tales of nineteenth-century San Francisco assume mythic proportions as it became the most ethnically diverse city in America—and the most lawless. Comparison to Sodom is not inappropriate, as judgment came in the form of the most destructive earthquake and fire yet observed in the West, in 1906. The colorful figures of San Francisco fade into the past—or into the shadows, where they linger still.
This resource guide provides background for a campaign setting in the San Francisco Bay area of the 1920’s, including urban geography, civic history, and research venues—where San Franciscans go when they break the law, go insane, or die—and sights, sounds, and secrets of a city that make it unique. It is more than a metropolis, it is a living entity whose unique character and changeable nature shape its atmosphere, its institutions, and its leading citizens. It is an excellent location from which to launch campaigns focusing on the Orient, and it possesses abundant research resources and outré locales for scenarios within its extensive boundaries, including the largest, oldest American enclave of Chinese settlers, the world’s most famous haunted house, and two of the most infamous prisons ever erected. Here is a complete a portrait of San Francisco in the 1920’s, with careful attention to the vast body of local folklore and unique opportunities for Mythos investigation.