Looking beyond the Rivers…

So, Ben Aaronovitch has achieved one of his life’s ambitions and has an RPG of his work created. This thing of beauty exists!

Cover of the standard edition of the Rivers of London RPG published by Chaosium

Those fine folks at Chaosium have created this delight and it’s using the same roleplaying engine as their flagship Call of Cthulhu. That means every single supplement and sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu is instantly at least 90% compatible with Rivers of London. Now this may or may not be a good thing for your players… However, it also means that if you’ve got your hands on the old Laundry Files RPG, that’s also 90, 95% instantly usable. And who’s to say that Bob and co don’t exist in the Rivers universe? The world and timeline of The New Management series is significantly different to Rivers, though…

If you’ve read all there is to read of Rivers of London and are looking for some more inspiration, chances are you’ve already gone down the usual rabbit hole of Neil Gaiman in general, Neverwhere and Sandman in particular (the thought of Peter Grant and co encountering The Earl’s Court on the underground is particularly tasty), and you’ve probably devoured all of Charles Stross’s Laundry Files. So I’m not going to recommend them. You’ve read them. You know they’re awesome. Instead, I’ve got 5 series you may not have encountered but which are replete with ideas you can rob for your Rivers of London game. And who knows, might just throw a few curve balls your players weren’t expecting.

The Peculiar Crimes Unit

There are 18 books in this series. That should keep you going for a while. The Peculiar Crimes unit investigates crimes that are just that. Peculiar. But peculiar in the sense that cases they investigate are unusual crimes, crimes that could cause national scandal or public unrest. Odd crimes. Crimes that could have a rational explanation but might not… Running the full length of the octogenerian detectives’ Bryant and May’s careers from wartime London to the (almost) present day, they’re full of London trivia, history, fascinating looks at the guilds, the Underground… They are, in short, perfect fodder for just upping the supernatural aspect and dropping lock, stock, and two smoking barrels straight into Ben’s world. Oh, and Punch may make the odd appearance…

The Shadow Police

Now this is an unusual coincidence. Or is it? Y’see, back in the 1980s Ben was writing Dr Who for Sylvester McCoy. He had this great idea of magicians working for the Metropolitan Police. No, no hang on, that was Paul Cornell. Turns out both Ben and Paul wrote Who back in the 80s, both had the idea of magicians and the Met. But Paul’s books are just a shade darker than Ben’s. Also, and most irritatingly, Paul’s series is incomplete. We’re looking at all 3 covers above for what should have been a 5 book series. That doesn’t stop these being compelling stories with a fabulous alternative take on how magic works. If enough of us read these and review them, maybe we can persuade the publishers that there’s mileage in getting the series finished!

The Courts of the Feyre

Venturing out of London occasionally proves to be a good idea, and the Courts books do just that. But only occasionally! Again, rooted in folklore and tradition – the first book centers on a ceremony that you can go and see (assuming you can find out when it’s being held) – this series introduces a wonderful array of non-human and part-human characters and is largely focused on their world. All manner of Fey creatures make their presences felt. In many ways it’s more akin to Neverwhere than anything else I’ve read. A great series, only 4 books long, that leaves you wanting to know more. An ideal opportunity to bring the Eight Court into the spotlight for your game…

The Green Man

The most recent discovery on this list (courtesy of my wife and, I believe, a Radio 4 article), the 5 books in this series look at all manner of English folklore and mythology. Starting with The Green Man himself, and swiftly introducing Dryads, Naiads, Black Shuck, Hobs, Sylphs, Nereids, magicians (and wannabes), Nixs, Swan Maidens, ghosts… and I’m only on book 3! A nice touch of humour, a wonderful way with words, and some interesting research that adds depth to the story. Really enjoying these books at the moment. Well out of London and currently in my present stomping grounds.

Inspector McLean

Finally heading well out of London and up to my absolute favourite city, Edinburgh, the 13 (at time of writing) Inspector McLean novels. If you were to create a scale with the purely rational Morse books at one end, and the 100% Urban Fantasy of Rivers of London and London Falling at the other end, the Peculiar Crimes unit would sit somewhere to the left, close to Morse but not entirely grounded in the “real” world. Inspector McLean’s adventures around Edinburgh would sit somewhere nearer the middle. There are elements that are quite definitely, unquestionably, irrational. Magical. Greater forces at work than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio. Dark, not always a comfortable read, they are compelling stories that have been building a wonderfully interesting world over the years. And, c’mon, it’s Edinburgh!

How you find these books is up to you. I’m not going to link you to the Amazon pages, you’re all quite capable of finding these for yourselves. You’re clever people. Any other recommendations, please leave them in the comments below. I’ve a “to be read” pile about a mile high, but I’m always looking for new additions.

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