Call of Cthulhu : Shanghai


In 1925, Shanghai has two nicknames : the Pearl of the Orient and the Paris of the East (in honour of its opulence and decadence).

Recent History

Shanghai was opened to occupation and trade by the British as a result of the treaty of Nanking (1842). This treaty was the humiliating conclusion (for China) of the piratical Opium Wars. First British, then French and American representatives took possession of certain areas adjacent to the Chinese city. These areas of extraterritoriality, within which no Chinese law pertained, became known as “the concessions”.

In 1854, the three concessions formed the Shanghai Municipal Council (SMC) to jointly oversee their affairs. In 1863, the British and American concessions joined together to form the Shanghai International Settlement. The French concession (between the British concession and the original Chinese walled city) was never formally amalgamated, preferring to keep control of its own affairs.

Under the terms of extraterritoriality (“extrality” for short), citizens of Britain, France and USA and other favoured treaty powers (including Italy) could only be tried under the laws of their native country, even if their crimes were committed outside the concessions. Chinese citizens and non-favoured treaty countries (e.g. Germany) were prosecuted according to Chinese law in local courts.


Despite the fact that foreign powers control Shanghai, there are few actual expatriates. Out of a total population of 1.6 million, only around 20,000 were non-Chinese, and most of these were Japanese. It is not uncommon for bosses to be European, Japanese or American, but almost everyone you meet on the street will be Chinese.

Politics and Economy

In the 1920s, China’s economy was in ruins as a result of several recent wars with foreign powers, the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the rise of the warlords.

National central authority—never very strong—has broken down and innumerable regional and local rulers exist, cliques of men committed to maintaining their power by force.

The weakness of central government has led to strengthened family structures and private associations. These associations perform many of the functions that you would normally expect from government (insurance companies, pension funds, political allies, security and policing, …)

The International Settlement is governed by the SMC and forms the core of Shanghai’s business and trade operations. It has its own police force, the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) as well as the Shanghai Volunteer Corps (SVC) which can be activated in times of civil unrest.

The French concession is home to most of the city’s writers and adventurers. It also has a thriving opium trade since the International concession banned it in 1918.

Walking around the city, it is notable that people take security precautions which would be unheard of in London or even in Cairo: high blank walls and stout gates protect wealthy homes and most windows are barred. Everyone employs their own guards and watchmen.


1 US dollar = 2 Yuan = 10 jiao = 100 fen (cents)

There is a chaotic melange of national and regional currencies (both notes and coins). The Mexican silver dollar is widely accepted as a convertible currency.

Living costs are extremely cheap due to the poor economic situation.


You arrive in Shanghai on Monday 15 June 1925. Everyone is complaining about the heat and humidity. Average temperature 32°C, average rainfall in June is around 10cm.

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25-26 June 1925: The Shanghai Courier

A search through the recent archives of The Shanghai Courier turned up several articles of interest, which the investigators decided to follow up on :

The Stars are Right

The investigators showed up at the door of Mister Lung, a Chinese astrologer. There was a Siamese cat on the doorstep trying to get in. After a few attempts at knocking, Mister Lung opened the door and looked surprised to see the investigators standing there. The cat rushed between his legs into the house, but screeched and ran out again a minute later.

Mister Lung asked the investigators to come into his back room so that he could read their horoscopes. As he backed through the apartment, his behaviour became increasingly bizarre. When the investigators walked calmly past his protective amulets and charms, around furniture carefully arranged according to Feng Shui and past his brazier with a burning silk slipper in it, his face showed surprise and alarm. (A successful Occult check would have given some indication of what was going on…)

Eventually he persuaded three of the investigators to enter his back room, which was shrouded with black curtains and had a strange sword made of threaded coins hanging above a chair. He invited Jude to take a seat. Jude moved the chair away from the sword and sat down.

Meanwhile, Michalis opened a window and let the cat in again, bypassing Mister Lung’s carefully arranged defences. It rushed across the apartment and down the stairs into the back room. Michalis followed the cat. Mister Lung left the room to persuade the others to come down. Michalis entered the room and decided to pull the rope hanging by the door. The curtains fell down, revealing an array of mirrors behind. Mister Lung gasped and pulled the door shut, locking it with a key from the outside.

The cat began to screech and yowl like a baby, and the investigators in the room all received a massive psychic shock (Al and Michalis lose 5 POW). Jude ran to the door and deftly picked the lock. As soon as the door was open, the cat rushed out. Jude ran onto the stairs, where Mister Lung was scrabbling his way to the top. Jude drew his swords. “Don’t kill me!” Mister Lung yelled pathetically, at the same time pulling money from the sleeves of his robe and throwing it at Jude. Jude rushed up the stairs and gave him a blow on the legs with his sword, knocking him to the ground, bleeding profusely.

Jude stood back. The cat suddenly transformed, swelling into a huge demonic cat-like creature with blazing eyes and glowing claws. In one leap, it landed on Mister Lung and ripped out his throat. It turned around to look at the investigators and gave them a leering grin, before bounding once more out the window into the busy street.

The investigators searched the apartment as a curious crowd gathered outside. On Mister Lung’s body he had a scrap of paper on which he had written his own horoscope: “Doom will come to your house today. Demons seek to take your life.”

The investigators decided to leave the apartment as quickly and quietly as they could, leaving behind the body of the unfortunate Mister Lung.

Jude and Michalis each lose 1D6 SAN for contributing to the death of Mister Lung.

The mirrored room was a Demon Cabinet which Mister Lung had constructed as his last layer of defence, to trap and kill the demons who were coming to kill him today.

Fire on Chin-Ling Road

The investigators tracked down Mr. Liu Chen-dai, the witness named in the article, to question him about the mysterious pavilion fire. He was embarrassed by the questions and insisted that what he saw must have been a trick of the light.

Speaking to the Buddhist priest in the Town Gods’ Temple beside the burned-out pavilion in the park was more productive. The priest was able to identify Jack Brady from a photo, and said that he had been meeting in the pavilion with the three monks in the pavilion just before the fire. Mr. Brady was seen fleeing the park after the fire, but the three monks all perished. They were respected scholars of the T’ang, Five Dynasties and Sung literature.

This incident took place at the beginning of May.

Violent Incident on Lantern Street


88 Lantern Street is the address of a Flower Girl House. It is on the same street as the Stumbling Tiger Bar. The investigators entered the Flower Girl House en masse, eventually attracting the attention of Auntie Gee, who shooed them out for wasting the time of her girls. They hung around for several hours outside, and eventually Prince Boadi was able to return and arrange for some intimate time alone with one of the girls. He learned that the girl mentioned in the article, Choi Mei-ling, had been sold to a different Flower Girl House two weeks ago, just the day before the murder. Auntie Gee had decided to get rid of her upon discovering that she was hiding an American in her room. She knew his name as John, but was able to identify him as the same person as the photo of Jack Brady.

While this was going on, Jude asked the barman in the Stumbling Tiger if he knew who Jack Brady was. The barman said he knew who he was, but he had left Shanghai.

A trip down the road to 140 Lantern Street revealed that Choi Mei-ling had run away with her American friend within days of her arrival there.

All this hanging around in the street late at night attracted the attention of some people who started to follow the investigators. They wandered around the International Settlement for a while but were followed back to their hotel by the strangers. They then left in the direction of the docks.

Seamen’s Club Damaged


The next morning, the investigators checked out the final lead from the newspaper. The Seamen’s Club was closed for repairs due to the damage, but they were able to find some of the staff drinking in a local tavern. An American called John Smith had been staying in the room directly facing the shattered wall. No trace was found of him, so they assumed he had either fled or is somewhere at the bottom of the river. When shown the photo of Jack Brady, they said yes, that’s him.

Another man, Yang Wong, was one of the revelers at the party. He swore blind that creatures like walking fish came out of the river and destroyed the front of the building with magic. However, he is a well-known drunk so noone else believes his story.

Return to the Palace Hotel

When the investigators returned to the hotel, they found that their rooms had been ransacked. They notified the hotel reception, who apologised profusely and offered new rooms. Michalis asked what they were going to do about it so they called the police.

The police showed up and interviewed the investigators about the robbery. Jude left the hotel before the police arrived. The next morning, there was a knock at his room door. He quickly shoved his swords out the window onto the fire escape and opened the door. The police came in to ask him to come down to the station for an interview, following reports of the murder of an astrologer by an American carrying swords.

Jude tried to palm his switchblade and lockpick set, but (fumble sleight of hand) was seen by the officers, who promptly handcuffed him and marched him out of the hotel.

Gray Dragon Island


In the office in Ho Fang’s warehouse, the investigators retrieved some nautical charts of the coastline near Shanghai. Circled on the charts are a series of small islands around 480 Km south-east of Shanghai. A more detailed map shows that one of the islands is called Gray Dragon Island. The investigators gave a photographic copy of these maps to Captain Isoge.