For all that there is a very strong element of the supernatural in my game, I try at the same time to make everything else as historically accurate as possible. Maybe it’s because I love the period so much, or because the first forty-plus years of this century can be such a rich backdrop and source for story ideas.
If you are interested in the history of the period, whether for creating a game of your own, better understanding mine, or just for its own sake, this page should give you a few places — both on and offline — to begin.
World War I
At the time of the Chamber game, it was called “The Great War,” for of course the Second World War hadn’t happened yet (although there were more than a few who saw the next one coming). Some of the more mature characters in my game are veterans of the Great War, carrying all the memories and emotional baggage that entails. Other, younger characters have had relatives, friends or lovers who survived the greatest conflict in human history. Or didn’t.
Here are a few books on the First World War. (I’m only recommending books which I have actually read. You should be able to find others at the library, or larger bookstores.)
- World War I, by S.L.A. Marshall (American Heritage/Houghton Mifflin). This is a good military history text.
- A Doughboy With the Fighting 69th – a Remembrance of World War I, by Albert M. Ettinger and A. Churchill Ettinger (White Mane Publishing) A personal memoir that gives a good insight into what it was really like to be an ordinary soldier, in or out of the trenches.
- The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman. A detailed chronicle of the days leading up to and the opening days of the war. Tuchman writes in a very engaging style, without sacrificing accuracy. Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram is a good study of the events which led the United States into the war as well.
There are a small, but steadily growing, number of websites devoted to the Great War. Here are a few of my favorites.
- The BBC’s World War One Centennial website has a dizzying array of information and media, being added to and updated constantly.
- The World War I Document Archive is a great place to look for original source material about the war: everything from the text of the Versailles Treaty to an image of the coveted “Blue Max” medal.
- World War 1.com is a beautiful, lovingly crafted series of pages. An amazing variety of art, articles, and even discussion boards can be found here.
- The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century is the companion website to the 1996 PBS miniseries.
Again, these are all books which I’ve read. There are many, many other good texts out there.
- Flappers, Bootleggers, “Typhoid Mary” and the Bomb, by Barrington Boardman (Perennial Library/Harper and Row) is a wonderful collection of historical tidbits about the famous, the infamous, and the momentarily famous, from 1920 to 1940.
- The Great Depression–America in the 1930s, by T.H. Watkins (Little, Brown). The companion book to the excellent PBS miniseries.
- The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life from Prohibition through World War II, by Marc McCutcheon (Writer’s Digest Books) has lots of detail about dress, speech, old-time radio, and other things that can really bring stories — or games — to life.
- Since Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen is particularly valuable because it was written in 1939–while all the impressions of the period were still fresh. At that time, for instance, most people still believed that Bruno Hauptmann really did kidnap and kill the Lindbergh baby.
- The Gathering Storm, by Winston S. Churchill (Houghton Mifflin). This is the first volume of the British Prime Minister’s history of the Second World War, and it covers the period from the Treaty of Versailles to the blitzkrieg of May 1940.
- Shorpy Historic Picture Archive is a photo blog featuring high-resolution photos with a particular emphasis on the 1910s through the 1960s. Many pictures here from the 1920s and 1930s, giving a fantastic glimpse into the look of everyday life.
- The entry for the 1930s on Wikipedia will give you a good quick overview of the period including some key events and a few technological advances of note.