British taxidermist cum designer Reid Peppard produces a collection of accessories and jewellery made from the skins of vermin found in London. They are, to say the least, striking and confronting pieces.
Reid’s point with this is that while the majority of people wear the skins of dead pigs and cows without question, the skins of animals that produced by our great cities (the “prolific, consequential vermin result of London’s excess”, in Reid’s words) still produce a shock. It seems that we are unhappy when the origin of pieces as dead animals is made too clear, rather like people who are happy to eat meat but get a little queasy if it looks too much like an animal.
This is rather like the basis of the sanity rules in Call of Cthulhu: what is really sanity blasting is realising that the conventional view we have of the world – our notions of history, science and our place in the world – is an illusion.
Apart from being just the thing to wear to a game (or even a convention), wouldn’t these make interesting additions to the items found in a game? Especially in a game set in a decadent era; the fin de siecle or roaring twenties, periods filled with extravagance and indulgence. Perhaps as magical items: a headpiece with bird wings might grant telepathy or clairvoyance (as in letting one’s thoughts take flight), a fox stole grants slyness or cunning (moving silently, a gift for lying?).
The rats that figure quite prominently (understandably, there are vast numbers of rats in a city), what might they grant? In many cultures, rats are regarded as being clever and skilled in acquiring items. I recall a native American story of someone who wanted to become a great gambler and so he prayed to the rat spirits “teach me to gather to me as you gather to yourselves”. In that spirit, a bag made out of a rat could be some sort of “bag of acquisition”: brush it against someone, open it up, and there is some item that had been in that person’s pockets.