Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Little of That Ol' Time Religion

It's amazing what you can find on the memory cards of your old digital cameras. Here are some pictures of the first props I created for my "Call of Cthulhu" game way back in the early 90's. Keep in mind that they're heavily compressed, since image size really mattered back in the days of 56k modem connections.

First off, a Cthulhu statue carved from coral for use in the blasphemous rites of the Deep Ones. Although I always like how this one looked I was never happy with it's actual construction. It was about 8" high, sculpted out of regular Sculpey over a wire armature. The terrible mushiness of the polymer clay was a real pain to work with and it took me hours to add the coral texture using a stamper made out of a bundle of toothpicks.

This next one was a generic "Old One" statuette that consisted of a mass of writhing tentacles around a single eye. I was able to incorporate a lot more detail because I finally figured out how much better Super Sculpey and Sculpey III were for sculpting compared to regular Sculpey. This one was about 6" high.

Finally, we have this Cthulhu statue. Although it looks pretty simple it was actually a complicated piece to work on because I was trying to incorporate a believable marbling into the sculpting material. The picture doesn't do the finish justice, since I ended up with deep, intense purple filled with black and metallic silver swirls.

Stop snickering. That's a great color scheme for a Cthulhu artifact. Heh.

The final statue was around 4" high and also marked the first, and last, time I attempted to engrave Sculpey after hardening.

Sadly, all I have left of the statues above are the pictures you see here. I sold off most of my original Cthulhu props on Ebay in the late 90's when I moved back to New York and didn't have enough room to store them. If you happen to be the current owner I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Innsmouth Chart Preview

I'm still working on my collection of paper props for the raid on Innsmouth, but I thought you might find this preview entertaining. This is an early version of the navigational charts used by the government forces the night of the raid, detailing the routes and objectives of the combined Navy and Coast Guard ships.

I was surprised to learn that the mouth of the bay leading to the fictional Innsmouth actually does have a reef that corresponds to "Devil's Reef". Even more interesting is that there's a perfect location for the Deep One city of Y'ha-nthlei, a deep underwater canyon at the foot of a towering sea mount, in the real world.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Miskatonic Storage Box

Here's a quick and easy project building on the Miskatonic Seal and Miskatonic Special Collections Label I put up last week. I'll be showing you how to create a storage box for an artifact from the Miskatonic collection using a few simple tools and easily acquired materials.

You'll need the following:

An Exacto knife with a fresh blade
A sponge
A steel ruler
A copy of the Miskatonic Labels sheet printed out on a laser printer or photocopier
One sheet of green felt
A cup of tea
A cheap paintbrush
Some craft excelsior
Some glue. I prefer Aleene's Tacky glue, but anything will do.

First off, we'll need an artifact to box up. I'll be using a small Cthulhu idol I picked up off Ebay for around $8.

The idol measures roughly 2.5" by 2.5" by 2.5" so I need to find a box big enough for it to fit into comfortably. After a little searching on Ebay I found this 4" by 4" by 4" cigar box.

While I wait for the box to arrive in the mail I can enjoy a relaxing cup of tea and start aging my label at the same time. Take your label sheet and lay it face down on a waterproof surface, either a countertop or a cutting board. Using your sponge, dab the tea all over the back of the paper. Now carefully flip over the paper and make sure it's flat before once again sponging down the paper. Set it aside at wait for it to dry.

After a few hours your label sheet will have taken on a mellow brown color. Here's what it should look like compared to the original sheet:

Fill in one of the labels with whatever information you think is appropriate and cut it from the sheet. When you're done it should look something like this:

I used a fountain pen with brown ink, but pretty much any writing instrument will do. You'll also note that I cleverly reproduced the atrocious writing of a Miskatonic professor. Heh.

Amazingly, right after I finished aging my label the postman arrived with my box from Ebay. After unpacking it I found that the box was branded with cigar logos on the inside of the lid and the bottom of the box itself. Covering those logos with felt will not only disguise the humble origins of my storage box, but the green felt will make the whole thing look more professional.

First off, you'll need to measure out the pieces of felt you'll need. For the bottom piece I just placed the box on top of the felt sheet and traced around the box. The inside of the lid was a little harder since I couldn't just trace it. For it I did some rough measurements with a ruler and cut out a template from scrap paper. After a few test fits I trimmed the template down so that it fit the inside of the lid perfectly and then used it as a guide to cut out my second piece of felt.

To glue the felt to the box you'll need to spread a thin layer of tacky glue and then apply the felt. This is where you're cheap paintbrush is going to come in handy. Just dribble a small amount of tacky glue all over the bottom of the box, staying about 1/4" away from the edge. Then use your paintbrush to smear the glue evenly across the surface, stroking from the center of the box towards the edges in order to get an even layer. Once that's done just apply the felt and make any adjustments to keep it centered. Repeat the same procedure for the inside lid of the box and set both aside to dry.

Once the glue is done you may find the felt hangs over the edges of the box. If it does you can use your Exacto knife to trim off any excess and even up the edges. Once you're done it should look something like this:

Finally, it's time to apply the identification label. Place the label face down on some scrap paper and use your beat up paintbrush to once again smear a thin layer of tacky glue all over the label. Carefully lift it up and lightly apply it to the box. Use your fingers to press the label tight against the wood, starting in the center and slowly moving outward to remove any bubbles and make sure the glue is evenly spread. If any glue sqeezes out from the edge you can use a damp cloth to wipe it away. Set the box aside to dry for a few hours.

When you're done it should look something like this:

Finally, we'll fill the box up with some packing material to protect the contents. For this we'll use a handfull of craft excelsior, just enough to surround the idol and keep it safe.

Just a couple of bucks and an hour or so of time and you're the proud owner of a dangerous artifact stolen from the shelves of Miskatonic University!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Call of Cthulhu Nazi Reanimation Project Footage

This is a compilation of film clips seized by Allied forces near the end of World War II at a Nazi research facility.

Most of the footage was damaged beyond repair, but the film that was salvaged offers conclusive proof that the Nazi reanimation project had progressed to the point of human trials before it was shut down.

Technical Note: This is extremely poor quality footage. The original negative appears to have suffered from extensive physical abuse and may have been irradiated at one point. The clips are presented without audio.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been experimenting with "props" that consist of video clips edited together from found footage. It seems like a natural technological progression from CoC's traditional paper props, particularly if you're running a Delta Green game. The main DG book makes passing mention of a semi-successful Nazi program to reanimate the dead, but I think that idea has a lot more gaming potential than that brief note would indicate. Video games and low-budget movies have helped make Nazi zombies a suprisingly popular meme that I think it would be interesting to develop.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Miskatonic Labels

One of the easiest ways to dress up a small prop for Call of Cthulhu is by slapping a Miskatonic University Special Collections label on it. I whipped up this sheet of labels using the Miskatonic Seal from yesterday's post. It's pretty simple to come up with your own labels, but these should be enough to work with if you're pressed for time. Just click through on the sample graphic to get the full size image, save it to your computer, and then print them out as needed.

To apply the labels you can either print them out on special adhesive backed sheets from your local office supply store, which can get a bit pricey, or use regular paper and attach them with a couple of swipes from a glue stick. I prefer the latter method because it allows me to age the label before applying it.

As long as you have a supply of labels, why stop there? You can lend small artifacts even more authenticity by packaging them up as though they were actual items from the dusty shelves of some hidden back room at Miskatonic. Drop them in a storage box along with some excelsior, slap a label on the box, and you're good to go. Plain cigar boxes can be found on Ebay for a song, and after a bit of weathering they help make even minor props a lot more memorable.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Miskatonic University Seal

Here's an alternative seal for Miskatonic University that I came up with. Like everything else here it's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License, the details of which you can find by clicking on the CC logo at the bottom of the page. Just click on the sample above for the full sized image.

Update: If you came here via Google you can find a revised and cleaned-up version of this seal over here.