Sunday, January 31, 2010

How To Make a Giant Octopus

The talented Tom Banwell sent over a link to this entertaining YouTube video recounting the creation of a stop-motion octopus. The techniques used would be useful both for large-scale LARP creatures as well as smaller, wunderkammer-style specimen examples.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Last Lovecraft: The Relic of Cthulhu

This week marked the debut of a new Lovecraftian horror/comedy at the Slamdance film festival- "The Last Lovecraft: The Relic of Cthulhu". Bloody Disgusting is giving it some positive coverage and offers up this plot summary:

In the film Jeff, a down on his luck office worker, finds out he is the last living relative of horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft. What he doesn't know is that Lovecraft's monsters are real and will soon threaten the very existence of mankind. Jeff and his best friend Charlie are forced to embark on a perilous adventure and they enlist the help of high school acquaintance, Paul, a self proclaimed Lovecraft specialist. Together the three unlikely heroes must protect an alien relic and prevent the release of an acient evil, known as Cthulhu.

They also have an exclusive look at the film's trailer:

Given that this was produced on a shoestring budget I think it looks pretty good. Is it high art? No freakin' way, but it seems like a fun project with the same kind of manic energy and goofy logic as the "Evil Dead" films. It also has some nice prop designs, in particular the "Relic of Cthulhu" itself. I wouldn't mind picking up one of these if they were commercially available:

The seal from the end of the trailer also looks interesting:

It's similar to a couple of existing designs, but the way the pieces slide together to form the final embossment is clever.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Quick And Dirty Mapmaking

This isn't directly prop related, but since "Call of Cthulhu" gaming is such a huge part of Lovecraftian fandom I wanted to post about it.

There are RPG mapping programs on the market capable of handling everything from a single room in a dungeon to entire stellar clusters, but if you're looking for something that's unbelievably fast and easy to use I think you might like Granted, gamers aren't it's intended audience. The free, flash-based program is intended to help people design the layout of homes and landscaping. It just so happens that the smooth, drag and drop interface they've come up with is also ideal for banging out the kind of floorplans that are ideal for gaming.

In about five minutes I was able to put together this quick "Temple of Dagon" map:

Not only is it a snap to layout a room, building, or even a starship deckplan, but Floorplanner can take your 2D plan and render it in 3d with the click of a button:

Mind you, this was something I banged out within minutes of stumbling across the site. There are so many options and objects available that you could spend hours creating an entire house down to the smallest detail. Which isn't all that suprising since that's exactly what the site is intended for.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Matchbooks of Madness

Cephalopod Productions is up to something involving matchbooks. We'll have to wait to discover what's brewing up, but he's also posted some handy letterhead from Innsmouth's Marsh Refinery.

Forensics, Miskatonic Style

Last November Leonardo Dias sent over pictures of his custom mask design for a zombiefied Miskatonic student. He's followed that up with a few snapshots of the mask in action at a "Zombie Walk" event.

The only thing I'd add to the costume is a toe tag with "Running with scissors" written in as the cause of death.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WW I Draft Registration Cards, Part Deux

Where else but here would you find a follow-up post on the subject of government paperwork from close to a century ago? Heh.

After seeing Sunday's coverage of the WW I Draft Registration Cards at, Darin Price was kind enough to send over not only a scan of an original, but some helpful advice.

I saw your post on WWI Draft Registration Cards in my daily perusal of your website. If you'd like to see an example of an actual one, I've attached my grandfather's. It's interesting to see it filled out.

Of note is something that I think many people who make prop documents forget - the local draft official misspelled St. Anthony as "St. Antony." (It's a tiny, tiny place in Miller County, MO. It's just a collection of 4 or 5 houses, but in 1918 it probably had a post office and a store.) Anyway, not everyone is a perfect speller, and I've noticed that it's not all that unusual to find misspellings even on official documents. Also the rubber stamp, that I assume says "Local Board for the County of Miller State of Mo.", is not legible at the end. I always try to include those types of touches on the few prop documents that I've made. I feel that a prop document doesn't have to look perfect, but it should look *real.*

By the way, some of the cards were typewritten, but the majority from this
county were handwritten.

If you are interested in how my grandfather's draft registration turned out: he once told me that he had been called up, and he and the other draftees were put on a train for Texas - I assume for basic training. At one of the stops the train made, they received word that the Armistice had just been signed, so they were all taken off the train and sent back home on the next north-bound train.

My thanks to Mr. Price for his generosity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Secret World

The talented James Kelly sent over a story at Kotaku featuring this intriguing prop/marketing tool.

The postcard leads to the Kingsmouth website, which is itself a marketing effort for "The Secret World", an upcoming conspiracy/supernatural MMO from Funcom. Kingsmouth appears to be one of the central game locations, and given the name (Kingsmouth = Kingsport/Innsmouth) it's role as a classic Lovecraftian small town, complete with dark secrets, underground tunnels, and horrific historical events, should come as no surprise.

The game looks like it could be ten flavors of awesome if, and it's a big if, the dev team is committed to producing a massive amount of content. I like first person shooters as much as anyone, but I think the audience for an occult mystery MMO is looking for more than just the bang bang. They want interesting stories and, dare I say it, actual mysteries. Crafting either is something few online games have had any success at, relying instead on contrived storylines that consist of collecting plot tokens. I'm skeptical, but if they can pull it off I'll happily plunk down my $15 a month.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Unspeakable Vault

Francois Launet's hysterical Mythos comic Unspeakable Vault has a new online home.

WWI Draft Registration Cards

Here's a nice background prop, particularly for characters with military experience., an online genealogy site, has a selection of reproduction WW I Draft Registration Cards in PDF form. They have some modern branding and maker's marks, but that shouldn't take much effort to fix.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Naval Document Reproductions

The Navy and Marine Living History Association has assembled a library of reproduction Civil War-era Naval documents for historical reenactors. It's a treasure trove of useful historical props easily adapted to game use. You'll find shore passes, discharge papers, provision receipts, notepaper, muster rolls...the list goes on and on. One of the real gems is this blank Western Union telegraph form from the late 1800's:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Scene Sound

Brad Knode dropped me a line this week about Scene Sound, his tabletop RPG sound management program. You know all those forum discussion threads on how to handle music and sound effects during a game? This is the answer.

Back in the olden days of the 90's I found that the best tool for managing game audio was a multi-disk CD boom box with a decent remote control. You could quickly skip from track to track as the situation demanded, and if you wanted to get really fancy you could burn a custom CD. Of course, that was when a 486 CPU with Turbo-boost was a solid system, and Pentium chips were just hitting the mainstream.

Now that my phone has more processing power than those ancient systems software is clearly the answer, and it looks like Mr. Knode has put some serious thought into developing a custom tailored solution for gamers. Scene Sound's features list is pretty impressive:

* Mix multiple sounds from files and CD sources. Supports mp3,wav, aac, mp4, flac, and more.
* Add streaming internet stations from pls or m3u playlists.
* Random sounds with adjustable time spans
* Set hotkeys for all effects
* Linked sounds. One sound waits for another linked sound to play and finish. Multiple links can even be used to create a loop with the first sound linked to the last in the chain
* Scripting. Not a scripting language, but an interface to control nearly every function in Scene Sound. Use a script for specific events in a scene like the arrival of the BBEG or other dramatic moments
* Save a created scene as a single file package. This wraps up everything for the scene and creates a package file which can then be sent to another user
* Add multiple folders to the Library Manager to access all of your files on your local computer or across a network

In addition, there are two other factors that make the program attractive: it's free, and it has a user community that's actively sharing sound elements.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Cherevka Edition

A massive, hulking version of Cthulhu sculpted by John Cherevka.

I like the feeling of mass in this sculpture. This isn't a lithe and sprightly beast. It's something almost immeasurably huge, a powerful creature weighed down by it's own ancient bulk.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blank Bertillon Police Identification Card

Back in November I posted a look at Joe Broers' excellent arrest papers for Old Castro from "The Call of Cthulhu". Since then I've featured several other of his creations, most recently his re-creation of the amulet from Lovecraft's "The Hound". Yesterday he dropped me a line and was kind enough to send over the source files for making your own Bertillon card like the one in his prop set.

Sometime back i sent you some images of a Bertillon Card I made for 'Old Castro'. I've since reworked the card a little to make a generic version that can be completed with photos and details. The jpg image is set up that if it's printed it should be the right size.I've added marks so one can crop the paper. It should be card stock on the front and back. The photo would have been printed separately and glued to the card. Here is a link to an original card that also provides some links to others. Plus a little research will provide some other images, etc. for anyone interested.

Just click through for the front and back of the Bertillon style police identification card.

My sincere thanks to Mr. Broers for his generosity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tomes of Arcane Lore

Matteo Bocci brings us these very nice Tomes of Arcane Lore.

Some arcane tomes I created for using in a Live-Action Role-Playing Game with my friends. You can find in this picture the following fictional books and notepad:

- a score to open a gate to our world for Azathoth;
- an infamous collection of excerpts from the book of the mad arab Abdul Alhazred;
- fragments from an invocation to the God of Dust;
- the notepad of William Featherstone Coleridge, an artist gone mad as a sacrifice to his art.

There's a lot to like in this collection of items. I love the warm, yellow-brown look of the aged documents. Of the two tomes I prefer the one on the right because of it's excellent sculptural details and the grungy, corrupted drybrushing treatment used to bring them out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Old Man Whately

Another vintage photograph, this time of "Old Man Whately" from "The Dunwich Horror". Generically, this is the kind of picture I call a "Zedidiah"- the older, bearded, slightly-touched-in-the-head gentleman that pops up regularly in horror literature and films. Look into those eyes and you can tell he's seen things that ain't rightfully meant to be seen.

Just click through for the full-sized version.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Classic Era Adventuring Gear

I don't normally spend time talking about modern, mass-produced merchandise, but in this case it's more than warranted. During the classic era of Lovecraft's stories "Marble's" manufactured a huge variety of outdoor equipment sold in retailers across the nation. Odds are that an adventurer or outdoorsman in the 20's and 30's had at least one piece of Marble's gear on him.

Those designs are still being produced today, albeit in Chinese factories, and the modern reproductions like those at B and K Enterprises can serve as very affordable alternatives to vintage pieces. Here's a look at some of items that are available:

Not surprisingly, it appears that the manufacturers of the modern knock-off's have cut some corners. They're reportedly using the exact same patterns, but with lighter gauge metal, lower quality leather, and a generally inferior attention to fit and finish. That isn't a major problem if you're buying them for display or prop use, and it also has an unintentional side benefit- the prices for authentic vintage Marble's gear have dropped. Sometimes to the point that buying a matchsafe or compass that's close to a century old is only slightly more expensive than buying the inferior modern reproduction.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"The Hound" Amulet

From H. P. Lovecraft's "The Hound":

In the coffin lay an amulet of curious and exotic design, which had apparently been worn around the sleeper's neck. It was the oddly conventionalised figure of a crouching winged hound, or sphinx with a semi-canine face, and was exquisitely carved in antique Oriental fashion from a small piece of green jade. The expression of its features was repellent in the extreme, savoring at once of death, bestiality and malevolence. Around the base was an inscription in characters which neither St John nor I could identify; and on the bottom, like a maker's seal, was graven a grotesque and formidable skull.

And here's the prop version of that very amulet, created by the talented Joe Broers:

You can find more examples of his Lovecraftian sculptures and props at his DeviantArt site.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Undead Demon Mask

The "Lizard of Odd" brings us this undead demon mask made from glue and paper.

That's it.

Well, that and talent, of course. What first caught my eye about the costume was it's potential for being adapted as a byakhee for live action use. When I browsed the gallery and realized it was made with, maybe, $5 in materials I was even more impressed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kickin' It Off

The more I look at Kickstarter, the more I like it.

In essence, it's an open sourced patronage program for projects. What kind of projects? Pretty much anything, but they're currently focusing on relatively small artistic endeavors. Here's a description of the pledge mechanism from their FAQ:

We believe that...

• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Here's the Kickstarter DNA:

1. REWARDS! Project creators inspire people to open their wallets by offering smart, fun, and tangible rewards (products, benefits, and experiences).

2. ALL-OR-NOTHING FUNDING! Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands.


1. It's less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it's tough having $2,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.

2. It allows people to test concepts (or conditionally sell stuff) without risk. If you don't receive the support you want, you're not compelled to follow through. This is huge!

3. It motivates. If people want to see a project come to life, they're going to spread the word.

Kickstarter is focused on creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. We're a great way for artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, athletes, adventurers, illustrators, explorers, curators, promoters, performers, and others to bring their projects, events, and dreams to life.

It sounds a lot like the late, unlamented "Fundable" website, but without the dishonesty, incompetence, and outright fraud so tellingly documented by Mary Robinette Kowal.

From my perspective Kickstarter seems like it would be ideal for the kind of short run projects of 100-150 items that I enjoy doing. My humble wares are purposefully designed for a niche market that has very specific tastes, which is a natural match for the pledge model of patronage. While I might be able to take advantage of some economies of scale by increasing production up into the 200-250 range I can't see the market reliably supporting anything much larger.

Since you are my niche market I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. Would you feel comfortable pledging for something like the Miskatonic prop set if it could result in better prices because of larger runs? Keep in mind that it would also necessitate some delays. Based on prior experience and some guesstimating it would probably take three to four weeks for goodies to be in your hands after the fund drive is completed. That's assuming it takes a week for me to get the funds and pay for production, followed by another two weeks for manufacturing and shipping, and another week for packages to travel from Propnomicon headquarters to you via the post.

The Surnateum

Alban sent over a link to the wonderful Surnateum, or Museum of Supernatural History. While navigating the English version of the site is a bit difficult, browse around and you'll discover an amazing collection of props, reproductions, and authentic occult items supported by in-depth histories and documentation.

I can only imagine the amount of work that went into producing the website and the items on display within. Dodgy links aside it's a masterwork of creativity and propmaking skill.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Crafting Spellbooks

"gingerpete50" has posted a very well done tutorial on creating Harry Potter style Spellbooks on Instructables. It doesn't take much imagination to see how his technique for converting vintage books into aged grimoires would be equally useful for crafting Mythos tomes.

There are two VERY important disclaimers to note at this point, the first is that this is really and adults only project as you'll need to use a very sharp scalpel to cut the new title into the cover of the book. The second point is to be careful what book you use! The only reason I could bear to deface these books is because they had been left in the damp and rain for months so they were ruined before I started.

In short be VERY careful that you're not going to destroy a first edition copy of "Peter Pan" or "The Count of Monte Cristo"

Monday, January 11, 2010

Demonic Compass

From artist Andrea Falaschi comes this Demonic Compass. I love the detailed operating instructions.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mapmaking Tutorial

Artist "RobA" of the excellent "Cartographer's Guild" forum has produced an outstanding tutorial on using GIMP to produce maps for role-playing games. The step-by-step narration of the mapmaking process is easy to follow and allows someone with even limited graphics experience to produce excellent results. Best of all, GIMP is totally free open-source software that doesn't cost a dime.

Three Ring Circus

Propnomicon was one of the featured subjects in the center ring of this week's "RPG Circus" podcast. The peripheral discussion about the relative lack of props in games other than "Call of Cthulhu" is quite interesting.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Schweizer Edition

Artist Chris Schweizer sculpted this wonderfully inhuman Cthulhu maquette that quite consciously rejects the traditional "Ol' Squidhead", anthropomorphic depiction. I know that look is based on Lovecraft's own sketch of the statuette from "The Call of Cthulhu", but I rather like Schweizer's take on the material.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Navigator's Grimoire

From artist Tim Baker comes this wonderful Astrolabe Book featuring a working astrolabe, quadrant, and abacus. It has a very "Dark Crystal" vibe to me, and I mean that in a good way.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mr. Wilum Weighs In

If you're not already familiar with Wilum Pugmire it's difficult, bordering on impossible, to explain his place in Lovecraft fandom. The self-described "Queen of Eldritch Horror" is a one-of-a-kind personality that revels in his exuberant eccentricity and just happens to write some of the most intriguing Mythos stories in circulation. That said, my pathetic ego is immensely pleased that he mentioned his enjoyment of my faux trailer for "At the Mountains of Madness" in his latest YouTube video.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Imperial Cable And Wireless Seal

From Great Britain, the seal used on Imperial Cable and Wireless telegram envelopes. Just click through for the full sized version.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Levitated Runes Font

If you're anything like me, or most "Call of Cthulhu" or RPG fans for that matter, you've seen almost every runic and occult font out there. One of the problems with creating props for an audience like that is that they immediately recognize the various flavors of Tengwar or Futhark. You're constantly looking for new typefaces for scrolls and maps to keep things fresh.

"Levitated Rune" could be just the thing. It's the work of Jared Tarbell, who was kind enough to make it publicly available at his website.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Burmese Statue

The very talented josefk writes:

In 1942 when the Japanese ‘liberated’ Burma they found a very ancient statue in the mountains that was worshipped by a mysterious and decedent tribe of hill people. These people proved especially resistant to the Japanese occupation, and after a few weeks of having their convoys attacked along the ‘Burma Road’ the Japanese destroyed the statue. The attacks ceased, but in time the wrath of these primitive people’s god seems to have been visited upon Japan.

There are only two know pictures of the statue, both taken by the Japanese during their occupation.. One picture shows the statue intact, with a Japanese Officer posing alongside. The other picture depicts the statue after its destruction. In this photo a group of Japanese Officers stand nearby.

Further research has provided valuable insight into the origins of the Burmese Statue:

In case you wondered, my little Cthulhu started out about 3 inches tall, made from regular unfired clay that got damp and started falling apart, prompting the idea.