Work on the "At the Mountains of Madness" project continues.
Last week I mentioned a few problems I'd encountered. Thanks to your suggestions two out of the three issues are close to being resolved. I've found two boxes that appear to be ideal for the deluxe sets and should be getting samples by next week. The difficulty with finding unbranded photographs is still a bit iffy, but I think I'm close to finishing that up as well. As of yet I still haven't found a professional printer that can handle printing the sketches on textured art paper.
Over the last week most of my time has been spent doing research. I've steadily amassed quite a collection of books on the history of Antarctic and polar expeditions. One of the most useful has been Polar Exploration: The Heroic Exploits of the World's Greatest Polar Explorers from the Royal Geographic Society. It's a coffee table book offering a broad overview of the subject written by scholar Beau Riffenburgh. What sets it apart from other popular history books are the included documents. It's absolutely chock full of removable sketches, notebooks, diaries, letters, and other ephemera drawn from the experiences of polar explorers stretching back to the mid 18th century.
If you're considering running Chaosium's classic "Beyond the Mountains of Madness" adventure I would highly recommend this book. For gamemasters and players alike it's a great introduction to the history of polar exploration that conveniently runs right up to 1929, the year before the original Miskatonic Antarctic expedition. It's not an in-depth read, but the heavily illustrated text and included documents are an ideal way to get into the spirit of the expedition. Players will get a real feel for the kind of challenges they'll be facing on the ice, including the horrific consequences when something goes wrong. The real history of exploring the ends of the earth is filled with enough disease, starvation, death, and cannibalism to give anyone pause.
Anyone looking to embrace a prop-heavy version of BTMOM will find the included ephemera a fountain of inspiration. A good example of the book's reproduction documents is this letter from Ernest Shackleton to J. Scott Keltie, Secretary of the Royal Geographic Society. Shackleton mentions his expedition has gained the backing of the War Office to such an extent that he can requisition Army personnel. He also expects the Admiralty to approve an equal level of access.
From a propmaking perspective the letter includes two interesting details. The first is the letterhead itself. It's an ideal historical reference for anyone, like me, looking to reproduce an authentic looking piece of Antarctic expedition ephemera.
The second is one of those great little details that a century of time has obliterated from the modern consciousness- the importance of the telegraph. The letterhead not only includes the expedition's dedicated address for telegrams, but what codebooks messages should use. And what do you know, both of those books are available for free. Google books has a copy of the ABC Telegraphic Code, Fifth Edition, while the Internet Archive stores Bentley's Complete Phrase Code.
For gamers this is a great opportunity to add some real interactivity and immersiveness into an adventure. By the classic era of the Mythos the telephone was well on its way to replacing the telegraph as a means of communication, but telegrams were still used for a large proportion of long distance message traffic. Having players decrypt a message using a code book is the kind of entertaining mini-game that reinforces the principles of investigation and provides an intellectually engaging experience.