Saturday, July 31, 2010

A3-21 Plasma Rifle

Ryan Palser has been assembling a prop version of the A3-21 plasma rifle from "Fallout 3" and posting photos of the build process. Click through and you'll find an entire gallery detailing the build. The attention to detail and level of craftsmanship is quite impressive.

Original concept sketch of the gun.

The illuminated barrel.

Initial assembly.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Arkham Sanitarium

I haven't mentioned the Arkham Sanitarium project in over two months, but on Monday I should have some news I think you're going to like.

The Curwin Letter

Artist Rebecca Kemp Don Simpson brings us this recreation of "The Curwin Letter" from Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".

My version of a letter that plays an important part in H. P. Lovecraft's horror novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

The text is given in the story, in as close to 17th century style as Lovecraft could manage on a typewriter, and I have put it into a 17th century handwriting, using a computer font I created that is based mostly on the handwriting of William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony. After setting the text, a list of search-and-replace items were required, as there are several ligated letters (ct, ck,ff, etc.), some letters that are written differently when at the end of a word (s, e, etc,), and several abbreviations ("the" looks like a "Y" with an "e" over it, "Mister" like an "M" with a squiggly tail) in this style. If I had more advanced font software (and later program versions), this could all be done automatically....

Just click through on the link above to download the high resolution version of the letter from Mr. Simpson's DeviantArt page. Once printed and aged it should be quite the effective prop.

Update: Earlier, this work had been credited to Rebecca Kemp because I found it in her "Pickman's Model" gallery at DeviantArt here. That appears to be a aggregator site for Lovecraftian art, but there is no mention of Mr. Simpson on the page and the posting text speaks of creating the work in the first person. Draw from that what conclusions you will.

I apologize to Mr. Simpson for the oversight and would like to thank R.S. Bohn for bringing the situation to my attention.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Miskatonic University Postcard

A vintage postcard showing the front campus of Miskatonic University. The lack of paved crosswalks would date it to sometime before 1924. Click through for the high resolution version.

This is based on a postcard of Brown University's front campus dating to around 1910. I believe the spot where this picture was taken is in front of the John Hay library, just north of the intersection of Prospect and College Streets. I'm guesstimating it's about 10 meters south of where the H.P. Lovecraft Memorial is located today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Ripley’s Vampire Killing Kits

Ripley Entertainment, the corporate heirs to the "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" legacy, claims to own more authentic vampire killing kits than anyone else in the world. Their famous museums of the bizarre are found at tourist destinations around the globe and almost every one of them has a Bloomberg-style set on display. While the "authentic" part of their claim is certainly debatable there's no denying that their collection is impressive, both in quantity and quality. You can see a selection of their holdings in this gallery posted at their official newsfeed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mombasa, 1922

Ivory traders load their cargo at the port of Mombasa, Kenya in 1922. Could they know of the horrific rites practiced at the Mountain of the Black Wind? Click through for the full sized image.

This is another of the background photos I put together for a group tackling Chaosium's "Masks of Nyarlathotep". Yes, the third man in the photo does look strange. The missing portion of his torso on the left side is either a trick of the light or the result of a bad retouching job in the original photo.

Monday, July 26, 2010

He of the Bloody Tongue

This is probably the most unusual bit of Lovecraftiana I've ever posted about, but I have a feeling it's a look at what the future holds.

Ean Moody sent over a link to his latest project- a virtual sculpt of Nyarlathotep's "Bloody Tongue" aspect available on Shapeways. One click and you can have a copy custom manufactured by an industrial 3-D printer. Here's a video featuring the digital model:

This technology is already having an impact in the miniatures market. As costs fall I can see it producing an explosion of creativity as everyone starts utilizing micro-scale manufacturing for hobby and short-run projects.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Tentacled Horde

I love discovering a new depiction of Cthulhu, but it's rare that I get to see a virtual army of them. The proprietor of the Hellric's Nightmare miniatures blog was kind enough to send over a link to the gallery for his impressive collection of kitbashed, customized, and repainted Cthulhu figures. The figures are interesting in and of themselves, but the work in progress shots showing the techniques used to create them should really get the creative juices flowing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bottled Horrors

Tobal at the Spanish language "Dodo Albino" blog brings us some very nice bottled specimens. Nice being a relative term, of course. Shrill screaming would be the natural response if you found any of these things crawling across your skin.

Browse around the rest of his site and you'll find even more cool props.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Trioxin 245

A fun little prop from the old "Cthulhu Coffee" con events.

Trioxin 245 was invented by Dan O'Bannon, the same writer and directer that brought us "The Resurrected", a surprisingly good low budget adaptation of Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Missing Roerich

Among Nicholas Roerich's many achievements were lasting contributions to the imagery of the Mythos. His art had a huge influence on Lovecraft, with his depictions of fantastically colored buildings clinging to towering peaks getting a specific mention in "At the Mountains of Madness". Joe Broers sent over this intriguing note regarding one particular piece of artwork.

"A picture taken (at) the Nicholas Roerich Museum in the late 30's (based on the paintings shown). Apparently the painting on the left was later removed and can no longer be found on the inventory of Roerich paintings."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! FFG Edition

I'm not into collectible card games in the slightest.

That said, I've been a big fan Fantasy Flight Games, the makers of the "Call of Cthulhu" CCG, because of their awesome "Bag of Cthulhu" accessory. Piles and piles of little Cthulhus, all for a very reasonable price. Mike was kind enough to send over word that they're following up that triumph with a "Cthulhu Domain Statue" that looks like another winner.

Quoting from the website:

The Cthulhu Domain Statue is 2.75" (70mm) tall and is made of resin in dark green with a black wash, illuminating the details of its sculpture, based on the descriptions of Cthulhu and the sunken city of R'lyeh found in H.P. Lovecraft's immortal work of horror, The Call of Cthulhu. The Cthulhu Domain Statue is an immersive accessory for lovers of the Cthulhu Mythos and a game component of distinct quality and detail.

This could easily be adapted for prop use, and the price is hard to beat.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Seas Edition.

Artist Michael Seas was kind enough to send over these shots of one of his latest works. In contrast to many depictions of Cthulhu it has a very flowing and liquid feel, with a wonderfully polished finish that brings out the depth of the color treatment.

You can see more of his work at the Hyaena Gallery.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Customizable Radiogram Telegram

You can never have too many vintage-style telegrams.

This is based on a mix of the RCA and Imperial "Radiogram" forms in use from the 20's to the 40's. Once you've downloaded the PDF from Google Documents you can customize the message text using the embedded form fields, then print, trim to size, fold, and insert in a coin or business envelope. For best results use a color printer, but everything is legible if you use a monochrome inkjet or laser printer.

This telegram prop was originally created for a group tackling Chaosium's epic "Masks of Nyarlathotep" campaign for the "Call of Cthulhu" role-playing game. The players are keeping a written record of the adventure in a leather-bound journal, an idea inspired by the "Grail Diary" from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". I was asked to produce improved versions of the included handouts as well as supplemental materials like period maps and ephemera. By the time they finish the campaign the journal should be an impressive piece of work, crammed with all kinds of paper props.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Under The Sand

The very talented Florian Mellies brings us this vintage postcard from parts unknown.

At the link you can see the postcard and the original painting it was based on. Not surprisingly, I'm a sucker for the postcard version.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Brass Ones

I think it's time for a change.

Next week I'll be placing an order for the new run of Miskatonic University patches and lapel pins that will be available in August. All the pins I've done in the past have had an antiqued brass finish, but there have been a number of requests for a full color cloisonne pin. I think that's what I'd like to do for the next run. For comparison, here's what the antiqued brass version looks like:

The cloisonne version would be essentially the same, but duplicating the color scheme of the Miskatonic seal with fired enamel in the spaces between the raised brass portions. Here's a rough mock-up of what it would look like:

The antiqued brass version has a classic appearance, with a very understated vintage feel. On the other hand, the cloisonne version is far more eye-catching and really "pops" because of the polished brass and enamel finish. Personally, I think the cloisonne looks fantastic, but I can appreciate the subtlety of the old version.

What do you think? I'm all for going full color, but if you really don't like it I won't tamper with things.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Travelers Tale

A kind emailer sent over a link to the Travelers in the Middle East Archive, an online collection featuring hundreds of vintage photographs, illustrations, and texts. There's enough content there to satisfy almost any demand for background material and a little effort can easily adapt it for more game specific purposes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ship of the Desert

Some more vintage photographs from 1922, this time from the trackless wastes of the Sahara and Algeria. Just click through for the high resolution version.

A wonderful shot taken at sunset in the Sahara that captures the feeling of isolation in the deep desert.

A trade caravan of camels loaded with goods passes through an oasis in Algeria.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The City of a Thousand Minarets

More photos of Cairo from 1922. Period photos like this help capture some of the exotic atmosphere of a pulp adventure and are easily re-purposed as handouts or prop photographs. Just click through for the high resolution versions.

First, an open air cafe. The gentleman wearing a fez just screams "NPC".

Second, an 11th century gate near the Red Mosque. It leads to the bazaar, as the merchandise laden animals would suggest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cairo, 1922

Is there any city more filled with adventuring potential than Cairo in the 1920's? Just click through for the high resolution version.

"A splendid view of Cairo may be had from the reddish hills which lie to the southeast of the city. In the foreground is the Citadel, with the two slender minarets of the Mohammed Ali Mosque rising high above the wide dome. On the lower level, to the right, are the minarets of the Sultan Hasan and Rifaiyeh Mosques, and the big open square to the right is the courtyard of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, said to be a copy of the Kaaba at Mecca."

Monday, July 12, 2010

PASIV Aggressive

I love Alternate Reality Games, or ARGs.

As much as I enjoy tabletop gaming I rarely, if ever, have the time to actually participate in one. Like so many of the first generation to grow up with RPGs, I find myself grabbing my gaming when I can between the demands of work and having a family. Being able to take a little time in the evening to tackle a few puzzles and catch up on a developing storyline is the perfect venue for getting my fix.

That's one of the reasons I liked this story from "Wired" involving a viral marketing/ARG project tied into the upcoming Christopher Nolan film "Inception". The other is the impressive craftsmanship that went into creating the PASIV device "Dream Share Manual" that arrived on the author's doorstep.

The article includes high-resolution scans of all the interior pages, which consist mostly of hand-drawn illustrations and redacted text. That makes it easy for fans to reproduce the manual, but it's also handy for anyone interested in re-purposing the material for a modern take on the Dreamlands. Even if you don't embrace the "Delta Green" approach to the Mythos the canon establishes two facts that would make something like this useful- people and creatures can move back and forth between our world and the Dreamlands, and the US government, or at least some elements within it, is officially aware of the Mythos. A Spec Ops team traveling beyond the veil to recruit ghoul intelligence operatives for the war on terror might be a little over the top, but there are a lot of other creative ways to adapt the material.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Golden Idol

The very talented Christian Hartmann sculpted this idol of a forgotten god. I'm not a big fan of metallic finishes, but the gold leafing really kicks this piece up a notch.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"The Shadow Out of Time" Expedition Gear

In 1935 Professor Nathaniel Peaslee of Miskatonic University led an expedition into the Great Sandy Desert of Australia to investigate ruins allegedly dating dating back thousands of years. For years rumors have swirled about what the party actually discovered buried there in the sand. Were the ruins the sole surviving evidence of a culture dating to before the accepted settlement of the continent? Or, as have some have speculated, were they all that was left of an ancient city intimately tied to Prof. Peaslee's own well-documented history of amnesia and strangely detailed dreams?

"Ab Aeterno" Miskatonic University Australian Expedition Patch

The 4" (10 cm) patch is embroidered on a tough cotton twill backing that will last for years of use, and the heat-sensitive adhesive makes it easy to iron it on to the garment of your choice. The expedition's "Ab Aeterno" logo was designed using a period font and color scheme to mimic a patch created in 1935. The rayed sun motif of the Miskatonic University seal rises from behind the deep red stone of Ayer's Rock, while above them are two stylized Aboriginal glyphs- the horizontal parallel lines symbolizing a journey surmounted by the concentric circles marking a destination or campsite. Below that is the latin phrase "Ab Aeterno", or "From the beginning of time", the expedition's motto.

"Ab Aeterno" Miskatonic University Australian Expedition Notebook

The expedition notebook is patterned after the pocket journals used by scientists and researchers in the field to record observations. The front cover features the expedition logo, while the back includes observation instructions and a specimen ruler. The notebook measures 3.5" by 5" (8.89 cm by 12.7 cm) and has a saddle-stitch binding, 1/4" rounded corners, heavyweight cover, and 32 pages of high quality lined paper. All materials are 100% recycled and the cover designs are printed with environmentally friendly soy ink.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Miskatonic Australian Expedition Photos

The new run of Miskatonic Australian expedition gear based on Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time" goes on sale tomorrow, but I have a pair of retouched photos for you today. Just click through for the high resolution versions and then run off copies using a photo printer or commercial photo kiosk.

Prof. Ashley of Miskatonic with one of the first stones uncovered by the expedition.

The S.S. Lexington being towed into Port Hedland by a harbor tug. From here the expedition would travel overland to the De Grey river, where a chartered steamer with a shallow draw would take them to the edge of the interior desert.

Update: RXGrafix did an awesome take on the Prof. Ashley photo. I shied away from aging it too much because I wanted to keep it generic, but they just nailed it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Australia in Black and White

This scan of the "Australia" article from the 1922 edition of "Winston's Cumulative Loose-Leaf Encyclopedia" makes a handy background prop for any "Call of Cthulhu" scenarios involving the continent down under. Download the full PDF from Google Docs over here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vintage Map of Australia

Continuing with this week's theme of props related to Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time", a vintage map of Australia and it's environs. This was scanned from my beloved 1922 edition of "Winston's Cumulative Loose-Leaf Encyclopedia". Just click through to download the high resolution version from Picasa. Tomorrow I'll have the complete Australia article from the set.

From Paper Props

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"The Shadow Out of Time" Expedition Gear

The new order of patches and pins based on Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time" have already arrived, but I'm waiting on a shipment of mailers that are scheduled for delivery on Thursday. If the postal gods smile upon me everything will be on sale this weekend.

The sets will include an embroidered patch and brass lapel pin with the Australian expedition's "Ab Aeterno" logo along with a postcard and the usual extras for $19.99. 100 will be available, and once half are sold I'll have the patches and pins available individually, for $5.99 and $9.99 respectively.

As with the ATMOM gear I'll be taking orders all weekend and then mailing out the packages first thing Monday morning. In case you wanted to get a head start on your "Shadow Out of Time" prop collection take a look directly below this post. Lovecraft's story includes almost all the information needed to fill out the passage tickets for the entire Miskatonic expedition, including all the members:

Professor William Dyer of the college's geology department - leader of the Miskatonic Antarctic Expedition Of 1930-31 - Ferdinand C. Ashley of the department of ancient history, and Tyler M. Freeborn of the department of anthropology - together with my son Wingate - accompanied me...My correspondent, Mackenzie, came to Arkham early in 1935 and assisted in our final preparations.

That last would be Robert B.F. Mackenzie, the Australian that originally uncovered the mysterious desert ruins. As for the departure itself:

Sailing from Boston aboard the wheezy Lexington on March 28, 1935, we had a leisurely trip across the Atlantic and Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea, and across the Indian Ocean to our goal.

There's a good chance Lovecraft based the ship in his story on the actual S. S. Lexington of the Colonial Line, which served Boston, New York, Providence, and New Bedford during the appropriate time frame.

Tramp Steamer Ticket, Redux

Here's the tramp steamer passenger ticket from yesterday converted into a PDF with customizable typewritten entries. You can download the file from Google Docs over here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tramp Steamer Ticket

This is a passage ticket for the kind of small ship typically found in pulp adventures. Large passenger lines could afford to have custom printed tickets for each ship, but the smaller lines and independents would broker passage at dockside or through a port agent. Just click through to download the high resolution version from Picasa. It can be printed out on cardstock and filled out by hand, or you can add typewritten entries in a graphics program before printing.

From Paper Props

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sculpting Tentacles

Tentacled horrors have become one of the defining characteristics of the Mythos (despite the relative lack of tentacles in Lovecraft's work). Thanks to that established trope, one of the easiest ways to "Mythos-ize" a prop or found object is to add a few tentacles using Sculpey or epoxy putty. Luckily, the Polymer Clay Fan website has an in-depth tutorial on sculpting realistic tentacles.

If you've ever thought of sculpting your own Cthulhu idol I highly recommend giving it a read. It seems counter-intuitive, but for a beginning sculptor this technique is easier and will produce better results than trying to create smooth tentacles. A flawlessly regular and unbroken finish is fiendishly difficult and takes quite a bit of skill to pull off. Adding texture lets you cover up a multitude of errors and produces a more visually interesting result.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Madness

Mark Williams sent over these wonderful shots of the "At the Mountains of Madness" gear added to his already extensive collection of props. This is pure adventure porn, and I mean that in the very best way.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Koi Edition

Artist Ann S Koi brings us this nigh-indestructible Cthulhu cane head. I'm pleasantly surprised how well the ergonomics of a usable cane head compliment the depiction.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

ATMOM Gear, Unleashed

The Miskatonic Antarctic expedition props have started to arrive at their new homes. Jeff Devine was kind enough to send over these shots featuring his, along with some other great items. I really love his background in the second shot.