Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Grimoire of the Skull

Sticknrope returns to our pages with another worn and weathered tome.  This time it's a massive 42x40cm skull-themed grimoire.


Monday, October 30, 2023

Hoist the Black Flag

 Spooky Jack is back with their "Jolly Roger" set featuring an actual skull and bones.


Sunday, October 29, 2023

Printable Spell Scrolls, V 1.2

The saga continues...

If you haven't been following along, this all started with an experiment using Midjourney's AI image engine to generate illustrations for prop documents.  The first attempt at using it to create physical spell scrolls for tabletop games was pretty good, the second was a bit better, and now we're at the third iteration.

I've decided full page color images printed on ivory, off white, or faux parchment is the way to go.  Having the spell diagram take up the entire sheet just looks better.  I've been printing the game statistics for each spell on the back of the scroll around one third of the way down.  Since the spell illustrations are purely aesthetic that allows you to use any image for any spell, considerably reducing workload. 

If you only have access to a monochrome printer things get a little more complicated when it comes to generating images.  Midjourney defaults to color, so you have to add multiple instructions like "black on white, monochrome, ink on paper" to the prompt to get a reliable black and white image.  

Here are two full sized images to give you an idea of what's possible.  The first is intended for an arcane spell, while the second is nature oriented.  Right click and open the link in a new tab to get the high resolution image.

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.



Friday, October 27, 2023

Folding Letters

Note and Wish has a really interesting tutorial on how letters were folded and sealed in the Regency period.  It's a surprisingly complicated procedure that nests the flaps from opposite sides of the letter to create a stable seal.  Just the thing if you're looking to create sealed missives for your tabletop RPG players.


Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Red Watcher

 Master tomecrafter Mille Cuirs returns to our pages with the Red Watcher, his latest custom piece.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Welcome to Arkham

 This nifty "Welcome to Arkham" sign comes to us from Rushing's Rarities.


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Mummified Satyr Fetus

Just in time for Halloween, Monster Lab Studios brings us this gorgeous mummified satyr fetus.  Wonderful detailing and presentation.



Monday, October 23, 2023

Kitbashed Cthulhu

 Dale Bigford sent over this nifty project- a kitbashed Cthulhu idol

"Kit bashing" is a term the FX team on the original 1977 Star Wars coined. They took a lot of battleship model kits, toys and mechanical parts to cobble together parts of the ships and the surface of the Death Star.

This is a bag of sea creatures from Target, a dollar store bag of Halloween skeleton warriors and a Vampire bat from the "Todd Mcfarlane's monsters" playset from the 90's (admittedly harder to find but I found one in a second hand store.)

I weighted the base so even though the wings should unbalance and tip it over it sits upright defying gravity. And I weighed the socket with cadmium magnets so its slightly magnetic.



Sunday, October 22, 2023

Ebony Dagger

We've featured reproductions of the Ebony Dagger from Skyrim by Ellana333 and Arsynal Props.  Crafting those in resin is cool, but you know what's even more impressive?  Actually forging an Ebony Dagger out of red hot steel, like ThresholdSeven did: 

I'm a bladesmith and was inspired to recreate the Ebony Dagger. It is made with high carbon leaf spring steel, mild steel guard and pommel and has a Hickory handle. The blade is quench hardened, has a through tang and is finished with blackened linseed oil. Still need to take it to the old grinding wheel for sharpening.



Friday, October 20, 2023

Statue of Dagon


"With only a slight churning to mark its rise to the surface, the thing slid into view above the dark waters. Vast, Polyphemus-like, and loathsome, it darted like a stupendous monster of nightmares to the monolith, about which it flung its gigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous head and gave vent to certain measured sounds."

- "Dagon", H. P. Lovecraft

This beautiful statue of Dagon comes to us from the talented Morok Art Studio.


Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Dragon Fire Blade

The talented James Ewing returns to our pages with this spectacular custom blade- the Dragon Fire Athame.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Printable Spell Scrolls V 1.1

My thanks to everyone that emailed suggestions on revising the originals.  The upper margin is now large enough to allow the printed scroll to be mounted on a dowel rod up to 3.8" in diameter.  The spell details were expanded to include all the information from the spell description, taken from the 5e Dungeons and Dragons SRD document.  If they're so inclined, that allows the player to add the page to a "spellbook" binder.

There was one question about why they're in black and white instead of having a parchment background.  Seems like a great idea, right?  The problem, and I speak from personal experience, is that color ink cartridges are expensive.  Any image with a detailed background absolutely guzzles down that sweet, sweet liquid gold you're forced to pay extortionate amounts of money for. It's far easier, and cheaper, to use commercial parchment paper (affiliate link) or tea stain your own.

The first picture is a mockup of how the scroll will look on parchment, the second is for Fireball, the third for Find Traps, and the fourth is a generic page you can fill in with your own spell details.  For that text I used Morris Roman, which you can download over here.

As always, your suggestions are welcomed.  Just leave a comment or find my email on the bio page.



Bentley's Telegram Code

When you're running a Call of Cthulhu scenario in the classic era there are few clues more intriguing than a telegram that appears to be total gibberish.  It's obviously a code of some kind, but what does it say?  Having your players decode the message is about as immersive as it gets.

Thanks to the Internet Archive, creating that ciphered handout is absurdly easy.  Just download the 1921 edition of Bentley's Complete Phrase Code, encode your message, write it out on one of the blank telegram forms available here, here, here, and here, on Propnomicon, and you're good to go.  You can't beat providing a copy of the codebook to your investigators and having them actually do some cool investigating.



Monday, October 16, 2023

Roughing It in the Classic Era

The YouTube algorithm knows me all too well.  It dropped this video from about camping and hunting in the 1920s into my feed and I ended up spending a large part of Sunday browsing the "20th Century Adventures" channel.  They're an enthusiastic period reenactor, with a goldmine of information for anyone looking to learn about the classic era of the Mythos.

This particular video has some interesting revelations.  I was surprised to discover how common car camping was in the period, as well as the ubiquity of thermoses for keeping drinks hot and cold.  I knew a lot of outdoors equipment was re-purposed military surplus gear, but it wasn't just the leftover stocks from World War 1.  In some cases, the cheap clothing and equipment campers were buying up dated back to the Indian Wars.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Printable Fireball Scroll

Last weekend I talked about about using AI generated imagery to produce illustrations for prop tomes and scrolls.  Now that I've had some time to experiment with it I'm really happy with the results.  With my admittedly limited artistic skills creating a decently immersive spell scroll used to take days.  Now I can do it in hours and have the physical prop in hand when game day rolls around.

The first picture is a quick and dirty mockup of the final scroll.  The second is the printable fireball scroll source image.  You can right click and open the image in another tab to get the full-sized PNGs. I think I've hit a good balance between having a cool handout and one that includes all the 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons spell details a player will need. 

The fastest way to produce a usable prop is commercial parchment paper.  Load up your printer, hit print, and you're done.  You'll have a lot more control over the final product if you go old school and print out the image on white paper and then tea stain it.  That also gives you a wider choice of paper weights.  Most printers can handle sheets of heavyweight artist's paper, which produces a much better sensory impression than regular copy paper.  

If Blogger's compression causes too much resolution loss you can download a "Printable Fireball Scroll" PDF from Drive.  Just click through and save.

If you have any suggestions for improvements I would love to hear them.


Friday, October 13, 2023

Feed Me

"Voraciflora dentata's efficient hunting mechanisms involve its powerful jaws and nimble tendrils, allowing it to secure and subdue prey with precision. This preserved specimen offers an intriguing glimpse into the fascinating world of carnivorous plants and their strategies for survival."

This delightful carnivorous plant specimen comes to us from Monster Labs Studios.  Click through to see a full gallery of pictures.


Thursday, October 12, 2023

Edge of Darkness

 "Ghost in the Spire" put together this collection of documents, physical items, and ephemera for the Call of Cthulhu scenario "Edge of Darkness".  Click through for the full post on Reddit for a discussion of what's included and where it was sourced from.  Pretty damn impressive for their very first gamemastering experience.


Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Little Devil

Imp?  Spawn of Satan?  Osteoartist Spooky Jack brings us this horned fetal skull cast in resin.


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Wizarding Wand

This beautiful Bocote wood wand comes to us from the talented McCormick Wands.  I can say from personal experience that their craftsmanship is exceptional.



Sunday, October 8, 2023

AI and the Art of Propmaking

I'm now on board with the generative AI hype.  It's an amazing technology that's going to revolutionize the world.  More specifically, it's going to open up new possibilities for propmaking.

I spent a few hours fiddling around with Midjourney over the weekend.  If you're not familiar with the service, it uses artificial intelligence technology to generate images based on text prompts.  To be honest, I initially didn't have much interest in it.  For every truly impressive image I've seen posted there were a multitude that looked terrible. Those crappy images have flooded social media over the last few months, triggering outright bans of any AI art by quite a few discussion groups.

All that helps explain my mindset going in.  I was looking for a way to generate images for spell scrolls to hand out to TTRPG players.  The illustrations would basically be visual filler.  If there's one thing the tidal wave of AI glurge demonstrated, the technology excels at producing quantity over quality. 

And then something totally unexpected happened. I was getting some really cool artwork.  

It took some time, but once I learned how to parse the text prompts my results steadily improved.  Part of that process was using the "/describe" command to upload an image and have the AI tell me what keywords and phrases would generate it.  As my significant other pointed out, the engine was effectively teaching me how to use it.

I've posted some of the results below.  For the spell scroll images I found prompts like "/imagine wizard's spell scroll, on parchment, featuring a wheel of occult symbols and runes, in the style of a precise draftsman" were productive.  The second image is supposed to be a druidic spell.  I customized the original prompt by swapping out "occult symbols" for "druidic runes" and adding "green plants".

The bottom two pictures are attempts at creating a "grimoire illustration" of the "King in Yellow".  The first popped up after six or seven attempts.  The second finally showed up close to twenty cycles later.  For some reason, the Midjourney AI has problems assigning colors.  I had to add multiple prompts to get the King in Yellow to, you know, actually be yellow.  Adding "dressed in tattered yellow robes", "wearing yellow clothing", and "bedecked in yellow" eventually put it on the right track.

From the standpoint of prop use these are fantastic results.  Much of the imagery is sheer visual gibberish, but that's fine when it comes to generating graphics for scrolls and tomes.  Give it a try.  I'd be interested in hearing about your experience.


Friday, October 6, 2023

Alien Containment Unit Prop

It's that magical time of year when my thoughts to turn to Halloween props.  Samhain Propworks has a neat tutorial on creating an alien containment unit out of a sonotube, foam, a salad bowl, and a plastic storage container.  Given the humble components the results are particularly impressive.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Dead Fairy is Best Fairy

 Umbratheca returns to our pages with a pair of incredibly detailed dead fairies.


Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Resonator

"We entered the laboratory in the attic, and I observed that detestable electrical machine, glowing with a sickly, sinister, violet luminosity. It was connected with a powerful chemical battery, but seemed to be receiving no current; for I recalled that in its experimental stage it had sputtered and purred when in action. In reply to my question Tillinghast mumbled that this permanent glow was not electrical in any sense that I could understand."

 - H.P. Lovecraft, "From Beyond"

As the Wikipedia page for "From Beyond" points out, Crawford Tillinghast's ill-fated experiments are arguably one of Lovecraft's most influential contributions to mainstream culture.  Conversely, Stuart Gordon's over-the-top 1986 adaptation of the story served as an introduction to the Old Gent's works from an entire generation of horror fans.

Back in 2021 Full Moon Features used the story as an inspiration for "The Resonator: Miskatonic U".  It's...well, I guess the best way to put it is that the project definitely meets the standards people expect of Charles Band.  That said, our old friend Dave Lowe was hired to create the titular Resonator and posted this BTS look at the process.  It's a fascinating look at the creation of an impressive prop using craftsmanship and creativity to make up for a shoestring budget.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Momento Mori

 Rushing's Rarities returns to our pages with this awesome inscribed skull with gold inlay.  


Monday, October 2, 2023

Investigator Passports

This is a great prop for Call of Cthulhu tabletop games- a faux passport that unfolds to display your character sheet from Sean McLaughlin of base113 Games.  He has it available for multiple countries, and the fillable PDF makes it super-easy to customize.  Click on through for his link to download it from DriveThruRPG.