My Encounter with Dracula

It’s been a while since the last blog update here on Cthulhu Reborn, and as usual the reason is that I’ve been busy working on all manner of intriguing projects for other folks … most of which I can’t (yet) talk about. But one thing I definitely *can* talk about is the work I did for Pelgrane Press as part of their insanely-ambitious uber-Kickstarter project to create the Dracula Dossier.

For those who didn’t follow this project, the Dracula Dossier is a sprawling and diverse resource for Night’s Black Agents — Pelgrane’s Gumshoe-fuelled RPG which blends vampires with the cold, hard world of spy-thrillers. The game itself is the creation of Ken Hite (known to Cthulhu gamers for Trail of Cthulhu and Ken Writes About Stuff, but truly someone who has a vast gaming resume) … for this project he is teamed with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (whose Cthulhu-related credits include The Laundry, World War Cthulhu, but again who has worked on lots of other amazing stuff too).

So … what’s it all about? Well, the Dracula Dossier isn’t a campaign in the sense of being a pre-built narrative, but rather a toolkit from which an enterprising Gamemaster could create an infinite number of different but related campaigns. The basic premise behind it all is that the events described by Bram Stoker in his original novel were actually based somewhat on real happenings resulting from secret government machinations. As a disinformation campaign, Stoker was forced to redact his original — much more factual — draft of the account and release it as a work of fiction. But the original still exists, and has been studied by generations of intelligence analysts and spies, some of which have annotated it to record their own observations or to note some current event which seems to them related to the Stoker original.

Hawkins Papers - Original Letter to Dracula

The game resource comes in two parts: one is the aforementioned unredacted and annotated version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Yep, that’s right, players get 200+ page hand-annotated novel as the core clue which launches the campaign. By following up on clues, hints or speculations in those pages, they start to investigate the truth behind what happened when Dracula was in Victorian London … but also other intelligence operations that happened before and after that incident. Those investigations lead to encounters with modern-day organisations and individuals tied to those operations … and the whole thing snowballs from there. But, rather than there being one pre-defined plot, the Dracula Dossiers provides (in the second book) a vast collection of NPCs, places, encounters, organisations, etc., any of which *could* be used by the Gamemaster to fill a particular narrative requirement. This allows for a completely improvised campaign customised to whatever the players are interested in. Trail of Cthulhu readers who have Pelgrane’s Armigate Files will be familiar with this general approach — though it’s still a pretty experimental style for RPGs.

Hawkins Papers - Quake Notes (card montage)

Anyway … that’s the project in a nutshell … so what was my involvement in this vast undertaking? Well, one of the (many, MANY) stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign was the creation of something called the Hawkins Papers, a collection of prop-quality documents which Gamemasters could use when running their own Dracula Dossier’s campaign. I was extremely honoured (and surprised) when Pelgrane approached me to craft the designs for these prop documents. It was a relatively large and time-intensive job, in part because the documents span so many different eras and styles (each of which I needed to research). But it was also an immensely enjoyable thing to do … in no small part because all the folks involved in the production were extremely enthusiastic and great to work with (in particular, publisher and project-wrangler Cat Tobin). In all I think my contribution spanned to about 48 pages of prop documents, plus some other minor graphic design assistance here and there.

Hawkins Papers - Flash Messages 01-06 montage

If you backed the Dracula Dossiers Kickstarter, you will probably have already seen the Hawkins Paper (PDF) which contain my designs … if you are merely curious, you can check out a selection of the designs scattered through this post … but also collected on this portfolio page. If the quality and level of detail of these prop documents entices you to consider buying The Dracula Dossiers, I would certainly encourage you to scoot over to Pelgrane’s site to learn more about the product. And if your gaming interests don’t extend beyond the world of the Cthulhu Mythos, you shouldn’t dismiss the Dracula Dossier altogether — as part of yet ANOTHER stretch goal unlocked along the way, the books also include The Trail of Dracthulhu, a campaign frame that links Dracula’s doings back to the forces of the Mythos allowing an improvised game that is both Dracula-ish and Cthulhu-ish. An intriguing blend of horrific things.

Hawkins Papers - Goetic Org Chart (texture)

Oh … and one last thing that may be of interest to some: to celebrate the release of the Dracula Dossier, Pelgrane have declared this month the “31 Nights of Dractober” and are posting daily reveiws of classic vampire films from the dawn of cinema to today. Some really interesting gems.

Free Addon for Mutable Deceptions 1

Readers of Cthulhu Reborn that are interested in creating 1920s era Newspaper-based props for their Lovecraftian games probably already know about Mutable Deceptions, Volume 1. For those that don’t it’s basically a PDF-based toolkit for making nifty authentic-looking 1920s newspaper articles, complete with surrounding articles/ads and a reverse side. It’s Cthulhu Reborn’s only commercial product to-date … and you can find out more about it over on RPG Now if you are so inclined.

One of the things that people ask me most about this package is … “how come there aren’t more ‘reverse side’ pages of ordinary news articles and ads? I’ve made lots of articles using the templates but they all have the same stuff on the back! My players are bored of reading the same fake articles.”

MDB1-1 - Generic Reverse FS1 (small)

This is a fair comment — although the original PDF pack for Mutable Deceptions, Volume 1 does include 8 or so pages you can use to create reverse sides for your awesome home-made newspaper clues, there’s always room for more. And I do hate bored players.

So … in the spirit of giving out Freebies for loyal readers of this blog, I thought I would put together some additional PDF pages that can be used along with Mutable Deceptions if you want a bigger selection of material for the reverse side of your clippings.

MDB1-2 - Generic Reverse FS2 (small)

Of course, there’s nothing to stop anybody from using these files on their own (without Mutable Deceptions) — if you can do that, more power to you. Celebrate the spirit of sharing free stuff on the Internet! Print ’em out and use them to wrap your fish and chips for that authentic old-school dinner (disclaimer: if you do this, I am not responsible for anything that happens – you’re on your own :)).

You can download a PDF with two full pages of new newspaper content (based on real American newspapers of the 1920s, but re-typeset to look more consistent with the fonts and typography used in Mutable Deceptions, V1). Each page is provided as a version with background texture and another without — for those who like printing their newspaper articles on exotic paper to give them even greater authenticity.

I hope folks find these helpful — I am likely to create a second batch of freebie newspaper add-ons sometime in the future.

That is not Dead, which Can …

… eternally be occupied on other projects :)

Well, it’s been quite a few months since the last post here on Cthulhu Reborn. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busily working away on Cthulhuoid goodies, though. Quite the opposite, actually. In fact, since December we’ve helped out on a whole bunch of different Kickstarter projects for a whole bunch of different people and companies. In the absence of any new freebie content to post here I thought I’d include a brief “sneak peek” at our contributions to two of those projects.

Arkham Gazette

The Arkham Gazette is a nifty gaming magazine published by Bret Kramer’s Sentinel Hill Press. It’s devoted to printing awesomely-detailed gaming resources set in “Lovecraft Country,” that creepy and haunted fictional part of Massachusetts often visited in HPL’s horror stories. Back in December, Sentinel Hill Press ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the third issue of the Arkham Gazette to print, with a whole bunch of cool content and add-ons. Also stretch goals unlocked during the campaign allowed for the previous issues of the magazine to also be revisited and brushed up with professional layout and handouts.

I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute a whole bunch of different items to the various print and PDF products that backers of this Kickstarter will receive. Below are just a few of them.

Arkham Gazette 2 - Handout 5C - Newspaper Article (sml)Arkham Gazette 3 - Handwritten Notebook, Page 8 (sml)

The Dracula Dossier

Another great Kickstarter from last year (although one not strictly relating to Lovecraftian stuff) was Pelgrane Press’ campaign for The Dracula Dossier. This is an awesome resource for Ken Hite’s intriguing “Night’s Black Agents” game which mashes the Spy Thriller genre with the Vampire genre and fuels the whole thing with Robin Laws’ Gumshoe system (as seen also in “Trail of Cthulhu”). The purpose of this Kickstarter is to mine the tale of Dracula to create a framework for conspiracy thiller gaming. One of the interesting add-ons that was unlocked during the wildly successful campaign (the 32nd (!) stretch goal reached), is a series of prop documents from a range of different eras, all relating to the government conspiracy known as “Operation Edom”. I was incredibly pleased to be invited to take on the challenge of producing these for Pelgrane. A few of the many, many designs can be seen below.

Hawkins Papers - Goetic Org Chart (texture)Hawkins Papers - 1940s Military Memo (texture)Finally …

In between all of this work for other people I *have* found a little bit of time to work on some of the freebie projects that have been the staple of Cthulhu Reborn. Keep your eyes on this page for an announcement — hopefully soonish.

Christmas in Arkham

Happy holidays, dear reader of Cthulhu Reborn. It’s certainly been a great year for the blog, and one that has allowed us to release a bunch of free prop-goodness to (hopefully) enhance your Lovecraftian tabletop gaming experience.

As always, though, a significant proportion of the prop design work we have done this year has been for commercial publishers — and while some of that has made it into products, a lot of it is still waiting to see the light of day. One of the projects that falls into that category is an amazing and fun project involving the creation of dozens of high-detail Arkham-themed prop documents for a deluxe kit that a publisher has yet to announce. As always with these kinds of jobs there ends up being too many ideas and designs to put everything into the final product — leaving cool but extraneous bits of left-overs.

Postmarks Montage

I figure it would be in the spirit of the holiday season to work one of these left-overs up into something that I could release here as a free Arkham prop document. A Cthulhu Reborn Christmas gift :).

The design I chose to finish is … a dance card that is both Arkham-themed and Christmas-themed. “What’s a dance card?” I hear you young whipper-snappers quipping to yourselves. Well, I’m sure everyone is familiar with phrases “having a full dance card” and the like, but few of us today really appreciate the very important social function that that this humble piece of cardboard once held for people. When dancing was one of the primary form of social interaction (which it certainly was in the 1920s … and several later decades too) people would dance with many different people on any given night. If one wanted to recall the name of the dishy Army officer one foxtrotted with last Saturday evening, chances are you’d pull out the dance card that you’d kept as a souvenir of the night. Similarly, when one was asked to dance later in the night it was important to be able to “book” people into a free slot — and the dance card was the way of doing that.

CR Prop Freebie - Dance Card (outside)

Dance Card (outside)


One can imagine that nine decades ago, in the fictitious town of Arkham, MA, the yuletide dance at the most prestigious hotel in town — the glittering Hotel Miskatonic — would have been the social occasion of the season. So, when one of the party-goers is found in a back alley, apparently assaulted on his or her walk home — by something with tentacles! — the bloodied dance card on their corpse could be a clue!

CR Prop Freebie - Dance Card (inside)

Dance Card (inside)


The freebie prop that I have created is a 2 page PDF that allows you to create a realistic-looking 1920s dance card. Print double sided, cut out, and fold in half. If you’re really keen you can even punch out the hole and attach a piece of string with a small pencil on the end. That’s how the dance cards of the 1920s were done … a bit like this:


Click the link below to grab the PDF … and send your Lovecraftian investigators off to solve the mystery that haunts the mayor’s big Yuletide party!

Freebe Prop – Arkham Christmas Dance Card (5MB, 2 pages).

As an aside, the photo of the Hotel Miskatonic on the front of the dance card is actually something that I created as a mashup of several different period photos of luxury hotels. That picture *does* make it into one of the props I delivered to the publisher … so you might see it again someday on a letterhead or something.

CR Prop - Hotel Miskatonic

Hotel Miskatonic … as envisioned and Photoshopped by CR


In the meantime — back here in Christmas, 2014, far from the luxury of the roaring twenties — we here at Cthulhu Reborn would like to offer our best wishes for a fun, safe and enjoyable holiday season. And down wander into any alleys that smell … fishy :)

Prop Competition Winners!

Thanks to everyone who submitted photos of their prop newspaper articles made using our Mutable Deceptions PDF toolkit. As promised, we’ve picked two winners — each of which will receive a shiny new Call of Cthulhu supplement for their efforts.

The first of our winners is Daniel Myers, who created a neat newspaper prop to go along with a crystal ball that he inherited from a stage magician. The photos below show the wonderful display case which houses both the newspaper backstory and the haunted globe, as well as showing a close-up of the newspaper.

MD Competition Entry - Crystal Ball 1MD Competition Entry - Crystal Ball 2

Our other winner is Lisa Woodward who used the templates from Mutable Deceptions to create some props for the scenario “The Madman” (which appears in many of the Call of Cthulhu rulebook editions). Not only has Lisa done a great job with the newspapers, she’s also created a bunch of other props for the scenario, also pictured. Nice work.

MD Competition Entry - Lisa Woodward - The MadmanFor their troubles, Daniel has collected a copy of Golden Goblin Press’ first book “Island of Ignorance”; Lisa has scored herself a copy of the second GGP book “Tales of the Crescent City”. We hope that both of them enjoy their winnings … and keep on making awesome props using our templates!

Prop Competition: Extended One Week

We’ve had some impressive prop photos submitted as part of our “Mutable Deception” competition. The pic below by Daniel Myers is a great example!

In order to give any last-minute prop-makers a little more time to put together their work and snap a few quick photos, I have agreed to extend the deadline for the competition by one week (until the end of November). Prizes will definitely be awarded on 1 December.

MD Competition Entry - Crystal Ball 1MD Competition Entry - Crystal Ball 2

Book Giveaway: Show Us Your Props!

I guess everyone familiar with Cthulhu Reborn will know us best for all the free Lovecraftian stuff that we release via this site.

But … did you know that Cthulhu Reborn also publishes commercial gaming aids? Well … has published ONE commercial gaming aid. I am talking about “Mutable Deceptions, Volume 1” — a toolkit to allow devious gamemasters to create realistic 1920s newspaper props for their games.

Mutable Deceptions 1 - Front Cover (400)

“Mutable Deceptions, Volume 1” has been out for a while and has sold pretty well — you can still get it via RPGNow or DrivethruRPG.

One thing I realised the other day, though, is that I never quite got around to putting together a nifty gallery of “props of awesomeness” that can be created using this toolkit. That would be a nice thing to have, and would also be a cool way to promote what can be done with the tools provided in our humble PDF toolkit.

Mutable Deception 1 - Badger edits

Rather than just go ahead and take a bunch of photos of my props to build up a gallery … I thought a much more interesting and fun thing to do would be to ask folks who have purchased the product to send me photos of THEIR awesome props. To sweeten the deal, I thought I would run a bit of a giveaway promotion here on the blog …

So here’s my proposal: send me some awesome photos of real physical props you have created using “Mutable Deceptions, Volume 1” (using the form below). Your photos can showcase other awesome props as well, as long as the Mutable Deception piece is prominent. Include fancy backdrops, lighting, whatever you want — heck, take a photo of your prop next to the original of the Magna Carta if you want. You know, if you just happen to have one lying around somewhere.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am only looking for photos of physical props that have been created using our product. If you’ve got a cool digital design that’s great … turn it into a physical prop (preferably on some suitably antique-looking paper) and snap some photos of it! Send us those.

At the end of 30 days, the contributors of the best prop photos will win their choice of the following (brand-new) Call of Cthulhu dead-tree game supplements — doubles from my own personal collection:

Past is Doomed Print - Book Covered in Handouts (800)

Clear Divider 700x10

If there’s enough demand, I might extend this out to a second prize round.

Hooked? Want to start sending me your creative prop photos? Upload your wonderful images to a public photo sharing site somewhere and copy a URL of your uploaded photo into the form below. Alternatively if you would like to simply email your photo … just enter “I wanna email it” into the URL field of the form below and I will contact you via your nominated email.

Happy propping … get your photos to me no later than 23 November 2014.

Nifty Form


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