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


Machine King Lives!

Following on from the post earlier in the week … Cthulhu Reborn are delighted to announce that our fifth freebie PDF book — Geoff Gillan’s mind-blowing “The Machine King” — is now available for download. Scroll down to the bottom of this announcement for links (or if you’re impatient, just jump across to our Downloads page)

Machine King - Front Cover Mockup C

This book has been a long time in the making: the scenario was first written by Geoff back in 1995 and we have been working with him since April last year to revise the original text, give it a thorough editorial treatment and commission some art which realises the grand and imaginative vision of the scenario. For this latter task we were extremely fortunate in securing the talents of Cinthya Álvarez (aka CinTheBarbarian) whose moody portraits and depictions of mechanical monstrosities perfectly complements the themes in Geoff’s writing.

Although “The Machine King” was always envisaged as a freebie release, in terms of production values, we have treated it with exactly as much attention to detail as we would apply to a commercial release and we’re very pleased with the visual look that Cinthya’s amazing art has allowed us to achieve.

Machine King - The Cog Wheel Machine III (Cynthia)

In his Geoff’s author intro to “The Machine King”, Geoff describes the curious path by which this “musty old work” has finally made its way to publication:

For once when I say musty it is not hyperbole. The manuscript was feared lost when most of the contents of my home were destroyed back in the Wollongong floods of 1998. Since it was written years before, for a Chaosium Dreamlands book that never got beyond the planning stages, the typescript was the sole copy. After the flood cleanup it could not be found. I felt its loss quite keenly since unusually among my own works, I actually liked it. Years passed and my friend and brother in law, Martin Knight was clearing out his garage and found a garbage bag full of stuff from my flood cleanup. The cleanup had been a frantic drive to claw up as much as could be salvaged since we were warned by the cops that looters would be by as soon as the premises were left unattended. Boxes and bags were packed up and went in all directions. In the garbage bag were a bunch of my old manuscripts, still stinking of river mud but essentially intact. I rejoiced that some lost material had been found, but being then in the middle of yet another house move, I boxed it all up in an airtight container and promptly forgot about it.

Skip forward another decade and I was contacted by Dean who wanted to bring to life an old adventure of mine, The Past Is Doomed. I let him loose and in the process gained not just an editor and colleague but a good friend. As you all probably know Dean has an insatiable hunger for old Chthloid scribblings and is probably more to be pitied than shunned—in this spirit, when he asked me if I had more from the old days, I began to wonder. Was Machine King, the unwanted Dreamlands scenario still around? Could it be that Martin, ironically one of its original playtesters, had salvaged it unknowingly from the river muck? I had a vague feeling it was among those papers but it had been so long I could not honestly remember. So I rummaged through the papers in my current house in Brisbane and there after much digging in all the wrong boxes was a clean Manila envelope with an ancient manuscript inside. Also there were all the notes and photocopies of steam-age illustrations that had inspired it …

 

Machine King - Handout 2 - advertisement grey fx2

You can download your own ABSOLUTELY FREE copy of “The Machine King” using the links below. The difference between the two versions is simply that the “Printer-Friendly” version omits background textures and the ornate borders around text boxes to make them a little less “ink hungry”. Both versions are 65 Page full-production PDFs with colour covers and greyscale book interiors. Each PDF is a 17MB download.

As always with all content that published here on Cthulhu Reborn, this is provided as a copyrighted file but freely distributable under a Creative Commons license. That means basically, you can do whatever you want with this material … except make money out of it. In case it isn’t obvious, the copyright holder here is Geoff Gillan & Dean Engelhardt for the text and layout.

On a personal note, I would really like to thank Geoff for working with us so closely to adapt his remarkable adventure via the addition of a considerable amount of content, and also the re-imagining of the story in a different setting (the Gaslight era rather than the 1920s assumed by the 1990s Chaosium book). Thanks also to Andy Miller for his excellent work doing copy-editing for this book!


Preview: The Machine King

Machine King - Front Cover Mockup CWell, the good news is that it’s “Full Steam Ahead” on finishing up our next freebie CoC Scenario for release here on Cthulhu Reborn. As announced a little while back Geoff Gillan’s “The Machine King” is an absolute (almost) lost classic, written by one of the games most loved writers … so of course we are excited about the fact that we will be publishing it. Hopefully within the next week.

In the interests of providing loyal readers of the blog with a few “sneak peeks” at this book before its release, I’ve put a few (hopefully spoiler-free or at least spoiler-light) snippets from the book layout below. Readers of Geoff’s previous scenario work for Call of Cthulhu (e.g., his pivotal work on “Horror on the Orient Express” or his often-cited war scenario “Regiment of Dread”, and our own “The Past Is Doomed”) will know that his stories are always packed to bursting with imaginative and dark ideas. If you’ve been lucky enough to read his published fiction (e.g., his wonderful, yet hard-to-find fantasy novel “Envious Gods”) you’ll know that this frenzied and vivid tone is something they too share. So, it’s no surprise that “The Machine King” is darkly baroque, offbeat, extravagant occasionally whimsical — all the things that define classic Gillan.

It starts with a horrifying dream vision (here depicted by commissioned art from the talented Cinthya Álvarez)

Machine King sample 03… and if the Investigators cannot put a stop to the bizarre (and old) machinations behind the vision, they might be unlucky enough to witness some very odd mechanical intrusions into the real-world of Victorian London:

Machine King Bomb Beast Compose 4

Scenario Summary

Here’s how the scenario is described in the (spoiler-free) blurb from the back cover:

A Mechanical Nightmare Awakens

Victorian London: Heart of the most industrialised empire the world has ever seen. A heart that pounds to the rhythms of steam hammers,  pistons, and whirring cogs.

Since the time of the Industrial Revolution over a century ago, London has been at the forefront of mechanisation. Every facet of life now brings men of all stations into daily contact with the coldly implacable machines which free them from the back-breaking labours of earlier generations.

The rise of the machines cemented Britain’s dominance over the world … but has it made men slaves to the very machines that were built to liberate them? And do the machines have their own cruel ambitions and dreams?

Curious reports have begun to circulate London claiming the impossible: machines have been witnessed acting on their own volition, attacking innocent men and women.
What strange power drives otherwise unremarkable lumps of cold metal to murder? What fuels the odd machine-haunted dreams that nightly plague hundreds of Londoners?

In a world ruled by machines . . . who rules the machines?

The Machine King

Page Layouts

To give you an idea of how the book design has turned out, below are a couple of page spreads from the finished layout (featuring more art from Cinthya Álvarez as well as my own humble map-work). Some text is blurred to avoid spoilers.

Machine King sample 28-29 blurred @150

Machine King sample 21

Machine King sample 36-37 blurred@150


Coming Soon: Geoff Gillan’s “Machine King”

When Cthulhu Reborn was created — way back in the mists of time (well, 2011 to be exact) — it’s principal mission was to be a vehicle for publishing high-quality, professionally-designed, and above all FREE material for Lovecraftian tabletop gaming. And while we’ve done a reasonable job at creating a few highly-regarded titles (see our downloads page for the full list), we would have to admit that it HAS been a while since we last released a freebie title. This isn’t a deliberate decision … lots of other stuff has kept the Cthulhu Reborn minions fully occupied for quite some time. It has always been our goal, though, to release more free stuff under the Cthulhu Reborn imprint.

Today we are incredibly, INCREDIBLY happy to be announcing the next title in our line of free scenarios for Call of Cthulhu, Geoff Gillan’s incredible “almost lost work”, The Machine King.

Machine King - Front Cover Mockup C
The story behind this scenario’s long journey to publication is almost as convoluted as the tale itself. Originally commisioned in the mid 1990s by Lynn Willis for an abandoned Chaosium book of “alternative dreamlands” scenarios, Geoff’s sole copy of its typescript has certainly been through the wringer over the intervening years. Most notably it was believed for many years to have been destroyed when Geoff’s home in Wollongong was one of many inundated by damaging floodwaters in 1998. But you can’t kill a truly horrific Lovecraftian tale that easily … and thanks to some detective work worthy of a Spot Hidden check (or maybe a Rummage Through Garbage Bags check), the manuscript was rediscovered a year or so ago. Since then, Cthulhu Reborn has been working closely with Geoff to polish the original text, put it through several more rounds of editing, and finally commission some brand new custom art to do justice to the insane world described in Geoff’s scenario.

Machine King Scared_Woman_cinthebarbarian-d7redd6

All that work is now mostly finished: the text is locked down and proofed, the layout is complete and we are just waiting on a couple of pieces of final art … and then we will unleash “The Machine King” upon the world as a free, fully-illustrated, deluxe 64 page PDF. Fingers crossed for a late August or early September release date! We will be offering a few sneak peaks at the wonderful custom artwork (by long-time Cthulhu Reborn art department stalwart Cinthya A.) and page layouts … so … watch this space :)

 


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