As I mentioned on this blog before, I’m quite intrigued by Chaosium’s announcement of an upcoming book of Call of Cthulhu scenarios set in the “Atomic Age” of the 1950s. It’s kind of a setting that the game hasn’t really tackled before in any serious way (notwithstanding the couple of recent 1950s Trail of Cthulhu scenarios). Anyway, I am quite intrigued to see what they eventually come out with and how the various authors characterise the 1950s (dark and noiry, or schlocky B-film monster film). Anybody who’s in search of info on the upcoming book should scoot over to this CthulhuWiki page which collects all the info released to date about this book.
I am also quite intrigued about how the book will look, and how “Atomic Age-y” they will choose to make the graphic design. While most of the periods covered by the existing CoC supplements all have an obvious characteristic “style” (art deco for the 1920s, and various Victorian styles for Gaslight), it’s not so easy to pin down a specific “fifties” look. Or so I thought, until I set myself the challenge of designing an Atomic Age Call of Cthulhu logo (just for fun). After looking around at a whole bunch of fifties pop-culture graphics, I quickly concluded that it’s actually pretty easy to boil down fifties design cliches — if it reminds you of late-night black and white TV, it’s in, and if it looks like something that could be found as a chromed ornament on a chunky vintage American car, it’s DEFINITELY in. Somehow anything found in American diners (even the modern ones) seem to fit in there too … they seem to be stuck in a permanent fifties timewarp, no matter how hard they try to get out.
Anyway, I designed the logo and uploaded it here a couple of weeks back … and I thought that would be the end of it. I went back to another Call of Cthulhu project that I’m hoping to eventually distribute via Cthulhu Reborn (actually, the reason I designed the first of the character sheets uploaded to this blog). But then the Chaosium folks responsible for the Atomic Age book piped up a couple of days ago with some more info on the book and I got kinda interested in it again … and thought, hmm, maybe it would be cool to use that logo to build an entire 1950s Character Sheet. Here’s the result.
Although I had a pretty clear idea of the kinds of visual elements that I wanted to include, finding good clipart for the fifties was nowhere near as easy as for the other Cthulhu design work I have done. There’s plenty of cartoony pictures of 1950s people in the commonly-available clipart collections, but that wasn’t really what I was after. But then I stumbled upon an amazing symbol font called “Satellite” from Dingbatcave … it’s basically the ultimate source for those icons of retro 1950s futures. That formed the basis for the overall look of the design. There’s other (more authentic) period stuff in there too … including some detail from chintzy fifties fabric swatches (as found on sofas owned by hepcats everywhere).
Front side of the Atomic Age (1950s) sheet
Reverse side of the Atomic Age (1950s) sheet
Detail of the 1950s “Call of Cthulhu” logo (uploaded here previously, but heck … why not include it here again)
One thing I had to guess about when designing to sheet was the skills list — I’m not really sure what people use when creating 1950s characters. In the end I just went with the skills from the 1920s sheet, which means that “Computer Use” is not included (although there’s space you could write it in). So if you really want to design a lab-coat wearing ENIAC card-puncher, you will probably find the sheet slightly lacking. When the Chaosium book eventually comes out, I’ll take a look at what they suggest for fifties character skills (who knows, maybe they will add specific 1950s skills — eg Despise Communism) and update accordingly. In the meantime, anyone who wants to grab a PDF version of the Atomic Age sheet can do so below. There are two versions, formatted slightly differently for different sized paper
As always, I am more than happy for anyone to put these babies to whatever (non-commercial) use they like. If you’re already (somehow) running fifties Cthulhu games, go ahead and transfer your beat poet across to one of these sheets. I’ve even left a space for him/her to riff some poetry (make sure to use “daddy-o” in there somewhere). 🙂
The layout of these sheets (and most of the text) comes from character sheet included with Chaosium’s 6th Edition Call of Cthulhu rules. Those aspects are copyright Chaosium (but have been distributed freely). The bits I have added, including the graphics, text ornaments and logo I am happy to release under the same Creative Commons license I have used for releasing other media on this blog.