Monthly Archives: October 2011

Lux Shines Forth!

As many would already be aware, Lux In Tenebras — Miskatonic River Press’ splendiferous PDF supplement for Cthulhu Roleplaying in the Roman Empire — has now hit the streets. As mentioned here a little while ago, I had a small part to play in the production of this book (I designed a custom Cthulhu Invictus character sheet for MRP). Now that I have seen the finished product, I am really *really* impressed by what these guys have pulled together. Working with them has also been an absolute pleasure — their attention to detail, and desire to create a quality product, is inspiring!

If you are even remotely interested in running Cthulhu-infused games in the Roman Era (or just curious about how you would start such a game), I would strongly suggest you click over to the Miskatonic River Press website to see what’s included in Lux In Tenebras. I think many people will be pleasantly surprised — I guess everyone (myself included) expected that this would just be an add-on to MRP’s recent, highly acclaimed, Invictus campaign The Legacy of Arrius Lurco. And while the PDF does contain a lot of material that augments that earlier book (including three additional chapters), it ALSO includes a lot of useful source material and adventures which are independent of the campaign. All-up there’s  80+ pages of stuff.

Anyway, getting back to me … after all that’s what this blog is about after all 🙂 Like I said my contribution was very small — just the char sheet — although, like some kind of alien fungus my design influence has managed to spread over quite a number of pages in the book. Why? Because the book contains a bunch of pre-generated characters, and for each one of these MRP have provided a full double-sided pre-populated character sheet using my template (making them instantly ready for play .. yay!).

For those of you wondering what the sheet looks like, MRP have kindly agreed for me to make fillable (PDF-form) versions of the sheet available here on Cthulhu Reborn. Of course Tom Lynch (company president) did make me sign into a terrible and unspeakable otherworldly pact in return for this privilege … but fear not, gentle reader: I think as long as I steer well clear of MRP New York HQ, and in particular Tom’s notoriously-much-in-need-of-a-good-wash-and-polish car, I should be pretty safe.

Gallery

Below is a low-res image of the front-side of the sheet:

At this low level of detail it’s hard to make out all the little details (that I slaved over for hours). So, I’ll draw your attention to two via some detail cutaways. The first is the layered purple texture under the title bar of the sheet. A higher-res version of this is below:

The other feature that’s worth plonking here in higher-res is the Cthulhu Invictus logo that I designed for the sheet:

Ro-Man Up!

As you can imagine the design of this sheet went through many different iterations … At one point in the process, I went down a little tangent: I wondered what a sheet would look like that made use of absolutely *no* Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.), but which showed everything in Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.).

So I made one.

Guess what? Most people find it pretty hard to read 🙂 It is, however, probably the most Hardcore Roman character sheet you will ever see. If any of your players is absolutely insisting on total historical authenticity in the game, I would heartily recommend making him/her use this sheet exclusively. And yes, it is available for download as a PDF below. No need to thank me — the exasperated look on your players’ face is all the satisfaction I need 🙂

Links to the Sheets

A couple of notes about the sheets hosted here … first, they are the property of Miskatonic River Press, who have kindly agreed to allowing me to publish them here for free. They may also be available shortly as downloads from the official MRP website.

Both PDFs below are fillable forms, with the relevant Adobe Acrobat mojo applied to allow you to save filled-in versions of the forms. You’ll notice that Sanity, Magic Point and Hit Point meter sections of the sheets have little purple circles in the top-left corner. These are actually markers which you can pick up and move around to show exactly how perilous your character’s grip on sanity is, or whatever. When you save the sheet, the position of these markers gets saved too …

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you would like to print out a version of the sheet, and you *don’t* want those little circle markers on your printout … simply open the PDF in Acrobat Reader (or, probably, any decent PDF reader), click on a circle to select it and hit the “delete” key and it’s (ancient) history!

Official MRP fillable Cthulhu Invictus Character Sheet (US Letter)

Official MRP Invictus fillable Sheet *without* auto-calculation (as above but without autocalc of Idea etc: perfect for printing out a truly blank sheet)

“Hardcore Roman” fillable Cthulhu Invictus Character Sheet (US Letter, kinda a joke or a really nasty trick to play on your players)

“Hardcore Roman” fillable Sheet *without* auto-calculation (as above, but optimized for hand-entry of Roman numerals *everywhere*)

One minor caveat about the Hardcore sheet and its fillable fields … some evil folks have expressed a desire to force their players to insert all their stats and skill values as Roman numerals. If you try to do this using the ‘normal’ Hardcore sheet, the autocalculation of Idea, Know, Luck and 99-Cthulhu Mythos won’t really work (oddly, Acrobat doesn’t have a built-in Roman numeral parser :-)). If you would like to inflict the total Roman experience on your players, grab the version of the sheet which disables auto-calculation — it also expands the size of some of the fields, makes fonts scale down for longer field values and is generally more aware of the fact that stat values could be much longer than two digits (SAN = LXXXVIII, anyone?). Using this version of the sheet, you can create beautful stat blocks like this:

Coming (with second feature) Soon …

My next free PDF scenario release is bubbling along pretty well, and will likely be out in the coming weeks. It’s a brushed-up and slightly expanded version of a classic Mark Morrison scenario called “Deadwave”. It’s a revenge-fuelled tale of extreme in-your-face nastiness that can be run in either the classic CoC timeframe, Gaslight era or Modern era — the PDF has different handout sets to cater to each of these three period. The PDF also has some incredible art — I am constantly amazed at what you can find distributed for non-commercial use under Creative Commons.

More soon.

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Dateline: Kingsport, Mass.

Newspaper articles. Theyr’e the one thing that Call of Cthulhu scenarios seem to never get enough of. Whether it’s the front-page screemer alerting the general populace about some heinous and despicable murder, or the short and subtle clue buried away in a story about a creepy old church being condemned … somewhere along the way, most adventures feature Investigators carefully clipping something out of the local rag. Sometimes I wonder whether veteran CoC characters (if such a thing exists) dedicate entire rooms of their musty old houses just to house the piles of yellowing news clippings that they have accumulated over the years. I don’t even want to think about the fire risk 🙂

When typesetting Cthulhu scenarios, I usually try to put a fair amount of time and effort into making all the handouts / props look good … but, in particular, I always seem to end up spending a lot of time making the (ever-present) newspaper articles look just right for the era. I figure that the players will spend a fair amount of time looking over any handouts they are given (even the red herrings) … and if they *look* like they’re authentic period clippings, that can only reinforce the game’s setting.

I have typeset enough scenarios now that these days I have my own ready-to-go templates for things like “1920s clipping from the Arkham Advertiser”. Things like the excellent HPLHS Props and Fonts CDROM — literally worth its weight in vintage newspapers — help enormously. There are also some excellent resources out on the web for scanned up pages from real period newspapers and magazines, which can be invaluable when trying to track down weird and wonderful advertisements from the twenties (or earlier).

Recently I started some preliminary work for a future project laying out a PDF for an intriguing mini-campaign set in Kingsport, everybody’s favourite ethereal and mist-shrouded corner of Lovecraft Country. Because it features a *lot* of newspaper handouts, I thought it would be worth putting some effort into designing a new template for the local Kingsport newspaper, the “Kingsport Chronicle”. Part of this involves making some decisions about slightly different font choices and idiosyncracies of layout …. but one big part of defining the “identity” of a newspaper is having a nifty graphical masthead from which you can clip out segments to add to the top of supposedly front-page headlines. For my Arkham Advertiser article template, I just use the masthead from the prop newspaper designed by the HPLHS (included on the CDROM) — after all, it looks great and perfectly captures the era. But for my Kingsport template, I would obviously need something different … so I thought I would design it myself.

In looking around for inspiration, I spent a little time looking at various 1920s Massachusetts newspapers. I chanced upon some images of the Marblehead Messenger … which is of particular interest, since it’s generally accepted that Marblehead is the real-world “model” that Lovecraft had in mind when inventing Kingsport. It’s also of particular interest because the Marblehead Messenger has an unusually spiffy looking masthead (pictured below):

Now that’s something I’d be proud to have at the top of my prop handout about the creepy ghost ship found drifting in Kingsport harbour bedecked in glowing green tendrils of goo!

Reproducing the “look and feel” of something as elaborate as this masthead is no mean feat … but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. Starting with an old engraving of Marblehead harbour (liberated from an out-of-copyright book scanned up at archive.org), I spent quite a bit of time trying to track down a font which combines the vaguely black-letter, vaguely art nouveau feel of the ornate letters but also has the slab/block feel for the remaining letter. I found something sort of close and played around with laying text out on a spline path in Illustrator. Finally I pulled down some examples of real newspapers from the era to see what text elements and dividing lines should surround the masthead, and what info boxes should go to the left and right. The result is below:

(click for a larger version)

It’s not quite the same feel as the Marblehead masthead … but I’m pretty happy with the result, and parts of this pic will no doubt appear around the edges of many of my Kingsport-based news clippings from here on in.

In the interests of the Community, and in the give-stuff-away-for-free spirit of this blog, I am more than happy for this design to be used for free by others for non-commercial purposes (under a Creative Commons license). Anybody who wants to write their own Kingsport Chronicle headlines will probably want to grab the higher-resolution version of this pic (minus the yellow-paper effect) available here. If you do something truly creative and intriguing with this picture, I’d love to hear about it! If, after viewing this page, you find your dreams inexplicably plagued with uneasy yet indistinct sensations of antique ships and hypnotically undulating sea weeds … it’s not my fault, honest.


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