One of the thing I like most about designing props for Lovecraftian games is that it gives me the intriguing opportunity to design the “look” of some small part of the Lovecraftian world — whether that be the way that a particular period newspaper will look when read by Investigators, or the way in which a low-quality smart-phone video of a Mythos manifestation might look. Sure they are only small bits of “invention” … but I like to think that by creating little aspects of the Lovecraftian universe in a form that is highly evocative of a historical or geographic reality, players of the games might get drawn into the game just that little bit more.
The most fun things to create visually are things that have some kind of “place” in the weird alternate New England that Lovecraft created as a setting for his stories — what is often called today “Lovecraft Country”. Fortunately there are a LOT of Lovecraftian game scenarios which use this setting in some way or other, so I get asked to make newspaper reports, weird hand-written witch diaries, and other assorted Lovecraft Country paraphernalia suprisingly often.
One of the most extensive pieces of creation I’ve done to date is a whole raft of material set in Kingsport, including an entire “look and feel” for the local newspaper, the Kingsport Chronicle. I’ve previously blogged about that monumental piece of (ongoing) work.
A more recent request for newspaper props — to help illustrate the scenarios in the upcoming Golden Goblin book “The Island of Ignorance” — took me to the more obscure town of Aylesbury. One of the scenarios in that book called for a newspaper prop to be created, an article from the local Aylesbury paper “The Aylesbury Transcript”. Being a (presumably) much smaller town than Arkham or Kingsport, I figured the style for this prop should evoke a “small rural local rag” … Surprisingly it’s pretty easy to find some good scanned examples onling of rustic newspapers from the 1920s — reading them really brings home the “small town” remoteness of these places in the era (the front page might include a column of dozens of single sentence news entries like “Joe Blogs is building new paving for his farmhouse” or “Miss Johnson is leaving on Tuesday to visit relatives in California”).
For the prop in question (pictured as part of the montage below), I ended up basing a design on “The Turners Falls Reporter” (a small-town Massachusetts paper). As I was creating it I realized this wasn’t the first time I’d visited Aylesbury for a prop … other work for a different Call of Cthulhu licensee book (still unreleased) had taken me there a year or so earlier, as shown below.
While the newspaper clipping created for the scenario really only shows a small part of a page of “The Aylesbury Transcript”, the process of creating it involved mocking up an entire masthead for the newspaper, as shown below. I figure that if anyone else ever wants to create a prop involving this newspaper, they should feel free to use this design free of cost (high-res version available here).
In other, non-Lovecraft-Country news, there have been several other really neat projects which I have been priveleged to support in recent months by way of pieces of design work. I was lucky enough to contribute a small selection of art pieces for the forthcoming “Horror on the Orient Express”, 2nd Edition. This has always been my favourite of Chaosium’s CoC campaigns, so having the chance to contribute to its relaunch (albeit in a minor way) was a hugely satisfying experience — thanks, in no small part to the professionalism of editor Mark Morrison (who is a real pro who’s contributions to the game’s long history are frequently undervalued IMHO).
But the other MAJOR thing that has been occupying my time is work for the shiny new Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition. I was asked to contribute character sheet designs for the new edition books … which really is an amazing honour. Originally I thought I might get to contribute a 1920s design … and if I were extremely lucky a modern day one as well. But, as followers of the Kickstarter will know, stretch goals unlocked along the campaign have added a booklet called “Cthulhu Through The Ages” which has notes on running 7th Edition games in numerous others settings — and guess what? All of those settings need new character sheets. So all up I think I many end up contributing something like 9 or 10 different designs. The montage below shows some of the elements that have already been sketched out for these sheets (although there are many things still to finalize).
July 25th, 2013 at 6:19 pm
Really like that color Lovecraft Country map. Where is it from and is there a larger version of it?
Thanks for the sneak peek of the 7e character sheets. Can’t wait to get the final product (I’m a Kickstarter backer).
July 25th, 2013 at 10:18 pm
The map is a section of a bigger colour map that someone has uploaded (in vector form, no less) to Wikimedia Commons. It features on the Wikipedia page for “Lovecraft Country”. You can get the vector version, or various different resolutions of PNG at: this page. The map is credited to “Hoodinski”
July 25th, 2013 at 10:06 pm
I like the Transcript masthead, but FYI Aylesbury is, according to Chaosium, larger than Kingsport- 16539 to 7834.
July 25th, 2013 at 10:12 pm
Hmm … good to know. Clearly my assumption was a little off the mark, but even so I would still probably make the Aylesbury Transcript more of a “hayseed” kind of publication just by virtue of the town’s relative geographical remoteness. I might need to re-think the way I do Kingsport news clippings in the future, though …
July 25th, 2013 at 10:18 pm
There’s a Lovecraft Country gazetteer – including population numbers – in the back of several Lovecraft Country books: Dead Reckonings, Before the Fall, Tales of the Miskatonic Valley (I think) and maybe others. Currently the best source for Aylesbury is the first section of the Dunwich book.
July 27th, 2013 at 8:43 am
Your article reminded me of when I was watching “In the Mouth of Madness” and the phrase ‘Lovecraft County, New England’ just popped into my head.
August 11th, 2013 at 8:43 am
I just realised something, there is a settlement missing from that map, Mayotteville, which according to the information in ‘A Happy Family’ (The first adventure of ‘Adventures in Arkham Country’) is located somewhere near Bolton.
August 19th, 2013 at 8:06 pm
Hello, Dean. Nice work. Please, add a Pulp (1930 design) to those sheets. :). Thanks.