Category Archives: Prop Elements

Villa in France, One Peculiar Owner

Recently I was chatting with Chad Bowser — Call of Cthulhu writer extraordinare, inventor of Cthulhu Invictus, and sometimes collaborator on Cthulhu Reborn projects. Chad was bemoaning the fact that despite the fact that the recent Chaosium update of Horror on the Orient Express is an absolutely super-deluxe reimagining of the 90’s classic, most of the handouts didn’t get much revamping or update. Having recently (finally) found time to read through my own HotOE box, I’d have to say I agree.

One specific problem that Chad’s group had run into was the fact that while in the Paris chapter of the campaign (“Les Fleurs du Mal”) they had fixated slightly on the 17th Century Villa constructed by the Comte Fenalique. Investigators researching this can readily turn up the floorplans to this unusual building … but sadly it isn’t included as a handout. Chad asked me if I had any way of putting together a semi-realistic looking old document bearing the floorplan of a French Villa in Poissy. Here’s what I came up with:

HotOE Addon - Handout - Fenalik's Villa Floorplan (sml)

(click here download a higher-res version)

After sketching it out I thought maybe it should be a bit more beaten and weathered-looking, so I roughened and aged it some more:

HotOE Addon - Handout - Fenalik's Villa Floorplan, Aged (sml)

(click here download a higher-res version)

If you’d like to use this image as a handout to enhance your games of Horror on the Orient Express (1st or 2nd Edition) … feel free! Equally, if you want to remix it into some other prop of your own creation, that’s also cool with me. If you get a visit in the night from a shadowy  fiend, though, it’s not MY fault … 🙂

EDIT: For those who want the floorplan image minus background texture, here it is … (click for the full resolution version)

HotOE Addon - Handout - Fenalik's Villa Floorplan, No Texture

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.

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: 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


As someone who tries to create beautiful prop documents for Lovecraftian games, one thing I have developed a sharp eye for is attention to detail in historical accuracy. It really is the difference between a “quickly-thrown-together-handout-for-my-group’s-homebrew” and a high-quality art item you’d expect to see in a published book.

One thing for which I have also developed a keen sense of is the (small) community of people who aim to create props/handouts to the highest quality. The highest exemplar in this field is the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, whose work has been featured in their own products but also in recent releases from Miskatonic River Press. A lesser-known, but similarly excellent, source of high-quality prop documents is the GEEDUNK Props sets produced in 2010 and 2011 by Michael Fanara of Little Ferret Films.

GEEDUNK Banner Black

Michael designed a series of prop documents to supplement previously published scenarios, employing very similar templates and fonts as those used by the HPL Historical Society. And, even better, he released these props sets for free.

So why haven’t most people heard of the GEEDUNK Props? … Well, the biggest reason is that Michael’s website “went dark” a little over a year ago. This is a great shame, as the GEEDUNK Props represent an amazing resource to Call of Cthulhu Keepers who are looking for some ready-made high-quality props to spice up many of the most-popular scenarios and campaigns published for the game.

GEEDUNK Collage - BTMoM no caption

In the interests of keeping this excellent set of props “in print” and available under their original (Creative Commons) license, Cthulhu Reborn have decided to create a mirror site for the GEEDUNK Props. This isn’t intended as an attempt to claim these fantastic props as our own … but rather a means to keep them available to the community.

We hope that by making these resources available, Call of Cthulhu gamers will continue to enjoy the fruits of Michael’s considerable efforts … and maybe it might also inspire other prop-makers to aim for the same level of quality when designing their own props.

GEEDUNK Collage - Edge of Darkness no caption

The GEEDUNK Props sets provide enhanced props for the following campaigns and scenarios:

  • Edge of Darkness (from the CoC 5th and 6th Ed rules)
  • Masks of Nyarlathotep
  • Beyond the Mountains of Madness
  • Fungi From Yuggoth
  • Secrets of San Francisco
  • Pagan Call (a Cthulhu Dark Ages campaign published for free on the C:DA site)

Click here to go to the mirror and take a look.

Manufacturing Aylesbury

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.

Kingsport Chronicle Header lores

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.

Aylesbury Montage

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).

Aylesbury Transcript Masthead @150

Other Projects

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).

7e Charsheet Montage

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