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Kudos By Gaslight

As I have mentioned previously here on Cthulhu Reborn, I had the incredible good fortune late last year to contribute a small amount of artwork (mostly handouts and character sheet) to the new edition of Chaosium’s fantabulous 1890s “Gaslight” setting for Call of Cthulhu. This happened pretty much by accident thanks to the Art Nouveau character sheet (still downloadable from the blog’s Downloads page) I had created for a project of my own .

Although my contribution to the book was very small, I am nevertheless extremely excited by the news that yesterday, “Cthulhu By Gaslight, 3rd Edition” was awarded the gold medal for “Best RPG Supplement of the year” in the prestigeous ENnie Awards (announced at GenCon). This is extremely cool, and a worthy recognition of the enormous amount of effort Chaosium’s freelance team of authors, artists and graphic designers put into this book. Perhaps the two biggest “culprits” in this grand endeavour — and the two who should be proudest — are Kevin Ross (who re-wrote pretty much the entire text, completely overhauling the previous edition from the ground up) and Badger McInnes (layout genius extraordinaire).

The book also took out a second award — a silver for “Best Cover Art.” The incomparable Paul Carrick contributed that evocative pic, and I think is a worthy winner.

Here’s hoping that all those big contributors — as well as all the countless others who (like me) chipped in their own smaller pieces — call all raise a glass, virtual or otherwise, in celebration of a job well done!

All Quiet on the Cthulhu Front?

Anybody who has dropped by this blog over the past couple of months might have gained the impression that I’ve packed up my tools. The blog hasn’t been updated in quite a while … but, ironically, it has not been due to a lack of Cthulhu-related design or writing projects but an overabundance. Over the past couple of months I have been invited to participate in quite a number of different commercial projects — things that are still “in the pipeline” with various different publishers.

I have also been plugging away (although at a reduced pace) on several different projects for release here on the blog. Although some of these projects, I can’t say much about (and a few I can’t even mention since they have yet to be announced!), here are a few quick notes on what I have been up to. Y’know, just so you don’t think I’ve suddenly gone off and got a life or something 🙂

  • Colonial Lovecraft Country (Sixtystone Press) — there are several books in the works at Sixtystone which provide a very colourful Colonial Amercian setting for Call of Cthulhu (thanks again to the ever-patient Mr Kevin Ross). Just in the past couple of days the first public games using this setting were run at GenCon. I was asked to design a 1700s-era character sheet for use within these Sixtystone-endorsed convention games. The design actually turned out really well … and I believe this will be the sheet to be included with the Colonial Lovecraft setting book when it is published! Yay!
  • Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion (fan project) — anybody who has lurked on Yog-Sothoth.com’s forums for long enough will have heard of the legendary 500-page “Masks Companion” book which has been in preparation by various forum regulars and diverse other hands since 2007. Because it has been going for so long, this project has taken on almost legendary status … although it is now definitely nearing completion. I was asked to contribute some handouts. I figured this would only be a handful of pieces — this is, after all, a book designed to complement a campaign already reknowned for its copious handouts. But, as it turns out, the Companion itself also has a bunch MORE handouts … so it was actually quite a big job. Fun though.
  • Dockside Dogs (Paul Fricker’s Charity Fundraiser scenario) — As I’ve already mentioned here, I was lucky enough to be able to provide some rapid turn-around layout and design services on this amazing scenario book, which has already raised a sizeable amount for Cancer Research charities and continues to sell well over on DrivethruRPG.
  • Lost In The Lights (Sixtystone Press) — Another of the fine upcoming scenario / sourcebooks from Sixtystone, this book by Jeff Moeller is quite an intriguing one. I was asked to provide handouts … and some of the items were quite a challenge. When this book comes out keep an eye out for some excruciatingly detailed PhotoShop montaging by yours truly.
  • CthulhuReborn — There are three main projects I am currently working on for Cthulhu Reborn: one is a brilliantly detailed campaign set in Kingsport, another is a revamp of an old scenario by a very familiar Cthulhu author, to be set on the South-East coast of England. The last is something very unusual which I have penned myself.
  • Things I can’t talk about — there are at least two other large Cthulhu projects I am contributing to, mostly in a writing capacity … all I can say is, “watch this space!”

Saving The Cthulhu Font

Update 27 May: The Cristoforo font Kickstarter has been relaunched. The links below have been adjusted to direct you to the new page. If you previously pledged funds and haven’t added a pledge to the new fundraiser, you should click one of those links and do so!

 

Anyone who has ever played the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game (or most of its translated versions) will have encountered the beauty that is the title font, Columbus, which was used for the covers of books through its first couple of decades of life.

You may not know that the Columbus font is actually a Victorian-era Amercian display font … which has been digitized in a very limited way, but which has never really had a proper revival. The free versions (and even the “for money” versions pale in comparison to the samples you can see in old 1890s typographers specimen books — I know, I went searching for some :-)).

One of the worthy folks over on the Yog-Sothoth forums — a wonderful guy and resident professional font guru Thomas Phinney — is currently running a Kickstarter project to go through the painstaking process of digitally restoring Columbus (or Cristoforo as he’s calling it) to full digital glory, ready to be used in generations of new Cthulhu books (if the publishers wanted to do that, hint hint). As of right now, the kickstarter has a bit over two weeks to run.

The covers of the early Call of Cthulhu books have huge nostalgic value for me (as well as being extraordinarily fine pieces of cover art in themselves). I didn’t realise until I pulled them all out again and looked how much the Columbus font sort of “defines” the feel of the covers.

As my own little homage to those covers, and to Columbus, and Thomas’ worthy aims to drag it, tentacles flailing, into the 21st century, I’ve put together a poster (click for a larger version). If it brings back as many memories to you as it did to me while creating it … you should seriously consider backing the Cristoforo Kickstarter — if only to encourage all those pesky game designers that they really *should* be making book titles which look as beautiful as these ones …

The title for the poster BTW is “The Wrong South Pacific Cruise”


Great Cthulhu is Coming to Town

While there is still some “making a list” happening, and I’m sure much “checking it twice,” … it is looking quite likely that Great Cthulhu will be coming to my city at some time during this year.

Let me just back up a bit and explain what the heck I’m talking about.

Over on the Yog-Sothoth.com forums, Paul Maclean (aka Paul of Cthulhu, founder of YSDC) is a man with a plan. His plan is quite simple: he wants to arrange for his plush toy Cthulhu to visit as many places around the globe and be photographed doing as many squamous and non-Euclidean things as possible. It’s all in the name of charity. But it also sounds like it will be a LOT of fun.

So, of course I volunteered to host a visit from the Great Old One, despite the fact that I live far from most other Call of Cthulhu fans … in sunny Australia. I’m sure the international postage will be ridiculous, but it’s going to be fantastic.

One of the rules of Paul’s “Cthulhu World Domination Tour 2012” is that each person who receives Great Cthulhu is expected to put some small token or piece of ephemera into his cardboard vault (aka the packing container) before sending it on the the next victim host. So excited am I by this exercise that I have chosen to create a custom piece of ephemera for this purpose: a mock 1920s newspaper clipping recording a supposed previous visit by Cthulhu back in 1925. It looks like this (click image for a full-sized version with legible body text):

And before anybody asks what a “pie floater” is … check out this page on Wikipedia. Do you not agree that this local food speciality looks like it comes from the pits of R’lyeh?

BTW the look and feel of this newspaper prop closely mirror issues of the local newspaper, circa February 1925 … and indeed, everything apart from the main article is actually material lifted from scanned newspapers from this period. And, yes, the headline “Women Who Marry Aliens / What Is Their Nationality?” is copied word-for-word from a real article. This prop features something that is a bit of an experiment for me … the creation of a new font based on scanned images: The main headline font (e.g., “PIE-CART FOUND ABANDONED”) is rendered using a hastily-cobbled together font made from letters cut from scans of the actual 1925 newspaper. Considering how quickly it was done, I guess it looks ok … but the experience of attempting this gives me new-found respect for the folks who do this professionally — there are a lot of things you need to get right for a font to look “not-broken.”


CthulhuReborn Gets Its First Award

There are quite a number of blog awards floating around the blogosphere, but until now this site has never received any nominations.

AlwaysDisconcerted, a very good friend to this site (not to mention a very talented artist whose work I have been privileged to use in PDF projects), changed that by listing us as a “Very Inspiring Blog” and granting us an award. That’s pretty cool: I guess the reason I originally created CthulhuReborn was to give something back to the online community … whether that be something tangible like free PDF scenarios, or whether it’s just giving people ideas they can take away to use in their games … it’s all about giving people inspiration.

I would strongly encourage folks to check out AlwaysDisconcerted’s own blog (not only because she clearly has superb taste in blogs, but also because her artwork deserves to get more attention).

It’s traditional in these circumstances to “pay it forward” by nominating a bunch of other people who are inspirational. While I don’t read a lot of other blogs, two that I do check on a daily basis are:

  • Propnomicon’s superb blog on Lovecraftian prop-making, a daily source of weird props and news about Propnomicon’s own excellent prop projects
  • Badger McInnes’ sporadic but ever-interesting blog on the behind-the-scenes machinations of his design and layout studio, Squamous Studios

While not really a blog, another source of continual inspiration to my work is the incredible H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. They produce a bunch of nifty products in a range of catagories including prop-elements (fonts etc), paper and sculpture props, Lovecraftian apparel, as well as producing excellent film adaptations of Lovecraft’s stories. Their Angell Box (a massively detailed prop recreating the full set of research papers collected by the narrator of the “Call of Cthulhu” short story) is perhaps the coolest object that I own. Please consider buying their stuff — I want them to make more, much MUCH more.


All Things Move Toward Their End

So, it’s been a little slow here on Cthulhu Reborn with regard to updates on upcoming free PDF projects … but like some evil shoggoth-filled cauldron, things have been bubbling away with a malevolent evil (though hopefully less smell). So much so in fact that I now have not one, but two scenarios that are almost ready to be released here.

Deadwave

The first of these is Mark Morrison’s legendary scenario Deadwave … which I have spruiked here several times since I had it *almost* ready to release in November. Suffice to say that a variety of real-world commitments and other distractions kept this beast at the 99% mark for longer than I would have preferred … but now all I am waiting on is a hasty glance from a proof-reader, some (hopefully minor) fixes from that … and it will be out!

In the months that this project has been stalled, I have managed to take the opportunity to add a few bells and whistles to the layout. These have mostly been reverse-sides to all six newspaper handouts (two from the 1920s, two from the Gaslight era, and two modern ones). I’ve also taken the time to put together a back cover, which has a blurb which I think quite nicely sums up what Deadwave is about:

 

The Past Is Doomed

The second PDF which I haven’t mentioned before, but is getting pretty close to completion is Geoff Gillan’s 1990s conspiracy piece “The Past Is Doomed.” I’m sure most folks know Geoff as the mastermind behind Horror on the Orient Express (one of the all-time best campaigns for any RPG, IMHO) … but he also wrote some really intriguing and frightening one-shot scenarios for various Chaosium compendiums in the mid-1990s. This scenario dates from this era also, and was published in the Chaosium Digest, where it has sort of been sitting in obscurity ever since.

I will post more about it in the coming weeks, but for now here’s a sneak peek at my cover design for this strange tale of the Mythos Conspiracy against History (for want of a better tagline):


Tentacles in the Fifties

You know … it doesn’t seem all that many years ago when there were really only a handful of different time-periods for running Call of Cthulhu games. There was the default 1920s setting, the “Gaslight London” setting of the 1890s and a couple of different takes on modern day settings. And that was it (well, mostly it) when it came to officially published material.

Fast forward a decade and suddenly we are now living in an era where a fairly rich multitude of Cthulhu settings exist … and if all the (sketchy but tantalising) advance press releases from CoC Licensees is to be believed, there is a lot more coming by way of new and diverse settings.

Atomic Age Cthulhu

One setting that was recently announced by Chaosium as an upcoming main-range CoC product is Atomic Age Cthulhu, a 1950’s American setting for the game. I’d have to say that this one took me a little by surprise … but the more I thought about it the more intriguing seemed the possibilities of such a setting. But, I wondered to myself, what would a Fifties Take on our beloved game look like visually?

Of course I have no idea what Chaosium have planned for either the content or look of this book … but (after spending a couple of hours looking through 1950s art designs), here’s my own take on what a Call of Cthulhu game logo for the “Atomic Age” could look like:

Naturally, the graphics we get when the Chaosium book is finally released will probably look nothing like this … but it’s fun to just throw around some ideas.

As always, I’m happy to release this design to the world totally free of charge (for non-commercial uses) … so if, in the highly unlikely event that you are someone out there already running 1950’s based Cthulhu games, and you think this logo might enhance your game somehow — or maybe just make your players laugh — by all means use it however you want!


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