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Prop insanity for a CoC campaign? How far have you gone?


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#1 Arravis

Arravis

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 03:57 PM

So, ho far have you guys gone to make props and such for your CoC game? I know the Cthulhu live guys have everyone beat... but not counting them, how do the table-top players do?

I thought some of you might want to take a look at our current prop box for our first CoC campaign. This is the first time I've run CoC beyond just a couple of one-shots on halloween, so I wanted to do it right :).

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I’ve combined three different adventures in my campaign (The Haunting, Edge of Darkness, and Tatters of the King), criss-crossing NPCs, plotlines, etc. My intro game was The Haunting (my first DMing experience, you can read a little bit about it here: http://www.yog-sotho...0546&highlight=), but set in New Orleans instead of Boston. I made the “landlord” character the father of one of the PC’s, an esteemed retired psychologist of failing health named Meriwether McKinney.

Here are the newspaper articles from The Haunting game:
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The Haunting newspaper articles didn’t take too long. I used the text Max_Writer had posted on the forums, and found some additional unrelated 1920’s articles on the web to put around the sides. I used a combination of coca-cola and pomegranate juice to stain the papers. The more pomegranate, the darker it is. Leave them soaking for about 15-30 minutes. I probably spent 10 minutes putting together the page layout in Adobe InDesign, and spent about 30 minutes looking for the surrounding newspapers.

Meriwether’s becomes even sicker, and now we have the Edge of Darkness adventure (also from the main rule book). If you recall, the dying character gives the investigator a box filled with all kinds of juicy clues:
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Finding the box took quite some time, it’s really a matter of luck. The cost was $10 USD.

Here is the famed deed and key…
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I found a mid-1800’s deed scan online, I laid out a design (InDesign again) exactly as per the scan, and wrote the text to suit my needs. I stained the print out as I did the newspaper articles, hand wrote the signatures on there, and used a bit of silver wax to get the effect of an old broken seal. The whole process didn’t take very long, less than an hour as I recall. The key I got from an old antique store for around less than $1 USD.

Here is the journal of the “Dark Brotherhood” the boys made and their pictures. Meriwether is the author and Walter Corbitt’s (the undead caster in The Haunting) grandson is among the members. I wanted to get across the feeling that the boys really had no idea what they were doing. They put every “occult” symbol they could find on the cover, with no regard to what it was. I wanted that high-school goth-club feel :). (I'm including a transcription of the text at the end of this post)
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The pictures took time to find, especially since I wanted to match a particular character. It’s just a matter of going from antique shop to antique shop. Just remember to bargain, especially if you’re several items at once. Most of the pics I bought were priced around $2-5, but I was able to get most around $1-2 each.

Here are a few select journal pages. I did the whole thing in varying inks, using dip pens and other period writing instruments. The journal in my version is much longer than the one presented in the adventure. It includes drawings and goes into a bit of details on the boys lives, their occult experiments, bringing girls over to the clubhouse, etc ;).
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Journal, plus the sarcophagus that once held the amber…
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Made the day after the "incident", this journal page hopefully shows Meriwether's fractured mind in his erratic handwriting. Tear smudges are found in the following pages.
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Another journal sample:
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Earlier in the journal, Meriwether mentions that if he can stand to do so, he’ll draw the horrible creature they summoned on the last page of the journal. Looks like he changed his mind…
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This was probably the most difficult and time consuming of all the projects. The notebook is just a moleskin mini-notebook from a 3-pack Barnes and Nobles sells. Of course, the journal entries from the adventure are nowhere near enough to fill an actual journal, so I had quite a bit of writing ahead of me. I typed up all the journal lines from the adventure and kept them with me as well as two of the moleskin journal in my pockets at all times. As I had ideas I'd write them down, and keeping them with me so much, gave them a nice worn look. Once I finished writing all 48 pages, I spent one very long night doing the final journal. I wrote it with a fountain pen and two different kinds of dip-pens. I did all the graphics, drawings, etc. I used water to simulate tears on some of the pages, and I used food and dirt to stain and wear some of the pages. To give the outside a textured and worn feel, I stuck pieces of packing tape to it, and carefully peeled it back, giving it a nice velvet-ish feel and look. Lastly, for the drawing of the creature in the back I employed another friend of mine, who is also an artist, to help me come up with something truly horrific. Together we did a pencil sketch, which I then inked over on the last page. It looked great… and I really regret not taking a picture of it. But as I looked at it, I became more and more disappointed by it. As with any drawing made by mortal hands (that isn’t the one in the in the book later it seems, lol) it just wouldn’t be mind-melting enough. So in an inspired moment at 3 a.m., I pulled out some matches and went for it… I’m glad I did (it gave the journal a nice smell too). Hints of it are much more effective than the thing itself. How long did it all take… ugh, 48 prop pages take a while, and I’ll leave it at that.

After the summoning, Merriwether went to spend time with his brother in Boston. Unfortunately the strain of the previous events proved too much, and he had himself committed for a few months.
(Sorry, had the wrong picture here... fixed)
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-11.jpg
This came from one of the blank pdfs from the great site http://www.cthulhulives.org/, and I just filled it out with what info I could garner from the Insanity section of the CoC book and on the web. With this handout I wanted to show the players that Meriwether wasn’t always the man they know now. The picture at the bottom is that of him and his since deceased wife. This took less than 30 minutes.

This is a telegram with news of the death of Cecil Jones, one of the members of the “Dark Brotherhood”.
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-12.jpg
The telegram blank from this came from http://www.cthulhulives.org/ again. The toughest part of this was actually making the stamp. It was quite difficult to find scissors that made that kind of cut, but I finally did come across some hidden away at Michaels. As an amusing aside… I looked up all the names of the members of the Dark Brotherhood, just to see if I could find anyone who was an actual historical figure and perhaps tie them in to the plot… and I did with Cecil Jones. I found a George Cecil Jones, the young man who inspired Aleister Crowley to get into the occult. All the dates of the real people involved worked perfectly… and since Aleister Crowley is actually an NPC in Tatters of the King, all the better! So that is who the “AC” is in the telegram :). Not counting the search for the scissors, this only took a few minutes.

Among the items included were some inheritance items for the PC.
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-13.jpg
These are all blanks from http://www.cthulhulives.org/, and as mentioned before, I particularly liked the whisky that was prescribed as medicine! In my research into the 1920’s I had come across that little tidbit. The matches I got at one of the antique stores and the rock was an RP item, coming from Meriwether’s birthplace in Ireland. This took very little time, just a few minutes.

Here's a detail of the inside of the sarcophagus with the strange writing inside, and the containers for the powder of ibn-ghazi and "brownish powder" (sulfur and an oxide of copper) found later in the adventure at the old “Dark Brotherhood” clubhouse.
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-14.jpg
Finding just the right sarcophagus was a challenge. The one described in the story was made out of wood and metal, but I could find nothing like that. I did find one on eBay that was stone… but it wouldn’t get here in time for the game. The one I have I got on Amazon for $25 and it worked great. I used a wood-burning stylus to carve the runes on the inside. The runes based out of some presented in the Keeper’s Companion 2, I believe. Once complete I painted the sarcophagus with brown water-based paint, and while still wet I rubbed it out. This left the dark paint in the lower areas of the relief of the sarcophagus, making it look quite old and leaving the runes nice and dark. The whole process took about 45 minutes. The box and tin cylinder I got at an antique store, total around $5. What’s funny is that the tin looked very, very old to me… it was rusty, the label was yellowed and torn, and who the heck makes snuff anymore. I was quite sure it was old until I pulled it out in-game then noticed the nice UPC scan barcode on the side…

And here are the papers and translation of parts of De Vermiis Mysteriis that Corbitt’s grandson wrote, also found at the old clubhouse.
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-15.jpg
The hardest work on this was the text. Online I was able to grab the texts of several old occult books. I used these as a started and I edited and changed the text to fit my story and needs. If you look at the pdf (http://www.docezra.com/temp/Sheafe.pdf), you can read the interesting story of The Lurker and what he is. The writing is what took the longest, the production was quite easy and took only a few minutes. I used yellow parchment paper and stuck them in the dryer for a bit to make them look weathered and wrinkled.

After those adventures we move on to Tatters of the King (I actually placed the play between The Haunting and Edge of Darkness). The investigators got an invitation from the lawyer handling the will of Meriwether….
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-16.jpg
The letter is done on parchment, mostly I love Gaspard Phillippe Narcisse’s signature… did I mention the NPC he’s named Gaspard Phillippe Narcisse? He’s one of the NPCs that the players love to hate, and he’s not a bad guy, he’s their lawyer :). He’s 3/4ths Louis Cyphre from Angel Heart, and 1/4 Dan Fielding from Night Court, and all French (but oddly enough, he’s banned from practicing law in France ever again). Anyway, the envelope I made out of high quality drawing paper from instructions on the web, and I used an existing “N” wax seal I had on it. Narcisse’s calling card is on cardstock, cut with a specialty scissors to give it a nice edge. None of these took beyond a few minutes to make. The flyer I made in Photoshop out of art by Beardsley and I’m particularly fond of the font I used for it.

Some details on the inside of the Playbill:
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-17.jpg

Here is the play Carcosa / The King in Yellow that I slightly re-edited and highly warped. The original text I worked from was from forum member King_in_amber, which, I think, itself was warped from the Blish/Carter text. So it’s a bit of a Frankenstein monster.As those of you who are familiar with the TotK campaign know there are three versions of Act 1/Section 3, this being an effect of the displaying of the Yellow Sign at the end of the section. The version I’m posting is made up of eight totally different versions (one for each potential player I had that evening). I changed some of the locations of TotK there. The play takes place in Le Petit Theatre (http://www.lepetittheatre.com/) in the French Quarter. Here is the pdf of the DM’s version of it:
http://www.docezra.c...sa_KiY_Play.pdf
The Playbill was a great deal of work, not only warping, editing, and re-writing parts of the existing text but having a layout that would be useful in-game, finding all the ads, etc. The cover is a modified Piuemont piece, I didn’t use a cover relating to the Carcosa play, since at the time most Playbill covers were did not refer to the play, but the theatre itself. I ran the inside pages in black and white, and did the outside on cardstock in color with a full-bleed (ie no white outline, trimmed to fit print area). The tickets were laid out in In-design, printed in black and white on yellow cardstock, with no perforations unfortunately. Since most of the borders are clip-art, it only took a few minutes to put together.

After the events in Edge of Darkness, the players got a letter for the now dead Meriwether from Dr. Highsmith from Tatters of the King... this included a note explaining that the drawings attached were made by the patient soon after he arrived:
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-18.jpg
This is just the text from TotK, laid out in Word, and printed on parchment. This only took a few minutes to make.

Here are the drawings… including one the patient (Alexander Roby) attempted to eat.
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-19.jpg
Drawings were done in vine charcoal on the cheapest newsprint I could find. By the way… the half-eaten drawing is a very, very faded partial close-up of Hastur himself. It all took less than an hour.

And two drawings I decided not to include, since I felt they showed too much detailed of the Byakhee (yes, my version has 4 wings, not 2):
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-20.jpg

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Lastly here is a handout I made for a modern one-shot game. The players were all playing members of a CDC team investigating a strange disease in Alaska. I mailed out the info packet two weeks before the game, with no hint that it was from a game on it. The wife of one of my players freaked out when she opened the envelope, thinking that it was the military wanting her husband back :).

http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-21.jpg

The whole thing is around twenty pages of fairly technical stuff, each player got a packer specifically made for their character:
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-22.jpg
Finding just the right folder was the tough part, I was able to dig these up in an obscure corner of Office Depot. The logos, signatures, and other CDC imagery I was able to extract from actual CDC pdfs online. Writing the actual text was what took the longest. I put this together a few years ago, but I think it only took maybe two hours worth of work.

Faxes of the pictures taken by the local doctors. Seems that some insane cultist/doctor was attempting to turn his patients into shoggoths.
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-23.jpg
The photos are just elephentitus images I warped in Photoshop, added in a Polaroid frame to, and passed through the copier several generations to make it look like a bad scan.

And here’s a prop of a book they found in the said doctor’s office:
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-24.jpg
I made the cover out of thick cardboard pieces to which I hot-glued faux leather. The inside layout was done in InDesign. This too was done several years ago, but I think it took two or three hours worth of work.
http://www.yog-sotho...is-props-25.jpg
And yes... I'll try to find out who did those drawings too :)

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed this. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and if anyone would like some of the PDFs of these documents and such, please let me know!

-Arravis




Here is a transcription of the Brotherhood journal for those interested.
Anything in italics are my notes, not on the actual text.


The Dark Brotherhood

Ommnes una manet nox
(“The same night awaits us all”, Horace)

For Mariette, 1881

Members of the Dark Brotherhood:
Harold Copley
Marion Corbitt (Grandson of Walter Corbitt from “The Haunting” adventure)
Cecil Jones
Meriwether McKinney
Robert Menkin
Crawford Harris

As others flee from the shadows, we stand before the darkness. As others turn away from the truth, we shall make it our home.

It is from the darkness that the light is best seen.

21st of May 1881:
Although we had difficulty, the Dark Brotherhood has been formed! We poor six souls are in search of the light, and we hope that we will not journey alone. We devote ourselves to the occult sciences, be they magic, alchemy, witchcraft, astrology, divination, or any other hidden truth.

4th of June 1881:
For the sake of brevity and young Cecil’s patience, I shall only make the briefest of notes I can. I will not be naïve and claim that the discussion on the origin of the "Great Mother" cults to be of any significance anyway. I will make one note of importance: Robert and Crawford’s discussion of temple sex practices did greatly contribute to Master Jones’ education. An important thing, regardless of Marion’s feelings on the issue.

18th of June 1881:
Séance discussions and two attempts. The first was led by Marion, but with no results. The second attempt was more successful. Perhaps it was the drink Robert brought, or simply being more receptive, but Harold spoke with a slow and growling voice. The voice gave much in the way of wisdom before Crawford’s servants interrupted us. After, it was decided to pool our funds and seek out a property to conduct our meetings in peace.

25th of June 1881:
Marion and I found the perfect place. It is a farm constructed in 1806, and according to the seller, once lived in by a nephew of Jean-Baptiste. I much doubt it, but the price and location are right. Being only five and a half miles north of LaPlace, it is a short journey from the city. Nothing was achieved beyond clearing the place of trash and debris.

9th of July 1881:
Work continues. Robert and Harold have, somehow, convinced the University of Louisiana that we are a student literary facility for a newly formed fraternity. We now have the funds to finish repairs and furnish the Brotherhood home.

23rd of July 1881:
The farm is fully furnished and nearly complete. Marion has even taken it upon himself to decorate the doors and windows with fanciful designs. He claims they are “wards”, but they only seemed effective in causing Crawford and Harold to add their own vulgar sigils! As can be imagined, Marion was not amused. The sigils were interesting and I will recreate some here: (In the prop, I drew some CoC arcane symbols, including the elder sign)

6th of August 1881:
Another unsuccessful séance, much discussion and sleeping by Cecil ensued.

20th of August 1881:
Use of an Ouija tablet brought some success. Those voices from beyond instructed us to “Lurk”. Much discussion followed. (For my own amusement, this was a reference to Laurie Anderson’s “The Ouija Board”) I am including on this page something that Harold has told me, which I do not wish the others to know. Harold has confessed that no spirit or entity spoke through him at the séance. This saddens me, but I see no reason to dash the hopes of everyone else, as long as this does not happen again.

3rd of September 1881:
Robert has brought a visitor, a half-Indian transient whom said he has the ability to speak with the dead. Unfortunately it became clear the strange man was a charlatan after Cecil caught him stealing our liquor and wine. Harold and Marion ran him off, but we felt used.

17th of September 1881:
Little was accomplished beyond drinks, tarot readings, and laughs. A nice evening all around.

1st of October 1881:
No appreciable success in our attempts at séance, Oija, numerology, and tarot. Harold, Cecil, and Crawford want us to find outside help. Back in the isles (British Isles) I knew some that could help, but here I know no one outside the Brotherhood.

15th of October 1881:
No events beyond the usual discussions. Marion, Robert, and I stayed long into the night talking of life. Marion told strange tales of his family. They were a most unusual sort, especially his grandfather, Walter. I am glad that Marion is away from all that. I am endlessly thankful for my parents and childhood.

29th of October 1881:
Many thanks to my good friend Crawford, and a special thanks to Olivia, Claire, and Juliette. Although you may never be our wives, you will always have our hearts.

10th of December 1881:
The responsibilities of life have kept us from meeting in some time, and spirits were high upon our gathering. There was much talk of the Brotherhood’s future, and we all took vows to spend our free time and holidays in occult research. Let us go forward into the unknown!

7th of January 1882:
The New Year brings promise. While the rest of us are still in research, Crawford has gained “powerful” African fetishes. Each wood-carved figure represents a force of nature or an animal. The figures call forth the spirits of power, giving them a blessing. As told, each one was sprinkled with blood over moonlight and buried in the earth. The longer we wait, the stronger the blessing. I am including drawings of the statues for posterity: (In the prop, I drew several African fetishes.)

21st of January 1882:
After unearthing one of the fetishes, we have so far, found it without power of effect. We did find odd scratchings upon the wood and Cecil is certain these are some sort of message. Perhaps so, we shall see as the others are later brought out.

5th of February 1882:
Our meeting this day has satisfied all. Cecil brought many Hoodoo items. He knows nothing of their use, but they appear to be genuine. Marion introduced us to our most important artifact so far. It is a gold-lined miniature sarcophagus. The item is from the Corbitt estate in Arkham, and is part of Marion’s inheritance from his grandfather’s estate. The outside is carved with traditional Egyptian script, while the inside contains unusual glyphs unknown to us. It seems that this item is of some fame, as Marion had previously seen its description while at University. He is certain that he can find the tome again. Here is an illustration of the artifact: (In the prop, I drew several the top of the sarcophagus.) Within the sarcophagus is a curiously large specimen of amber. It s raw but within can be seen an arthropod. The species is, as of yet, unknown to any of us. Here is an illustration of the insect: (In the prop, I drew a strange looking insectoid encased in amber)

18th of February 1882:
Exciting news once again! Marion’s research into the artifact has turned up success within the university. A book, De Vermiis Mysteriis tells quite a bit about the sarcophagus box. The small animal trapped within the amber is a guide to the spirit world! This beneficial spirit may be contacted to lead the wise therein. Additionally, this book fully details the complicated preparations needed to contact the guide. Marion is determined to have the ritual ready for the eve of the 18th of March. Although I am doubtful that we will achieve anything useful, it will be an exciting event, I am sure.

4th of March 1882:
If Marion is right, this just might be the breakthrough we have been looking for! All the roles have been assigned and we will be ready. As for myself, I am to record the event in detail. The occult community will be able to share in our discoveries. THIS is why we have made the Brotherhood!

5th of March 1882:
We begin the ceremony as Marion instructed, according to that described in De Vermiis Mysterii. A fire is set in the hearth and a pentagram chalked on the floor, marked with the appropriate symbols and illuminated by two black tapers placed near the center. These flank the piece of amber with its entrapped spirit. The others sit in a circle while I, the designated “Watcher” who guards for malevolent spirits, sit in the far corner of the room. Marion has thrown a handful of powder in the fire. It produced a horribly foul smell. The flames are green and brown! Although not as bright as it was, that is a nice trick. The others, the ones seated, are beginning their chant in latin, as transcribed by Marion. It has been two hours and their voices are getting on badly.

(Marion’s handwriting becomes more hurried at this point) I see smoke, a trail is circling slowly up from the amber! My God, it’s bubbling and melting! Is this it! Finally, we have achieved something! I can see a form

(Written in different ink, Marion’s handwriting is now extremely shaky) It is the following day. We have finished with our plans and have sworn a pact to never speak of what happened last night. We have satisfactorily explained the death of Robert, and in some manner, the madness of Harold. The sheriff accepted the explanation of a carriage accident. We planned it well. Robert’s neck was broken in the fall, we told him. Harold struck his head on a rock when the horse’s leg broke and the carriage rolled.

Would it be only that. For the rest of us, we will be forever changed by what we experienced last night. The thing formed in the center of the pentagram, shapeless, nearly invisible! Its terrible voice should have given us a clue, but we were fools. It spoke. Marion cast that damned powder on the spirit, the dust of Ibn-Ghazi, he calls it, and that’s when we could see it.

I can’t describe what my eyes could only partly see. Partly, not because it was obstructed, but partly because I knew there was more than my eyes could ever see. All that I saw only hinted at the more. It roiled. It bubbled. It was there, it never was. All I could think about was the rest of it that I could not see. I will try to draw it on the last page. Draw that, oh so little, we saw.

I sat frozen on that floor. My father’s pen fell. I felt like I was made of heavy clay, about to fall apart. Little Cecil and Marion seemed lifeless, as I must have. A short sharp cry, like a shot, came out of Crawford’s moth. Robert rose to his feet and before we could stop him, he stepped forward as though to embrace the horror. With its “arms”, or the things most like arms, it took hold of poor Robert and twisted his head like a doll’s. It threw Robert’s lifeless corpse on Harold’s lap, and that’s when he began that damnable shrieking. The shrieking that hadn’t stopped, even after we handed Harold over to the Sheriff’s men.

We still have a chance, apparently. Marion now believes that if we had kept our wits, we could have reversed the chant and eventually forced back the creature to—wherever it came from. Crawford thought to dispel the monster by destroying part of the pentagram, breaking its effectiveness. Released from that binding symbol, the thing—with shrieks and screeches that could only have been unholy satisfaction, fled the house, disappearing out the window as a roaring, screaming wind of boiling colors.

Marion believes that the thing could still be destroyed, or at least banished. But none of us can gather enough strength for such an undertaking. What fools and cowards we are. It is believed that the ritual and magic we cast inextricably binds the thing to the house. It is true that when we went back a few days later to retrieve our things, we heart it bumping about in the attic over our heads. The warning signs so cheerfully carved by Marion during better times, days that seem so long ago, apparently are effective and bar the thing entry except into the attic. Nothing else to say. God help us all. What have we done. Forgive us.

Robert Menkin, March 1882
Harold Copley, August 1882
Marion Corbitt, August 1883
Crawford Harris, January 1915
Cecil Jones, March 1924
Meriwether McKinney

(Written with a “modern” pen, Marion’s handwriting seems much more careful)
I gravely fear that which my friends and I loosed upon the world. Noting of consequence has yet taken place, but with my death the bonds will be broken and that horror freed to come and go as it pleases. Lives and souls not yet taken, already weigh heavy on my soul. Not only for what we had done, but also for the many others that have made the same mistakes we had, throughout the ages. With what I have left to offer, with what riches and wealth I have, I will put to use in dealing with these abominations. It is the very least this old coward can do.

The method of delivering the thing out of this world is still in that accursed house, the translations made by Marion from the horrid De Vermiis Mysterii. I was never strong enough to take on the task, but I have hoped you are. In saving the world of this, perhaps you will save my soul from hell. Perhaps you will save yourselves.

—M

(The last page of the journal contains a page that is nearly completely burned out of the book. Only the smallest hint remains of the drawing Meriwether had made of the creature.)

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#2 jabonko

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:10 PM

humminahumminahumminawooooodoggie [ululates and gibbers incoherently]

Wow, that's impressive! Can I play in your group? Your players are a lucky bunch to get that kind of effort from their GM!

Oh, to answer your question... I rarely use props. Handouts occasionally, but rarely anything more than photocopies from the book.

#3 ChristianII

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:12 PM

That is just plain awesome! :D

Farthest i ever went was to create a "Top Secret" folder for a nazi superweapon project... for a scenario that unfortunatly never made it to the table.
"It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch."
- Willam Alfred, Agamemnon: a verse play in four acts, 1954.

#4 jabonko

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:16 PM

That is just plain awesome! :D

Farthest i ever went was to create a "Top Secret" folder for a nazi superweapon project... for a scenario that unfortunatly never made it to the table.

That's precisely the reason I don't put forth much effort into props and the like. So many of my "great" ideas never get to see the light of the gaming table because I get to play so infrequently.

#5 Attila-IV

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:17 PM

This is fantastic work. I've been involved with Cthulhu Live for years, and you've created a level of detail and abundance with your props that easily rivals much of what I've seen. I particularly love your props for The Edge of Darkness. It inspires to to convert the scenario into a LARP.

#6 Arravis

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:25 PM

Wow, thanks for all the positive comments guys! I put a bit of work into it, so I'm really glad it got a good reception :).

And jabonko, you're welcome to join our group (I know that's a bit of a drive ;))... we're actually looking for one or two more players. I've contacted some of the guys that are listed here in the Huntsville, AL area... but no takers yet.

Btw, personally, I really favor the prescription for 1 gallon of alcohol and a fifth of whisky :).

#7 Sinister-Ornament

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:26 PM

Your props collection is impressive, to say the least!

The very last picture you posted (the doctor’s diary), where did you get the pictures of the corpses with a web like substance over their faces? They are very scary.

The military briefing booklet is a good idea. I’ve never seen one in real life, I’ve always thought the pages in the novel ‘The Andromeda Strain’ very convincing and worth looking at as a source.

It might be worth investing in a rubber stamp that says “UK Eyes Alpha” or “Top Secret” etc. Mailing it to them pre-game is going to set the players' expectation very high.

The last missing page where the monster is supposed to be drawn is very good; hopefully it will set the players imagination going!
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#8 Gaffer

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:44 PM

WOW! just wow. 8O
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#9 Arravis

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:49 PM

Sinister-Ornament, I honestly don't recall where the image came from... its from an artist whose work I came across some time ago. As far as having things look properly governmental... well I work for a certain American space agency that will remain unnamed. So some of those stickers and signs are the real deal :).

#10 Arravis

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 06:17 PM

Oops... seems I had one of the pictures mixed up. I now have the sanitarium patient progress record picture up... got my urls mixed up, sorry. (URL if you want to view directly: http://i230.photobuc...sylumReport.jpg)

I'm actually fairly proud of that one. In person, it looks very genuine.

#11 AirborneXO

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 08:35 PM

That is frikkin awesome man...kudos 8)

I recently ran EOD with my players as their first game and didn't go half as far as you.

I found suitable pictures of Arkham, Ross's Corner and the farmhouse and handed these over at appropriate times. I had pictures of anyone the investigators ran into (got this idea from POC on his horror audio game...ta!). I had a piccy of the box and my handouts were suitably aged but that was it.

Oh and I gave my reporter a press pass and a arkham library card, the PI got a licence and the occultist got a pass for MU library. All these were from the HLPHS prop documents. The players apprecieated them, especially cos they were laminated and they could make notes/doodle on them with drywipe fineliner.

Cheers, Hal

#12 Nightbrother

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:14 PM

I'm practically speechless! Wow, Arravis, well done and good on you for being this creative. With such stellar work and implementation on your part, the players are bound to immerse themselves absolutely. I'm firmly embedded already, from just having seen the pictures.

On another note, you inspired me greatly, as I am myself right now making some (much less spectacular) props for an upcoming Warhammer RPG session on Tuesday, and I think I might do a little something extra now, if but for my own enjoyment.

The ripped-out drawing by Meriwether of the monster was a great touch. That's bound to put a chill on your players, to say the least.

My own drawing skills are among the most horrible in the known universe, so I envy people who can draw even recognizable stick-men.


Question: Who is the artist of the pictures in the doctor's book, the ones with the emaciated undead-thing with bandages on the face? (Sorry, I see now that you answered that higher up in the thread :))
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#13 Arravis

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 09:17 PM

Very cool Airborne... I too had a map and pics as well... actually, let me post my DM's notes, the sheafe handout file, and map. :)

I deviated from Edge of Darkness in one major way. Since the death of Cecil, there is only one person left of the group... so the bindings have thinned. Because of this, the Lurker in my game, turns everyone within two miles of the house into undead. It needs to use it's POW only to control them, otherwise the change is instantaneous, and unless the cause of death is obvious, most people affected aren't even aware they're zombies. In the ultimate Lovecraftian horror, there is no soul, only the chemical processes of the brain. As long as the brain is able to continue its chemistry, it's able to think, etc. Amusingly, most of the local people have attributed the obvious deaths... or lack thereof on the two-year olrd black Baptist church in the area. The influx of worshippers, and therefor money, has raised racial tensions in the village as well...

Anyway, here are the DM's (err Keeper's, sorry, still getting used to it, hehe) notes for the Carcosa play from Tatters of the King, and the Ross's Corner's part of the Edge of Darkness game:
http://www.docezra.c...oD_TotK_DMs.pdf

And here is the file for the sheafe of papers found in the house from the Edge of Darkness:
http://www.docezra.com/temp/Sheafe.pdf

And here's the map:
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#14 DrummerDave

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 11:28 PM

Your props are awesome!!!!

One of my players (who is a lurker around here) once wrote a diary and made some very cool props for my Ramsey Campbell campaign, but he never finished the diary and never handed over the props, so I have nothing to show.

Are you willing to sell your props or make some more for a price???

Again, awesome.

#15 WouterTron

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 11:01 AM

These props are incredible. How much time and money would you estimate is invested in them in total?

#16 psyberwyche

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 11:35 AM

Amazing stuff, Arravis.

I'm a big fan of props, but rarely get the time to go to town as much as this. I've purchased expensive envelopes, wax sealing kits, and a lovely leather-bound journal for my Gaslight campaign, but generally rely on computer-printed handouts during gameplay.

I'd be really interested in any tips you have for making these props. I think that would be really useful for aspiring Keepers.

#17 moonbeast

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 11:44 AM

Arravis, that is some impressive material.

Any chance you'd consider duplicating some of them so that you might sell those props to the other CoC gamers? Just a thought.

You just gave me one prop idea that just popped up in my head... the small wooden container box for the powder of Ibn-Gazi. But for the prop to be visually effective, it cannot be just some "plain looking container box", because it would then look just like an ordinary jewel box, as far as Players are concerned. But having some kind of ARABIC inscription on the outer surface of the box... now THAT would definitely mark it with distinction.

#18 allicorn

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 01:18 PM

Spectacular array of props there. I'll echo everyone else and just say that I'm blown away by the amount of work you've put in! :-)

I've used a fair amount of paper handouts in my current game. Some letters, maps, images of sites cobbled together from scans of old books and such.

Being a sound engineer, I also put together some audio effects to accompany certain scenes - using RPGDeck to control effect playback from my little laptop behind the screen but have the sounds played on the whopping great sound system attached to the desktop PC at the other end of the roleplaying room.

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#19 Max_Writer

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 02:43 PM

Very, very cool. I wish I had time to make that many props. I see you used my newspaper stories for The Haunting. Also very cool!

I'm working on an 18th century pamphlet about Arkham for my own PCs.

Now to figure out some way to move to Huntington, AL ...

#20 Arravis

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 08:36 PM

Hey guys, to answer some of the questions...
I don’t think I’d want to sell some of the ones I’ve done, since we’re still using them in play, but I might be willing to make a few custom props for pay.

Allicorn, I really like your idea of doing custom sound work, you should post some of what you have done already.
Max_Writer, thanks for the text once again, and it’s “Huntsville” :P.

As for the specifics on what I did… (I also went ahead and put this text with the original post)

Newspaper Articles:
The Haunting newspaper articles didn’t take too long. I used the text Max_Writer had posted on the forums, and found some additional unrelated 1920’s articles on the web to put around the sides. I used a combination of coca-cola and pomegranate juice to stain the papers. The more pomegranate, the darker it is. Leave them soaking for about 15-30 minutes. I probably spent 10 minutes putting together the page layout in Adobe InDesign, and spent about 30 minutes looking for the surrounding newspapers.

Metal Box:
Finding it took quite some time, it’s really a matter of luck. The cost was $10 USD.

Deed:
I found a mid-1800’s deed scan online, I laid out a design (InDesign again) exactly as per the scan, and wrote the text to suit my needs. I stained the print out as I did the newspaper articles, hand wrote the signatures on there, and used a bit of silver wax to get the effect of an old broken seal. The whole process didn’t take very long, less than an hour as I recall. The key I got from an old antique store for around less than $1 USD.

Pictures
The pictures take time to find, especially if you want to match a particular character. It’s just a matter of going from antique shop to antique shop. Just remember to bargain, especially if you’re several items at once. Most of the pics I bought were priced around $2-5, but I was able to get most around $1-2 each.

Dark Brotherhood Journal
This was probably the most difficult and time consuming of all the projects. The notebook is just a moleskin mini-notebook from a 3-pack Barnes and Nobles sells. Of course, the journal entries from the adventure are nowhere near enough to fill an actual journal, so I had quite a bit of writing ahead of me. I typed up all the journal lines from the adventure and kept them with me as well as two of the moleskin journal in my pockets at all times. As I had ideas I'd write them down, and keeping them with me so much, gave them a nice worn look. Once I finished writing all 48 pages, I spent one very long night doing the final journal. I wrote it with a fountain pen and two different kinds of dip-pens. I did all the graphics, drawings, etc. I used water to simulate tears on some of the pages, and I used food and dirt to stain and wear some of the pages. To give the outside a textured and worn feel, I stuck pieces of packing tape to it, and carefully peeled it back, giving it a nice velvet-ish feel and look. Lastly, for the drawing of the creature in the back I employed another friend of mine, who is also an artist, to help me come up with something truly horrific. Together we did a pencil sketch, which I then inked over on the last page. It looked great… and I really regret not taking a picture of it. But as I looked at it, I became more and more disappointed by it. As with any drawing made by mortal hands (that isn’t the one in the in the book later it seems, lol) it just wouldn’t be mind-melting enough. So in an inspired moment at 3 a.m., I pulled out some matches and went for it… I’m glad I did. Hints of it are much more effective than the thing itself. How long did it all take… ugh, 48 prop pages take a while, and I’ll leave it at that.

Patient Progress Record
This came from one of the blank pdfs from http://www.cthulhulives.org/, and I just filled it out with what info I could garner from the Insanity section of the CoC book and on the web. With this handout I wanted to show the players that Meriwether wasn’t always the man they know now. The picture at the bottom is that of him and his since deceased wife. This took less than 30 minutes.

Telegram
The telegram blank from this came from http://www.cthulhulives.org/ again. The toughest part of this was actually making the stamp. It was quite difficult to find scissors that made that kind of cut, but I finally did come across some hidden away at Michaels. As an amusing aside… I looked up all the names of the members of the Dark Brotherhood, just to see if I could find anyone who was an actual historical figure and perhaps tie them in to the plot… and I did with Cecil Jones. I found a George Cecil Jones, the young man who inspired Aleister Crowley to get into the occult. All the dates of the real people involved worked perfectly… and since Aleister Crowley is actually an NPC in Tatters of the King, all the better! So that is who the “AC” is in the telegram :). Not counting the search for the scissors, this only took a few minutes.

Inheritance Documents
These are all blanks from http://www.cthulhulives.org/, and as mentioned before, I particularly liked the whisky that was prescribed as medicine! In my research into the 1920’s I had come across that little tidbit. The matches I got at one of the antique stores and the rock was an RP item, coming from Meriwether’s birthplace in Ireland. This took very little time, just a few minutes.

Sarcophagus, Tin, and Box
Finding just the right sarcophagus was a challenge. The one described in the story was made out of wood and metal, but I could find nothing like that. I did find one on eBay that was stone… but it wouldn’t get here in time for the game. The one I have I got on Amazon for $25 and it worked great. I used a wood-burning stylus to carve the runes on the inside. The runes based out of some presented in the Keeper’s Companion 2, I believe. Once complete I painted the sarcophagus with brown water-based paint, and while still wet I rubbed it out. This left the dark paint in the lower areas of the relief of the sarcophagus, making it look quite old and leaving the runes nice and dark. The whole process took about 45 minutes. The box and tin cylinder I got at an antique store, total around $5. What’s funny is that the tin looked very, very old to me… it was rusty, the label was yellowed and torn, and who the heck makes snuff anymore. I was quite sure it was old until I pulled it out in-game then noticed the nice UPC scan barcode on the side… And Moonbeast, that’s a great idea about adding some writing to the wooden box, especially since I have the stylus!

Translations from De Vermiis Mysteriis
The hardest work on this was the text. Online I was able to grab the texts of several old occult books. I used these as a started and I edited and changed the text to fit my story and needs. If you look at the pdf (http://www.docezra.com/temp/Sheafe.pdf), you can read the interesting story of The Lurker and what he is. The writing is what took the longest, the production was quite easy and took only a few minutes. I used yellow parchment paper and stuck them in the dryer for a bit to make them look weathered and wrinkled.

Lawyer’s Letter, Calling Card, Carcosa Flyer, LePetit Theatre Playbill, and Tickets:
The letter is done on parchment, mostly I love Gaspard Phillippe Narcisse’s signature… did I mention the NPC he’s named Gaspard Phillippe Narcisse? He’s one of the NPCs that the players love to hate, and he’s not a bad guy, he’s their lawyer :). He’s 3/4ths Louis Cyphre from Angel Heart, and 1/4 Dan Fielding from Night Court, and all French (but oddly enough, he’s banned from practicing law in France ever again). Anyway, the envelope I made out of high quality drawing paper from instructions on the web, and I used an existing “N” wax seal I had on it. Narcisse’s calling card is on cardstock, cut with a specialty scissors to give it a nice edge. None of these took beyond a few minutes to make.
The flyer I made in Photoshop out of art by Beardsley and I’m particularly fond of the font I used for it. The Playbill (http://www.docezra.c...sa_KiY_Play.pdf) was a great deal of work, not only warping, editing, and re-writing parts of the existing text but having a layout that would be useful in-game, finding all the ads, etc. The cover is a modified Piuemont piece, I didn’t use a cover relating to the Carcosa play, since at the time most Playbill covers were did not refer to the play, but the theatre itself. I ran the inside pages in black and white, and did the outside on cardstock in color with a full-bleed (ie no white outline, trimmed to fit print area). The tickets were laid out in In-design, printed in black and white on yellow cardstock, with no perforations unfortunately. Since most of the borders are clip-art, it only took a few minutes to put together.

Doctor Highsmith’s letter
This is just the text from TotK, laid out in Word, and printed on parchment. This only took a few minutes to make.

Drawings
Drawings were done in vine charcoal on the cheapest newsprint I could find. By the way… the half-eaten drawing is a very, very faded partial close-up of Hastur himself. It all took less than an hour.

CDC folder
Finding just the right folder was the tough part, I was able to dig these up in an obscure corner of Office Depot. The logos, signatures, and other CDC imagery I was able to extract from actual CDC pdfs online. Writing the actual text was what took the longest. The photos are just elephentitus images I warped in Photoshop, added in a Polaroid frame to, and passed through the copier several generations to make it look like a bad scan. I put this together a few years ago, but I think it only took maybe two hours worth of work.

Book
I made the cover out of thick cardboard pieces to which I hot-glued faux leather. The inside layout was done in InDesign. This too was done several years ago, but I think it took two or three hours worth of work.