Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Gathering

The Miskatonic Alumni Project has entered it's third phase.

The first was the initial "Wouldn't it be cool...." giddiness.  This is the stage filled with enthusiasm for making something new.  It's nice while it lasts.

The second was the "My God, what have I done?" phase.  This is when you take all those cool ideas and start paying for them.  It starts off well enough, and then you learn that those handy price lists don't include things like setup fees.  Or art fees.  Or any kind of realistic shipping fees.  What really drives it home is the arched eyebrow of your significant other as you spend the equivalent of, and I believe this is a direct quote, "A week spent lounging in someplace with grass huts and a sandy beach".

The third phase is when all that stuff starts arriving.  You take a razor knife to the packing tape, rip open the cardboard, and discover that, much to your relief, nothing got futzed up.  Even better, it turns out to be just as cool as you thought it was going to be.  For a brief time you're the only person in the world whose keys dangle from a polished brass and enamel Miskatonic University keychain.

Forgive the terrible photography.  They weren't kidding about the "polished" part.  That dark spot on the bottom of the keychain is the reflection of my camera.

On a related note, Geek and Sundry has an article up explaining how Chaosium's hugely successful Kickstarters almost killed the company.   There's plenty of blame to go around for the implosion of those efforts, but one of the biggest was the bugaboo of international shipping.
The problems began with the Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter. The previous management only charged international backers $20 to ship a ten pound game. The actual cost of shipping was vastly higher, sometimes as much as $150 for backers in Japan. Meints said that this Kickstarter alone likely lost Chaosium $170,000. When Greg Stafford took over the company, there were still a number of backers who had yet to receive their products.

To avoid falling into a similar trap I'm going to give preference to domestic orders for the Alumni package. About a week before they go on sale I'll take orders from anyone who wants multiple sets at a discount. For that initial round I'll take international orders. I expect only a handful of folks will order several, so I'll have enough time to determine actual shipping charges and fill out customs forms for international orders.

After that the sets will go one sale to domestic customers with shipping via USPS Priority Flat Rate. For $6.80 it's a steal for a relatively heavy package like this and includes tracking.   If there are any sets left once all the domestic orders are taken care of I'll make them available to international customers.  

To avoid having to worry about this in the future I'm looking in to using Amazon.  I'd much rather send one big package filled with goodies to one of their European warehouses and have them take care of shipping, customs, and VAT.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Scarecrow Edition

This Cthulhu idol is a change of pace from what we usually feature here.  Scarecrow Studios kitbashed it from pieces taken from a variety of action figures.   I was heavily into action figure customizing in the 90s, primarily in 1/6th scale.  Sadly, that hobby is a lot tougher to get into these days.  A change in toy safety laws clouded the lead liability issues around reselling old action figures.  A lot of thrift stores, a prime source of raw material for kitbashes, avoided the whole issue by simply tossing any that get donated.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mark of the Wolf

The talented Don Simpson returns to our pages with this wolf pendant carved from elk antler.  Just the thing for Lycanphiles.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Face of Cthulhu

Immortal Masks brings us this demo video for their silicone Cthulhu mask. I'm not sure if there's much room for masks to improve. The idea that you can buy an off the shelf mask that clings so tightly to your face you can actually act with it on would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Perfect Organism

Fox has declared today to be "Alien Day".  4/26, LV-426, get it?  I'm normally loathe to embrace such a nakedly transparent corporate marketing gimmick, but man do I love "Alien".  It's second only to "The Godfather" on my personal list of greatest movies.  It's also the best Lovecraftian film ever released.  Writer Dan O'Bannon was always open about his love of the Mythos, and there's a strong case to be made that "Alien" adapts the broad strokes of "At the Mountains of Madness" for a modern audience.

In honor of the occasion Jason McKittrick has a special limited edition "Alien" plaque featuring H.R. Giger's Xenomorph design.  And by "limited edition" he means "only available today"

Monday, April 25, 2016

Getting Hammered

This beautiful LARP-safe warhammer comes to us from Sander Propworx.  The metallic skin of the weapon is cast in latex and then filled with foam.  As you can see, the result is amazingly realistic.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Temir7 Edition.

Temir7 brings us this Mesoamerican-style Cthulhu idol in fired ceramic.  From a scholarly standpoint I think it's interesting for being blue-green instead of the iron oxide palette of red-black-brown found in the majority of surviving South American ceramics.

Update:  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Credit goes to bea in the comments for recognizing how similar Temir7's piece is to the excellent work of Fox Henderson. This surely isn't coincidental. I sincerely hope it's merely a case of forgetting to include a mention of what inspired this version.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Miskatonic Curse

First, the good news.  The keychains are on the way a month ahead of schedule.  What was advertised as a 4-6 week production window turned out to be two weeks.  Hail Cthulhu!

Now the bad news.  I'm still having difficulties getting the patch and pin order straightened out.  The ones with the Miskatonic logo are already in production, but after two weeks I still haven't received a production proof for the varsity-style patch.  Keep in mind I sent what I thought was production ready artwork- a vector Illustrator file.  It's literally exactly this, but with the black replaced by empty space. 

Here's the first artwork proof I received.

Wait...what?  What was supposed to be a varsity letter inspired design...isn't.  To my chagrin, I clarified that it should be "The letter "M" surmounted by the bar with the "Miskatonic" name inside.  Like the original image".  This was the result.

You can't write comedy like this.  In their defense, the bar is surmounting the "M", but not in the way I meant.  Hopefully everything will be straightened out on Monday.  The irony is that I thought the keychain production was where the biggest risk for screw ups resided.  Instead, that part of the project appears to have gone off swimmingly. 

In other news, I discovered that the USPS has raised their Priority Mail package prices from $5.50 to $6.80.  It's not a huge change, but it means I have to bank a bit more to make sure everything gets mailed quickly. 

I'm once again developing a profound respect for business people that do this kind of thing full time.  None of these production issues is a project killer on its own, but the minor delays and complications add up over time.  It's the death of a thousand cuts.  Now that I've plunged into it again I find myself gaining new sympathy for the poor schmucks who have their Kickstarter projects go off the rails.  A goodly number of them are scam artists, to be sure, but I'm getting reminded how even someone with good intentions can get in over their head.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Demon, Demon, Who's Got the Demon?

Artist Arend Smith brings us a Villoingt demon, one of the smaller species.  They reportedly make wonderful pets.  Well, if you're willing to risk your immortal soul.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ice, Ice, Baby

Russian aviation site "Wings Palette" has some great pictures of the Dornier Do J Wal in various livery schemes.   Browse through the gallery and you'll see there was a huge amount of variation in hull and engine configurations over the lifetime of the aircraft.  This particular plane is representative of the Wals used by Chile for exploration and mapping missions over the southern part of the country.

This closeup shot gives  you a better look at the nose of the plane.  That small propeller pod attached to the hull is an air driven generator for the radio set.  Like the planes from "At the Mountains of Madness" this model was intended for very harsh and cold conditions.  What's interesting is that the aircraft isn't sealed, a trait it shares with the planes used on Amundsen's arctic flight.  Why would you expose the interior of a cold weather aircraft to frigid open air conditions?

The answer is condensation.  Sealed metal hulled aircraft could have serious problems with water condensing and then freezing on the interior of the hull.  The problem could be solved by using heat exchangers to warm low humidity exterior air and vent it inside the hull, but the equipment was prone to breakdowns and imposed a significant weight penalty.

Orient Express Redux

Dean from Adelaide brings us an upgraded paper prop from Chaosium's "Horror on the Orient Express".  This map of a French villa is part of the Paris chapter of the campaign.  He has it available in high resolution worn and ultra-worn versions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Heavy Artillery

Chunk A Nuke Props brings us this recreation of The Gainer magnum from "Fallout 4".  What's of particular interest about this build is how low budget it is.  The base is a cheapo toy gun from Dollar General that was detailed with foam, marker caps, the heat sink from a junked TV, and Sintra plastic sheeting. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Have You Seen the Sign?

This variant version of the Yellow Sign from the Calla Cthulhu comic is based on the inverted torch design featured on the cover of the original edition.   Great minds, and all that.  Heh.

 They also have a symmetrical take on the Elder Sign design created by August Derleth.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Coin of the Realm

Andrea Falaschi returns to our pages with this coin from R'lyeh.  All that treasure getting melted down at the Marsh refinery had to come from somewhere.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

To The Barricades!

Mar Omega is the creator of this brilliant technique for creating spiked wooden barricades* for LARP games.  They're painted pool noodles.  The one detail that isn't pretty self-explanatory from the image is how to get the paint to stick.  Pool noodles are made from polyethylene foam and almost nothing will bond with the plastic permanently.  At a guess I'd say they're coated in spray on Plasti Dip or truck bed liner. 

*Technically they're Cheval de frise, but that doesn't roll of the tongue nearly as well as "spiked barricade".

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Surviving the Fauxpocalypse

Nuclear Snail has a great video on what to bring to a deep immersion post-apocalyptic LARP. In the past year, thanks to the influence of "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Fallout 4", there's been an explosion in the number of after the bomb events. In the United States it's become the go-to theme for airsoft weekends even at fields that don't normally do scenario games. One of the reasons is that it's cheap. You can put together a decent costume and kit with off the shelf gear and a trip to the thrift store.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Necronomicon, Mille Cuirs Edition.

Mille Cuirs returns with another impressive tome.  This time it's a Cthulhu themed take on the Necronomicon featuring a wonderfully hand shaped leather cover.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dem Bones

Ghoul Friday has an excellent tutorial on turning an off the shelf Halloween skeleton into a realistic rotted corpse.  They guide uses the heat gun and plastic wrap technique and includes detailed looks at each step of the process.  Part One of the tutorial covers the physical prep of the skeleton, while Part Two is the final finishing process.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Clock is Ticking

Production on the Miskatonic Alumni keychains is underway.   Here's the manufacturer's mockup of the design after tweaking the lettering to make sure it would register correctly.  I went with a 1.5" fob in cast and polished brass with a fired black enamel infill.  It might not stop a bullet, but it's tough enough to avoid getting scratched up by keys or pocket change.

I should have the patches and lapel pins finalized by the end of the week, if not tomorrow.  That will take care of all the hard goods in the package.  Unfortunately, production costs are running a little higher than I expected.  That's not a serious issue, at least not yet.  I've set aside $600 to cover the postage on the run (assuming 100 Small Priority Box packages) and can dip into that cash to cover any overruns. 

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Owl on Tree Edition.

This ceramic Cthulhu idol comes to us from French artist "Owl on Tree".  She expresses some disappointment with the glaze after its final firing, but I think she's being too harsh.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Larval Form

Artist Aris Kolokontes has posted some work in progress shots of his current project.  The "fantasy larva" has some wonderful texture work.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ritual of the Black Lotus

Mr. Zarono brings us this beautifully done set featuring a withered skull and the infamous Black Lotus.  Take a look at the high resolution image to appreciate the excellent texture work on the dessicated skin.
Abdul Alhazrad was pleased with the spot he had chosen to perform the Black Lotus Ritual. It was a one room hut on the edge of the wastelands. Once the home of a madman who wandered the hills talking to shadows and oddly formed rocks, that hermit had disappeared one night during a sandstorm and the place had been shunned since. The hut had a single window facing south and that too was a good omen; for as a boy Alhazrad had glimpsed an ice bound mountain in the grip a fever dream and had known it was in the southern most reaches of earth. Perhaps the visions that the Black Lotus granted would allow him to see that mountain again or even the things that slumbered beneath it. 
  Alhazrad seated himself in the midst of a complex series of circles and mystic symbols drawn in white chalk on the floor. He chanted the Dho-Na formulae as he lit the brazier. The dried Black Lotus began to smolder and lazily the blue smoke rose, tendrils coiling and twisting like serpents. As the smoke drew near his face, Alhazrad inhaled deeply.
 The lotus fumes struck his brain like thunder, he had brief but terrible sensation of falling down an endless tunnel, then he was standing, staring at his still chanting body, Alhazrad's astral form had been freed from the cage of flesh. He turned toward the window and could see countless paths leading from it. Alhazrad stepped through and began to travel.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Miskatonic University Varsity Style Logo

This is one of the new patch designs for the Miskatonic Alumni Package.  It's a faux varsity letter logo using the conjectural crimson and white colors of the University.  Why that instead of the oft repeated purple and black? Two reasons, aside from taste.*  One, there's very little visual contrast between purple and black. Two, given that Lovecraft based Miskatonic on Brown University, and their colors are red, white, and brown, it seems appropriate to use the red and white while leaving the school its namesake color.

*Let's be honest.  Purple and black is where the twee "Hurr durr...spooky...spooky!" way of thinking leads to.  Down that path lies madness.

It Glows

I'm normally loathe to link to Etsy, but once in a while you find a real gem amidst the felted vaginas and cosplay cat ears.  Artist Jason Hite brings us this candle holder cast in translucent resin.  There's something about the mix of geometric and organic forms that just screams "alien artifact" to me.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Thirteen Ghosts Black Zodiac

Juan Carlos Porcel of Elder Props has really outdone himself.  Not only has he recreated every single page from the "Black Zodiac" from the film "Thirteen Ghosts", but he's also digitized the handwritten characters as a font and compiled the complete ghost glyph set.  You'll find everything conveniently collected on his download page. That's an incredible amount of work and Mr. Porcel deserves high praise for sharing it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


This beautiful prop knife comes to us from artist Malachi Robb.  It's machined from brass, with a handle of ebony and calcite.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Period Power

The Royal Signals classic radio collectors group has a great selection of vintage battery labels.  From a prop standpoint these are ideal for redressing modern batteries for live action events. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Gripped by Madness

I think I might be losing my mind.  On the bright side, my madness could end up being one of the biggest prop projects I or anyone else has ever tackled.

For a while now I've been considering semi-retirement.  One of the options calling to me is just hitting the road in an RV, spending the winters in my native Texas and then returning to New York during the summer to spend time with family.  I'm lucky enough to have a job doing voiceovers that I can do anywhere with a microphone and a laptop, so making a living shouldn't be an issue.

To make a long story short, while tossing the idea around with some friends I mentioned how cool it would be to have a retro camper.   Something like an on-chassis Airstream.  Taking the idea one step further, I thought one painted like a Vault-Tec van from "Fallout" would be seriously awesome.

That's when fate intervened and one of my buddies, far more familiar with classic cars than I am, said "Hey, that looks like a Corvair Ultra Van.  You should get one of those."  A little Googling demonstrated that it would, indeed, be a pretty sweet ride in Vault-Tec colors.

The Ultra Van was a limited run RV manufactured from the mid 60s to the early 70s. Two things made it special. The first is the infamous Corvair engine that powered it. The second is the unique monococque construction. The frame and hull is a single structure put together like an airplane, similar to the construction technique used in Airstream trailers. It is, in almost every respect including the engine, an aircraft without wings.

Only a few hundred Ultra Vans were produced, and of those a limited number are still on the road.   That said, it's considered a genuine Corvair by car aficionados, so it has it's own sub-site as part of the national Corvair collectors organization.

Here's the real kicker.  Googling "Ultra Van for sale" revealed there's one for sale literally ten minutes from my house.  Seriously, what are the odds?

I'm so, so tempted to just pull the trigger.  A custom Vault-Tec van would be the coolest thing imaginable to hit the road with.  On the other hand, I can see it turning into the kind of money pit that nightmares are made of.  Having known a few guys who've tackled amateur restorations and rebuilds I've learned they can end up swallowing huge amounts of cash.

But man, would that be a sweet ride.

Update:  Here's a gallery of the Ultra Van in question when it was used as a staging vehicle during Coachella 2012.  The interior hasn't been changed, but the exterior color wrap was removed to expose the base white.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Nightmare in Stone

Copper Centipede brings us this intriguing relic carved from soapstone.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Rusty Blade

Believe it or not, this is a latex LARP weapon.  Sander Propworx once again demonstrates just how far LARP weaponeering has progressed. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Cthulhu, Revisited

Todd van Bronkhorst did this nice repaint job on the Diamond Select vinyl Cthulhu bank.  I'm surprised we haven't seen more alternate finishes on these given the rather over-the-top paintjob on the original

Friday, April 1, 2016

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Furrykami Edition.

Out of the hundreds of Cthulhu idols we've featured here this one really stands out.  Furrykami brings us this unique take featuring a plush body and sculptural details.  The highlight would have to be the goat-like, alien eyes.  That's a detail far too many Mythos artists ignore.

Update:  Pink heart eyes?  How could I not use this for the annual April Fools post.  I'm still not a fan of anything remotely Cutethulhu, but I do have to give Furrykami credit for excellent craftsmanship.