Dscript Can Generate Script and Runes

"Held Action" rendered in Dscript.

“Held Action” rendered in Dscript.

Dscript is a form of writing designed for economy of pen strokes and combining all the letters of a word into one character. While it uses the same letters as the English language, it represents the letters differently than the Roman alphabet with which many people are familiar.

The immediate use for role-playing games is creating mysterious inscriptions and runes via the Dscript generator. A full prophecy can be rendered in Dscript and printed out, before applying aging techniques to create a page torn from a tome. A wizard’s personal rune of power can be ginned up from slapping random characters together; I experimented with “xkcd.” In an interstellar milieu, Dscript can become the script of a galactic society — Basic is often the Common of science fiction settings — helping create the sense of an extended, far-reaching culture, or coexisting written practices, such as the alien alphabets seen on Futurama.

Opening lines of Dante's "A new life."

Opening lines of Dante’s “A new life.”

Dscript’s designer points out that the generator isn’t perfect. Generated text “pales in comparison to the hand written form.” There’s a free manual available for download with samples of bodies of text, like the opening lines of Dante’s “A new life,” shown to the right. Using Dscript with ease sounds like a huge undertaking — think about how long it takes a child to achieve fluency writing in their native alphabet — but the manual can still provide inspiration in diagramming the characters and their use, as well some other examples of passages rendered in Dscript.

Dscript is licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution. The designer notes attribution exceptions are freely provided on request. Thanks to Dragonlover for posting the link to Dscript on RPG.net.

Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum

Originally published in 1652, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum was a monster of a book that collected alchemical works from the likes of John Dee, Edward Kelley and Elias Ashmole. Now it’s to be reprinted by Ouroboros Press in a corrected edition based off the original errata sheets.[1]

It looks to be full of neat content good for waving around as an alchemist’s handbook or wizard’s grimoire. As a “stout octavo” edition, I can only hope it’s as good for the party’s occult expert or resident potion-stirrer thwacking a nincompoop about the cranium as putting out small fires.

[1] Tying it to role-playing games in an unexpected way.

Hail, Miskatonic

My Miskatonic University pennant, installed for the consternation of passers-by.

Propnomicon, maker of fine Cthulhiana for some time now, recently wrapped up another prop package, this time featuring ephemera from stately Miskatonic University. In addition to an embroidered patch and cloisonné pin of the school seal, field notebooks and postcards of campus landmarks, the highlight of the package was no doubt the red and white Miskatonic pennant, which you can see displayed to the left.

A Miskatonic pennant was something I’d sought for quite a while. Just as I resigned myself to having design and fabricate my own — based on an old Vermont pennant dating from the same era — the announcement went up that the next prop package would include one.  I jumped on board immediately. There were production delays and shipping gaffes that required the application of a steam iron, but at long last, I am the happy owner of my own emblem of Miskatonic pride, which I now have in my office window at work, so everyone can have no clue from what school I graduated.

Now the pennants are out there, true alumni of M.U. can get the full effect by waving their pennants while singing the alma mater, Hail, Miskatonic, also courtesy of Propnomicon.

The Fell Types

Roman and small caps, probably cut by Christoffel van Dijck.

Lovecraftian prop blog Propnomicon recently posted about the Fell types, a series of typefaces dating from the 17th century that are now freely available download as fonts:

From mid-16th century until the end of the 17th, interference with printing by the British Crown thwarted the development of type founding in England—most type used by 17th century English printers was of Dutch origin. The lack of material inspired Bishop of Oxford Doctor John Fell to purchase punches & matrices from Holland ca. 1670–1672 for use by the Oxford University Press. The so-named Fell types, presumed to be the work of Dutch punchcutter Dirck Voskens, mark a noticeable jump from previous designs, with considerably shorter extenders, higher stroke contrast, narrowing of round letters, and flattened serifs on the baseline and descenders.

Aside from looking awesome, these fonts would be great for handouts to share extracts from grimoires, banned tomes and books that were never written in your role-playing games. And they’re open source, too, so they’re free for the taking.

Thanks to Igino Marini for putting in the effort behind this typeface revival and making them open source.

Happy Birthday, Held Action!

Today marks the one year anniversary of Held Action‘s first publication, from the day I made my post of introduction and reported on local Free RPG Day activities. Those posts actually date from the brief period of time when I blogged on Dreamwidth. A couple weeks later, I got tired of the limitations of the cloned LiveJournal interface and crossed over to WordPress. That also pushed me to think of a name for the blog, and it wasn’t until I had thought of something I liked better than “Tyler’s Game Blog” that I bought the domain and set up this blog on WordPress.com.

What a year it’s been. First I chose a schedule to keep myself to, then I had an enormous spike in things I wanted to say, then I fell back into the more comfortable schedule I’d originally chosen. I’ve run through most of the material I wrote in other times and contexts, so now it’s all fresh, usually sparked by something I’ve read or heard elsewhere. And that’s what I wanted in a gaming blog: a place to publish the thoughts and ideas I had that I didn’t feel like putting in someone else’s discussion forum, but still wanted to make public.

According to WordPress.com, here are the top ten most popular posts of the last year, least to most. It’s amazing what the viral bump can do to hit counts, isn’t it?

  1. National Library Week 2010 Drumming up enthusiasm for an endeavor that inspired Saturday gaming at the local library.
  2. The Art of Board Game Storage When I get a game room of my own, I’ll use this technique.
  3. Game Master Mistakes: Not Really Listening I know enough to fess up when I make mistakes.
  4. A Screen for Every Game Promoting my favorite GM screen, the customizable sort.
  5. Physical Evidence Extolling my enjoyment of Propnomicon‘s Lovecraft-inspired creations.
  6. Labyrinth Lord: Downward to Adventure! My actual play report for International Traditional Gaming Week.
  7. The Lurker at the Threshold Expands Arkham Horror One of my inconsistent moments of pseudo-journalism.
  8. Scouting and Dungeons & Dragons Most mind-boggling is this one posted last week and it’s already number three in terms of hits.
  9. The Arkham Horror Expansion Guide One of those wonderful moments of blogging came when I saw someone else recommending this post on Boardgamegeek.com. Ah, gratification.
  10. How to Make a Pamphlet Prop I really do intend to get back to making that Ghostbusters proper suitable for download. Honest.

Miskatonic 1957-58 Antarctic Expedition Props For Sale

Remnants of the Goat Island expedition.

Propnomicon tipped me off to a new opportunity for Miskatonic memorabilia hounds. The Goat Island Project uncovered a cache of field books and mission patches from Miskatonic University’s 1957-58 Antarctic expedition to Goat Island.

Ordering details for both patches and fieldbooks are at Diary of a Mad Natural Historian. Like most fan prop projects, the production run is probably a small one, so order yours now.

Physical Evidence

. . . there are few things louder or more terrifying than the shrieks of a 13-year old girl discovering a preserved Lovecraftian beastie chilling in the freezer. Trust me, I know.

Propnomicon, This Week’s Crass Commercialism


My heavily patched book bag.

Propnomicon is a blog devoted to sharing and crafting physical props based on the stories of the Cthulhu mythos. Posts share images from individuals’ projects constructing twisted idols and the classic “thing in a jar” from Miskatonic University’s archives, among other inventive crafts.

Also, and this is my favorite part, the author of Propnomicon goes beyond one-off projects. From time to time, limited runs of mythos-based props come up for sale. Consider, for example, this patch from Miskatonic University’s Antarctic expedition from At the Mountains of Madness, pictured to the right. That one’s sewn to my everyday book bag. The artist has also designed a patch for the Australian expedition from The Shadow Out of Time, as well as die-cut pins of both designs.

I love props like these, because they have the feeling of verisimilitude well beyond the more self-aware “Fightin’ Cephalopods” T-shirts. One time, a stranger asked me to tell him about “this Antarctic expedition,” which has to be the ultimate compliment for a propmaker.


Ready to contain all the Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know that you can scrawl in a frenzied hand.

As part of a recent prop package, now sadly sold out, along with a Miskatonic U. patch and pin, the artist offered M.U. field notebooks. What better props with which to take notes and sketch maps for your Call of Cthulhu game than something your character would have gotten from the supply cupboard of the science building — or picked off the body of a hapless researcher? I missed out on the package deal of patch, notebooks and a postcard, but I was able to snag a set of just the notebooks, which is what I really wanted in the first place.

They look just great, don’t they? I’m going to have to make myself actually write in them.

How to Make a Pamphlet Prop

A helpful pamphlet for any recruit new to the dynamic Ghostbusters International organization.

A helpful pamphlet for any recruit new to the dynamic Ghostbusters International organization.

One of the little things I did for The Lurker in the Limelight was create a short orientation brochure for new employees of Ghostbusters International. I used it as a way to get a laugh at the start of the game, help give the players some useful lingo and an idea of how a bust goes down.

A glossary and breakdown of the ghost classification system give them some lingo to throw around without feeling they’ve been spoon fed, plus they have something to refer back to. The meat of the piece, six and a half steps to finding and busting a ghost, not only give the players an idea of not only how the action will go down, but also the nature of their characters’ employer, through the cheesy corporate doubletalk, as well as some helpful game mechanics tips.

I ran across the idea of an explanatory pamphlet many moons ago, on RPG.net. Someone linked to a brochure they’d written for their Nobilis game, entitled “So You’ve Been Ennobled.” It was a quick primer introducing a newcomer to the Nobilis cosmos, in the guise of someone explaining how things work to a newly ennobled Power. It was also very clever, and I was taken by the idea.

Another game that would benefit from a prop like this would be Paranoia. There are already props like printable table tents to help troubleshooters identify team members like the leader, morale officer and hygiene officer. A “Welcome to Alpha Complex, Citizen!” pamphlet would be a hoot, as well as helping newcomers get past the barrage of lingo and newspeak that too often serves as a barrier to getting what’s fun about the game.

Making a pamphlet is easy with a little word processor fu. First I tried screwing around with premade tri-fold brochure templates for Open Office, but decided that they weren’t very good and not the worth the effort. Here’s the quick and dirty way: Continue reading

Toe Tags, Diplomas and Other Pieces of Evidence

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society is a group dedicated to the Cthulhu Lives live action roleplaying game — LARP for short — which itself is a thematic, if not direct, cousin of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, wherein investigators brush up against great and terrible beings with a frightening regularity. Their motto, Ludo Fore Putavimus, translates as “we thought it would be fun.”

Among the various resources the HPLHS offers to people interested in putting on LARPs are a number of PDFs of printable props. When outfitting oneself to take the role of an adjunct faculty member of Miskatonic University, you can go forth with Massachusetts driver’s license, Miskatonic Library card and the telegram from your reclusive Uncle Boris all in your hip pocket.

My particular favorite is the Miskatonic Library Conversion Kit. You can turn any book into a tome from the restricted collection. Snag some spine band-aids from your local public library for hardcore verisimilitude.

Even if you’re not a LARPer, a few well-placed props to pull out at the game table can do wonders. When the players come across the bloated corpse in the well, the first thing they’ll do, after choking down the bile, will be to check the poor soul’s wallet. Now you can throw one down on the table.

And this stuff isn’t good just for period Cthulhu games. Typewritten driver’s licenses and library cards will fit in anywhere from the late nineteenth century up to well into the 1980s, at least, depending on locale. (Until 2002, my own license was typewritten with no photo, albeit on a flexible piece of plastic.)