Games are more fun when you play with good toys, and we here at the HPLHS really like detailed props. We offer a complete prop collection in our online store: here we are happy to provide a sampling of 1920s/30s era gaming prop documents that you can download for free, customize and print. Whether you play live-action or around the table, these props will intensify your role-playing games.
The prop software in the HPLHS Collection is protected by copyright and remains the exclusive property of HPLHS Inc. The HPLHS Prop Documents are for entertainment purposes only. They are intended for personal use in role-playing games, and users are free to customize and print copies for such purposes. Any commercial or illegal use of the digital files or the props you can make with them is entirely prohibited.
PLEASE NOTE: The PDFs are meant to be opened in Adobe Acrobat, because when anyone tries to open them in Photoshop, Illustrator or other applications all kinds of font substitution and other things occur that tend to destroy the designs. Since there are many different computer platforms, operating systems and versions of applications, the only way to try to make sure the props look the way they’re supposed to for the largest number of people is to make them openable only in Acrobat, which can be downloaded for free. Many of the props can be customized from within Acrobat using form fields.
The PDFs are copyrighted by HPLHS Inc. and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, click this link, or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA.
This is a replica of an authentic Western Union telegram from the late 1920s through early 1960s. It needs a separate envelope, which we regret we cannot provide. Click the image at left to download the PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (The PDF includes form fields for typing your message.)
Detailed replicas of real vintage postcards from Providence, with views of the city at the time when Lovecraft lived there. He might have sent notes on postcards just like these! Choose from the list below to download the corresponding PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (Vintage postage stamps included!) PDFs range from 6 to 8 megabytes.
Van Wickle Gates of Brown University
H.P.Lovecraft is as famous in some circles for his prodigious correspondence as he is for his horror fiction. He was a man who knew the value of a postage stamp. In honor of HPL's spirit of epistolarianism, we've created a series of HPLHS "postage stamps" for you to download, print, and use on your own correspondence. NOTE: THESE ARE NOT VALID FOR U.S. POSTAGE. They are novelty items. Use them as postage on prop letters in your own live-action Cthulhu games, or decorate a letter to a Lovecraft fan. Clicking on the image will open up a 2-page PDF which you can download and print. Some stamps are color, some are black and white. We hope you enjoy them. Send us a postcard with one of the stamps!
Miskatonic University is the jumping-off point for many of HPL's stories and Cthulhu adventures. We're pleased to offer Miskatonic letterheads from various departments, including the Antarctic Expedition, with built-in vintage typewriter font for composing your letter. Click the image at right to download the PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (The page shown here is just one of several in the PDF.)
Characters who have paid with their sanity for the knowledge they've gained should have something to hang on the wall. Click the image at right to download the PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (The character info shown here is just an example: the prop itself is customizable.)
We offer other Miskatonic diplomas in our complete prop collection in the online store, including advanced degrees, and we also offer the Miskatonic University combo, which comes with a printed diploma and library card, student ID, course book, t-shirt, mug, and decals.
To fill out your investigator's wallet, this card might come in handy. It is created especially for this site. Click the image at left to download the PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (The character info shown here is just an example: the prop itself is customizable.)
A customized, printed version of this library card is included with the Miskatonic University Combo available in our online store.
Turn any book into a book from the stacks of Miskatonic University Library! The PDF is complete with a library pocket, three types of due date cards (both blank and pre-stamped) and various labels for the spine of your book. Just add a call number! Click the image at right to download the 4-page PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (2.5 MB) (The book info shown here is just an example: the prop itself is customizable, and includes a guide to the Dewey Decimal system.)
Handy for when the bodies start piling up, this prop is inspired by several original authentic documents, and created just for the site. It features a convenient tear-off mortician receipt to speed your way to the graveyard. Click the image at right to download the PDF with printing and finishing instructions.
This prop is a replica of the Treasury Department ID card of Eliot Ness. (Thanks to Greg Barrett for the suggestion and the research.) Click the image to download the PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (The character info and photo shown here are just for example: users must provide their own photo.)
This prop is a replica of the credentials issued to Special Agents of the U.S. Department of State. We don't know if that's a polite way of saying "spy", but they are authorized to make investigations for the federal government and that might come in handy! (Thanks to N.R. Jenzen-Jones for the suggestion and the research.) Click the image to download the PDF with printing and finishing instructions.
If you've paid for your knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos with your sanity, you might as well get a receipt. In response to requests from website visitors, we are pleased to provide these handsome documents you can use to certify yourself or your loved ones insane. One is from Sefton Asylum, which appears in Lovecraft's Herbert West tales. The other, more ornate certificate is from Arkham Asylum for the Insane. Both are fully customizable if you are using the most recent version of the Adobe Acrobat reader. Choose from the links below to download the corresponding PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (The character info shown is just an example: the prop itself is customizable.)
We also offer pre-printed and customized Insanity Certificates in our online store.
This prop is based on actual vintage death certificates. It is completely customizable and comes in a fancy version as shown here and a plain version that you can print on certificate paper. Click the image at left to download the PDF with printing and finishing instructions. (The character info shown here is just an example: the prop itself is customizable.)
From HPLHS Member Alastair McBeath comes a prop meant for use with Chaosium's Classic Call of Cthulhu® scenario "The Haunted House" (a.k.a. "The Corbitt House"), first published in the original rule book. Alastair had originally designed his own prop for this game that never got used, and when Chaosium re-released the classic scenarios, he was expecting to find this prop in our Classic Prop Set. But we failed to include it, so he has enthusiastically picked up the slack and done one for us all.
Alastair says: "What I've attempted is a single page from those church records, including the text from the scenario, of course, though now in an expanded format, and with rather more information regarding the cult, beyond anything to do with Walter Corbitt, than I'd envisaged at the outset. There is a pair of PDF files, each with the page and its accompanying transcript and notes, one formatted for A4 paper, the other for the US Letter paper size.
The overall size and look of the paper, and the way the text is written for the records page, was based on online-available genuine New England church records' page images from the early to mid 19th century, plus some of the notepaper props in various of the extant HPLHS sets. The font I chose finally was the completely-free-use "a Agreement Signature", which is a limited-character-set handwriting font that had a slightly spiky, uncomfortable-looking style that seemed suitable for someone plausibly an avatar of Nyarlathotep, the Rev. Michael Thomas, to have used.
In terms of the content of the page, the dates and nature of the events recorded was decided randomly, the latter from lists of possibilities prepared in advance. Some of the dates were adjusted to help cluster them around dates of the New Moon, and a few to avoid needing to use a "7", as the a Agreement Signature font provides only a "European"-style 7, with the horizontal bar through the upright leg. I also had to adjust away from using too many capital "J" month names, as for obscure reasons, when converted to PDF, part of the left-side of the basal loop of the "J" kept getting cut off when there was no character before it (and even then, a dot or hyphen often still allowed the problem to manifest). There is at least a plausible reason why June and July might be avoided for events connected with this cult, which I took as preferring darkness to operate their chapel practices, because of the relatively short midsummer nights at the latitude of Boston. Although I had prepared a full year's list of events, as not knowing how many might be needed once converted to the page size, font type and size finally selected, the last few were omitted, after the first item from November 8th. So we shall never know how the cult may have reacted to the advance-predicted Leonid meteor storm of 1866 November 13/14, which was very impressive over Europe, but more or less non-existent as seen a few hours later from New England.
Names for the people involved were based on random selections of first and last names and initials (sometimes expanded to what seemed suitably interesting or unusual, more-or-less period-suitable, versions) drawn from Boston property maps from the later 19th century. No complete names of actual people shown on those maps were used, however. Names for the ceremonies, and titles for some of the participant roles, were devised to seem suitably unusual and perhaps disturbing, much as can be found sometimes in genuine church records of the period. Their meanings here could be whatever might be preferred, of course. Should anyone be interested, there are 41 family names used, representing 79 individuals.
In terms of the key Corbitt entry, I assumed he would have been buried as soon as practical, given that the important city officials involved with the Chapel of Contemplation would doubtless have expedited matters, after forcing the dismissal of attempts to block the burial by Corbitt's former neighbours, even if the event itself at the house might have been done somewhat clandestinely, perhaps after dark. The choice of giving first names only by their initials in this entry was naturally quite deliberate, along with other quirks in the text overall, such as there being just three "Bearers" at the funeral and burial of Mrs. Dora Russett (April 18th).
Choose from the links below to download the corresponding PDF.
Our free prop and font downloads are provided under the terms of non-exclusive, non-transferable license agreements. By downloading and/or using the props/fonts, you indicate that you understand and agree to honor the terms and conditions of the relevant license. If you don't understand or agree with the terms, please don't downlaod or use the props/fonts. The prop PDFs are offered under the terms of the Creative Commons by-nc-sa license. The fonts have a different license, and you can view the complete terms here, but here's the gist of it.
As a person with a license, you have the right:
You do NOT have the right:
EXCEPTIONS: You can provide the prop/font software to a service bureau as needed for the output of your work, provided that the service bureau does not retain a copy of the software once the work is completed. You can embed the font software in works as needed, provided that the embedding is subset and encrypted to prevent extraction of the font software itself. No exception not specifically listed here is permitted, but feel free to write us with questions or requests.
NOTE TO PROFESSIONAL THEATRE / FILM PROPMASTERS: Professional licenses for the font/prop software are available. Please write us for more information.
On the endless and insane quest for authenticity, we have created more than 50 custom fonts to use in props. Typographical fashions change, and since the digital age overtook typesetting and graphic design, many of the fonts common in the time of Lovecraft have fallen into disuse. We've revived many of them from vintage sources, including the 1923 American Type Founder's specimen book and the Mergenthaler Linotype catalog from the mid-1930s. Many of these fonts have slightly rough edges or irregular shapes, to capture the feel of old lead type and bygone printing technologies. You might have seen some of our fonts on billboards, games, comic books, or packages at Trader Joe's!
We've chosen a few of the most useful and made special HPLHS versions which you can download here for free for personal use: just click on the panels below to see them. Please read the license terms before you download anything. You can also license the entire font collection in our online store. We are always updating and improving the fonts, and you can find some of the improved versions available individually at MyFonts.com and/or Font Bros.
HPLHS Oldstyle is a font revived and digitized from the Linotype catalog of the mid 1930s. There are three faces: regular, Italic and small caps. Click the image above to download the OpenType fonts. The free-download version is pretty basic, but there is a more detailed version called Coldstyle available from MyFonts.com.
HPLHS Telegram is a detailed replica of the type used on real Western Union telegrams in the 1920s and '30s. For a more complete set of telegram fonts including this font and others, check out Font Bros.
HPLHS-Headline One is a replica of real newspaper headline type. It has softly rounded corners like old lead type. You will find a more complete version called Toronto Gothic available here.
You won't need a lot of stuff apart from a computer and color printer to finish the props in the HPLHS prop document collection: a ruler, something to cut with, and a glue stick will be enough for many of them.
Pictured in the slideshow below are supplies that we use here at the HPLHS for making prop documents. You might already have some of these things around the house, but if not you might want to consider investing in them. These items can be purchased at a good art supply store, office supply store, and/or fabric or craft store. We often scout eBay for vintage office supplies and equipment to add to our kit.
If you are interested in props, be sure to check out Propnomicon for more fascinating images and ideas!
GLENDALE, Calif. - One of the most useful and most common prop documents is the newspaper clipping, but getting them to look right can be surprisingly difficult. Newspapers have changed a lot since the time of Lovecraft, when Providence, for example, had several published every day. Clippings are great to provide investigators with some vital clue, but when you hand a prop newspaper clipping with just one article to a player it's a dead giveaway that the information in the article is somehow important. It can be much more fun to provide a clipping which contains multiple articles, and leave it to the players to determine for themselves what might be relevant. It gives them a more realistic experience, and allows them the (often amusing) option of failure.
An important extra touch of verisimilitude can be added to prop newspaper clippings by having news on the back. Having a prop with printing on both sides, as though it had been clipped from an actual newspaper, intensifies the gaming experience.
To help you prepare richer, more realistic prop newspaper clippings, we've assembled a kit of photos, vintage ads and articles, and some prefabricated generic back sides that you can download. The articles have been transcribed directly from vintage newspapers, with spelling, capitalization and punctuation left just as it was published, to serve as a model for writing vintage-sounding news stories of your own. Some details in some articles have been added or altered slightly in order to give them a whiff of Lovecraftian mystery, which might lead to interesting gaming all by itself.
Click on the image below to download the 20MB zip archive. We have matching newspaper headline fonts available above, and you can find a font meant just for vintage newspaper text here.
We print newspaper clippings on actual newsprint, which is available in the form of sketch or doodle pads, usually for children, at many office and art supply stores. Those pads are usually 9 x 12, so you have to trim them down to letter size to fit them through most home printers. Some printers don't like newsprint and it can cause jamming, so use it with some caution.
You can usually find copies of old newspapers on microfilm at your local library, and it can be fascinating to read them. But if you don't want to leave the house you can see examples of what real vintage newspapers look like online. Check out the Library of Congress' Chronicling America site, or Google's News Archive.
Although Adobe's PDF is excellent for making customizable prop documents of many kinds, it's not usually ideal for newspaper clippings. Because headlines and articles are of infinitely differing lengths, a one-size-fits all PDF solution is very challenging. Nevertheless, our fearless and intrepid friend (and HPLHS member) Dean Engelhardt at Cthulhu Reborn has created a suite of PDFs called "Mutable Deceptions" just for doing vintage newspapers, and you should check it out at rpgnow.
The Cthulhu Reborn site has a lot of really amazing prop documents and scenarios available, and if you haven't looked at it you should go there. They offer a lot of great free downloads of prop documents, game scenarios, character sheets, articles and more, all presented in enviable style.