Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sofia Hotel Sticker

Size this to be about 4 7/8 by 3 1/2 inches, and print it on a sticker.  Cut out and pass it to your players when they're staying in Sofia.

The Balkan Grand Hotel in Sofia is a high-end luxury hotel.  Today its operated by the Sheraton chain.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to make molds for polymer coin projects (Illigor Ithaqua Medallion!)

At one point in the campaign, theres a side plot to recover the Illigor's Ithaqua medallion, and Chaosium had a Ithaqua medallion as part of the Horror on the Orient Express kickstarter.  Unfortunately, at the time, I couldn't afford to get one and the other things I wanted.

Kinda didn't realize how much I'd end up wanting one.

So, I've been looking for a how-to, so I could try to make my own.  A couple days ago, over at Propnomicon, there was an awesome link on How to make molds for polymer coin projects.

As soon as I have some free time, I'll be making an Ithaqua Medallion - maybe you want to do the same and post your results?

As a side note, i know its already sold out, but...  Cryptocurium had a one-of-a-kind Ithaqua voodoo doll, and a creative keeper who doesn't want to make a medallion/coin might want to try something more unique, like a Ithaqua fetish, and simply adjust the scenario a little bit for the change.

EDIT: The same day that I posted this, Chaosium posted this update, and they show a picture of the "official" Illigor Ithaqua Medallion, and now I'm kicking myself in the butt even more for not getting one.  *sigh*

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Milan Hotel Stickers

Resize and print these on sticker-labels so your players can show off where they've been.  Or so they have a clue where others have been staying so they can do some investigating

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Fez says everything you need to know about a man

“In Bulgaria you still see the local Turkish peasants working in the fields in the Turkish traditional costume – the red fez with the embroidered yellow scarf wound round it – and it is curious, when you enter Turkey, to see this familiar figure of the Turk, as you know him, suddenly disappear from the landscape.”

Arnold Toynbee; A Journey to China, or Things Which Are Seen, 1931

Like the burqa, the fez is associated with Islam and they are found spread across the globe from Morocco to Indonesia anywhere Islam is found.  I tend to identify it most with Ottoman Turkey, Egypt and particularly with "pulp adventure" (or Shriners driving little cars around in parades).

As far as Hollywood was concerned, the fez came to represent the middle east. Men wearing them in the films were sinister yet elegant.  The man in the fez was the one who knew the secrets (Example: Kazim from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade").  Most of them were on the wrong side of the hero, or the law, and its often seen being worn by swarthy Middle Eastern types who don't need character development; a simple fez says everything you need to know about them.

I went to my local haberdasher, and bought a Fez, that way when my players are dealing with "Sinister Middle Eastern Types", I can put on the hat an really get myself into things.  I'm half tempted to pick up a couple different stick-on mustaches so I can change acts at a moments notice with a quick change of mustaches, angles the fez is worn at, and voice.  Plus, as Dr Who taught us all, "Fezzes are Cool"

I have no clue in the world who this guy is but he looks, 
to me, like the sort of guy who knows a few secrets

Sallah knows everything important; like how to borrow a car,
and that camels will be good to pay the brother in law off, if the car gets blown up....

And of course Kazim; the swarthy middle eastern type who knows secrets,
has secrets wrapped up in other secrets, and is mysterious, elegant, tough, and.....
....he was a good guy, even though he tried to kill Indy.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

it takes a stamp to mail a letter

You might want to 'write a letter' to the players and have it posted to them, care of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, Orient Express.  But if you do that, you have to put a stamp on the envelope, right?

Heres a stamp.  Size it appropriately, maybe put a couple on there for 'international purposes'.  *shrugs*

Friday, June 21, 2013

Daily life in Sofia Bulgaria

Just day to day life in the city

The Priests at the Orthodox Churches Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, are looking after your characters souls.  Although who knows how many of those priests have been secretly replaced by members of the Brotherhood of the Skin.....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

London Maps

What follows are a ton of maps of London and surrounding neighborhoods.

Suggestion: find the one (ones) that your need, and print them out on 11x17 paper at your local print shop, and tuck them into a folder.  maybe get them laminated and put them into a 3-ring binder for future reference.

As a side note, this is my 100th blog post!  celebrate!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

I was looking through my battered old copy of Horror on the Orient Express, working on my preps, when I had an idea.  A couple weeks ago, in the All the News thats fit to print in the Newspaper blog entry, we took a look at old newspapers of the world. (Thank you "DCE"!)

There are a couple handouts that are newspaper articles; and I thought, "wouldn't it be nicer to hand the players an 'entire newspaper', and let them find the clues, instead of just handing them the relevant articles after a successful die roll?"

with that in mind, here you go:

These "newspapers" are intended to be printed on 11.5 x 17 inch paper.
Also, I confess, I shamelessly plundered the Glasgow Herald for filler.

Friday, June 14, 2013

I thought you wanted real money? You dont? Here.... lemme write you a cheque....

To finish out a week of printable props, a cheque book.

Since we were looking at the British Banking System a few days ago.... why don't I give you Bank of London chequebook to print out and make.  This should make it easier on players and keepers who don't want to keep a whole lot of 'money' on hand, but do want to keep track of how much their characters have spent over the course of the campaign (especially for large purchases).

As a side note, I'd like to recommend The HPLHS Prop Documents CD-ROM.  They have an excellent printable Arkham Bank Checkbook and various Arkham Bank paperwork (along with a host of other props).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Say what you like about Mussolini; he made the trains run on time.

This is a week of printable props, eh!

Today: two different ways to make a train schedule.

1) print this .PDF Printable Schedule out on a "Legal" sized sheet of paper, trim the excess and give it to your players as a handout  (then trim the excess and give it to your players as a handout).

2) decompress the .ZIP Train Schedule Folder, and adjust the times/locations to fit your needs, then print it out on an "Legal" sized of paper (then trim the excess and give it to your players as a handout).

In making this prop/handout, I started with this 1939 schedule as an example.  I'll admit, I pretty much just copied it.
I modified some of the locations to better fit with my view of the Horror on the Orient Express Campaign, and left other destinations intact, to show some of the alternative destinations that players could elect to visit for whatever reason. Some of the locations I just plain and simply couldn't read, so I used my best guess and a healthy dose of Google to try to figure it out.

Now why is this schedule interesting and worthy of your attention?

The last time I played Horror on the Orient Express was the mid 1990s, and I was a player.  The keeper didn't want to deal with the issues of time keeping, so the train was always just there waiting for us to board.  For that group, it worked.

For my campaign, I’m planning on assuming that the players bring their belongings with them when they exit the train, and I’ll have a clock on hand that I can adjust the time easily on to show the players what time it is in the game so they have to plan to make it back to the train.  Perhaps they’re being pursued by cultists and the trains not due for another couple hours so they cant just disappear onto the train with a wave and a cat call of "au revoir...." as cultists shake their fists at the rapidly departing players, instead they have to play a cat-and-mouse game of hide and go seek in a town that the cultists are intimately familiar with…. Or perhaps they’re hiding from cultists on one side of town, and the trains just about to leave on the other side of town….  The tension of watching the clock tick.

Oh, and that bit about Mussolini and the trains....  
....Snopes says its a bunch of hooey

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Currency Exchange Rate Chart

Continuing the theme of Money and Money-related posts, I was working on a cheat sheet last night so I'll be able to reference exchange rates easily.  While I was doing that, I started thinking, "Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits deals with a number of different governments daily.  Their trains cross international borders with relative ease constantly, and their passengers are going to need and expect certain services, such as being able to engage in currency exchange"

With that in mind, I started thinking about what I could put together that would help other Keepers, and Players - how about a cheat sheet that "looks good/thematic.  The kind of thing that a Keeper could have posted as a 'player handout', and use at the same time"?

I used the previously referenced Guttags Foreign Currency and Exchange Guide to try to figure out the exchange rates.  In most instances, I rounded it off to the nearest for easy calculation.  I think I figured it generally right.... anyway.  I used the guide to make this cheat sheet/poster.

Print it off on an 11"x17" sheet of paper or card stock.  Laminate if needed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Some thoughts on the British Banking System

While trying to come up with some printable British pound notes (and researching the British monetary system in general), I found the following article in Chaosiums “Kingdom of the Blind (Also Available as a PDF).  I can’t recommend this book enough, especially for people who don’t live in the UK (such as me).  As Horror on the Orient Express begins and ends in England, it just makes sense that a keeper needs to do some research to create the best world possible, and this book is marvelous in that capacity.

Though it is considered a rich nation, in the United Kingdom the inflations of the 1920s caused by the war and later, the return to the gold standard (which overvalued the pound sterling internationally), meant the average Britons income was something less than that of their American cousins.  While resulting in fewer of the frivolities and entertainments afforded those living in the United States, contrary to belief it was hard to starve in the UK - even if most things grew more expensive, food got steadily cheaper.
Of particular concern to modern players (and non-British investigators) is the UK's money system.  Considering the metric system an alien curio, the British Isles sticks with its pounds sterling, divided into Pounds, Shillings and Pence (written as £/S/D or spoken aloud as LSD).
20 shillings make one pound, and 12 pence make a shilling, resulting in 240 pennies to the pound.  Prices were written in numerous ways, but most commonly as £8/4/- (eight pounds and four shillings), or "2/6" (two shillings and six pence), for example.
Halfpenny (ha’penny)
½ D
Three-penny bit/thruppence
Shilling (Bob)
Two shillings (Florin)

Each coin featured the head of the monarch on one side, and Britannia on the obverse (although a number of coins broke this convention).  Unlike the others, which were made of copper alloys, the Sovereign was made of gold, and though meant to adhere to the gold standard (£1=$4.8) it was actually worth quite a bit more than its legal tender.  Note too that there is no Guinea coin: instead it’s a name for £1/1/- and often used for expensive items like pianos, horses and sometimes houses or rented accommodations.
Ten shilling note (introduced in 1928)
One pound note (introduced in 1928)
Five pound note
Ten pound note

Notes (bills in US English) were black and white and only printed on one side, at least up until the introduction of the double-sided colour notes in 1928.  This year also saw the introduction of the 10/- and £1 notes.  Anything larger than a £1 note is unlikely to be tended (or get change) and even if taken, users may be asked to sign the back.  Within the banking system notes up to a million pounds were circulated, but these weren’t released for public use.  While the Bank of England has the monopoly on notes in England and Wales, prior to 1921, the Somerset bank “Fox, Fowler and Company” were entitled to print their own money under a quirk of historical law.  These were technically still legal tender until used and some may have remained uncashed well into the 1930s.

Now, industrious keepers (or players) might want to download this .zip file, and use it to make some coins and notes.  Use your favourite photo manipulation software to resize the images to suit your purposes (while remaining within the bounds of the laws that bind you), then print them out and glue the coin images to some steel washers available from your local DIY store (Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, etc).  It would probably be smart to use coloured paper, and size things in such a way that no-one can ever accuse you of counterfeiting.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Yugoslavian Dinar and Exchange Rates

A while back, we looked at Exchange Rates.  Today I'm looking at the Yugoslavian Dinar, and because of that, understanding exchange rates is important.

Until 1918, the dinar was the currency of Serbia.  It then became the currency of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, circulating alongside the krone in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 1 dinar = 4 kronen.  The first coins and banknotes bearing the name of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were issued in 1920, until which time Serbian coins and banknotes circulated.  In 1929, the name of the country changed to Yugoslavia and this was reflected on the currency.

In my campaign, I've been planning on using an exchange rate of about $4.8/$5 for each £1 (based on info found in Guttags Foreign Currency and Exchange Guide - screen shots below for convenience).

Based on this information,  $4.8 for each £1 (I'm rounding it to $5 = £1 for simplicity),  
5дин is worth about $1, so 25дин is worth about £1

In my quest to bring the Horror on the Orient Express campaign to life, heres Printable Yugoslavian/Serbian Dinars.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A train crossing a bridge

Found this over on Shorpy, and while its an American train, in the 1940s..... I think it makes a really neat stand-in for the Orient Express crossing a river somewhere.

January 1943. "Freight operations on the Chicago & North Western R.R. between Chicago and Clinton, Iowa. 
The train crosses a long steel bridge." Medium-format negative by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Coz' every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man....

Clean shirt, new shoes, And I don't know where I am goin' to.
Silk suit,black tie, I don't need a reason why.
They come runnin' just as fast as they can
Coz' every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

ZZ Top had it right when they sang "Sharp Dressed Man".  The Art Deco Society has a pretty good article about mens fashion in the 1920s in their "How to Gastby" article.  I've taken the liberty of reposting the following image about mens suits (the articles really worth reading).

Sacque Suits were common and considered to be appropriate day dress for all men. The suits that had been worn before this time were big, broad-shouldered suits and since men were striving for the more youthful look, they began wearing suits that were skinnier and did not have padded shoulders. The suit pants also went through a change too. Creases became a big thing, they were found on the front of pants. Another thing added to pants were cuffs and they drew more attention to their shoes. Both of these things were added to pants to give off a sharper look. Belts were also becoming popular to wear with pants, instead of wearing suspenders. The belts were said to be "waist-slimming."

Putty, peach, blue-gray, and cedar were usually the color of shirts that were worn with sacque suits. Also worn with them, were silk ties. These ties usually had diagonal stripes on them or had different geometric patterns. Tie pins and black bowler hats also accompanied these outfits.

Sacque Suits

A Norfolk jacket is a loose, belted, single-breasted jacket with box pleats on the back and front, with a belt or half-belt.  The style was long popular for boys' jackets and suits, and is still used in some (primarily military and police) uniforms.  It was originally designed as a shooting coat that did not bind when the elbow was raised to fire.  It was named either after the Duke of Norfolk or after the county of Norfolk and was made fashionable after the 1860s in the sporting circle of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, whose country residence was Sandringham House in Norfolk.

A gentleman wearing a Norfolk Jacket