HOWTO typeset Call of Cthulhu spells to make them look like the scrawlings of a gibbering madman

Gnat sez, "The only thing cuter than this Game Master asking TeX gurus for help making his RPG notes 'look like they were scrawled by a gibbering madman, unhinged by the horrors he has witnessed' is the serious responses, with examples of output. He even got an answer saying how to typeset an Elder Sign! Truly, there is nothing more awesome than typesetting geeks helping gaming geeks."

I want to type up some spells from the RPG Call of Cthulhu and give them to my players. I could just type them up in Word or LaTeX, but that seems too....neat. I'd like to make these things look like they were scrawled by a gibbering madman, unhinged by the horrors he has witnessed. Bonus points if you can add any traces of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.

Less poetically: Typefaces to make it look scrawled or handwritten, preferably with a quill or calligraphy pen. Ways to make the word spacing less regular (Abuse microtype in some way?) and ways to put in drop caps are the kind of things I'm looking for.

Bonus points if you can tell me how to typeset an elder sign.

How do I make my document look like it was written by an Cthulhu worshipping madman? (Thanks, Gnat!)



  1. I can totally understand his desire for appropriate ‘props’ for his RP game – the effect they can have in the game can be surprising.  As a former DM, I once for kicks actually wrote out ‘Abandon all Hope, Ye Who Enter Here’ using a Xmas calligraphy set (probably the only time it was ever used) on a piece of letter grade paper and then ‘ aged’ it using a lighter, making it yellow and singing the corners.   This was mean to be presented at the beginning to a whole new adventure area, a sort of Monty Python gag.   But lo and behold, the presentation of an the paper at the entrance so affected the party members that they all immediately decided to turn back, leaving the DM to scramble to figure out a way to get them to go back in as no other areas were prepared for that night. 

  2. Can the right answer please be “write it by hand”! Maybe after drinking too much coffee and staying up too late.

    1. Printing with your “off” hand is probably effective. With a fountain pen you can flick those nice Ralph Steadman style ink splashes as accent.

    2. Can the right answer please be “write it by hand”!

      If you use brain pus instead of ink and do it on non-euclidean paper.

      1. rolling your own stochastic font grammar/generator/editor/renderer would be a serious undertaking. by stochastic, i mean that every single character is randomized… that’s what it would take to do this right.

    3. I would recommend actually BECOMING a Cthulhu worshipping madman! 
      Just chant: PH’NGUI MGLW’NAFH CTHULHU R’LYEH WGAH’NAGL FHTAGN and you will be sublime. 

  3. “I am a Cthulhu worshiping gibbering madman, unhinged by the horrors I have wittnessed.”

    It’s the new Ipsum Lorem!

    1. Yeah, I’m afraid that my handwriting is a bit more unhinged. But maybe just imagine that it took the gibbering madman three days to print that… using a ruler.

      1. I googled “gibbering madman with a ruler” and this is what I got…

        Just look at it!

  4. This is silly. There are literally a shoggoth worth of sites online dedication to recreating the Cthulhu Mythos in the real world. The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Preservation society and Propnomicon come instantly to mind. He doesn’t need a font for a madman, he needs stronger google-fu.

    1. I envy him his innocence, Mark. There are things Man was not meant to know. If we could but correlate all that Google contains we would be driven mad — it is a blessing we have not that capacity lest the world be rendered into a blasted heath under a rubicund, shivering sun! Tread not those paths; stick to Comic Sans and count your blessings! Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat With a Thousand Young!

  5. Use a handwriting font with alternate forms for individual letters, so they don’t look identical when they occur next to each other (pp, rr, oo, etc.) An OpenType font with contextual alternates might be the simplest way to go. 

  6. I did this one using Kenn Munk’s Aether font: — it did indeed take well under five minutes in LaTeX, which is why it’s worth learning :-) The .tex file is in the same directory.
    I have emailed KM to ask for permission to make the LaTeX setup for the font available (his site provides it in TTF, which is fine if you run XeTeX, but many people don’t).

  7. It does not look like a madman note until it’s written from start to end. No borders, no paragraphs. Avoid punctuation and use extremely long sentences. Try to fill the whole page. Write vertically, up or down where you run out of horizontal space. All caps and multiple font colors for an extra bonus! Trust me, I’ve seen some madman letters.

Comments are closed.