[RPG]: Carcosa, reviewed by JimJim (4/2)

JimJim

The Dog-faced Boy
Validated User
#11
What we end up with are dinosaur-riding sorcerous cavemen exploring ancient ruins and pursuing the Greys for their nifty rocket launchers while being pursued in turn by Nyarlathotep and some undead mummies.

Why? Fuck you, that's why.


Snagged for the ad campaign.
Not exactly my intention, but I'll take my kudos where I can get them. ;)

Setting aside the taste question - either you think the Cavemen Dinosaur-Riders with Rockets are cool or you don't and one isn't right and the other wrong - I think the review does the product a disservice by substituting snark and preferences for any kind of objective (or even objective-seeming) review). Much like the Caveman-thing, some gamers like a broad-strokes setting, such as Carcosa, that doesn't tell you who the Space Aliens are, and other gamers don't. Fine; great. The review could tell me it's the former without also implying that I am foolish for liking that kind of thing.
And that was certainly not my intention. At the end of the day, any review -- and this one is no exception -- is largely (almost wholly) subjective. Personally, I've never cared for Rifts, I got tired of Exalted's all-gonzo-all-the-time, and I never had a real hankering to play Synnabar. Kitchen-sink settings like those never turned me on, but I do understand that they work for a lot of people (with, perhaps, the exception of Synnabar). I do find it a little odd that, when it's SenZar, it's laughable, and when it's a retro-clone, it's "noble and pure of intent," but honestly, that's probably another conversation for another time. What I would say about this review is, frankly, don't take my word for it. Feel free to pay the cost of admission, and decide for yourself if it's to your liking or not.

I will say, as a final thought, that I just don't think that Carcosa is a very "LotFP" product.

"Let the scenario and the setting and the situation decide what monster would be appropriate ... don’t pull one out simply for the sake of filling out Room 5b on a map. Players can tell when something is inspired and when something is included 'just because.'" LotFP Referee's Book, pg. 48 (Grindhouse Edition)

"All magic items are artifacts, unique items of great power, and not mere tools or trinkets or armaments ... Magic items should never be placed 'just because,' and magic items should never be treated as standard elements to a game ... Most magic items have no obvious combat or adventuring function, and many will not be portable." LotFP Referee's Book, pg. 56 (Grindhouse Edition) (Substitute "magic" for "Space Alien technology.")

"Strange ideas, perhaps inspired by a movie or odd item in the news, demand to be included in the game ... (S)acrificing the integrity of a
campaign for the sake of a passing fancy is not worth it. Many campaigns have been tanked as a result of, 'I have a great idea!' Whenever you have an idea that you want to put in the game that at first seems out of sorts, just ask yourself 'Why?' Not in real world terms, but in game world terms. 'Why is this here? Why is this happening? Why? Why? Why?'"
LotFP Referee's Book, pg. 66-67 (Grindhouse Edition)

Why indeed.

I'll reiterate something that I mentioned at the beginning of my review: I really like Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I like it because, to me, it makes sense, not only in terms of "fixing" some of the weird rules of B/X, but in terms of paring out the randomness that I've never liked in earlier editions of D&D: random encounter tables, random treasure tables, wandering at random through a hex map, and facing the random stuff that pops up in each hex. I read through LotFP and thought to myself "Nice! Someone's recast the rules-light, DIY-friendly B/X as a storytelling engine, rather than as a collection of random tables to be hacked through."

Carcosa does a complete 180 on that vibe.

I don't understand why Raggi decided to publish Carcosa as a LotFP supplement (though if I had to wager a guess, I'd say it was for the shock value; it seems the sort of thing that the editor of a Scandinavian Heavy Metal magazine might do...). But in doing so, I honestly believe that he undercut a number of the ideas that make LotFP a superior B/X clone.

As always, your mileage may vary.
 
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JimLotFP

New member
Banned
#12
I don't see Carcosa as specifically for LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, just like Vornheim isn't for it either. Neither has a vibe I'd put in my own work, but beating the idiosyncrasies out of the authors would defeat the whole point. They're not writing for me, I'm releasing their work. The creator is the boss, not the publisher.

Hell, the LotFP rules say "the adventure is out there," meaning not in civilization, yet when Zak approached me with a number of possible projects I wanted the city supplement, because it was different from what I would or could do.

Carcosa is its own thing.

That said, I don't even see Carcosa as a wild gonzo nonsense... it's easy shorthand to present it as such (like on the website background) but I think the whole thing is pretty tight as far as feeling like a real place. A very strange and hostile and alien place, absolutely, but there isn't anything on Carcosa that seems out-of-place weird in relation to the rest of the setting. I have a rough idea about the history of the setting and why things are set up as they are, and that's all from material that's in the book. It isn't spelled out plainly, because that part of the setting is pretty much irrelevant for playing in the setting. Characters can't know it so players really don't need to know any of it to play in the setting, and I don't think plainly set out "this is the logic of the setting" bits would enrich a Referee's running of the setting.

The things that do stick out are admittedly the dice conventions (which I'm not really sure that anyone besides Geoffrey ever used, but it's 2% of the book and it informs some of his assumptions about the place- the "yes, you're supposed to be able to fight Cthulhu and can win if you're prepared and lucky" factor.

There were discussions early on for this edition to eliminate the Sorcerer as a separate class, but Geoffrey didn't like the idea. The rituals are horrible to both player and character, and the idea that only a certain type of character can do those things adds menace and weight to those characters. And the more general paranoid "anyone can do this, everyone is a potential threat to rape and kill our people to interact with those things" would I think detract from the "Carcosa is a place of action" desired atmosphere. The setting as presented is not exactly a place of subtle intrigue.
 

jrients

Order of the d30
Validated User
#13
I don't find SenZar laughable at all. It was probably the best entry in the field of RPGs dedicated to kicking ass and taking names before the release of D&D 3E.
 

Lizard

Global Village Grouch
Validated User
#14
I don't find SenZar laughable at all. It was probably the best entry in the field of RPGs dedicated to kicking ass and taking names before the release of D&D 3E.
SenZar may have earned an undeserved reputation because of the behavior of its creators on USENET.
 

joewolz

Just Some Dude
Validated User
#15
I really like Carcosa. I plan on using it in a C&C game as a dark plane to which PCs chase a sorceror and see what his version of their world will be. Plus, I can see aliens abducting and dropping PCs off in Carcosa for thei own, largely opaque, ends. Sort of like the story dolm, jale, and ulfire come from.
 

The Fiendish Dr. Samsara

The elegant assassin
Validated User
#16
And that was certainly not my intention.
Alright; it felt that way to me. I think you maybe over-stated things for effect.

At the end of the day, any review -- and this one is no exception -- is largely (almost wholly) subjective.
Yes and no, but it's a tricky thing and maybe I shouldn't derail on this point.

I will say, as a final thought, that I just don't think that Carcosa is a very "LotFP" product.
See, that strikes me as a much better way to put it. And, helpful to me because I have opposite tastes: I really like Carcosa (with some mechanical exceptions), but I'm not crazy about LotFP or Jim's adventures (it's nothing personal; just not my style).

JimLotFP said:
The rituals are horrible to both player and character, and the idea that only a certain type of character can do those things adds menace and weight to those characters. And the more general paranoid "anyone can do this, everyone is a potential threat to rape and kill our people to interact with those things" would I think detract from the "Carcosa is a place of action" desired atmosphere. The setting as presented is not exactly a place of subtle intrigue.
Man, I could not agree less with any of that. But vive la difference and all that.
 
#17
Just a note on why I prefer Sorcerers as their own character class:

I imagine Sorcerers as men who had to spend 10+ years learning the intricacies of the esoteric language of the lost Snake-Men, and twisting their minds in such a way as to be able to comprehend and effectively perform sorcerous rituals. (Consequently, I can't imagine any Sorcerers under the age of 30.) Being able to do this is a lifetime commitment. There are no dilettante Sorcerers. Nobody could ever say, "I'm not a Sorcerer, but I'm going to spend the weekend learning how to conjure and bind the Inexpressible Presence of Night."

Of course, that's only me. There is no Official Carcosa. There is only YOUR Carcosa. It would be a simple matter to drop the Sorcerer class and rule that anyone can potentially learn sorcerous rituals. :D
 

Lizard

Global Village Grouch
Validated User
#18
Just a note on why I prefer Sorcerers as their own character class:

I imagine Sorcerers as men who had to spend 10+ years learning the intricacies of the esoteric language of the lost Snake-Men, and twisting their minds in such a way as to be able to comprehend and effectively perform sorcerous rituals. (Consequently, I can't imagine any Sorcerers under the age of 30.) Being able to do this is a lifetime commitment. There are no dilettante Sorcerers. Nobody could ever say, "I'm not a Sorcerer, but I'm going to spend the weekend learning how to conjure and bind the Inexpressible Presence of Night."

Of course, that's only me. There is no Official Carcosa. There is only YOUR Carcosa. It would be a simple matter to drop the Sorcerer class and rule that anyone can potentially learn sorcerous rituals. :D
While I'm not familiar with this version of Carcosa, in the "Supplement V" version, it seemed there was absolutely no reason to NOT be a Sorcerer, as they could do everything fighters could do AND sacrifice virgin kitten to Cthulhu, if they felt like it.

In D&D terms, it would be like saying "Magic-users can wear all types of armor, wield all types of weapons, get D10 hit points, and use the Fighter attack chart. Or, you can play a fighter, who is just like a magic user except he can't cast spells."
 
#19
Hello, Lizard!

For myself, I'm not concerned about making sure that each character class is as powerful as any other. The players in my group don't ask themselves, "Which is the most powerful character class? I'm only going to play the most powerful one!" Instead, we play whatever we're in the mood to play. For example, we've had players play Hobbits in 1974 D&D, even though they are limited to 4th level! Why? Simply because those players at those times were in the mood to play Hobbits. The fact that their characters were relatively weak wasn't an issue.

That said, there are three advantages that Fighters have over Sorcerers in Carcosa:

1. Sorcerers require more experience points than do Fighters to go up in level.

2. Sorcery itself is a two-edged sword. Every single time a Sorcerer performs a ritual (other than rituals of banishing), he has to make a saving throw vs. magic or age 1 to 5 years. Sorcerers of levels 1 through 5 have to roll a 14 or higher to save vs. magic, so they basically have a 2 in 3 chance of aging each time they perform a ritual!

3. Further, entities get saving throws against any sort of ritual (other than those of conjuration). If the entity makes its saving throw, the poor Sorcerer is in deep trouble.

Thus, most of the time a Sorcerer performs a ritual, the dice gods have to be kind TWICE or something bad (perhaps fatal) will happen to the Sorcerer. In my own Carcosa games, I don't remember any Sorcerer attaining higher than 5th or 6th level before losing his life. Sorcery is dangerous stuff. "Why would anyone not choose to be a Sorcerer?" For the same reasons one might choose to not even touch the Hand or Eye of Vecna.

Personally, if I wanted to power-game Carcosa, I'd roll a Fighter and devote myself to acquiring Space Alien high-tech (and perhaps even a small robot army!). That's really the only way to have a decent chance of becoming a powerful high-level character on Carcosa.

All my best. :D
 
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venusboys3

wearer of socks
Validated User
#20
Reading through this thread just has me wanting the book all the more. It's not a positive review but it tells me what I need to know to know I need to have that book.
 
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