Friday, September 14, 2012

Carcosa

A while back (like two months) I promised a review of Carcosa. Wait, let me start over. It's been two months since I posted anything, and in that time I've bought a lot of new rpg stuff, so I figured I'd do some short reviews the next couple days. And also, I finally read Carcosa cover to cover the other night and can make an accurate assessment.

First of all, I am outraged. Outraged I considered not buying this for whatever reason. See, ladies and gents, this is why you get drunk and act impulsively from time to time: so you wake up one morn and discover a book you don't remember, peruse it, and become enlightened.

Carcosa isn't groundbreaking. Not in the sense of, "Wow, this is new and exciting!" No, in fact, it's a homage to all the pulp science-fantasy that came before it. The author has gone to great lengths to throw in every sort of pulp influence he could think of. The difference between Carcosa and some other works I shan't mention is simply quality. This is a quality book in all ways. The writing is excellent, the production values are superb and you get a real sense of what a fucked up place the planet Carcosa is within a page or two, but never feel like there's some overarching plot that needs to direct your game.

There IS a plot of sorts, but it's nothing more than, "Everything is trying to kill you." And I do mean everything. Cthulhu and his minions live there. That's enough, right? What about all the space aliens and eldritch horrors lurking in the shadows? Dump in a multitude of races hellbent on using each other as human sacrifices to summon said horrors and bind them to service. This isn't a setting meant for playing with your kids, this is dirty, dirty fucked up pulp that leaves you feeling disturbed.

You can easily use Carcosa in a D&D-like game. In fact, it's pretty obvious that's what it's for, and specifically mentions it was designed for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I can see that. However, there are some mechanics included that are rather interesting, namely rolling on a chart to see what dice you roll. For instance, you hit with a dagger. It doesn't do 1d4 damage 100% of the time. No. Instead, it might do 1d8, 1d6, whatever. And this works for everything. The villager with a pitchfork might be a real badass one round to the next. Throw in the idea that hit points are rolled every encounter, using the same method, and it's possible a high level character ends up rolling a couple d4s for hit points while the villagers are using d12s. The randomness creates an entirely new sort of tension due to the uncertainty of combat. Good luck with your powergaming goals 2012 on Planet Carcosa.

Basically, if you like D&D in the way it was initially intended to be played, Carcosa fits in perfectly.

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