Today I bring you the review of the Carcosa supplement, written by Geoffrey McKinney in its Lamentations of the Flame Princess edition.
Carcosa it’s conceived as a campaign setting for an adult public and with an uncommon style because places us in a truly alien environment, in the planet of the same name, at 153 light years from Earth, in the Hyades star cluster, were a great number of creatures belonging to Lovecraft works and related writers roam freely and there’s a mankind product of Snake-Men genetic tampering composed by 13 distinct color races battling among them (a nod to Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom?) and Mythos creatures; and there’s also the arrival of alien travellers similar to the ones appearing in 50’s pulp comic books with a really advanced technology also usable by humans.
Inside the supplement we will find the following contents:
A new form of using Hit Dice during combats, because instead of calculating Hit Points for every level this will vary randomly, taking as a base from 4-sided dice (D4) to 12-sided dice (D12), also applicable to weapons and creature damage. It could seem a bit strange, but sometimes characters could have the chance of heroically confronting Mythos creatures with some degree of success (if you think it’s a lot of work you could also use generate the rolls before the starting of the gaming session and use them when opportunity arises).
A new character class, the Carcosan Sorcerer, specialized in using rituals to contact, control and banish cthulhoid creatures. Chaotic sorcerers treating with these creatures can do really horrible and unspeakable acts to achieve their goals (with the added danger that this creatures can attack them if the ritual execution is not correct), so it can be advisable to make them Non Player Characters.
An easy set of rules for psychic powers using (with an equal random manner as Hit Dice are used in combat).
A thorough description of technology by aliens, Great Race of Yith and Primordials (these last ones much more dangerous if used by humans and not without secondary effects in case something goes wrong…).
An extended list of rituals related to Mythos creatures that, as I explained before, could be very unspeakable (but in the case of banishment rituals characters not have to perform unutterable acts).
A description of creatures inhabiting Carcosa, both those with origins in the work of Lovecraft as are McKinney's own invention, like God of the Primal Void or the Violet Mist, or the mutated versions of our prehistoric animals (dinosaurs) or today’s common ones (as ants converted to giant ones).
A short list of the 400 hexagons of the map of Carcosa with a pair of encounters for each hexagon. The encounter descriptions range from the more short ones (the number of creatures encountered in a selected moment) to the more elaborated (the description of mysterious ruined cities and the secrets inside for instance), but there aren’t the only things the characters can discover, the referee is free to make changes and additions as he sees fit.
The adventure Fungoid gardens of the Bone Sorcerer, it can be used as an initial adventure in a Carcosa campaign and takes place in the hexagon 2005 of the general map.
Addenda, new of this edition, with some interesting additions: an article about human civilization in Carcosa, random tables for creating encounters with monsters, creating Shub-Niggurath spawns and alien technology elements (weapons and robots) and deciding which mutations can suffer the characters afflicted by radiations and unexplained events in the planet.
The word Carcosa appears first time in the short story An Inhabitant of Carcosa wrote by Ambrose Bierce in 1891, in this case Bierce uses it as a reference to the ruins of a city probably damned that can be encountered in a distant and unknown planet.
Carcosa was recovered by Robert W. Chambers in The King in Yellow of 1895 (as can be seen in the poem reproduced at the beginning of McKinney’s book) and places the city in a planet orbiting a dark star near Aldebaran. The King in Yellow was very influent in writers like Lovecraft and his circle.
If you are interested in the works of these two authors you may consult their online texts at Project Gutenberg:
Robert W. Chambers
This supplement could be used in a straight manner, but it also can work as inspiration for our adventures and campaigns or be easily integrated in a ready existent world.
If we need to have an adversary that players want to defeat above all we could create a chaotic sorcerer (and believe me, someone performing the practices described in the book is the perfect candidate), we can design a new creature type (using the the random tables mentioned earlier), introduce science-fiction elements (thanks to alien technology) or create a unique place (many descriptions of Carcosa hexagons can help us).
As for other game worlds the supplement could be used for occasional adventures (characters can be transferred to Carcosa by accident or as a result of a spell) or be completely integrated in the world, and as an example I will take Aventuras en La Marca del Este. In this case we could insert any strange place or creature in the mysterious continent of Ziyarid (and do not forget that the Blue Box includes Mythos creatures as Archaics, so we can add any Carcosan creature easily), link Snake-Men of Cirinea continent with its Carcosan counterparts (are both connected in some way? perhaps Snake-Men reached Cirinea fleeing Carcosa?) or introduce strange technology of unknown origin (and since La Marca del Este has confirmed that in the Green Box there will be a class devoted to space travellers anything is possible if you want...).
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