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Carcosa
 
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Carcosa
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Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:41:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign setting/hexcrawl clocks in at 283 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 4 pages of index (VERY USEFUL!), leaving us with 274 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It should be noted that the inside of the covers, respectively, contain gorgeous full-color hex-maps - inside the front cover, we get an overview, while inside the back cover, we gain an in-depth hex-crawl of one such hex, highlighting the sheer VASTNESS of Carcosa. As you can surmise, I actually own the hardcover, namely the second printing, which was provided by a generous patreon for the purposes of reviewing it at my convenience. I subsequently based my review mainly on the print edition, though it should be noted that maps etc. are all included in the pdf-version. The print-version's pages btw. have a very nice greenish-yellow, unhealthy-looking tint that is not consistent throughout the book; some sections are almost grey, some are greenish, some a bit more yellowish...this book looks almost alive, and in a twisted, twisted way. (And no, to my knowledge, there is no system behind these colors, at least none I could make out.) It should be noted that the pages are formatted for the A5 (6'' by 9'')-size of paper, so, if your eyesight's good enough, you can squeeze up to 4 pages on a regular sheet when printing this, but honestly, I'd suggest getting print here.

All right, so what is this book? Well, if you're not as well-versed in the OSR-scene, this book can conceivably be called one of the most influential books in that area, a book that imho defined how many of the different weird settings out there have been designed. For one, it is an incredibly hackable book - while there are rules herein, they are very rules-lite. As in: S&W, LL or LotFP look complex and detailed in comparison. These rules generally tie in with the setting and supplement it in several ways, but can, for the most part, be exchanged, tweaked or ignored - it is a vast plus of this book that pretty much nothing herein really requires that you use it with the rules presented within; adapting this to an OSR-setting, 5e or PFRPG just requires a bit of statting and that's it - the draw here lies within the idea, at least for me.

But let me start the review-proper the same way the book does:

Along the shore the cloud waves break,

The twin suns sink behind the lake,

The shadows lengthen

In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,

And strange moons circle through the skies,

But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,

Where flap the tatters of the King,

Must die unheard in

Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,

Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed

Shall dry and die in

Lost Carcosa.

-Robert W. Chambers

If you can read these lines sans a shudder, sans them gnawing into your brain, then kudos - to me, these lines are very much like a song that encapsulates the themes herein. That being said, the tone evoked here is grim; and while Carcosa is intended for mature audiences, it is actually not necessarily as dark as you'd imagine.

Let me elaborate: Carcosa is a world, where no elves or other Tolkienesque critters exist - instead, there are different races of men, with varying skin-colors that range from obsidian-black to translucent and also encompass the colors yale, ulfire and dolm -and yes, these are somewhat explained...and our inability to properly conceive them just adds a perfect piece of flavor to the proceedings.

Rules-wise, Carcosa assumes AC 12 as basis and an ascending AC and calls, at various times, for the random determination of dice to roll: Basically you roll a d20 and the higher you roll, the higher the dice you'll use - minimum d4, maximum d12. This procedure is used for combat as well, and, surprisingly, for hit points: You roll hit dice number of dice each combat anew: So one combat, you may be really tough...and during another...not so much. When hit dice are depleted, they are taken by the referee, which simulates, to a degree, wounding. It should come as no surprise to the adept number-cruncher that this system generates rather swingy performances; while this may fit to the opium/fever-dream-style haze that makes up so much of this setting's flair, it proved, at least for me and my group, not rewarding and was pretty much the first rules-component to get kicked out.

Carcosa, at least as written, knows three alignments - Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic, and they don't say anything about ethics: Lawful characters are generally opposed to the Great Old Ones, Chaotic characters generally serve them. That's it. Simple. Speaking of simple: Carcosa knows a staggering 2 classes: Fighter and sorceror. And no, sorcerors don't get to fling spells - instead, sorcerors can find rituals to enslave, banish, torment or otherwise interact with the Great Old Ones...and yes, conjure them. Basically, they have their very own ritual engine, but more on that later. Each ritual, just fyi, carries a risk of unnatural aging...with the exception of banishment rituals.

If you have very high mental attributes, you also have a small percentile chance of having access to psionics - there are 8 such powers and a d4 determines each day how many he has available. Psionics may be used 1/day, plus an additional time per day at every odd level, capping at 5 daily uses at 9th level. Rules-lite fans may applaud the lack of range for mindblasts and similar options, but personally, I prefer the crisp clarity of LotFP, S&W, LL, etc. - in short: The powers are not very well codified from a rules-analysis perspective. If you have access to another psionics sourcebook, I'd suggest using that instead, as what is here can be considered to be an afterthought.

Thankfully, this is the point where the rather subpar components of the rules-section end, for we receive precise effects various lotus-types...and space alien technology.

It is here that I feel I should talk about what Carcosa is: Do you know this mythic age of snake-men and weird skies that Sword & Sorcery novels like to allude to? Where everything was at once alien and advanced, yet almost stone-age primeval? That, to a degree, is Carcosa. The Great Old Ones roam the world, Shub-Niggurath's endless spawns inhabit the vast fields of Carcosa and entities are broken to the will of mortals, heeding their destructive call...if they do not break the mortals first. Carcosa is also a land where basically a science-fiction space alien civilization once crashed, with relics of strange devices, crashed ships, remnants of their tech, all littering the fields. This is, to a degree, a science-fantasy setting.

At the same time, Carcosa is a land of grotesque protoplasmic colossi, of dinosaurs and savage things, of civilizations with wildly diverging developments, held together by mastery or lack thereof of the mighty Great Old Ones; the technology of the mysterious Great Race representing another aspect of tech, namely the cthulhoid one, where technology is hazardous, extremely mighty and not made for humans. with flavorful artifacts like the spatial transference void, living monoliths and fecund protoplasmic pits begging to b inserted into any game, regardless of rules employed. So that would be the first aspect I'd very much consider a must-scavenge component.

The second would be the aforementioned sorcerous rituals - a total of 32 pages is devoted to these, all denoting their function in a handy formatting decision. Called The Lurker Amidst the Obsidian Ruins? You may need to torment the entity with "The Oozing Column" to get it to do your bidding! Here's the thing: Many of these rituals require rare and evocative components, some are tied to specific locales and...non-banishing rituals require often absolutely atrocious deeds. Control over these entities requires absolutely horrendously vile acts that should make such decisions very much a difficult endeavor, the obvious dangers of failure none withstanding. This may also be one of the reasons this is denoted as adult content...but if you do look for a concise collection of vile rituals for bad guys to use in your game, look no further than here - the chapter is twisted gold, gleaming in an unhealthy yale!

The next 36 pages of content are devoted to a massive bestiary of entities - from protoplamsic oozes to the Great Old Ones, we get stats for all of them...at least the basics. You know, Hit Dice, AC, No appearing and alignment as well as move rate. Psionics are noted, where applicable and the brief respective texts note special abilities and the like. Amazing: Great Old Ones that can be conjured, tormented, banished, controlled etc. also note their respective associated rituals, which makes this section, layout-wise, surprisingly user-friendly. Big kudos there! While the classics of the Mythos are included, I personally enjoyed the new ones featured herein more intriguing - the Shambler of the Endless Night or the Putrescent Stench, for example.

Now, I did mention that this was, beyond a campaign-kit, basically a colossal hex-crawl, right? 120 pages, to be more precise. Let that sink in. Even if I wanted to provide a highlight-reel here, I'd frankly not be capable of properly depicting the vast amount of adventures to be had in this massive section; these pages literally provide enough potential gaming material for YEARS. Even if your players will never set foot on Carcosa, this section once again proves to be a thoroughly compelling, amazing collection of the strange and wondrous. 20 sample spawn of Shub-Niggurath, a primer on humanity in Carcosa and random encounter tables complement this section before we arrive at a massive Spawn of Shub-Niggurath-generator...and, similarly scavenge-worthy would be the impressive space alien tech generator, the robot generator...and have I mentioned that the book actually codifies the different sorcerous rituals by use in its own appendix?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch and really impressive, particularly for a book of this size. Layout adheres, as mentioned before, to a greenish/yellowish sickly page-color and a 1-column standard, with really evocative and copious original b/w-artworks by Rich Longmore. If that sort of thing annoys you, let it be known that bare breasts, human sacrifice and the like can be found among the artworks - never in a gratuitous manner, but yeah - this is a book for adults. The cartography by Robert Altbauer in full-color is amazing and the purple tone chosen for the ground further enhances the sense of weirdness. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks. The hardcover print-version is obviously made to last and with its sickly green cover, fits the theme rather well.

So, have you figured it out? Carcosa is a radical departure from fantasy dipping toes into " a bit" of mythos; it's also a radical departure from anything even resembling Tolkienesque fantasy and oh boy, is it better off for it! Carcosa reads, even nowadays, like an inspiring breath of dolm air, as Geoffrey McKinney weaves a yarn like a near-death fever-dream, like an opium-haze; horrific and enticing, suffused with a primal beauty, but also a land of savage horror, where colossal power may be gained by those willing to commit atrocities...at least until they are devoured. Carcosa is majestic in its imaginative vision and in the sheer detail it offers - it should come as no surprise from the above that I was horribly unimpressed by the rules-aspect of this book and frankly wished it had simply used one of the big OSR-rules-sets.

But then again, that is not how I'll ever use this book. Yes, I'll run Carcosa as a setting sooner or later, but for now, all of its ideas have this uncanny tendency to worm their way into my games, regardless of system employed. The rituals, described in horrid detail, the entities, the artifacts, the locations that are sure to invade PC-dreams of even those not on this planet...there are very few books that have ever managed to influence me...and other creative folks, to this extent.

I am late to the party, I know. But I've written this review mainly to showcase not the flaws of this book, but to highlight its indisputable value, regardless of system or even genre used. Heck, you can have a great change of pace while running a Traveller-game by having the PCs crash there! And yes, you'll see "Someone has obviously read Carcosa" in quite a few reviews to come - this book's influence transcends system-boundaries and, to an extent, genres. Heck, it spawns adventures left and right! Kort'thalis Publishing's "The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence", for example, just BEGS to be inserted into Carcosa...or act as a gateway to this wretched, wondrous place. Carcosa exists n a weird flux between fantasy, science-fiction, space-opera, horror and sword and sorcery and manages to sit there, upon this metaphorical Lake Hali of systems, confidently, proud, majestic...and utterly, utterly weird.

In short: This is a piece of gaming material that should imho be part of the collection of any self-respecting GM that can handle the mature themes, which may be dark, yes - but to me, the setting never felt that way. Instead, my prevalent feeling was one of wild-eyed wonder...and there are not that many books that can claim having accomplished this. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, unsurprisingly...with one caveat. If you're looking for hard rules, if you're not looking for something to hack apart and make your own, then this may not be as useful for you; in such a case, detract a star. Everyone else should, at the very least, check out the pdf of this ulfire gem of a tome.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/26/2015 21:30:05

The layout, artwork, and material are very striking and atmospheric. I have no complaints at all with that aspect of it. This is the only reason I've giving it 2 stars instead of 1 star.

Unfortunately, this product cannot be printed in the current format, nor can it be easily read on my tablet. Since I can't haul my PC to gaming sessions, this makes the product basically unusable to me. I've wasted paper and ink trying to get it to print in a usable form, but no use. The two-page per 8 1/2 X 11 format doesn't work on any of my printers. Had I known this product could not be printed, I would not have purchased it. I'd gladly delete my copy for a refund.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
What\'s happening? \"Two-page per 8 1/2 X 11 format\"? What is the name of the file that you downloaded?
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Ahimsa K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/05/2015 12:51:51

I don't actually dig the hex based layout, that's not the way I visualize games. I also wonder why anyone would ever play a sorcerer? (Not for puritanical reasons but just because one failed save and they utterly pancaked.)

That said, it's a great world with truly new mechanics. The dice and pysionics alone are terrific, and the world actually reminds me a lot of Hyberborea (of ASSoH), except for even more honked up.

I haven't run any adventurers here yet, but you can be sure there is always a chance for them to descend into this nightmare.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Sven F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/19/2015 04:07:14

Really excellent hexcrawl module, within a dark, evocative setting drawing inspiration from Lovecraft and pulp science fiction rather than Tolkien. If you consider yourself a fantasy and/or RPG connoisseur, buy this for the read alone!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by David G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/31/2015 21:30:00

Carcosa is amazing. The art is evocative, and the writing is electric and terse -- giving seeds and ideas rather than spelling out what to do. I love this book.

I would only warn away those who are prone to being upset at fiction about bad things happening to people and children. If you find anything triggering, you will find this triggering.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Noah S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/08/2013 22:52:07

Beautifully crafted, horrible sinister in purpose, and if you look, there - just across the lake Hali - you can see the doom'd city come for you.

Tightly integrated Sci-Fi/Fantasy Swords 'n' Planets thing, chock full and brimming with horrible Ancient Things and the mulit-hued men and women and other things that serve them. Take up blaster, power armor, psionics, and the most horrible of horrible rituals in your bid for domination, or whatever it is a proto-simian in your position would want

One of the nicest-made PDFs I've come across and smart use of layers to make a pretty thing very practical to print

Worth it, although to my mind some might object to the blatant Dire Motives and evil things to do in the rituals, but hey, this isn't Oz and once the kiddies are asleep you can crack this and slaughter your neighbors (in the fantasy narrative, please) to your Black Heart's content



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thomas K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/29/2012 08:33:53

I was very excited to purchase Carcosa. I had read a great number of interesting things about the book and was sold by an interview done with the author several months back. My disappointment came when i tried to utilize to book for my game.

Here is a list of several problems I encountered with this book(much of which is my own opinion but there are some glaring problems):

  • There is relatively little setting information in this book, which is strange seeing as it is a setting book.

  • After mentioning that there are only two classes to play, only one of the classes is detailed in the book (ie. the sorcerer) with no information on the fighter or starting gear etc. for either of the classes. If this book is a supplement to another book it should probably reference that book. (I tried using Lamentations of the Flame Princess for this purpose, but several of the mechanics for hit points and gear are different with no explanation in Carcosa as how to convert such information.)

  • There is no mention as to what makes the different coloured men in this setting unique other than their skin colour, there is nothing on culture or lifestyle, etc... ie. no setting information. This and the sparse information in the Addenda led me to believe that they were all the same, just different coloured. There is a similar problem regarding any relevance the monsters may have to the setting.

  • In many instances the hyperlinks in the book link back to the front page and not to relevant content in the book. I thought that the ability to jump from page to relevant page by simply clicking was going to make this a great play aid, but it turned out to be frustrating and faulty.

-The details given to the hexes are usually irrelevant to the characters or the details of other hexes, they provide a small glimpse of sparse detail to what might be contained in that 100 mile square area.

-Lastly my biggest complaint is that the sample "adventure" "Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer" is not an adventure at all, it's just more sparsely detailed hexes and encounter tables. There is no start point, there is no goal, there is no story arch.

I wish this game was playable, either that or there was someone who could show me how to make use of this book, the book itself fails in that aspect in every way.

On the plus side this book has some colourful descriptions of rituals, decent art work and a host of gear and monsters that are pretty cool. Unfortunately though, all considered, this book is only an idea for a setting and not a complete product. I'm disappointed to say that i regret spending my money on this book.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Robert S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2012 10:12:43

Greetings from Hastur’s House of Hotcakes on Carcosa. They have good coffee and pecan pie here. The service is decent, considering the fact wait staff are slobbery monsters. In this episode, we are reviewing Carcosa, the role-playing game supplement by Geoffrey McKinney. McKinney first released Carcosa several years ago, employed a version of the original D&D rule set, and referred to the supplement at the time as Volume 5. This was a reference to the original booklets in the earliest versions of the Dungeons and Dragons game, including Volume 1: Men & Magic, Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure, Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures and Volume 4: Electric Boogaloo. Lamentations of the Flame Princess Publishing released the current version of the Carcosa RPG supplement and the PDF version of that is the one covered by this review. First up, we examine the art and composition of the work. The PDF is full color, though McKinney mutes the colors and employs them sparingly throughout – except for the over-done campaign map in the back of the book. Text comes in a single column, featuring ample white space on all sides and White Wolf Publishing alum Rich Longmore provides the art, which ranges from decent to good. Longmore’s art is all line art, but sells the tone of the book well. Text strikes a decent balance, conveying information without wasting space or time on superfluous descriptions and without being too jocular. It also appears to run at a 9th grade reading level. The PDF possesses many bookmarks and hyperlinks, connecting one section with another in a good manner. It even has an index and while that is not hyperlinked, the overall solid execution of the rest of the work means that is not required. So, Carcosa the RPG possesses good art, good writing in a technical sense and good PDF execution. Kudos to McKinney and the ulfire people at Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Now we move on to the material. As a supplement, the work possesses two major elements – its take on mechanics and setting description of Carcosa. In terms of game mechanics, there only race available is humans, though it is carefully color coordinated. More on them in a moment. The only classes are fighter and sorcerer…and the sorcerer class might also be called the fucking bastard class. They do not use magic in the traditional D&D sense of spells – often called the Vancian system, for author Jack Vance who developed it for his stories. Instead, the Carcosian sorcerer conducts human sacrifice rituals to coerce monsters to, temporarily at least, accomplish the impossible for the sorcerer. Every single ritual, except banishment ones, are difficult to perform and morally insane. Nice people would not be a sorcerer. Additional rules cover psionic powers and advanced alien technology – more on the later in a moment. The end of the book provides well-executed tables for determining a random variation of a monster, robot or mutation a person might suffer. All mechanics in this version are more or less compatible with the system employed by the Lamentation of the Flame Princess, or a variation of the simple version of the D&D rules from the early 1980s. There are some exceptions. A variation of the rules is for combat, which is unfortunately were Carcosa takes a hard run at a nearby brick wall. Hit points are rerolled at the beginning of every single combat. Further, the hit die used to determine hit points changes with every single combat. Also, you keep track of hit point by keeping the dice in front of you on the table – which requires a lot of clear space and that no one bumps the table. This same principal is true for monsters and NPCs. So characters with a high level of hit points in one combat might have few in the next combat and a kobald might end up with more hit points than a great old one. While in theory this approach should make combat more perilous, but it feels like it would slow things down too much and make it all punitively complicated. However, this is a theoretical review – I’ve not played the game – so it might actually work. Yet it feels wrong. As a setting, Carcosa of the supplement is a bleak and grim fantasy world, in orbit of a star in the Hyades Cluster, 153 light years from Earth, give or take a few light-days. It is a setting were pretty much everything is trying to kill you, a world where everyone hates everyone else, a place where human ascendance of any kind is a mistake and a place where the Jersey Shore will never be canceled. My old game master used to have a summerhouse here. I know because I burned it down this morning. I don’t think he was home at the time. Anyway, calling the world Carcosa is somewhat muddled, as name Carcosa in its original stories referred to a city, not an entire world. Various authors, usually after their deaths, created inspiration for the thematic and aesthetic elements of Dungeons and Dragons. These include Jack Vance, Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. The creative personalities that inspired them in turn, back in the day, receive too little attention currently. Carcosa - as a name of a fever-dream type of place - originated in a short story by 19th century journalist and fiction author Ambrose Bierce. Weird fiction pioneer Robert W. Chambers, who wrote the King in Yellow anthology, later employed the name Carcosa in his stories. Writers like Lovecraft would emulate many of the elements, motifs and styles of Bierce and Chambers. For example, the false document idea of the Necronomicon owes much to the false document idea of the play, the King in Yellow, from the anthology of the same name by Chambers. The original stories by Bierce and Chamber are well worth reading as they are some of the earliest works that can be called weird fiction, and sometimes outshines the works of the now better-known Lovecraft. McKinney, with his Carcosa RPG work, moves past Vance, Howard and even Lovecraft to include the works of Bierce and Chambers. He is successful in this effort, which earns him points. Also, reading the supplement can be depressing but as I am a pessimistic bastard this is also something which wins my approval. Though the book is Spartan in details, it conveys the idea Carcosa the world is desolate place. What descriptions there are remind me of a Heironious Bosch painting. A vanished serpent people created the Carcosian humans as a cattle-like race, fit only for sacrifice. The serpent people are gone and the various type of humans deal with Cthulianic monsters as best they can. None humans are unavailable and the 13 races of humans come in colors. Nine of those colors are primary colors, such as black, white, red, green and so forth – and the colors are truly primary colors, so a green man has skin the color of well watered lawn of Saint Augustine. Three additional colors are ulfire, jale and dolm. “The sense impressions caused in [an observer] by these two additional primary colors can only be vaguely hinted at by analogy. Just as blue is delicate and mysterious, yellow clear and unsubtle, and red sanguine and passionate, so he felt ulfire to be wild and painful, and jale dreamlike, feverish, and voluptuous.” McKinney took these colors names and their descriptions from A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay. This helps ameliorate some of the more wonky aspects of these colors. Anyway, in addition to the tentaticular horrors and impossible rainbow assortment of people, aliens – like they grays of the X-Files – also visit the world of Carcosa and use it as a kind of county dump… in space. As such, advanced alien technology litters the place. The combination of primitive humans, monsters and advanced technology reminds me of all things, of Yor – Hunter from the Future, the classic Reb Brown movie where a dude paraglides to the rescue on the desiccated corpse of a pterodactyl. I do not think this is what McKinney had in mind, but I found myself thinking about that movie as I read the book. That said, the movie Yor is goofy fun while the Carcosa the RPG carries all the joy of being slowly crushed by industrial machinery. It is also all an exercise in minimalism, parsing out only the barest facts about the setting. McKinney provides a hex map in the back of the book and each hex comes with a barebones description – aside from the information about the monsters, humans and magic that is it, so no elaborate histories or cosmologies to keep track of, except as devised at an individual gaming table. As another reviewer has noted, Carcosa is ultraviolent. The stories of Howard and Vance were expressly violent and the stories of Lovecraft, Bierce and Chambers were violent by implication when they were not expressly violent. Under any kind of rational examination, none of the “cannon” D&D settings are good places – McKinney in Carcosa simply does not whitewash the issue to comfort the thin skinned. He also, to his credit, does not glorify it in any manner. Carcosa is not FATAL. My principal problem with the Old School Renaissance phenomena in gaming circles is my own distrust of nostalgia and the way nostalgia lies. There is no age of glory in the past, when things worked they way they were supposed to work and everyone flew around on giant magic cupcakes. The actual earliest versions of D&D featured nearly impenetrable text, wonky mechanics and poor overall design… in addition to often possessing a grim tone. Further, the rules leant themselves to the game master getting away with rampant favoritism at the gaming table. There are no new sins or virtues. Sometimes media producers talk about making something new, edgy and dark. The terminology might be relatively new, but the phenomena is not – writers and artists have always been producing dark and edgy material. Contemporary gaming and art owes more to the works of Bosch, Bierce and Chambers than it fans might be comfortable with acknowledging. As such, it is rooted in the so-called dark and edgy. Carcosa RPG succeeds in many ways by its elegant acknowledgement of the fact. Any work must be judged of its own merits, on whether or not it reached its objectives and by the standards of its genre or field. I remain skeptical of the mechanics used by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, however here they are used well for the most part and I have no issue with the mood of the work. In the end, I give Carcosa the RPG a 15 on a d20 roll. It is a good example of old school done right and as a game book is excellent in terms of PDF design, art and writing. The tone is perfectly bleak. The oddness of how dice are used in combat hold it back from a perfect score. How useful is Carcosa over all? If you like Lamentation then it is pitch perfect and works quite well with Vornhiem as well. However, as many gaming groups in actual play turn into fart joke sessions, a game in Carcosa is unlikely to maintain the grim tone of the book. It could serve as a short campaign or a one-shot. Alternately, it might be a place the party visits periodically, even if they do not want to - a bad place to visit, a worse place to live, but sometimes they have to go there for some reason. Personally, I might use it for a Gallifreyian campaign outside the citadel.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Jukka S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/15/2012 05:10:05

Review originally posted at http://nitessine.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/review-carcosa/

So, it’s finally here. The anticipated reprint of Geoffrey McKinney’s Carcosa, published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, finally came out yesterday, after all sorts of printing and delivery delays.

The wait was worth it.

What we’ve got here is a 288-page, A5-sized hardcover. The art by Rich Longmore is black and white, but the maps of Robert Altbauer are in glorious (and a bit garish) colour. In addition, the pages themselves are subtly coloured, with faded hues of green and purple playing in the margins and behind the text. It does not, I should hasten to add, hamper readability, but makes the whole book seem more like some sort of alien grimoire. The layout is clean, the art is good, and the book is overall a very stylish package. It also has a lovely smell.

There’s also a PDF version available, and it’s one of the best gaming PDFs I’ve seen. It’s layered for printer-friendliness, bookmarked, and linked up the wazoo. Even the map hexes are linked to the pages where they are described. This is excellent work, and I’d like to see it become the industry standard, though I don’t have much hope of that happening. Neither Posthuman Studios nor Paizo, who otherwise know their PDF work, have gone quite this far with their stuff (Posthuman doesn’t have links, Paizo doesn’t have layers). This is how you take advantage of the electronic format, kids. The only complaint I have is that since in the PDF a single page spread counts as a single page, the page numbers on the book and the PDF no longer match up. What Is It?

Carcosa is a setting and rules supplement for your old D&D game or retroclone. Its native system is LotFP’s house system, Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, but pretty much all retroclones are more or less mutually compatible anyway and there’s no reason this wouldn’t work in your campaign of Labyrinth Lord or Mentzer’s Red Box D&D (though like all most retroclone stuff, this one uses the ascending Armour Class [starting at 12, as LotFP's does]).

The genres of the work would be the weird tale and sword & planet. The influences it names or suggests include Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, Howard’s Worms of the Earth and David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus, and, of course, Robert W. Chambers’ King in Yellow. I am also reminded of other things – Jack Vance, August Derleth, Lord Dunsany, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otso Ilmari – though I’m pretty sure that last one is not numbered among McKinney’s inspirations, no matter how unconscious or indirect.

It is like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, if Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been horror. There are no demihumans in the world of Carcosa, just 13 races of men, each a different colour, from green to white to black to new colours like dolm, jale and ulfire, from A Voyage to Arcturus, though also evoking The Colour out of Space. There’s a very good reason this book doesn’t have colour art outside of the maps. It’s gonna make painting miniatures tricky. There are no magic items, just the technological armaments of the Space Aliens. There is no magic missile or sleep, there are the Blasphemous Glyphs of the Night Ocean and the Ninety-Six Chants of the Leprous One.

The book starts with a few unconventional dice conventions. Under the Carcosa rules, whenever combat begins, everyone first rolls from a chart what their hit dice type will be for this combat and then uses dice of that type to roll their hit points. Your hit dice might be d12s in one fight and d4s in the next. The same is true for Shub-Niggurath. Damage is determined every round in a similar fashion. This is rather quirky, and there’s also a suggestion on how to handle things if you elect not to use these rules. It seems like combat in Carcosa is unpredictable and deadly business.

Then there are a few new rules for characters, including the sorcerer class, which is basically same as fighter, except they can use rituals. Incidentally, Carcosa uses only two character classes – the fighter and the sorcerer. No clerics, no magic-users, no demihuman races. The book doesn’t even use specialists (LotFP’s name for the thief class), but mentions that they will not violate the tone. There are also a couple of pages of psionics rules. Characters with high enough mental stats have a chance of being psionic, which is rolled at character generation.

What there is not is a lot on the setting itself. There are no historical timelines, just mentions here and there that Space Aliens (described like they Greys) have a colony on the planet, the human races were created by Snake-Men untold millennia ago and that the Primordial Ones (Lovecraft’s elder things) manipulated the civilization of Carcosa until someone let the shoggoths out and everything went to hell. There is also very little on the human races, though it’s mentioned that the natives in Peter Jackson’s King Kong are at about the proper level of sophistication.

Oh, and alignment determines only how you stand in relation to the Great Old Ones. Lawful is against, chaotic is for, neutrals try to avoid the whole business.

Then there’s the magic of Carcosa. Spellcasting takes the form of rituals, and all rituals are for summoning or controlling the gods and monsters of the world. There are 96 different rituals in the book, all with names that drip purple prose, such as The Sixth Undulation of the Tentacled One or Serpentine Whispers of the Blue-Litten Pillars.

So, magic in Carcosa applies to the Great Old Ones, and was developed by the Snake-Men. This means it’s Bad Stuff. Pretty much everything that is not a banishment ritual will require human sacrifice, all described in a clinical and detailed fashion, like this: “The Sorcerer must find or dig a large pit with walls and floor of coal. The sacrifices—101 Dolm children—must then be bound and flung into the pit. The two-hour ritual requires the Sorcerer to don the above-mentioned armor and climb into the pit and slay each sacrifice with an obsidian axe. Afterwards he fires the pit.” (The Primal Formula of the Dweller) And there are worse rituals. Like, Josef Fritzl kind of worse. “We could illustrate this ritual but it’d then become illegal to sell or possess under obscenity laws in several major markets” kind of worse. The cover sleeve for the book says “Warning: For Adults Only! Contains explicit descriptions and illustrations of black magic and violence.” It’s not kidding.

The rituals are surprisingly uncomfortable reading, and really drive home the point that people who deal with the tentacled stuff are evil. They are to be opposed. Then there are the banishment rituals for putting down that which (hopefully) someone else has called up and for the most part require no sacrifice whatsoever, though Banishment of the Lightless Chasm, for driving off the Squamous Worm of the Pit, requires you to kill a snake.

It’s charming how naturally you can get a campaign concept and a motivation for your characters just from the spell list. There’s nothing in the book about how adventurers fit in the world or the society (as far as it exists), or what sort of adventures they should or could have, but such things flow naturally from the spell list. I mean, unlike in most D&D settings, where adventurers are outsiders from society and regarded as strange and dangerous people, in Carcosa going out to kill sorcerers is actually a sane and rational reaction. This, to me, is the strongest horror element in the setting.

After the rituals, we get monster stats and descriptions. Carcosa has its own interpretation of the Cthulhu Mythos. Here, Azathoth dwells in the centre of the planet and the races of B’yakhee, Deep Ones, the Great Race, Mi-Go, Primordial Ones and Shoggoths are all spawned by Shub-Niggurath. Cthulhu is still imprisoned in sunken R’lyeh, though. This section also features long, descriptive quotations from H.P. Lovecraft, which I approve of. Yes, you can fight Azathoth. No, you’re not likely to win.

The largest section of the book is the sandbox itself, 400 hexes’ worth of the planet of Carcosa. One of the hexes being ten miles across, this translates to 86 square miles per hex and a total of 34,880 square miles, or slightly larger than the country of Jordan. Each of the hexes has two points of interest described. For an example, let’s take hex 0115. It contains the following two points of interest: “Castle of 6 Jale Men led by a chaotic 7th-level Sorcerer” and “A handful of curious and ancient roadways crisscross the withered heaths of this hex. The roads appear to be made of huge slabs of granite skillfully pounded into the earth. They glow with a soft light in darkness. Any attempts to remove the slabs will fail.”

There’s loads of stuff the PCs can run across and that the GM can build their own plots around. Who is that sorcerer in the castle and what’s his agenda? No idea, it’s the GM’s job to make something up.

Carcosa has a presentation I feel is very typical of old school D&D. You’re presented with a lot of stuff, but very little in the way of advice on how to use it or what to do with it. While it works for your normal Tolkien and Howard fantasy since everyone already knows that stuff, I think that more outré material such as Carcosa could have a bit more hand-holding. Fortunately, the writing is good and positively dripping with atmosphere and inspiration, which eases the Game Master’s job in this respect – and, well, you don’t need to specify that the people who are sacrificing children to call up tentacled abominations from beyond the stars are the bad guys.

We are also given an introductory adventure called “The Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer”, which details, over 20 pages, some of the points of interest in hex 2005. The titular Gardens, of course, are a dungeon.

After that it’s some helpful tables for random encounters, random robots, Space Alien armaments, spawn of Shub-Niggurath and so forth, as well as reference tables for rituals. My Thoughts

Carcosa is a very good book. Apart from being extremely well put together, it is written in an evocative manner and brings the setting to life despite not really detailing it much. It conjures up images from films like 10,000 B.C. and Salute of the Jugger. It’s a primitive, post-apocalyptic world, where people are preoccupied with survival and appeasing gods whose existence leaves no room for doubt. And they hate you, personally.

It is a weird and terrible place. A bit of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, a bit of Vance’s Dying Earth, a bit of Burroughs’ Barsoom, perhaps shades of Gor in the mixture of high technology and Stone Age culture. Unlike the modern man of Lovecraft’s tales, the mankind of Carcosa is acutely aware of their cosmic insignificance, though probably unable to articulate it.

This is excellent work. If you have an interest in old school D&D and aren’t put off by the more extreme material in the rituals section, you really have no reason not to buy this. I can’t really find anything I could consider an error or mistake or a bad idea. Even the lack of real setting information kinda works to the book’s advantage. It really is an alien, unknown, perhaps unknowable world. There is a sense of mystery and wonder. I am usually not a fan of such bare bones sandboxes, preferring something more akin to Paizo’s Kingmaker adventure path, but damn if this isn’t good enough for me to make an exception. And seriously, that PDF is a thing of beauty.

In the interests of full disclosure, I know James Edward Raggi IV, the publisher, and received my copy of the book (As well as Isle of the Unknown. And pizza.) from him as thanks for helping him unload the four cargo pallets of Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown (I feel like Satan’s little helper). In other words, I’m probably biased as all hell.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2012 08:11:41

Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/01/18/tabletop-review-carcosa/

Violence is only notable in RPGs when it is either absent or overwhelming. The threshold for sex being notable is lower, but not so much as it was pre-Vampire: the Masquerade. When I first encountered the name Carcosa, it pertained to one small element, the presence of torture, rape, and human sacrifice. Based entirely on reputation, one would expect Carcosa to be something horrifying and soul-crushing along the lines of F.A.T.A.L. With a little research, it became obvious to me that this was simply not the case with Carcosa. When Lamentations of the Flame Princess sent me a digital copy of the new edition of Carcosa, I made a pact with myself to approach Carcosa without prejudice and to rate it on its own strengths and weaknesses.

Honestly, I find much of the controversy about Carcosa‘s content to be hypocritical. Black Sabbaths and dark rituals have always been an implied part of classic fantasy, even if the trappings of such rituals have been left intentionally vague. I have yet to play a fantasy RPG that did not involve hacking and slashing sentient beings to bits with assorted and sundry instruments. A D&D session without bloody combat and staggering amounts of carnage would be the exception, not the rule. For players and DMs to suddenly get squeamish about ultraviolence in their campaigns strikes me as more than a little hypocritical. I have personally witnessed holocausts in the name of staying in character, with nominally good characters massacring humanoids because of differences in culture and skin tone.

Carcosa is not a rulebook. In fact, it is assumed that you will use it with your preferred flavor of D&D. In my case, that means Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying Grindhouse Edition, but it really is fielder’s choice on this one. There are rules, many of which are interesting, but you need the girding of a full rulebook. The first edition of Carcosa bore the full title ‘Supplement V: Carcosa’, indicating that this book could slide right in alongside the classic first four volumes of D&D. I can just as easily see someone using Carcosa with OSRIC or even GURPS. There are monster stats to adapt, but otherwise Carcosa is light on crunch and is very adaptable. Using it as an alternative Dimension Book for Rifts would require a couple hours of hunting and picking through the Conversion Book and maybe Aliens Unlimited. Damn, that sounds like a fun campaign to run.

Carcosa is not a fantasy setting, at least not one like you might be used to. Carcosa takes place 153 light years from Earth and has as many science fiction trappings as traditional fantasy elements. While not post-Apocalyptic in the traditional sense, the world of Carcosa feels more like Conan meets Gamma World than Forgotten Realms. There are no elves here. The lack of clerical and wizardly spells alone makes Carcosa stand out from the bulk of RPG settings. There is a palpable pulp science fiction feel to the whole book, content and artwise. Treating Carcosa like John Carter of Mars or Hyboria makes a lot more sense than trying to shoehorn it into the modern fantasy milieu, of which it is obviously not a member.

Carcosa is not for the faint of heart. The content that started the shitstorm in the OSR scene four years ago, when Carcosa was first published, is still here. No matter what you might say about Carcosa, you can’t deny that Geoffrey McKinney is unflinching about his writing. Whether that turns you off or not is a matter of personal choice. I hate to belabor the point, but human sacrifice and the pursuit of power at all costs are not new tropes in fantasy role-playing, but they may seem out of place in this more sanitized era. Forcing a party to choose between the lives of a few innocents or an untold multitude of potential victims is a tantalizing plot point, but also a plot that may make some uncomfortable.

What Carcosa is, exactly, is a bit harder to put a finger on. Carcosa is a world with no clerics and no magic-users. Even thieves, Specialists in Lamentations of the Flame Princess parlance, are not present. The common fantasy races, the elf, the dwarf, the Halfling, are all unaccounted for. What Carcosa is, really, is a completely different animal from the majority of fantasy settings. When taken in small doses, Carcosa feels disjointed and odd. Taken as a whole, however, Carcosa is a truly fascinating setting. The character and flavor of the place must be seen from a bird’s eye view. There is so much going on that I fear many will get lost in the individual oddities instead of seeing the whole clockwork of madness presented.

The only two character classes are the Sorcerer and the Fighter. Fighters are the same combat workhorses as usual. The Sorcerer is a conceit of the Carcosa setting, the only people who can use magic in Carcosa. They fight like a Fighter, but they also speak the language of extinct Snake-Men and can use the Rituals that made this book so famous to begin with. Since they fight the same as a Fighter, you may wonder why a player would bother playing with a Fighter. The only reasons I can think of involve player motives instead of character concerns, as some players will be put off by the Rituals of the Sorcerer. Actually, I take that back. The Sorcerer is a lot of character for a player to handle and I completely understand choosing the Fighter for character reasons. As the first chapter points out, there is no reason not to insert the thief/Specialist class into Carcosa, though I would use them in moderation. I like the idea of using a Fighter who adheres to the limitations of the Cleric (no bladed weapons), but lacks the magic powers. The beauty of Carcosa is that this is a perfectly acceptable choice for a DM to allow.

The biggest hurdle to jump when it comes to Carcosa is not the content. I suspect that anyone who has played D&D more than once has encountered scenarios as bad as or worse than anything in this book. I think the issue instead is a two-fold bit of cognitive dissonance. First, while human sacrifice and rape do occur both in fantasy literature and in many campaigns, they are rarely codified as they are here. Having them presented in a matter of fact way as part of Rituals that a PC may use is a difficult concept for many. Personally, I am not upset by this, but I am not thrilled by it either. Secondly, I think that marketing the first edition of Carcosa as a supplement to the original D&D, and this one as a generic supplement for OSR games, is a mistake. If Carcosa was a self-contained game, then the massive difference between Carcosa and the default D&D setting would be less obvious. Since so much of the bath water is thrown out, including the races and most of the classes, why not throw out the baby, too? Strangling and rending the baby with your bare hands is optional.

Using Carcosa as written, the races are the biggest change to character creation. Instead of the Tolkienesque archetypes, there are 13 different colors of humanity. Most of the colors are as you would expect, like Black, Brown, Red, Blue, and Yellow, but there are 4 that are a little different. Ulfire and jale are additional primary colors that only exist on Carcosa. Ulfire is described as “wild and painful” and jale is described as “dreamlike, feverish, and voluptuous”. Dolm is the described as the green to jale’s red, but no other description is given. Then there are the Bone men. Bone men are transparent, save for their bones. Yeah, I’m not sure how that works, either. Not that it really matters. The Races of Men in Carcosa do not get much in the way of description, aside from appearance. It is said that they distrust each other and that they never interbreed. Otherwise, you are on your own.

Psionics, the redheaded stepchild of D&D powers, is more common in Carcosa. Based on their Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, each character has a percentage chance of being Psionic. The Psionic system as presented here is much smoother and easier to use than the old school one. Even if I never use any of the other rules presented in Carcosa, I will be stealing the Psionics system.

Then there are the Rituals. The Rituals are what has given Carcosa its infamous reputation and are the biggest break from D&D norms. Instead of memorizing spells and casting them, ala Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series, Rituals are elaborate combinations of chants and actions that can be used to conjure, bind, or banish the Old Ones. It is the conjuration Rituals which require human sacrifice. This is where I think the Carcosa shitstorm is overblown. Conjuring ancient evil into the world is rarely the action of a PC group, but instead is something to be prevented. I would not be comfortable with a player group gathering 63 humans to sacrifice unless there are outrageously extraneous circumstances. On the other hand, if the PCs wander into a settlement and discover that an 11 year old girl has been abducted, the Sorcerers in the group would know that a rival Sorcerer is attempting to summon a group of Amphibious Ones into the world.

The bestiary is one of Carcosa’s real strengths. The various Dolm Worms, Mummies, and Space Aliens fill the world of Carcosa with danger and weird. Combined with the monster creation rules in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Carcosa provides a nice spectrum of monsters for PCs to slay, banish, and bind. Any world that needs stats for Cthulhu and dinosaurs is a world I want to play in. Once again, there is plenty here to steal for other campaigns.

The bulk of the book is taken by the Hex Descriptions. For every ten mile wide hex on the map, there is a description of what occupies it. These encounters vary widely, from villages full of orange men to skulking cultists seeking to conjure their fallen god. This is where the real spirit of Carcosa lives. This is a sparse, deadly world, one where danger is in the wind and ruins are crawling with shadows.

There are no magic items of the traditional sort. Alien devices fill the role of magic items and do so with aplomb. The random appearance of hand grenades or cyborgs in a game that is nominally fantasy instead of science fiction is something I greatly appreciate. While there are only a couple of pages dedicated to the gadgets of alien nature, there is plenty to use. Much as with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I appreciate the space given to DM imagination instead of having everything written as canonical law.

The Introduction is very clear that Carcosa is a living document and that the DM is not handcuffed to any one aspect of the setting as written. Don’t like the Rituals as written, disregard them completely or tone them down. Hell, make the Sorcerer class exclusively NPC and the Ritual issue goes away. For DMs who really want to challenge the limits of their players, there are definitely ethical questions to be explored in the world of Carcosa. Whether or not someone is comfortable with the implications of this world is for them to decide.

The first thing I noticed was the interior art. Rich Longmore is responsible for all of it and the results are fabulous. The whole book feels consistent because of this. Longmore’s languid ink work maintains the classic D&D aesthetic of Carcosa. The robots are suitably bug-eyed and strange of limb and proportion, the aliens appropriately weird. There is much to admire here, with details hidden in every illustration. My only regret is that my copy is a digital one, as I would love to have the hardcover to throw in my bag alongside the Lamentations of the Flame Princess boxed set and Vornheim hardcover.

Ultimately, I think comfort and offense have nothing to do with appraising the worth of Carcosa. What matters is the quality of the material presented. On that criterion, Carcosa is a very troubling product. If one wants to run a game of D&D completely divorced from the tropes that practically define D&D, then Carcosa is about as far as you can go. There is much worthy content here. The Psionics and Monsters and Alien Technology sections justify the asking price alone. Personally, I would love to spend more time in Carcosa, exploring a world rife with conflict and mystery. The only content that could be considered offensive is contained within the Rituals and the implementation of those Rituals is a matter personal choice. For my money, Carcosa is an experiment worth participating in.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2011 04:44:43

I don’t remember when I first heard about Carcosa. I think someone mentioned it on Twitter or I discovered a link to some preview somewhere. But I was immediately intrigued. Carcosa is a weird science-fantasy horror setting by Geoffrey McKinney and published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

There seems to be some controversy around this product. I have to admit I haven’t bothered to look deeper into this, but I believe one reason is that Carcosa is not what you would consider family friendly. Like LotFP it doesn’t hide the fact that it is for adults only. Among Carcosa’s inspirations the author lists the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E.Howard, Lin Carter and Michael Moorcock. And a setting inspired by the writings of these people can’t be all bad. And trust me, it isn’t.

While the cover is nothing special, the interior artwork of the 143-paged book is pretty awesome. Even though it’s black & white artwork only, the style used fits the setting perfectly.

The layout, fonts and artwork really make you want to leave through the book all day. Some drawings are so detailed you can spend quite a few minutes discovering new stuff. But let’s now have a look at the content itself.

Carcosa is a planet about 150 light years away from Earth and home to thirteen races of men. There’s no common fantasy magic, but characters may have psionic powers and Sorcerers may use rituals to summon entities right out of H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares.

The setting was designed for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess or some other D&D retro clone in mind, but you could easily use it for other games or just as an inspiration for your own campaign. The setting is not as detailed as for example the Forgotten Realms or some other classic D&D settings, but there’s enough material to run a game set in the world without being bogged down by the minutiae.

What I realized pretty quickly is that Carcosa was not designed as something you can play out of the box. A lot of descriptions are kept rather vague to make it easier for the GM to mold the setting to his or her wishes. But since it’s meant for fans of old-school gaming this should be no big issue.

But the building blocks you’re provided with are just awesome: Space Alien Technology, Artifacts of the Great Race (yes, the one from Lovecraft’s stories), Psionics, Sorcerous Rituals, really cool and unique monsters and more. The book also contains a hex map of a portion of the planet with descriptions of every single hex on that map. That’s an instant sandbox right there.

In my opinion Carcosa is a very interesting product, well worth it’s price. If you are into old-school gaming in general and weird science-fantasy settings in particular, you’ll definitely enjoy using Carcosa even if it’s just for cannibalizing ideas.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Alexander O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2011 02:37:07

This PDF edition of Carcosa is apparently a compilation and revision of material that has appeared before -- material I'm not familiar with in detail, but have passing familiarity with from the OSR blogosphere.

In a market that often seems to be divided between super-slick hi-resolution imagery and sadly amateurish attempts at passable gaming material, Carcosa manages to stake a claim for solid gaming bang for buck on its own terms.

As stated in the Introduction of this sourcebook, Carcosa is not a sourcebook that will drown its readers in setting minutae, but will give sufficient information concerning the setting that will allow GMs and players to use the material any way they wish -- even if they wish to cannibalize the material for monsters, ideas, rules, and adventure seeds.

Fortunately much of that material is very good, despite my misgivings about the 'mature nature' of the setting and the Weird Science Fantasy label is well-deserved -- it somehow manages to merge legacy alien technology, macabre sorcerous rituals, and a decadent, decaying, dangerous world filled with terrible creatures and awful gods into a uniquely setting that comes across as both challenging and interesting to adventure in.

The art is excellent in that it captures the weirdness of the setting, and evokes the feel of the sourcebook as an old-style travel guide or almanac for a foreign land. I would go as far as saying that the linework and the composition tends to connote its subject matter more than denoting it -- they have the feel of being "artist's interpretations" of people, places, and things that are real and were lifted from an accomplished artist's sketchbook.

The PDF has the following sections:

  • Introduction -- does much to frame the understanding and use of the sourcebook
  • Men and Magic -- describes rules such as dice conventions, allowed character classes, and building characters in this setting
  • Sorcerous Rituals -- talks about nature of rituals in sorcery; extensively hyperlinked to the appropriate Monster Descriptions
  • Monster Descriptions -- the monstrous menagerie of Carcosa; externsively hyperlinked
  • Hex Description -- there's a Hex Map of Carcosa with number hexes; you can find the descriptions of each number hex here; extensive hyperlinking to monster descriptions and sorcerous rituals
  • Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorceror -- a short sample adventure that takes place in one of the Hexes
  • Addenda -- lots of good stuff here for the GM

The PDF also sports features like a default two-page spread, a handy table of contents sidebar, and meticulously hyperlinked text. That last bit, by the way, is what pushed this product from a four-star product to a five-star product for me -- it may not be as slick or flashy as some other sourcebooks, but in terms of content, design, and utility it was a winner for me.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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