Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Happened to You in Carcosa?

Weird Fantasy Role-Playing has, as some games do, a difference between city prices and rural prices.  In the rules, you can pick whichever set you want at character creation, because it's likely you picked up your gear in your travels.

However, since Carcosa predominantly describes rural environments, I've been toying with the idea of requiring a trip to the city of Carcosa in one's backstory if one wishes to use city prices.  So, without further ado:

What in the Hell Happened to You in Carcosa?

If you want to have journeyed to Carcosa before play starts, have your DM roll 1d30:

1 - You were infected by some mutagenic virus.  Start play with one random mutation.  Every day (typically upon awakening, reflecting something that happened to you while you slept), save vs. poison.  Failure indicates that you receive a random mutation (Carcosa, pg. 265, assuming the DM doesn't have his own mutation chart).

2 - While walking around the nearly abandoned streets of grim Carcosa, you found a sack of gold in some garbage.  You have an oversized sack of 2d20 × 10 gold pieces.  No, you don't get experience for it.

3 -  Maybe there was too much wine, or ale, or opium.  Or maybe you shouldn't have taken a hit of juice from the thorax of that thing that looked like somebody crudely spliced a gecko, a squirrel, a coral, and a praying mantis.  Whatever it was, that night put The Hangover to shame.  You begin play with no money or equipment, and roll for a carousing mishap on Jeff Rients' original table or Zak Smith's expanded table.  You get no experience for this round of carousing.  Roll 1d6; on a 5 or 6, you still have your own clothes.  On a 1, get a random mutation from whatever Spawn ichor you drank.

4 - You suffered a nasty wound taking weeks to recover, or maybe you suffered some form of wasting illness.  Lose ten ability score points at random (for each point lost, randomly determine the ability from which it is taken).

5 - You heard the word "Hastur" on the lips of some blank-eyed madmen in Carcosa, and it intrigues you.  Hastur...Hastur... you like the sound of it!

6 - You ran afoul of some Sorcerer or other, and you were cursed with aging.  Every day (typically upon awakening, reflecting something that happened to you while you slept), save vs. magic.  Failure indicates that you age as if you cast a sorcerous ritual; roll on the unnatural aging chart (Carcosa, pg. 14 or 267).

7 - A nameless troupe of pale dancers performed the most beautiful dance in Carcosa.  Since that time, you have been rendered unable to speak.  Don't forget to buy paper and ink.

8 - You found a Space Alien weapon (your DM should generate the size based on the tables in Carcosa, pg. 251-257).  Unfortunately, it was abandoned because somebody recognized it as flawed.  The first time you fire it, it explodes.  Determine how much energy is left in the power cell and express it as a percentage (so, a rifle with 36 charges remaining has 72% energy left).  The rifle explodes, dealing damage in a 30' radius like a grenade.  Assume the exploding filament and power cell deals the weapon's base damage for every full multiple of 10% power remaining, to a minimum of its base damage (so, that rifle with 72% energy remaining would deal 14 dice of damage in a 30' radius; a rifle with 24% remaining would deal 4 dice of damage; and a rifle with 8% remaining would deal 2 dice of damage).  If the weapon has a special property (such as being a gamma radiation weapon, or a sulfur weapon, or a logic weapon), it deals damage as that type of weapon.  It is possible to fix the weapon, but that's for the DM to adjudicate (maybe it requires a successful Tinker check, maybe it's a 1 in 10 chance like fixing a robot, or maybe you need to take it to an expert).

9 - Carcosa?  You've never been.  In fact, you cannot recall anything about your life before gameplay begins.  You just picked yourself out of the dirt with your current statistics and equipment.  What did you do that you cannot remember?

10 - Maybe there was too much wine, or ale, or opium.  Or maybe you shouldn't have taken a hit of juice from the thorax of that thing that looked like somebody crudely spliced a gecko, a squirrel, a coral, and a praying mantis.  Whatever it was, that night put The Hangover to shame.  If you're starting at first level, you begin play with no money or equipment and you need to roll a carousing mishap on Jeff Rients' original table or Zak Smith's expanded table.  You do, however, begin play with 1d12 × 250 experience points.  If you're above first level, use the carousing tables (again in Classic or Porn Star edition, depending upon your DM).  Your DM is well within his rights to say that you suffer a mishap even if the table says you shouldn't, because seriously, who gets drunk in the baroque city of Carcosa and expects to get away unscathed?

11 - You are the carrier of a mutagenic virus to which you are immune.  Anyone who spends more than 1-6 hours with you must save vs. poison or receive a random mutation (Carcosa, pg. 265, assuming the DM doesn't have his own mutation chart).

12 - Some jabbering madman on a street corner ranted at you.  If you're a Sorcerer, you know a random ritual.  If you're not a Sorcerer, you know (but cannot cast) a random ritual.  Somebody might pay you for that information, though.

13 - The nobles invited you to a grand feast, and the food was so invigorating.  You have a bonus +3 hit points per hit die.

14 - You found yourself in a strange labyrinth underneath the city.  You wandered for hours, eventually finding a bottle with your name on it.  When you opened it, it whispered a secret to you.  Your DM will tell you what it said; this could be an important campaign secret, or it could just be some horrible revelation that will only bring misery.  Bonus points if it's both.

15 - Every night you dream of Carcosa, and in your mind's eye, you return there.  Every morning, upon awakening, save vs. magic.  Failure indicates that you re-roll on this chart.  If you receive this result again, you do not have to save vs. magic the following day, although the dreams start again on the following day.

16 - You found a friendly robot or reprogrammed a deactivated one.  Your DM will randomly generate a robot (Carcosa, pg. 259-262) to be your faithful companion.

17 - Ever since your trip to Carcosa, you hear horrid whisperings in your mind.  Sometimes they tell you useful things, and sometimes they tell you awful things.  Sometimes they just tell you gibberish.

18 - You traded for a shiny new laser gun.  Begin play with a random piece from the armament tables (Carcosa, pg. 251-257).

19 - You found some weird thing that injected you with something that burned like the devil.  Every day (typically upon awakening, reflecting something that happened to you while you slept), save vs. poison with a +5 bonus to your roll.  Rolling a "1" is always a failure, no matter what your saving throws are.  Failure indicates that you have mutated into a random Spawn of Shub-Niggurath under the DM's control.

20 - When you awoke one morning, you found a pale mask sitting on your chest.  As long as you wear it while casting rituals, you never have to save vs. magic to avoid unnatural aging.

21 - Man, this water is quite a strange shade of jale.  Begin play with a random mutation (Carcosa, pg. 265, assuming the DM doesn't have his own mutation chart).

22 - You ran afoul of some grim and gaunt fanatic of some forgotten god, and now he hunts you.  You are being hunted by a Sorcerer of the DM's design, and the DM is encouraged to make him a tough opponent.  The sneaky little bastard is starting to wear on you, because he has this thing about letting you catch glimpses of him when he's stalking you; every time you see him, save vs. magic or flee in fear.

23 - You opened a door and some thing lashed out at whatever limb was through the doorway.  You are randomly missing a limb.  If it's a leg, you move at half speed.  If it's an arm, you can only hold one object at a time (no sword and shield), and cannot use two-handed weapons.

24 - You had an intriguing conversation with a lovely (and apparently sapient!) ulfire gem, and when you awoke in the morning, it was gone.  You're psionic (Carcosa, pg. 18-21).

25 - You tinkered with a robot, but when it activated, you apparently programmed it to destroy the first thing it saw.  Meaning you.  You are being pursued by a random robot (Carcosa, pg. 259-262).

26 - You were cursed to be outcast from your village.  Every day (typically upon awakening, reflecting something that happened to you while you slept), randomly determine your color.  You can use the charts in What Went Wrong, if you'd like, or you can just figure out some other way. might be your friend if you're stuck.

27 - You gazed upon a monolith in Carcosa and blacked out.  When you awoke, you were back home.  Now, whenever you sleep, save vs. magical device or begin reciting the details of a random ritual.  You cannot benefit from this, but any Sorcerers who listen to your somniloquy can learn whatever ritual you are reciting that night.  If you're a Sorcerer, they can teach it to you if they so wish.  Non-Sorcerers will probably try to kill you for the nighttime blasphemies you speak.

28 - You returned from Carcosa subtly wrong, unable to interact with non-Carcosans.  When dealing with people and creatures not from the city of Carcosa, you are considered to have Charisma 3.  Maybe you rant in alien tongues, like some fantastical version of Tourette syndrome, or maybe your lean and hungry look puts people on edge.

29 - You saved somebody from a pack of things that strongly resembled spiders with Deinonychus heads, as envisioned by Ralph Steadman.  This fellow is now your loyal companion; s/he is two levels lower than you, to a minimum of 0 level.  Assume s/he has leather armor and a weapon.

30 - One of the bleak nobles of Carcosa thought your shabby clothes would be the latest fashion.  He traded your clothes (buy another set or you're naked) for a set of Space Alien battle armor.

(A Note on the City: In addition to Carcosa itself, some stuff on this chart makes oblique references to Call of Cthulhu, particularly Delta Green: Countdown, as well as the original work of Chambers and Bierce.)


  1. I really can't determine which is my favourite - they're all brilliant. All I know is, I want my next character to have been in Carcosa!

  2. I dont think I would use the city of Carcosa as a place where you can go shopping, rather it would be a weird non-euclidean megadungeon fashioned after the work of Gieger and Escher. But this table is wonderful and could come in handy for a trip to that kind of place as well!

    1. See, in my mind Carcosa is probably so bent that it can be the weird, dreamlike city described by John Tynes, a somewhat "functional" city like any city you find, and a Vornheim-style urbancrawl/megadungeon. You can find this weird, hazy, dreamlike city with one, deformed shopkeeper who sells you a laser pistol for a handful of teeth, or you can wander until you find yourself in the labyrinth of your nightmares.

      It may not even be the same city each time you visit.

  3. I'm torn. On the one hand I'd love to have an urban megaplex of weirdness smack in the middle of the map, but on the other hand the setting seems to support the weird, secluded megadungeon thing better; there's not the sort of social and economic structure around lake Hali that would indicate an active commercial center, nor do the tribes of the campaign map particularly seem to care of the place the way they should if it represents significant material interest. The idea of Carcosa as a city of all things brings to mind the adventures of space agent Valerian (by Mezier) - those are always full of vistas like that. Ideally I'd have both the urban nexus and the mysterious ghost city/dungeon familiar from Delta Green on different "poles" of the map, but for that I'd need to figure out the appropriate name for one or the other - can't both be called Carcosa.

    Wait, no, actually they can. That's the gamesman's play, I'll just put in another mysterious city named "Carcosa" in some place a few hundred miles distant, and one of them will be worthy of an urbancrawl, while the other is the dreamy, deserted, cursed place we've come to expect. Good luck travelling to the right one (whichever that might be) as a neolithic adventurer-wannabe with vague rumours as your guide. Maybe all the (handful of) cities on the planet are called "Carcosa", who the fuck knows.

    Vornheim is just a slight bit on the normal side of things for this vision of Carcosa the city. Just a slight bit, you'd basically just need to add randomized race to the toolkit to get the proper tone of insanity in issues such as who's drawing the tap in the local tavern tonight. The rest of it is pretty much there already, insofar as the weirdness index goes.

    1. As I mentioned to terje above, I imagine it to be both. You can find some dreamy, baroque place that's all opium and absinthe, or you can find the stark dungeoncrawl of your nightmares. And the city may not be the same each time; maybe it switches modes depending upon where you go or how much time you spend, or maybe it's just different. The first time you find the ruined necropolis of the Snake-Men, the second time you find a series of structures that form one megadungeon burrowing deep into the planet's crust (or high into the air so as to connect with the space stations around the planet's surface and perhaps even with the megastructures beyond), and the third time you find Carcosa from Delta Green: Countdown, complete with these strangely-colored humans in these drab shades of pink and brown.

      Although I do like the idea of every major settlement on Carcosa being Carcosa.

      Also, as another note, I imagine the humans do not revere the city of Carcosa, because seriously, why would you want to go to Carcosa? You have to cross the Lake of Hali, which is a bad idea, and then enter the city itself, which is probably an even worse idea.


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