Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Return to Remnant

Remnant survives.

A group of twelve entered the Fungoid Gardens, and four returned, converting the town to the worship of the Old Ones.  After the celebratory orgies and revels of the new Remnant (wherein Kra-deera and Uthak learned that Kra-deera's nails can cause unconsciousness), everyone returned to the business of running the town.  Three more travelers came to town the following day: Lilimuth Yogthoth (1st-level Jale Sorcerer), Shako of the Wastes (1st-level Black Specialist), his lizardwolf pups and his two Red child-slaves, and Vebok Barth (1st-level Red/Brown Sorcerer).

That night, all in the village had a dream, prompting them to dig.

Shothothor and most of the villagers took to digging, while Lilimuth, Shako, and Vebok wanted to investigate these "Fungoid Gardens" about which they had heard tales.  A relative newcomer (having only been in the village a few weeks), Shub Shiggashoth (1st-level Brown Fighter) joins them.  Uthak (1st-level Jale Fighter), having previously survived an expedition to the Fungoid Gardens, joins them and decides to act as a guide.

On the way, they meet and destroy a dolm ooze.  It pits and rusts Uthak's new plate armor and destroys Vebok's short sword, although Vebok scoops up a sample of the goop with one of his glass jars.

Continuing to the Fungoid Gardens, the group tries to investigate paths they have not previously taken.  They find a filthy area with bedrolls and more of the slack-jawed Yellow Men.  Leaving them alone, they go down a side-tunnel to find an alchemy lab with a black-clad figure inside.  Uthak recognizes one of the Gardens' inhabitants, and they talk.  He agrees to give them a tour of the upper levels, although he will not descend into the deep one-ridden lower levels.

He gets the group past the Amphibious Ones and they descend into the lower levels.  They wander, fight another dolm ooze (which results in more plate armor corrosion), and investigate the runes that keep a hive of deep ones trapped in these caves.  Deciding that they don't want to investigate too heavily, they ascend.  Before they help the alchemist move to Remnant, offering their protection in exchange for his services, they decide to investigate the nearby chamber devoid of fungus, as the alchemist says he's always had a funny feeling about that place.  Uthak finds that a section of wall is actually an opening blocked by a boulder.  They determine it to be over 100' deep.  Uthak removes her plate armor and decides to climb down.  She slips and falls, plummeting several hundred feet to her death.  The sound of something in the pit suggests that she landed on it and either injured or killed it.

The group helps the alchemist move to Remnant.  Shako tries to fashion the plate into shovels, but breaks it in the process.

The group decides to enslave any wanderers they can find.  They decide to make hunting forays into the Blighted Lands by night.  The first night, they happen across an Ulfire Woman bearing sword and shield, clad in leather and a loincloth.  Strangely, rather than legs, she has tentacles with which she slithers across the rocky ground.  Vebok reveres her, and rather than enslave her, they make introductions.  She is Kakotug Narthok (1st-level Ulfire Specialist), and she agrees to accompany them.

Their foray only finds a carapaced white arachnoid with two orange eyes and covered with small, fanged mouths.  Kakotug gravely injures it and Vebok finishes the job, killing it.

The next several nights are uneventful, as the group finds nothing in the wastes.

When they return on the fifth day, they find that the hole has been completed, and it leads down into a series of caves.  Before they go to sleep, they decide to investigate.

The caverns are covered with a fluffy, dolm fungus.  They find a sack of coins, which they hoist back up to the village.  Then they continue deeper.

They find nothing, but as they continue deeper, they find a tunnel.  As they walk, they hear several feet behind them, and they turn to find a group of ten to twenty stunted, dwarfish, reptile people with snake-like faces.  After murdering five of them, Vebok addresses them and frightens the remaining group off.

They continue until they find a metal door.  They pry it open and find themselves in an obviously artificial facility with walls of metal and stone.

Traveling with "left hand on the wall" or "wall-follower" method, they wander through the lightless tunnels until they find an intersection.  Shako wants to go to the right door, and opens it to find a smooth green hexapod with two eyes and a sharp beak.  The group leaps into the fray and savagely attacks the beast, killing it in seconds.  A pile of coins also sits in this room, and the group grabs it before returning to the surface.

All told, the group finds 900 silver coins and 500 gold coins in the depths, along with the five spears they grabbed off the snake-things.

Update: Incidentally, while Kakotug, Lilimuth, Shako, Shub, and Vebok were sleeping, Nyu-an, the Black alchemist from the Fungoid Gardens, took a few of the villagers and made a brief expedition into the well, just to investigate this fungus.  He has determined that it is harmless and edible; if the caverns could be cleared, the fungi could be used as a food source and possibly even cultivated.

Further Information Is Available: E. M. Lamb also made a post about the session.  He's currently playing Shako of the Wastes (1st-level Black Specialist), for those of you following at home.


Statistical Data: The town started at 45 men led by the Savior of the Prodigals (third-level Fighter).  After the first delve into the Fungoid Gardens, the town was at 35 men led by Shothothor (first-level Sorcerer).  The town has lost an old resident and gained a few new ones, bringing the total number of residents to 38 (39 if one includes Shothothor).

Demographic Breakdown:

Shothothor (1st-level Sorcerer)

38 Men:
  • 3 1st-level Sorcerers
  • 2 1st-level Specialists
  • 2 1st-level Fighters
  • 31 Normal Men
Among the Normal Men, there are:
  • 1 alchemist
  • 1 craftsman (stonework)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Revenge of Teleleli

Does anybody remember when I did a review of The New Death and others?

You do?  Good.

Well, James Hutchings, the guy who wrote that, also wrote this flash fiction anthology called Two-Fisted Tweets.  Read about it here (and then go read the book here — try it; it's free!).

Friday, January 27, 2012

Zak Smith's DM Questionnaire

Exactly what it says on the tin.  I know I'm late to the party, but duty calls.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
Strangely, I'm not sure.  The Snake-Bear, I guess.  My PCs hated that thing.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
This past Saturday, January 21.  I ran this.

3. When was the last time you played?
January 22.  My characters died doing this.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
The PCs are trying to find the magician harvesting the magical resonance from the deaths of David Carradine, Michael Jackson, and Bea Arthur.
Obviously, I started planning that one a while ago.  It would likely be Unknown Armies.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Look over my notes, or read something I'm either about to use or just haven't had time to read yet.  Arrange my dice.  Listen, because something hilarious is usually happening.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Whatever's around.  I used to get so wired that I'd never eat while GMing, but now it varies.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Yes and no.  On the one hand, I'm usually pouring sweat at the end of it, but I find it relaxing.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
I said grace at a dinner I would later learn was probably learn was human flesh, likely that of our host.  Made more interesting because it's the first time I've said grace.  Ever.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
Both, really, although the first is much more common.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Nothing special, sadly.  They're just a tribal people.  Salt of the earth.  Occasional marauders.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
The giant slugs in the Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer resemble nudibranchs.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
Strangely, the first thing I recalled was the half-elf bard refusing to cross a three-foot-deep stream.  He offered to pay any other party member who would carry him across.  His friend, the elf cleric, offered to do it for free.  They both fell in the river and nearly drowned.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Carcosa.  I couldn't remember if mummy brains could fly or not.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
I don't know.  I'm keen on DiTerlizzi.  Maybe some brain-melting mashup of Zak Smith and Ralph Steadman.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
I think so.  I'm not actually sure.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
"Wail of the Witch" for Call of Cthulhu was pretty hilarious.  A lone investigator, in the city of the Elder Things, shoving a shoggoth prod at the person currently inhabiting his body.  Good times.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
A room with a table and enough seating for everyone.  Nearby shelves hold all the gaming stuff.  There's room for sound, too.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Maid and Unknown Armies.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
It's hard to say, because all of the stuff I like makes sense to me.  I'll say H. P. Lovecraft and Goichi Suda.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
Someone who makes playing fun.  Someone who surprises me and/or will drive the action forward without any prompting is good.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
I ran a Cthulhu LIVE game based on someone's description of trying Salvia divinorum.  Here's a video from that game.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
I've had a modern occult game in mind that I'd like to write and publish, so yeah, there's at least one.  Anything else I'd want to see is just something I need to actually make (like, say, my big chart of random names).

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
Not really.  I try to tone down the RPG talk with anyone who doesn't play.

More Money, More Problems

Another interesting thing about old school gaming: money is the driving force for the characters, but money almost causes more trouble than it's worth.

I'm making some dungeons, and I realize that using the oD&D tables from Monsters & Treasure and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures generates stupid amounts of treasure.  Any given haul can easily cause the PCs to generate stupid amounts of money.

We're talking retirement amounts of money.  If you consider that being a peasant costs a few silver a day, then the haul I mention below (16,666 gold pieces) will last you past your natural lifespan, assuming you're human.  Even if you are a little more of a big spender and average a gold piece a day to live in comparative luxury, you still won't run out of your first haul for about forty-five years.

But.  There's a snag.  You're a transient, so you don't really need much, but you're on the road hoping to get rich quickly, a life which serfdom won't allow.

Once you get money, though, several logistical problems emerge.

Let's say, for example, that there are 100,000 gold pieces worth of treasure in a dungeon.  Maybe there are six adventurers, so that's about 16,666 gold pieces per party member.

Good luck carrying that out of the dungeon.

If you're going oD&D, that's ten times more than a character can feasibly carry while moving at a quarter of his movement rate (any sane DM will say you can't move, and even the insane ones say that you'll be moving so slowly that you'll probably be attacked half a million times before you actually get out of the damn dungeon).  If you're playing Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, you're eating into your 167th equipment slot, meaning you're at something like 32 encumbrance points, and that your skeleton probably collapsed under the weight of your loot 11,000 coins ago.

This also assumes that you're totally naked, somehow carrying all these coins in your hands.  This further assumes that you lack enough common sense to know that thousands of coins are heavy.

Well, you think, I'll just make some return trips.  This dungeon isn't going anywhere, so what hurry do I have?  But each return trip to the dungeon is a risk, increasing the likelihood of your horrific and messy death.  If it's among your first delves, you may not have enough equipment to grab all that treasure at first, so you'll have have to make return trips.  To minimize those trips, you're either buying carts and livestock (good luck getting those in the dungeon), or hirelings (better pay well, or else they might just take the money and run, assuming they don't knife you in the back before doing so).

Then, once you've obtained your pilfered tomb gold, are you just going to drop it in a cave and stay there all the time?  No?  Then you need to buy property.  And since you're out and about, you'll need people (or objects or whatever) to guard that property.  And people to manage it.

It's fairly realistic, but at the same time, it almost makes you wonder why you'd risk your life to get it.

It also dampens that initial shock when you think, Wait, how much money did I put in this dungeon?

When you're wondering what in the hell happens when somebody has that much loot, the real answer is that the adventurers will be investing it into future dungeon delves.  So it all balances out.

Anyway, enough rambling.  Referring back to the title of this post, take us out Biggie Smalls:

Player Agency, Revisited

After playing The Grinding Gear and running Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer, I've learned something important about player agency.

Player agency is the ability to cut your losses and leave the dungeon to go anywhere else.

Most modern variants assume you'll leave the dungeon (or the adventure, or whatever) to sleep and return.  Old school gaming lets you leave the dungeon, and assumes nothing.

Maybe you'll return someday, maybe you won't.

We Heard You Missed Us, We're Back

As you've likely noticed, there has been less posting in the past week.


More gaming.

When I started this blog, I was running one game.  Now my cup runneth over; I'm running a couple of games and playing in a couple.

It's a good time to be alive.

Anyway, I might as well give you something useful.  Here's a random creature, straight from The Random Esoteric Creature Generator.  Statistics are included in three formats for your viewing pleasure.



The Huitzilla is a strange-looking creature.  It is a spheroid roughly three feet in diameter, covered in pink feathers with black spots.  Two lashing pseudopods emerge from its form, one bearing a beak and the other bearing an eye.  It primarily attacks with its bite, but will also bash prey with its eyestalk.

In their territory, packs of Huitzillas will angrily roll across the countryside in search of prey, and they will basically eat anything.

In practice, they're a lot like large, angry tribbles.

Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Statistics:

No. Appearing: 1-8
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120′
Armor Class: 15 (as leather + shield for you non-LotFP:WFRP people)
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: 2 (beak and pseudopod)
Damage: 1d4 (1d2 pseudopod lash)
Morale: 6 (if your system tracks morale)

In WFRP, the Huitzilla is likely just one strange monster among many.  Perhaps it was created by vile sorcery, or a sickness plaguing the land, or some other appropriate origin.

Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition Statistics:

Scholars are not certain when the huitzillas first appeared, but common lore suggests they were magical experiments created by the now-extinct Olman Empire.  Their reverence for the hummingbird was quite clear, and it is obvious they sought to infuse some creature with its characteristics.  A theory among some scholars is that the creatures are a crossbreed of hummingbird and beholder.

Whatever the case, huitzillas are apparently self-perpetuating pack hunters, capable of breeding.  They are much feared for their ability to eat anything, roaming the landscape like feathered tumbleweeds in search of prey.

Attributes: Intelligence 1, Wits 3, Resolve 3, Strength 4, Dexterity 4, Stamina 3, Presence 2, Manipulation 1, Composure 1
Skills: Athletics (Rolling) 4, Brawl 3, Survival 3
Willpower: 4
Initiative: 7
Defense: 4
Speed: 13 (species factor 5)
Health: 6 (Size 3)
Attacks: Bite for 1(L) [8 dice of lethal damage], Pseudopod Slam for 0(B) [7 dice of bashing damage]

The somewhat comical-looking huitzillas are a threat only rarely encountered in the wilds of Central America and northern South America.  Despite their strange appearance — one observer described them as "something Hunter Thompson and Pelé dreamed up on acid, after watching too much Star Trek" — they are feared by the few who know of them.

The spherical huitzillas — a portmanteau of "huitzilin," the Nahuatl word for "hummingbird," and "kujira," the Japanese word for "whale" (although it's probably just a reference to "Godzilla") — hunt in packs (sometimes as large as eight individuals) and move by rolling.  One tendril bears the mouth while the other bears a single eye; these tend to remain stationary while the rest of the organism rolls toward prey.

Their origin is unknown, though some explorers swear they are found more readily near the sites of ruins.  Awakened scholars state that many have been found near Atlantean ruins, suggesting an origin among mages, possibly Atlantean refugees who fled to Central America.


So there.  Figure out some way to use that in your game.  And now, as the title suggests, Van Halen will play us out:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Candle Head, Grikflit

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Candle Head and the Grikflit.

The Candle Head, also known as the Verdrum Dough, is a variety of homunculus, the classic magic-bred servitor.

The origins of the Candle Head are unknown.  The word "Verdrum" possibly refers to its origin, but it is unclear whether "Verdrum" is a person, place, or thing.  Similarly, the Candle Head is a creature of yeast and dough, but nobody has had the opportunity to study it thoroughly.  One could possibly determine the origin and lineage of these creatures by study of the yeast that forms them — are they all from some common source, like sourdough, or are they made by different magi in different places?

Whatever the case, some Candle Heads appear to have a facility with magic, and use it while on their inscrutable errands.  They may be found in the company of magi, or simply travelling on their own.  The following Candle Head has facility with the wizard spell Force Orb as well as a modified version of Magic Missile.

Candle Heads apparently have a rapport with the Grikflit.  The Grikflit are relatively docile creatures, deaf, dumb, and blind, that float through the world with an improbable combination of natural buoyancy and telekinesis (their wings are not terribly functional, and really only aid in navigation).

Well, docile isn't precisely accurate.  They're docile if they've recently been fed.

Hungry specimens are known to strike at foes, releasing a terrible blast of flatulence before moving in to devour the overwhelmed prey.  Taming a Grikflit is more a matter of keeping it well-fed than any sort of animal handling.

The Candle Heads are the only creatures known to ride them, likely because they have a natural tolerance toward the Grikflit's foul stench.  For their part, the Grikflit seem to have some sort of empathetic relationship with the Candle Heads, though it may be as simple as appreciating the yeasty smell that accompanies the creatures.

The following Grikflit is a typical example of the species, though larger specimens have been reported.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Random Tome

I just rolled on this random tome table, and now you're stuck with this:

28. A pornographic romance novel written in Dwarvish. If the PCs decide to read a page, they will find one of the passages found at This Site. [Rended Press]


Wednesday Werk: Acephali, Almas

Sorry I didn't post this earlier.  I didn't post it because I thought I already did.

Whoopsy daisy!

Anyway, in this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Acephali and the Almas, both monsters from real-world human mythology.

Then again, this is appropriate; most D&D monsters have some basis in mythology.  At least the ones that weren't based on half-melted miniatures, anyway.

Also known as blemmyes (and theorized by archaic cultures to be what inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere resembled), the Acephali are a tribal race of humanoids living in the savage, jungle coast of Liboor.  Though they can see from the faces in their chest, these faces may be concealed behind a skin flap or even with animal hides.  Evidently, the acephali have acute senses and can still accurately perceive their surroundings even when blinded.

The following specimen represents a typical hunter, stalking game during the day. He is more or less outfitted as a ranger.

There are rumors of a strange sect of acephali oracles in the jungle, but these rumors have never been confirmed.

The Almas (a Mongolian variant of the Sasquatch or Yeti) is an intelligent variant of yeti (the yeti, as introduced in 4e's Monster Manual 3, are depicted as somewhat intelligent animals).  They are not terribly advanced, but they quietly watch man and will attempt to emulate his workings, fashioning simple tools and even armor — almas make a sort of felt out of their fur which is equivalent to leather armor.

Of course, despite their lack of technological advancement, almas have a sophisticated culture all their own.  The almas are known spellcasters with facility in manipulating arcane and primal energies.  The creature depicted here is an almas frostcaller, a weather mage found in the high, cold mountains.  Enterprising DMs may make variants of this creature by adapting wizard and druid powers, and by adding points of Intelligence to the existing Yeti creatures (the frostcaller is actually an adaptation of the Yeti Howler, for example).

The almas are also known to interbreed with nearby species, providing weird mutant crossbreedings of various races.  The above creature (or the other yetis, for that matter) can easily be altered to a mutant form by adding or subtracting powers.  For the true gonzo experience, DMs with access to the recent Gamma World adaptation can swap the encounter powers for Alpha Mutations.  If a DM does not have access to Gamma World, s/he can easily adapt the above creature to be an Almas Mutant with the following steps:

1) Remove the creature's encounter powers.

2) Open random.org.

3) Set the random number generator from 1 to 7 and click "Generate."  (Alternately, just skip the whole "random.org" step and roll a d8, rerolling an "8" if you roll one.)

4) If you generate a 1 or 2, go to this forum post and generate a number from 1 to 40 to get a random Alpha Mutation (a d4 and a d10 work if you don't want to deal with random.org).  If you generate a 3 through 7, go to this forum post and generate a number from 1 to 100 to get a random Alpha Mutation (a d100 is the classic choice, of course).

5) Repeat this process.  You should have two Alpha Mutations.  This creature can use both as encounter powers.

I used this method to make the following Almas Mutant:

Given the general complexity of 4e, this probably isn't something one would want to do on the fly, but using this method with enough preparation time, a DM could make a huge variety of mutant almas breeds.

For that matter, you could swap out encounter powers for any monster and replace them with Alpha Mutations.  If you were so inclined.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Carcosa: The Aftermath 2: The Aftermathening

How could I forget the most important part?

Imagine this in dog size.
The party encountered giant slugs in the Fungoid Gardens, and Kra-deera totally licked one.

I'm already looking at the Fearful Fungi chart on page 222, so I roll with that.

Bam!  Mutation.  Within minutes, her fingernails harden and turn the color of these slugs.

She probably learns that she now has poisoned fingernails when she returns to Remnant and has some time alone with Uthak.  Roll to save vs. poison!

Fortunately, it just causes unconsciousness.  Still, passing out totally ruins the mood.

The Village of Remnant [Carcosa]

One last thing regarding the Carcosa game I ran.

Originally, I assumed everyone would use the core rules to make characters, and that they would likely come from a typical village containing one race.  When it became obvious that everyone wanted to use What Went Wrong, I had to improvise.

Why are all these different races together?

The Village of Remnant

Remnant is located in sub-hex 0403 of hex 2005, thusly placing it somewhere on the southeastern edge of hex 1905.

Until recently, the village of Remnant was a village of 45 men of various colors led by the Savior of the Prodigals, a Yellow Man and a third-level Neutral fighter.  He made a safe haven for refugees from other villages; the villagers are a mix of men of various races, though primarily Yellow and White, all of whom were displaced.  Some left their villages when they were destroyed, others transgressed and were banished, and still others may have been sorcerers driven from their own towns.  Still, the Savior welcomed all, so long as they were willing to aid in defense of the village and stay out of the business of the Old Ones.

All that changed when he tasked some of his villagers with cutting a deal with the nearby Bone Sorcerer in his Fungoid Gardens.  Specifically, he wanted to engage in a non-aggression pact with the sorcerer whereby the Sorcerer would not harm the villagers of Remnant in his experiments.  If this agreement required the death of the Sorcerer, so be it.

Of the twelve men and their retainers who left, only six returned.  The two sorcerers Shothothor and Yaan-krok returned first and demanded a reward of the Savior, and when he indicated he had nothing for them (other than, you know, safety and a free place to stay), they attacked and murdered him.  Shothothor then hoisted the remains of his body and preached to the town about the glory of the Old Ones.  His display of force and rousing speech convinced the villagers, and the celebrations began.

By the time Kra-Deera, Uthak, Ke’pha, and Lotloth returned he had turned to the worship of the Old Ones.  Seeing their opportunity, Shothothor, Yaan-krok, Kra-Deera, and Uthak turned on Ke’pha, and Lotloth and slew them, knowing them to be opposed to the worship of the Old Ones.

Remnant is now a village of 35 headed by Shothothor, a Purple first-level Chaotic sorcerer.

Expect strange events and odd ceremonies to soon occur in Remnant...

A Note on Buildings: Remnant contains 27 thatch huts and three stone longhouses.  One is the mayor's house, currently inhabited by Shothothor.  One is the Haven, what passes for an inn around here (it's really just a bunch of bedrolls on a dirt floor).  It is run by Bolmae, a Yellow Man and skilled cook.  The final longhouse is used for storage and holds Remnant's general store.  It is run by Olloskr, an Orange Woman and craftsman.

Statistical Update (1-29-2012): Remnant is now a village of 38 headed by Shothothor, a Purple first-level Chaotic sorcerer.  Read more here.

Statistical Update (7-1-2012): Remnant is now a village of 34 headed by Shothothor, a Purple first-level Chaotic sorcerer.

Carcosa: The Aftermath

So.  Carcosa.  It happened.

I've talked about Carcosa before, but here are a few more thoughts.

Carcosa is like Dark Sun meets Gamma World.

Carcosa is great.  It's the only game I can think of where a young caveman can steal Grey technology, grow up to be Iron Man, and fight the Great Old Ones.

Finally, if you haven't read it, Jim Stutz has a review of Carcosa on RPG.net.  He didn't care for the game, but he gives us this completely accurate gem: "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."

(For the record, I'll comment on one of Jim Stutz's criticisms when he says, "we're told that 'on a lifeless island of black stone stands the alien city of Carcosa.' So, 'unkowable to Me' serpent-man alien? Non-Euclidean Cthulhu-style alien? Invaders-from-Space alien? We don't know, because that one line is all we get about the city of Carcosa. One could say that the beauty of the setting is that it allows me to answer these questions for myself. One could also say that that's what I paid the writer $21 to do for me."  The answer likely has something to do with redundancy, as there is already all this stuff that references Carcosa.)

So, I ran Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer, included in the Carcosa book.  I think people had fun.

E. M. Lamb already catalogued the session if you want to read it, so I'll only provide a few thoughts here.

I made six pregenerated characters, five using the standard Weird Fantasy Role-Playing rules and one using Jeff Rients' "What Went Wrong" supplement (that's a direct link; you can see the original post and some reactions here).  The six players were given the choice, and all chose the "What Went Wrong" supplement.  So there are five characters of guaranteed competence and seven characters of varying degrees of competence.

Also, some of the players wanted to keep with the random theme and rolled 1d100 for their ages.  Three characters ended up over sixty, allowing me the opportunity to test Weird Fantasy Role-Playing's aging rules.  Bonus!

Also, for the record, Uthak and Kra-deera are lesbian lovers, as both were around the same age and both were lesbians.  Thank you, Jeff Rients.  And I didn't even have to use his romance chart!

That would make for a disturbing Carcosa game.  Love in Carcosa, like A Midsummer Night's Dream but with more Lovecraftian monsters and horrific rituals.

That can only lead to tentacle hentai, so I think we're going to skip it.  Moving on.

So, here's the interesting part (and a spoiler alert, though you knew that already).  Reading through the adventure, I felt that the first few rooms of Fungoid Gardens hold nothing suggesting that combat will happen.  The white lotus thralls are picking flowers.  The sorcerer is wandering around, doing experiments.  His acolytes and the alchemist are hanging out.

The adventurers could have had a relatively easy time of it.

As it was, combat only starts when the adventurers are in the white lotus gardens, and the phrase "kill the sorcerer" is uttered.  Pretty much by accident, as they're discussing what they want to do within earshot of the white lotus zombies.

Poor Pheebo.
Pheebo, Uthak's loyal retainer, was the first to die.  Although he totally broke a lackey's neck with a solid right hook.

Kra-deera's loyal lizardwolf took some punishment but held its ground.  Yaan-krok had Boy the slave and some sort of spider-dog thing (he was one of the WFRP guys, so he actually bought those with starting money).  They survived, too.

When the party split, I would later learn the chaotic types were plotting to let the other party members deal with the Bone Sorcerer, and if he killed them all, they were just going to plead ignorance and pledge allegiance.

The Bone Sorcerer would have been a little more frightening if he weren't overwhelmed by about ten dudes, and if the Mind Blast didn't weaken him considerably.  Then again, the fact that a lone man held off about ten armed people for about half a minute is a fairly impressive feat.

But really, that's about it.  The characters were murderhobos and went around murdering everything (including a Spawn of Shub-Niggurath that was completely immobile).  The backstabbing PCs were actually the ones who didn't kill anybody, instead hanging back.

You know.  To murder everyone later.

Shothothor and Yaan-krok were the ones who arrived before the others and slew the Savior of the Prodigals.  Shothothor turned the town to the worship of the Old Ones almost single-handedly.

I hope to play again, and I suspect future games will involve the adventurers trying to get stuff together so that they can make Remnant autonomous.

We shall see.

Addendum: I totally forgot about Kra-deera's toxic fingernails.  Read about it here.

Also, I'll repeat the fact that E. M. Lamb recorded the plot of the game session with more detail than these vague notes about running the game.  You should check it out.

The Glass from Leng

This came to me, so I wrote it down, but now I cannot recall what sparked it.

Anyway.  The Glass from Leng horrifies observers, but not for the reason everybody thinks.  It doesn't show you horrific dimensions beyond space and time.

Instead, it shows you how others see you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Awesome Posts I Missed

Here's the typical blogroll for you.

Role-Player Hater has been playing with The Random Esoteric Creature Generator.  Here are the Ingot Snakebeetles and the Squamous Fleshbear.  You're welcome.

Monsters and Manuals had a brief writeup of Utolso Varos, the last city on Earth.  I'm enamored of a campaign with only one human settlement in the midst of a vast wilderness, and since Clark Ashton Smith just had a birthday, it's totally appropriate.

Monsters and Manuals also gives us Project Gutenberg Appendix N, the Appendix N for a hypothetical game he'd like to run based entirely on public domain works.  John Carter, Baron Munchausen, and Doc Frankenstein?  Yeah, I'd play in that.

Hereticwerks gives us the Negamorph (Formless Spawn) for Terminal Space as part of their Mythos Future line.  Notable for giving a little a history of the literary development of the creature.

Along similar lines, Hereticwerks also gives a d30 chart of Lovecraftian backgrounds.  You know how Lovecraft's characters get weird inheritances or eldritch genealogies?  Yeah, this does that for your oD&D game.

You can bet that's getting used.

Better Late Than Never

Clark Ashton Smith, pictured here being more awesome than you.

Clark Ashton Smith had a birthday this past Friday and I was too busy to post about it.  Fortunately, Grognardia had you covered.

I celebrated by running Carcosa the following day. What did you do?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Some Thoughts on Geoffrey McKinney

So, since I've written a review of Carcosa and a review of Isle of the Unknown, there is some stuff I didn't mention because I hadn't full realized it while reading Carcosa and it didn't really fit into my blurb about Isle of the Unknown.

Geoffrey McKinney has his finger on the pulse of D&D.

This is very specific — I don't necessarily means that he captures any timeless essence of D&D (although, to be fair, he certainly does), or that he betrays a startling grasp of some recent edition.  I mean he truly gets the spirit of the Little Brown Books in a way you don't often see.  This may not be your vision of D&D — hell, I'm not saying it's mine, for that matter — but he definitely understands the exploratory, puzzle-laden weirdness of D&D as codified by Arneson and Gygax.

Understanding those roots are important because they're really the bedrock upon which the hobby is founded.

Plus, he makes magic truly mysterious in a way I've rarely seen in D&D.  Magic is the purview of weird, obsessive forces in World of Darkness and Unknown Armies, but it's all too easy to fall into the trap of "Ho-hum, another magic missile."

It's really something I've been missing in my current delve into D&D, and I'm glad to see it again.

Magic is stranger and more special when it takes the "How far are you willing to go for power?" aesthetic of Carcosa or the "I've been studying one spell for fifteen years at the exclusion of all others so that I am now the absolute master of all trees in this grove" aesthetic of Isle of the Unknown.

Really, it's Unknown Armies for D&D — magic is a strange, idiosyncratic art that pushes those who follow the path away from the common world we know.

Magic envelops you in a cloak of the Weird.

I hope we see more stuff from him in the future, because he's one of those guys on my "Hey, I want to buy your stuff!" list.  At the very least, I hope some of his design philosophy rubs off on the rest of the industry.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Isle of the Unknown

So I wrote a review for Carcosa, and it's easily the most-read item on my blog — this blog is tiny, and it has about 200 pageviews at current count.  To compare: the runner-up is my review regarding the Blasphemous Brewery of Pilz (wait, you haven't bought Blasphemous Brewery yet?) with a fourth of the pageviews.

Everything goes downhill from there.

So, anyway, as noted in my post about bookporn, I accidentally received a copy of Isle of the Unknown with Carcosa, and quickly rectified this egregious error by legitimately purchasing the book.

To think there was a time when I thought Isle of the Unknown merely sounded neat.

(Also, before I proceed, there are a few spoilers, mostly in the form of, "Here's a neat thing you might see, with minimal details so that you only know you might see something matching this description.")

Isle of the Unknown is pure, unadulterated, old-school awesome.  There's this island, and it's unknown, see?

Basically, Isle follows Geoffrey McKinney's hexcrawl format from Carcosa: this island is broken into hexes, each ten miles across (86 square miles overall).  He has one entry on one interesting thing that can be found in each hex.

And that's it.  That's the setup.  That's the thing you order from Finland and await with baited breath.

Really, though, there's a lot of stuff crammed in these 125 pages.

Each interesting thing is, get this, actually interesting.  It's Weird and Mysterious stuff in D&D, which frequently gets lost in all the "Well, the humans have towns and the elves have towns and I guess the goblins have towns and it rains sometimes" mundanity of it.  You can read a little about that back-and-forth between James Raggi and Geoffrey McKinney here.

The product assumes no setting; this island can literally be dropped anywhere.  Along with this idea, there is no backstory for the island — everything is inferred.  There are people living here now (by default, they're chivalric-and-romantic-era France, but that's just a placeholder for whatever culture you want), and people lived here in the past, and a rumor suggests that maybe Carcosan Men lived here before that, but who knows?

What's left is all the weird stuff of the clash between the modern and ancient.

The interesting things fall under several broad categories.  There are some monsters, some statues, some locations, some items, and some people.

The monsters are all weird.  Some are terrifying, some are stupid-looking.  The stupid-looking ones are frequently more scary than the overtly intimidating ones.  Seriously, there's a thing that looks like a koala with octopus suckers, but it's one of the most awful things I've ever read.  Meanwhile, there's this reptilian horror that is pretty manageable.  0-level guys could take him out with minimal difficulty.

You never can tell on this island.

The statues, locations, and items are similarly weird, and there's no telling how such a thing might go.  Some statues grant boons, others grant banes, or animate and attack the adventurers.  Most locations are towns, but some ruins dot the landscape.  These tend to be the least weird, but again, you can't know — towns are frequently the gateway to the weird, as residents offer quests relating to the magic of the isle.  Old relics are also strewn about the island, and again reward adventurers who are cautious.

By far, however, my favorite part features the people.  This island boasts an order of clerics, and magic-users of all sorts have been drawn to the isle, ostensibly to study its properties (or just to find an isolated place to experiment).  The clerics represent the human intrigue of the island, connected as they are with the towns and cities dotting the countryside.  Some of the order's secrets are suggested by the actions of these men, and as with everything else, they may aid or hinder adventurers who encounter them.

And then there are the wizards.

Maybe the old civilization crafted a place rife with magic, or maybe it's just secluded, but there are a few magic-users on this island.  Each one is unique, having found some personal demense and practiced magic there.

Basically, Geoffrey McKinney answered one of my chief complaints about D&D, being the magic system.  Magic should be an Art, but it has aspects of a science in D&D, because everything is so rote.  Isle of the Unknown suggests that this is not uniformly true, because his magicians are weird.  Maybe most of the murderhobo magicians in the world are, say, self-made, ruthless men in the vein of Steve Jobs — they go out, do weird and amazing things, dick some people over, and get famous and wealthy beyond mortal comprehension — but the magi on the Isle are like those weird art-school students who live in a commune formed from draperies in a rickety old sawmill, and they turn their life into art.

These magi take magic and own it, wholly entangling themselves and the Art until there is no distinction.  There's the one who has completely control over the crabs from the nearby lake, or the one who has secured immortality by sequestering his consciousness in a piece of vampiric artwork.

These guys are truly Masters of the Art.

One more thing: as with Carcosa, this book is damn pretty.  Everything is in rich, lavish color, with detailed maps of the island, evocative images of the monsters, and full-page splashes of the strange and varied magic-users of the island.  As noted in the above link regarding Mr. Raggi and Mr. McKinney's thoughts on the Isle, this is as much a hexcrawl as it is an art project.

In short, Isle of the Unknown is weird romp of a hexcrawl through a landscape relatively untouched by human hands.  You might get rich by investigating the secrets of the Isle, but it is more likely that you will be changed by it, and you will find yourself away from the mundane and fully immersed in the Weird.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Werk: The Werkening

This thing will invert upon itself like some horrid, incestuous ouroboros.

So not only have I been writing up stuff from Hereticwerks, they've been writing up some of the random things I've mentioned when there's some thing that makes sense in an entry but doesn't have statistics.

As such, there are now massive numbers of swarming Flytaur drones and the Queen Lobster's larva-soldiers.  You can read about my take on the creatures in this post.  Also, there's now an extended writeup of the Bruthem, which you should read.  The Bruthem originally appear in this Hereticwerks blog post and are adapted to 4e in this Wednesday Werks post.

Also, you should read about Tcho-Tchoids while I have you here (I have a fondness for the Tcho-Tcho, and the degenerate humanfolk appear in many of my games, likely because degenerate humanfolk of all stripes are weird and pulp and awesome).  I haven't adapted any Terminal Space creatures for Wednesday Werks, but I'm sure I will as time marches onward.

Wednesday Werk: Irving the Impressionable Shoggoth

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at something a little different.  Typically, the creatures featured here represent NPC creatures from Hereticwerks.  Not all of them are monsters to fight, but every creature is designed to help the party indirectly at best.

This time, we're giving you an ally.  This week's feature is Irving the Impressionable Shoggoth.

Irving is technically an NPC, but he's built as a companion creature using the rules from Dungeon Master's Guide 2.  If you're worried about game balance, don't use him; his darkvision and innate regeneration abilities mean that he'll likely outshine the PCs.  If you're not worried about game balance, then here he is.  He's built as a 5th-level Defender, and acts as another party member in all respects.

Irving is a naïve, young adventurer who wants to see the world in the great tradition of such unlikely adventurers as Bilbo Baggins and Luke Skywalker.

Oh, and he's a shoggoth.  The Mad Arab wrote the dreaded Kitab Al-Azif, and even these things frightened him.

Despite his power, Irving places adventurers in a precarious position, because as noted in his original writeup, he is likely to approach the PCs, and how do you say "no" to a half-ton shoggoth?

Irving has a lot to bring to the table.  He's basically a fighter, but a fighter who cannot be flanked, can see in the dark, and regenerates.  He doesn't carry a weapon, instead relying on his acidic pseudopods.  As such, he can take a lot of heat.

On the other hand, he's a shoggoth.  He won't eat you while you're adventuring, but he might turn on you eventually.  Indeed, if he is reduced to 0 hit points and revived, he needs to make a saving throw at -4.  Failure indicates that he has forgotten himself, possibly causing him to assume another party role and take on the characteristics of another class.  He might even become a mindless shoggoth.

Anyway, without further ado, here's Irving:

Note that he has some traits of the impressionable young shoggoth, but he has some from the original Call of Cthulhu writeup (notably the aquatic feature).  Feel free to add any traits from either version, to taste (like allowing him to reproduce scrolls at no cost with a chance that he learns the ritual).

When the PCs inevitably offend Irving or when he turns on them in a level or so, I also wrote Irving as a monster so he can reasonably provide a challenge for a group of PCs.  This version definitely has more in common with a Call of Cthulhu shoggoth, both to its advantage and disadvantage.

Addendum: If you look at the comments, the good folks at Hereticwerks note that Irving's original Labyrinth Lord entry depicts him using weapons.

No problem.

As written, Irving's companion entry uses greatclub statistics for his Slam attack.  You can easily swap the Slam attack for a weapon attack; the greatclub gives Irving's attacks a +2 proficiency bonus and 1[W] is 2d4.  Just swap out the bonus and damage as appropriate.  As all companion characters, Irving has no use for magical items or gear, and so should never be given a share of the treasure.

Since Irving has a decent Slam attack, and since he probably doesn't know his own strength and is basically a blob of sentient acid, DMs might want to assume that any weapon he wields breaks on a natural "1."  He will then revert to his Slam attacks as noted in the above entry.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Some More Awesome Stuff

Jeff Rients' post about stuff led me to the OSR Conservation Process, which has some neat stuff.  It's small, but it's the sort of thing which will likely grow with time.

While I'm at it, read Jeff Rients' post about FLAILSNAILS and the Outlands (yeah, planar travel is just like that), as well as this thing at Dungeons and Digressions about an ancient d6.

Man, remember when you just called d6s "dice?"  Me, neither.

The Grinding Gear, revisited

Earlier today, I mentioned a dungeon delve into the Grinding Gear.  Well, our DM shared his thoughts on the subject.

Go read it.

The Grinding Gear (a player's recap and review)

Since E. M. Lamb hasn't written up his thing about The Grinding Gear, I'll do it here.  Expect a link whenever he gets around to it.

Also, in case it needs to be said, there are spoilers ahead, so beware.

We didn't have all the players for the Traveller game he wants to do, but he was prepared to run some LotFP: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying.  Specifically, James Raggi's adventure, The Grinding Gear.  He warned us first (Mr. Raggi writes, "So I don’t expect this to be a slaughterhouse dungeon, but the possibility is very real that the players will think that the entire thing is one big cruel waste of their time with no rewards. Are you prepared for that?").

Mr. Lamb was running.  His girlfriend, myself, and Nicole were the players.  Mr. Lamb pregenerated eight characters; Nicole took two and the rest of us took three.

At the moment, I can't recall everyone.  Nicole had a magic-user and an elf; one was named Myst, and I forgot the name of the other one.  I can't remember which was which.  Likewise, Mr. Lamb's girlfriend took a fighter (a dumb fighter named Furor), a specialist (a thief if you've never played LotFP), and a cleric.  One was named Violet, the other was named River, but I don't recall which was which.  I also took a fighter (Clash), specialist (Brand), and cleric (Wolf).  Wolf is the party's leader.

Also, there's a dog, Bartleby.

We roll up on the inn.  Mosquito-bats come from the woods.  BAM!  Brand dies in the first round of combat.  The mosquito-bats are vanquished.

We investigate.  Clash opens the statue.  He's a mighty man, and gas doesn't phase him.  We decide to check the stables — which is fortunate, because the mosquito-bats in the attic swarm to drink from the dead.  Since nobody died, they go back into the attic.  Smart mosquito-bats.

Also, five horses are in the stable.  Some murderhobos have preceded us.

We go through the inn.  Nothing is there other than some cryptic clues and a few scattered valuables.  We know there are mosquito-bats in the attic, so we debate going.  Furor insists.  He runs up, lights his torch, grabs some handfuls of coins, and runs out before he is bitten to death by mosquito-bats.  We are thankful.

And almost ninety gold richer, compared to our previous status as broke murderhobos.

We decide to check out this dungeon.  We enter.  We find hidden switches.  We flip them.  Nervously.  We find hidden doors but cannot open them.

We come to a barred door.  Voices are within.

We kick the door open.  Three members of an exploration party are within.  They look surprised.  We parley.  They agree.  We talk.  They have lost two members and will likely leave.  We explain that we've been flipping these switches, assuming they will activate the secret door we found.  The elf points out a secret switch panel while we're talking.  The other group feels stupid.

One of their number flips the switch.  When the machinery of the dungeon starts grinding, the other group panicks.  They attack.  Wolf dies, but so do they.

Clash takes command of the party.

We check.  A secret door is open!  We enter.  We find connected rooms with three pits.  One holds a troll, one holds a black pudding, and one holds some ghouls.  We notice a secret door in the pit with the ghouls.  Clash tries to talk to the troll, but it's not in a talking mood.

One character (was it Furor?) opens the door.  Without using the key.  The platforms containing these creatures rise.  We run through the open door into a hallway.  We hear the sounds of monsters fighting.  We find a corpse.  We take some stuff.  We run back out into the hallway, and rush through the hidden door.

We are in another hallway.

We enter a room.  Furor gets badly burned, but he's okay.  Clash sings "My Bonny Lass (She Don’t Look So Good)" (much to the enjoyment of the other players, I improvise about three lines, and everyone agrees I sound like Tom Waits).  Nothing happens.

We enter another room.  Furor gets cleaved in twain.  We exit that hallway, and decide, "Screw this dungeon, we're way richer than when we entered," which I think is a novel idea, because you rarely hear about people just leaving when they decide they've had enough.

And then we happen upon some ghouls wandering in the depths.

They kill the elf and the magic user, but we manage to bring them low.  The three survivors — Clash, River, and Violet — flee.  We outrun the black pudding and make our way topside.  The rogue flips a switch to seal the secret passage, trapping the ooze.

We leave.  With some treasure.  And five horses among the three of us.

I suspect we shall return someday, once we've rested and acquired some new hires.

Anyway, it was fun.  I would actually like to delve back into the dungeon, because I think we did okay — character deaths were mostly related to fights rather than traps gone awry.  We know we have a black pudding to worry about, but at least we know about it.

As for the module itself, what little I know about it suggests that it is entertaining.  It's definitely good for a "Well, here's a bunch of us, let's delve into a dungeon" night.  It's a Tomb of Horrors-style puzzle dungeon and the traps only seemed to punish haste and foolhardiness.

Naturally, I haven't read it, as I hope to finish playing it rather than running it (yet), but what I experienced was fun.  Which is really the point, so y'know, it was successful.

...incidentally, it marked the first time I had the opportunity to play Weird Fantasy Roleplay, and I liked it so much that I bought it.  The system is sleek and intuitive, tightening some of the clunky bits from the Little Brown Books and bringing them together under one cover (which is more convenient than plunging through bits of errata spread across several books).  So there's that.  I might put up a proper review of it next week, after I (hopefully) run "Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer" from Carcosa this coming weekend.

Edit: E. M. Lamb did his writeup of the session.  Read that to get a little more insight and to learn everyone's names.

Also, I forgot to note that we totally burned the inn down, operating on the premise that it would drive the attic-dwelling mosquito-bats away while leaving the treasure in the attic intact.

Delusions of Grandeur

No, seriously.

I wasn't frozen in carbonite, but I did miss a bunch of neat stuff.

Everyone's top news: D&D 5eThe New York Times even talked about it, because apparently there's nothing better happening.  Prediction: D&D will morph 3e with retroclone elements, essentially becoming a pastiche of itself.  And then Grant Morrison will get involved, and somehow it will implode in one giant, orgiastic rite.

They've been on this apologist kick for a while, and while I wish them well and appreciate trying to make everyone happy, Wizards would likely be best served by picking a fanbase and sticking with it.

Though, who knows?  The OSR blogs do crowdsourcing all the time (Gigacrawler, anyone?), and it doesn't turn into a morass of insanity.  Or sometimes it does, but that's part of the charm.

Anyway.  That's all I have to say about that (though I might return to 5e when the open playtest starts; I signed up, so maybe I'll be involved and write about stuff).

Here's some other awesome stuff I missed:

Jeff's Gameblog gives us this video about Mazes and Monsters.  The video is a funny homage to Office Space and would be worth watching on its own, but Jeff Rients also links to this fan-made Mazes and Monsters ruleset.  Amazing.

D&D With Porn Stars gives us Appendix S, a D&D reference for those with short attention spans.  This includes this Adventure Time episode, this Powerpuff Girls episode, and this Home Movies episode.

Role-Player Hater gives us a Lovecraftian spin on the orang minyak.  What's that, you say?  You've never heard of them?  Well, here's one news story, and here's another about these "oily men."

What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse gives us an oD&D writeup on the Dokkaebi, which establishes an adapting-weird-Oriental-monsters theme when combined with the orang minyak adaptation mentioned above.  Also, Jeff Rients' idea of doing an Oriental oD&D campaign, which I occasionally consider because that sounds neat.  Yes, I'm aware that Rients' campaign would be Japanese and the Dokkaebi is Korean.  It still sparked a connection in my head, probably because Lord Gwydion likens Dokkaebi to Oni.

Studio Arkhein suggests that we never, ever let demons read Carcosa, because then they'll get all sorts of ideas about what sorcerers are supposed to do.  Then again, what is magic without sacrifice?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Use for All Those Cantrips

Are you a low-level magic-user?  Are you stuck for ideas for those cantrips?

Here's one for Prestidigitation (or if you're feeling fancy, Disguise Self):

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Lost Children of Nebelun

So I introduced this group in Crux of Eternity.  They're a group of NPC adventurers called the Lost Children of Nebelun.

I mention this because they're planeswalkers — so they can literally appear anywhere — and because you might be able to use them in your campaign.

There are nine of them, all told.  The leader is a gnome tinkerer from an island off the coast of Faerûn.  She is accompanied by a stoic warrior, a psychic goblin with an unfortunate name, two goblin twins (rogues, likely), a cleric rabbi from first century Judea, a hobgoblin fighter studying under the rabbi, an elf ranger, and a Bone Man ranger from grim Carcosa.

Read about them here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Three Notable Things

I changed the layout of the blog, largely because I think this format is higher-contrast and easier to read.  I don't know if it's just me, but I found the links hard to find under the old format.  Let me know what you think.

I read this thing about Achievements at Digital Orc.  If Project NEMESIS still existed, I'd link to one of their posts on the subject.  As it stands, I've thought about doing this, either with an XP reward attached or with just a "Hey, you're awesome!" thing (once, long ago, I gave out roleplaying awards to my group, which bears similarities to the latter incentive).  The Project NEMESIS post suggested having some Achievements peculiar to the character.  So, Urnorn the Wizard might have "kill ten dudes with one fireball" as an Achievement, Two-Hands the Rogue might have "steal the king's underpants during court" as an Achievement, and Grimface the Space Marine might have "punch a starship in half with a fully-charged Power Fist" as an Achievement.

Also, since I was talking about Isle of the Unknown, there's a neat idea about how to tie the hexes together at Monsters and Manuals.  You can either randomly pair them together with the first method, or randomize the pairing process so that it can be used on the fly with the second method.

It Begins

Well, what's this?  What showed up at my house yesterday?

Something from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, you say?  Well, let's take a look.

Oh yeah.  That looks like a Carcosa.


It's wrapped in the canvas map that you got for an extra five euros.  I was planning on getting the map to actually use it, but I'll probably frame the bastard.  It's a good-looking map.

Oh that's neat!  One of the other extras is a little cheatsheet tying the rituals, creatures, and hexes together.

And it has another map on the reverse!  I haven't even opened the book and this is already awesome.

It's Jeff Rients' Periodic Table of Carcosa!  As in Paranoia, the different elements and different colors of laser do different things, and Jeff Rients made a little graphical summary.  It's fun with the Newtonian color spectrum!

And there it is.

There it is.  As noted elsewhere, it's a damn pretty book.  It wouldn't be out of place in a library.

A typical sample of the layout and artwork.  In retrospect, I probably should have picked a page other than Species 23750 burrowing out of someone's cadaver, but that's just the way things go in grim Carcosa.

I know Mr. Raggi had some trouble getting the layout to work, but it was worth the wait.  I'd say —

Wait, what?  I don't remember ordering you...

Yup.  This is Isle of the Unknown.  It's done by Geoffrey McKinney (the same guy who did Carcosa).  The format is similar to the location writeups in Carcosa, but this is an island sandbox chock full of stuff.  Awesome as a setting in its own right, a random place to visit, or a good thing for when that wavecrawl goes wrong and you suddenly need a location for the ship to wreck.

The map on the inside of the book.

An example of the layout: hex listings with some illustrations pertinent to the subject matter.  For example, this hex is full of, um, aquatic hedgehogs with snakelegs.  Wait, what?

(For the record, that's exactly what those are; they have a gaze attack that weakens victims, and can turn into swordfish.  What did you expect?  It's the Isle of the Unknown, not the Isle of a Bunch of Stuff You've Seen Before.)

I'll chug through this and write about it when I have a spare moment, as I was hoping to lay my hands on it and serendipity found it here.  This pretty much cements the fact that I'm going to pick up a copy of LotFP: Weird Fantasy Roleplaying.

Incidentally, I wrote a little thing about the unadulterated gonzo awesome that is Carcosa, but don't take it from me.  Go read more on your own.  While you're waiting for me to get around to that Isle of the Unknown review, you can read some of those, too.

And as long as you're buying those things (because you totally will), go have a look at Vornheim: The Complete City Kit.  It's good for you!

Also, I found this fan-made addendum to Carcosa over at Teleleli, so why not increase your knowledge base?

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