Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rule of 1 in 6

Random encounter chances are 1 in 6.

That's a 1 in 6 chance that something rather annoying-to-dangerous happens when just walking around the dank ol' dungeon.

But that's a wonderful thing to use any time a PC is doing something rather unseemly or getting into trouble that maybe they shouldn't be getting into. Let's face it, PCs are made specifically to get into trouble. It would be a dick move to summarily punish them for doing what they're supposed to do.

But there should always be a chance that mischief goes all to hell, even if it's otherwise harmless and has nothing to do with whatever else is going on in game.

Why not 1 in 6?

For example, in my last session it turns out there was a brothel very close to a particular location of interest (damn you Vornheim!). I decided it was disguised as a laundry, but that deception couldn't stop one of the PCs. So he's getting into mischief. Had nothing to do with anything.

You could just fast forward. You could just see what the other players are doing.

Or you can roll a d6 and see if something bad happens. That's what I did.

A 1!

The dice had just given me permission to screw around with that character. And so I did.

Here comes the priest with some minions, tarring and feathering everyone in the place!

And confiscating their stuff, for which they'd have to pay a fine to get back.

The PC was a Magic-User in this case, and I was kind enough to rule that the priest thought his spellbook was just a book of French pornography since he couldn't understand any of it. Cost the PC extra silver to get that back.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Carcosa Problem: The Haves and the Have Nots... or, Humans Are Not Cool

When I got the original edition of Carcosa back in 2008, the view I had of the setting was one of primitive man armed with sword and vile sorcery making its way in a cruel, cruel world.

There were pages and pages of ray guns and technological marvels and all the things the Space Aliens, Great Race, and Primordial Ones have made.

Mentally I treated those things the same way I did most of the magic items and high level spells in D&D - almost background noise, stuff that I suppose is in the setting, somewhere, but nothing that will ever show up in a normal campaign.

But that's not right, is it?

Carcosa's Old Ones are meant to be interacted with, meant to be battled. That's why there are all those rituals, that's why the "gods" have combat stats, that's why there are all these rocket launchers and power armor, that's why there are these strange dice procedures... This isn't traditional D&D where you eyeball the monster HD and the PC levels and estimate how things might go.

And on a pure in-setting level, you have all these advanced races that ruled the world for aeons, most of them are still around here and there. There's a lot of this stuff to be found.

I think to decide that the PCs won't ever really take on Cthulhu, or that they shouldn't ever drive a tank, or that the rituals should be assumed to only be used by NPCs removes a little bit about what makes Carcosa special. It's making sane what was clearly designed to be utterly insane.

But humans are primitive on Carcosa. They can't make any of this cool stuff on their own.

To me this creates a power disparity on Carcosa. The haves and the have nots. Who has discovered and mastered some of this superior technology, and who has not?

And how to depict both the primitive nature of humans and the access some have to the advanced tech?

One thing we needed to get in there was a cyborg Spawn of Shub-Niggurath. Them wacky space aliens, right?

Talk about have-nots, Bone Men look like they don't even have skin...

I can't help but address something else as well. The 300 Carcosa pic that Rients first posted is cool and all, but there is a reason why that sort of thing won't be in the book:

We're intentionally avoiding it.

Geoffrey's art guidelines said that humans should be depicted only in certain ways (killing other humans in a ritual, getting victimized by a monster, looking up in horror at some horrible thing)...

"Carcosa is certainly not a planet in which adventurers 'pose for the camera.'"

These guidelines are obviously not unbendable, as Geoffrey approved these two pics here and they seem to not fit any of those things. But notice that humans are still second banana to other things in the pictures. The Bone Men are tiny in comparison to the beast in the second picture and one can imagine all it has to do is sweep a tentacle and the men are in a world of hurt. The humans in the first picture are completely obscured in technology, and the focus of the pic is the weird creature in the foreground.

In play, PCs are going to try to make their mark, do all the cool things, become powerful. A bunch of art showing how cool the PCs could be would be conveying exactly the wrong message though. The book's job is to communicate the setting. And on a setting level, humans just aren't that important in Carcosa. Yet.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Carcosa Publishing Trivia

Forgive me for repeating it (I mentioned it seven months ago or so), but I have a feeling I'll be repeating this story until I die...

I deal with the senior sales person over at Otava even though I'm a very small publisher. Perhaps it's because I'm special, or perhaps it's a random draw, or maybe she's just the best at speaking English over there.

In one of our first Carcosa meetings, I asked this senior employee of a printer that's been in business since 1890 if they had any connections in India or something, because I was wondering if we could get the book bound in human skin. (I mentioned India because as Return of the Living Dead taught me, India used to be the source for skeletons for medical research purposes... skeletons with perfect teeth!)

"Not amused" is one way to describe the reaction. We're going with Balathane Sensuale material for the cover instead, with two-color metallic foil stamping for the graphic. It should be HOLY CRAP THAT'S AWESOME special and the book will give you little orgasms just touching it... but it's not going to be anyone that used to be alive.

But I had to ask, you know?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weird Fantasy Module Name Generator

Because I'm not above wholesale robbery, or as I like to put it, refinement...

Click the graphic to actually read it, or download the pdf...!

This isn't perfect... articles are a bit iffy, so include/remove "the" as appropriate. And being random, some of the results aren't awesome (Against the Nun and The Man from beyond the House won't be burning the house down anytime soon), but STOP HARASSING ME ABOUT IT DAMMIT

Monday, September 19, 2011

LotFP Interviewed by Fanzine Rolero!

Last month while in Oulu for the Jalometalli metal festival, I had the opportunity to sit down and be interviewed by Fanzine Rolero!

Read it (in Spanish!) here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Isle of the Unknown Cover Art

While I'm on the boat to Sweden hoping a Poseiden Adventure LARP breaks out, I decided to go to the ship's internet kiosk and check my email... Geoffrey's approved the cover art! Here it is...

Art by Cynthia Sheppard. This isn't the whole piece; it's a wraparound so this is only really half of it, but this is what will be on the front cover panel.

Off to Stockholm! Be Back Monday!

Leaving this afternoon for Stockholms Spelkonvent. I'll be running two games on Saturday!

I'll be back Monday to deal with any correspondence, and normal order shipping will resume on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today's Gnarly Purchases!

This volume, like the last couple, include issues that came out after I started to collect them back in the day. What I never knew is that I had missed issues! Nine SSOC issues worth of stories are collected here, and I've never seen four of them before. So in that way, a much better buy than anticipated!

One story I didn't miss back in the day was SSOC #105, featuring The Mill. Features a political backdrop (peasant revolt), cannibalism, attempted rape and murder (including the attempted murder of an infant!), betrayal, dismemberment, and blood and blood and blood and blood and blood. All for sale on the local convenience store shelf.

I had just turned 10 when that was originally published. A hell of a thing for a pre-teen.

(and I don't read the new Conan stuff coming out now... can a story like The Mud Men of Keshan get published today? Mostly naked women bounty hunters track down the wanted Conan who is helping a Keshan shaman return his god-totem to his village to defend it against the savage cannibal mud men...)

Just learned last night that Orne's second album The Tree of Life came out in July.

Finnish occult prog on the Italian Black Widow label! "Sounds like Van der Graaf Generator, Black Widow, King Crimson, Gabriel-era Genesis, Pink Floyd..."

The first album The Conjuration by the Fire gets my highest recommendation, and halfway through my first listen of the new one I find no disappointment.

Thumbs up to the local games store and the local record store for having these available with no waiting. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Have the New Carcosa In My Hands... Sort Of

So the layout is more or less done except for some typographical adjustments and the art that needs to be dropped in.

I went to the local digital print shop (the people that printed everything for me up to the Grindhouse Edition/Vornheim releases) and had them do me up a perfectbound copy of the new Carcosa so I can see how everything looks and do another round of proofreading with an actual book. Thought you might like a sneak preview.

This mockup (with no cover art) is 282 pages, but that doesn't include two pages for the Fungoid Caverns map. The final book will be 288 pages (the 2008 edition was 96), with a good deal of added material such as the Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer adventure, an added encounter in every single hex, random encounter charts, plus other little things here and there.

so it might have a few blanks at the end. This one is made of regular copy paper whereas the final version will be hardcover with more robust paper inside.

Carcosa will be fancy with formal "front matter" in the book. The final book will be printed in 3 colors, but of course I just got a black and white mockup here. A lot of the page texturing (which will not be underneath the text) was left out of this version as well.

Here's a spread in the ritual section. The blobs at the top and bottom (with the GLE notation) are just placeholders for art, as is the off-kilter block on the bottom right. The art allocations are largely irregular like that throughout the book - will be interesting to see what all the final pieces look like.

Here is a spread from the monster section. As you can see, we've alphabetized the creature listings and put the stats with the descriptions. Also shown here are a couple of examples of creatures that have rituals associated with them, and how that ritual info is part of the creature listing.

Some of the hex descriptions here. I thought it was kind of neat how Eero Tuovinen (the layout guy) separated the labels, hexes, and separate encounters within the hexes from each other, and this is something that really benefits from having a few colors to play with in the book.

Oh, there's a new Carcosa blog out there called, fittingly, The Doomed World CARCOSA.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stockholms Spelkonvent Sept 16 - 18, Who's Going?

I'll be running The Monolith from beyond Space and Time on Saturday for sure, and will have either The Dancing Queen in Yellow or The God that Crawls ready to go that same day as well.

Any readers showing up and wanting to play?

Friday and Sunday will be "hang out and talk to people" days...

I'll also bring a selection of OSR goodies for those that would like to pick something up.

A Total Shock

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Nice Grindhouse Review and a Note

Diehard Gamefan has reviewed the Grindhouse Edition, and they have to be nominated for most hilarious use of censorious black bars.

They do seem to suffer from a common misconception though... that picture opposite the Halfling class description is the illustration for the class, the same as every other class gets. If you didn't notice this, remember what the Halfling's best class ability is and make another Search roll.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Save or Die Podcast Interview with Zak

About Vornheim.

Listen here.

This Was Only a Test...

I ran The Monolith from beyond Space and Time for the first time yesterday in a hallway at Tracon.

It featured characters wondering whether suicide was the answer to a dilemma, leaving the key adventure area two weeks before they entered, getting attacked lots and lots by an enemy that didn't exist, and ended up with two characters killing each other over whether they should eat the brains from the head in the jar or not, and one character ended up in the Forgotten Realms.

In other words, a great success.

I'll need to run this one lots more, as the key to making this a success as an adventure will be clearly explaining all the weird situations and possibilities the Monolith allows.

I think I've said before that when I playtest an adventure, I'm not looking for what I need to change mechanically or balance-wise, but rather discovering what players are likely to do within the adventure and make sure that the module includes enough information about the setting/situations to handle it.

Next run of the adventure will be at Stockholms Spelkonvent. Be there!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Pic by Rich Longmore, click to enlarge.

That wasn't an informational blurb, that was a command. Click that bad boy and look at it.

There are a lot of hidden details in Carcosa that Geoffrey didn't spell out in the first edition, and I think some of that hidden lore can be used to entice people to investigate Carcosa rather than just being a revelation for people already digging into it.

I didn't want to alter the text to accomplish this (although Geoffrey did write a new introduction and a Humanity on Carcosa section for the upcoming edition) because using a lot of blah blah blah isn't going to suck anyone into anything.

So you clicked the pic, right? Some Carcosan man is stepping into the Temporal Transcendence Gulf, one of the technological artifacts of the Great Race. It's a frickin time machine, right? So what better way to give a sneak peak at various historical epochs of Carcosa?

Using a bit of influence from the intro of the old Buck Rogers TV series, we can throw a few things into one picture. The Snake Men experimenting on the pre-human man-apes, the coming of the Space Aliens, and a glance at the civilizations of the Great Race and the Primordial Ones...

Carcosa has a history, and a major difference between Carcosa and most settings is that humans aren't part of the setting's history. Humans were just lab animals (hence the color coding) who experiment on each other now (the rituals) because that's what the all-powerful Snake Men did and humans now want to be all-powerful! Now humanity is free as 13 separately breeding species, making their way in a
very hostile world. Will humanity rise from this barbarism to create an Age of Humanity on Carcosa, or is the story of man just going to be one of extreme cruelty on the way to being eaten by radioactive dinosaurs?

That's how I see Carcosa. I'm sure Geoffrey will stop by with his own view on the matter... or else end up horrified that I've given it all away. :D

(I'd say that highlighting all this fun stuff will also help people remember there's more to Carcosa than 4 nasty sentences, but we all know that's not going to work, especially since that section will have art too, and we all know how much restraint and good taste I have with that sort of thing...)

Abuse of Power: A Survey!

What is the biggest screw-job you've ever perpetrated against your players as a Referee?

What is the biggest screw-job a Referee has ever perpetrated against you as a player?

I want to qualify "screw-job" for these purposes... I'm not talking about something stupid you did when you were 12, or "The GM is a dick" style power trips.

I mean above-board, belongs-in-the-game screw-jobs.

Dear Diary

Describing the effects that things that don't exist have on the characters is rather difficult. But it is very important.

Five seconds into the new Portrait album Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae I was thinking it was the best album ever. After listening to it a half-dozen times, it's merely very very good. "Must-have for all fans of 80s Metal and MERCYFUL FATE lunatics!" says the promo sticker on the front, and it's accurate.

 Falconer's Armod is not bad (the band is best when charging and at its worst when folking, but they folk off a lot), and ICS Vortex's Storm Seeker is, on first listen, rather dull. Unfortunate, since the idea of a Simen Hestnaes solo album was what drew me to the CD store to begin with. Hopefully it will be a grower.

I'll be Tampere tomorrow and Sunday for Tracon. Come say hi, play a game, and/or buy something. For added punk cred, I have no ride home, which will be interesting with a (hopefully) half-full box of merch.

I don't like this new Blogger interface.