(Cover image is from the superb Storm, issue 4, by Don Lawrence. The most carcosa-ish comic ever made by a human. Man I am going to reread those albums)
Today your Prince is proud to present you with something a little different. Something…daring. Something bold. I took the plunge and rounded up some players from ye local homeless shelter and in exchange for a bottle of lighter fluid and a pack of Pueblos, convinced them to participate. Here are the results so far.
Subjects were 24-26 years old. Education level medium+. Familiarity with Lovecraft and his ilk only through cultural osmosis. Prior experience with DnD Basic 10+ sessions(Your Prince GMing as is the lot of noble men). Most subjects were extensively familiar with online roleplaying games and video games of any kind. Subjects were given little to no setting information but any questions they put forth were answered in as terse a manner as possible without affecting information density. Subjects were explicitly told the chance of character mortality was high.
Your Prince decided on using Lamentations of the Flame Princess as core ruleset(2013 edition). Specialists, fighter and sorcerers were allowed. Chance of gaining psionic powers was trippled to ensure an estimated total 1.5% chance of generating a character with psionic powers(not taking into account the rerolling of unsuitable characters or the switching of a single ability score as per the Loftp ruleset). Procedure for hex crawling involved automatically stumbling upon the top encounter when entering a relative hex with the bottom encounter only becoming noticeable after spending several hours searching the hex(approx half a day), unless the secondary encounter was a major geographical feature and would be immediately noticeable in a 10 mile hex(e.g giant metal bridge, citadel, great spire of crystal etc.)*. A standard 3d6*10 starting gp was issued, with items with a technological level higher then low middle ages being restricted for the time being(crossbows, spyglasses etc.). Generating a character took between 5-25 minutes, with an estimated 50% being spent on the purchase of equipment. We expect this procedure to go smoother as time progresses. Character concepts are restricted to a few sentences. Total play time including character creation(45 minutes for 5 chars+quick and dirty rules briefing because I had fucked up prepping a little) and was about 5 hours.
Our intrepid band of heroes, consisted of the following, Midros taking the place of Rohnan halfway through.
Ja’Xon the Windwaker, noble Orange Warrior and probable sociopath
A Nameless Blue Man – whose skill with the bow is without peer but whose grievous head injuries cause violent headaches during great exertion. A man who cares not for the old ones.
T’ch’*click* *click* – A cunning Ulfire hunter, who, like all within his village, has been implanted with a voracious parasite from a young age, who will burst forth from his chest at his 25th year, as is only natural. The Telepathic Visions it provides are very useful, convincing him to put all his specialist skills in bushcraft.
Rohnan – A brave but foolish yellow man, whose impetuousness led to his untimely or very timely demise at the hands of giant spiders.
Mongo the Red – A Red Man of great sorcerous ability and low born cunning
Midros – A Black Sorcerer and would-be servant of Nyarlathotep, who would feed the world to the Old Ones and be devoured last.
Dreaded though it may be, your Prince felt that some backstory was useful as an initial framing device. All players represented villagers from locations southward of the hex map described in the Carcosa Campaign Setting. They had been taken from their homes by vile ulfire slavers and sorcerers along with their kin. Their homes are ashes. After a journey of indeterminate time, during which a third was sacrificed to assuade the wrath of dreaded Nyarlathotep, who slumbers in the lake they passed over on their long journey to The City of Carcosa(they do not know this), they were ambushed by unknown forces and managed to escape the wreckage, reaching the shore of the mile wide river in hex 1813. Perhaps conveniently, they managed to find exactly their starting equipment in the wreckage.
Actual play report.
Our merry band washed onto the shore and awoke to find themselves in an utterly unfamiliar region with limited equipment, 3 days of food and shit out of luck. After bickering like children for 10 minutes, they set out to scour the riverbanks for shit to do and a way up. Mongo looked at a mural and found a way up. A joyous discovery was made after half an hour, when Rohnan discovered a chain mail, leggings, black cloak and handaxe neatly laid out next to the river, with footsteps leading in. Unfortunately Rohnan was a fucking idiot and announced this fact loudly by screaming it at the top of his lungs, attracting 77 Deep Ones to his immediate location. Sensibly, the rest fled whilst Rohnan attempted diplomacy with the horde of murderous fish-men, which proved fruitless and more importantly, highly dangerous. And there was much fleeing and dislodging a giant yet easily dislodged(rolled a 20 did you?) rock, a weapon that proved more then a match for the Deep Ones, who fled in gibbering terror after the giant rock had claimed 20 of their own. Rohnan, deciding he really wanted to fucking die that session, went down from the cliffs whilst the rest watched, yelled at a dying fish man, and found a tiny jade statuette of Cthulhu.
After looking for plumes of smoke or features that could be settlements, our merry band decided to investigate what looked like a giant fucking bridge, spending a day travelling to the north-west. And lo and behold, it was indeed a giant fucking bridge made of steel and older then fuck knows what. It was also completely covered with spider-webs. Expert Hunter T’ch, who had dumped all his points in hunting, caught nothing that day. Our band of merry idiots decided upon the creation of makeshift torches with dried straw, twine and twigs, intending to so banish a mile-spanning spider-web of brodignagian proportions. Our band decided upon a plan whereby Rohnan would walk foreward, pull the giant spiderwebs with his bare hands to lure out the spiders, after which the rest would follow a hitheherto vague course of action. This worked out about as well as one expected, and our merry band learned that spider webs are sticky and tiny handmade torches take some time to burn through them, especially if everyone nervously holds back like a shy freshman at a highschool prom whilst 11 giant spiders descend upon your erstwhile companion. Several arrows were half-heartedly launched, tactical and prudent retreating took place, and ronan was dragged screaming and convulsing into the web to be devoured. The statuette of Cthulhu was lost, but a tiny bracelet of semi precious stones was later recovered by the bold and daring Jaxxon, who tempered greed with prudence and caution.
Our band, now down to 2 days of food, decided upon visiting a nearby geographical feature that vaguely resembled a fortress, and Tçh caught lizard creatures to eat. On the road, they met the Black Sorcerer and proclaimed Nyarlathotep Worshipper Midros, who had no knowledge of the region or any important geographical features, having spent the last 10 weeks meditating and on a vision quest. After 3.7 seconds, everyone shrugged and decided it was fine if he came along.
The geographical feature turned out to be a great fortress of the ancient snake-men, now calcified and appearing as if molten. Its gate was unbarred. Midros and T’ch decided to scout the surrounding area whilst the rest moved upon the fortress. They found six skeletons, strangely frozen. Midros took the bones along, for reasons known only to Nyarlathotep. The other band met the two black servants of the self-proclaimed EMPEROR OF ALL CARCOSA AND LORD OF ALL MEN, and also his disgusting calcified courtyard, in which several burned bodies were embedded, one bearing the symbol of nyarlathotep, like Midros did upon his shield. The band was invited to enter the great fortress, offer tribute to the lord of all carcosa and join his quest to rid the world of the loathsome Old Ones, and enjoy his hospitality. Deciding that eating drenched rations for 2 days straight was too much of a good thing, our band eagerly agreed, and was joined by our absent friends. And indeed Midros did place piety to his unknowable and actively malevolent god above prudence, and proudly displayed his allegiance, making no attempt to hide his shield.
The Lord of Carcosa turned out to be a Black Man in alien powered armour, shoulder mounted laser cannon and all, calcified upon his throne, with stone flowing over him like wax. Embedded within the floor were great riches, or mediocre riches at the very least. The Lord of All Carcosa demanded their gifts. Smiling, Ja’Xon did hand over the bracelet and took place at the table. And the lord nodded and asked of the Blue Man what his gift was. And the blue man did act with great confusion and bewilderment and said that this gift was from all. And the lord said this was unacceptable and demanded an oath of fealty. And the blue man sputtered and a long weaseling and negotiatening was made, with many a hard comittment avoided. Eventually the blue man said he would serve for they were former slaves and had suffered much cruelty, and he judged the lord of all Carcosa to be kind. And the Lord replied that he was cruel and terrible indeed and his reign would make that of the old ones seem like a pleasant dream. Thus the blue man swore an oath to join ‘his uncountable billions of legions’ in the fight to rid the world of the loathsome old ones. The rest, seeing where this was going and having no compunctions against lying, eagerly agreed, wanting to at least get a hot meal. The total number of servants of the Lord of all carcosa remained at a fixed 2.
Naturally Midros was in deep shit. A speech was made that he respected the World Emperor and that he could learn much from him was met with an open mind, and the World emperor did but demand he sever his right hand as a sign of subservience and thus be welcome. Midros proclaimed he had an even greater gift for the lord, and offered the frozen human remains. And the world emperor was wroth and did push the button to open a trapdoor and feed Midros to the Spawn of Nyarlathotep trapped within. A successful saving throw prevented this from occurring…for now. The Lord of All Carcosa ordered his newly sworn servants to kill the usurper, which they pretended to do for a round or so(with Ja’xon seriously considering it) while they maneuvered out of the laser cannon’s arc.
And there was much ringing of swords, outmaneuvering, narrowly avoided laser weapon hits and a well placed arrow to the beam weapon, causing an explosion that did great injury upon the Lord of All Carcosa and the brave players that sought to surround him. Reeling, the lord pressed several more buttons, slowly raising the pit floors to unleash his pet upon the intruders. Midros did rush forward and started pushing buttons also to an uncertain end.
Will our heroes survive? Will they defeat the Lord Emperor of All Carcosa and his vile pit thing? What cursed treasures lie in store for them? Will they try to find out what the plume of smoke was? Will I get to kill again?
Find out in the next exciting installment of [Actual Play] Carcosa!
Total Death Tally: 1
Rohnan – Eaten by giant spiders.
* Carcosa’s campaign setting is a hex map with two encounters on each hex.
UPDATE: I am currently using a five times higher chance of gaining psychic powers during character creation. Even after more then 10 characers I have yet to see one with psychic powers.