Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on the New Carcosa

But it's not really "new" you say.  It's just repackaged and made more awesomer.  Yeah, yeah...maybe.  First let me say, it might not be fair to call this a review since I haven't bought the product, and probably won't.  Not because I don't love the idea of Carcosa...believe me I do.  It's just that the product is absolutely so niche, that I can't see myself investing the money to purchase the new totally awesomest version.  Not now at least...maybe that will change.
As much as I love the idea of Carcosa, I am not sure I could run a long-standing sustainable campaign using the setting.  Not because I'm not able to do so, but more so because my players would have a difficult time getting into such a weird setting/game.  I have mentioned it to them a time or two.  Some sounded enthused to try something new, but as one of my players put it best, "sounds like it would be something fun for a one-shot, but not really long-term."  That pretty much sums it up.  And while that one-shot would likely be fun as hell, I can't invest the money the new version of Carcosa demands just to let it sit and collect dust on my shelf after a one-nighter.  See Carcosa, as glorious as it is, is quite different from my previous LotFP investment; Vornheim.  Because I use Vornheim at pretty much every session.  Because Vornheim has a generic appeal and use for any city-based gaming situation (even though the content about the oddities of Vornheim is amazing as well.)  With Vornheim, Zak produced something that could essentially be used by anyone despite the type of campaign they were running.  Obviously you could pick and choose what you want to use and integrate into your own campaign with Carcosa as well, but that's really not the best way to get the most use out of the material.  And I only bring Vornheim into the discussion here because it is also a LotFP published product, and the only LotFP product I have bought.
Just from sampling the PDF preview I can surmise that James and Geoff put a lot of time and effort into the product.  Much of it was easy because, well...the material was already written 3 years ago, but the repackaging and addition of the art really does a service in bringing Carcosa's dark and vivid imagery to life.  Carcosa is, in my opinion, probably the epitome of what old-school gaming in D&D is really all about.  It's basically a melting pot of EVERYTHING that inspired the game from Appendix N.  It's as if Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance, and H.P. Lovecraft were all merged together into one Frankensteinian creation, threw up on some paper, and out came Carcosa (not meant in an insulting way at all, for what it's worth.) 
At its heart, what really makes Carcosa intriguiging are the sorcerous rituals.  I mean, the setting, and the rules are all interesting and strange enough on their own, but people know Carcosa because of the sorcery rituals describing child rape and virgin sacrifices.  Again, this hearkens back to the old pulp days when sorcerers really were despicable villains.  I'm not going to sit here and rail on about how awful the content is, or how this should not appeal to anyone with any sense of morals.  I really don't think that's the case.  After all, no one will hold a gun to your head if you change the content up and maybe don't use or change that ritual requiring the sacrifice of some kids.  Carcosa could be enjoyed without using these details, to be certain.  But at its heart, these controversial areas really define Carcosa, so to NOT include them, really does little to echo the dark and desperate nature of the world.  In other words, if you're not going to use them, just run something of your own creation...or maybe Gamma World, or Mutant Future...or Greyhawk.  In the same ways that the controversy of these elements brought attention upon the supplement, they are also integral in using it to its full effect.  And to James' credit, he did include some of the excerpts about the rituals in the preview, so it's not as if anyone who purchases the product will be blindsided.