Monday, April 15, 2013

Pendragon, Carcosa, and DCC. Plus, a realization about my Sunday group's preferences.

The entirety of my creative attention lately has been focused on finishing "The Blade of Takshaka", a full-length adventure scenario for the Swords of Cydoria, written for BRP. I have finished the writing and am ready to move into layout and illustration.

Pendragon

We're still playing Pendragon on Fridays. Last week, our intrepid knights tracked the knave Ithyll into the Saxon-controlled northeastern section of England. We passed through a dense forest and found some moors. On the morrow we awoke to find ourselves magically transported to a fairy realm. A gigantic sword balanced on its edge to form a bridge across a raging river. Sir Hyll made it across. We found a pagan cairn atop a hill and a sword in a magical red stone. Nearby, we found a city filled with beautiful fairy ladies. Our knights were besotten and partook of the comely hospitality. They laid out a test for us the next day, a gauntlet designed to test our knighly qualities. We all failed pretty quickly.

Failing the test, we found ourselves returned to our original location. We continued our mission and came across an abandoned farm. It was a Pictish trap. The three of us slew a score of Picts. My knight, Sir Hyll, had no small difficulty defeating the final Pict who was, in fact, the bastard Ithyll. The rest of the eschille stood by and looked on as Ithylll and Sir Hill traded blows for nearly an hour. Finally, Sir Hyll won the day and grudge-killed that evil traitorous mother-loving... Anyway. You get the point.

Carcosa

 On Saturday, I picked up the book Carcosa. It is nominally for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, a D&D retro-clone, but it can be used with any OSR game. I have been wanting to purchase this book for a long time. It's bound in soft embossed leather. It has amazing artwork and typography and layout. It's just a really well done book. Christa was admiring the printing of it and the overall design.

Carcosa is a hex-crawl adventure setting. The book consists of a hex-map, a guide to the setting, the special rules for characters, some new special rules for combat, psionics, alien technology, and sorcery, new monsters, and a big section with two encounters in every ten-mile hex. Then there's an adventure.

As a setting, Carcosa is weird-fantasy mash-up of science fiction, sword and sorcery, and Lovecraftian horror. It is very inspired by the writings of Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance and H.P. Lovecraft. It feels like a Rene Laloux sci-fi film. It's creepy and dark and menacing.

The setting catches a lot of flak because of the graphic nature of the sorcerous rituals. The rituals all require some kind of human sacrifice, and some of the sacrifices involve rape and infanticide and, well, just really really depraved actions. But that's the point. Sorcery in this setting is meant for bad guys. If you, as a player character, are willing to do these things for sorcery, then maybe you're the bad guy! I think it's totally in keeping with the setting and mood of the game. The book is also clearly marked on the cover with a warning of the mature and gruesomely graphic nature of some of its contents.

The hex-crawl aspect is fascinating. I want to run a hex-crawl type of game and I really wanted this book to help inspire me. Although, now I kind of just want to run Carcosa instead.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

On Sunday, we continued DCC. In recent weeks, we plumbed the depths of a dark pit inhabited by faceless (literally) cultists and giant tentacles. We reached a point last time where we had to retreat out of the dungeon. We re-traced our steps using our maps and managed to get out. We returned to the town of Swallow and recuperated for a few days. We levelled up (Level Two! W00T!), resupplied, recruited some new henchmen (our original four had died or fled), and went back into the pit.

We explored some side-passages we bypassed, lost some henchmen and a PC (poor Pyramis the Halfling) to some basilisks during a scouting mission, retreated and returned with the full party to kill said basilisks. Henchman Hector Mierdas Vendedor became a bad-ass warrior in this battle thanks to being Enlarged by the wizard Zebediah. Afterwards, we continued down. We defeated a tomb full of ghosts and got a +2 short sword, which we gave to Hector the Zero-Level Henchman. Then we linked up this path to a path we previously explored, closing the loop. We came across and defated some cultists and brainwashed captives and our out-of-game characters decided to call it day.

I really enjoy DCC. It's very weird fantasy. It feels like Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea. As I keep saying, it's like Warhammer FRP and Basic D&D had an RPG baby.

I have also come to the realization that our Sunday group really enjoys games were the PC's kind of suck. We have the most fun playing games were our characters are nobody sub-standard slightly amoral peons just trying to survive. Not where we are failing, mind you, but where we are making our way in spite of our lot in life. Where we're playing rat catchers and shit farmers and blacksmiths fighting kobolds and goblins and giat rats. Or, like in our Ghostbusters campaign, where they are just dudes who get enough money to purchase a ghostbusters franchise which they operate out of one of their mom's basement, with a crappy van and no office and yadda yadda yadda. You get the idea.

I'll need to remember this when designing future campaigns for this group.