Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Carcosa: Character Backgrounds Chart

artist unknown??

An Into the Odd-style backgrounds chart for Carcosa characters. Reference your starting HP (x-axis) and highest ability score (y-axis) to find your background. Or, choose your background first, thus setting your starting HP and putting a cap on your ability scores.

Note that these numbers are based on the assumption of 3 stats, as in ItO or Maze Rats. If you are using 6 stats, then the table will be weighted more heavily toward the lower half.

Ability score vs hit points
Moon Witch
lotus powder
Masked Assassin
Akashic power
bone club
Alien Android
wooden club
inhuman strength
secret identity

Tribal Shaman
fetish staff
flash powder
Dinosaur Tamer
dinosaur musk
loyal gallimimus (3hp, 1d6dmg)
Ruin Raider
Iron axe
weird tech
Medieval Adventurer
scale mail (1 armour)
10' pole
Outcast Esper
psionic power
Sorceror's Apprentice
ceremonial knife
hooded robe
Desert Nomad
filtration mask
compass that points to Lake Hali
Wasteland Hunter
flint spear
bow and arrows
19th Century Occultist derringer
psionic power
iron ladle
bad lungs
smoke bomb
Fish-Human Hybrid
bone trident
mysterious jale stone
Delta Green Operative
9mm pistol
dossier on a random elder god
Fungus Farmer
oil lamp
hallucinogenic mushroom
Carcosa City Dweller
black iron sword
yellow sign
Cave Dweller
stone club
ADV in darkness
DISADV in sunlight
Deposed Chieftain
orichalcum necklace
1d6 loyal flunkies (2hp)
blasphemous idol
heterodox beliefs (DISADV on reactions from other cultists)
Alien Test Subject
ray gun (1d6 charges) vivisection scars
wooden staff
hunted by master
Lotus Eater
silver needle
jale lotus powder
addiction to jale lotus powder
missing limb
Escaped Sacrifice
Iridium sickle
noxious herbs
flesh is desirable to eldritch horrors
reviled by all

Monday, 18 November 2019


Vespiform demons who cloak themselves in human shape. Cultured, perverse and deeply cruel. Masters of deception who manipulate minds with delicate pheromones.

In its natural form, the ichneumon has a humanoid body and a wasp's head. Few will ever see this form, which is constantly cloaked in illusion. This is not a magical glamour nor a distortion of light. It is caused by a pheromone that operates beyond the perceptual level; no matter what you really see, the pheromone says human and your mind fills in the gaps.

The ichneumen have other scents as well. They know far more about human neurochemistry than humans know themselves. They can drive a mind into abject rage or wrap it in a blanket of pure maternal love. They use these powers to enthrall victims, scapegoat enemies, or escape when cornered.

Being parasites they have no world-sense of their own, and so take on human culture with affected irony. They like to think of humans as cattle, but at the same time they are perversely obsessed with us. Their lairs are shrines to obscure human traditions, decadent art, dead religions.

They breed by laying eggs in the human psyche. The larval stage of the ichneumon is a notional being waiting to grow into physical form. It begins as a tiny sting on the back of your neck. The next day you won't even remember it. Then, growing over weeks and months, you have intrusive thoughts about wasps. You cannot stop picturing them - it is both pleasant and painful. Slowly the thoughts spread to every part of your brain - memories, self-image, visual processing. At last you die from an encephalic fever that ends with the wasp-child bursting from your forehead. It eats your corpse and wears your identity.

How can the ichneumen be detected, let alone stopped? Their worst foe is simply a human with a defective sense of smell. Such people are unaffected by the ichneumon's pheromones and sees them as they truly are. Ichneumen go to great lengths to eliminate such people from the population.

Mammals are just as susceptible to the ichneumen's powers as humans, but other orders of life see through their guise and abhor them. Birds, insects and reptiles will flee or sometimes attack the ichneumon. Demon hunters often carry small snakes in jars for this purpose.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Carcosa: Mutant Dinosaurs

Simon Dominic

Dinosaur species:
1. Tyrannosaurus rex (vicious, solitary, territorial, fearless)
2. Brontosaurus (huge, herbivorous, unconcerned)
3. Ankylosaurus (herbivorous, territorial, armour plated, attacks with club tail)
4. Velociraptor (pack hunter, vicious, cold intelligence)
5. Triceratops (herbivorous, protects nest, fearsome charge)
6. Pterodactyl (flying, predatory)
7. Pachycephalosaurus (herbivorous, aggressive, territorial, headbutt attack)
8. Compsognathus (dog-sized, predatory, pack hunter, fast, relentless)

1. Rainbow scales
2. Neon green
3. Purple
4. Jet black, glossy
5. Blue and red feathers
6. Cancerous bone growths
7. Eyes all over
8. Transparent skin revealing organs
9. Jale and ulfire scales
10. Phosphorescent

1. Symbiotic fungus grows between scales (when hit, releases toxic spore cloud)
2. Telepathic and highly intelligent
3. Extra head grafted on by Space Aliens
4. Flesh constantly regenerating, unless exposed to fire
5. Glowing stone in forehead can fold space, allowing short-range teleportation
6. Floats using inflatable helium sacs
7. Very long body, eight pairs of legs
8. Can be controlled via cockpit implanted in top of skull
9. Radioactive breath
10. Can transform into ooze at will
11. Hypnotic pattern on skin
12. Urine transforms other creatures into dinosaurs


Jaime Jones

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Carcosa: Hijacking Space Alien Spaceships


When you are stranded on the savage planet Carcosa and you fight some Space Aliens and steal their spaceship, what can you do with it?


There are four stations inside the spaceship, each of which requires one character to operate.
Navigation: Control the ship's flight. Make a test to take off, land safely, or perform evasive maneuvers.
Laser Cannon: Fire the laser cannon for d20 damage. Make a test each time you fire.
Tractor Beam: suck up anything smaller than a T-rex and trap it in the cargo bay. Make a test for each object you want to suck up.
Mutagenic Bombs: Drop bombs that cause random mutations (the Space Aliens just use these to entertain themselves). Make a test to hit a specific target.

You can operate each station manually, or you can plug in your mind using the psionic helms provided (some minor cranial penetration may be involved).

If operating manually, 'make a test' means roll under DEX to succeed. If operating psionically, you always succeed at tests, but take 1d6 WIL damage each time you do so.

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks


For travel between star systems you must engage the WARP DRIVE. Using the WARP DRIVE is complex and prone to failure. If using it with plenty of time, roll 4d6, or if using it in a hurry roll 4d4. You can gain additional dice by getting more information about the WARP DRIVE, for example by interrogating Space Aliens.

Each die that shows 1-3 is a failure, 4+ is a success. For each failure, choose one:
- Other Space Aliens become aware of your hijacking and come to punish you
- The spaceship is damaged and can't warp again until it's repaired
- You don't get to choose your destination, it is rolled randomly
- You left the window open! Everyone loses 1d6 WIL permanently as they witness the indescribable horrors of warp space

Possible destinations (you can scan these before warping to get a name and a vague picture of what it looks like)

1. Betelgeuse IV (apparently the homeworld of the Space Aliens)
2. Mars (a red desert world inhabited by green four-armed humanoids)
3. Shaggai (a world of pyramids inhabited by loathsome insects)
4. Earth (a world of dead cyclopean cities)
5. Celephais (a golden city in another dimension)
6. Ghroth (living planet with a giant red eye)
7. Greyhawk (a verdant green world dotted with large stone structures)
8. Cykranosh (world of mercury lakes and crystalline forests)

Junji Ito but recoloured by someone else maybe??

Monday, 15 July 2019

Play Report: The Clay That Woke

I had been curious about Paul Czege's The Clay That Woke for a long time, and a couple of weeks ago I finally got to play a session of it, run by Mikel Matthews on Gauntlet Hangouts. You can even watch the video if you like.

The Clay That Woke is a fascinating, deeply idiosyncratic game. The most obvious feature is the unique task resolution system. It involves putting various tokens into a pot, pulling out four of them, and interpreting them according to a chart to get the outcome of your task. This is really the only 'mechanic' in the game - at least, all the other mechanics flow into this token economy in some way.

The other key component of the game is the setting: a lush, strange, decadent city surrounded by jungle, in which players control minotaurs who form a sort of racial underclass doing menial tasks for humans. A lot of the setting's details are intimately woven into the mechanics. For example, the minotaurs' code of conduct governs how they lose 'Silence' tokens. When a minotaur runs out of Silence, they run wild and go into the jungle, where they can regain Silence - thus creating a natural rhythm between city and jungle scenes.

Because of these connections, it's hard to imagine reskinning the game for a different setting, or even modifying the default setting very much. This wouldn't work if it weren't for the fact that the default setting is extremely compelling. Normally when I read RPG setting material I am filled with ideas for how I would remix it for my own games. When reading The Clay That Woke I was instead filled with a desire to enter into Czege's vision exactly as he describes it.

I won't go into detail about all the events of the session I played. Suffice to say that there were two players and we were working at odds to each other. Often we weren't in the same scene together, but at the end we had a climactic confrontation that ended in both our minotaurs 'running wild' into the jungle.

The way the token-based resolution plays out is very interesting - not just because of the tokens themselves but also the text surrounding the moment of resolution. The book specifically tells you to "play deep into the scene" before drawing, and then to "use the draw as an oracle to inform you as you play out the rest of the scene". For example, during a fight scene, the GM and I worked semi-collaboratively in describing a few exchanges of blows; then we drew tokens that showed a bad result for my character; then we kept playing the scene, both of us angling towards depicting my failure.

This style of resolution feels more collaborative than a trad game of "player vs. GM", but also more concrete than the really loose storygames I've played like Fiasco or Final Girl. I found it helped me to get immersed in my character's internal thoughts in a way I haven't experienced before.

The other unusual thing about the game was that the PCs were often separated, so each player had a lot of 'downtime' spent listening and not playing. The game book specifically tells the GM to set up scenarios in this way. This is quite contrary to trad RPG advice that sees downtime as a negative, e.g. "Never split the party" "If someone dies, bring in their new character as soon as possible".

Czege has stated that this is an intentional choice to give players time to reflect on their character. Weirdly, this reminds me of James Young's blog post about running large groups, in which he states that he will split the party into two subgroups. "the main trick is this - get one group to a decision point where they can discuss what to do next, then switch to the other." Although they're very different play styles, the common thread is that downtime can be positive if the inactive player/s have something worth thinking about, instead of just sitting around waiting.

When I'm GMing, I definitely start to sweat when the party splits up and players are spending a lot of time waiting. In future I'll try to follow this rule of 'give them something to think about'. I wonder if the game mechanics could also support this in some way... perhaps if there was some minigame the players can pursue without input from the GM?

I could say more about The Clay That Woke but I'll wait until I get a chance to play more. In particular I'm curious about the jungle scenes, which we didn't get to in the single session I played.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Towards a High-Level Dungeon Crawl with Muta-Metal & Lumina

Heather Hudson

Muta-Metal: This metallic liquid responds to human thought. Concentrate and you can permanently shape it into whatever form you desire. One vial of muta-metal could become a grappling hook, a sword, a set of lockpicks, a roll of iron spikes, or even a wire cable extending up to 50'. It can be poured inside things and then hardened to form a seal (great for locking doors) and it can be magnetised. With several vials of muta-metal, it is possible to create improvised mechanisms, traps, tripwires and so on.

Muta-metal is available in most towns. It is prized by adventurers but shunned by common folk because of its transient nature: after a few days, the hardened muta-metal rusts away to nothing.

Design-wise, I hope this item will encourage creative play and improvisation, with less focus on pre-planning the characters' inventory. This may seem like a minor variation on the theme of 'Quantum Adventuring Gear' as seen in Dungeon World and various other games. However, I've found that Dungeon World's Adventuring Gear mechanic is generally used to handwave things that the play group isn't interested in. "Yeah, of course I have some rope." Muta-metal, on the other hand, presents itself not as a shortcut but as a toy; hopefully, it will encourage improvisation rather than skimming over it.

Pyeongjun Park

Lumina: True dungeons are not just holes in the ground; they are places where a foreign plane intersects with our own. The environment in such 'Dungeon Fields' is inimical to human life. Even when there is light to see by, the air is filled with a miasma that distorts and dims everything. In the face of this miasma, humans quickly sicken and die (or worse). The only thing that counteracts its effects is Lumina -- the eternal blue flame, given to humanity by the gods themselves.

Adventurers descend into the Dungeon Field with jars of Lumina to fuel their lanterns. While the flame lasts, it not only provides light but can also be used to ward off monsters and burn away corruption. but slowly the miasma wears the Lumina down, and snuffs each flame one by one.

Replacing torches with a magical flame makes their role in the game economy more explicit, while thematically moving things up the spectrum from low fantasy to high fantasy. Letting players expend Lumina to drive off monsters will make them more aware of how many they have left. The miasma offers a solution to the problem of "What to do if the PCs actually run out of light?" Instead of blundering around in the dark, the players are faced with a nightmarish gauntlet-run back to the surface, beset by monsters and by progressively worse penalties from miasma sickness.

These two items, along with the Alchemist from my last blog post, have been kicking around in my head as part of some hypothetical high-level anime-flavoured megadungeon. In each case I'm thinking about how to retain the fun elements of a hardscrabble OSR dungeon crawl, but with a different aesthetic.

Class: The Dungeon Alchemist

Atelier Ayesha
Here's a new class for D&D-adjacent gaming: an Alchemist of the type that commonly appears in JRPGs and anime. Whereas the historical alchemist can be found in dark laboratories trying to create gold out of lead, the JRPG alchemist spends their time wandering in dungeons, collecting monster parts and herbs, and brewing them into potions on the spot. Despite the prevalence of this trope, I haven't seen such a character written up for D&D (let me know if I'm wrong, though!)

The core concept of the class is that you will be hoarding random items and monster organs, then combining them haphazardly to create potions. When playing with this class you must use strict Encumbrance rules - ideally the simple 'Slots = Strength score' or even simpler 'Slots = 10' from the wonderfully terse Moonhop.
D. M. Cornish

Key to the class's balance is that your potions expire fairly quickly, so you will be forced to carry ingredients and only cook up a potion when you need one. The potion you get is semi-random, but there are ways to gain more control over the outcome.

Because the layout of the potion tables is key to the class's function, I present it here as a PDF and here as Word document so you can modify it if you want. This class has not been playtested so let me know how it goes if you use it.

I got a lot of potion ideas from Goblin Punch's Alchemy PDF and handwaved the durations of all the effects using Necropraxis' Hazard Die system.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Carcosa: Character Backgrounds Chart

artist unknown?? An Into the Odd -style backgrounds chart for Carcosa characters. Reference your starting HP (x-axis) and highest abili...