Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas in Carcosa

I was aware of the controversy surrounding Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa as every gaming blog and site seemed to have an opinion of it at the time, but as I've never been much of a D&D player I never read the book itself. I did get involved in a small way when Geoffrey put together a sample adventure for publication in Fight On! and I -- alongside the gloriously-named FuFu Frauenwahl -- provided some art for it.

Geoffrey later published the scenario as a self-contained booklet and the image above ended up on the cover, so I've always felt part of the extended Carcosa family, even if I never read the original book.

Now James Raggi -- publisher of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess role-playing game, Vornheim and Death Frost Doom -- has published a new version of Carcosa, and of course the controversy has shambled back into view, stinking of the grave and bawling "BRAAAINS! through the rotten hole where its mouth used to be. Geoffrey and James are being applauded in some parts of the internet while being characterised as corrupt monsters in others, and so the cycle continues.

Almost none of my work made it into the new book, but that happens with new editions, so I'm fine with it. It helps that Rich Longmore was chosen to provide the art, and I adore his scratchy, detailed style -- I'd love to have a print of his shoggoth illustration -- although I do prefer my version of the Bone Sorcerer. Sorry Rich.

All that said, one of my pieces did make it in, sort of. I drew a picture of an idol of Cthulhu, not one of my favourites, but James decided to keep it as an Easter egg of sorts as an icon on the scenario's map. It's only about five millimetres square and you'd never notice it if it wasn't pointed out, but even so it's apparently enough for James to send me a contributor copy of the book. It's a three-hundred page hardback book, a beautiful thing to behold, and I got it for more or less nothing.

I've not read it yet, but this offensive content everyone's going on about is going to have to be offensive indeed to convince me that Geoffrey McKinney and James Raggi are anything other than a couple of really nice guys.

In somewhat related news, Tatters of the King has continued, and I have continued wrestling with the poor editing and wonky structure of the campaign, although I've managed to shield the players from the worst of it, and they seem to be enjoying the more sandbox-like approach I've taken. They've missed some clues and discovered some that weren't in the original text, and everything is chugging along well, aside from the odd blip with dates and locations.

In the past couple of sessions -- there may be another one tonight -- the investigators headed up to Suffolk to look around a cult ritual site and ran into their first direct encounter with the supernatural as they battled some weird -- and deadly -- creatures. I must applaud them for not using player knowledge to ruin the mystery of what the Things That Should Not Have Been were, as I'm certain that at least a couple of them knew from previous adventures or reading of the core rules; by not attaching a name to the Things it made the encounter all the more effective, at least from my perspective.

The battle was great fun, a chaotic mess of serious wounds, fluffed rolls and Sanity loss. Bringing a battlemat to a Call of Cthulhu game strikes me as far more blasphemous as anything in Carcosa and so we did without, with no serious consequences. A couple of the investigators brought shotguns and started firing them into the mêlée, so I called for Luck rolls from the relevant comrades to see if they were hit; perhaps the statistic should be renamed, as most of the damage caused to the party was self-inflicted. A couple of characters were rendered unconscious by their wounds, and Ben's poor psychologist tried to flee on his knees across the snow while trying to hold his intestines in.

Did I mention that there were five investigators and only two of the Things? I love this game.

The players survived -- and managed to avoid any permanent damage, so I didn't get to use my serious wounds table from the big yellow BRP book -- and now have their eyes on one of the cultists who is holed up in a fortified antiques shop in London. Via a tip-off from an anonymous source they've discovered when their target is going to leave his hiding place and through the use of Sanity-draining magic they've seen what will happen when he does -- creating all sorts of narrative challenges for me -- so they're planning a trap. If we play tonight, we will see how successful they are.