CARCOSA villages

A gross village to drop into your CARCOSA game. Check the download widget for the “carcosa villages” file for the complete write-up. Here is the intro paragraph:

Hex 1102: Mud-brick shithole dwellers

This cursed village’s 130 Bone Men ruled by “The Pervulsient Aeon,” a chaotic Swashbuckler, are undergoing rapid decay into subhuman monstrosities. They ingurgitate from a nearby lake amid a compulsion to scour its shores for despicable relics: the Deep Ones are removed, nevertheless the water remains polluted by an ineradicable malignancy that whelms the Bone Men with a tide of corruption.

These fiends survive by violence, waylaying transients and launching raids on nearby communities. Visitors are unwelcome and the Restorative Orders know this valley is home to death. Exception is made for chaotic types who barter weapons and rude antiques for the right to explore in seclusion the nearby Snake-Men ruins. The location of this village is well-known and the inhabitants despised by their neighbors, but none possess the magnitude required for a campaign of eradication.

CARCOSA Locations

I’m coming up with material for plug-in locations in CARCOSA, the first of them is nearly ready. I’ll put them all on one document to download, and add to it as necessary. Here is the preface material that includes some musings on the nature of man and society on CARCOSA:

Here are some brief ideas for villages, citadels, castles, monasteries, dungeons, temples, encounters, towers, important places, etc., to be found on CARCOSA. Some entries include optional rules, new monsters and items, additional sorcerous powers, and more.

Some prefatory notes, in no particular order:

Compatibility. This document assumes use of the original edition of SUPPLEMENT V: CARCOSA as default. This is the version that is derived from “the original fantasy role-playing game published in 1974.” Not a slam on the Lamentations of the Flame Princess edition of the setting but I have an aversion to ascending AC and a fondness for level titles, so the original is more aesthetically pleasing when I’m writing out stat blocks. Not a big deal, obviously. If you use the LotFP version of CARCOSA in your game you will need to make some minor adjustments… or not because the differences hardly matter.

0-level Men. Most humans are considered to be “0-level.” Their stats and characteristics are identical to a 1st level Fighting-Man, except they only have 1 HD (instead of 1+1 HD). Unless otherwise noted, all retainers are 0-level men.

Men, women & children. The “13 races of men” are creations of the Snake-Men and are wholly distinct from Earth humans; my vision of the setting specifies additional differences from the norm, regarding gender and reproduction. Males and females of each race are treated equally and perform identical roles within society: hunt, gather, fight, support as needed and according to individual skills. A female warrior is as unremarkable as a male childcare provider.

So when a settlement is described as a “village of 210 Purple Men,” this means 210 combatants, probably fairly evenly divided between men and women. Assume villages include an extra number of non-combatant children (age 9 and lower) equal to 10-40% of the number of combatants. Castles and citadels will have a much lower number of children, if any. Exact demographics are up to you.

Speaking of kids, human females of all races on CARCOSA do not carry pregnancies to term: instead they are egg-layers. This ensures that they are not laid up with child for 9 months at a time and less able to meet the rigorous demands of life on CARCOSA. I’m thinking it goes something like this:

  1. Male and female do some bonin’.
  2. Female is impregnated, drops an egg (rarely 2 or more eggs) about 2 weeks later.
  3. Eggs are cared for communally, in some secure location. Each egg is marked carefully so parentage is known. The “caretaker of the eggs” has that as their only job (probably a vocation reserved for the infirm) and oversees all eggs until each hatches.
  4. The “caretakers of the children” (at least 1 per 10 kids) are tasked with raising the kids through toddler-hood, freeing up the parents to remain productive members of the community. (Another job for people who cannot contribute in more demanding areas.)
  5. Parents take over at age 4-5, by which time the children can largely take care of themselves on a daily basis.

I have no idea if any of this is biologically feasible and maybe it’s better if it’s not, from a strictly “weird” perspective. I also like the idea of the Snake-Men breeding their servants true to their own egg-laying roots. As I develop these ideas I may introduce variations based on race. Blacks may be an Amazonian society: all the males are non-combatants held as chattel, or perhaps even non-sentient and allocated simply as a resource; both Orange genders are capable of egg laying; Purples distribute eggs according to privilege and regardless of true parentage. Maybe I’ll think up something else super weird and creepy, who knows?

Old folks, and the lack thereof. Getting old is frowned upon on a world in which the word “Elder” has seriously unpleasant connotations. Age 40 is sort of a “Logan’s Run” cut-off: anyone who reaches this wise old age is encouraged to embark on a suicide mission designed to accomplish some greater good; the alternative is to be banished or ritually murdered.

Gray-haired, wrinkle-visaged oldsters arriving from “outside” are presumed to be Sorcerers or social misfits, unless they are proven to be members of one of the Restorative Orders (see below). This might explain why development is at a standstill – the most experienced and proficient members of human society are culled at the height of their powers, their expertise squandered rather than passed on to the next generation.

Relations with the outside world and the Restorative Orders. Most villages have very little interaction with the world beyond their walls: they may not know where the nearest other settlement is. Even caravans and trade are infrequent between most villages, which are organized and located with self-sufficiency as a priority. The dangers of CARCOSA are so numerous that the only conceivable survival strategy is to remain inconspicuous and shuttered. This also explains why the races are scattered randomly throughout CARCOSA.

Inhabitants of castles, citadels, and monasteries are more likely to travel abroad. They may be among the Restorative Orders and thus dedicated to spreading enlightenment (see below). They may be militants or brigands, devoted to conquest and banditry. A smaller fraction guard something within their walls; these communities are less likely to be involved in affairs beyond their own horizons.

One exception to the norm of isolation is the existence of the Restorative Orders. These are typically mixed-race groups that travel across CARCOSA from settlement to settlement, sharing news, bringing word of oncoming danger, and spreading knowledge with the goal of uplifting human society as a whole. The Restorative Orders do not have a prejudice against the aged and, in fact, venerate their elders. Many villages welcome the arrival of Restoratives and will either allow them within the village to stay for a time, or prepare a suitable camp just outside the walls. Villages exchange food and shelter for learning, until it is time for the Restoratives to move on to the next community.

Brigands and raiders occasionally impersonate Restoratives in order to catch a settlement unaware. Village leaders are generally diligent about vetting outsiders to avoid unpleasant surprises. Communities that have suffered misadventures in the past will be less welcoming (or even hostile) to any outsiders, including Restoratives.

For new campaigns, Restorative Orders provide a quick and easy way to justify having PCs of different races lumped together in a single group. Such a group can have the goal of exploring the world and gathering treasure, knowledge, and technology and also look forward to at least a polite reception at most communities they encounter.

Settlement stats. Villages, citadels, castles, and other settlements may include stats. Most are self-explanatory. Treasure and resources should be allocated logically, i.e. the leader retains a significant percentage of coins, gems, and exceptional items, the remainder divided among followers or held in some secure location. “Motivations” provide a general guide to generate and explain behaviors, especially toward outsiders.

CARCOSA villages project

I’m putting together a d100 table of village descriptions for Carcosa. Basically, you roll and get a brief village description that includes what it looks like, the obvious defenses, an adventure seed and/or a one or two line sketch of the inhabitants, and a picture. You could also create further randomized results by rolling one time each for buildings description / defenses / adventure seed and then combining – this might require a little creativity to make it match up, but that’s easy stuff. I’m trying to crank out a few a day, so this is probably a month or two away. Thanks to Zak S. for the Dan McPharlin heads up.

Here are a few samples:

3. A pyramidal agglomeration of adobe dwellings leans sloppily against a small hill, at the apex is a soaring minaret of intricate design. Twin spirals of concertina wire in front of the village frame a no-man’s-land seeded with proximity mines of ancient manufacture, some of which still function.

4. Junk pile burrows excavated amid a tangled heap of rusting technological debris; scattered electric lights and a tangle of power lines betray a hi-tech power source hidden somewhere deep within the rubbish. Likely points of entry are trapped with skeins of deadly monofilament wire. [Artwork by Alexander Tchelyshev, aka “Sanchiko” found here .]

8. A field of ancient tombs, broken into and transformed into unthinkable dwellings. A crumbling stone wall provides some cover, but the primary deterrent to predation is the evil reputation of this area and its inhabitants. Several of the tombs conceal secret entrances to extensive vaults beneath the surface.

11. Several wood & stone long houses arranged precisely atop a steep-sided tor. Three be-glyphed stones conceal a short tunnel that provides the only convenient entry to the village – they appear megalithic but are actually sentient machines of surpassing sophistication and robust capability that safeguard the inhabitants with unswerving diligence. [Artwork by Pierre Raveneau, aka “Asahisuperdry” found here .]

15. A recently abandoned Space Alien dome habitat slowly sinks into oblivion amid a rad-blasted landscape scoured bare of organics. Villagers live within conduits and empty pockets of the baroque machinery; wondrous hi-tech artifacts within, wholly inexplicable, provide steady sustenance and occasional death. [Artwork by Dan McPharlin found here .]

Notes on bringing your D&D campaign to CARCOSA: Pt. 2

[Note: I have added the Cleric and Magic-User spells info to the CARCOSA Optional Rules doc in the download thingie over to the right, in case anyone cares.]


Carcosa is a world filled with magic, it’s a place that Doug Henning would love! But that magic is tainted by the dismal emanations of sorcery and the abominable crimes used to fuel that wicked discipline.

Magic-User spells have a base 50% chance of failure, modified downward by 10% per level of the caster (ex. a 3rd level M-U has a 20% chance of failure, at 5th level and above the chance of failure is removed). A failed spell counts as spent. Here’s a little chart in case you want to jazz up those failed spells, roll 1d6:

1. Spell fizzles with a comically tiny fart sound and brief stench of sulfur.

2. Spell fails with a dangerously thunderous fart sound and combustion of M-U’s clothing.

3. Spell energy is imparted into a random item carried by M-U; item will discharge the spell to full effect in 1D rounds, probably you should throw it before then.

4. 1d3 B’yakhee materialize to see what the fuck is going on. 50/50 whether they are aggressive or curious in the manner of children.

5. Spell energy soaks into adjacent terrain feature (ground, tree, dungeon wall) and imbues it with weird Carcosan life; generate random Shub Spawn and have it sort of erupt from the feature, rooted in place but able to attack/use abilities.

6. Raw magical energy builds up within the M-U then explodes outward from ears, nostrils, mouth, and eyes. Lose 10% of current hp per spell level attempted, stunned for 1D rounds.

Additional notes, per spell:

Animate Dead: Does as advertised and now you have Skeletons or Zombies running around, and the locals are all “Oh great, just when I thought this place was fucked up enough…”

Anti-Magic Shell: Beings conjured via sorcery or things powered by sorcery (including Elder Signs, Snake-Men Octacles and Sunstones, etc.) are either violently ejected into an adjacent dimension or permanently de-powered – lots of DM leeway to determine what either of those means and in which circumstances to apply them. Trying to conduct a ritual while within an anti-magic shell results probably in full-on head explosion.

Charm Monster: Have fun with your monster, use it wisely.

Charm Person: Works on Men, Amphibious Ones, White Lotus Zombies, and Diseased Guardians.

Clairaudience: 85% chance works as intended, 15% chance you get some interference and must roll 1d4: 1) listen in on Space Alien frequencies save vs. spells or terror reaction for 1D turns, 2) Mummy Brain sees what you’re up to save vs. spells or charmed and attempt journey to secret lair 10-100 miles away, 3) HAARP feedback save vs. spells or vegetative state for 1D days, 4) ultratelluric harmonics provoke cosmic epiphany, automatically pass next three saving throws

Clairvoyance: 85% chance works as intended, 15% chance you glimpse horrors from between time & space, save vs. spells or blind for 1D days and grossed out by Carcosa forever after.

Cloud Kill: 2% chance you actually summon the Putrescent Stench.

Confusion: Carcosa is really confusing even under the best of circumstances, so double the effectiveness, duration, etc. of this spell.

Conjure Elemental: Elementals on Carcosa? Not on my watch. Instead, it’s like you just activated a Fecund Protoplasmic Pit – whatever pops into existence obeys you for the duration of the spell.

Contact Higher Plane: Randomized invocation, roll d%: 1-50) entity is contacted per standard invocation ritual and responds accordingly, 51-75) entity answers with lies, 76-00) entity back-traces you and consequences will never be the same.

Continual Light: Roll randomly to determine color of light (white, green, dolm, orange, etc.). Black equals UV light. Some colors are more useful than others. Reverse: 50% chance of casting Darkness, 50% instead call down a portion of the interstellar void, any within suffer 3-24hp cold damage per round.

Control Weather: If you like add Radioactive Fog, Acid Showers, and Void Irruption to the list… but it’s up to you to figure out what those mean.

Death Spell: Go for it, you evil dick. Any chaotic sorcerer who witnesses you cast this spell must save vs. spells or offer to serve you for 1D weeks.

Detect Evil: ‘Evil’ on CARCOSA is relative, DM use judgment when determining effectiveness; in cases with any uncertainty, spell is ineffective. Reverse: ‘Good’ is also relative…

Detect Invisible: Yep, there they are!

Detect Magic: Sorcery counts as magic.

Dimension Door: 10% chance of a complication, roll 1d4: 1) curious B’yakhee arrives at new location with you, 2) departure and arrival doors persist for 1D days and lord knows what may come out of them, 3) teleportation appears instantaneous from Carcosa frame of reference but teleportee experiences event duration of 1D days and probably some weird shit goes down during the trip, 4) teleportee emerges at destination split into good/evil halves like in that Star Trek episode, what hijinks will ensue?!?!?

Disintegrate: Disintegrates the shit out of stuff, Space Aliens will be very curious to examine you.

Dispel Magic: Perfect for undoing the shit that happens from casting the other spells, can halt a ritual in its tracks, works like a banishing ritual (entity gets saving throw)… did I miss anything?

ESP: Works like the Carcosa psionic power, just to keep things easy.

Feeblemind: Also works against sorcerers, but with a duration of 1D weeks.

Fireball: Fwoooshhh-BOOM!

Fly: Transform into Spawn of Shub-Niggurath, generate all attributes as usual except movement type, which is always “land and flying.” Alignment does not change unless “neutral (unintelligent)” is rolled, in which case all bets are off – player should say a little prayer that she is not airborne when duration elapses.

Geas: Same ol’, same ol’ and this is such an evil spellcaster staple that sorcerers will have a hard-on to find out how you do it.

Growth of Animals: Change the words “giant-size” in the spell description to “friggin’ gargantuan” and calibrate stats/consequences accordingly.

Growth of Plants: Creepy, fast-growing foliage. 20% chance it is sentient.

Hallucinatory Terrain: Works the same, I got nothing for this one.

Haste Spell: Exactly the same.

Hold Monster: Works on Bone men.

Hold Person: Does not work on Bone men.

Hold Portal: Think weird, like the door swells into a mass of heaving flesh, or rigid tentacles spear out into the jamb, or the angles go non-euclidian and no one can’t even figure out how to open it.

Infravision: The recipient’s flesh runs as wax from a flame, liquesceing into a heaving, seeping pool of protoplasmic tumult amid gurgling screams of terror and agony. Then localized time rewinds, the spool flashes backwards and in a fraction of a moment the bilious plasm boils into rude form, features coalesce, colors balance, and the recipient is restored to familiar form. Thereafter, the spell functions as normal. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.

Invisibility: On Carcosa, you can remain invisible when you attack. Yep, that’s better.

Invisibility, 10′ Radius: See Invisibility above.

Invisible Stalker: Summons a Spawn of Yog-Sothoth instead; no matter what the mission, chance it goes rogue is 1% per hour, cumulative (i.e. after 1 day, 24% chance it goes batshit and starts in with the tentacles and the penetrating and the yuckiness).

Knock: Works the same, except whatever is opened makes a really creepy drawn-out creaking noise as it opens.

Levitate: Caster emits a theremin-like noise for entire duration of spell, faint when near ground and rising in pitch as height increases, so forget sneaking up on anyone.

Light: See Continual Light above.

Lightning Bolt: Zap!

Locate Object: Can this spell be weirded out? I’m drawing a blank… Tracking things down is so crucial to the setting, this could be a very handy spell.

Lower Water: Works as normal, but what you end up revealing that was in the water could be super creepy.

Magic Jar: Caster can also place her consciousness into a robot, or better yet like a brain in a tank on top of a robot body.

Massmorph: What kind of trees will your army look like? Weird Carcosa trees.

Move Earth: 10% chance per 6” moved that a disgusting Tentacle Thing (AC 6, MV 6, HD 1D, 1 att. per HD, unintelligent) is unleashed from hiding.

Part Water: If cast on the Watery Death, Slime God, Shambler of the Endless Night, Lurker of the Putrescent Pits, Jale Slimes, Inky Crawler, Green Ooze Pool, Dolm Puddings, Dolm Oozes, Desiccating Slime of the Silent Halls, or Colorless Ooze, does 6D damage and stuns for 1d4 rounds.

Pass-Wall: Same effect, remarkably non-weird.

Phantasmal Forces: Yeah, make a bunch of illusions, go for it.

Polymorph Others: Try this shit on one of the unique beasties and they’re just gonna laugh at you, but pretty much anything else goes. And you can use it to change people from one color to another.

Polymorph Self: Not only do you gain all the abilities of whatever you polymorph yourself into, but each hit die of your new form is a 1% chance you turn into a permanent perfect clone of your new form, each special ability is a further 5% chance. (So if you turn yourself into Cthulhu it’s a done deal that you become Cthulhu II and go off to fight Cthulhu I. If you change yourself into the Fetor of the Depths it’s a 25% chance that you become FotD II, and otherwise you just get its powers for 6 turns + 1 turn/level.) Perfect clones assume the mentality of their new form and depart to slay any/all originals. How’s that for a campaign ender?

Projected Image: 5% chance a Mummy Brain inhabits and substantiates the projected image and immediately departs on errands of wickedry and woe.

Protection from Evil: See Detect Evil above.

Protection from Evil, 10′ Radius: See Detect Evil above.

Protection from Normal Missiles: Works against anything powered by kinetic energy, magnetic effects, or chemical propulsion.

Read Languages: Does not work for sorcerous writings.

Read Magic: Works only for sorcerous writings (i.e. not Snake-Man, Primordial Ones, etc.).

Reincarnation: Use of this spell is not recommended on Carcosa. Regardless of alignment, you can come back as any monster in the Monster Descriptions section. If a unique monster is rolled (Cthulhu, Crawling God, Squamous Worm of the Pit, etc.), recipient is a nerfed clone with 1D HD, no psionic powers, and no more than 3 attacks per round. Recipient’s alignment changes to match new form. Those unique monsters? They hate copycats.

Remove Curse: Works as advertised, also cures Diseased Guardian disease.

Sleep: Sure, works the same. You’re gonna need it.

Slow Spell: Exactly the same. If cast on a sorcerer during the performance of a ritual, target is not slowed but automatically saves against chance of unnatural aging. Every sorcerer will want you to be their special buddy.

Stone to Flesh: Casting this on a random outcropping of stone creates an amoeboid-type spawn of roughly man size (generate additional stats randomly) that will attack anything in its path; it unerringly heads for the nearest village.

Telekinesis: Like the Carcosa psionic power.

Teleport: Instead of death in cases of uncertain teleportation, the magic-user materializes on the transport pad of a Space Alien facility/ship amid 1d6 surprised Space Aliens. Where shit goes from there, that’s up to you guys.

Transmute Rock to Mud: Works the same, I’m out of ideas.

Wall of Fire: Summons and binds a Cthugah’s Flame Creature. It’s stunned and immobile for the duration of the spell, then 50% chance it disperses harmlessly, 50% it gets pissed and gets busy with the tentacles and the psionics and the mindless killing.

Wall of Ice: Standard wall of ice you know and love, except… every facet reflects a swirling, slightly disorienting image of I’thaqua. Disquieting, but seemingly harmless.

Wall of Iron: Roll 1d4: 1) weeps blood, 2) scalding hot and emits steam, 3) murmurs contentedly when touched, 4) you can ask it a question and there’s a 50% chance it answers truthfully. There’s your weird wall.

Wall of Stone: Just a regular stone wall but made out of evil rock like basalt or obsidian or mummyrock.

Water Breathing: Works like a charm. Deep Ones encountered underwater are predisposed to like you.

Wizard Eye: The eye should look super funky and all creepy and shit, like a Japanese tentacle eyeball and prone to lewd staring and can an eyeball drool? This one does.

Wizard Lock: Like Hold Portal above, with all the normal additional stipulations for this spell… except a sorcerer three levels above the caster can’t move through it.


Hex 0809: Monastery of 17 Black Men led by “the Gossamer Imposition,” a chaotic 8th-level Sorcerer. Within this cloister hangs a great bronze bell and three strikers (one each of titanium, nickel, and vanadium). Using the titanium striker to ring the bell summons 6–36 Deep Ones, who will arrive within a day and are bound for a week. The nickel striker summons a single Shoggoth, which will arrive within an hour and is bound for one day. The vanadium striker calls down a curse upon the ringer of the bell, to whom hostile Spawn of Shub-Niggurath will be drawn at the rate of 1–3 per day.

Don’t know who to credit for this artwork, but it was found on this tumblr that Jeff Rients pointed out.

Hex 1013 Map: Fishclans of the Watery Waste

I was recently gifted with a full subscription to the awesome Hexographer for composing a handful of sandbox-style hex descriptions for them and I’ve decided to take advantage by using the program to craft CARCOSA hexes. Here’s the first one, hex 1013:

See that lake? It's getting bigger...

The scale is the same as that from the map included for Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer, each sub-hex is 704 yards. The village is the one mentioned in the hex description from the CARCOSA book. The line that looks like a railroad track is a road. The ruin are… ruins. Haven’t decided what to make of the tower, and it may disappear because a lonely tower among dead forest/hills is kinda played out. The triangles are various static encounters.

The little three-dot symbols are the lairs of the Fishclans, which are human communities that have been hybridized with Deep Ones. The lake is getting bigger each month by 1d20 yards and the Deep Ones are proliferating. The Fishclan lairs are generally secret and neighboring human communities offer bounties for hybrid and Deep One heads. I’m inspired to do these Fishclans up as per these rad rules. I’m working on writing up all three hexes that include the lake as a beginning area for CARCOSA campaigns to kick off.

The map can be done with the free Hexographer version. I’ve puttered around with it in the past, but only now found the motivation to really explore. Still working on putting in labels that look decent.

CARCOSA Wacky Races

I’m racing in Richard Guy’s upcoming CARCOSA Wacky Races. For you other racers, my ride is going to be hauling ass so you’ll probably only see a blur go by, here is what my PC actually looks like:


My hooptie is an Ekranoplan powered by dinosaurs – whether that means it’s pulled by a stegosaurus or there’s a peril of velociraptors running on a hamster wheel is yet to be determined. Don’t want to spoil any of its special features yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m the odds on favorite at this point because juggalo.

Finding a groove

Blogging lesson: don’t serialize rules ideas, because you might lose focus mid-stream and then you look stupid. I had every intention of following up the Cleric spell rules with rules for M-U spells and magic items as a whole, but I lost my mojo. Hopefully the Cleric content has provided food for thought for DMs interested in bringing their campaigns to CARCOSA for a one (or more) shot, perhaps improvise additional rules in the same vein if you need them.

I’ve hit a bit of a CARCOSA writers block. I wrote up hex 1110 for a hexcrawl over the holidays, but I’ve never been very satisfied with it and tinkering isn’t leading to any improvements. I wrote a short adventure and outlines for a couple more over the past couple months, but again… something’s just not right with any of it.

I’m putting the blame on Thomas Ligotti and Lord Dunsany. I’ve just read them for the first time and they’ve sort of hijacked my creativity. Ligotti was a mixed bag for me – he’s kind of a one-trick pony, but he does that one trick really well. This is based only on reading Teatro Grottesco so maybe I need to give him more of a chance, but right now I feel no real compulsion to explore. Dunsany also a mixed bag, but I’m much more inspired by his world. Again, this is a guy who does one thing very well. Gods of Pegana is awesome and I’m inspired to create a D&D setting book for it. I think I’d just mash some of Time and the Gods in there as well, mostly just for the evocative names. Going to read Welleran soon and looking forward to it.

But in the past couple days I’ve come back to CARCOSA and found I’ve lost the voice, probably due to cross-contamination from these other authors. I’m working on a beginning hexcrawl, a place from which to launch a CARCOSA campaign — a small village in a relatively tame hex (I’m thinking 1014) with several adventures that can lead to bigger things. Slavers to hunt down. A sorcerer who gives you a map. Deep Ones doing shitty Deep One stuff. Velociraptor ambushes. Some books from authors of dubious sanity. I’m scavenging the few parts that work from the half-ass shit I wrote previously and hopefully can use those as a springboard to create the rest. Skimming non-standard sources to expand my thinking: the Conan boxed set, Talislanta, Stars w/out Number… I even peeked inside F.A.T.A.L. for the first time in a while. Going over hexcrawls in Fight On! with a fine-toothed comb.

But I need to get back into the proper creative frame of reference, so I’m re-reading Supplement V  in order to calibrate. As always, I’m reading Swords & Stitchery, which can be dangerous because it threatens to send me off on a Terminal Space trajectory. And I’ve just discovered Songs that the Hyades shall sing…, which I’ve only glanced at thus far but it already has me not quite back in the saddle, but at least looking thoughtfully at the horse. And then there’s JOESKYTHEDUNGEONBRAWLER, who needs no introduction.

Probably a “This Is CARCOSA” post or two would work wonders. More coming soon, hopefully…

Notes on bringing your D&D campaign to CARCOSA: Pt.1

I think the easiest way to take CARCOSA for a spin is to drop your current campaign into it for a session or three. That weird teleporter at the bottom of the dungeon, a lich with a dimension door spell, a curse… get your players there however you like. They explore a little, get a sense of the unique style & flavor of the setting, and then you can all talk about whether it’s something you might like to dive into as a full campaign.

This is the first of a handful of posts that will offer suggestions about how to port over spells, magic items, demi-humans, etc. I think you might burn players on the setting right off the bat if you yank away all their shiny toys and abilities, so these suggestions offer a compromise that lets them keep their spells & loot but puts a little CARCOSA spin on the situation. None of this is play-tested so if these ideas turn out to be stupid there’s no one to blame but me, and I don’t really give a crap.


The Old Ones dominate CARCOSA and the other Gods of the multiverse aren’t too keen on intruding. Cleric spells have a base 50% chance of failure, modified downward by 5% per level of the caster (ex. a 3rd level Cleric has a 35% chance of failure, an 8th level Cleric has a 10% chance of failure, at 10th level and above the chance of failure is removed). A failed spell counts as spent.

Clerics can turn Cannibals (as Ghouls), Robots (as undead with equivalent HD), and Mummies (as Mummies). Mummy Brains cannot be turned. Space Aliens that witness a Cleric turn a Robot must save vs. spells or suffer an effect identical to an insanity weapon.

Praying for spells can be dangerous and calls to distant Gods are prone to attract unwelcome attention. Total the spell levels requested during prayer; if that number or less is rolled on percentile dice, then roll 1d10 on the following chart:

  1. Azathoth. Waves of howling insanity batter the Cleric’s mind; stunned for 1-4 hours and no spells that day.
  2. Cthugah. The Cleric burns with the intensity of the Old One’s immolating gaze; suffer 1-8 damage, save vs. spells to gain spells for the day.
  3. Cthulhu. Cleric suffers insanity weapon effect for 4-24 hours (no save), no spells that day.
  4. Forsaken. The Cleric’s deity is aghast that its servant is on CARCOSA. No spells until some act of atonement is performed.
  5. Hastur. The Great Old One briefly peers out from the Cleric’s combusting eyes; any who make eye contact are stunned for 1-10 rounds (no save), Cleric blinded for 1-6 hours, when recovered save vs. spells to gain spells for the day.
  6. I’thaqua. Gain spells as normal. For the next 6 days the weather turns increasingly cold & wintry. On the seventh day a frigid cyclone of epic intensity descends upon the Cleric; amid the raging winds and scouring ice, a coven of 4-16 Cultists (Yellow men clad in light grey garments) attack the Cleric and companions.
  7. Nyarlathotep. Gain spells as normal. Stalked by 2 Mummies that attack 2-8 days later.
  8. Shub-Niggurath. Gain spells as normal. A random Spawn attacks each of the next 1-10 days.
  9. Space Aliens. Gain spells as normal. 3-12 Space Aliens attempt abduction during next rest period.
  10. Yog-Sothoth. Prayer interrupted by 1-3 Spawn of Yog-Sothoth, that teleport in and attempt invisible tentacle rape of Cleric; no spells that day.

Ex. a 6th level Cleric prays for his/her full complement of spells: 2 1st, 2 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th. That totals up to 13 levels of spells requested, which means a 13% chance that something really shitty happens.

Clerics seen casting spells will typically be presumed demonic or sorcerous and treated appropriately; best case scenario, they are only viewed as mutants. This may lead to scenarios in which Clerics are treated as divine, feared and obeyed, or hunted and slaughtered. Sorcerers will take particular interest and be keen to decipher the mystery of any newcomers.

Additional notes, per spell:

Bless: Works as advertised. Reverse: Curse should be yucky and CARCOSA-themed.

Commune: 75% chance the spell is intercepted by a local dread entity; maybe it pretends to be the caster’s god, maybe it gives false answers, maybe it puts in a personal appearance…

Continual Light: Roll randomly to determine color of light (white, green, dolm, orange, etc.). Black equals UV light. Some colors are more useful than others. Reverse: 50% chance of casting Darkness, 50% instead call down a portion of the interstellar void, any within suffer 3-24hp cold damage per round.

Create Food: Local foods may not be palatable (i.e. fungus steaks, slug stew, tentacle pie, etc.).

Create Water: Creates normal, though unmistakably weird water.

Cure Disease: Effective against Diseased Guardians, bizarre sorcerous diseases, certain mutations. Reverse: Inflicts the Diseased Guardian disease.

Cure Light Wounds: If using CARCOSA dice rules, this spell heals 1HD of damage. In any case, 10% chance per hp healed that recipient also suffers a random mutation; save vs. spells each following day, success indicates mutation fades away. Reverse: Very effective, double damage.

Cure Serious Wounds: If using CARCOSA dice rules, this spell heals 2-3HD of damage. Mutation rules as above. Reverse: Very effective, double damage and caster will be the envy of local Sorcerers.

Detect Evil: ‘Evil’ on CARCOSA is relative, DM use judgment when determining effectiveness; in cases with any uncertainty, spell is ineffective. Reverse: ‘Good’ is also relative…

Detect Magic: Sorcery counts as magic.

Dispel Evil: See Detect Evil above.

Find Traps: Yep, still finds traps.

Hold Person: Ineffective against Bone men, for some reason.

Insect Plague: 90% chance that 1d4 random insectoid Spawn show up also.

Light: See Continual Light above.

Locate Object: Can this spell be weirded out? I’m drawing a blank… Tracking things down is so crucial to the setting, this could be a very handy spell.

Neutralize Poison: Cleric lays hands and withdraws poison into his/her own body; can discharge venom in a single spittle attack (up to 10′ range).

Protection from Evil: See Detect Evil above.

Protection from Evil, 10′ Radius: See Detect Evil above.

Purify Food & Water: Works just fine. Reverse: Still fine, but now you’re an asshole.

Quest: Works, and caster will be pestered by local Sorcerers for secret of casting this spell.

Raise Dead: 75% chance a random Old One takes a personal interest in the caster and the recipient: expect minions galore bent on capturing and examining both. Reverse: Local lawful-types will declare war.

Remove Curse: Works as advertised, also cures Diseased Guardian disease.

Speak with Animals: Works with all Spawn.

Speak with Plants: Lotus plants are devious, lying bastards. Also works with non-intelligent plant Spawn.

Turn Sticks to Snakes: Not snakes, squirmy semi-intelligent 1HD tentacles instead that have a fondness for penetrating victim’s orifices. Once the target is dispatched they will turn on the next nearest victim (including caster and friends).