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July 15, 2012 / Wythe

Where is Carcosa?

Where do we find “Carcosa” (concept, site, events, inhabitants, tech) on earth, or on our particular erath (the desertified/desecrated future earth)?

Bierce intends his ambiguous Carcosa to occupy a position on a future earth—a Rip Van Winkle city—but most interpreters today place it on an earthlike exoplanet. (The current definitive interpretation is Geoffrey McKinney’s.)

In 100 Million Years, “Carcosa” as a site of weird/Lovecraftian/paleopunk action could be in one or more locations; it could be distributed from the beginning or following the fragmentation of some Carcosa state/stratum within the essentially missing 100 million years of history that apophatically define the game.

But where are these various colored men and their ruins of Snake Man and alien technology hiding? Wouldn’t they stick out? How to integrate one’s own unique ideas with another set in a way that preserves the essence and playfulness of both…

  1. The West – Humans in the mantid-/fomori-dominated West may have lost civilization but preserved a grim independence, in scattered pockets. Here, the Carcosan men have to face not only aliens and shoggoths, but also the mantid slavers.
  2. “Lemuria” (large island far south of Pala) – Isolated, distant, this island, purposefully left under-thought, could house all of “Carcosa” and allow for relatively easy integration into any campaign on Pala.
  3. Luna – All we know about Luna and her inhabitants comes from a few lists and are psychedelic maps. Perhaps the Far Side or a forgotten plateau on the Near Side provides an undisturbed site for Carcosan anti-culture to have developed.
  4. Tsune – The other moon, never terraformed… by the Tephnians. Isn’t it possible the Snake Men and or aliens flew here 5000 years ago and seeded the misshapen sickle-rock with life, somehow setting up analogs for atmosphere, protective ozone, foodbase, gravity—perhaps even the very beginnings (hugely misinterpreted) of culture?
  5. Asmaar, the Unsea – Pala is huge and underpopulated. Isn’t it possible that a fairly large group of posthumans have simply remained hidden, far below or atop an isolated plateau in the middle of the vast central desert? These Carcosans would be much “drier” than the ones in McKinney’s opus, but similarly savage.
  6. Northwest Latura – Beyond the desert, at the edge of the oxygen-poisoned Nusea, perhaps there is a band of inhabitable forest where Carcosan men dwell, hunted by megafauna and aliens—and by incursions of Laturan imperial forces searching for archaetech, or for “sorcerers” (untrained hell scientists)…

I alluded to this earlier, but I find the most interesting solution to be that “Carcosa” is spread across all of these options. If the PCs were to somehow “hunt down” Carcosa and her inhabitants, I would perhaps roll twice and distribute the action across the ruined earth.

And I’d throw in these guys, whom I’ve been calling the Plague Church:

This image is not by me but is tremendously scary. #LoveIt. Makes me think of Carcosa immediately, of ritual murder… #Shudder.

July 14, 2012 / Wythe

Coincidence

There are no coincidences in DnD. Everything you say can come back to haunt the PCs. Half-remembered names, halfdescript places, lies, stutters, misreadings of texts—all may prove important. It is up to you.

#DeepThoughts

#DnDAphorisms

July 13, 2012 / Wythe

Philosophy; the approach to ancient texts

I was talking to a friend recently who was amazed to learn I have read little and have little interest in reading Plato. Isn’t Plato something you have to read to do philosophy?

I said you should simply read the writers in whom you’re deeply interested, and then read the writers who inspired them; this genealogical approach will always lead you back to Plato, via certain bottlenecks (Derrida, Heidegger, Kant, Hegel).

For example, I read Bataille and Stiegler because I am interested in sex, the body, limits, the future, technology, and prehistory, especially early human cognition. This led me to need to understand much better Nietzsche (Bataille’s immediate precursor), Heidegger (Stiegler’s foundation), and, in the end, Plato.

I found nothing strange about starting from a point of sincere contemporary engagement (how will biotechnology change the “human,” whatever it is?) and moving backwards toward the first inklings of wonder that would concatenate to build the contemporary.

This is how, I think, DnD and other complex mental games may be approached: Play what you like, and then ask, how did we get to this point of complexity? How else have these issues (combat, magic/psi, skills, etc.) been addressed in the past?

I believe the teaching of history benefits from the same inversion: Proceed from situations backward via the contingencies that gave rise to them.

In this way, we maintain curiosity at every step instead of, working from an initial feeling of “I guess I should know this shit”-ness, losing steam halfway, just before some critical insight.

My high school reading of philosophy stopped here: I started with famous names and proceeded up—learning nothing, abandoning Wittgenstein and Nietzsche (whose words I loved) out of exhaustion. Who cared about this world picture stuff, or the Dionysian? I needed some type of hook to delve so deeply into abstraction.

Years later, in my last two years of college, I would find this hook in Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault, and even more strongly in Deleuze, who led me to Bataille. We come full circle.

Only after this journey was completed (and other journeys begun) did I resume playing DnD in earnest, with others engaged abstraction-delving.

Coincidence?

July 12, 2012 / Wythe

Backup PCs

Deep GMing thought: Why don’t all players roll up two PCs, possibly antagonistic but definitely in the same world-historical milieu and even, fuck it, the same social scene? Then, when Thing 1 dies, Thing 2 jumps right in, bam, no waiting, perhaps some mourning, probably some retributive ass-kicking, definitely some shaking-up of the current power dynamics of the game (unless the Things in question are identical twins or some horseshit).

Just sayin.

This image is awesome and not by me. These characters are obviously tremendous bad-asses. Your players should make up characters such as these.

Just sayin. Again.

July 11, 2012 / Wythe

Iconica: big Magic + awesome design – rules tweaks = opportunity for creative misuse

We played a bit of Iconica and found it stunning, visually and linguistically, but imperfect rules-wise. Certain cards are just too strong, and with so few cards in play (you choose to field 3 of 40 basic characters), you notice every bump in the balance of the various characters.

That said, this game (which we’ve affectionately taken to calling “big Magic”) could serve up a very interesting quickset of NPCs for DnD. The hit points and damage more or less work for a mid- or high-level game, and the bigness/iconic look of the cards may serve well when they are whipped out—BAM!—fux with this:

Just a thought. Nice indie game; amazing design. We await more cards/options.

July 10, 2012 / Wythe

Carcosan character generation document! #METAL

This is very awesome >>

Here’s my sample character, rolled up randomly as instructed by What Went Wrong:

===

Name:  Cafolan

Vitals:
STR  8
DEX  10
CON  14
INT  12
WIS  11
CHA  13

Color:  Blue

Sex:  Female

Orientation:  Into ladies, except for this one time…

Tech level:  Savage Tribesperson – got a stone-tipped spear and a big wicker shield

Gear:  A small sphere – 2″ diameter, made of a hard translucent substance, origin unknown

Background weirdness:  Wicked awesome tattoos.

Alignment:  Chaotic (Yes, those slimy-ass bastards are my kind of fuckers! )

Sorcerer?  YES!

Why the fuck are you a sorcerer?  Slime-covered tentacular space gods killed a robot that was attacking my mother. Then the space gods killed and consumed my mother. #ObviouslyIHadTo worship them and beg to learn their terrifying secrets…

===

I’m totally making the PCs play random Carcosan characters at some point… In the mean time, in closing, here’s a thought from Jim Stutz that pretty much sums up why RPG bloggers have had Carcosa fever ever since Geoffrey McKinney’s excellent book dropped:

What we end up with are dinosaur-riding sorcerous cavemen exploring ancient ruins and pursuing the Greys for their nifty rocket launchers while being pursued in turn by Nyarlathotep and some undead mummies. Why? Fuck you, that’s why.

July 9, 2012 / Wythe

Starbucks

What is the Starbucks of the post-apocalypse like? I don’t mean the grimy, scary cantina—PCs always assume they’re in the grimiest of cantinas. I mean the place normal people go for a kelp lager or a coffee-like algae drink.

This is partially what DnD needs as a whole—normalcy (background) against which to set action (foreground)—in some ways, Die Hard than Conan—or at least the camel-punching, merchant/day-job/background noise of Conan.

I don’t of course think Die Hard itself provides the right elements (though it does give the right feeling); the question is, in your given fantasy/sci-fi world, where is Starbucks? Target? Walmart?

In what ways do these equivalencies not exist? Any given equivalency may be boring or so incongruous that it, far from remaining boring, sparks a new adventure.

Ideas for “normal” postfuture locations to serve as backdrops for PC action:

  • The algae farms – Shallow green lakes monitored by mercenary guards, all of whom are jacked up (+5 Init) on hyper-juice algae
  • The jellyfish pools – Deep cisterns turned white with slimy aquaculture. Don’t fall in… Gear nearby: nets, antitoxin, grills, salt, kebabs
  • The diner – Muhfuckers gotta eat! #Jellyfishburgers
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