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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


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.



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.


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

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


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
July 8, 2012 / Wythe

Mountain Tribes

Bizarre tribal enemy idea:

There is a term for those humans who dwell in the mostly gmothi-controlled mountains of  northeast Pala—all the small plateaus and old ranges between the swamps of Arakha and the low, quan- and sahaguin-infested plains of Djenma. These humans, who have gone back to the wild in the eyes of the citydwellers, are called Tattered People. They wear horrible fungal bark masks and ad hoc shawls and tunics made of strips of flesh and shards of chitin, sewn together at random and stinking, often inhabited by entirely novel microbial and fungal colonies.

These colonies, in fact, can direct the actions of the Tattered People, leeching chemicals into the blood that influence emotion and desire (as cats, extinct in the future, may control our brains today). Sometimes driven to eat the flesh of gmothi and other sents by their microbial–fungal shawl-colonies (shawlonies), the Tattered People are feared and hated by the gmothi tribes, and viewed as “demons” by the Barbari tribes of humans who inhabit the cool lowlands beyond the northern coastal ranges.

Tattered People themselves tend to run Bloodthirsty/ADD and organize themselves into hermetically sealed clans or familial units, depending on the total number of their cohort. These clans or families fight one another more or less constantly, but seek amputation and ingestion instead of death. (When making called shots to the digit, nose, or ear, Tattered Person barbarians only suffer -2, not -4. Crits have a 1 in 4 chance of slicing off a digit/nose/ear.)

Thus, the Tattered People are frequently missing fingers, toes, ears, noses, tongues, limbs, and random patches of skin. They particularly venerate barbarian bravos who have won many battles but lost their noses: These Noseless create a music by whistling through the holes in their faces, and they never lose morale. Even seeing them calls for a Sanity check (failure means losing d6 SAN).

Typical names:

  • Tylbuk the Hungry
  • Thungba the Unsatiate
  • Tortorbaghont the Fiercely Comestibilating

Typical weapons:

  • Irradiated frogs filled with nails – launched from an ad hoc potato gun
  • Gun that shoots nails – functions as a short-range area of effect weapon, cone shaped, damage deteriorating every five feet from 3d4-3, 2d4-2, d4-1, 1
  • Wooden sword covered in horrible flesh-melting fungus
  • Huge metal spoon (?)
  • Teeth, sharpened
  • Teeth, someone else’s – worn as weaponized dentures or “superteeth” (the proper ethnological term), 1 in 4 chance of infecting someone bit by them with a horrible disease
  • Foul smell

Tattered People culture is rich in many respects, however. Their fungal liquors are considered the best in northern Pala, and their music is pleasing to many aficionados, after the initial SAN loss.

What do the Tattered People want? They worship the constant consuming re-consuming of the self, and the mutation of the mind and body. They want to embrace and enforce mutation in its most abstract. They want you…

July 7, 2012 / Wythe

Five new sexes

This post—adding five new sexes (or genders*) to your RPG campaign—is phenomenal. I love this rigorous creativity. How can we make DnD really new, truly weird, actually philosophically curious? Add some muhfuckin sexes to the world. How basic. How hilarious. How… usable.

I mean, imagine meeting one of your PCs meeting a pretty [type of being the PC is attracted to] in a grimy cantina. The pretty NPC and PC make out. The next week, the PCs are back in the grimy cantina. The NPC is pregnant… from the PC’s saliva. The NPC, a spemale, wants the PC to pay up for child support. Hilarity ensueth.

Richard’s Dystopain Pokeverse is full of these gems. Check it out.

*A note on nomenclature: The author calls these new “sexes” as opposed to “genders.” These ideas are all for novel biological child-conceiving processes, so I think, from a purely scientific perspective, it is safe to refer to them as “sexes.”

If you disagree, many apologies! I ain’t trying to start nothing. I admit: Biological spemales may be “male” or “female” from our human/cultural perspectives.

July 6, 2012 / Wythe

Atomic Robo RPG sounds pretty neat

And looks neat as well.  Check it >>

Any game that claims to feature “action-science, robots, angry talking dinosaurs, and high weirdness” is getting picked up.

This underscores the need for good d20 rules for robot and android characters…

July 5, 2012 / Wythe

Ideas for posts to develop in the future

I have been busy doing real-life shite, so fewer posts have been made. My B! On a happier and less determinate note, here are some ideas I may/may not pursue in the near future:

Fun stuff

Moon species (the new ones), converted from simple d6 stats to full d20 DnD/100my stats:

  1. Low Man [caveman] (+2 STR, -2 INT)
  2. Chitinous Man [hairless, lipless future-human] (+2 INT, -2 WIS)
  3. Ape Savant [sentient mandrill] (+2 DEX, -2 CHA)
  4. Robot [finally set free!] (+2 CON, -2 DEX) – This “species” opens up a whole can of technoworms (androids? cyborgs? bionic implants?); relates to question of converting morphs from Eclipse Phase (below)
  5. Mutant [gamma child] (+2 ANY STAT, -3 CON) – Essentially different from just making a human and rolling a bunch on the mutations table?
  6. Cactoid (spines, +2 WIS, -2 DEX) – I really want somebody to play a cactoid, if we ever do a Luna-based game
  7. “Companion” Android: (“giggle,” +2 CHA, -2 WIS)
  8. Saurid Prodigy: Pteran (wings, +2 DEX, -2 CON)
  9. Saurid Prodigy: Anklyan (club tail, +2 STR, -2 DEX)
  10. Saurid Prodigy: Stegan (spike fins, +2 STR, -2 INT)
  11. Saurid Prodigy: Raptan (maw/claws, +2 DEX, -2 INT)

Moon [prestige?] classes (the new ones), converted from d6 to d20 stats:

  1. Capataz [policeman, merchant] (+2 DEX, -2 WIS)
  2. Houri [whore, dancer] (+2 CHA, -2 STR)
  3. Naturalist [doctor, shaman] (+2 INT, -2 DEX)
  4. Psy-Freak [experiment, orphan] (+2 WIS, -2 CON)
  5. Flyboy [speeder pilot, deathracer] (+2 DEX, -3 ANY STAT) – movement x3
  6. Slaver [villain, minder] (+2 WIS, -2 CHA) – gain d30 Goons (1 every stat)
  7. Mechanic [engineer, whizkid] (+2 INT, -2 CHA) – crafting/fixing x3
  8. Ranchero  [herder of lunattle {lunar cattle}, family man] (+2 WIS, -2 INT) – money x3
  9. “Chef”  [gourmand… of death! short order… ninja!] (+2 CHA, -2 CON) – gain Poisons and Disguises in abundance
  10. Eques  [knight, goodguy] (+2 STR, -2 WIS) – gain Archaetech Vibrolance and Hoverhorse

Mech fights in DnD!?!?!? / Stats for mechs and other large vessels:

  1. LAMMASSU – Stats for this class of mech may actually come up in-game, very soon, so…
  4. Bumblebee
  5. Pincer

Conversions from other games I like:

  1. Legal sitch – Is it legal to post random d20 conversions for games whose wonderful contents I had no part in creating? Perhaps with clear caveats?
  2. Hollow Point – This game was so fun to read, so… blah to play. The creation of 5 one-time-use quirks works wonderfully, and the tone of the game feels right. But the stats are irritatingly vague once combat begins, so combat drags, compared to DnD (or White Wolf, or d6 RPGs, or… any successful RPG). Still, there has to be a way to borrow some of the fun 5-bad-ass-stats tone of HP for other systems. The new-each-game quirks (lucky bullet, obsession with someone, favorite food) are an easy place to begin.
  3. Eclipse Phase conversions:
    1. Morphs – Many elements of EP impress me. The art is monumental, Lovecraftian, paranoia-inducing. The writing is clear and confident; the creators obviously have a wonderful sense of their game world. But nothing beats the different biological, pod-grown, synthetic, and information-only “morphs,” the equivalents of races/species in other RPGs. The coolest may be the slitheroid, a freaking skull-headed metal snake. The sample slitheroid-morph character in the EP rulebook has an 8-ball painted on his head. #BadAss.
    2. Factions, motivation, rep, moxy, and rez in DnD – These rules systems within EP all feel modular and portable into other games. I particularly think moxy (similar to grit or FATE points gained from aspects) in DnD.
    3. Exsurgent fauna (nanoswarms and more!) – These are easy enough to convert. One element of EP I love is that the exsurgent virus is neither purely biological nor digital; all matter and energy (anything that can be represented as information) can be infected… I love this nuance; it makes the exsurgent virus close to the vague notion of “psi” in sci-RPGs, but more threatening—recalling at once both the “gray goo” nano-apocalypse scenario and the mystical early excitement of quantum physics (the world is not marble; the world is chaos; matter–energy, particle–wave, void–field…).
    4. Aaaaand here’s a d6 conversion for Eclipse Phase, awesome!
  4. Apocalypse World class conversions – Someone has almost certainly already done this on the labyrinthine AW forums… if only I could find the relevant thread.
    1. Experience in Apocalypse World – No gamer I’ve spoken with thinks encouraging PCs to have sex with one another is a good idea—not because sex isn’t great; it is!—but because players want sex, while player characters want secret powers, weapons, prestige, gold, armies, etc. This isn’t an attempt to reduce the great game to Monopoly, just an observation from years of GMing. That all said, the fundamental shift in AW is away from “experience = amount of badness killed” to “experience = amount you understand about yourself, via interacting with others [mainly other PCs].” Which is aaaaawesome.

100 M. Y. development

  1. 100 M. Y. character sheet
  2. Sample characters for each 100 M. Y. species and class
July 4, 2012 / Wythe

In honor of the Fourth… an American adventure

Time travel back to the Founding Fathers days: The PCs gotta help Thomas Paine, who asks to be called T-Pain, free four slaves owned by President Thomas Jefferson, who everyone calls T-Jax, who is secretly a steam-powered/partly wooden cyborg with the powers of magnetism, who is on vacation back at Monticello for a minute.

T-Pain has the negative trait: Talks angrily about freedom nonstop, even if in hiding. T-Jax has a pair of stonepunk mecha-owls called Coriolanus and Flavius. Also: Tobaccorks (botanical orcs bioengineered using horticulture… and evil magic). T-Pain has a shotgun that shoots irradiated red, white, and blue Freedom Chunks stolen from Ben Franklin.

The four slaves, John, August, Grant, and Robert, are friends of T-Pain from back in the dizzle. They are skilled with farm tools; Robert is also a cardshark; Grant can hack into steampunk robots. They are currently in the “brig” (torture wing) of Monticellar (the underground/evil/living part of Monticello).

T-Jax’s daughters, Utopia and She-Who-Walks-Farthest (both of whom are suspiciously caramel-toned) are back from boarding school in France just in time to help the PCs navigate their way around their Papa’s underground mansion… but one of them is a double agent for a Jeffersonian éminence grise who seeks to supplant T-Jax as Shadow Emperor of Early Capital, or whatever.

Maybe Monticellar shoots into space as the PCs wend through its depths, trying to find a way out before Flavius eats one of their eyes…?


July 3, 2012 / Wythe

Game: Win Condition

P.D. sent me this awesome old school game, “Win Condition,” on Glorious Trainwrecks:


arrow keys to move
z to swing sword
x to shoot arrows


Something about the old Zelda games continually begs for DnD-ization: Save the princess. Defeat the vaguely demonic bad dude. In between, explore the bizarchitecture, picking up weird (and mostly kind of lame) magic items.

Has anyone made a Carcosan Zelda clone?