First Look: Carcosa

Carcosa cover I don’t remember when I first heard about Carcosa. I think someone mentioned it on Twitter or I discovered a link to some preview somewhere. But I was immediately intrigued. Carcosa is a weird science-fantasy horror setting by Geoffrey McKinney and published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

There seems to be some controversy around this product. I have to admit I haven’t bothered to look deeper into this, but I believe one reason is that Carcosa is not what you would consider family friendly. Like LotFP it doesn’t hide the fact that it is for adults only. Among Carcosa’s inspirations the author lists the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E.Howard, Lin Carter and Michael Moorcock. And a setting inspired by the writings of these people can’t be all bad. And trust me, it isn’t.

While the cover is nothing special, the interior artwork of the 143-paged book is pretty awesome. Even though it’s black & white artwork only, the style used fits the setting perfectly. The image below is a perfect example.

Page 4 and 5 from Carcosa PDF Edition

The layout, fonts and artwork really make you want to leaf through the book all day. Some drawings are so detailed you can spend quite a few minutes discovering new stuff. But let’s now have a look at the content itself.

Carcosa is a planet about 150 light years away from Earth and home to thirteen races of men. There’s no common fantasy magic, but characters may have psionic powers and Sorcerers may use rituals to summon entities right out of H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares.

The setting was designed for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess or some other D&D retro clone in mind, but you could easily use it for other games or just as an inspiration for your own campaign. The setting is not as detailed as for example the Forgotten Realms or some other classic D&D settings, but there’s enough material to run a game set in the world without being bogged down by the minutiae.

What I realized pretty quickly is that Carcosa was not designed as something you can play out of the box. A lot of descriptions are kept rather vague to make it easier for the GM to mold the setting to his or her wishes. But since it’s meant for fans of old-school gaming this should be no big issue.

But the building blocks you’re provided with are just awesome: Space Alien Technology, Artifacts of the Great Race (yes, the one from Lovecraft’s stories), Psionics, Sorcerous Rituals, really cool and unique monsters and more. The book also contains a hex map of a portion of the planet with descriptions of every single hex on that map. That’s an instant sandbox right there.

In my opinion Carcosa is a very interesting product, well worth it’s price. If you are into old-school gaming in general and weird science-fantasy settings in particular, you’ll definitely enjoy using Carcosa even if it’s just for cannibalizing ideas.

You can get the PDF Edition from RPGNow for $21.25 or directly from the publisher for €13. There’s also a print and PDF deal for the hardcover book and the PDF which sets you back about €32. For 5€ extra you get a poster and a map, too. I have to admit I am very tempted to get that bundle as soon as I got my next paycheck!