Friday, November 11, 2016

Fallen Empire, Carcosan Nonsense - A table of metaphors, lies, and explanations.

Inspired largely by this post at Rotten Pulp, and by a nice big hangover binge on Calvino, I've prepared this handy table.  Useful perhaps for when people ask scholars or oracles how the game world came to be a sublime ruin teetering toward the aesthetic of grotesque.  Of course you might find it useful for other reasons as well - for example I'm keeping it open on my phone to help talk to relatives at Thanksgiving.

Michael S. Hutter paintings are always good for inspiration.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

BlackSun DeathCrawl - A Review

BlackSun DeathCrawl was published in 2015 by James MacGeorge.  It’s a pay what you want PDF
and I’d call it one of those great free (or nearly so) products of the OSR that are made with heart and singular vision.  The book itself is 64 pages, though much of that is made up of ominous prophetic statements in large fonts and lovely full page etchings from the common domain (I recognize a lot of Gustav Dore’s illustrations from Dante’s Divine Comedy) that really add to the setting feel.  Actual, game ready content takes up far fewer pages, but that’s okay, because the Deathcrawl at its best is less of a module or adventure then setting for playing very grim survival based dungeon crawl. The adventure part of the books is actually its weakest, a set of scene based encounters that while unrelentingly bleak and open-ended provide a bare skeleton of an adventure that doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the setting.  That promise though and the horrifically spare setting itself are wonderful and make up for the minor weaknesses of other areas.

One such minor issue is that Deathcrawl uses DCC as it’s basis, which makes for some rules kludge that needs to be converted for most, but this is minimal and Deathcrawl generally avoids the fidgety nature of the DCC system by eliminating all classes except fighters.


“And yet the Cursed dig...because they have forgotten what it means to do anything but dig, fight and flee.”

That’s typical of the somewhat lyrical, somewhat overwrought declarations that MacGeorge  uses as the main setting vehicle.  Even setting rules (all players begin as a level 1 warrior) are communicated in this way, and it makes for an effective enough system to communicate setting and feel.  It’s rather evocative really, and allows justifies Deathcrawl’s interesting rules changes (Death occurs by burning up a character’s ‘hope’ - formerly Luck in the DCC rules and by the steady accumulation of terrible mutations).  More than anything Blacksun DeathCrawl feels bleak and allegorical, a mystery play from some religion based on Black Metal Album covers rather than normal tabletop fantasy or the series of evocative vignettes that the module sets out to promote ‘moral’ play (in the sense that more of the play derives from making moral decisions, not that it forces players into having a specific moral stance).  Yet I suspect it’s best played as a dungeon crawl where finding a way deeper to escape the Black Sun’s torturous light and unstoppable minions while discovering food and water are the only goals.