Friday, December 16, 2011

Armchair Reviews: Carcosa PDF Edition


After that spectacular sale on all the Lamentations of the Flame Princess imprint mentioned earlier in my blog, guess what I get to review first as a DriveThruRPG / RPGNow reviewer? One of the newest offerings (at least on RPGNow / DriveThruRPG) from the Lamentations of the Flame Princess imprint: Carcosa.

Here's the review I gave:
This PDF edition of Carcosa is apparently a compilation and revision of material that has appeared before -- material I'm not familiar with in detail, but have passing familiarity with from the OSR blogosphere.

In a market that often seems to be divided between super-slick hi-resolution imagery and sadly amateurish attempts at passable gaming material, Carcosa manages to stake a claim for solid gaming bang for buck on its own terms.

As stated in the Introduction of this sourcebook, Carcosa is not a sourcebook that will drown its readers in setting minutae, but will give sufficient information concerning the setting that will allow GMs and players to use the material any way they wish -- even if they wish to cannibalize the material for monsters, ideas, rules, and adventure seeds.

Fortunately much of that material is very good, despite my misgivings about the 'mature nature' of the setting and the Weird Science Fantasy label is well-deserved -- it somehow manages to merge legacy alien technology, macabre sorcerous rituals, and a decadent, decaying, dangerous world filled with terrible creatures and awful gods into a uniquely setting that comes across as both challenging and interesting to adventure in.

While some may be more used to slicker and cleaner art styles, I feel that the art direction and execution is excellent -- it captures the weirdness of the setting, and evokes the feel of the sourcebook as an old-style travel guide or almanac for a foreign land. I would go as far as saying that the linework and the composition tends to connote its subject matter more than denoting it -- they have the feel of being "artist's interpretations" of people, places, and things that are real and were lifted from an accomplished artist's sketchbook.

The PDF has the following sections:
  • Introduction -- does much to frame the understanding and use of the sourcebook
  • Men and Magic -- describes rules such as dice conventions, allowed character classes, and building characters in this setting
  • Sorcerous Rituals -- talks about nature of rituals in sorcery; extensively hyperlinked to the appropriate Monster Descriptions
  • Monster Descriptions -- the monstrous menagerie of Carcosa; externsively hyperlinked
  • Hex Description -- there's a Hex Map of Carcosa with number hexes; you can find the descriptions of each number hex here; extensive hyperlinking to monster descriptions and sorcerous rituals
  • Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorceror -- a short sample adventure that takes place in one of the Hexes
  • Addenda -- lots of good stuff here for the GM
The PDF also sports features like a default two-page spread, a handy table of contents sidebar, and meticulously hyperlinked text. That last bit, by the way, is what pushed this product from a four-star product to a five-star product for me -- it may not be as slick or flashy as some other sourcebooks, but in terms of content, design, and utility it was a winner for me.
I don't know if it should be longer, but Carcosa is definitely something I'll be referring to now as one of my favorite sources of gaming material.

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