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TOPIC: Weird Campaign Idea

Weird Campaign Idea 25 Jun 2018 08:51 #276151

40 years ago, I bought my first role-playing game, which was first edition Gamma World. The cover was grim and intriguing, and post-apocalypse was an intriguing setting to an impressionable kid raised during the Cold War.

vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/gammaworld/i...st?cb=20131110022339

I wrote up and ran a couple of short adventures for friends, and have usually been the gamemaster ever since. A year later, I got into D&D and then various other RPGs, and only rarely dabbled in Gamma World after that. A year ago, I read a review for Carcosa, and it captured my imagination like that first Gamma World boxed set. I finally bought a second-hand copy of Carcosa, and have a weird campaign in mind. When I run a campaign, I do a lot of prep these days, and the weirdness of this campaign idea has me second-guessing myself. So I am going to pitch it here, in hopes that I can get some good feedback about whether the campaign idea is worth developing.

First, Carcosa. The name comes from an old Ambrose Bierce story, and eventually got built up as part of an interesting subset of the Cthulhu Mythos, featuring He Who Should Not Be Named and the King in Yellow. This book is made to look like a real spell book, and is written as though it was a supplement to the original D&D game, like Blackmoor or Greyhawk. It depicts a bleak world with 13 races of humans and lots of monsters. The various human races come in various bright colors, including three fictional colors (ulfire, jale, and dolm). The only character classes are Fighter and a new Sorceror class that can only perform lengthy rituals to summon, control, or dismiss vile monsters. Most of the rituals require exotic ingredients, human sacrifice and other vile acts. Civilization takes the form of villages run by individual high-level fighters, but there are also ruins of a more advanced civilization, and high tech items can be found in those ruins, especially in the ruined city of Carcosa. The most common type of creature is a spawn of Shub-Niggurath, but there are also oozes, giant bugs, dinosaurs, mummies, and even robots. Characters with high mental stats have a chance of having limited psionic powers, and there are pockets of radiation that can induce mutations. So, kind of a mix of OD&D, Call of Cthulhu, and Gamma World, with a strong flavor of old pulp fiction mags like Weird Tales, especially the writing of Clark Ashton Smith. The baseline human technology is post-Roman Britain, and the culture is comparable to pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, or maybe the native of Skull Island (King Kong). Carcosa also reminds me a lot of the Den story from the original Heavy Metal movie.

clawcarver.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/carcosa.jpg

My weird campaign idea is to have the players generate pulp crimefighter heroes, along the lines of Doc Savage and the Shadow. They can make 3rd level d20 Modern characters, with technology restricted to the 1920s. I want them to really get into their origins to explain what motivated them to become crimefighters. They will be told that they are teaming up to become a pulp hero team, to battle the big threats to America in the 1920s, like mobsters and foreign spies. Their first mission will be an invasion of the San Francisco headquarters of a yellow peril villain. Once they get past his traps and guards, they will confront him, only to find that he is _really_ yellow, like bright yellow. And when they try to leave, with or without the Yellow Peril, they will find themselves lost as the floor plan of the headquarters seems to have changed. When they emerge from the building, they find themselves in an alien landscape with two suns in the sky: Carcosa.

Carcosa is a big sandbox. The book lightly details a large section of the world which contains the city of Carcosa, and the players will be free to roam about. I will have some standard maps and stats for the villages, and then build up some adventure locations that are briefly described in the book. I am visualizing this campaign as a classic hex crawl, where players blindly explore a completely unknown land. The characters will either need to resign themselves to life in Carcosa, or find a way to escape. There a variety of ways to return to Earth, but can be generally summarized as two ways to escape. One way would be to learn the lcoal language, master the dark magic of Carcosa, and commit human sacrifice to return to Earth. The other way would be to find and experiment with some of the stranger alien technology from the ruins, to return via space ship or teleportation or something along those lines. If at any point, I feel like a majority of the players are losing interest, I will put a convenient exit in their path and wrap the game up.

I am hoping to see the players stay in character and wrestle with ethical issues in their battle for survival and escape. Their characters will arrive with high-minded pulp hero ideals, but may lose their way in a world without truth, justice, or the American Way. I also plan on using the Call of Cthulhu sanity loss rules and the Gamma World artifact use flowcharts. My concern is that I might have trouble pitching this game to potential players. I have a dozen potential players from my last two campaigns, Call of Cthulhu and Ptolus, and the Ptolus game was D&D 3.5 plus some steampunk and some pseudo-Cthulhu Mythos. So I think they would like the Carcosa setting. But it's important that their characters come from outside of Carcosa, because nobody would be thrilled to play in a party of just Fighters. And I really like the pulp hero angle, because it feels like it would bring together all the pulp fiction styles together: detective, superhero, horror, science-fiction, and sword & sorcery.

What do you think? Are there potential problems with d20 Modern, or a sandbox style of campaign? Or the clashing themes of the game? Or psionics? Or hex-crawling? I have a lot of DM experience, but I am reaching beyond that experience this time around.
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Weird Campaign Idea 26 Jun 2018 06:52 #276221

Pulp has a strong element of lost worlds exploration (The Moon Pool, King Solomon’s Mine, etc.) So I think the pitch is solid as is.

I’d probably use Spirit of the Century over d20 Modern though.
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Weird Campaign Idea 26 Jun 2018 07:42 #276229

Thanks for the recommendation. Spirit of the Century looks like it has just the right tone for what I want to see in character generation, though I will need to make adjustments to the mechanics to fit it into Carcosa.
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Weird Campaign Idea 26 Jun 2018 07:58 #276232

This sounds like a lot of fun. Since you're already doing so much work in developing the setting, why not use an Apocalypse variant and cobble together your own system to play with? Tonally, Spirit of the Century is perfect for this game, but every game of Fate I've ever played has devolved into "I can do what now?" and furrowed-brow counting of pluses and minuses and matching them to relative adjectives.

Some people click with the system right away though, so YMMV.
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Weird Campaign Idea 26 Jun 2018 15:34 #276283

I actually have some Fudge dice, but I'm not into that system. Carcosa is written for a simple version of D&D, like maybe 5th edition or one of the OD&D clones. My players tend to like tactical challenges, so that's why I was pondering d20 Modern or something along the lines of 3.5.

Because I am planning to run a game with tactical combats with maps and tokens, one aspect of the setting presents an unusual challenge. Three of the 13 human races in Carcosa have fictional skin colors, and some of those monsters share those three colors. These are visible colors, so I need a way to display them on tokens in tactical situations. Although I am near-sighted, I have perfect color vision, so the idea of new colors is interesting to me. I have also noticed over the years that women seem to be better at spotting color distinctions, and some guys who aren't technically colorblind are still vague on the distinction between red and orange, and also blue, green, and turquoise. So a fictional color to me would be like the color turquoise to a dude who perceives turquoise as either blue or green.

The fictional colors of Carcosa:

Ulfire: is a "wild and painful" color, and also a primary color like red, blue, or yellow.
Jale: is also a primary color, and is described as "dreamlike, feverish, and voluptuous."
Dolm: is a secondary color, and a combination of ulfire and blue. It is the opposite of jale, just like red and green are opposites.

My currernt interpretation, given that I can't actually create new colors:

Ulfire seems like a portmanteau of "ultimate" and "fire." So it has to be a warm or hot color, like red, orange, or yellow, but not actually one of those colors. So my ulfire will be a gradient blend of hot pink and flourescent orange.

Jale: seems like a portmanteau of "jade" and "pale," and a pale jade could match up with dreamlike and feverish. But it's supposed to be another primary color, not some weak tint. And I think of a voluptuous color as being rich and saturated, not pale. I'm still not decided on this one, but my current thinking is maybe to do a gradient pattern of turquoise and olive, straining to get something like a sick version of teal, but maybe with some slight yellow highlights to the olive.

Dolm: since the other two seem like obvious portmanteau names, I am assuming the same with dolm, and coming up with "dolor" and "calm." As a secondary color, Dolm is more on par with greeen, orange, or blue, but we already know that dolm is ulfire/blue. And also the opposite of whatever jale might be. I am currently thinking of dolm as a extremely dark purple, like black light purple verging into actual black.

One of the other 13 human races on Carcosa is the Bone Men, who have completely transparent skin and organs. I plan to use my skeleton tokens from my last D&D game, since effectively all that is visible of the Bone Men is their skeletons.
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Weird Campaign Idea 09 Jul 2018 19:05 #277217

I struggled some with those imaginary colors. I could either come up with unusual color blends or leave those tokens white and just insert text identifying them as "jale", "ulfire", and "dolm." I found some color blends online and then sampled specific sections to color my tokens.

jale:
Jale.jpg


ulfire:
ulfire01.jpg


dolm:
dolm.jpg


And then today, I came across an article about Tiffany Trump that included pictures from her Instagram page. This picture was captioned "I dream in colors that don't exist." Looks like my jale on the right, and two other other colors were possibilities that I considered for ulfire and dolm.


jale_ulfire_dolm.jpg
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Weird Campaign Idea 11 Oct 2018 01:48 #282975

love the ideas but some of them needed better quality to really understand what their saying and the message their portraying.. Bluestacks TextNow VPN
Last Edit: 11 Oct 2018 11:45 by zamakli2.
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Weird Campaign Idea 11 Oct 2018 06:48 #282977

It has been over two years since I wrapped up my Ptolus campaign, and my players have drifted off into other campaigns. So to pave the way for my Pulp campaign, I will be running some one-shot Call of Cthulhu adventures involving Hastur, the King in Yellow, and Carcosa. Because I'm not sure of getting enough head count for these adventures, I will pitch it to potential players as an rpg session with a boardgame contingency. If we get enough players for a given one-shot, we play it that day. If we are short on players, we break out the boardgames, and then try again next time with the rpg. We will meet once a month until we get through all three adventures. I am confident enough in my vast DM experience that if I can get people to play these three adventures, I will have recruited a stable enough group for an ongoing campaign.
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