Thursday 12 January 2012

Carcosa -- rituals

The last phase of my Carcosa / Mutant Future chargen rules, we come to the learning and use of rituals. As previously discussed, I've decided to reduce the number of available classes to 1, effectively removing the sorcerer class as presented in Carcosa. However, this doesn't mean that rituals are an NPC only thing. On the contrary, any PC can learn and perform rituals (or at least try). The concept I'm going with here is that when adventurers "find a ritual", they've actually (in general) found a complete description of everything involved in performing it -- including any esoteric theorems or such like which might be needed as background.

So taking a leaf from Call of Cthulhu, the main difficulty with rituals... well, the main difficulty in addition to the moral and logistic problems inherent in most Carcosan rituals, is the time required to study all that weird text and understand and learn it well enough to be able to perform it properly. I think I'll say 1 week per attempt to learn a ritual. As with other "skills", learning a ritual will have a 2 in 6 chance of success, modified by INT, and can be retried over and over, if a PC wants to.

In addition to having a high INT, two other factors are relevant. Jale Men get a +1 bonus, as do those with the arcane lore talent.

Other than that, all the rituals in the Carcosa book will operate exactly as described therein.

Now, the second point of interest is that I want to also allow all the rituals from Call of Cthulhu to be (potentially) accessible to PCs as well! This was an idea that struck me as I was reading Carcosa -- how I also have this other book on my shelf (CoC 30th anniversary edition) which has loads of cool creepy rituals which would fit right in with Carcosa. They're a lot lighter on the human sacrifice, but their effects are generally less far-reaching as well. I thought that the two types of ritual would nicely complement each other.

The only trouble is that D&D (or Mutant Future, in this case) is a different beast than Call of Cthulhu, mechanically speaking. Conversion time!

(CoC veterans, please forgive and correct my ignorance if anything I write here is totally wrong! I'm just going from having read the CoC 6th edition rules, but never having played a game with them...)

Here's what I was thinking:
  1. When a ritual specifies a loss of magic points, this translates to a loss of hit points. A nice simple system, which fits well with the D&D trope of PCs gaining more hps (and thus being able to use more magic) as they go up in level. I also like the idea that by using some types of magic you are actually risking your own life.
  2. Rituals which specify a loss of sanity result in an equivalent (but temporary) loss of WIS. WIS lost in this way would be recovered at a rate of 1 point per day or week or something.
  3. Rituals causing a loss of POW (which is permanent, as far as I gather) result in a permanent loss of WIS.
WIS, then, is being seen as representative of a character's sanity, which is a system I've heard mentioned here and there before. It has the nice side-effect, I think, that loss of WIS makes a character more susceptible to magical forces -- i.e. to having his or her mind blasted and taken over by otherworldly entities. Nice.

Other than that, I think the CoC rituals should work pretty much as written in a D&D environment.

So, that concludes my Carcosan chargen rules. Mix that lot in with Jeff's "what went wrong" doc and I think we have a nice old-school system mash-up on our hands!

I'll probably put all this together into a PDF at some point, for use in my planned Carcosa session(s), and for the reference of anyone else who decides to go down a similar route!

ps. That was my 200th post on this blog! Crikey, that went quickly!


  1. In the first part of your system, it might be good to keep the die roll secret, so the players aren't sure if they've got the ritual right or not before they try it. Or maybe on a 1 you tell them some arcane force indicates it's right, but short of that, it seemed to go well, whether it did or not.

  2. Hey Spawn, hmm interesting idea... I'd not thought of that! Oh the (extremely dark) comedy which would ensue -- kidnapping and sacrificing 20 jale men only to discover that you'd not learned your lines correctly :)

    I'll have to think some more about how I'd want this to play in the scenario I currently have in mind. Another undecided point is whether any PCs would start the game knowing any rituals.

  3. I think this is an awesome idea. CoC is a perfect fit for Carcosa (of course!)

  4. Yes I find the mixture of wacky post-apocalyptic sci-fi + Cthulhuesque darkness rather appealing!


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