Recently I finished reading Paul Creswick’s Adventures of Robin Hood, a turn of the century children’s novel that was one of many attempts of the era to reconcile a wide array of Robin Hood legends into a single cohesive narrative (something, which I gather, was in vogue at the time). Now, I’ll readily admit, most of my knowledge of Robin Hood comes from a handful of relatively recent movies (Disney’s Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and various cartoons), so it was interesting to look back at one of the older 20th century interpretations.
Some of the many differences from more recent interpretations I noted are:
-The story starting with Robin as a child.
-Can’t say that I’ve seen Will O’ the Green in m/any versions.
-I don’t remember the Gamewell/Montfichet subplot in adaptations I’ve seen.
-The Sheriff’s ice-cold spiteful & jealous daughter as the root cause of conflict between Robin & Sheriff was new to me.
One of the main things I noticed, though, was that Robin Hood got his butt kicked. A lot. Time and again, he’d pick a fight, and get the poo knocked out of him. There were always at least one of two mitigating circumstances, however. 1) He would have backup who could come to aid before a truly dire blow could be struck. 2) He and his friends were often such jovial fellows that all but the most cartoonishly villainous fellows would decide that Robin & greenwood men were right swell folks, and swear eternal friendship at the least, if not altogether join up. (Truly, men bond best after some small bloodshed!)
How can this work in your game?
Large numbers of allies at beck and call can easily pluck a villain out of dire situation if he or she is defeated too quickly and soundly in an unlucky encounter. Don’t do this, though, unless it can somehow move the story forward in some sort of plausible way. Or, if the villain is more roguish chap than vile fiend, reward the victors with feast & friendship.
Not every fellow you randomly happen upon for an encounter is itching for a fight to the death. Maybe they’re having a bad day and just want to soothe their pride? If defeated, maybe they yield and offer allegiance. Or maybe they win. But having a rough day doesn’t make them a murderer. Maybe the victory has soothed their pride and your character’s charisma and charm is such that it can win them over to your cause?
One of the many old Cirsovan deities who is still worshiped in the riverlands is Auna. Auna is an often good-natured trickster goddess, sometimes sower of discord and oft-times patroness of thieves. She is also the goddess of love, as it is said that hearts are one of the many things she steals.
Though not all thieves worship Auna, and not all worshipers of Auna are thieves, many women who have mastered the art of getting what they want by less than honest means may often be heard whispering a prayer of thanks to Auna.
Auna is more publicly beloved, despite her reputation among thieves, than her husband, Karras, and many cities have a statue of her in some public square. Under the shade of these statues, women who propose courtship to their beloved receive the blessings of Auna.
In the heartlands, though she is still worshiped, her cult is in decline. Oftentimes, whether they are involved in organized crime or not, Auna’s priestesses have been held by authorities in some suspicion, as deceit is one of the goddess’s sacraments. Outside of Cirsova, there is no organized worship of Auna, however there are rumors of a group of thieves in Gatlia, led by a young beauty named Ellyra, who steal in her name. The bandits, however, have not claimed responsibility, nor been proven culpable, for the recent uptick in violent raids against caravans travelling through the baronies of central Gatlia.
So, I finally got around to reading the infamous, notorious, legendary, hideously eeeeevil and scary grimoire of doom, death and blaspheme known as “Carcosa”. And I’m left sort of scratching my head.
Now, I’ll go ahead and say now that the version I’ve read is the original “Supplement V: Carcosa” white book for OD&D, and not the LotFP re-release, which I’m sure is brilliantly bound and glossy and full of gross and degrading illustrations of horrible things happening.
I’m someone who reads settings and modules as ‘literature’, i.e. absorbing the story and narrative as much as, if not more than, for actual game content (though as a professional technical writer, the mechanical presentation is of some interest to me as well, which could be why I hate the old Gary books). Somewhere, I once read that a well written module or setting reads like a good story. Anyway…
Carcosa, despite its premise, is actually pretty bland. Boring, really. The class limits of Fighting Men & Sorcerers only, as well as Sorcerers being capable as fighters, just with the ability to use rituals, is kind of interesting mechanically, and the I do like the experimental hit dice system, but those are about the only parts that fascinate me.
The Sorcerous rituals are all very specific in their purposes, limiting their usage to a specific location on the hex-map and often to some completely impractical end (such as being able to say “After wallowing in slime for 8 days, the sorcerer’s head spins like a top and he can hear gurgling from the far corner of the universe.”). The ritual list is actually fairly repetitive and uninteresting, especially when you forget that they’re all preceded by a human sacrifice, usually involving “Go to hex _____, wallow in some miserable task for x days, colorfully named horror is banished/tortured/imprisoned/bound”. I’d note that because of the binding rituals (which don’t require human sacrifice or your character to be particularly evil to use), there’s almost no reason NOT to play a sorcerer in a world where some slimy god is hiding around every corner.
There are several races of men, all defined by color, but little else. This affects certain types of elemental weaponry for purposes of damage reduction or increase. Other than these minor mechanical differences, there are no distinctions between the races (except for the see-through bone men).
The alien artifacts section would’ve been a lot to gush about if I hadn’t already kind of burned out on reading Supplement V by the time I’d gotten there. Really, though, a lot of them feel like half-fleshed out SCPs.
The monster list is a roll-call of various Cthulhu beings rewritten for Carcosa and not organized in any sensible way (but hey, it’s homage to the white books, so it’s hard to complain about poor organization… but I will).
The Hex-map is another exercise of my attention span, largely populated with generic encounters (which is really harsh to say about Cthulhu monsters!), generic towns of _____ colored men lead by *name from the random Exalted deathlord name generator*, and the occasional “This is the place where x ritual must be learned/cast”. Even playing this, you’d be better off ignoring the hex-map key and coming up with something on your own, as there’s so very little in the key to actually build on.
I like the concept, and I wish I had better things to say about this, but as a stand-alone work, there isn’t a lot good to take from Supplement V that hasn’t been done better elsewhere, and with the legwork a DM would need to make a Carcosa game work, you may as well start from scratch anyway.