I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Fallout: Carcosa

(Nine years. Whoa. That is quite a lot. And it was fast. I have to think about that. Anyway.).

At that time, I mentioned the Fallout series as one inspiration - besides Barsoom, Carcosa* and Dune.

A few things have changed since then - maybe one or two authors mentioned in that post turned out to be contemptible at best, so I'll avoid them - but, once again, I've been thinking of Fallout and Barsoom, and wishing to run a campaign in such setting.

It was probably the TV series that made me want to play Fallout again. I had only played Fallout 3, and now I'm playing New Vegas. 

It really makes me want to create my own post-apoc setting - "with blackjack and hookers", as the saying goes, but New Vegas already has some of those...

Carcosa* is one of these games that I always wanted to run but never quite got around to it. It is full of awesome ideas, but I think it stops just a bit short of being an amazing setting like Dark Sun. I hear that the author has other modules in the same setting, but these are not in DTRPG.

Here are a few elements from New Vegas I'd like to add to Carcosa in order to make the setting more interesting.


Fallout vaults are a source of endless possibility and fun. 

First, each one is a dungeon to explore - but a dungeon with a real purpose and history. 

Second, vaults are created as different experiments, so each vault can be unique and even contain different creatures (including mutants, robots, etc.). Some experiments are social, so different forms of government are to be expected - you can check this post or Dark Fantasy Places for ideas.


New Vegas has several interesting factions. Some evil, some neutral, some trying to do 
good, with many shades of gray,

"Everyone wants to save the world, they just disagree on how" as the show mentions.

There are several factions that think that things will be a lot nicer when THEY are in power, even if they need to brutalize some folks to get there.

Carcosa doesn't have much of that - all groups are similar, and governed by a single individual. Add a few details and things start to get interesting.

In addition, Carcosa has "men" int he encounter table, but doesn't give you anything else - are these merchants? Explorers? Adventurers? We should probably add some ideas here.

Lost technology

This is another fun part of both Fallout and Carcosa - projectile weapons, power cells, power armor, robots and cyborgs are in both settings.

Maybe the system deserves some kind of "repair/tech" skill, allowing some PCs to try to access technology they cannot fully understand.

Mutated monsters

In Carcosa, "The spawn of Shub-Niggurath are the innumerable and typically unique monsters [...] These [...] are the most common type of monster on the planet of Carcosa". There are also numerous oozes, jellies, worms and dinosaurs.

Which is fun. But I think mutated/giant insects (or other beasts) might be an interesting addition to the setting. 

Unique monsters are cool, but not every monster needs to be unique - sometimes, fighting a bunch of giant cockroaches or giant scorpions can be fun.

Sandbox & Hexcrawl

It doesn't make sense that an adult wouldn't know at least vague directions to nearby lands. The idea that you enter a new hex and suddenly see a new city (or the sea!) sounds absurd. There are exceptions - maybe when discovering a new continent, etc. Still, if there are intelligent people around, it should be easy to ask for directions.


What if the PCs are vault dwellers? When they come out to the world, they have no idea where they are! They still can see a mountain at a distance, but not much more than that. It would be a nearly ideal setting for a hex-crawl.

Can we use Carcosa hexes?

Carcosa hexes are often interesting but sometimes very repetitive and terse ("Castle of 29 Black Men led by a neutral 5th-level Fighter"). 

Human groups are very small, somewhat similarly to Fallout.

Maybe we can combine existing hexes with some random tables to add detail.

Do we still need magic?

Fallout doesn't have magic spells. Carcosa has rituals, but they are very unique - unlike anything I've seen in other RPGs. Dark Sun has proper spells. But do we need them?

Maybe psionics would work better here. And, of course, technology that is "indistinguishable from magic".

But the rituals in Carcosa are so interesting and unique that I'm doubtful about getting rid of them.


Well, that is it. I hope I can actually do something with this before nine more years have passed!

* Affiliate links.


  1. I don't know much about fallout, but Carcosa, Dune, and Dark Sun... sounds an awful lot like CHA'ALT if you want to avoid the several years task of creating your own campaign setting. ;)