[Review] Carcosa (Lotfp); The Measure of the OSR

“These are minor blemishes on what is, for better or for worse, the triumphant pioneer, the first true transformative setting to have come from the OSR.
For the first time, we were exposed to something that used the traditional old-school framework that do something bold and visionary, uncompromising and challenging in a way that no other setting before it had even attempted. A rejection of the tired, sterile, water-down corporate McFantasy of the current year and a triumphant return to its pulp roots.
Its incomplete nature enforces the house-ruling and tinkering that is the bread and butter of the OSR. It exemplifies the ethos and does so boldly.”

I guess I have always been different, and I never liked Gygax D&D, but to me calling one type of story “gonzo” and others “vanilla” or “serious” is the same silly way of looking at the world that says a talking duck is a “silly” comic book character but a big strapping man dressed in a mask with pointy little ears is the most unimaginably dark and moving emotional unpackaging of noir and gritty crime drama.

It’s all silly, taken at face value. Tolkien type D&D worlds are particularly odd to me because they create mass production of characters who were unique in the original. From my viewpoint mass produced Tolkien characters are no more or less silly or “gonzo” than talking animals from a fairy tale.

In games of imagination, don’t allow limits.

Gonzo is an aesthetic. If what is gonzo today becomes mainstream, something else will be over-the-top out-there.

That doesn’t really logically follow. Gonzo in journalism was transgressive and it still is, it had a sociopathic element. Gonzo in gaming just seems to mean “not the kind of thing TSR pimped in Dragon Magazine”.


  1. of or associated with journalistic writing of an exaggerated, subjective, and fictionalized style.
  2. bizarre or crazy.
    “the woman was either gonzo or stoned”

The word, as it’s applied to rpg settings is using the second definition.

My point stands, there is nothing more bizarre or crazy in one setting than another for any fantasy or science fantasy game. It’s really more about what people are familiar with and to a degree how much an individual is a conditioned consumer of a particular brand.

I don’t think anything is inherently weird. Weird or gonzo are relative values. Tolkien and Robert Howard are more standard fantasy than Lin Carter and Clarke Ashton Smith. Blame Hollywood.

Has anyone here played in a Carcosa game? It does seem thick with atmosphere, but also sounds soul-crushingly dark.

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I haven’t but I’ve always wanted to.

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