The Moral of the Story, a subsystem proposal for Masters of Carcosa

Ramanan Sivaranjan of Save vs. Total Party Kill runs a game called Masters of Carcosa, and I play in it. As you might guess from the name of the game, it uses the Carcosa setting. With a lot of emphasis on the He-Man elements of that game world, rather than the meat grinder elements. It has so far been a pretty fun game to play in.

After yesterday’s game session, we got to talking about He Man, and how every episode ended with a shoehorned “moral of the story,” which really only existed to dissuade parents from writing angry letters about what a terrible influence the show was on children. Ram decided it would be fun if he started appending a moral to the end of each play report. I’d like to suggest an alternative to him, inspired by Arnold K‘s Poet class.

See, in this particular game, the party is a troupe of traveling actors called The Rainbow Connection. And we’ve decided our goal is to try and forge some kind of civilization in the wastelands of Carcosa.

So, anytime the party ends their adventure in a town, they can put on a show about their most recent adventure. The show ends with a moral derived from the subject material. Morals should flow naturally from the story, and should be general in nature. A moral can’t be “give all your money to The Rainbow Connection.” But it could be “Give your money to people stronger than you.” All morals are subject to the approval of the referee.

Each new moral is added to “The Code of Carcosa.” Players are  responsible for tracking the contents of the code. If the players forget to write down one of their morals, then it doesn’t exist. The Code of Carcosa will form the basis for civilized culture and morality in Carcosa.

Anytime a settlement is acting contrary to the code, the players may point this out to the settlement. They then roll a 1d10, aiming to roll under or equal to the settlement’s civilization score. On a success, the settlement is embarrassed about their uncivilized behavior.

The base civilization score for a settlement is 0. Each time a show with a moral at the end of it is performed in the settlement, that settlement gains 1 civilization point. This seems to me like a pretty good rate of adaptation. The fastest possible amount of time it would take to fully civilize a new settlement is 10 sessions.

Of course, this is still Carcosa. The Code of Carcosa is open to interpretation. Settlements will only feel bound to obey the letter of the law. Not its spirit. A sloppily composed moral like “Don’t kill people just because they’re a different color than you” might lead to claims that “We’re not killing the Jale men because they’re Jale. We’re killing them because they engage in despicable Jale culture.”

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