Mar 15, 2013

Return of Necrocarcerus

I'm in the mood to redo and revitalise a number of my failed attempts at things. I'm running a campaign with Microlite Iron Heartbreakers, and it's going pretty well. I thought I would take the time to redo Necrocarcerus to use for some one-shots I might be running later this year, and possibly for a Flailsnails game.

Recap: The Concept Visual Inspirations Some Setting Description Crap A Session Round Up

And of course: The problems that caused me to abort it in the first place.

The core conceptual (as opposed to interpersonal or operational) problem it had was that it was too alien and weird, and that common sense wasn't a very useful guide to figure out what one should be doing. To understand the setting required too much exposition, which got in the way of actually playing. Players tended to follow or pursue the few elements they thought they understood, and avoided everything else. I thought I could avoid this by dropping players into the setting in such a way that they didn't have to know anything, but this pushed them into a passive state they had trouble breaking out of.

The core operational problem was that the Necrocarcerus material was patchy and sporadic, rather than preplanned. I don't think I ever introduced a proper house rule document or conversion guide. House rules are a simple and effective way to convey setting elements that I consistently underused when running Necrocarcerus. In future, I will be running Necrocarcerus using Dark Dungeons.

To rectify the operational problem and to convey setting information, I present the following preliminary house rules & conversion guide:


All human classes are referred to as "Citizens", and are otherwise mechanically identical to their counterparts in Dark Dungeons. All Citizens are dead, which is why they are allowed in Necrocarcerus. Magic-users do not have spellbooks. Instead, their spells are tattooed on their skin. No matter which Irrelevant God they worshipped in life, all clerics receive their powers from the Creator of Necrocarcerus per its inscrutable whims.

Elves are "Projectors", living humans "projected" into the afterlife by powerful magical forces. They are otherwise mechanically identical to Elves. Because Projectors are not part of the Necrocarcerus Program, they are inherently Chaotic in alignment. Projectors have heat vision and "elfsight" because they can see through the hollowness of Necrocarcerus more easily than the dead can.

Dwarves are "Guardians" and appear near-human. Guardians are organised into factions, and are responsible for executing the Necrocarcerus Program. They may only be Lawful or Chaotic, and Chaotic Guardians are rogues who will be attacked on sight by Lawful Guardians. Guardians have heat vision and stonelore because they are responsible for maintaining Necrocarcerus and are wise to many of its secrets. Guardians are colour-coded into seven types, with no mechanical difference between them.

Halflings are dead human children and adolescents, and are therefore also referred to as "Citizens".

Edit: I swapped Dwarves and Elves around.

Being Dead

Citizens, Guardians and Projectors in Necrocarcerus still breathe, sleep, and eat. No one is sure why. Citizens do not age.


Alignment simply refers to one's attitude towards the Necrocarcerus Program. Lawful individuals seek to aid its operation, neutral individuals are indifferent to it, and chaotic individuals are opposed to it. While the ultimate purpose of the Necrocarcerus Program is unknown, the Guardians enforce the following:

The Guardians know best what is to be done, and Citizens must obey them.

The Undead, Projectors and agents of the Irrelevant Gods do not belong in Necrocarcerus and must be banished, destroyed or neutralised.

Destroying other Citizens or Guardians except at the order of the Guardians is wrong.

Escaping Necrocarcerus is wrong. Destroying Necrocarcerus before the completion of the Necrocarcerus Program is wrong.


Gold is valueless except as decoration in Necrocarcerus. The standard unit of value is the obol coin. An obol is worth 1gp when converting prices. Obols are hacked into pieces when smaller denominations are needed. All newly incarnated citizens produce an obol which the Guardians harvest and distribute. The face of the person whose incarnation created the obol is on one side. Owning your own obol grants a +1 to all saving throws.

All equipment in the corebook is available.

Drinking the blood of living things restores 1d8 points of HP. Living things contain one "dose" of blood per hit die.

Experience Points

PCs gain XP for defeating monsters & enemies only if they spend 1 turn (10 minutes) absorbing the pneuma released by the slain foe.

All other methods of gaining XP remain unchanged.


  1. I like this, it makes the whole concept very clear and concise. The reskins of the races is beautifully simple and I love the logic behind their abilities.

    The part about owning your own obol for a bonus is a really cool idea too.

    It'd be good to see some adventure ideas to see how you're planning on revealing the setting to your players, looking forward to more!

    1. Thanks. I'm working on some adventure material right now, in fact, though I may keep it secret. I'm currently busy with 3 biweekly games, plus a bunch of other projects. Once I get some free time, I intend to launch Necrocarcerus online as a Flailsnails game where people can play PCs who've died in other games.

    2. I'd be interested in playing a session or two in a game like that (maybe more if my schedule lets me).