Archive | January 2022

Into the Odd: Actual Play

I recently ran a game of Into the Odd using the scrypthouse write-up from my Mysthead 3 ‘zine ( page here). It was fun. The players were repairman sent to determine why a local scrypthouse had gone silent.

Using the pathetic fallacy generator from the ‘zine, I rolled up a house that craved silence and dampened sounds. For the cause of the trouble I decided the local corps members had come into contact with a void wraith and been taken over by a bad signal. I also stuck a roaming void miasma around the station’s roof and a juvenile pig herder having an altercation with a rival adventurer nearby.

The players arrived. When they got within sight of the house they promptly heard shouting, gun shots, and the squeals of pigs. Approaching with caution, they came upon a scene of dead pigs, angry pigs, a shouting swineherd, and an old man in heavy armor standing atop a rock reloading his rifle. So the players split up. One approached the swineherd, the other approached the old man. Sadly, the pigs caught the latter repairman’s scent and attacked.

Chaos ensued. The repairmen drove the pigs away and took the swineherd hostage. The child proved belligerent and eventually escaped. The old man introduced himself and gave some backstory. He came here to meet a friend. The station’s locked. The pigs are weird. Yadda. Yadda. Time to go in.

One repairman starts work on unlocking the door while the other does a sweep of the building’s perimeter. He doesn’t get far before the miasma attacks those at the front of the house. Fortunately, they managed to get the door unlocked and get inside. Things get worse from there.

The interior’s a mess. The corps technicians are all signal-zombies. Exploration happens. One repairman gets infected with a lexical fungus (mildly amusing, but dropped after a few minutes). They reach the brazen head and find it disconnected. Before they can check it out the old man’s friend walks in and kills the old man with a belch of void static. Cut off from the front door the repairmen have no choice but to flee deeper into the station. They manage to reach the basement and activate the back-up brazen head. It gives them some suggestions, but really the repairmen are as freaked out by it as all the signal-zombie weirdness upstairs. Or downstairs now. The void wraith’s found its way into the basement.

More cat-and-mousing ensues. The repairmen manage to get back upstairs. One’s now for high-tailing it out of the station while the other wants to destroy the void-wraith. High-tailer reluctantly agrees to assist. The void-wraith shows up and the plan’s to lure it into a room full of gizmos and zap it. This works, but doesn’t kill it. High-tailer runs for the door, while the other grabs the old man’s gun.


The old man hadn’t a chance to reload the gun before getting killed. The void-wraith kills the repairman. High-tailer returns and kills the void-wraith. The corps techs return to their sense. The void miasma disappears. The surviving repairman gathers up the dead.

I liked it. It felt like running B/X D&D without the baggage. Combat took me a bit to get used to. And the lexical fungus proved more a spark for a few table laughs than a solid game mechanic. Now I’m thinking how to run ItO as as a Numenera-esque settlement-building game. My take is that the system’s aesthetic is fueled as much by its illustrations as by its mechanics, and it doesn’t have to be some flavor of Edwardian Paranoia.

Orlando Furioso, Canto II

Second installment and I am noticing a pattern. Introduce knight. Make the knight fight. Put knight in hole. Introduce another knight or switch to one you already had in a hole. Rinse and repeat. It’s a neat formula. I can see why the book’s been so popular.

This chapter has a lot of that. It also has wizards, sprites, dwarfs, and a winged horse. A veritable monster manual of stuff. 

So strap on your sword belts and let’s go!

Rinaldo and Sacripante are getting ready to duel. The cause? Angelica (and the fact that Sacripante is on Rinaldo’s horse):

“Let us then have recourse

To combat, to decide which of us is

More worthy of the lady and the horse.”

Lady? Horse? Same same. 

So the two knights hurl themselves at each other. Rinaldo on the ground, Sacripante on a horse. Except it’s Rinaldo’s horse, Baiardo, and refuses to harm its master. Sacripante dismounts and now they hurl themselves at each other with all their fury. There’s lots of clashing. Rinaldo’s sword is named Fusberta. Sacripnate’s shield gets smashed and his arm broken. Angelica sees Rinaldo is about to win and does what she does best: hightail it out of there as fast as she can and make straight for the forest. In there because the wilderness is a wild place where anything can happen, she promptly finds a hermit who turns out to be a wizard and kindly deposed to her.

“As soon as the fair damsel he had seen

Approaching him, though weaker than of yore,

That organ, by such tender beauty spurred,

With warmth of feeling and compassion stirred.”

(Ariosto’s talking about the hermit wizard’s heart you pervos.)

The wizard throws his lot in with Angelica and goes with her to the nearest port. He also conjures up a sprite to go distract the still fighting Rinaldo and Sacripante. The sprite takes on human form and tells the knights that they have no reason to fight since Angelica’s gone to Paris with Orlando. If they hurry though it’s possible they could catch them. The knights feel like fools and quit the field. Rinaldo reclaiming Baiardo the Horse and we get a bit then about how great Baiardo is. Smart too. Except not this time. Baiardo falls for the sprite’s trick as well. When they get to Paris, they find no Angelica there only King Charlemagne and he’s preparing for siege. Rinaldo’s quickly ordered off to England on a diplomatic mission. Rinaldo set off and puts to sea where a storm promptly starts, and as the waves mount and threaten to sink the ship Ariosto says “Enough of this guy, let’s talk about that lady knight Bradamante.”

Bradamante is Rinaldo’s sister and equal in power, courage, and virtue. I don’t know the name of her sword or horse… yet. She’s in love with and loved by Ruggiero one of the greatest knights in the African army. I suspect we will see more of him later when someone else gets put in a hole. As it is Bradamante finds another knight looking doleful. She asks what’s wrong and the knight tells a tale of how he and his girl were riding along when a knight on a winged horse flew down and stole his girl. He tried to fight the guy, but he was too fast. Now the knight’s girl is locked up in yonder castle and there’s no way to save her. Already the knight told some other knights (Gradasso and Ruggiero) and their dwarf buddy (name as yet unknown) about the flying menace (name also unknown at the moment) and those guys said they would take care of things, but sadly the flying knight kicked their asses (he has a shield that shoots energy beams by the way) and kidnapped them too. Woe. Woe. Boo hoo.

Being a hero Bradamante’s ready to set off and fight this flying menace. The knight agrees to be her guide. But wait! What’s this the knight is not who he claims! He is Pinabel the Maganzan and he doesn’t have good intentions.

“Named Pinabel, of all true knights the foe.

Born a Maganzan, he obeyed no laws

Of chivalry, and of that breed accurst

In acts of treachery he was the worst.”

The two set forth towards the castle, but on the way the envoy from the first canto shows up and tells Bradamante that she’s needed in Marseilles. Pinabel seethes, and Ariosto explains how there’s hatred between the two families. He gets so vexed that they soon get lost in a wood. There after some maneuvering Pinabel spots a ravine and decides it’s as good a place as any to do away with Bradamante. He tells her a story about a damsel trapped in the hole and convinces Bradamante to climb down there. Except when she does, he cuts the tree branch they’re using and lets her drop. 

“And how she later fared I’ll later say”

Next week… new knights? New horses? 

Orlando Furioso, Canto I

Welcome to this year’s self-imposed task! 

Feel free to occupy yourselves as you see fit!

As mentioned before, this year I’ve decided to read Orlando Furioso, the 16th century over-the-top chivalric romance by Ludovico Ariosto. 

Who’s that? 

Dante lived  from the 13th to 14th century. Chaucer in the 14th century. Ariosto lived from the 15th to 16th century. He was a contemporary with Erasmus, Martin Luther, and Machiavelli. So that’s a thing to remember: While princes learned to murder and terrorize, and Catholics and Protestants murdered each other, they all relaxed and entertained themselves with chivalric ideals and heroic deeds. The poem was his gift to his patrons, the ruling D’Este family of the city Ferrara. But you can read all about that on Wikipedia.  

So what is Orlando Furioso

It’s a mess. It’s a book about knights fighting each other with dozens of named characters who ride dozens of named horses and carry dozens of named swords.

Your typical fantasy novel then.

It’s also the sequel to a book I haven’t read called Orlando Innamorato by another guy, so it starts right in the middle of the action with people running around already hating each other. 

Of ladies, cavaliers, of love and war, 

Of courtesies and of brave deeds I sing…

In times of high endeavour when the Moor

Had crossed the sea from Africa to bring 

Great harm to France, when Agramante swore 

In wrath, being now the youthful Moorish king, 

To avenge Troiano, who was lately slain, 

Upon the Roman emperor Charlemagne. 

That’s the big picture, but behind it is Orlando, the greatest knight in Christendom, being in love with Angelica, the pagan princess. She hates him and fled to Cathay where she married the king, Ruggiero. This made Orlando mad (hence the Furioso) and he has abandoned Charlemagne’s cause to pillage the land. Another knight, Rinaldo, then fell in love with Angelica. And to keep everyone in his army, Charlemagne had Angelica captured and imprisoned, figuring to award her as a prize after the battle. Except the Saracens (fugg, am I going to have to write this word all year?) win the day and Angelica seizes her chance and escapes.

She, who was promised as a victor’s bride,

Into the saddle leapt and straight away, 

Choosing her moment well, set out to ride.

While everyone is a dick, she must rely on cunning to get away from all the knights that would capture her. And have no doubt most of these knights are eager to assault her.

These guys go on and on about purity and the beauty of virgins, but are quick to get to the assaulting when they see any woman. Angelica realizes she needs a protector and finds a Saracen knight she recognizes, Sarcripante (and yes he’s in love with her too), and decides to manipulate him.

How, by her charm, her servant she can make him, 

And then, ungrateful, afterwards forsake him. 

Unfortunately, Sacripante figures he needs to strike now and take the opportunity to commit the “sweet assault,” but before he can do the deed he hears the drumbeat of horse’s hooves and knows another knight is nearby. More eager to make war than “love” he rides off to find the knight. This knight is dressed in snow white armor and seems to be a formidably built man. Soon the two take to jousting and Ariosto brings the action.

The mountain trembles, as the knights engage,

From its green base to the bare peak it rears.

And well it is the haubreks stand the test,

Else would each lance be driven through each breast.

Both horses fall, but the white knight’s rises again. Sacripante, pinned beneath his dead horse, watches as the white knight rides away. He climbs free, unwounded, save for his pride. Angelica saw the whole thing and he’s ashamed. An envoy rides by and Sacripante asks who was that white knight, to which the envoy says it was Bradamante, as beautiful as she is brave. 

To be unseated by a woman!?! 

Sacripante’s shame intensifies. Angelica and he ride away, his ardor much cooled. After a bit they find a war horse roaming free. Angelica recognizes it as Baiardo, Rinaldo’s horse, and hops into the saddle. Then she spies Rinaldo. And he espies her, and of course he’s in love with her and she hates him, but there she is on his horse with some  knight.

And that’s where it ends. 

Next time, Sacripante and Rinaldo start with the “come at me bro”.

* For the sake of proper record keeping all the quotes come from the Penguins Classic edition translated by Barbara Reynolds. And the illustrations come from the Spanish edition over on Project Gutenberg.

Recent Games I’ve Played

Part of the game shelf

I’ve been playing some games. Here’s what I thought about them:

Worlds Without Number: I wasn’t a fan despite my love for Stars Without Number. We made characters and I ran a few combats. Overall, I found it too crunchy. I think Kevin Crawford is designing a very different game than one I want to play. For one, I’m drifting away from games with detailed skill lists. I’d rather it was all summed up in a word or two background/archetype. Still, the chassis fascinates me, and as always the world-building tables are brilliant.

Scum & Villainy: Space games are hard. Everyone has different expectations of how science-y they should be. Are we playing Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Dune, or what? Is there FTL? Is there FTL coms? Can I download a city map to my communicator? Etc Despite all that playing Scum & Villainy has been fun. That said FitD games aggravate my adversarial player vs GM tendency that make me an obnoxious player. I want to plan the heist away from the GM’s eyes so they can’t prepare or counter for it, which has likely made our GM frustrated (sorry). Also, FitD games use too complex terminology (position, effect, quality) that get in the way of the game. Maybe this is the result of Roll20’s pop-up window getting buried under tabs and popped out crew ship character sheets, but figuring out position always slows momentum.

The Quiet Year: We used it to develop the backstory for a horrible place in our Scum & Villainy game. Great to play in tandem with another game to flesh out some backstory as well as on its own.

Into the Odd: I ran a game using Mysthead 3. I liked it and will probably write it up in more detail. It was fun and light-weight enough that I felt like I could easily bolt more complexity to it without a problem. And contrary to the advice its designer gives elsewhere I’m fine doing stat tests to avoid outcomes. My biggest concern is what’s the typical campaign’s longevity? Could a game that meets weekly for a year be built around a single group of characters or is this better for one shots? At some point I will likely make my own bespoke setting for it.

Bedlam Hall: A PbtA game where you are the servants to a family of awful aristocrats. Great fun for a one shot or short campaign, but run it too long and you have to wonder why your servant hasn’t quit yet. Which can be its own fun. In our game the goal ended up being to survive long enough to hand in your resignation. A great game for that gamer who wishes Paranoia had a Jeeves and Wooster supplement.

Delve: a solo dwarf-hold building game. I focused more on the map-making bits than the combat/resource management game. My goal was to make something to use in a Play-by-Post game I hope to run later this year. More about that if it ever materializes and proves interesting. This game gave me a good setting and an interesting story, which was exactly what I wanted from it.