Tag Archive | into the odd

Scarecases and more…

Have you ever wanted to wander an endless staircase at the intersection of realities and populated by horrors?

Well, now you can!

Over at itch.io, I’ve posted a trifold brochure outlining this scarecase environment. It’s written for Old School Essentials but can be easily adapted for other games.

Link to itch.io. Or look for “Myxomycetes”.

And over on my Patreon, I’ve posted a game called Perils & Procedures and a bit from a WIP I’m currently calling Champion’s Mark.

Perils & Procedures is the journaling game of perilous procedures you play online! But really it’s me poking fun at a certain variety of TTRPG blog posts. On one hand, I love them. On the other hand, I hate them. Unfortunately, I can only navigate this tension with ironic detachment.

Champion’s Mark is a chivalric TTRPG supplement based on Orlando Furioso. It’ll be a mix of NPCs, Tables, and Adventure Seeds that I hope will let players embrace some of the weird hallucinatory wildness of chivalric romances. This is a real thing, not a gag like Perils & Procedures. I’ll likely share bits and pieces as I go along. Current deadline for that is January 2023. If you want to help make that happen, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

Welcome to Static Clearing!

Welcome to Static Clearing Station, gateway to the Tseiling Ice Plateau! 

Static Clearing is a 2-page brochure length science fantasy setting for tabletop role-playing games such as MothershipInto the Odd, and others. Besides the station itself, the region houses a monastery devoted to the study of ancient creatures from the depths of time and a storage facility where cold chaotic matter is kept in isolation.

The brochure includes:

  • An introduction to the Tseiling Ice Plateau
  • A map showing the region around the station
  • Brief descriptions of four locations: Static Clearing Station, the Feedback Palisade, the Monastery of the Mystic Starfish, and the Chaos Cold Storage Facility.
  • Assorted gear and curiosities  

Static Clearing was made for the the Weird Satellite Jam using names from the Weird Spy Satellite tumblr. The pictures are from places where I’ve lived.

You can find it here on my itch.io page.

one of the two pages.

Deadbolts Map

A map made in Hexkit using one of Highland Paranormal Society’s kits.

Here’s the map to the Into the Odd game I’m running. Their base is the little domed house at the center of the map and the circles in the cube icons are artifacts that they have been tasked to find. Other icons are various things they have encountered or stumbled across. It’s science-fantasy and riffing on all of these:

  • Electric Bastionland
  • Numenera
  • Those Who Came Before
  • Weird North
  • Golgotha
  • Iron Sleet: The Primogenitor
  • Anna X-66
  • Sudokar’s Wake
  • Trash Planet Epsilon-5
  • Ultraviolet Grasslands
  • Vaults of Vaarn

So far it’s been fun. The premise is that once a century a vast alien megastructure passes through the system and various factions send teams across to plunder and investigate the structure. The players being among the latest to do so, but the whole structure is dotted with ruins from earlier expeditions and civilizations along with the structure’s indigenous inhabitants.

Things I like about Into the Odd… 1) It’s fast, a lot of adventure can be had 2) Combat is scary because everyone is so squishy 3) It’s easy to port simple rules on to the system (for example: usage dice).

Things I don’t like…? I think it’s easy to slip and remove player agency. One thing I’ve noticed about TTRPG players, especially those who enjoy OSR games, is that they pride themselves on player ability and smoother systems like ItO can remove some of that. I feel like there’s something here to elaborate on, but I haven’t thought deeply enough on it yet.

Maybe someday.

But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy it! Between ItO and Beyond the Wall/Through the Sunken Lands my game itch is being most pleasantly scratched.

An Into the Odd Character’s Tale As Depicted in Tokens

I’m playing in an Into the Odd/Electric Bastion game. It’s fun, but has required some rejiggering of my escapist expectations. With D&D or Blades in the Dark you generally play someone with panache from the start. That’s not the case so much with Into the Odd as the below will show.

To start we made two characters and picked the one I liked the most. One of the options was an out of work animal tamer and I thought it would be fun to play as the shepherd kid accosted by the players in the game I ran (it’s the same group and would’ve been a funny in-joke), but in the end I opted for the other character: an out of work canal lock keeper with a robotic eye.

Now to me that sounded like a swashbuckling river pirate type:

Bonus points if you can guess what comic this character is from!

And that’s what I planned on playing, until I looked again at my character sheet and saw DEX: 4. Now a DEX: 4 is not something that says swashbuckling pirate. It says more bookish and uncoordinated, so from swashbuckling river pirate I shifted to local canal crime boss’s in too deep accountant.

Nothing says adventure like James Joyce.

And that worked! My nebbish accountant has found himself stranded with strange companions on a very strange island. He’s diffident and not at all a fighter. Or wasn’t at first. Two adventures in and that’s changed.

Early after his arrival on the island he came into possession of a stuffed cat and now refuses to part with it. Not only that, but the statue has the power to turn him into a man-sized cat at night. This is okay, but not great because there’s a chance when he changes he’ll attack his companions. Thank god, he has the 4 in DEX and not WILL. More to the point of this post, my initial token for his cat-form was this:

It’s your boi, Behemoth!

But again, under all the fur and teeth and claws, he’s still a nebbish accountant who got in too deep with canal gangsters. Once more my expectations had to be changed (and I saw a tweet of some awful 19th century tiles), and so:

It’s your boi, 바보

Let’s see if this remains his final form!

But there’s a notion when discussing Old School RPGs that your character is what happens to them and that’s proving true here. From a collection of numbers (DEX: 4!) to a personality to a history accumulated through play, this character is fun for the simple fact that the whole experience has been unpredictable. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly feels refreshing and liberating to me. Stuff is happening and not only has it changed my character, but also my character was never who I thought they were in the first place!

That’s neat.

Into the Odd: Actual Play

I recently ran a game of Into the Odd using the scrypthouse write-up from my Mysthead 3 ‘zine (itch.io 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.

*click*

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.

OVERALL
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.

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.

Scrypt: A Lexical Fungus

It’s been a bit. I’ve been lazy. I’ve also been working on another issue of Mysthead. I might also have started to post some game stuff to itch.io. Mostly bespoke classes for Old School Essentials and an adventure.

One thing I want to add to my game table are condition cards that impact roleplay as opposed to mechanics. One inspiration was the card game The Grizzled, but I’m sure it’s been used elsewhere. So I took that idea and mushed it with the notion of what if languages could be infected with astral lichens and, lo, scrypt was born!

Scrypt is a living language despite being millennia old.

A remnant of the wars between the proto-gods, scrypt thrives like a linguistic lichen within the fertile soil of other languages. When one reads scrypt the words remain inside the mind. This can allow an untrained person to cast spells. However, it may also allow suggestions, enchantments, and worse to take root in the minds of the unwary. More importantly, scrypt attracts aetheric parasites when not maintained properly. Using scrypt is not to be done lightly.

Beware of scrypt-skull!

After every use of a scrypt-carrying scroll, the user must make a WILL save. If they fail, consult the table below. Effects last D4 hours.

(Give a reward, XP, fortune point, whatever, to players who make a valiant effort.)

  1. Jobberknowl: All nouns must be reversed when spoken, ie “knife” becomes “efink”.
  2. Dretched: Replace the first syllable of polysyllabic word with the prefix “dretch-”
  3. Coranto: Speaker must knock twice at the start and end of every sentence.
  4. Imbrangle: The speaker must start every sentence with “Imbrangletanglemangle…”
  5. Zelant: The speaker must include at least one blasphemous phrase in every sentence.
  6. Nullfidious: The speaker can only answer questions in the negative, although they believe they are answering accurately.
  7. Grudgins: All nouns are replaced with names of prepared foods like “pickled herrings” or “sliced ham”.
  8. Javeljaum: Classic spoonerisms, swap the prominent sounds of close words.
  9. Igniferent: The speaker must discuss the flammability of every noun they mention when speaking.
  10. Stelltwire: Speaker must replace spoken nouns with words that rhyme with the intended words.
  11. Colsleck: Speaker inverts the syllables of words when speaking.
  12. Chrysopo: Speaker appends the syllable -opo to every syllable they speak.
  13. Cinqpace: All numbers are increased by one, ie “Anyone for tennis?” becomes “Anytwo five elevenis?”
  14. Xeriff: The speaker gains a fluent knowledge to a centuries outdated legal code and references it constantly.
  15. Saltimbanco: The speaker turns every conversation into a sales pitch for Saltimbanco, an invigorating health elixir.
  16. Katexoken: The speaker will only speak if addressed as royalty.
  17. Dogbolt: Speaker must add -og- before each vowel in a syllable.
  18. Nist: The speaker can not remember the exact name for any item or person.
  19. Haqueton: Speaker drops the first letter of every word.
  20. Yblent: Speaker must shift vowels one place to the right (“a” becomes “e”) while speaking.

And that’s that. My goal is to get the rest of the zine done before December, which I am on track to do. That’ll be over on my Patreon when it goes live. There’s a poll there now to determine next year’s old weird book to read.