Wednesday 21 January 2015

Odd Dungeon Design - And Black Noise Chapel

More things I keep in mind when designing an expedition site. Traps, Monsters and Arcana are covered already.

1. They hold something worth finding.
2. They hide a mystery that doesn't always have an answer.
3. They change each time you return.

Secret/Locked Doors
1. Interacting with them is the challenge, not finding them.
2. If they're secured, someone or something around here can open them.
3. If they're hidden on one side, the other side is found easily.

1. They have something to mess with.
2. They give you a clue about something else in the dungeon.
3. They reward further exploration.

1. It has character.
2. It has a complication.
3. It has a reason why you might want to keep it.

Let's put this into practice with a mini dungeon.

Black Noise Chapel

Sits on a soggy hill in Deep Country, a day's wagon from Bastion. Recently abandoned by the Cosmic Hiss Cult. They offer to pay 1g for each of their holy relics returned, or 5g for all four. They call these four artifacts The Quartet and are keen to avoid them falling into the wrong hands. These items all look like metal spheres. They won't give any details why they had to abandon their site.

Map Source

There are two obvious ways into the chapel.
Main Door: Boarded up with planks that can be pulled off without much trouble. A black X is painted on front.
Escape Hatch: Connects a flooded tunnel in the chapel grounds to the trapdoor in Room 3. Crawling through takes just enough time that you can hold your breath safely.

Wandering Things (d6)
1: Powder Pup: 3hp. d6 paws. Like a large featureless dog made out of warm fake snow. Wants to get close to warm things and play but gets carried away and doesn't know its strength. Explodes in choking white powder if killed to reform in a few hours.
2: Powder Hound: 10hp, STR 14, d10 paws. Like a huge featureless bear made out of warm fake snow. Emits a bassy growl. Wants to protect the Powder Pup and get close to warm things. Explodes in choking white powder if killed to reform in a few hours.
3: Air Pulse Killer: 13hp, STR 14, DEX 14, WIL 11, Armour 1, Pneumatic Cannon (d10). Invisible humanoid being. Wants to seize Arcana, and use the Communication Hub to return home, which it doesn't know is impossible.
4: Scream: A deafening screech of noise coming from the Communication Hub. The Glass Shards in Room 1 shatter, causing d8 damage to those below.
5: Twitching Corpse: The body of a cultist is rhythmically shifting across the floor in spasms.
6: Bass Quake: Thunder shakes the chapel, causing falling debris to anyone that doesn't move to cover. (d6 damage).

The Quartet
All are Arcana of a sort. Each gives off its signature sound when held. They are all metal spheres the size of a cricket ball.
Rumble: Create an earthquake that will shake foundations and cause all nearby to stumble.
Powow: Remotely lift up to a pound of weight with pulses of noise. Pass a WIL Test to avoid hurling the object uncontrollably.
Fuzz: Creates a nice warm sensation in the holder.
Sigh: Anyone holding Sigh while it makes its noise must pass a WIL Save each turn or fall into a natural sleep.

1: Worship Hall
North: Door (slung open)
West: Wall (smooth metal, appears to slide open but only does so in response to a loud noise directed at it)
East: Reinforced Metal Door (locked, silver key on corpse in Room 3)
South: Door (Some white powder around, like fake snow)
Ceiling: Hanging Glass Shards (Hum slightly in response to speech)
Rows of Wooden Seats (some have been smashed by great force)
Stage (standing on here amplifies any noise, loud noises like gunshots could even cause damage)

2: Relic Chamber
Floor: Metal Hatch (Locked. Opened by the Pipes, but contains an electric shock trap that will shock anyone touching it for d10 damage, ignoring armour. This can be disarmed by the pipes. Contains Powow and Sigh)
West Wall: Clay Pipes (can be blown into to create a deeply irritating whistle, first blow unlocks the hatch with a click but arms the trap with a hum, second blow disarms the trap with a click, third blow resets the hatch)

3: Sanctuary
Floor: Trapdoor (handle has been broken off, can still be opened with effort, corpses grasping at it)
Walls: Paintings (abstract shapes, moving slightly, any noise makes them move in time)
On trapdoor: Pile of Corpses (6 men, silver key on belt opens locked doors, one has Rumble hidden in a pouch, appear bludgeoned to death)

4: Communion Hub
South West: Door
South East: Door (Locked, silver key can be found on one of the corpses in Room 3)
North Wall: Metal Grate (answers questions with something between white noise, music, and speech. Attempting to engage it in its own language will enrage the Air Pulse Killer)

5: Sensory Drowning Pool
North: Door
Pool (Water, Submerging barrages the bather with horrific noise, after the first turn, lose d6 WIL each turn, Fuzz is hidden at the bottom)

Tuesday 20 January 2015


Searchers of the Unknown boiled D&D down to HD, HP, AC, Damage, Movement.

Clearly a cumbersome bloat of a system.

I mean who even uses Movement? HD and HP? Talk about crunch city. Different ratings for different armour? Variable weapon damage??

I've had it with these simulation-obsessed robots ruining my hobby.

I stripped back Into the Odd for a bit of fun, but it seems my work isn't done. Let's get minimalist on the colossus that is Searchers of the Unknown.

You start at Level 1. At the end of each session you level up, to a maximum Level 9. You start with a weapon, a tool, and an heirloom of your choice.

A Roll is d10 aiming for your Level or Lower.

Attackers Roll to hit the target. When a target has taken hits equal to their Level they are defeated, and must Roll or Die. Defeated beings always get an injury. Hits are recovered with a night's rest.

Armour and Shields can be destroyed to ignore a single hit. Both encumber you.

Traps risk out outright death or dismemberment if not handled well. Anyone who triggers a deathtrap gets a last chance to Roll or Die. In the case of other traps, the consequences are more creative.

Artifacts have function that's powerful, but not universally useful. Some may require a Roll to use without suffering harm. Tomes contain powerful spells that require complex rituals to cast.

Monsters have a level between 1-9 representing their general danger. They have two things that they want, a special power, and may have loot.

Sludge Troll (L6) - Stinky brute with a trunk.
Wants to bully smaller things and grow a disgusting garden.
Regenerates any physical harm at will, except that caused by burning.
Hides disgusting but delicious fungus in his lair.

Death Spider (L8) - Huge white spider.
Wants to catch things in its webs and philosophize with them at length.
Anyone hit takes a second hit from numbing poison.
Has a library of old books stashed deep in the webs.

Scypple (L1) - Little blue imp.
Wants to watch from just outside your field of vision and make you look stupid.
Can turn water it can see to ice.
Has a few pieces of jewelry stolen from the dead.

Glow-Puncher (L3) - Glowing humanoid.
Wants to scare people by smashing their surroundings, and consume sources of light.
Gains a level for each light source it consumes, and can disguise itself as a glowing ball.

Thursday 15 January 2015

Reaction and Morale

Adventure games that lack Reaction and Morale rolls baffle me.

Tense stand-offs with powerful beings. Chasing down fleeing minions before they alert serious guards. Rallying allies back to the fight. People that are on your side, but still jerks to deal with.

Don't you want more of that in your game? Who wants encounters so clearly divided into Fights and Conversations? Of course, the Referee can always include those things off their own back, but I like having the dice there to spark things off.

Into the Odd treats everything as a Save, and both "garnering a good first reaction" and "maintaining morale in combat" require a successful WIL Save. It's made clear that "a good reaction" isn't always friendly, and a bad reaction isn't always hostile. Depends on who you're encountering.

+Arnold K. 's recent blogpost got me thinking about this further. Is basing everything off one stat really a good enough way of doing things?

It works for me. And being as Into the Odd is currently at the printers, it isn't about to change any time soon!

But I'm going to steal a little nugget from Arnold's post. He has Intelligence rolls as a test to see whether the being acts intelligently. I like the openness of this mechanic, and it's much more useful than the limited way I initially presented WIL Saves.

You can expect a more well-written version of this ramble to make it into the Odd World Toolkit, but generally I'm going to run things like this in my next game.

At key moments, the Referee can roll a WIL Save for non-player-characters and monsters to see how they behave. These key moments include:
- When a fight is clearly going against them.
- When they encounter somebody new.
- When they are making a deal or formulating a plan.  

If they pass, they act in an intelligent way for the situation at hand, and keep their cool. Consider how a smart player might act if they were playing as this being. 
If they fail, they somehow misjudge the situation, or fall back on their base impulses in deciding how to behave. 

Consider these examples.

The players are two hunters are tracking a floating slime creature. Unknown to them, their guns pose no threat to the creature, and it could kill them with ease. The Hunters make a noise in their approach, alerting the creature. It sees them and makes a WIL roll to see how it behaves.
Pass - The hunters pose no threat to the creature, but it wants to be left alone. It will try to hide, and if discovered tries to make contact with them to best determine the way to avoid further attention. If need be, it will kill them and hide the bodies.
Fail - The creature might attack immediately out of anger, or misjudge the hunters as a threat and flee. 

A band of revolutionaries have been setting fire to wealthy properties throughout the night, engaging in on-and-off clashes with the players and local guards. The players are now mid-firefight with the revolutionaries and have thinned their numbers down to half. Things are clearly going in the favour of the guards and players. The revolutionaries make a WIL Save.
Pass - They make an organised retreat as best they can, splitting up if it helps them escape. They'll soon reorganise and strike somewhere the guards won't expect it. 
Fail - Either a disorganised retreat, breaking the group up for now, or perhaps their passion gets the better of them and they fight to the death. 

This all makes fights to-the-death a little more rare. In some cases it can even make a failed Save end up being beneficial, with some luck. It also puts rather more emphasis on the non-player-character or monster, rather than having the player roll WIL to get a good reaction.

All fine with me.

Friday 9 January 2015

Architecture of Bastion

To find the architectural style of a particular chunk of the city, roll d20 and d20+10 and mash the results together. On a duplicate, it's a purist vision of that style.

1: Brutalist
2: Fancy
3: Classical
4: Carved
5: Organic
6: Twisting
7: Reinforced
8: Fractal
9: Glass
10: Stacked
11: Spiked
12: Domed
13: Overgrown
14: Melted
15: Marine
16: Painted
17: Ancient
18: Skeletal
19: Sunken
20: Mirrored
21: Pile
22: Steps
23: Labyrinth
24: Blocks
25: Megastructure
26: Discs
27: Bridges
28: Clocks
29: Chimneys
30: Towers

Thursday 8 January 2015

To Crush your Rivals, See them Bankrupted Before You, and Hear the Lamentations of their Workers

Into the Odd isn't a game about running a business, but money is important if you want to move onto bigger expeditions. With this in mind, I've included a simple method for running a business. The current PDF doesn't have this section, but it's in the update that will go out when the final print version gets shipped.

So Enterprises work like this (abridged).

Costs 10g to set one up, after which they generate d4g a month in income. Each month they also face a Threat that will cause d4g in losses if it isn't dealt with.

If you make a profit, next month the dice get one step bigger, to a maximum of d12. Bigger Enterprise mean more money, but bigger threats. If you can't pay your debts, the Enterprise collapses.

If you're not using Into the Odd (you monster) it's worth noting at this point that it uses a Silver Standard, where 1g is 100s. A significant chunk of money.

Now the Threat is left for the Referee to create, but the upcoming supplement is really going to dig into that. It will go into how to use the group's previous actions as ways to generate a Threat each month. Let them dig their own grave!

This system may or may not also form the basis for managing the supplies of large scale expeditions.

For now, roll d10 for a starting point for your monthly Threat.
1: A key resource is running dry. Find a new source.
2: The workers are rebelling! Appease, subdue, or replace them.
3: A rival is undercutting your prices. Find a way to lower yours, or to hurt them.
4: A horrible accident risks destroying a significant part of your Enterprise.
5: Some local authority is trying to pass new laws that will harm your business.
6: Persistent thieves are stealing from you!
7: A rival is doing a better version of what you do. What's their secret?
8: A death threat against one of your key people.
9: Riots near to your property! This isn't good for business.
10: Strange things from The Underground are messing with you.

Side Note - Aggressive Enterprising
Is one of your rivals really ticking you off? Want to put them out of business?

If you come up with a good scheme, you may act as a Threat to a rival business. If they do not manage to stop your efforts, they take losses equal to your current income. You must deal with your own Threat as normal.

Bastion's Fashion Trends

Roll d20 and d20+10 and mash the results together. If you roll duplicate, it's a hyper-exaggerated version of that trend.

1: Psycho-
2: Dirty-
3: Leather-
4: Brutal-
5: Glitter-
6: Frilly-
7: Formal-
8: Muscle-
9: Sci-
10: Fur-
11: Miner
12: Elegant
13: Natural
14: Metal
15: Skin
16: Gothic
17: Cult
18: Rat
19: Academic
20: Deco
21: -doll
22: -dandy
23: -trooper
24: -rebel
25: -bug
26: -romantic
27: -sexual
28: -bot
29: -saurus
30: -punk

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Key Principles of Odd Stuff

Key Principles of Odd Traps
1. They announce themselves.
2. They give you opportunity and reason to mess with them.
3. Once triggered, they do their job very well. 

Key Principles of Odd Monsters
1. They break the rules.
2. They want something.
3. They do things other than fight.

Key Principles of Arcana
1. They do something new.
2. They encourage creative and risky use.
3. They aren't something you'd want to use all the time.

Into the Polar Ocean

Expedition into the Polar Ocean

Nobody knows what's beyond the bright mist. Each brave soul leading the expedition brings a retinue of troops rolled on the table below.

Roll d10 for each player's retinue.
1: Musketeers (5hp, Muskets, Bayonets)
2: Buccaneers (6hp, Pistols, Sabres)
3: 2 Detachments of Conscripts (2hp, STR 8, Polearms)
4: Whale Hunters (6hp, Muskets, Spears)
5: Mercenary Guard (8hp, Halberds, Modern Armour)
6: Thugs (7hp, Clubs and Daggers)
7: Shipborn (4hp, STR 12, Axes, Shield Armour)
8: Penal Detachment (5hp, STR 8, Polearms)
9: Heavy Gunners (4hp, STR 9, Elephant Guns)
10: Gruff Veterans (9hp, STR 12, Muskets, Daggers)

A Detachment of troops fight as one. Individual attacks cannot harm them unless they are suitably large-scale or explosive. Detachment attacks against individuals are Enhanced. When they take Critical Damage they are broken and cannot act until rallied. At STR 0 they are wiped out. They recover HP as normal, but Ability Scores can only be restored back at civilization.

For every two detachments in the expedition, Roll d6 for a ship. Each ship can hold three detachments in addition to any cannon detachments it has, unless stated otherwise.

1: Reclaimed Steamboat (12hp)
2: Plated Sloop (8hp, Armour 2)
3: Prototype Gunship (10hp, 2 Cannon Detachments)
4: Brand New Galleon (12hp, Armour 1, Can hold five Detachments)
5: Battered Warship (15hp, Armour 1, Cannon Detachment)
6: Ironclad (20hp, Armour 2, Cannon Detachment)

Ships can only be harmed by attacks from cannons or better.

The expedition has supplies for twenty days of travel. After this, things will start to run out and creative solutions will be required.

End of Reality 
Roll d20 at the start of the first day's travel for each of the following factors. Each following day, the die gets one step smaller to d12, d10, d8, d6, and finally d4. If the expedition turns back towards civilization, the dice get larger again until they reach home.

A Destination (see below) is reached if the expedition pushes further beyond the point where they're rolling d4s for these factors. At this destination, any previous effects from rolls on these tables disappear and relative normality returns.

1-3: Things worsen by one step. If this is the first roll, treat as 5. If things can't get worse, they find a way.
4: Crushing. Masts collapse, cannons plunge through decks, and any sort of work requires a STR Save. All attacks are impaired.
5: Heavy. Melee attacks are impaired and beams creak under the weight.
6: Feels heavier than normal, work is tiring.
7: Feels slightly lighter than normal.
8+: Seems normal.

1-3: Things worsen by one step. If this is the first roll, treat as 5. If things can't get worse, they find a way.
4: Absolute darkness is only interrupted by flashing strobes of light. Constant, deafening, white-noise. Everybody loses d6 WIL.
5: Vision-trails make it difficult to track anything. Absolute silence. Ranged attacks are impaired.
6: Movement leaves a trail and everything echos.
7: Swirling lights and wooshing noises.
8+: Seems normal.

1-3: Things worsen by one step. If this is the first roll, treat as 5. If things can't get worse, they find a way.
4: You get the sense that time is rushing by. Every day spent here is a year back in civilization.
5: Random jumps in time. Breakdown of cause and effect, thankfully limited to trivial matters.
6: Random
7: Timekeeping devices go haywire.
8+: Seems normal.

1-3: Things worsen by one step. If this is the first roll, treat as 5. If things can't get worse, they find a way.
4: All inorganic material crumbles at all but the most delicate touch. Ships take d6 damage.
5: Liquid metal rainstorm causes d10 damage to everyone, including ships.
6: All metal becomes strongly magnetic.
7: A cloud of buzzing metallic dust appears out of the air itself and begins to repair any damaged material, living or inorganic.
8+: Seems normal.

1-3: Things worsen by one step. If this is the first roll, treat as 5. If things can't get worse, they find a way.
4: The sea rises and falls like mountains. Waves batter the ships for d8 damage.
5: It's very cold, but all metal is now searing hot.
6: Unnaturally cold. Anyone not taking precautions will lose d6 STR each turn. The ice re-freezes behind the ship as it breaks through.
7: Freezing cold.
8+: Seems normal.

Roll d8 to find out what you've reached.
1: A blistering crack of light, a swirling tunnel of darkness, and you're in space! 
2: You're swept into a whirlpool, glowing red at its center. Inside is the worst dungeon ever. 
3: A shimmering force grasps your ships, but a booming voice will answer any three questions before carrying you back to known waters. 
4: It looks like you've returned to Bastion's dock, but there aren't any people and everything is in negative. If you explore you'll find an abandoned version of the city, populated with dusty skeletons. Plenty for the taking, though. 
5: A wall of pink jelly that's warm to the touch. If you pass into it you'll be pulled deeper, but can breathe freely. After a few minutes you're spat out into a crystal city of invertebrate citizens planning an invasion of Bastion. 
6: You're pulled under the water, into the Abyss, but can breathe freely. A colossal astral craft (20hp, Armour 3, Cosmic Cannon Detachment that ignores armour, uni-beam with all sorts of uses) lies abandoned at the very bottom.
7: Calm, still waters for a moment, before the water itself raises up into a 2d10 spiky giants (STR 20, 17hp, Armour 3, d12 spikes, each fights as a detachment). They do everything they can to drive you off. If you fight them off or escape, roll again on this table.
8: Colossal Spiderlike beings (STR 20, 20hp, Armour 2, d10 stab, each fights as a detachment) stride between black stone islands. They ignore you unless you interfere with their harvest of boulder-sized diamonds (worth 100g each). 

Sunday 4 January 2015

Key Principles of the Odd World

The Odd World

1. Bastion is the only city that matters. 

2. Mysteries sit in plain sight. 

3. Somebody has been messing with the world. 


1. It has everything.

2. Nobody knows who's in charge.

3. Everything is complicated. 

The Underground

1. It connects everything.

2. It's slightly outside reality.

3. Everything is a challenge.

Deep Country

1. It's stuck in the past.

2. Things move slowly.

3. Everything is hiding something. 

The Far Lands

1. They're enticing.

2. They have their own rules.

3. Everything is part of a design.