Monday 22 May 2017

People of the Foreign Stars








Whatever the academics are calling them this week, there are places beyond Deep Country. We know that the Underground connects all things, so whether these places exist in a distant space, time, or possibility, is the subject of debate.

There are signs in the Stars.

If looking into Deep Country is like looking at the shadows of our embarrassing past, the Star Lands are glimpses of what could be.

There is always a glimmer of humanity.

While the True Bastion is a heap of chaos beneath a veil of order, these places are bound by rules, in spite of their alien exterior. Rules themselves can be a physical presence. The abstract is concrete, and the symbolic is literal.

Volo Beauties
STR 8, DEX 18, CHA 6, 5hp. Silk Dresses, Soft Bodies, Metal Frog Mouths (d6).
- Avert their eyes from the hideous appearance of any non-volo beings.
- Want to collect things they consider most ugly, for their own amusement. Commonly includes birds, which they also enjoy eating live.
- If they encounter somebody that reminds them of themselves, but less beautiful, they consider them an insult and obsess over killing them.
Their Bastion: All decadence and statues, but nobody has enough food and the trains don't run on time.

STR 14, DEX 5, CHA 5, 8hp. Crooked Back, One Giant Eye, Mining Tools (d8, bulky) and Measuring Devices.
- Want to turn everything into flat surfaces and correct angles.
- Go berserk if somebody messes with something they've carved into the correct shape.
- Love their ferret-like pets, which are ultra-violent towards other animals.
Their Bastion: A colossal red pyramid dotted with hollowed-out meeting cubes.

STR 5, DEX 5, CHA 7, 3hp. Rotting bodies, rusty guns (d8), damp black wigs.
- Can only speak truth, but are ashamed of everything they reveal.
- Because of this, they fear gaining any knowledge at all and lash out at those that would educate them.
- Will do anything to forget the things they know.
Their Bastion: Piles of pitiful beings, covering their ears, while their city decays.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Decisive Combat

There's lots of talk of deadly combat, tactical combat, cinematic combat.

The goal with Into the Odd is for combat to be Decisive. I wanted the potential for deadliness, without the wild swings of d20vsAC systems, and I wanted it all to run ultra-fast.

The idea is that combat should have three main stages.

1. Instigation (Strategic Choice)

Should we fight this thing?

Deciding to fight is a real choice you make, not an assumption of the game. No monster exists purely to fight you, so if things have come to blows, let it be on your head.

The nature of the instigation is also of critical importance. The two most reliable ways to defeat an opponent in combat are to outnumber them, and get the drop on them, ideally both.

This is an exit point, as you can usually make the decision not to fight at all.

2. Execution (Tactical Choice)

How's the fight going?

You've probably dealt some damage, taken some, and might now be more aware of what you're up against. Make a decision about whether you want to take this fight to the bitter end, or change up your approach.

This is an exit point, as fleeing/surrender are usually an option.

3. Conclusion (Consequences)

Well, that was a good/bad idea.

Fighting has stopped, and hopefully the other side is defeated. Either way, something major has changed.

Most games follow this to various degrees, but the key with Into the Odd is that I want as little time as possible between each point.

Turn 1: You've decided to fight (Instigation), you cause some damage, and take some back.
Turn 2: Based on how well it's going to decide to carry on, or change your plan. (Execution) If you carry on, somebody is probably getting taken out.
Turn 3: By now one side has probably won, or both sides are so close to death that it's going to end one way or another. (Conclusion)

So while your combat moves are limited, the choices you're making on each turn are extremely important. It's a combat of two or three major decisions, rather than a dozen minor ones. It's key that each stage also presents an exit point from the combat, so nothing is inevitable.

Mechanical Support
Into the Odd supports this by:

  • Auto Damage (attacks always cause at least a little damage, with Armour being the exception, but HP is restored easily enough that you can consider it an Encounter Resource. It's astronomically rare for a turn to go by without anybody taking some damage). 
  • Low HP (d6hp for starting characters, cap at 18hp and that's mostly for monsters)
  • Low Armour (if you're human-sized the best you can really hope for is Armour 1, Armour 3 for the biggest monsters).
  • Relatively High Damage (it's quite easy to get a d8 weapon, which is likely to take out a 7hp opponent in two attacks. Even a STR 16, 12hp Armour 2 monster is probably go down after two rounds of attacks from four characters with d8 muskets)
  • Critical Damage means you're much more likely to be taken out of action before you die. A dying comrade presents a more interesting tactical choice than a dead one.