Thursday 12 August 2021


This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

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I'm continuing this slightly self-indulgent retrospective of Into the Odd, since August is the 10th Anniversary of its inception. 

What better place to reminisce than the first post where I talked about "Project Odd"?

Essentially a list of eight core ideals, let's see how they look after a decade of messing around with this system. 

1: An impartial GM. The GM uses the rules provided to challenge the characters and does not alter the situation to aid or hinder them.

This started as simple stuff like "roll in the open, don't fudge dice or numbers" but it's not really enough to just say that. Since then I've written a lot about how to actually support this style of high-agency play, perhaps best summarised in the ICI Doctrine. I don't think I've necessarily softened as a GM in this time, but I definitely see the importance of making players feel like agents in their own downfall when it happens. 

2: Adventure Module compatibility. The game assumes the GM is using a pre-planned environment and hazards, whether their own or by another writer. Classic rpg modules will be easily adaptable.

This was really an extension of the above. The challenge is the world, not the GM. Worth noting that this goes both ways. If the players stumble into a very fortunate location that you were expecting them to reach later on, don't throw a locked door in their path. I still somewhat abide to this rule of "the notes are a sacred text" but I do find myself breaking it more often. Perhaps one to expand on in a later post. 

3: Rolled characters. The core of your character is random and you do not choose a class. You buy equipment but have no input on your character’s innate abilities.

Buying equipment!? Who's got time for that at the start of the game?? Definitely one for the scrap heap here. Still, it's interesting to remember a time when Into the Odd didn't even have the starter packages yet. They feel like such a core part of the game to me now. 

4: Focus on Ability Scores. Rather than being secondary to level and class, a character’s rolled Ability Scores are the most important thing about them. The same goes for Monsters. A Dragon is terrifying because it’s huge (Strength 27?), scaly (Armour 6) and breathes fire (INT Save vs STR or 2d6 Damage!), not because it’s a Level 15 opponent.

So this is a big one. Let's split it down into PCs and Monsters.

PCs Ability Scores are absolutely important, but for a while they were too important. When you were rolling STR on every attack it was just too punishing on low STR characters, who I still wanted to be able to contribute to a fight. Again, this was written before the "decisive combat" system was implemented, even though similar ideas were percolating.

Monsters had some truly monstrous Ability Scores in these early versions, with the STR 27 Dragon being a memorable example. Here, new characters basically stood no chance of avoiding its breath, and remember this is before HP was quick and easy to recover, so there was obviously a TPK pretty early on with this. That's fine, in some ways. I wanted big monsters to be scary, but again I'd look to that decisive combat post to see how this can be handled in a much more satisfying way. 

5: Save against Consequences. The player always has a chance to beat the consequences facing them with a saving throw based around Ability Scores.

Interesting one here, as I've since gone on to say that it's often preferable to just go straight to the effect, and make that effect interesting. I suspect the intent of this ideal was really more like "focus on Saves to avoid risk rather than Action Rolls to succeed" but perhaps I've giving my past-self too much credit. 

6: Common sense. The rules are written with the assumption that those playing will agree on a rule’s intention without the need for paragraph-long mechanical explanations.

Hmmm.... I haven't given up hope on this one yet. Other than a few usual suspects (initiative...) I don't get too many requests for clarification. I still believe that think getting all of the rules onto one page/spread is worth that price. 

7: Limited power growth. Characters get better through improving their ability scores slightly, but more through learning spells, amassing resources and finding magic treasure.

Some sort of Foreground Growth eh? Sounds good!

8: Embrace the weird. This game will get scifi, horror and humour in your fantasy, as well as any other genres I see fit.

Interesting that I made this statement right after using a Dragon as an example monster. At this point I was still very much seeing this as a sort of Barrier Peaks style "fantasy with sci-fi" rather than going into the more specific flavour that ITO and EB developed. Just this week I was trying to explain what I do for a living to somebody, and they asked "so it's like a Fantasy thing?" and I gave pause. I mean I know that Bastionland is a fantasy setting, but it doesn't really feel like a Fantasy setting to me. 

Still, let's save that existential crisis for another time. 


  1. Are you telling me we playtested this 10 years ago? 10?

  2. This is a cool retrospective! I really enjoy behind the scenes stuff. Also, I just want to say that I'm so glad "Project Odd" became Into the Odd and eventually Electric Bastionland because it's a really delightful game and my tables are certainly better for it.