Tuesday 14 September 2021

Born to Play, Doomed to Die

When a rule is born into one of my games it cries out as it draws first breath, and I look down with contempt. 

I do love the pathetic little thing, and I can't help but think of all the deeds it might accomplish, all the fun we could have together. 

Then I stop myself, lean to its ear, and whisper.

Tell me why I should let you live.

Going back to Into the Odd after Electric Bastionland has pushed me face-first into examining my rules. After so long explaining the changes in EB, I'm catapulted backwards to the ITO rules page, examining it with old eyes. Like Merlin living life in reverse, I can't unsee the future of this game. 

At least I thought Electric Bastionland was the future.

Into the Odd wouldn't sit back and retire. I kept hearing people talk about it, making hacks, choosing to play it over the new gigantic hardback. Just a scrappy underdog? No, people were actually explaining why they preferred this old game. They even preferred WIL to CHA!

That's not to say I haven't enjoyed the process of exhuming it and sending it to the tailor to be swaddled in finery. The plan was always for ITO to stick around as a smaller, quieter relative to EB, but I hadn't fully expected it to survive.

So approaching this project from a necromantic angle, the plan soon became to do a Remaster rather than a revision. Paying tribute to the original and presenting it in as authentic a revivification as possible, rather than trying to fix anything about it. A shimmering ghost representing their ideal form, rather than a monstrous marvel of forbidden engineering.

Of course there were genuine problems. Wordings could be improved, and I was never fully happy with the included Arcana, so they all got some attention. I knew I wanted to put some extra content in there, so brand new Arcana were added to the heap, the Oddpendium got beefed up slightly, and the Iron Coral exploded into rampant growth, now a fully blown dungeon worthy of your expedition. 

Then I looked to Electric Bastionland, its neon lights always tempting me. I could add in the Scars table but... then I'd have to change the advancement rules and... NO, show some respect! I throw my EB book out of the window and I hear paving slabs shattering. 

But I do indulge a little. Rules that have fought hard for their place are granted access. Deprived is my golden child, ushered fawningly to the table. They're so well behaved, always there when you need them but never in the way. Bulky comes with them. Sure, they're not quite as well-groomed, and sometimes I even forget their birthday, but we've got room for one more.

Wait. Do we have enough room at the table? 

We do, but isn't it always nice to be able to stretch your legs? I sharpen my axe.

I see some misshapen figures tucked on the far corner. They look comfortable, but I've been watching them for a while.

Swap any two Ability Scores after rolling gets it first. I suspect they knew this was coming, as I never really spoke to them for long after they arrived.

Make a WIL Save to bend an Arcanum to your will gets the second chop. Where their sibling was forgettable, they were rowdy and disruptive, and not in the good way. I had to re-engineer my bone magnet because of them.

Two in, two out.

I put my axe away. Now we can play. 


  1. I always thought swap two ability scores would be a cool idea, but come to think of it, I've never really used it. I think Deprived is awesome, such an elegant solution to "what happens if my character just went 3 days without food or rest?"

  2. Folks who really miss old rules can insert them for themselves without the rest of us trying to explain to our players why we really don't want that "bend an Arcanum to your will" thing.

    I could not be more excited for this!!

  3. Sometimes the cutting room floor is where we truly see the great masters at work. What goes is as interesting as what stays!