Tuesday, 24 February 2015

B. R. Yarr's Severed Battalion

General B. R. Yarr - Head in a Jar
STR 0, DEX 0, WIL 17, 2hp, Armour 1. Confined to a reinforced glass jar.
Completely immobile. Can only act through a telepathic link with his Severed Battalion.
Wants to find a way to gather more members to his battalion, and eventually find a way to grow a new body. Won't settle for a fragile human body again.

Headless Battalion: STR 14, DEX 6, 9hp, Hatchets (d6), Pistols (d6), Blooded uniforms. Attacks are impaired unless the target is being held by another headless, who will grunt to guide their ally's attacks.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Meet the Starmen - Torture Herald

Torture Herald
STR 10, DEX 8, WIL 8, 14hp. Cold Trident (d8, see below), Pistol (d6), Adorned military uniform that looks like a child made it.
Walks in spasmodic jolts, chases anyone that catches his gaze, and screams in broken speech. Claims he is from "Torture" and describes a spiral of infinite pain beyond our own, awaiting all on death. If you ask his name, he just screams at you. Nobody likes talking to him.
Rumours are that he's just a disfigured, crazy mutant, but he insists that he hold an official position from the realm of Torture.
Wants to convince others that he's really from Torture, and that they're doomed to an eternity of pain after death. Also wants to travel to the other realities that he claims exist beyond our own, to spread the word further.
Cold Trident: Anyone dealt Critical Damage by the Trident is held in a painful limbo of tortured half-life as long as the trident remains touching them. If they wish to give mercy the wielder can wrench them back to life, leaving them at STR 1 with 0hp. If they remove the trident, the victim dies instantly. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

What is This OSR Game Anyway?

Tell me about that OSR game you've been harping on about.

The Setting

1) How is it like D&D?

2) How is it not like D&D?

Character Creation and Advancement

3) How is it like D&D?

4) How is it not like D&D?

Playing the Game

5) How is it like D&D?

6) How is it not like D&D?

Note 1: Your point of reference for D&D may be different to mine, but I think there's enough of an assumed core there that you don't need to tell me whether you love OD&D or 5e. The answers will probably make that clear.

Note 2: I will get around to answering this for Into the Odd soon. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Lost Villages of Deep Country

Deep Country names mean something to those who speak the local dialect. Outsiders always pronounce it wrong. Questioning their non-standard pronunciation, or saying it wrong yourself, will always cause offence.

Most locals have their own shortened name for the village, but don't you dare try and come up with your own.

There are four rumours about each village, with a 50% chance each will be true. If none of them are true, they're actually hiding something even worse. 

Pronounced Name (Written Name)

Rhendug-unt-Meens (Rending-into-the-Mane)
- They exclusively eat horse products.
- They ferment horse milk into a disgusting frothy Neigh-Ale. 
- They are nomads that murdered the original villagers a few years back.
- The watchtower in the middle of the village has a fixed lightning-cannon. 

Vulsire-Mark (Vulturemark)
- Huge birds descend on the town each night and attack anyone still out.
- The dead are fed to huge birds as a funeral ritual.
- The villagers are secretly shape-shifting genius bird people that eat human flesh.
- The village militia makes bombs from bird droppings. 

Upnupp-the-Gizzard (Up and Up the Lizard)
- The inn has a huge, boneless, telepathic toad monster trapped in its cellar.
- The local cult worship frogs from space.
- First born children are thrown into the village pond to feed flesh-eating toads. 
- Roasted flies are served as bar snacks.

Rohm-Ig-Crynna (Roaming Carrianna)
- The women of the town are infertile. 
- Each night the women form a choir to ward off bad spirits. 
- The men in the town are actually women in disguise, and all conception is unnatural.
- Only women are permitted to prepare food or drink here. 

Tarky-Ap-Moseiff (Tearing-Up-Massive)
- The local strongmen can tear rocks in two.
- The local strongmen are metal underneath their skin.
- A giant man once destroyed the town and left all the women bearing half-giant sons. 
- The water here will make you grow in strength but turn stupid. 

Parallel States

Krone Chaybarg's Parallel Projection Tanks are secured in an underground vault, but if you have a good idea for an experiment, he'll let you take a ride. 

The six tanks look like marble sarcophagi. Depending on your intended projection, Krone will heat or cool the tank to a specific temperature, and fill to a precise level with purified water. Within an hour of being sealed inside, the subject will start to hallucinate. This soon escalates to the feeling of entering another world. The process is so jarring that the subject immediately loses d6 WIL.

Anything that occurs within the Parallel State will affect the subject's body and mind as if it was real. Their experiences will strangely mirror that of the real world, most often encountering equivalent versions of their most familiar places and people, often twisted beyond anything more than a trivial connection. 

One object can be brought back from the Parallel State at the cost of d12 WIL. If this reduces the subject to WIL 0 the object is lost, otherwise it materialises in the tank with them.  

The subject can wrench themselves back to reality from various anchor points that Krone doesn't do a good job of explaining. Most often these are bits of reality leaking into the Parallel State. 

Krone will do his best to achieve your desired Parallel State, but there's a 50% chance you'll just end up in a random one. He has a very vague understanding of half of these places. 

1 - Energy Shadows 
As reality, but all living things are converted to glowing energy beings in roughly their original shape. The subject is a naked version of themselves. Any native beings that touch the subject are completely annihilated and blast apart their surroundings, leaving an Anchor back to reality. All beings twist and scream silently and static noise floods the air. Anyone annihilated in this Parallel finds themselves suffering gradual molecular disintegration in Reality. They lose d6 STR every hour unless they come to this Parallel themselves and annihilate a loved one. 

2 - Savage Dream 
You are a hunched, lizard-like humanoid (roll d8+10 STR and DEX, d8 WIL, Retain HP) living in a prehistoric society. If you wait until night you'll see lots of glowing activity in the sky. Your society is intent on piling mud into a gigantic monolith at the center of your ring of shelters. Tall, naked humans live in glass domes nearby and will fire black balls of fire (d10) at you if you approach them. 

3 - Jewel Station

A utopian vision of Bastion covered in polished steel, gaudy jewels, and a populace tended to by holographic servants. They will treat the subject as we might treat a chimp. Gravity pulls towards any surface, so walls and ceilings are filled with people.  

4 - Infinite Flesh Ocean 
You are all part of an unfathomably huge undersea creature with soft, pink flesh and eyes all over. You only have control over the few muscles surrounding your eye, so cannot affect the creature as a whole. After a few minutes the creature rises from the ocean to crush a deserted version of Bastion. Any buildings or districts damaged by this attack will be on fire when the subject awakes. 

5 - Forgotten Fears

You're alone in a tight stone tunnel lined with itchy grey fiber. The tunnel gets tighter in both directions but you can always just about squeeze if you lodge a limb in an awkward position. Black oil occasionally floods the tunnels but you cannot suffocate. Occasionally you'll catch a glimpse of light but you never get any closer to it. Lose d6 WIL every time something horrible happens.

6 - Repplend
As if Bastion was planned in rigid grids, and everybody follows laws to the letter. The city goes on forever, and everybody has a pointless agenda. Even the vermin and horses of the city talk you around in circles. Each building supposedly holds a jewel of great value (this is a lie) and everybody inside claims to be the guardian of it, giving you pointless trials in return for clues to its location. An intensely frustrating place.

7 - Eternal House
A noble manor on a huge scale. Walking in any direction doesn't actually move you, but your surroundings twist and change based on your direction. Up makes them move divine, Down more fiendish. North makes them hot, South cold. East makes them more elaborate, West more simplified and abstract. This isn't just a physical transformation, but conjures people to encounter, which act in a way suited to the direction. 

8 - Possibility Space 
It's reality, but you have complete control over time, rewinding and fast-forwarding it as you choose. Any hour that passes (in either direction) is a day in reality. After a week, Krone will wake you up, causing you to lose d10 WIL.

9 - Black Hole
Just darkness and silence. When you emerge from the tank roll 1d6 to see how much time has passed. 1: None. 
2: 20 Hours.
3: 3 Weeks. 
4: 4 Months. 
5: 5 Years. 
6: 60 Years. 

10 - Scream Inferno 
An infinite cyclone of pink and blue fire (d12 damage per turn). If you're somehow able to survive here you'll eventually make it to a titanic mouth that will give you a complex set of commands before spitting you back into reality with loss of d12 WIL. If you complete these commands the cyclone will appear in reality and probably destroy everything. 

11 - Phase Temple
Huge, incomprehensible shapes are carrying out a ritual across more dimensions that you can count. It's like a kaleidoscope in a cathedral. You might just be able to grab hold of some glittering artifact to drag back to reality.

12 - Grey River
Feels like a stretch of river in Deep Country, but the banks are lined with the dead, who are eager to talk to you. You might be able to drag someone back with you. Lose d6 STR for every minute spent here. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

An Odd Undeath

There aren't really your typical living-dead in Into the Odd. Cheating death isn't about dealing with souls, and holy symbols don't really come into it.

But you're so sure you saw an undead creature in Bastion?

Might have been one of the following.

Ivory automatons, polished bone armour on brainwashed henchmen, skeletons of victims hung up to warn intruders.

Victims of hypnosis rays, brain parasites, or intelligent viruses that seize control of minds and muscles.

Ghosts and Wraiths
Echoes, holograms, drug-fuelled visions of dead loved ones, unfortunate consciousnesses trapped in vacuum chambers, or bound to a comatose host.

Underground mutants with poisonous bites and awful hygiene, cadaver-worshipping cults.

Brains in OBJECT
Oh, sure. People are always trying to cram brains into things.

Mummies and Liches
Oily old nobles that seem to live forever, life-force revivification machines with a bad track record, and spritely old women that claim their spark was reignited by a night-time encounter with an androgynous star-child.

Bruncent Sythe is a crooked old guy that drinks at the Four-Worlds and always bites the landlord when it's closing time. It was probably him wearing his funeral suit.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

On Oddity

The move to a post-industrial setting for Into the Odd was, in part, to provide a more familiar home for characters. This would make the weird stuff seen on expeditions seem all the more freaky.

Compared to a medieval or renaissance setting, the modern era isn't all that different to our own. Lots of people lived in big cities, went to school, got jobs, tried not to get shot by muggers, and went home to a can of beans on toast.

Different, of course, but nothing compared to the life of a medieval serf.

But since then I've spent some time falling into the trap of thinking that familiar equates to mundane. Sure, there's a baker on this street. She apprenticed under her mother, and now she's known for making really great pasties and she wants to open a franchise over in zzzzzzz...

This isn't even a stawman exaggeration. This is what a modern urban setting did to me, until I re-focused on the name of the game.

Of course you're going Into the Odd from a point of relative normality, but that normality needs its Oddness too. Just playing the game is going Into the Odd.

The key point of difference between Fantasy and Oddness is that the odd elements feel odd within the setting, rather than just odd to us, as outside observers.

Take something like Greyhawk. It's odd to a brand new player that there's an elf wizard running the town watch. But the character might not find it atypical at all. This leads to moments where, for every weird thing you come across, you're asking the GM "Does my character already know about this?"

When something in Into the Odd feels out of place, it's odd for everyone.

The Underground is a bottomless network of tunnels under the city, and it freaks people out. Sure, they use it as we might use a subway network, but people don't really know the horrors that are deep down there. People know there are some nasty animals about, but the common man doesn't expect monster attacks on the city.

People suspect that the Polar Ocean is a the end of the world, and hear that the Golden Lands draw greedy explorers to their death, but they don't know the terrifying details. Anyone not part of an Astral Cult is going to find them creepy as hell, and I bet half of the citizens of Bastion are still baffled by the city's industrial sprawl.

So that baker might have the same mundane face as I detailed, but let's also say that they always wear gloves, even when kneading dough. And their pies aren't just good... they're addictive. And if you try to get into her cellar, she'll get quite aggressive.

"That's odd", thinks the character, and the player.