They'd all played CRPGs, Boardgames, and Warhammer Tabletop stuff back in our school days, but players P, C, and M had never touched a Tabletop RPG. Player S had dabbled in a few sessions of Pathfinder, lamenting how it took a whole session to make his character sheet and then none of it mattered.
Some questions they asked as we were having a pre-game lunch were:
"Does one of us have to be a healer?"
"Can our characters die?"
"Are there lots of rules to learn for combat?"
"Are you going to do voices?"
"Should we make our characters in advance so that we can get into character or whatever?"
"Can we go off in different directions?"
(Answers are No, Yes, No, Badly, No, and Yes but you probably shouldn't)
So clearly they had a good sense of what RPGs are and how a Dungeon-Crawl works, but they'd picked up certain ideas that just won't apply to Into the Odd.
Rolling Characters was loads of fun, and they all enjoyed laughing at each other's crappy rolls and sitting on the edge of their seats as they found out their starter packages. It was crazy to them that equipment ranged from an Eagle to a pot of grease, but they said it got them excited about using their characters right away.
Coming up with names was tough for new players, so three out of four of them opted for a d100 roll on the Bastion Cast of Thousands table.
So that took five minutes in total, including a quick explanation of how to roll a save, and how damage works. I explained that if your character dies you'll get a new character and rejoin the game as quickly as possible, but there's a catch that I won't go into yet. Let the game begin!
The explorers had followed a lead to an abandoned lighthouse, which is rumoured to sit on a site filled with riches. Unfortunately as they broke into the old structure they were met with a painted warning "STAY OUT OF THE HELL HOLE" and a boarded up trapdoor.
Of course they dive in, and enter a network of natural caves, bleached white. A couple of quiet tunnels in and they're faced with a 12ft spike with two corpses impaled on it, pointing toward them. They work out that this must have been fired twice, as the second corpse is much fresher, but despite their concern one of the group try to pull a backpack off the impaled corpse.
There's a click. Make a DEX Save.
Of course, this player had the sneakiest character, so he passed the Save and ducked aside as the spike lurched forward.
P: But why would I have been standing in front of the spike when I took the bag?
Me: You just said you were going to pull off the bag, so next time you should say where you're standing. You don't have to tell me every detail of your actions all the time. Like you don't need to be careful around doors or corridors, but when you're dealing with traps it pays to be specific!
P: Got it.
They were in the swing of things now. Playing like pros as they pushed forward and discussed the best way to deal with each obstacle they encountered.
Finding the corpse of a colossal blue slug thing, and following a whining noise to find a tiny version of the creature cowering under its tongue.
Player C: It's obviously going to grow into this massive thing and kill us.
Player S: But what if he's on our side!
They keep the tiny, hungry slug-thing and stumble onto a shaft to the level below.
Me: Now generally going deeper means there's better stuff, but also worse stuff.
Players: We go down.
This level was all polished marble and faint humming. They overhear some voices in corridor ahead. They know the characters names, equipment, and are overhearing everything they discuss at the table, even out of character.
Player M peeks around the corner just in time to see one of them disappearing beyond a door. I give him a half-second glance at an image of the creature.
Player M: Urgh! It was a creepy alien thing with a big head. It looked horrible.
He does a quick sketch of what he remembers, and they decide to head in the opposite direction. Good, they already have the fear inside them.
The next room has the Overthinking Trap that I stole from James, who I think stole from someone else.
The trapdoor leading down is underneath a plaque reading "Overthinking Separates Mind from Body". What the players don't know is that the trapdoor is safe unless you search for traps. Anything you search for becomes real.
Now I feel like I have some experience dealing with traps, but when James ran this dungeon for me it killed my character dead in one slash.
Player M: I think about nothing and grab the trapdoor to throw it open.
Me: Okay... it's fine, you're greeted to a perfectly safe stairway down.
Down they go to Deep 2. Here the air is warm and soothing, a faint chanting replacing the hum.
The first room was more white marble, but the roof was stalactites of crusty honey, dripping down onto the ground. The tiny slug was getting restlessly hungry, so they let it drink some honey. It swells up to the size of a load of bread, and now they don't know whether that's a property of the slug or the honey.
As they debate this they get their first wandering encounter. A stunted naked man covered in baggy skin waddles down the stairs behind them.
This guy was loosely based on Arnold's Gurgans, but changed around a bit for freshness.
He tried to engage them in creepy conversation, wanting Player C to lick some of the honey off his long boneless fingers.
Player C: Not happening.
Me: He staggers back, looking hurt. "Oh, enemies then? You'll regret that former-friend!"
Player S: Why are you doing a Puumba voice?
I did warn them about my voices. Player C now had hiccups, but didn't know that he had a much deeper curse on him. After some time these hiccups would produce something nasty from his stomach.
As we'll soon find out, this wouldn't matter anyway.
The flappy-skin-man was now ignoring them and gorging on the honey, shitting out a disgusting black oil. They agree this guy is gross, but decide against killing him and move onward.
A bit of corridor later.
Me: Okay... so you open the door to a domed white room, in the centre of which is a huge glass tank filled with water. Floating in its back is a car-sized, white, porcelain baby curled up a fetal position. There are six tiny red versions of this thing flying around its head in circles, occasionally whispering something into its ear before vanishing off into thin air.
Player S: I don't know how to process this.
Their greed gets the better of them, and they decide these little guys must be working for the mind-reading Listeners they glimpsed on the level above. They decide they have to be malevolent, so Player C throws his potion into the water of the tank.
The red cherubs turn towards him and a black eye opens on top of each of their skulls. He feels an agonising sensation as if his bones are shrinking. With a blast of noise a Wheel-Angel appears.
The Angels were also stolen from Arnold, also tweaked here and there.
Wheel-Angel: SPEAK ONLY TRUTH IN MY PRESENCE
Player C: Erm... okay!
Wheel Angel: WHAT IS YOUR SIN
Player C: ...attempted murder?
Wheel Angel: YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE SIN.
Player C: *looks around the group* Greed.
The Angel blasts him with some light and announces his greed has been cleansed.
So my Wheel Angels work differently to Arnold's in that they're only obsessed with truth, not good or evil. But they can twist the Truth in a terrible way to teach a lesson. He didn't know this yet, but I had a treat in store next time he acted on his greed.
They make a sharp exit, and next find a room with three angelic tombs. Quickly forgetting their lesson in greed, they pry them open, making some exceptional rolls to avoid attention as they do so. Player M now had a gold chain that allowed him to Flame-On, and a huge spear looted from the tomb of an angelic giant.
But they couldn't avoid attention forever.
WHPAFF WHPAFF WHPAFF
Three Wheel Angels materialise over the tombs. Two block the exits, one hovers over Player C.
Wheel Angel: SPEAK ONLY TRUTH IN MY PRESENCE
Player C: Okay guys, I've got this.
Wheel Angel: WHY HAVE YOU DISHONOURED OUR FALLEN SAINTS.
Player C: Erm... I don't have a good answer for this.
Player M: Look, we can't let these wheel things boss us around forever. Let's attack. I fire my rocket.
They blast the Angel as best they can, but it stays up, giving Player C a blast of its Annihilation Column. In a cloud of doves, he's utterly destroyed.
Me: Okay, you're dead. But we'll get you back into the game once this combat's done, assuming someone survives.
At this point Player M has made two attacks with the giant angel spear, rolling 1 on both. Talk about karma.
Player M: Is there any other way for me to find out what this spear does?
Me: You sense that you need to use it to kill something. Maybe try rolling higher than 1.
They manage to blast the angel to the ground on their next turn, and the other two vanish into nothingness. They know they're going to need to get some support for this.
Going deeper they find a use for the angel spear, getting them access to some angel-only rooms hidden away in the back. Player S gets a telepathic hammer that asks "WHY?" with every swing, striking harder if the blow is just. Player P gets a shield that vanishes into a circle of light on his wrist. Player C comes in with his new character and gets a big glowing cannonball.
Oh right, so Player C is back with a new character, which he drew from 7 cards I'd prepared in advance. These were the B-Team. His guy had a bag of rocks, no tongue, 1hp, and pretty awful scores. He relished the challenge of addressing every problem with a rock from now on.
The second store had some gold! We've got a haul now, time to get back to safety.
They couldn't resist heading down one more staircase, which led them to a river of skeletons. They fearlessly stride in, and are barraged with a thousand voices whispering "Questions? Questions?".
Player M puts on a visored helm that he found and sees a vision of Player S dying horribly in the river. They take this as a clue to head back. In actuality, the helmet just shows you the worst thing that could possibly happen on the first use per day, and makes up some bullshit on subsequent uses.
Heading back upstairs they hear the Listeners again.
Player S: Finally! Now that we've got magic hammers and fire-chains we're practically the Avengers. We can take them out.
The Listener's agony-lash sends Player M to the ground in spasms of pain, so Player S moves in with his hammer.
Me: The hammer whispers to you "WHYYYY?"
Player S: Erm, Self Defense!
Me: It seems satisfied.
The hammer weakens the Listener, but it's a rock from Player C that shatters its glass dome and splatters its brains. The other two decide to make a run for it, and the group stay around to help Player M instead of chasing. Remember Player M is wearing his fire-chain at this point.
Player P: I mean... if we need to give him mouth-to-mouth and he's on fire is that going to be a problem?
Getting closer to the surface, they have a passing encounter with an Iron Dryad, who lures Player C's character close enough to grab and pull him into a pocket dimension of wires and thorns. I reassure him that he isn't dead, but he can't do anything just yet.
The slug gets fed the Listener corpse, growing to the size of a bean-bag. They like this, and move back to the giant slug corpse and let him feed some more, growing to the size of a rhino and sprouting a long tubular proboscis.
Player S: Can I ride her now?
In the final room before leaving, they catch a glimpse of Player C's character, trapped within the metal of a door. They lure the Dryad into reaching out and grab her, passing their STR Save to hoist her back into reality, dragging her prisoner with her. His hair and beard have grown a lot... how long was he in there for?
The friendly slug-mount sprays her with acid, as everyone else piles on. Again, it's a rock from Player C's bag that finishes her off. I think those rocks killed more than anything else in the game.
Now they reach the ladder up out of the dungeon. They look at the slug mount, at this point named Patricia, and she looks back with a knowing sadness. She won't fit out of the dungeon.
Player S: Well if I tie her up down here we can come back and find another way out, right?
Me: She trusts you completely and lets you slip the rope around her neck, She watches as you climb up.
Nailing that low-note finish.
But they had fun. They liked how stripped back it was, so the rules didn't get in the way of just exploring the weird places.
Player P commented that while he had fun he didn't know quite what his goal was. I think "get rich and don't die" can be rather vague, so this is something I'll work on for next time.
Eithe They'll be back for more.