Monty Python seems to span gamer generations. The true test may be the success of the RPG Kickstarter, but chances are if you make a Python reference at a gaming table, someone will laugh. And, hopefully, not derail the narrative as everyone starts making jokes about dead parrots and Holy Hand Grenade. While reading through the review copy of Into The Odd Remastered sent by Free League Publishing, I had one particular member of the comedy troupe on my mind. The game reminded me of Terry Gillam. The look, by MORK BORG mastermind Johan Nohr, reminded me of Gillam’s odd animation seen in the opening credits and various other places. The setting, created by designer Chris McDowall, reminded me of the filmmaker’s odd fantasy and sci-fi films like Ice Pirates, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits and Brazil. Does the game live up to these lofty first impressions? Let’s play to find out.
The first half of the book features an OSR-style rules set built to get players into this weird world as quickly as possible. Players roll three ability scores, HP and determine their starting equipment with a roll on a random table that’s influenced by how much HP they have. The scores are primarily saves. Attacks are made with damage dice only which subtract the opponent’s armor before doing damage. Once a character loses their HP they start losing Strength and if that drops to zero, they die. Loss of strength triggers a Strength save under the new number to avoid critical damage, which renders a character incapacited. Combats tend to be short and brutal, as is the OSR style.
What brings players into these bloody battles? Artifacts called Arcana. These strange bits of magic and weird technology are why the players head into the titular odd, be it the strange tunnels underneath Bastion or places like The Iron Coral detailed elsewhere in the book. One of the small rules I enjoyed is how players identify what the Arcana do. They make a Willpower save. On a success, they figure it out . On a failure they also figure it out…by setting it off accidentally. I do wonder why the designers didn’t include a price guide for the arcana in the book. I get that specific prices demystify the objects a little, but given their central focus as the reason players are risking their lives in these strange dungeons, I would have liked more guidance with a range of how much a disposable arcana is versus a legendary one.
The second half of the book also makes an odd choice that I normally don’t like. It’s a small campaign that shows off the odd nature of the world. The Iron Coral is the beginner dungeon, which opens up into a hexcrawl to the nearby port town of Hopesend. I usually don’t like starter adventures in the book because once the adventure is used it’s dead space. But here, the designers included a full campaign for the game which should give tables a decent value should they explore every hex and city detailed here. Each dungeon room is a handful of words and phrases along with any interesting items, people and or creatures. Players and GMs are encouraged to riff on the ideas and even within these short write ups, the rooms get weird. There’s something interesting within each room, whether its leather chairs as decor or a backpack full of stuff sunken into a swamp.
Bastion itself doesn’t get much detail until the appendix which is filled with charts and tables and other things to fill out those moments when the players go beyond the provided maps. There are charts for weird names, new arcana and ever weird bureaucratic decisions from the town council. I would have liked to see some more specific details of Bastion but the book is very clearly set up to encourage me to make my own. Which, thanks to the strange layout, makes me think of a world that’s a little more steampunk with obnoxious mustaches and corsets full of Arcana for my version of this game. It’s the kind of place where your next tavern visit might feature an argument with patrons arguing for and against a system of government where strange women distribute swords.
Into The Odd is an excellent selection for tables who want to have weird adventures and aren’t afraid to let their own strangeness influence what goes on at the table.