I know I'm late to the party, but I finally got a chance to run Into the Odd.
Into the Odd frustrates me in that every rule seems obvious in a way that is vaguely insulting, but presented with the sincerity of my grandmother trying to describe to me whatever strange new gadget she recently saw at the store, which makes it very hard for me not to like it. It aligns with my aesthetic sensibilities, but reminds me of times when a loved one would stay over and I couldn’t get a moment’s peace, even when peace was less desirable than their company. It seems the closer I get to my ONE PERFECT RPG, the more despondent I’ll become to the point where quotes falsely attributed to Buddha will no longer raise my spirits.
Not everything here is a completely new idea, but we get a lot of smart concepts packaged in a digestible way without any kind of nefarious pretense or edge. The book is usable, with setting taking up a minimal amount of real estate, with the bulk of detail laced into the starting equipment table. There’s no sections defining role-playing, and nothing about how the game itself is different (which it doesn’t need because it simply is).
There lack of to-hit rolls jumped out at me considering how old-school the game feels otherwise. Players only roll damage, and my players can’t decide if they like it or not. I’m fine with this. I sometimes feel like knee-jerk reaction blog/forum posts have become the dialect of the RPG proletariat, and I was proud of my friends for engaging the game with an open mind. It would have been really easy to dismiss the rule outright, or (almost worse) embrace it without thought.
The saving throws work because the values are liquid, and because they’re only intended to be used in response to the world. I despise d20 roll under with 3-18 ability scores for aesthetic reasons, but in ItO your numbers are less about who you are and more about what is happening. Those numbers are on your sheet because they have to be, but they only play a small part in what measures the worth of your character. Your Strength might be 18 right now, but it could just as easily be 1 by the time you make it to the next room. In the same vein, you can choose to define yourself by your stuff, but at the end of the day even your most fantastical artifact is a thing that can be broken or lost.
My Bastion was designed with the aid of Vornheim, MS Paint, and a healthy amount of overthinking. The streets are littered with bums, wild animals, raccoons in trench coats, and nerds dressed up as elves. Miles and Poco wake up in their single room apartment in the slums, elbow to knee with their seven other roommates every day. Nobody’s hiring, student loan payments are through the roof, and the only prospects are out there where the Odd things are.
I ran the example dungeon included in the book, but instead of using some fishing town, I decided that Bastion was so unthinkably huge that an entire section of the city could sink into the water and nothing could be done about it. The players traversed the murky drowned quarter in wooden bathtubs. The dungeon went well, with the players triggering absolutely every trap, despite complaining about their low HP and the constant danger they were in.
Note: one thing I love about saving throws is that people want to dip their toe in—to properly fuck up and see if they can make it out in one piece. I think the game understands that, and the dice system ensures that the probability of success or failure is always evident.
If it seems Odd that I’m writing about a game that came out years ago I must state that, in my defense, I am relatively new to this hobby. I wish I had more to say at the moment, but after only one session I’m still on the fence. I won’t say I’m in love yet. It’s more like a little crush.