Into the Odd is one of those interesting concept, great art, well put together, RPGs that I’m a sucker for. Written by Chris McDowall, prettified by Johan Nohr, and distributed by my current favorite studio Free League, Into the Odd called out to me, forcing me to break my self-imposed ban on buying new RPG books until I’ve read the old ones. The edition I picked up is the re-mastered one, which has new content. I won’t be able to highlight what’s new or not though, so if you’ve got an old edition at a garage sale or something, there could be discrepancies.
Into the Odd is an ultra-rules light RPG about exploration. Exploration happens to be my favorite style of RPG, and so I have high hopes here that I can run ITO as is, or at minimum mine the ideas from the book for other games when groups insist that games have to be made by those Mages out West. I’m also very impressed both with the quantity of art (almost a full page piece on every 2 page spread), but also the quality. Its great, evocative, and really helps sell the mood. This is another of those books you can lay out and non-rpg folks will still get a kick out of flipping though it.
ITO opens with something a lot of indie RPGs fail to do. It tells us who we are playing as, and what we do. You’re playing explorers in a large, unknown world full of ancient wonders. Prospective players know exactly the sort of PC they should build, and more importantly, which ones they should not. too many games claim to be able to do anything, and then fall flat, so its nice to see one that carves out a niche.
Character building is straight forward and quick. A called out selling point of the game. You roll 3d6 in order for Strength, Dexterity, and Willpower, then a d6 for HP, and pick or roll on starter package for equipment. This might be one of the first games that I’ve ready to claim 5 minute character gen that actually delivers it. It’s an OSR style game, where the rules are intended to be quick and out of the way, with clever player skill rewarded mores than clever character building. If you’re a fan of it, this works, and if you’re not, well, you won’t be. Gameplay is similarly quick and fast, which is kind of nice. I’m imagining throwing my PC on a business card and grabbing a set of dice so I’m set. Back in my college days, I probably could have just thrown that in my everyday carry alongside a pocket knife, preferred pen, and thumb drive. Then grabbing friends and playing a round in the dining hall, or wherever I happen to be.
Arcana are the big “Thing” in ITO. Mythical, scientific, religious, whatever artifacts from the before time. This is what you seek out, and they give you cool powers. You might start with some arcana if you get a good starting package, and it would do something like Webbed Gloves that let you climb walls, or a Gorgers Mask that lets you eat anything safely. As you explore, you might discover Greater Arcana, which have more powerful abilities. Like a Window to Beyond, that summons a winged nightmare that fights for you, until your enemies are slain, and then might turn on you, or a Spirit Cup that lets you swap bodies with someone who drinks from it. Lastly, you might rarely find Legendary Arcana, like an Obliteration Prism, which simply slays a creature if their HP is less than ~12, or a Seal of Madness, which causes up to 1d12 Will damage.
Character advancement is purely governed by a milestone system, which I’m a fan of. They put a twist on it though, in that there are six named levels, with requirements beyond just completing quests. To go from Expert to Veteran, for example, you have to survive 5 dangerous Expert level explorations, and taken on an apprentice. It encourages attachment to the world and helps guide the game away from simple loot and power acquisition. You are also given some similarly rules light business management rules. The idea being, you’re an explorer who hunts for arcana. A lot of those things you don’t particularly need, and they don’t do anything that helps you on your hunts. What do you do with those? You build a business and sell them. The rules seem quick and fast, so I could see this being a 15 min sidebar of some mechanical rolls and resolutions, if you want, or you could get into the RP generated by the idea of a business.
The best part of this book is the back half. It is essentially half a book of potential locations you could explore. With location descriptions, encounters, arcana, and everything you need. It has a really nice layout and makes it so you can essentially flip to any of these three locations and drop it into your game. If your players want, you could even give them high level descriptions of all three, and ask them which they want to explore, plotting them on a map outside of the town of Bastion (the default starting city, also described in this portion). I tend to be a pretty improv heavy DM, and this level of prompt is what I want in an adventure guide, but if you’re coming at this from a 5e approach, you it will take a little bit to get used to.
Overall, Into the Odd was a great get. Mechanically, you can get right into playing, achieving system mastery by the end of your first session. Lore wise, there is plenty to get the creative juices flowing for a DM, and a player. Artistically, you can just flip around this book and enjoy reading it. What else can you ask for?