I’m a long-time fan of +Chris McDowall’s brilliant old school game “Into the Odd”. Every time we played it, we had loads of fun. But my search for old, older, oldest school games led me away from this compact game into other fields. Original D&D, the first three books, caught my attention. It still does, by the way.
I find it refreshing to use really old game systems because it teaches me a few things about game flow, ad-hoc rulings and improvisation; more so than any story-game I’ve ever played (and I’ve played a few).
In OD&D combat, you have to beat a number with a d20. This number takes into account your opponent’s ability to withstand real damage, be it because of a thick hide or his agility or speed. The tougher or quicker he is, the higher is the number you have to roll on your d20.
Fighters and non-fighters alike have not-too-good success chances on lower experience levels. This results in lots of misses. Now, misses are nothing else but dice rolls without any discernible result. In other words: unnecessary. Of course, its proponents argue that missed to-hit rolls still do something, namely for the “narrative”: they tell you you missed. Well, this kind of information does nothing for me. I don’t need it. I don’t want it.
Other systems, even the older ones that attempt to go back even further than OD&D, suffer from the same problem: Your dice roll can miss. ‘But in combat, misses increase tension!’, I hear some of you say.
All they do is they draw out combats. And this is not exactly my idea of fun. A miss is a miss is a wasted opportunity to move things forward.
Enter Into the Odd.
ItO doesn’t have to-hit-rolls. Every attack hits. You roll damage for your weapon, subtract armor (1 to 2 points for humans, 3 for the toughest monsters), and subtract the result from your hit points. Just as in OD&D, you start out with a measly 1d6 hp. Once your hp are gone, you are wounded and subtract any further damage from your Strength attribute. But each time you do that, you roll a STR test (on or under) to avoid a critical wound that’ll take you out.
This makes combat not only really fast, it also increases tension. The best you can hope for when the opponent attacks is they roll minimal damage. But hurt you, they will. This very much resembles what real melee is like — and I’m speaking from experience here; I was a military combatives/reality-based combat instructor.
So, what could I learn from Into the Odd?
Lots and lots.
I could, and I’ll definitely try that, do away with to-hit-rolls. Fighters either roll their damage “with advantage” (roll two dice, take the better result), or they roll what ItO calles “Enhanced Damage” (1d12), regardless of their weapon.
I could, and I’ll also try that, use ItO’s healing rules. They are more forgiving than OD&D, which is not a bad thing.
The bottom line is even more interesting than the details: Using ItO for OD&D combat turns the old game into something that very much resembles proto-ItO… From there, it’s only a small step to remove spells and turn them into “Oddities” (artifacts).
We’ll see what the future holds. One thing I’m sure of: It’ll be awesome.