Translating OD&D to Into the Odd: What happens?

I’m a sucker for minimalist games, but ones that keep the old school spirit alive. Inspired by Brian Harbron’s ideas on incorporating old school magic in Into the Odd, I translated my group’s OD&D characters to ItO. The results are very interesting. I’ve come to really dislike wishy-washy “narrative” games that don’t take character death seriously. Into the Odd is the exact opposite of that. It’s like OD&D’s little mean brother. And I mean this as compliment.

This character:

becomes this:

In short: quicker and even more compact than OD&D. This looks more and more promising. I’ll keep y’all posted.

Chasing Windmills

Don Quijote and Sancho Panza

On Google+, the ultimate nerdkingdom for roleplayers, there’s a pretty interesting discussion going on at the moment. Initiated by a man with a big mouth and a hefty ax to grind, “RPGpundit”, this argument goes something likes this:

Man w/the ax: Appendix N is bullshit. No-one cares about it now, and no-one cared about it back in the days. Everyone who claims Appendix N is important is a fraud. Appendix N is not the “holy script” y’all are saying it is.

Others, joining the commentbait: Ah, no. Actually, there’s AMPLE proof that Appendix N was referenced back in the days. Appendix N was sort of a common ground for early wargamers and roleplayers. Nobody said it was a holy script. You just made that up. 

Man w/the ax: There never was a “one true old school”, as you are claiming!

Others: Who? Us? We? We never…

Man w/the ax: This all is happening because the whole clonemania OSR-Taliban crowd LOST. But as for you guys, you can claim “no one is saying that” but at the same time when I posted a blog not that long ago pointing out the importance of all the other appendices of the DMG, your whole crowd went apeshit insisting that no, Appendix N (the one least useful in actual play by far) is totally the most important one.

Others: Excuse us? What the fucking fuck are you even talking about?

I could write a two-word summary of this discussion: Strawman argument. Period. That’s what it is. RPGpundit (ironically a man I agree with on many levels when he is sincere in his writings, not just trying to stir some shit like now) attacks a remark someone made. In this case the remark is: “Appendix N is the single most important page in all of D&D”.

The problem with this is: Nobody made that claim, ever.

RPGpundit is attacking something that nobody ever said. A classic strawman argument (by the way one of the predominant figures of speech of politically left-leaning folks, which strikes me as kind of funny, considering RPGpundit’s conservative online persona).

If he left it at that, I’d be willing to say, alright, he tried some rhetorics, it didn’t work out, point taken, let’s move on. But unfortunately, it seems like he really wants to make a point because he attacks again. But this time, he changes targets: enter strawman #2.

Suddenly, the fact that nobody ever said what RPGpundit claims they said, makes room for “you all went apeshit when I said all the other appendices of the DMG were important”. This is a turn that makes me shake my head in disbelief. Who is this mysterious crowd? I certainly didn’t go apeshit, neither at home, nor online, because of an online comment. So, this generalization has hit the wall already. It isn’t true. Who exactly are “the clonemania OSR-Taliban crowd”? Again, a glaringly obvious generalization that does nothing to strengthen his argument.

The problem I have with this: RPGpundit’s fervor and furor to “expose” non-existent “frauds” and “OSR-Taliban” strikes me as strangely quixotic. He’s chasing windmills/strawmen, and I’m having my doubts that he’s playing a role at the moment. I think he really means what he’s writing, and THAT makes me a bit sad. The OSR could need more solidarity at the moment. Stuff like the RPGpundit’s only deepens the rift.

Into the Odd is onto something

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.

Ah, no.

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.

So this is what it’s like

After deleting my old wordpress blog (analogkonsole) a few weeks ago, I feel it’s time to restart. This time, I’ll avoid several mistakes I made. The biggest one was, without a doubt, giving a fuck about the insults political extremists lobbed at me. I’m a conservative, no “nazi”, no “alt-right”, no any other buzzword activists care to invent. I used to offer hundreds of pages of free rpg material, but I’ve deleted it (with the exception of my free games, I still have them) after a bunch of far-left extremists (who had ALL downloaded my rpg stuff, nonetheless) insulted me for condemning violence against human beings, regardless of political affiliation. Apparently, they belonged to the “punching a Nazi is the right thing to do”-bullshit camp. I do not subscribe to that worldview. Violence is violence, period.

And incredibly, my weltanschauung is coloring what I’m writing here.  You won’t read any outright political statements here, at least for the foreseeable future. But we all know our powers of divination are not too good, do we?

So, in closing, expect some ideas about old school roleplaying that might be inspiring. But they could also be really, really boring. You decide 😉