AAR: Into the Odd Stellarium
I finally got round to trying Into The Odd. It’s by Chris McDowall and a forerunner of Electric Bastionland. I was interested in something rules-light, but I’d previously struggled using Maze Rats. The most contraversial thing of ItO is that it has no to-hit mechanic. All attacks hit, you only roll damage. That’s certainly an efficiency saving, you’re halving the rolls. Players don’t have to wait through a turn and then flub their attack. The only problem, the enemies don’t miss either…
The dungeon I used was the Stellarium of the Vinteralf. The vinteralf are glacier-dwellers, and æons ago built a stellarium to investigate the heavens. It’s been abandoned and forgotten for some time, but the heroes have been told it’s poking out of the ice again. Pillage it!
If you don’t want to know what happens in this one page dungeon, skip the plot.
The party woke up from their camp in the steaming valley to discover the weather was nice, but wolves appeared and started following them as they travelled towards the glacier. As they got more interested, the PCs patted their pockets and found animal repellant. It smelled terrible, but the wolves slunk away.
The party found the cavern at the bottom of the glacier, full of lichen. They ignored it in favour of climbing up to the clearly artificial tunnel entrance above them. After a few false starts from falling ice (nothing a Short Rest didn’t fix1), the started down the tunnel, until they heard whispering ahead 🙈. Creeping down in the dark, one player heard two people planning an ambush.
The party attempted to flip this, and surprise the attackers, but cocked up the “surprise” bit. In the end it was a straight shoot-out, ending in some thorough corpse-looting. They sent the lighter boy up to the Hall of the Orrery, whereupon he came back vomiting. The dragon had broken in here, and was using it as an icy larder of dead bodies. The party looted this as well, taking a nice tabard off a dead page2 with a fancy standard on it. And a bottle of poison (a page going places, clearly).
Then the dragon returned, and, like Bilbo, they bravely ran away.
Loud sniffing was heard upstairs, and much recrimination was heaped on those using the fragrant animal repellant 💩.
The party then found the frozen vinteralf in the hall, and
started to loot woke them up.
The tabard convinced Prince Thavir the party were there to help…right up until they used the poison in their food 🤢 💀.
Before the poison took effect, the party heard of the legendary starsword lost in this dungeon, and started to check out the foundry for some goggles to prevent blinding by its magic. Then they realised they’d have to fight the dragon for it, and decided they preferred the loot they’d acquired already3.
How I ran it
To fit in a 2 hour session, I made the following changes:
- Started the party in the Steaming Valley, rather than letting them arrive themselves
- Generated the characters ahead of time, including a spare
- Statted the NPCs to something that seemed okay?
- Panik 🥴
- Removed a few other NPCs, made the remainder a bit more neutral (the vinteralf weren’t going to be immediately angry unless the party had looted already)
- Made the Interesting Finds table more ItO-ish (added some Arcanum entries)
- Swapped the dragon encounter for “the dragon approaches”. I figured the party would want to run away, which indeed they did
I own the book, and there is a free player-facing PDF of the rules as well. I used Foundry for running this, which worked pretty well.
Into The Odd is available as a system, in the same way one would normally use dnd5e. It does not generate characters or have a compendium of weapons, armour, or inventory. This doesn’t matter too much though because the rules are so light4.
I added the following extra modules:
- Pings - I always want to be able to highlight areas, this should be stock IMO
- Cautious Gamemaster - I don’t want to do rolls as players. This still happened in the game, so maybe I didn’t set it up correctly this time?
- Simple Fog - This allows fog to be revealed through painting, like original Roll20. It worked really well in fact, I would definitely use this again for one-page dungeon-likes.
Only slightly annoying bit is that you have to drag the Actors onto a board to make an encounter. And then I wanted to set token art. Basically I want to blame someone else for me spending a quarter of an hour choosing tokens. Eh, my players liked ‘em.
This didn’t quite fit into two hours, three would have been more comfortable. So, the party never actually fought the dragon, but they agreed they would have run away instead. Another session to cover that seemed unnecessary. Only one player took Critical Damage, which I think is about the right difficulty. As there were only three players, anything more would have rapidly tipped over into a TPK. They also avoided the lichen which would have ruined their day. On a warm body it breeds quickly (although I hadn’t decided on the exact effect).
This is the first time I’ve used a Trilemma map. It’s very beautiful, but not as easy to read as I’d hoped. I’d had the recommendation to draw out the locations as a graph instead, but I don’t think it would have helped me realise the line up the middle of the map is the next-mountain-over and not part of the map. They’re a little trickier to translate to VTT especially, but the SimpleFog worked well enough.
The players tried to avoid combat much more than usual. Which is quite something compared to the normal 5e games! It felt more “OSR-y” in that sense, as I’m comparing with the old-school Illmire 5e game.
Actual things to remember:
- Players loot bodies, plan for what they find. I had just handed out the equipment, should have had some more interesting stuff. There’s so many “I loot the body” tables I could have rolled!
- Armour is supposed to be less common than I made it (I gave most enemies 1+ armour)
I liked it. I need to chat to the players more about it, some found it a little too light. If it is indeed too light, I might look at something with a bit more detail, like Worlds Without Number. That’s a much heavier book to take to the pub though! The Black Hack, perhaps?