I started a new campaign of Into the Odd this week, building a world inspired by Numenera‘s setting (The Ninth World). I use the following core world-building principles for this game:
- The world before us reached technological heights we can scarcely imagine.
- That world ended centuries ago for reasons no longer understood.
- As the descendants of those people, reclaiming their knowledge is our birthright.
I pulled together a group composed of existing friends and new folks from Discord and, after talking about tone and safety tools, they rolled up new characters.
Before the random character generation, I asked them to consider their characters as locals rather than adventurers who’ve wandered here from a faraway land. Rather than looting some far-off culture or swinging into town as unknown saviors, they run around their own land doing whatever they will do. Hopefully that means hunting for arcana and making a bit of coin.
Penny wears a fancy hat and carries an arcanum known as a “tyrant’s rod” that can force someone to stop. She’s got short curly hair, scuffed clothes, and dreams of deconstructing the leftover arcana to become a great inventor.
Flint wears a trenchcoat and carries a dagger. His tall, scraggly looks don’t do much to conceal his shifty nature. He just wants to make money, and exploring ruins to find valuable arcana seems like a good path to that.
Roland looms over most folks with his massive bulk but may disarm them slightly with his flattop mullet. He grew up with Penny and considers himself somewhat protective of her.
Beorsson ran with a bandit crew of some sort in the past. When he realized that the jig was up, he grabbed the boss’s heat ray and ran off, leaving his old crew behind. Crawling around the detritus of the prior world keeps him out of the sorts of places that others might expect to find him in.
I started them off by telling them that this village has recently undergone a number of earthquakes that don’t feel natural: an odd pulsing vibration.
We decided that Flint had scouted out into the badlands and found that the vibrations seemed to come from a large basalt spire sticking out of the salt flats.
Once inside, they found a room with four crystal pillars, each flashing unknown symbols. A heavy curtain split the middle of a small side room, and when they pulled it back, the two screens in that side room showed a map and an image of a location:
A curving passageway with a highly reflective obsidian floor led down and away from the room. Dangerous-looking spikes sprouted from the walls and monkey bars hung from the ceiling. But when they touched all four crystal pillars at once, a small floor panel opened up in the corner and they chose not to enter that passageway.
After some scouting, they dropped down into the next room to inspect a metal humanoid (automaton) that stood silent and still.
Since it didn’t immediately respond to them, they decided they wanted to pry off the weapon mounted into its right arm. At some point, they poked and prodded it enough that it powered on, but other than looking at them, it didn’t react. However, when they found several “void whips” and some kind of glowing shield in an attached storage room, Roland cracked the whip and that got things moving. Despite its relatively high stamina, eventually they took it down (although I believe Roland did in fact take Critical Damage during the fight).
Another similar obsidian floor led out of this room, but this time they hung from the monkey bars and swung along without touching the frictionless floor.
They then found themselves in a room with four metal domes attached to articulated arms in the walls, plus a sort of metallic torch or flashlight. After a bit of experimentation, they determined that the latter object was a “Hypno-Torch” that could cause someone to repeat the last action taken until the torch’s holder decided otherwise. Additionally, Penny stuck her head into one of the domes and felt it rewire her brain slightly to increase her willpower and confidence. (Doing so again in another dome gave her such a headache that she decided not to keep going.)
When we ended the session, they’d just walked into a room with a huge aquarium in an alcove on one end plus a few other objects we’ll get to next week.
I don’t know exactly how long this campaign will go, but hopefully for a little bit as I really like this style of using Numenera stuff in an OSR game. I’ve ported a few more creatures and some of the “cyphers” (arcana) into this system, because that’s a style of science fantasy I really dig. However, the game rules for Numenera have a little too much crunch for my taste and ItO fits me better.
The players liked an exploration-focused game rather than the combat-centric game implied by the rules for D&D. And I didn’t make everything easy: rather than say “monkey bars”, I said “U-shaped metal bars set into the ceiling”. Rather than say “whip”, I said “a 10-foot long rope that tapered from about one inch thick on one end down to a very thin point on the other”. At least, until they figured it out, after which we used the shorter description.
Everyone wanted a bit more interparty roleplay because technical problems with Discord video had really interfered with that during the session. Also, as much as they liked the exploration, it did bog down a bit with the automaton and I could have made it a bit more dynamic or perhaps included more hints about its motivation so they could have decided on a course of action sooner. Chris McDowall tells GMs / Conductors to err on the side of more information, and I didn’t quite do that well enough with that creature. Next time!
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