Information and Perception

Into the Odd encourages d6 encounter tables, not all of which need to be dangerous; in fact, most of mine are not. I forgot to write one when I originally drew up the dungeon we’re running right now. I have one now, of course, and it pointed me to why it’s helpful to create them when originally stocking the dungeon. The random encounters should provide more flavor or information about what’s in the dungeon, and in this case I should have had more creature variety of some sort. It’s fine now, as I made stuff up, but it would have been helpful.

When I say “dangerous encounters”, I don’t mean that in the D&D 5e sense. Balance as understood in that play culture does not exist in this game. It means “preserving interesting choices”, and that’s it. OSR games in general tend to de-emphasize numerical or mechanical balance in favor of giving players tools to gather information and make decisions.

A group of men entering a palace are invited by their hostess to look at the piece of tapestry she had been weaving.
“The Voyagers Examined the Web of Cloth”, Virginia Francess Sterrett, 1921

Many of these systems have nothing like “Perception” or whatever. You can just tell them what they see initially, and then the players describe what they’re doing to learn about the environment. The real fun is in figuring out what to do about the challenge, so just give them the info and watch them squirm trying to decide.

Because of that, I hate Perception-type rolls in other games, almost as much as I hate “roll to see if your character knows X”. It can work in certain game genres where the game is about that, such as Call of Cthulhu. But I learned a trick from PbtA games: when a player asks, “what does my character know about this?” (assuming it’s possible the character could legitimately know), just straight out tell them! But then you ask, “how does your character know this?” It leads to lots of interesting stuff to build on late – and they still have to figure out what actions they will take.

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