Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Route Mapping Bastion

The exact geography of Bastion’s streets is less important than the route between key points. As such, Bastion is best mapped like a Rail Network.

Draw two or more circuits or lines denoting different Transport Routes, ensuring they cross over. These can be walkways, tramways, canals, boulevards, or others. Give each circuit at least one branch that leads to a dead-end.

Plan a Complication that comes with using each Route.

Dot a node at each point where routes cross, each corner, and each dead-end. Name each node after a Feature such as a significant building, park, or monument. List a couple of additional locations found around each Feature. More facilities can be added as you or the players need them, so flavour is more important here.

If the group want to get between two nodes by a different route, there is always a dark alleyway or inconvenient short-cut. The same applies for attempts to explore further than your map currently extends.

Nobody has a city map of Bastion, but smaller sections of the city often have maps or signs to help citizens get their bearings. As such, you can show players the map you have prepared, but only reveal the details through their own investigation.

Treasures found in Bastion are either:
  • Lost in an abandoned or dangerous Borough.
  • Owned by somebody powerful, and held securely.
  • Left in plain sight by somebody unaware of what they possess.

  • When it's running, it's deadly fast and costs 1s per person for any complete journey.
  • Grants a great view of the streets below.
  • It breaks down all the time so every time you make a journey, one of you makes a CHA Save. On a fail, it breaks down halfway between the first two nodes, and you have to climb down a ladder into the middle of nowhere. 
  • The Oil-Dumo-Scrap route is always very congested, moving at a crawl.
  • The open waters of the north-west quarter of the loop are scenic but swarming with mugging-parties.
  • There are free boats, but they're slow and awful. Fancy private boats charge 10s per journey, increasing if you look fancy or desperate. 
  • Primarily a water well, but also a courtyard surrounded by eateries.
  • Restaurants will buy exotic ingredients for a good price.
  • Some meet here to socialise, but it's a known criminal hotspot too.
  • The top floor has a Day Spa frequented by Bastion's elite.
  • When the wind is high, panes of glass often fall down onto passers-by.
  • The surroundings are quite desolate, but builders are working on new projects.
  • Rows of shops that never seem to have any customers.
  • They only sell worthless things and give awful tattoos.
  • Has a swampy park overrun with lizards.
  • A museum of elephants through time.
  • In the dockyards around here, elephants are still used out of tradition as beasts of burden.
  • The housing around here is cheap, because of the elephant smell, so very popular with students, who know a back-alley route to their university.
  • Here rubbish is dumped from massive cable-cars above.
  • The canal goes underground to the processing plant.
  • There is a huge workhouse here, housing thousands of workers with no better prospects.
  • There was a crushing sports defeat here years ago, so a stadium lies abandoned in mourning.
  • The locals here are rough, and mentioning The Defeat is punishable by specific beatings, depending on the circumstances.
  • There's a collectibles market here, buying and selling useless but interesting things.
  • Fancy upmarket housing, with tasteful faux-graffiti on the walls.
  • Boutique shops selling hair oil, tonics, and soap.
  • Has an open air theatre known for political opera. 
  • A market selling things salvaged from the Dump, staffed entirely by Mock Animals due to some bylaw.
  • Mockeries give each other a generous discount and try to rip-off humans.
  • The scrap is kept extremely neat, and the mockeries harshly punish litering the spotless streets around here.
  • An aristocratic hall turned into day-out for the whole family, with slides and overpriced cake.
  • The grounds are well-kept, with forests and lakes that almost make you forget you're in the city, until you come across squatters in tents.
  • The Library Wing is still owned by the a member of the aristocratic family, carrying out lonely study.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Imprints: Foreground Growth in Context

Foreground Growth is a simple concept; It can be broken down into three principles.

Foreground Growth
  1. Your character grows more interesting, not necessarily more powerful. 
  2. Every piece of growth is tied to a specific experience. 
  3. There are growth opportunities everywhere. 
Scars and Oddities are easy to throw in there, but having a characters' adventures directly affect their growth is more tricky.

I've explained it in the context of the original Into the Odd samples monsters.

For my own game prep, I'm referring to these character-altering abilities as Imprints. Think of them as a simplified take on the Odd Marks that I experimented with in the past.

  • Imprints function in the same way as Oddities, but are part of a character’s physical being.
  • When creating an Odd Being, ensure it has at least one way of leaving an Imprint on a character through the being's action or players' exploitation.
  • Imprints generally affect a single character, and always manifest physically, overriding previous Imprints to that body part. 

It's nothing new really, just a new take on Oddities, but it won't make much sense without examples, so let's hit up the classic D&D Monster Manual and see how I'd implement Implants there.

Remember that not every Imprint is going to happen to every group that encounter that monster, but there's at least the possibility there.

Skeleton Guard
STR 10, DEX 15, CHA 1, 5HP. Ancient Sword (d6) and Shield Armour (1).

  • Piercing attacks are Impaired.
  • Intrigued and Confused by modern technology.
  • Breaking the Shield of a Skeleton Guard Imprints the breaker's forehead with the shield's symbol. They can command any Skeleton Guards bearing this symbol.

STR 15, DEX 10, CHA 5, 12HP, Thick Hide (2), Angry Jaws (d10). Death-Ray (d10, Permanently Petrified on Critical), Telekenesis Ray (STR Save to avoid being thrown).
  • Hates everything that is different to itself.
  • Swearing servitude to the Beholder requires a CHA Save. On a fail, the Beholder executes the character, on a Success it Implants them with a Merged Eye capable of rudimentary telekinesis.
  • The Beholder's central eye renders any technology, Oddities, or Implants useless as long as the gaze remains.
Colossal Red Dragon
STR 19, DEX 10, CHA 14, 18HP. Huge and Scaly (3), Jaws (d12) or Tail (d10 Sweep).
  • Wants to hoard precious things and avenge thieves.
  • Breathe Fire (d10 blast, Recharges with a Rest).
  • Burning a dragon's heart requires extreme heat, but consuming the ash Imprints that character with bright red hair, and allows them to breathe fire as the dragon could in life, once per day.
Ice Devil
STR 15, DEX 17, CHA 2, 11HP, Carapace (1), Ice Fork (d10, Freezed Solid on Critical)
  • Seeking a single target, to be frozen and taken back to Ice Hell.
  • Anyone that survived being Frozen by the Devil's fork now has ice-blue eyes Imprinted, and can recover lost STR by bathing themselves in ice water.
  • If killed, summons d6 Ice Devils to avenge them (these cannot Summon any more).

STR 16, DEX 4, CHA 19, 9HP. Big and Blubbery (2), Tentacle Lash (d8), d6 Smelly Grey Slaves (2HP, d6 Spear)
  • Always plotting for revenge against another Aboleth that may be off in a distant time or place.
  • Gurgles a command, which the target must obey or lose d6 CHA. Always starts with "Bow to Me". 
  • Anyone bowing to the Aboleth, or driven to 0 CHA in their presence, gets covered in slime and Imprinted with grey skin. They now smell so bad that others around them are Deprived unless they move to a safe distance.

Gelatinous Cube
STR 13, DEX 3, CHA 0, 1HP.
  • Ignore any physical attacks besides explosives, electricity, or extreme temperatures, and drift towards the nearest source of body-heat, or away from extreme temperatures.
  • Pass over anything in their way, forcing a DEX Save to avoid being enveloped. Enveloped characters cannot break free themselves and lose d6 STR each turn through corrosion. Anyone 
  • A small Central-Gland is found at the top of the cube. Eating this turns Imprints the character by turning their tongue transparent and allowing them to melt any organic matter in their mouth.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Faces in the Crowd

People are everywhere in Bastion. Frankly, there are too many altogether.

Everyone hates the crowds, but nobody wants to move to a Failed City or, worse yet, some Deep Country backwater.

If the players take a closer look at the crowds around them, Roll d12 to see who stands out.

They hate being part of a crowd as much as you do, so have the NPC make a CHA Save when you encounter them.

If they fail, they're lose their cool and are lashing out at somebody else. If they pass, they're having a positive interaction with somebody else (either way, roll another d12).

1: Juveline Chain-Gang: STR 15, 5HP, Hidden Lockpicks and Daggers (d6).
- Cry pathetically as a diversion so that one of the four can escape.
- Shout about being wrongfully imprisoned.
- Do anything in exchange for gum.

2: Mock Badger Academic: STR 16, 3HP. Badger Head, Big Club (d8, 2h).
- Explain his theory for having a cull of 50% of the human population of Bastion.
- If you use a fallacy, he'll calmly explain what you did wrong.
- If you use a second fallacy, he clubs and tears at you.

3: Wormgirls: CHA 15, 4HP. Filthy Rags, Perfect Hair and Makeup.
- Take turns pretending to lie in state, while the others weep our eulogies.
- Apply more make-up to appear corpse-like, but still conventionally attractive.
- Swoon at any stories involving corpses.

4: Giant Bagman: STR 18, 2HP. Huge Bags.
- Offer to carry anything that will fit in his sack for a Shilling per turn on the journey.
- Offer to sell the contents of a bag he forgot the destination of. 
- Offer to bag up somebody you hate and kick them about (but not to death) for 30s.

5: Rad-Rat Preacher: CHA 15, 3HP. Tie-Dyed Suit, Glowing Rod.
- Bellow about a Glowing Rat Swarm that's coming soon to sweep over Bastion.
- If questioned, explain that he knows it's not true but he's preparing for a play.
- If questioned about the play, explain that it really is true after all. Repeat as necessary.

6: Fox Team for Hire: CHA 4, 6HP. Snub-Muskets (d6, 2h), Black Uniforms and Masks.
- Offer to carry out legal security work for 50s a night, but they will keep on haggling for more benefits and more money until you lose patience with them.
- If you leave they finally cave and go back to the last agreed offer.
- If you try to leave without making a deal they'll hunt you down tonight.

7: Bonehead (and Acoloytes): CHA 16, 5HP. Skull for a Head, Sharp Suit. Acolytes (1dp) have painted skull faces and less impressive suits.
- Perform skull-throwing tricks to try and lure in more acoyltes, promising to make them into Boneheads too.
- Regrow from any physical harm, as long as the skull remains. 
- Deliberately antagonise people and then play the victim.

8: Lighter Cats: DEX 17, 3HP. Grapples and Ropes, Flare Gun (d6), Luxurious Moustaches.
- Perform actobatic tricks as they swing from one gaslamp to another, firing flares to light them.
- Put out a bucket to collect money since their funding was cut.
- Fire Flareguns at any Mockeries they see, who they inexplicably hate.

9: Investigative Crone: CHA 16, 2HP. Portable Tea Set, Magnifying Glass.
- Calmly describe a horrible murder to you.
- Keep asking you questions that might implicate you in the murder.
- With a shred of perceived proof, she'll run to the authorities.

10: Mockodile: STR 18, 10HP. Jaws (d10), Metal Hide (Armour 2).
- Peer out from manhole covers, singing the Snap-Snap Song.
- Try to eat any children that come nearby.
- Has no objection to adults, and will guide you through the Underground if you lure a child to him.

11: Iron Sally Fanatics: CHA 5, 2HP. Iron Sally Doll and Accessories. Waistcoats with Iron Sally designs.
- Discuss why the original Iron Sally doll was the best design.
- Discuss why the new Iron Sally doll is the best design.
- Discuss why their families just don't understand Iron Sally.

12: Country Dogburglar: DEX 7, 7HP. Crowbar (d6), Loot Sack, Head-Covering Sack with one eye hole.
- Loudly announce himself as a burglar.
- Try to kill any nearby cats, as they're bad luck for dogburglars.
- Kick in a door and try to rob a place loudly.

Monday, 16 January 2017

A Procedure for Play

Bastionland is going to distill a lot of GM guidance into very clear procedures. Each of the four sections of the world will have their own procedure, but the core procedure for running the game is something like this:

When you're Refereeing Into the Odd and the players do something, look at the list below.

Work from top to bottom, and when you find a solution to what you're trying to resolve, don't go any further down.
  1. Can you make this into a Dilemma? If so, do it.
  2. Does it make sense for it to just happen? If so, go right to the Consequences.
  3. Is it still uncertain? If so, call for a Save.
  4. I guess it was impossible, give the players more Information to help them come up with reasonable action. 

Further Guidance

Dilemma: Give a clear choice between two desirable outcomes. The players pick one or try to come up with a way to get both, usually by expending a resource or taking a risk.  
Consequences: Make their action matter in the world and push things forwards. Give them information about the new situation they find themselves in. If the consequences can ripple out to effect the world, all the better. 
Save: Saves always carry a risk, so explain what's at stake before the players commit to their action. 
Information: If in doubt, give the players more information and ask them frankly what they're actually trying to achieve with their actions. Don't be a distant referee, get down in the mud with them and discuss the situation. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

This Charming Mammoth (and Social/Mental Mechanics)

I've talked about my reasoning behind trying Charm in place of Willpower.

Essentially it strengthens the idea that Ability Scores generally have two uses in Into the Odd.

  1. Rolled against when you make a Save due to a risky situation.
  2. Whittled away as a resource when you take serious harm in that area.

(At some point I need to write about how point 2 fits in with DEX. It's not a problem, but it has some interesting implications)

1a. Charm Saves for Players

So my previous post talked a little about point 1, how you roll against your CHA. The key word to remember there is Risk. I'm not necessarily having players roll CHA as soon as they encounter another being, but if you attempt an uncertain interaction, that's when you roll. This could range from:

  • Asking a favour of someone who's friendly.
  • Calming down somebody who's hostile.
  • Trying to get somebody to spill some information without feeling strong-armed.
  • Convince somebody you're telling the truth.
And as with all Saves, smart play and obvious situations can bypass the need for a roll. 

Without a roll, but not without consequences. 
  • Throwing meat to alligators or paying a massive bribe? No roll, but you expend the resource and it's only a temporary fix.
  • Intimidating someone clearly weaker than you? They'll do what you want but now they're not going to avoid you, or maybe try to get you back.
  • Cashing in a favour from somebody you have a close relationship with? Fine, but they'll expect the same from you in future. 
1b Charm Saves for NPCs and Monsters

For allies, CHA can be used in a similar way to PCs. You send that lacky off to deal with a contact and they make a CHA Save to see if they get what they need without leaving a bad impression.

The most obvious use for opposing NPCs and monsters is for leaders trying to prevent a Morale failure amongst their troops. But while Charm is everything you project outwards, this in itself requires control over your subconscious. A lack of Charm reflects a focus on base needs, someone easily dominated by others and their own urges. 
So what about that individual monster with CHA 1. What does it matter that this Slime Thing is totally without Charm?

If the Slime Thing is hurt, and I know it's a mindless thing that will always fight to the death, I'm probably never going to roll its CHA. 

But consider the humanoid Slime Hybrids that lost half of their Charm as part of their transformation. The former humans might have CHA 5, which can be rolled against when there's a risk of their human side showing through (such as running from harm, or refusing to absorb those orphans). 

Or on the other side of the coin, a Cosmic Angel with CHA 17 might have a secret Vice that they must roll a CHA Save to avoid indulging in, given the opportunity. 

So rather than rolling WIL to see if the monster of NPC does the smart thing, I'd roll CHA to see if they have the composure to act against their base urges, which will vary based on the type of being they are. 

Can a Monster force you to roll a CHA Save to avoid some nasty effect? Absolutely! 

Can it roll against its own CHA to convince you of something? No, and I'm sure the reasons for that are obvious. It creates some asymmetry between PCs and NPCs but it's not a problem.

2. Charm Damage

Now what about Point 2. WIL Damage represented sanity-sapping stuff, but what does it mean to lose your Charm?

You become more detached. Those that depend on you for leadership become less sure of you. You turn inward more and more until at Charm 0 you can't interact with the outside world at all.

You Restore your Charm through psychiatric therapy, spiritual meditation, or heavy carousing.

Things that drain your Charm are sapping away at everything that makes you you.

Using CHA isn't as straightforward as using STR and DEX, but it's an opportunity to get creative with the behaviour of your monsters and NPCs. 

Conceptualising Charm

As an aside, I previously toyed with the names Modernity and Civility for the social/mental Ability Score. Thematic, but doesn't work so well in practice. Still, an element of that flavour remains. The big movers and shakers in Bastion usually have higher CHA scores, and animals usually have low scores. 

Charm and Oddities

In my own games, the reliance of Arcana/Oddities on WIL/CHA is gone. The fact that these are the only two names I've changed from the book probably shows my lingering dissatisfaction with that part of the game.

Now everyone can have Oddities. They're more likely to be disposable, or specific in use, though you might still find the occasional super-flexible item that becomes one of your go-to solutions, as long as there's an additional trade off to its use.

Less mentally bending the Oddity to do what you want. More using problem solving to create situations where your Oddities can help you. It puts more weight on your decisions than whether or not you can convince the Referee to let you make a WIL Save to have your Arcanum to solve the problem.

Might some Oddities still drain your CHA away as a trade off? Yes! But there's nothing stopping them draining away your other scores too.

This Charming Mammoth

That's a lot of theory. So let's finally get to the post title.

Mr Ears - Mock Mammoth Bartender
STR 18, DEX 5, CHA 18, 5hp, Massive Furry Body (Armour 3, bypassed by Fire), Wooden Tusks (d8), Threadbare Suit, Warm Fuzzy Voice.

  • Runs the bar at the Apocryphal Specimen Museum containing the remains of animals that probably didn't ever exist. 
  • Offers to cradle you in his trunk while you pour your heart out to him (two drink minimum). An hour of doing this restores your CHA but Mr Ears knows your secrets now. 
  • Knows every drink recipe but has a super clumsy trunk, so requires a DEX Save to avoid spilling even the most basic thing. Is utterly ashamed when he spills something.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017


I'm currently experimenting with renaming Into the Odd's Willpower Ability to Charm.

Symbolic of Into the Odd leaping off the rails, potentially over a shark.

Relax, I still use it in the same way as WIL.

Here's how it currently faces the players in my drafted home version.

Your character has three ability scores.

STRength – Power and Toughness.

DEXterity – Subtlety and Precision

CHArm –Influence and Composure.

Reaction: When you make first contact with someone, person or monster, the player making contact rolls a CHA Save to avoid a particularly bad first impression. For hostile encounters, even a positive reaction can be unfriendly.

Morale: The leader of a group must pass a CHA save to avoid their followers being routed when they take their first casualty, or lose half of their total numbers. This applies to opponents and allies but not player characters. 

And slightly expanded for the Referee.

Reaction Saves: When a character makes first contact with another being, they make a CHA Save to see if they garner a more positive or negative response than usual. This Save is repeated if the character puts strain on an existing relationship.

High CHA characters that ask too much of others will still drive them away. 

So if it's the same, why use a different name at all?

I wrote about looking at WIL in a more social way last year. And these rules aren't anything new, but I've been using a different name lately for a few reasons:
  • The majority of the active use for WIL score is social, and I like the abilities to have a clear active use. If CHA is your only good score, you get an idea of how you should play that character. If WIL was your only high score, it wasn't as obvious that you still had a tool to work with. 
  • If I ask you to imagine a low, medium, and high STR person, it's easy to do. Same for DEX. For WIL it's a bit more fuzzy, but everyone knows someone that's high and low on Charm. While Willpower is inward-facing, Charm is something you project outward. 
  • I've sometimes had NPCs and Monsters roll WIL Saves to see if they "do the smart thing" but I prefer giving behavioural guidelines through their moves. If you need to see if they fall for the party's tricks then putting the focus on the player character's CHA score works well. 
  • Sanity damage stuff currently affects WIL, and the transition to CHA damage works just fine, but this is the one area where I feel a little something is lost. An attack on your Willpower makes more sense than an attack on your Charm. However, I like that as they lose CHA, the character becomes more detached and less likeable.
  • For Morale use, it shifts away from the WIL of the individual and to the CHA of the leader. This makes high CHA characters more useful when leading hirelings, and gives juicy targets to break organised groups of enemies. 
  • I continue to move away from WIL as the "magic score", and severing the link between the strange powers of Oddities and the numbers on the character sheet. Oddities should be interesting and potentially risky because of their own properties, not because you have a low WIL score.
Having a leader with CHA 17 doesn't mean you won't die.

Of course using the abbreviation CHA is going to draw parallels to D&D's Charisma. This is no bad thing, as it's probably the closest parallel to the way I use the score, though I find Charisma carries more weight of being the canonical dump-stat. I might end up using Charisma for that ease of association, but we'll see.

Also, a bit of clarification on yesterday's post. 

This book will contain everything you need to play and run Into the Odd.

It is not replacing the current book. Material that will not be reproduced in Bastionland is:

  • The Iron Coral, Fallen Marsh, and Hopesend adventure sites. 
  • The Oddpendium.
  • The sample Arcana and Monsters (a handful of the former have been remade and find a home in the new character backgrounds).
  • All of the art. 

Any rule changes I make will be minor, and conversion will be a complete non-issue.

So when both books are out there, and somebody asks me which one they should buy, I'd say:

  • Someone's running this and I just need to make a character and know how to play: Into the Odd - Free Edition
  • I want to run a pick-up game out of the box, with ready made content: Into the Odd
  • I want to play or run Into the Odd, and I want more setting-meat and content creation guidance: Bastionland

Saturday, 31 December 2016

The State of Bastionland

Bastionland isn't really a state. It's a way of thinking that generally shares a few ideas:

  1. Bastion is important enough that even those outside it must surely accept that they live in Bastionland.
  2. Anyone that doesn't think Bastion is important clearly isn't intelligent enough to form their own state, so they're included too.
  3. The theory is that all Far Lands have a Bastion of their own, so of course they're included, even if they're Enemies of Bastionland. 

Nobody owns the Bastionland idea, the Mouse Queen is just one person that supposedly threw the word around, and I don't think she's even real.

Don't even start a discussion about flags and constitutions.

But this is a double-meaning post. So I also wanted to give an update on the state of the Into the Odd Toolkit that shares the codename of Bastionland.

It's a worldbook where all fluff is tied to a part of the actual game. Baked-in setting description taken to the next level.

Tentatively, the table of contents will look like this.

Creating your Character
Playing the Game
100 Character Backgrounds
For Referees
Planning the Places
Planning the Danger
Planning the People
Running the Game
Running Bastion
Running the Underground
Running Deep Country
Running the Far Lands

Each of those sections (excluding the character backgrounds) will fit on a 2 page spread, so you open the book to that part and have everything you need.

The Running the Game sections are intended to work like a sort of GM Screen for that specific place, giving you everything you need on hand to make that part of the world feel right. And as Into the Odd isn't big on reference charts and formulas, that content is going to be distilled Referee direction on running that place in the most evocative and effective way.

Playing the Game is almost entirely unchanged from the core game, besides cleaning things up and maybe one rule change regarding how Rests work. This isn't a new edition of the rules.

Meanwhile, the new character Backgrounds replace Starter Packages, but function very similarly.

You compare your Highest and Lowest Ability Scores on a chart to find your starter Package number between 1 and 100. You go to that page to get something like this.

Or maybe this.

More meat than the old starter packages, but still fits nicely onto an index card when you pull out your results.

Not pictured is a small section at the bottom of each Background that also gives you a Contact in the world and a couple of other pieces of information that may or may not make the final cut of the book.

These character backgrounds are the window into the world. There are no timelines or maps of Bastion. They're for players, but the Referee can flick open to any one of them and pull out chunks of the world. If 100 Backgrounds seems excessive, that's the reason.

Dare to dream of Bastionland in 2017.