Reading Into the Odd – Survival horror roleplaying game by Chris McDowall

I asked for some new games to review over on G+, and Chris sent me a playtest version of Into the Odd. Let’s take a look!

The book
Into the Odd into_the_oddcomes as a 25 page A4 PDF. The text is laid out in a two column format and is very readable. The game reads in less than an hour. There are numerous black and white illustrations, presumably harvested out of the Public Domain.

The setting
The introduction describes the setting as follows:

The world is too large for anyone to fully map and too old for academics to accurately record. Explorers return from every direction with tales of bizarre places, wondrous and horrific.

You are an Explorer, braving the unknown in search of riches, fame, knowledge or power.

Behind that we find the outlines of a 19th century setting merged with the weird. Aliens, monsters and items that spontaneously develop magical properties can all be found here, and treasure. Lots of treasure, reasons for going into dark holes and braving the dangers beneath.

It feels very much like the old computer game Arcanum, but sans the magicians, elves and dwarves.

The rules
The rules are simple, characters consist of three stats (Dexterity, Strength and Will) that are rolled by 2d6+3. Then 10 is subtracted from each to get the bonus that is applied to all rolls for actions in that area that the characters engage in. Combat does away with any to hit roll, and attacks are simply resolved rolling damage straight away.

For the game’s size a surprising amount of the text is dedicated to the company mechanics, which allow the PCs to found actual companies, but also businesses, cults, political parties. There’s also a mass combat system which will come in handy the day the company comes into conflict with another company.

The form
The form is traditional. A game master (called referee) pits a group of player characters against traps, monsters and other hardships. Characters that manage to survive gain experience and improve.

The setting is weak. There’s not very much information about the setting in the game. But that should not be a problem for an experienced group willing to fill in the blanks themselves. There are enough monsters and magical items presented in the game to last for a while though.
The rules are good. The game sets out to be a simple and quick dungeon bash/adventure game, and the rules definitely support that kind of play.
The form is very good. There’s an extended example of play showing how the game should be played, and a full adventure is included showing what kind of play the game was written for.

Will I play it?
I’m leaning towards a no. Not my kind of game, really. But on the other hand, for the very rules light Old School group I run games for occasionally, this looks like a better choice than the Swords & Wizardry White Box rules we’re currently using. The lack of depth in the ItO rules will not be a concern for those players, and the simpler mechanics might even suit them better. – Official site for Sooga Games, where the game can be downloaded.

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