I like looking at minimalist dungeon crawl rule sets, though I seldom would play them. “Into the Odd” by Chris McDowall may be an exception; it does what I want it to do, for the most part. Here are the changes I’d make off the bat:
- One person said ranged attacks would be a Dex check to hit. I like that.
- I’d likely use the light, encumbrance, and move stuff from “Crumbling Epoch.”
The rules get out of the way and provide resolution mechanics without being cumbersome. Fighting is fast and lethal and doesn’t mess around with armor class. Gear generation is delightful. I want to try this out.
Here’s one thing I want to add to the setting. I want to add a framework in which the arcanum makes sense.
I don’t really want it to be human magic, because humans are much more technologists than scientists; we are more invested as a group in “that” it works rather than “how” it works. A basic need in the scientific approach is that results can be replicated. So for a bunch of unique magical items, it may be reasonable to look further afield than humanity.
I also get a feel that the game is tied to the aesthetic of the Industrial Revolution weirded up, instead of the feudal age weirded up.
My solution to this (in my version) is diplomatic relations with the fey.
There were dozens of overlapping venn diagrams of fey groups and human geopolitical entities. Then one ruling council of humans and fey allowed their great ones to collaborate and figure out how to bring human industry and fey quirky magic together, and standardized a way to infuse unpredictable power into objects.
This had been done in preceding centuries. Toy makers both fey and human stumbled across or deliberately made magic with toys. Weapons crafted and plundered were a constant problem. But now there was a fusion of the technology and magic on an unprecedented level.
It was the very power of what came from that, named arcanum, that drove the races apart. The power mad among the fey and the humans ascended. The humans wanted the arcanum and the magic of the fey, and the fey wanted unfettered access to souls, breeding, and feeding directly on the essence of humanity. Both sides sought to enslave the other, for their own safety and profit.
The resulting war was bitter and destroyed most of the gates between the human and fey worlds. Whole cities were brought down. This new technology rendered war far more destructive than it had ever been before, and most of the weapons were consumed in the fighting and scorched-earth tactics in its wake. Guardians and traps were left for spite.
There are still a few “treaty cities” that escaped the worst of the fighting; places where humans and fey managed to hold to treaties older than greed. Such realms between realms are places like Vornheim, the impossibly vast city in the fey realm that is heavily populated by humanity.
If the characters are going to go after arcana, then they have to either have a fence to turn that magic into cash, OR have a strong protective organization that keeps them from being targeted by brutal thieves fey or human. Vornheim would be a great place to look for alliances that could protect them from both human and fey enemies through diplomacy and factional relationships rather than force or stealth alone.
Another place to look might be the island of Selvestria, an island between the fey and human realms that focuses on trade and is protected by musketeers.
The campaign refocuses, though, away from where recovery and rebuilding thrive. The focus of the adventurers is the ruined and devastated, where arcana is most plentiful upon the corpses and within the guarded vaults beneath shattered landscapes.
One site of power that’s been contested by fey and humans for millennia is the Dwimmermount. The presence of azoth and wacky technology is a great fit for “Into the Odd.” Another great site is where the undead, an element of chaotic fey, is infecting a human burial ground in the Barrowmaze.