Awhile back, I blogged about a work-in-progress RPG tentatively titled “Down Town,” a hack of Into the Odd about modern-day urban spelunkers delving into the weird underworld far beneath the streets. I think this game will be super fun to run, so I keep getting distracted thinking about it—but I have more pressing projects, and, pretty unusually for me, I’m actually more excited about using other people’s material to run it than writing my own material. So, I’ve decided to just post everything I have here now in the hopes that it’ll get it off my chest awhile. Perhaps I’ll come back to this later, if running a short campaign gives me some ideas for how I can expand on it.
Rules changes from Into the Odd
The rules are identical to those in Into the Odd, save for a few small additions.
Food & Water: Up to 3 rests’ worth is easy enough to tote around; more than that counts as a bulky item. If you run out, you will have to consume food and water from Down Town in order to regain HP when you rest, which you probably would prefer not to do.
Odd Marks: As Chris McDowall introduced on his blog, there are a lot of different ways to pick up a variety of biological and supernatural mutations. The main drawback of most marks is that they look very obviously weird, which rather complicates the PCs’ lives in the modern-day world. I offer 50 examples below as random effects of consuming a goldcap shroom, or as possible results of consuming food or water you didn’t bring down yourself.
Critical Damage: Creature creation guidelines advise making monsters much more likely to remove parts of PCs’ bodies upon dealing critical damage (e.g., “on critical damage, the goblin begins eating the unconscious character’s fingers”). More “civilized” areas of Down Town will have surgeons capable to replacing lost body parts with unnatural means, offering another means to acquire marks.
Maintaining Consciousness: After suffering critical damage, you may take d4 WIL damage on your turn to move or take an action. (I just hate players having to sit around and do nothing, and this is a nice house rule to keep things moving.)
Roll abilities and HP as you would for an Into the Odd character, then roll d20 on Backgrounds, and then choose from Items.
Every background should be clear about what would compel a person to take a vacation in a megadungeon. I’d like to have 100, but 20 will do for a draft version.
- Psychic. You sense you could learn more about your condition down there. Roll d6 on marks.
- Addict. Got hooked on something from down there, and your dealer’s disappeared. Take 3 goldcap shrooms (grants a random mark for d4 hours; suffer vomiting and shakes each day you go cold turkey).
- Wannabe dealer. The dealer you answered to disappeared, so now somebody else has got to figure out where the hookup came from. Take a handgun (d8) and 2 goldcap shrooms (grants a random mark for d4 hours, but you’re not supposed to eat the merchandise).
- Oddity peddler. Your criminal clientele will kill you if you stop selling them new, weird stuff. Take a handgun (d8) and 1 oddity.
- Daylighter. Investigating possible subterranean heritage. Take grandfather’s cryptic journal and 1 mark that first manifests once you get down there.
- Sports fan. Lost a bet over the Sox/Yankees game. You won’t sully your team’s honor by backing out now. Take a helmet and pads (1 armor) and a bat (d6).
- Hunter. No one’s ever stuffed and mounted a goblin before. Take your choice of a rifle or shotgun (d8, bulky) or recurve bow and arrows (d6, quiet).
- Avowed single. Desperate measures to avoid ubiquitous ex. Take pepper spray (d2 attack, target saves STR or DEX vs. losing next action).
- Sibling. Someone has to look after this knucklehead. Make sure another player or the ref is OK playing the sibling, or else they’re already down there and you have to find them. Take 1 extra of any starting item.
- Millennial. Crippling student debt. Take an especially nice baseball bat that once earned you a trophy (d6).
- Streamer. Need new material for internet show. Take a janky old video camera that works a bit longer down there than the fancy newer ones.
- Thrill seeker. Take more advanced climbing gear, parachute, and bungie cord.
- Layabout. Can’t hold down a real job. This sounds at least as interesting as video games, though. Take enough food for 9 rests (counts as bulky until down to 3 rests’ worth).
- Anthropologist. Research for a peer-reviewed paper. Take a notebook, pen, and notes on a subterranean language you almost understand.
- Cryptozoologist. Take a net, binoculars, and instant camera that might work.
- Dutiful grandchild. Grandmother’s house is being repossessed; you need to get cash quick. Take your grandmother’s homemade cookies and lemonade (counts as food/drink for an extra 3 rests, but isn’t bulky).
- Caver. Not your first rodeo, but definitely your weirdest. Efficient packing helps fit an additional light source and food for an extra rest, without being bulky.
- Adjunct. Need supplemental income. Take a red pen and papers that still need to be graded.
- Undercover cop. This is not the assignment you expected. Take a ziptie and a handgun (d8).
- Going through some stuff. You heard you might get to kill monsters, and you don’t have to feel guilty about that. Take a scary makeshift weapon (d8, two-handed, bulky, breaks on third max roll), or a makeshift weapon (d4, or d6 two-handed, breaks on third max roll) plus makeshift armor (1 armor, bulky or requires a shield, breaks upon suffering an attack of 6+ damage).
Starting items: Everyone starts with a light source (flashlight, biking head lamp, lantern, torches, or road flares), climbing and camping gear, one day/3 rests worth of food and water, and one form of protection (your choice of a makeshift weapon, scary makeshift weapon, or makeshift armor, in addition to whatever you get from your background).
Makeshift weapons. d4 if one-handed (frying pan, pipe wrench, claw hammer), d6 if two-handed (fire axe, baseball bat, nailed 2×4). Breaks or fails on its third max roll.
Scary makeshift weapons. d8, two-handed, slows you down. Breaks or fails on its third max roll. (Chainsaw, sledgehammer, homemade flamethrower, etc.)
Barely regulated weapons. d6 if one-handed (dagger, machete, night stick, etc.), d8 if two-handed (rifle, sword, handgun, etc.).
Less-lethal weapons. d2 damage, target saves STR or DEX vs losing next action. (Stun gun, pepper spray, cattle prod, etc.)
Explosives. d12 damage to all in area. (Grenade, pipe bomb, rocket, etc.)
Wicked expensive weapons. Start with d8 damage, 1-handed. To add another pro, offset with a con.
- d10 damage
- apply damage to all in line of autofire
- very long range.
- d6 damage
- requires 2 hands
- cannot move and fire in one turn
Makeshift armor. 1 armor, either bulky or requires a shield. Breaks if 6+ damage is rolled against you at once.
Armored vest. 1 armor. Can absorb an incoming attack completely, but this breaks it.
Riot gear. 1 armor. Shield can be held up to impair incoming attacks from one direction.
There are a lot of free lists of magic items and Into the Odd-style arcana and oddities floating around the internet. For the purposes of character creation, though, here’s a short list, in case you’re called upon to roll for one.
- Goldcap shrooms. Cluster of d4, each grants a random mark for d4 days; highly addictive.
- Harpoon cannon. d8 attack, bulky; one shot, tethered by a cable. Used by the locals to hunt and then mount (or perhaps board?) worms. Big worms.
- Mole whistle. Inaudible to those of us from Up Town, but Down Towners must save WIL vs rage. Nearby animals burrow furiously.
- Moonshine goggles. Cups that hold stinging liquid over your eyes. Puts you more at ease with Down Towners, and vice versa, possibly improving reaction saves. Up Towners like you are immediately identifiable through these as well.
- Mud wriggler. Lumpy fish living in your thermos. Release it, and it wriggles toward the nearest clean water. Also quite edible.
- Wiggly knife. d4 attack. Doesn’t hurt to be cut with it. Actually, it tickles a bit. Target saves WIL or kind of wants to let it take a finger or two, just to see how it feels.
- Telepathy; save WIL to focus on one person without migraine
- Telekinesis; save WIL to affect anything bigger than a spoonwithout migraine
- Clairvoyance; see remote places, but only vaguely, often missing details
- Precognition; reroll once a session, but any fail on reroll is a crit fail
- Pyrokinesis; on purpose, or on failing a save (d6, spreads uncontrollably on 5+)
- Psychometry; blank out for a “vision” the first time you touch anything, anyone
- Sense of smell can track quarries and identify minerals from afar
- Eyes glow, casting light like bright candles
- Gills, unbothered by cold, and perfect echolocation
- Extra digits and suction cups let you climb sheer surfaces
- If you can chew it, you can digest it, and you need to eat twice as much
- Acidic spit does d6 damage, dissolves spots on armor, prone to drooling
- Dragonfly wings offer limited gliding capabilities
- Skin hardened into something like obsidian for +1 armor
- Tongue extends to your full height outside you, is mildly adhesive
- Prehensile tail
- Regain 1 STR a day, even from 0, but scar tissue grows back spongy, purple
- Distant, detailed vision even in the dark, but require dark glasses in bright light
- Distend throat to mimic any sound you’ve heard
- People need to save WIL to notice you or evidence of you
- Regurgitate a silent, obedient homunculus; swallow to absorb its memories
- Large abdominal lump hatches a small being with your memories when you die
- Armadillo-like shell lets you fold in on yourself to roll or for 1 armor
- Rat-like features, squeeze through any opening your skull fits through
- Yellow-green blood sets as a strong adhesive within moments of being shed
- Shoot quills pricking just out of your skin (d4 damage, stay annoyingly stuck)
- Pheromones force strangers to save WIL or feel whatever emotion you feel
- Gray eel skin shocks for d6; target saves STR or DEX or misses next action
- Big fangs, drink blood from a living being to restore 1 STR per damage dealt
- No need to sleep anymore, and you never, ever blink
- Constantly pull lightweight, ferrous objects toward you; save DEX to catch
- Toxins merely turn you a random bright color d10 days
- Elongated, clawed fingers capable of fast burrowing
- Restructure bones to shift points between STR and DEX up to twice a day
- Noxious fumes when scared (d8, spitting distance); save WIL to keep calm
- Fire finger bones as projectiles (d6 damage per finger); they regrow in an hour
- Keep inhaling to grow larger, doubling size in 1 minute, deflating on exhale
- Skin turned green, hair replaced by moss, and you communicate with plants
- When you take STR damage, angry hornets spray out from under your skin
- Eyes extend out on foot-long stalks, moving independently
- Silver, pupilless eyes offer x-ray vision (but be careful not to irradiate friends)
- Suck up and store gallons of water, bloating way up; spit out forcefully later
- Deal d8 DEX damage per turn on eye contact; petrify if this lowers to 0 DEX
- Float steadily upward if not weighted down by something bulky
- Brain can abandon your body, crawl into a live body, eat their brain, take over
- Big goat horns mark you as demon touched; other demons might say hello
- Arms and legs replaced with 8 nimble and strong tentacles
- Gravitic anomaly makes you levitate, repels objects, acts as 1 armor
- Head turns into an egg, granting sonar, no need to eat; eating its yolk gives a mark
- When you lose STR to a slash, a functional eyeball immediately appears there
How I’d run it
As I mentioned earlier, the main reason I’m just dumping all this on my blog right now is that I’m more excited to run this with other people’s materials than I am to build this out more. That stuff includes….
- Underground (which prompted this whole effort)
- Esoteric Enterprises
- Veins of the Earth
- Operation Unfathomable
- Eternal Caverns of Urk
- Mulciber’s Flute
- Fungi of the Far Realms
And as usual….
Feedback is quite welcome, and if you use any of this at your table, please let me know how it goes!