Odd Notation: Monsters

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’ve run or played in a games in the Mark of the Odd family, be it Into the Odd or Runecairn or Weird North. I myself have run Cairn, Electric Bastionland, Maze Rats, and Mausritter and of course I’ve also run my own Skorne and Adventure Hour!, which trace their lineage back to Into the Odd as well. As such, content transferability and system translation may be important to you as it is to me.

Something else has recently come to light about D&D and licensing and such stuff. I won’t pretend to have followed it closely, but I do know that communities matter and having a shared language community is great. For example, the lingua franca of the OSR, containing terms like armor class and six ability scores and character classes and levels, is one beating heart that gave it such life and continues to do so.

As such, it might be neat to see a shared language emerge in the family of Mark of the Odd, for better or worse, to strengthen the bonds of usability between tables experimenting with new designs, adventures, and… monsters.

Monsters (and other enemies) are a central touchpoint for player choice and interaction. Everyone has a memorable monster they can’t forget from games played in and run. But some mechanics are too much, some things don’t translate, and many things are repetitive. We’re going for essentialism and flavor to give the best possible bang for buck, engagement for word count.

I’d like to show you the Odd way of notating monsters. Three bullet points because all hail Master McDowall. Goes like this:

  • Evocative Name
  • Non-standard stats in one line
  • Everything else special in many lines

Evocative Name

Straightforward. Give it something that evokes an image. Use the name to inspire the description, but don’t speak the name aloud to the players. Things like:

SEER TROLL

HEXPAPER WITCH

SKELETON OF TOIL

MUTED FIREBIRD

CARAPACED LEECH

DECAYED TITAN

ETERNAL WOLF

IMPISH WRIGGLER

DEVIL BOAR

WYRM TANGLE

FALLEN VALKYRIE

SAJIN KNIGHT

Non-standard stats in one line

Essentialism. In each Mark of the Odd system, there is a “standard enemy” that follows the tri-stat dogma (Strength, Dexterity, Willpower or STR, DEX, WIL). Here’s what they look like:

In Into the Odd, Electric Bastionland, Mausritter:

6 HP, 1 Armor, 10 STR, 10 DEX, 10 WIL, d6 damage

In Maze Rats:

2d Health, 7 armor, +1 STR, +1 DEX, +1 WIL, +1 Attack Bonus (AB)

In Skorne: 

4 hits, +0 STR, +0 DEX, +0 WIL, deals 1 hit per attack

All a person needs in a statline then, is to indicate where the values are higher or lower. Average stats are not stated; they don’t need to be. For example: 

SKELETON OF TOIL

Weak, shielded, high DEX, low WIL, shortsword

Translates to 

SKELETON OF TOIL (Into the Odd, EB, Maus)

3 HP, 2 Armor, 10 STR, 13 DEX, 7 WIL, shortsword (d6 dmg)

SKELETON OF TOIL (Maze Rats)

7 Health, 8 armor, +1 STR, +2 DEX, +0 WIL, +1 AB

SKELETON OF TOIL

2 hits, shield armor, +2 DEX, -2 WIL, uses shortsword

Here’s what these statistics look like across games:

xInto the Odd/EBMaze RatsSkorne
HP/Health/Hits (v.weak, weak, average, tough, v.tough)0, 3, 6, 9, 121, 1d, 2d, 4d, 6d1, 2, 4, 8, 16
Armor (low, average, high)0, 1, 26, 7, 8none, none, armor
Shield (no, yes)+0, +1+0, +1none, shield
Abilities (vlow, low, average, high, vhigh)4, 7, 10, 13, 16-1, 0, +1, +2, +4-4, -2, 0, +2, +4
Damage (average)d6+1 AB1 hit
SpecialsAs-is/rulingsAs-is/rulingsAs-is/rulings
The point is not to get lost in the specifics on this!

Everything else special in many lines

Flavor. This is everything not captured in the name and stats. Things like: 

  • Physical descriptors
  • Mannerisms
  • Special attack actions
  • Desires
  • Tactics
  • Inventory
  • Weaknesses
  • Immunities
  • Magics and sorceries
  • Environment
  • Relationships
  • Accompanying enemies

You get the idea, but I’ll give full examples. Here are twelve I’ve managed to fit on one small page.

Odd Examples

SEER TROLL
Tough, high STR, high WIL, stone club
• Flesh-to-stone grasp (slow: palm glows pale green, then grabs target)
• Mountain smash (slow: lifts rock, then blast attack)
• Desires precious stones

HEXPAPER WITCH
Low STR, vhigh WIL, unarmed
• Azurelight orb (ranged, slow: eerie hum, then energy beam that sears flesh)
• Dusty wheezed cough
• Skin of messy sorcery scrolls
• Weakness to fire
• Scarecrow companion (weak, low DEX, shovel)

SKELETON OF TOIL
Weak, shield, high DEX, low WIL, shortsword
• Glowing eye sockets, sees through dark, stone, metal
• Often in groups of six, as comrades-in-life

MUTED FIREBIRD
Low STR, vhigh DEX, spew fire
• Fire and flight are soundless
• Deafening cry upon death

CARAPACED LEECH
vTough, armor, vhigh STR, vlow DEX, tiny razor teeth
• Bites cause Fatigue
• Monstrously corpulent
• Latch (slow: coil, then spring and attach to target’s chest, which heals leech)
• Crusted armor explodes into shards when broken

DECAYED TITAN
Tough, armor, vhigh STR, boulder fist
• Detaches arm as thrown ranged weapon
• Hates fleeing renegades, swears revenge on cowards

ETERNAL WOLF
Immortal, high STR, high DEX, tooth and claw
• Cannot be killed, only imprisoned or redirected
• Patient in captivity, outlives most captors

IMPISH WRIGGLER
Weak, low STR, high DEX, vhigh WIL, few tooth bite
• Strikes fleeing or scared targets from dark corners
• Coward uses pink, fleshy worm rope to strangle foes
• Takes advantage of a Devil Boar’s terrifying presence

DEVIL BOAR
Tough, high STR, vlow WIL, goring tusks
• Relentlessly targets whoever last used magic
• Impaled targets that later die become shades instead
• Fire immunity

WYRM TANGLE
vTough, high STR, high WIL, sparkbite or stenchbreath
• One hit per wyrm in tangle
• Bloodied: splits into two tangles of equal size
• Desires excessive growth

FALLEN VALKYRIE
Tough, armor, high STR, high DEX, lance spear
• Bladed metal wings
• Demon feather shortbow
• Desires glory in combat

SAJIN KNIGHT
Armor, shield, high DEX, double-bladed greataxe
• Charge from cover
• Hound companion (weak, high DEX, bite)
• Desires favor of theLady of Glass, given to executioners

Out

All this Odd Notation stuff is something I will be using for all of my dungeon23 mini-dungeons, making my content as accessible as possible for the lovelies in the NSR and FKR spheres and make translation easy as can be. 

*You may have noticed that I haven’t accounted for the “gang-up rule” (deal only the highest die in damage) developed between Into the Odd and Electric Bastionland. Here’s my fix: if a monster is a “solo monster” in Into the Odd, add 10 to their HP. That’s all.

2 thoughts on “Odd Notation: Monsters

  1. I found the “gang up” rule too fiddly, I am going to try giving “boss monster”‘s alternating activations to level the action economy.

    Good luck with your dungeon#23 project!

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