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Friday 1 March 2019

The Other OSR: Bastion Ein Sof

Although perhaps initially opaque in terms of what it is, Into the Odd turns out to be a terrifically simple, stripped back, player-facing post-apocalyptic near fantasy, steampunk, roleplaying game. Published by Lost Pages, it is surprising that in the years since its publication, that there has been very little support published for it. Bastion Ein Sof, meaning “Bastion ‘unending’ or bastion ‘infinite’”, is one of the very few examples, building on the previous supplement Electric Bastionland. Running to just twenty-eight pages—and small pages at that—Bastion Ein Sof describes a setting that stands and falls before the monstrous.

Bastion has fallen. The Angels destroyed Bastion. In turn the Giants defeated the Angels. In the wake of this calamitous conflict stand ten cities, humanity’s final sanctuary, each one lying within a Giant’s shadow. Each of the ten cities stands in the shadow of one the giants, each no more than a be-halo’d wraith of its former self. Yet their vigil leaves them vulnerable to the Angels and it is up to bravest of the survivors to venture out into the ravaged wastes beyond the cities where they can ensure that none of the Angels are made whole again. Such stalwart men and women are known as Hunters and it is their task to defeat the Angels and return the secrets of Bastion to humanity’s last refuge. At the heart of Bastion Ein Sof are four questions—All is lost, but what has been found? Bastionland is a void, but what fills it now? The Giants keep Humanity safe, but what is their price? The Angels must be contained and what happens when the containment fails?

As Hunters, the player characters venture forth from the city to take the blood of the Angels and scavenge the relics of the past. Each Angel has a lair. Each is a dangerous place, the reality of which, as well as the lands around, is twisted by the nature of the Angel. The blood is required to pay a tithe per Hunter to the Giants for their service upon the return of the Hunters to the city, though the payment can take other forms, including the flesh of the Hunters. There is one other thing that can be taken from the Angels. Once they are reduced to a benign form they leave behind—Dæmons! Loathed by the Giants, for they see Dæmons as a corruption of nature, they are desired by Hunters for the powers and great abilities they grant. In times past, they were known as Arcanum. Yet should a Dæmon be destroyed, it turns back into an Angel, so any Dæmon wielded by a Hunter is a holy time bomb waiting to go off…! Not paying the price of returning home or being found wielding Dæmons risks the danger of angering the Giants and should their ire be raised, it threatens not only the Hunters, but also the safety of the city… Relics from beyond the Giants’ shadow are needed if the city is to survive and Dæmons may well be the only way in which Hunters can survive beyond the Giants’ shadow.

Bastion Ein Sof includes a stripped down version of the character generation rules from Into the Odd to reflect the desperate nature of post-Bastion world. No character begins play with any Arcanum as in Into the Odd, as after all, their true nature is revealed here. Our sample Hunter is the scrawny, scabrous Tipp Potterworth, a former sexton turned grave scourer to survive and to feed a terrible Ether habit. He has become a Hunter to find more goods and so feed his addiction. 

Tipp Potterworth
Profession: Ex-Grave Scourer
Strength 4
Dexterity 10
Willpower 12
Hit Points: 8
Equipment: Rifle, Flask of Ether

The three major elements of the setting—the Giants, the Angels, and the Dæmons—are covered in broad detail, essentially pointers for the Game Master to develop the post-apocalypse herself. Rounding it out is a short scenario, ‘Illustrious Hod’, which takes the Hunters in search of lost ship and into the lair of an unknown Angel. It should provide a session or two’s worth of play, including character generation.

Physically, Bastion Ein Sof is simply and cleanly presented, and is illustrated with some excellent public domain artwork. It comes with some pointed advice for running a game set in this post-apocalypse, essentially that every roll should have a point. 

Bastion Ein Sof takes the baroque world of Bastion and Into the Odd and casts it into an unknown future of humanity clutching literally to shadows, forced to make a pact that levels a great price. It presents an unreal setting, a sliver of something more begging to be developed into a richer, deeper world. There is enough to get started in the slim pages of Bastion Ein Sof, but please give us more. In the meantime, Bastion Ein Sof possesses huge scope for the Game Master to develop its weird, desperate future, one that seems without hope, even if only providing a taster of that future.

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