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William Altman
I've stood with giant robots, wrestled tigers, and been eaten alive by fish. I also went and wrote this game:
I've stood with giant robots, wrestled tigers, and been eaten alive by fish. I also went and wrote this game:


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Oh Skyrim, why can't I quit you? Because mods that's why! I figured those of the D&D crowd may appreciate this recent mod. It's got lots of call backs to the halcyon days.
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Witcher 3 and its DLCs. That only took... 131 hours. Yeesh.

Overall solid; though, the scale and number of side quests in an open world setup meant things really stretched out. Two things stand out as being different from other games and giving this game staying power.

1) "Witcher Senses" meant that the majority (70% or so I'd guess) had an investigative element that involved searching for clues or tracking in addition to the usual talking and fighting.

I don't recall much use of this in the previous games, and I typically don't like gimmick powers, like Max Paine's bullet time. They usually just make the main character out of be badass awesome at combat. Here, where people talk about him being the greatest tracker, its more of a cool quirk that leaves your combat prowess to other things.

2) Exceptional rich use of folk lore. Missions weren't just about killing a monster. Many leaned heavy into game/book lore that was often derived off real world folk lore. It did this both in broad strokes and with focus on local legends in the game. This not only lent a vibrancy that other games often lack, it gave you greater variety in your missions.

Many games are lore heavy. Mass Effect stands as the games series that I would venture did it best, but for Witcher 3's entry. The lore use has always been part of the Witcher series, it just seemed to peak here in ways that the earlier games didn't quite manage, but this was a much larger game too.
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Open Letter to the OSR

Hey OSR,

I don't know what you are. You don't know what you are. That's a problem, for you, not me. I don't have to engage with you, but you need people to engage with you. So please, conjure a definitive, accurate definition of yourself.


Like many folks, when I heard the term OSR and wanted to learn more. I looked up the history on places like Tenkar's Tavern. I read a variety of posts and read the OSR Primer. I found OSR to be a convoluted mess. Not surprising since OSR has been a movement not directed by any single individual, despite efforts. At best OSR has been full of well meaning attempts to define itself in a way that stood on its own. At worst, it is full of disingenuous claims and self deception.

Walking down memory lane, OSR began as a rejection to 3rd ed AD&D. I get it. That game wasn't for me either. So folks took the OGL and went back to the old days of 1st ed D&D then Basic D&D then Original D&D. That's a pretty divergent sent of rules already, and the games went from being retro-clones to remakes with new settings/tweaks. There's also attempts to throw in games like Traveller or Runequest, and suddenly you don't even have a common ruleset that you're promoting, just old games, say pre-1989 games, but not all of them, not things like Battletech/Mechwarrior or Paranoia (so far). Now, when I talk to most folks and look at OSR products, they still seem to center around BD&D, despite the odd off-shoot. So there's no real consensus of mechanical framework or publication date to work off of, but there seems to be a strong core at the center of this based, more or less, on a relatively common ruleset, even if it wasn't what started or encompasses all of the OSR movement.

When asking people what OSR is or just listening to them, I get phrases like "Rulings, not Rules", "Player Skill over Character Skill", or "Sandbox". These include two of the four foci of A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. So I'll go over it in a moment (first comment), but its important to note that the Primer is from the perception of the Swords & Wizardry retro-clone of Original D&D (and the 4th retro-clone overall), yet it holds itself out as a Primer for all old school gaming. That guide didn't leave me understanding OSR any better. If anything, it left me thinking of OSR as preening and pretentious, the hipster of RPG labels. After-all, a fair reading of the primer is that it espouses a playstyle that advocates cheating, chaos, and not actual role-playing while claiming dominion over elements that are part of all RPGs.

More concretely, the playstyle advocated in the Primer does not match my experiences playing the games upon which OSR built itself, nor did its claims fully match my experience with games that it attempts to distinguish itself from. Was I playing those games wrong by actually using their rules and still having fun? Maybe I was playing later games wrong when GMs would make stuff up not explicitly covered in the rules. Or maybe the Primer is just mostly useless propaganda.

I say mostly useless because there was a kernel of truth buried in there, but not explicitly stated: The more vulnerable characters of the early D&D editions bred creativity and problem solving skills in the players. Its not exclusive to those games, but it is a notable distinction between early D&D and later D&D. However, that also doesn't account for OSR moving to other early games, which would be discounted if this were the definition OSR.

So after that foray, I come back to the only actual unifying feature of OSR: Its a revival of old game mechanics, sometimes polished with newer ideas (e.g. removing THAC0), and possibly innovating new games in divergent evolution to the paths their foundational games took. You know what? That's cool. If that's what OSR really is though, own it, or correct me by giving a more accurate definition. But, put aside the pretension of a particular playstyle or "that's so OSR." It false advertising to say the least.

Thing is, I like OSR. Even though I don't play any of its games, there's been a lot of good imagination in it. Plus I understand the underlying games well enough that I can use those products with easy with a system I prefer. I don't like the mess the see though.
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I like to think there's a point in every wizard's life where they need to have the biggest tower, just to show em.
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Current investigation of alternative social platforms, starting with G+ and then going in order of preference.

G+ - groups, collections, circles (now hard to use) to filter who sees what you post. Two or three columns of posts; I really like the multiple columns. PMing suxxors.

Pluspora - no groups, collections or circles. That seems mostly managed by hashtags. You have Aspects, which initially look like circles, but they can filter both stuff you see and who you send stuff to. Only one column of posts. Decent PM service.

Facebook - serviceable. Groups work fine, and all that other nonsense it has. Still only one column, no filters on who can see what I post without a lot of set up. PMing is solid.

MeWe - Groups, which kind of conflate with chats. They're easy enough to read under the group tag (pretty much a large version of what FB looks like), but not the chat interface, which is a total mess and look like FB PMing. Also, you cannot preview groups in any way. PMing is just the chat thing. There's also issues around its use in politics. Privacy stance is keen.

Mind - People you follow are "channels". Groups and blogs exist in a nice integrated way, and you can preview them before you join. Again one column of posts. Posts seem to be nicely compact with comments hidden until you click the icon. I don't like the monetization aspect. Its just so Black Mirror.

Twitter - I've already exceeded my character quota in this post. 'Nuff said.

In considering these, I circled back to a question: do groups matter? Frankly, I prefer G+ collections rather than an assortment of private groups that often overlap (e.g. there's already two OSR groups on Mind) and these generally see a cross posting. So what do groups really give? Is there a need for the closed containment of groups that I'm not seeing?
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In light of G+'s announced cancellation for consumers, I experimented with a few options, like MeWe and Minds. What I miss the most though is the integration with gmail. Its a nice little unobtrusive symbol that that says how many notifications I have, and it condenses these for ease of perusal. Meanwhile, others require me to go to their websites and the notification quality is all over the map. Facebook does the notifications better. Of course, I could give those sites permission to give me desktop notifications. Tried that for all of 5 minutes before the constant pop ups had me turning off those features.
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I really should be doing other stuff, but I'm now 77 hours into Witcher 3, and I've only just nudged my way into Act 2 of 3, no progress on either DLC yet. Sure, I've been doing a lot of the side quests. OK, almost all, which probably means the remaining acts will go fast. Still though, the game continues to entertain and was definitely worth the price tag.
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Ancient Space

I'll admit that I bought this game because its name and logo are remarkably similar to another strategy game that I enjoyed: Endless Space. Figured it was probably related. Wasn't. That said, it was solid RTS. Resource management was minimal, which I can appreciate; though, it did emphasize tower defense. The missions began as explore and conquer and then became run gun with some stealth mixed in. The story wasn't even half bad.
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Ran my first game (playtest) today in a long time. Two of the players were original playtests. The third was experiencing Krendel for the first time. We ran through haunted tower in a bit over 4 hours.

It was strange to be back in the saddle again. I felt stiff. It was a dungeon run with limited RP, and that may have contributed to the feeling.

They did well. The blood sorcerer is definitely more of a campaign character than a 1 shot dungeon runner, but the buffs he provided made encounters much easier.

The only notable criticism is that with a system as potentially deadly as Krendel's, where you can die or otherwise reduced greatly in Health by one shot, there should be an easy way to get a lot of Health back. I'm torn on this topic. Where I have some ideas, I'm also interested in what others think.

How restricted should healing be? How quickly do you feel characters should be able to bounce back? Healing here is defined as a sudden Health dump, rather than regaining it over time.

Personally, I'm not a fan of the excessive healing you see in computer games or similar. Krendel limits it by saying that you can only be healed 1/day, by lowering healing to be half as good as causing damage, and by making the first tier of healing about remedying subdual damage instead of lethal. I may be willing to budge on 1 or 2 of these, but not all 3.
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