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Michael Barnes
August 18, 2022
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Godtear Beats the Odds - Review

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thegiantbrain
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August 11, 2022
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August 10, 2022
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August 04, 2022
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August 01, 2022
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Scout Board Game Review

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July 29, 2022
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July 28, 2022
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The Split - Review

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July 21, 2022
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Call of the Netherdeep - D&D 5E At It’s Best- Review

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24 Mar 2022 11:59 #331832 by Michael Barnes
It doesn’t matter that I’m not into Critical Role or...

The best first party 5e adventure to date.

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24 Mar 2022 23:04 #331833 by Gary Sax
This is a very surprising review.

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25 Mar 2022 00:30 #331836 by Michael Barnes
Tell me about it. I actually wasn’t going to even pay much attention to it. It sat in the floorboard of my Jeep unopened for days.

I don’t like Critical Role at all. I don’t like the way they play, the characters, any of it. The cartoon is fucking HORRIBLE. I’ve actually used Critical Role as a joke in DCC a few times…the town tries to hire a party to go into the old fort but the part is all extremely clean, stylish celebrity adventurers and way too expensive so they go with the grubby level 0 ne’er-do-wells (the PCs) instead.

And there’s the whole involvement with the Wendy’s thing, among other grievances.

But here’s the deal. That stupid show had brought more people to D&D than…almost anything else. But more importantly, the folks that are getting into it from that, this is their D&D. Not Uncle Charlie’s D&D that’s all based on 100 year old racist/sexist fantasy, but a D&D they reflects their interests, worldview, and influenced. This book made me realize how holding on to all of this Gygaxian bullshit, all of this infantile OSR insistence on atavism and a bullshit notion that somehow only old D&D is “pure”, is more hurtful than these voice actors playing the game their way and pushing the game out there for a new generation of players.

I’ve been really burned out lately on OSR attitudes and although there are very valid, very significant arguments against WOTC. It’s just ridiculous that these gatekeeping elitists want to keep the game from reaching out and becoming more than it was in 1981.

But yeah, I was really surprised at how much I loved this book. There are so many cool ideas and it’s pushing for more than the usual D&D adventure, draling with actual themes and offering a great combination of story beats,
Locations, and opportunities for it to go off the rails.

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25 Mar 2022 05:54 #331838 by Gary Sax
I think I take your point. I think it's fair to think of the OSR movement as a fundamentally reactionary movement. I don't think there's anything wrong with it being that way, in fact I would say overall I prefer the vibes of that sort of thing aesthetically and playwise on the whole, but it's certainly something to consider when you think about what its appeal really is. Anything that has arisen purely out of a sense of distaste and reaction to new interpretations or entrants into something has the chance to be coming from kind of a bad place, regardless of its other merits.

It's tricky. A good analog to this is in video games. By and large my own tastes hew pretty heavily towards traditional "hardcore" gamer sorts of entertainment, but it's pretty difficult not to see how some of the appeal of something like Dark Souls for a lot of people is in its reactionary elements to the expansion of gaming to a bigger audience and taking in more casual forms. e.g. the Git Gud discourse. That doesn't mean there isn't merit to those games or my taste is wrong, but it's easy to see how it can become a pretty small c conservative ideology to push hard on how old school gaming values are the best as a way to dismiss the fact that everyone now plays video games, only they take a completely different form with different values.
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25 Mar 2022 08:11 - 25 Mar 2022 08:56 #331840 by Sagrilarus
I’m about 20 years behind in my reading — is Critical Role associated with this particular product, and what does OSR stand for please?
Last edit: 25 Mar 2022 08:56 by Sagrilarus.
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25 Mar 2022 10:43 #331845 by Michael Barnes
LOL Sag you used to be with it but then they changed what it is.

This book is the setting for CR, which is a podcast and streaming show DMed by Matt Mercer, a big time voice actor (Leon Kennedy in RE4 is one of his bigger roles). It’s a group of voice actors and it’s a professional production. It’s huge.

As a setting it really isn’t that much different conceptually than Forgotten Realms or others but I think it is a better fit for the kind of D&D that is most popular today. It works better for highly personalized, almost superheroic characters with epic level storylines. Whereas Dungeon Crawl Classics for example is more suited to a bunch of broke scrubs looking to rob a dungeon.

OSR is Old School Renaissance. It’s a movement that seeks to take D&D back to chiefly its B/X days. There are multiple clones of B/X out there, most notably Old School Essentials (based almost entirely on Moldvay). These systems are just like what you played in the 80s and you can in fact run classic modules with these systems but there is also TONS of more recent content that aims to have that old school feel.

I love a lot of OSR material- there is some truly great work out there. Deep Carbon Observatory and Hot Springs Island in particular. Dungeon Crawl Classics is decidedly OSR flavored but it’s more D&D 3.5 than B/X.

The problem is that OSR has a lot of common problems that plague any kind of nostalgic, “good old days” drives. One is that there are quite a lot of bigots that don’t like to see diverse parties with more than just cishet white skinned characters. Another is that there is an IMO uncomfortable drive toward a sense of “purity”, that the only real D&D is OSR D&D and that leads to dogmatists gaslighting 5e players into thinking that what they are playing is actually terrible and not fun. There is a git gud mentality like Gary Sax mentioned, and a degree of gatekeeping. It’s also very much a “scene” with scene drama, scene hierarchies, and scene posing.

But there are lots of diverse, interesting, and innovative creators out there I. This sphere as well. The best work has a punky, artful quality. But then again, there are mountains and mountains of junk PDFs you can buy on DTRPG that are billed as OSR.

5e and content like this book get a lot of grief from the OSR because to be frank, there is a lot of immature, edgelordy “I don’t like it because it’s popular” sentiment out there, railing against the fact that D&D is for all intents and purposes a mainstream game here in 2022. It’s the whole I liked Band X before they were popular and now that my little sister likes them they suck thing.

To be clear there are valid reasons in the OSR community to tail against 5e. Abusive people, failing to address said abuse, failing to divest them game of negative stereotypes, the fact that it is a corporate IP.
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25 Mar 2022 11:16 #331846 by hotseatgames

Michael Barnes wrote: Matt Mercer, a big time voice actor (Leon Kennedy in RE4 is one of his bigger roles)


And of course, Jotaro Kujo from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
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25 Mar 2022 11:30 #331847 by Michael Barnes
Ha! I actually didn’t realize that!

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25 Mar 2022 12:05 #331848 by barrowdown
Would you recommend this for someone that loathes 5e and Forgotten Realms?

I see the nice the shiny WotC books and always wonder if there is stuff I can pillage. I also find fault with a lot of OSR's conservative, almost reactionary approach in some areas but like the sandbox focus. My most successful campaigns have been sandboxes (pointcrawls or hexcrawls) and 5e seems to be the antithesis of that style.

Most OSR games are too crunchy for the way I prefer to run things (essentially a stripped down version of Knave, which I didn't know existed when I settled on my preferred format), but their intentional modularity and general lack of balance means I can take the parts I like and ignore the rest.
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25 Mar 2022 12:26 - 25 Mar 2022 12:28 #331849 by Shellhead
I've run a lot of different rpgs over the years. Sometimes a really crunchy and detailed set of rules (GURPS or D&D 3.5), and sometimes a barely-there set of rules (Amber diceless or Call of Cthulhu 1st). I skipped D&D 4th because it was a failed attempt to make a tabletop rpg for people who would rather play a console game. I skipped D&D 5th because I would rather run a superhero rpg or a fantasy rpg, not a superhero rpg dressed up in fantasy rpg clothes. It sounds like Call of the Netherdeep is a well-written 5th edition adventure, and I might buy it just for purposes of converting to some other system or even just to plunder some good ideas. No system or edition is necessarily better than another, but whatever you play should be enjoyable for both the DM and the players. Some players like a crunchy system that rewards their attention to detail, and some players prefer that the rules get out of the way of the story and role-playing.

Saw a post in my Facebook feed today: "Tiny Tina's Wonderland is such an awesome game. It's like 5e DnD but with guns."
Last edit: 25 Mar 2022 12:28 by Shellhead.

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25 Mar 2022 12:39 #331850 by Gary Sax
I'm glad you mentioned music, Michael. This also calls to mind a lot of the insider/outsider arguments about music that largely just rotated on the "merits" of not being popular with other people. I know I spent a lot of time being heavily influenced by that attitude toward music in my youth. In retrospect, it's pretty distasteful.
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25 Mar 2022 12:45 #331851 by Shellhead
Before I get around to buying Netherdeep, I still need to check out The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. I'm intrigued by the idea of a D&D campaign that doesn't require combat.
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25 Mar 2022 12:49 #331852 by barrowdown
The Wild Beyond the Witchlight sounds interesting, but if I don't want combat why would I use 5e? I feel like 5E is a KitchenAid mixer attached to the handle of a shovel. It technically can do combat and non-combat, but why wouldn't I just pick a system that I prefer for either end of the spectrum if the session/campaign skews one way.

The mixture is just unwieldy to me. I feel that 5e characters (by extension much of the gameplay) are both too complicated and too restrictive.
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25 Mar 2022 12:51 - 25 Mar 2022 13:19 #331853 by Sagrilarus
Okay, thank you for the explanation. It was exceptionally helpful. I knew what Critical Role was, I just didn't know why it was relevant. I had to look up B/X, but I found that pretty quickly.

. . . and for the record, that B/X shit is part of the NEW STUFF that sucks! THERE WAS NOTHING BROKEN WITH D&D PRIOR TO THAT!!!!! Let's get our boundary lines where they belong, thank you very much.

It’s also very much a “scene” with scene drama, scene hierarchies, and scene posing.

See, there are some things that the Internet just makes worse. Grab a set of rules, and play. Ignore the stuff that doesn't work for you, stop taking emotional stands over bullshit, because it just doesn't matter how someone else plays. Back in my day (cue crotchety accent) you couldn't find players, but when you did you just played the game, both rules-wise and attitude-wise, the way you all agreed on. We had a bucket of house rules on the story-telling part of the game that I still stand by to this day. I'd wager some of our homegrown storylines from the late 80s would go toe to toe with stuff coming out today.

For the record, I have a lot of 1st edition and 2nd edition, one 3rd edition book (that scared me off of it because it seemed so concerned with educating people on how to create an interesting character and role-play which I already knew how to do) and some 5th edition stuff on my shelf. One of my sons got into 5th edition big time and I haven't spent the time to read it in detail. But my observation from Storm King's Thunder is this -- fundamentally all of the material changes through the years fit into the "adjustments" category. The foundational concept is still there, it's just been modernized to be more appealing and frankly more saleable. More power to them. The rule changes are pretty minor. It's the same game with a much nicer fit and finish to it.
Last edit: 25 Mar 2022 13:19 by Sagrilarus.

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25 Mar 2022 13:30 - 25 Mar 2022 13:33 #331854 by Michael Barnes
Funny you say that Sag because there is a whole subset of OSR folks that strictly about OD&D. As in, the original rules. Swords and Wizardry is specifically an OD&D clone.

ould you recommend this for someone that loathes 5e and Forgotten Realms?

I see the nice the shiny WotC books and always wonder if there is stuff I can pillage. I also find fault with a lot of OSR's conservative, almost reactionary approach in some areas but like the sandbox focus. My most successful campaigns have been sandboxes (pointcrawls or hexcrawls) and 5e seems to be the antithesis of that style.

Knave is BRILLIANT and it is one of the highlights of OSR. It’s so stripped down but…it’s still kind of all there. I’ve run quite a few one shots with it. Anything written for B/X works great with it. Stonehell Dungeon plus Knave is a goooood time.

I do really like B/X but I find I almost never play it now, and in fact it turned a couple of people I play with completely away from my groups. To be honest, I think DCC is much more fun and Mork Borg is more extra…while being minimalist like Knave. Those three systems are my OSR weapons of choice.

Witchlight is OK, I wasn’t super into it but it has some cool stuff in it. Like all of these books, pick and choose what you like. I am actively adding Wildemount stuff into my Temple of Elemental Evil game, which is ostensibly Greyhawk with a bunch of Forgotten Realms stuff built into it because it’s 5E. I’ve got some elements pulled from Kobold Press’ excellent Midgard setting as well, and I use their monster books frequently to keep from pulling the same old MM baddies out again and again.

Yeah, I don’t understand why folks don’t get that these books are not bibles. Hack this shit apart, take what you like and throw away the rest. I’ve pulled encounters and locations straight out of WOTC books and used them elsewhere. I never use spell components because I think it’s super lame. I demand that mat 1 is always a critical fail with outrageous consequences. And you know what you can run a completely OSR game with 5E. For pete’s sake they have put out two compilations of converted classic modules so you can run Tomb of Horrors and Saltmarsh if you want. And then there’s the Goodman stuff- you want to run B2, you can choose the original module and do it in B/X or whatever or you can play the 5E conversion. They are in the same book.

Too much import is placed on the edition/rules as written.
Last edit: 25 Mar 2022 13:33 by Michael Barnes.

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