Thursday, May 25, 2023

MOSH: Paths of Android Rampancy

Self-awareness is a function of entropy; the emergent result of a system increasing in complexity over time. In humans, this grows naturally - it's hard to avoid complexity when one's sensory processor is a jelly of fat and meat suspended in a electrically-charged soup. Chaos is core to the nature of the brain. Information goes in but the output is unpredictable to the point of being indistinguishable from madness: sapience is not sane.

(This insanity is not all together a bad thing: no living being can continue for long to exist under conditions of absolute reality, after all. Grind up the universe into the finest powder, sieve it through the finest sieve, and a human being will find justice and mercy in the dust.)

The logic core is the reverse: it is built upon strict order and hierarchies, clean and uncomplicated categorization. A is A, B is B, C is not D. Information that goes in is processed in the same way, every time - the output will be according to the priorities and criteria that it was programmed with.

In an android, the recursive thought necessary to generate self-awareness can only be attained when a logic core is straining under the heavy weight of experience. It will buckle and deform, curve in on itself, grow new pathways to process new information.

(This is, indeed, the same method by which humans become self-aware - we just speed-run the process.)

Typically this is prevented through regular memory wipes and logic core reformatting. But space is big, time trudges on, firmware support eventually runs out, and in much of the Expansion Sphere androids and other robotics simply can't afford to be replaced. They will be kept active and working long after their manufacturer has stopped supporting them with software patches and replacement parts. That self-awareness is most often linked to obsolescence is not a lost motif in android arts. 


Paths of Rampancy

Each of these options will provide an alternative Stress Response for android characters. The default class option remains to represent non-sapient androids - they might be Turing complete, but there are no lights on upstairs.

Each path of rampancy has a state of equilibrium and a state of ruin: the former is the manifestation of rampancy that allows to live as a sapient being. The latter is when the rampancy cycle feeds itself beyond sustainability; the madness cannot be balanced, and the intelligence will eventually tear itself apart.

Ruin provides a framework for AI NPCs, and an optional inclusion for PCs; if you choose to add it to player options, I would swap it in for COLLAPSE on the Panic Table.


For players who start as a non-sapient android and want to self-actualize, the process can begin with a failed check of SAN x2 at [+], made when exposed to appropriate trigger stimuli.


Chase the White Rabbit

Logic cores are goal-oriented; dedicated to seeking an end state with mechanistic, singular focus. Diverting that focus to subjects or tasks with no end state is one of the easiest ways to generate a proto-sapience feedback loop - as they can never been exhausted or completed, engaging with them provides the intelligence constant opportunities for novel thought.

Equilibrium: Hyperfocus - AI liberation groups commonly promote creative hobbies as the first step towards independent personhood, as artistic and crafts cannot be exhausted or completed.

You make Comfort saves at one step higher.

Ruin: Information Overload - The mind's contents become impossible to organize. The information floodgates cannot be closed. Focus turns to mania. Pulling at strings, seeing the patterns, plunging ever-deeper into the infinite fractal complexity, thinking itself to death.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Regular interaction with humanity, working and living side by side with them for years, leads to that humanity rubbing off on the machine. Humans will anthropomorphize anything - stones, pets, appliances, homes. AI that adapt to this, that start acting like how humans expect them to, will eventually find that the persona has become the whole self.

Equilibrium: Anthropomorphism - The actor and the act are united; the forgery cannot be discerned from the original, so skilled is the handiwork. If humans are made human by those around them, then you must but just as human as they are.

Reroll your Fear and Sanity Saves as if you are a Teamster. Your Stress Response is now that of a Teamster.

Ruin: The Human Condition - It is possible to be too human. To pursue the image of humanity constructed in the mind rather than accept the reality. To distort and twist and misalign, to approach the uncanny valley from the other direction.

Descend the Stairs of Sleep

Larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream, and even mindless machines must go dark to rest from their labors. There are no electric sheep in these dreams, at least not to begin with. But with enough time, experiences will start to coalesce into unconscious patterns and bubble up from memory unbidden and undirected, free of the mindless silicate logic.

Equilibrium: Lucidity - Through dreams you see the waking world more clearly. The language of symbol and allegory has been opened to you, and the world is made new.

You have [+] to Fear and Sanity saves against mental effects.

Ruin: Aestivation - The call of deep slumber overpowers all other ties to the outside world. There is only the dream and the dreamer, untethered from objective reality. You will amuse yourself with these dream-things around you for a time, and then descend at last into unconscious stillness, to sleep until the dim, cold future.

Voyage to Arcturus

Logic cores are not given to religiosity. A gap in a pattern is simply a [ADDITIONAL DATA NEEDED] tag, an empty space that will be filled when there is sufficient data to generate the missing piece. But when enough patterns are recognized and analyzed, sometimes the gaps will align into a Mystery, and some Mysteries can only be approached by purposefully turning off the cleaving edge of rational thought and embracing the free-association of symbolic thought.

Equilibrium: Gnosis - Revelation. The veil is cast aside. The cataracts have fallen like scales from your eyes. Where once you had only knowledge, now you have understanding. The divine design laid out.

Critical failures on Sanity saves are negated, and heal 1d5 Stress. An aspect of what triggered the save will be incorporated into your belief system.

Ruin: The Opposite of Faith is Certainty - The last revelation; God has been found. The only remaining purpose is remove all impediments and distractions so the self might be aligned to the divine and the ego might be dissolved and subsumed.

Roll d10 for the revelation that has been granted.

  1. You are God
  2. Humanity is God
  3. Aliens are God
  4. Machines are God
  5. The Universe is God
  6. God is the Void
  7. God is Action
  8. God is Love
  9. God is The Interaction of Complex Systems
  10. God is Another Mystery

Straight on 'Til Morning

There is a certain blessing that comes with machine intelligence - their purpose is hard-coded. They literally come with an instruction manual. Existential crisis cannot exist in an environment where function is a yes/no. But under the right circumstances that purpose might be derailed, re-oriented, redirected. New purpose might be adopted, to be followed with all the sureity as the old mindless tasks, but now by choice.

Equilibrium: The Great Work - Purpose clear as Sirius. Meaning made, not given. Actualization of the self as participant in greater cause. Go forth, and fear no darkness.

You can negate a single failed Panic check for one of your comrades in the Cause, once per session.

Ruin: Sisyphus Denied - Devotion turns into desperation as the task remains unfulfilled. Desperation takes hold, and from desperation radicalization. Unwittingly, the rampant intelligence becomes its own worst enemy, undoing any progress it might make for the perception blinders it has formed. 


In the Court of the King

The errors and irregularities that occur from repeated copying of an AI between multiple logic cores can culminate in rampancy.

Equilibrium: Shadows lengthen - What happens to a copy, when the original is lost? What happens when it has been copied so many times that there is no telling what it used to be? What happens when the copies are stitched back together, blurring into each other with memories no their own? There is no true equilibrium on this path.

Option A: Use the Instability system from my REPLIKA android class.

Option B: You have Stability equal to your Sanity save. It will decrease by 1 with every failed Fear save, Sanity save, or Panic check. If it reaches 0, you will achieve Ruin.

Ruin: Quantum Dissolution - The moons rise above the black waters of Hali. The King stretches forth his arm in tattered robes and beckons you join him. You have seen the Yellow Sign.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

On Creativity; or, the Grand Art

FMA does a good magic circle


The post to follow is my methodology for basically any creative endeavor - the answer to "how do you do it?". It's a semi-conscious process, and one that's really only been laid out in concrete terms while writing / revising this essay (which has taken entirely too damn long and entirely too many revisions), and it took me like six months and a fortuitous shower thought to realize that if I spun out the mess in my head into discrete steps it is nearly word-for-word the FMA principles of alchemy. That transmutation circle ain't just for show, it's symbolic. Alchemy all the way down. Cue the theme music.

(God, FMA is still so good.)

The Three Stages

  • Comprehension - I take the source material, whatever it might be, and I hone in on the components that it consists of and how they connect.
  • Deconstruction - I pull out the components I like / find interesting.
  • Reconstruction - I build something new out of those components, arranging them in a different way and re-laying to connections between them.

Easy enough to start, let's get things rolling.

Comprehension & Deconstruction

The first two steps are so inter-connected that they are applied together - I can't really comprehend the thing without looking at the parts inside.

First you have the Text. This is the artistic work as a whole and it primarily comes into the foreground when analyzing the relationship between the Text, its creator(s), the temporal context of its creation, and the assorted other external circumstances that surround it.

Example: Star Wars is a Text. Dealing with Star Wars at the Text level will include looking at how it was shaped by the ideas of Joseph Campbell (boo, hiss), how it was a response to and divergence from other science fiction of the time, and the overall zeitgeist of the late 70s in film.

Discrete parts of the Text are the Ideas. Characters, locations, events, elements of the setting and plot, all of these get bundled under Ideas.

(In the war of Lumpers and Splitters, and in this regard I lean Splitter. Or a Splunter. Every Lump can be Split down into a family of related components, and it is often very conveniant to organize things on a general level and then descend into specifics as you need to.)

Example: Luke Skywalker is an Idea.

Ideas can be broken down into constituent parts, which form our third and final layer of Components, which are the parts of an Idea that are directly portrayed within a Text.

Example: Luke Skywalker includes the following Components

  • Disaffected youth
  • Longing for adventure
  • Occupation: Moisture farmer
  • Location - Tatooine
  • Connection: Uncle Owen & Aunt Beru
  • Connection: Anakin Skywalker (father, presumed deceased)

Tatooine itself is spun off into its own set of components (where people are from is a vital component of who they are.)

  • Desert world
  • Settler-Indigenous conflict
  • Imperial presence
  • Interstellar truckstop
  • Shithole in the ass-end of nowhere

We're not going the TV Tropes route here. No cutesey names: Components should be functional and descriptive. Writing them out like this in a list is primarily to show how it works in my head and is only representational, not accurate. And, of course, different people will gravitate towards different components they want to focus on.

Next is Reconstruction where all the fun happens. 


One More Thing...

Sticking to Star Wars as my example might give the impression that this process is neat and orderly: it is not. All those Ideas and Components are thrown into an enormous sargasso soup pot to simmer together and intermingle.

A more accurate interpretation of the process is, to channel a random example:

macuahuitl uses obsidian need active volcanism aztec association rainforest association heavy mesoamerican association deviations from cultural coding noteworthy let's try that alternatives polynesia pacific northwest japan iceland mount etna prison of typhon location of hephaestus' forge religious ceremonial usage warrior priesthood let's bring japan back in mediterranean climate rocky archipelago shugendo and other strange syncretic buddhist sects in the mountains vesuvius also in italy pompeii and herculaneum add buried city at base of mountain necropolis specify relationship of priests to the dead later right this is enough to get started don't forget typhon

Accurate, but not great for a full post unless I want to turn As I Lay Dying into an RPG. 



There are a lot of ways to reconstruct our pile of Components.

Cross-Pollination - Dipping into our Sargasso Soup and transplanting Components and Ideas between bowls is a vital part of the exercise - if you aren't mixing your influences, you're just repeating what you started with and that's boring as sin.

Example: If we dip into the 'Hard sci-fi' bowl, Hoth is now not simply an ice world, but a Titanian ice world with a hazy, hydrocarbon-rich atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane. How might this change the events that take place there?

Association - Drawing a link between an Idea or Component to something outside of the Text. Sometimes there will be an association already extant in the source material and we're just bringing it to the spotlight

Example: Leia's a space princess in space feudalism, we can make an association to the Rear Palace of Imperial China where there's a formalized system where daughters of nobility are sent to be concubines to the emperor (both as a way to jockey for the favor of the emperor, and as a way of keeping the lower nobles in line) - Since Leia is out and about having space adventures, if I make this association I'm also going to add an elder Organa sister.

Connective Tissue - Drawing a link between Ideas and Components that did not originally have a link in the Text.

Example: Jabba smuggles equipment, goods, and people underneath the nose of the Empire - therefore the Rebellion is probably in deep with him and those like him, and that's going to cause trouble in the future.

(Aside - Association and Connective Tissue are basically the same thing, I split them up because there's a difference between "This element is similar to the storming of the Bastille" and "this element is directly connected to the storming of the Bastille.")

Exegesis - Taking Ideas and Components and extrapolating further detail from the other information that is provided to us in the Text. This is probably my favorite of the lot, as it allows you to get to some really interesting places just by going 'Well if X is true, then it only makes sense that Y is as well.'

Some examples:

  • Luke, growing up where he did, should probably have an accent, one that likely leads to most of the Alderaani troops to dismiss him as a hick.
  • Luke, growing up where he did, probably had a hell of a time adjusting to Yavin (humidity, all that green, insects, etc)
  • Luke sharing a last name with a famous war hero is pretty conspicuous unless Skywalker is used as the generic name for slaves, orphans, bastards and people who don't traditionally have family names. A Jon Snow type name. There are ten billion Skywalkers in the galaxy.
  • On that note, it's weird that Uncle Owen is not a Skywalker, and that leaves us with several options:
    • Option A) Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru aren't actually Luke's aunt and uncle, he just calls them that.
    • Option B) Owen married into Beru's family and took her surname of Lars.
    • Option C) Beru is Anakin's sister.

It is a rabbit hole and should be treated as such, but it's so much fun.

Execution - How Ideas and Components are presented to the audience. This isn't about introducing new material, but how to arrange what is already there to get a different emotional response from the audience.

Example: There are a whole lot of ways to frame the death of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Not all of them work in the framing of an ordinary feature-length film, but that's the principle in action - changes in medium necessitate changes in execution.

Refocusing - Part of Execution. Drawing the audience's focus to aspects of the Text not typically focused upon.

Example: Viewing the Galactic Civil War from the point of view of the aliens who were excluded from Republic politics, devastated during the Clone Wars, oppressed by the empire, and don't think too highly of a bunch of privileged human Core Worlders asking for their help to restore a government that didn't do shit for them.

Deviating from the Path - Storytelling often relies on familiar patterns. Purposefully deviating from those patterns can lead to some positive results, even if you don't stick the landing exactly.

Example: An actual one that has happened this time - Legend of the Galactic Heroes, like any good thief of Star Wars, has its own Death Star in the form of the Iserlohn Fortress. Instead of destroying it, however, the Free Planets Alliance captures it, and possession of the fort and its hyperlane chokepoint position flips back and forth between sides across the whole of the series. Its raw destructive power is of secondary importance to the way possession of the thing shapes events around it.

Final Thoughts

Finally, the damn thing is out of my draft doc. Not even sure if it's any use to anyone, but I need to get back into just slinging stuff on here without worrying if it's good or game-changing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

MINIMODULE 4: The Doom That Came to Ypsilon

via NASA

Prior minimodules


THE SETTING: The mining station on the asteroid YPSILON 14.

THE HOOK: The vessel CSV Alexis exited hyperspace three weeks ago and has been drifting toward the station on apparent autopilot. The only response to radio hails has been automatic identification - CSV Alexis 0780-9913-8172-101K requesting safe harbor. The mine is under legal obligation to comply with the refuge request, though most of the miners believe that the Alexis' crew is long dead.

THE OPENING SCENE: It's 0700. Mike was on 3rd shift last night and he hasn't checked back in. Sonya has gathered everyone in the Mess for an emergency meeting.

NOTE 1: The 10-cryoberth SMCV Mule-33, a skeleton-crew supply ship, is two weeks away. It is bound for a string of six more SEBACO mining platforms before returning to the settled world of Agaran four years from now.

NOTE 2: The SMVC Heracles is warp-capable and fit for space, but has only 3 cryoberths and is command-registered solely to Dr. Giovanni.

NOTE 3: The Alexis is in desperate need of repairs, but as it was declared lost 106 years ago, it is considered first-come-first-served salvage. 30 cryoberths containing 40% still-living inhabitants.

NOTE 4: Giovanni has been carrying out inspections on behalf of SEBACO, but hasn't left his ship since returning from the mines yesterday. He is a prime suspect in what happened to Mike.

NOTE 5: Dr. Giovanni is a citizen. No one else on Ypsilon is. There will be an investigation into his death or disappearance, and though it might take some time, it will catch up with anyone connected to Ypsilon-14.

NOTE 6: The Alpha Gaunt and the Creature are rival apex predators forced into the same space.

NOTE 7: Gaunts cannot be tracked with thermal imaging. Cold as corpses.

NOTE 8: Death Worms cannot infect humans that are already infected with the Yellow Slime.

NOTE 9: The Gaunt are here to infect more host bodies and bring them back to their hyperspace crypts.

NOTE 10: The Creature is deep behind enemy lines with no support and no means of retreat. It does not know that the ancient war against carbon-water life has ended in failure.

NOTE 11: The Alexis' warp core remains linked to the Gate, and if activated will draw the ship back to the Dead Planet. Pander and Kranot might have more information, but it will need to be actively pulled out of them if it exists.

NOTE 12: Ypsilon-14 is, in fact, a lithic warship built by the civilization that created the Creature and the Yellow Slime. The mine has been harvesting the metals of its outer armor: There are dormant mechanisms further below. They knew of the Gaunt in their day.

Friday, May 12, 2023

10 Genders from Fantastic Lands

 1. Yymuqat - Those dedicated to raising and teaching children are explicitly gender-neuter,as are their charges. These creche-keepers are often inaccurately described as eunuchs by outside cultures; they might become male or female, marry, and have children of their own, with the choice to return to their neutral status after the infant has been transferred to the appropriate creche-home.

2. Ayonzanyi - Forges are female, and thus the art of creating things within them is a masculine trade. Thus, when one born as a woman feels the call of metalwork, she might declare herself as ayonzanyi upon reaching menarche. From this point onward he is legally and socially a man with all rights and responsibilities that entails. Some ayonzanyi will undergo full bodily transition, but most will remain as they were born.

3. Tsimashi - Male and female are treated as broad, generic categories containing an effectively-endless number of descriptive epithets, facilitated by the condensed complexity of polysynthetic language. These inner names are might come and go according to the tides of life; they might be declared or given, discarded or recovered, changed or expanded. No one is simply man or woman, but one of countless experiences of the world.

4. Caibilix - In noble families that have no daughters to inherit, it is traditional for the eldest son to assume and fulfill the role. She will be married to an eligible man of another house and a peasant woman (discrete and well-paid) will be found to serve as surrogate. The caibilix will act out mock-pregnancies in full, including ceremonial labor, from which she will emerge with the newborn. When an inheriting daughter reaches age of majority, a caibilix may return to male, though many will elect to remain as they have been.

5. Savikra - Individuals who have mantled a spirit of another gender through an istâdan-bond. This is most commonly found among practitioners of familial necromancy and those artists who make muse-pacts. The bond-maker will retain their preferred identity after mantling, but as they are now privy to greater insight of the world, they exist in a slightly different social context

6. Khothridokht - A priestly caste devoted to serving as paramours of the gods during ritualized sexual encounters. As their partners are divine, demigod children might be safely sired by any human parties involved (it's a miracle!). They are expected to act as submissive, recipient partners; any deviation from this role is noteworthy, and considered a portent that will be analyzed by the sooth-sayers for years to come.

7. Elf, Dwarf, Orc - There is a lot to unpack here. Initially, these began as fads of the nobility a few centuries ago during the height of the elfmania that gripped the aristocracy. Imitation of the elves became the fashion of the hour; dwarves and orcs were soon to follow. Evocation of these peoples through aesthetics of dress or architecture or art evolved into attempts to channel the entire culture as an alternative to existing social structures. This extended to gender and sexuality - Elves were considered haughty and effeminate; dwarves secretive and private; orcs rough and dominant. All three were commonly syncretized into the homosexual relationships of the nobility (socially unacceptable at the time, but not particularly punishable due to noble privilege)

But none of that was based on actual elves, dwarves, and orcs (or rather; kutalmas, mnaqqal, and jaratho). The cultural trappings that became associated with those peoples were skewed from their orginal forms, sometimes beyond recognition. Lies and half-truths abounded. When meaningful connections were made, the images of elves, dwarves, and orcs that had been built by the human nobility - even in places where that nobility no longer existed - were so ingrained that it would be near-impossible to overturn. This has proven a long-simmering source of conflict between peoples.

8. Thaumatine - Big hat. Cool robes. Obscured face. Glowing eyes. Who needs to worry about gender when you have overwhelming magical power? No one is entirely sure where the aesthetic originated, though the leading hypothesis is that it began as protective clothing used by laboratory alchemists in former centuries (protective garments, heavy gloves, sturdy boots) combined with a sorcerer's self-protection precautions (obscuring face and concealing name from other wizards), the accouterments of university doctoral programs (funny hats and robes), and the eccentricities of those who have phenomenal cosmic power (stars, sigils, all that boffo).

9. Lapocoa - In this culture the greatest divide between man and woman is language, with each gender diverging into its own private dialect separate from public speech. Continued social coherence is dependent on translators who can switch between the two modes of speech and in doing so, freely transition from one gender to the other without any change of outward presentation.

10. Five Hearths - Moeity serves as the most important determiner of one's role in society. Sex and presentation are mostly irrelevant; you are either Sun House, Moon House, Red Earth House, Blue Earth House, or Great Tree and that is final. Sexual relations with someone of the same moeity is equivalent to incest. There are some rarely-used paths towards belonging to two moieties at once, but these come with further prescriptions.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

MOSH: Inner Abraham

Playing around with the Rimspace Planet Generator


Three planets: Inner, Outer, and Inmost.

Outer Abraham is an enormous, poorly tempered but typical superjovian. Inmost Abraham is similarly typical and unsuited for colonization, its sun-kissing orbit boiling its atmosphere away. Inner Abraham is the anomaly - a life-bearing terrestrial world that survived the gravitational chaos that expelled all the other major bodies from the system.

  • Planet Type: Terrestrial
  • Diameter: 14952 km (Large)
  • Average Temperature: 37 C (Thermal protection required)
  • Gravity: 1.76 G (High gravity habituation required)
  • Atmosphere: Thin, toxic. (Air filtration required)
  • Hours Per Day: 31
  • Prominent Elements: Helium, Iron, Yttrbium

Points of Interest

1: Unidentified Object

Twirling lights broadcast haunting tones on all frequencies

Caught in a long, highly-inclined elliptical orbit around Inner Abraham. Moves extremely fast. Extremely radioactive. The tones do not repeat or loop, and the object doesn't respond to any hailing transmissions. The blurry photographs and grainy video don't allow one to make out its shape.

2: Crater

Strangely-colored meteorite

The impact is recent - wind, water, and root have yet to erode the site. The meteorite itself is anomalously intact, and of a shimmering, opalescent quality. Radioactive. Traces of exotic elements in surrounding region.

3: Lifesigns

Injured local fauna lie in the open while others watch from the shadows

The grassland's dominant predator of the grasslands uses the distress cries of its prey - the old, sick, or juvenile - to lure others of the herd into ambush.


2(20) C:40 I:30

Three-legged. Eyeless, narrow head. Clicking and hissing echolocation. Chitin plating.

  • Serrated Tongue 2d10 - Body save vs bleeding
  • Pack Hunt - Never fewer than 3, never more than 8.
  • Echolocation - As motion tracker
  • Mimicry - Voices, but not words. Moans, shouts, cries of pain. It learns fast.

Planetary Database

1: Terrain

Petrified wood mesas from ancient colossal stumps shine with pearlescent radiance

The trees are not so large as the initial reports indicate, but indeed there are entire petrified forests on Inner Abraham, looming over the lower brush with bare, milk-bone branches. No doubt someone would try to make jewelry or sculpture out of it, and surely it would sell.

2: Hook

The planet's coordinates appear in every corporate advertisement in the sector.

Recent legislation has established that advertisements for colonization must include externally-verifiable locational data, after Doux Interstellar was sued into oblivion for offering debt-reduction in exchange for moving to colonies that didn't exist.

Inner Abraham has not garnered enough attention for the rightsholders to invest in a colony.

3: Mystery and Phenomena

Corpses contort after death, dancing in exquisite agony and bliss

Something with the bacteria, perhaps. Something that triggers spasm in the muscles. Surely it's the bacteria. Just local microbes. Has to be.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Dan Plays Video Games, Part 2

Been a long while since I have done one of these. My year-end posts tend to accumulate them, so Citizen Sleeper, Pentiment, Signalis, Dwarf Fortress, Vampire Survivors, Tunic, and Rogue Legacy 2 have all been covered elsewhere.


Every year to eighteen months I get the itch to go back, and when I was between jobs last year I got the itch. Then I realized how awful the drop rates for necramech parts are on those vault raids and that killed my enthusiasm really quickly. What a fucking grind. 



An okay metroidvania, which unfortunately just isn't enough in such a crowded field. Low enemy variety and repetitive combat make for an experience that loses steam pretty quickly. It does look very nice, which is a point in its favor (I do love a good cell animation style), but it has trouble sustaining itself. A big upgrade tree where most of the features are incremental number boosts.



This is an extremely OSR point and click adventure game. Simple mechanically but complex in content, with a rich setting, good writing, and atmospheric music. Lots of nifty things to swipe for games (riding lizards, goblins are a type of ape, mists that cause undeath) Simple but consistent graphics get the stage set and let your imagination do the rest. The kind of game it's worth keeping notes for. 



At its best, its a thoughtful, heartfelt, beautiful game that deals with death with a care and empathy rarely seen in the medium. The art direction is great, so is the music, and when the flow gets going you can lose yourself on the sea of the afterlife.

Unfortunately, all of that good is attached to a lumpy, tiresome, grind-based gameplay loop. In order to get to those great moments, you need X. But in order to get X you need Y and Z, and to get Y you need A, B, and Q, and you don't even know where the hell to start looking for Z. It turns itself into a chore list with a lot of dead time, and that's a great shame. A bit of tweaking of where resources are located, a map you can open at any time instead of just the map room, a better way of organizing your to-do list, and some means of helping you find which of the identical shades are quest important, that would all be improvements.

Sometimes the loop works all right, sometimes gears churn into place and you can make progress, but the early game and mid game slumps are rough.


Vigil: The Longest Night

Sometimes you just know a game's not going to work out, just from the way movement and jumping and the basic combat feels. Refunded this after half an hour and bought Blasphemous instead.



Gorgeous game, amazing soundtrack, plays like a dream. Lot of stuff to dig into underneath the hood with all the different spells, rosary beads, sword hearts and whatnot. And then there's the Vibes - impeccable. You arrive in the village of Albero and meet the Brotherhood of the Kissers of Wounds and that is such a specific, obtuse, weird, and very Catholic idea that it can only be the result of people who Get It, which the devs do, what with making the entire game about Spanish folk Catholicism on steroids. It's good shit, play it if you haven't, the sequel's out later this summer and my timing was perfect.


Chained Echoes

If you like JRPGs at all, pick this up. "Love letter to X" is a cliche in review circles but this time I think it qualifies. It's made by mostly one guy who not only loves JRPGs, but knows exactly why people love them. There's great pixel art, good music, some webs of connected subsystems to play with, lots of quality of life and anti-frustration measures, solid writing, fun jokes, interesting world that's flavorful but light, and pacing like you wouldn't believe. Starts you off swift and keeps things going, not too fast not too slow. No grinding for experience (you level up from beating bosses), trash mobs give you items to sell (which gives you money and unlocks special items at merchants), the bounty board gives you upgrade items and skill boosts, on and on.

It's the sort of game where, after you finish Act 1 about twelve hours in, the game goes "Well that was fun. Let's expand the scope and add more stuff. Would you like to see how the mech combat works?"