Swords & Wizardry Complete 3rd Printing

It’s been quite awhile that I’ve looked at Swords & Wizardry. With so many other OSR games available these days, it can actually be easy to forget the ones that kicked off the whole thing, especially one that has so many variations and printings. I had joined the Kickstarter for the 2nd printing of S&W Complete, but didn’t really pay attention to the one for the 3rd printing. However now it’s available (at least through Frog God Games’ site), and with the PDF only being $1 (the 2nd printing PDF is still available for free) I figured I’d take a look and see how the game is, in its current supported state.

First off course is the new cover. The cover for the 1st printing wasn’t that great, while the 2nd printing had the great Erol Otus cover; for 3rd the artist is Kaos Nest, and it’s quite a drastic change. It’s the most abstract RPG cover I’ve ever seen, and my first reaction was mixed. The more I look at it, the more it does grow on me. Looking at her other work, this still feels like an incomplete work however; her other works have far more color, and the plain black background feels like a cop-out. I also think the S&W logo should be a darker and/or different color, it definitely shouldn’t be transparent.

Along with the new cover, there is a new design and layout in this printing, and mostly new interior artwork to go along with that. While I liked the artwork that was previously in Complete, much of it was either too dark and/or pixelated; in comparison the artwork in the 3rd printing is much better. I’m still on the fence on the new design/layout. The page borders don’t bother me (and having the section/chapter name at the bottom is a really nice touch), but the text is still too small for my eyes. I like the latest character sheet as well. The increased amount of artwork does make this a heavy PDF, as both Adobe Reader and Chrome both had problems scrolling through it.

As far as the system goes, it hasn’t changed at all for this new printing. I still don’t like equipment being listed as fragments of a gp. While it may be more realistic compared to classic D&D’s “everything is 1 gp or higher”, I wish it would just list items cheaper than 1 gp in terms of sp, cp, etc. I also really don’t like that both descending and ascending AC is used/listed; S&W has the balls to replace the classic 5-save system with a single save, so it should’ve done the same and just gone with ascending AC. I do like S&W’s treasure system a bit more than classic D&D and most other OSR RPGs, and there is a nice variety of monsters and treasure.

So looking once again at the available OSR RPGs and Classic D&D, would I choose Swords & Wizardry now? I think it would be a very tough choice between Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord, so I would be happy to own and play both of them. This printing of S&W Complete is the best release of S&W so far, so I will likely have to eventually order a hardback copy. As a way to showcase the talents of women, most of them newcomers to the RPG industry, I say well-done to them and to Frog God Games for giving them this chance!

Outlast

Another play-through I recently watched on Markiplier’s channel is for Outlast, a survival horror game for PC and consoles. This is a game I certainly wish I could play myself, but I’d chicken out way too early, and also get quite frustrated with some of the chases that require going a certain route. I’ve already watched his play-through twice, and I can’t imagine it will be long before I’ll watch it yet again. And before too long we’ll have the second game!

In Outlast you play a journalist named Miles Upshur, who has come to the Mount Massive Asylum in search of answers regarding inhuman experiments supposedly taking place. Parking at the front gate, it’s immediately clear something isn’t right here. The main doors are locked, the gate guard is dead, and there are armored humvees parked out front. Looking around the perimeter, Miles finds an open piece of fence just large enough to crouch through, and then some climbing results in entering the facility. The atmosphere is already unnerving: lights and sounds playing tricks or making the player imagine strange and horrible things. A neat mechanic is that Miles is carrying a camcorder with him, and along with being able to zoom in it has a nightvision mode, which will not just be handy but will be a necessity at certain points. Of course there are conveniently-placed batteries all around the asylum to keep that camcorder running.

As Miles begins exploring he runs into The Large Guy, who easily picks him up and throws him through the window into the main lobby. Regaining consciousness, Miles realizes he’s locked inside and must escape. Throughout the rest of the game he must navigate hallways, rooms, and more, all the while avoiding absolutely crazy and blood-thirsty murderers. The only options: run, hide, or die.

The game maintains a very suspenseful atmosphere for three-quarters of the way through, and then near the end it just kinda jumps the shark. What was a believable and yet still crazy notion gets ramped way up and includes more conspiracies, technology, and more, and it’s just way too much. The ending, while abrupt and certainly elicits a reaction from the player, is not the one I would have preferred. At the very least, it could have been like Resident Evil 7 or other games where multiple endings are possible depending on the player’s actions.

The demo for Outlast 2, which Mark has played, does show quite a bit of promise. Scaling back the sci-fi and bringing in more of a Satanic/ritualistic nature, I think it shows lessons learned by the developers, and I can’t wait to see what the full game brings!

Alien/s

The Alien movie franchise stands as one of the longest-lasting and more popular series, started in the golden age of sci-fi movies in the late 1970s. With the incredible photography and suspense of the first movie, it didn’t take long for the success and cultural permeation to bring about additional movies and demand for even more, which continues to this day with not only movies but video games, comics, and more.

Alien

Released two years after Star Wars, Alien couldn’t be any different. Compared to Star Wars’ grand scale, bombastic soundtrack, and action-driven plot, Alien feels cramped and suspenseful. A merchant vessel, the Nostromo, is headed back home when its computer, Mother, picks up a distress signal from a nearby planet. Reluctantly agreeing to check it out, the crew finds more than they could possibly imagine.

Following the pacing of 2001 and Star Trek: The Motion picture, as well as his later release Blade Runner, Ridley Scott takes his time to let the story unfold, as the crew realizes the danger they’re in and how they’ll try to deal with it, all the while dying one by one at the hands (or actually a little zippy mouth and sharp tail) of this unknown creature skulking about their ship. In the end, it’s the wit and courage of Ellen Ripley, played very well by Sigourney Weaver in what will become a defining female sci-fi role, that allows at least for her (and her cat!) to escape the menace.

As it had been awhile since I’d seen this movie, I was curious how well it has held up over the decades. Needless to say any doubts I ever had were put to rest very quickly. By the time the crew was out to investigate the planetoid I was on the edge of my seat, knowing what would happen but the suspense still as high as the first time I saw it. Throughout the rest of the film I still appreciated the set design, sound effects, and the camera work of Scott’s that all worked together to bring such an incredible film to life.

Aliens

Released seven years after Alien, Aliens shares the same universe but approaches it far differently. Director, writer, and special effects wizard/veteran James Cameron used one of his existing stories and adapted it to the Alien universe, putting Ellen Ripley back in the spotlight and taking charge once again, this time with the help (or at least attempted help) of some marines.

Taking place right after Alien, in this movie Ellen’s escape pod is discovered. Unfortunately it drifted right through the main system and wasn’t discovered until well after traveling through the other side some 70 years later. She is alone, struggling to make a living, when the Weyland-Yutani Corporation come to her for help, as her experiences make her the perfect consultant for a mission to rescue colonists on the very same planet that Ellen’s crew discovered the alien ship long ago. Accompanying the marines and a very untrustworthy W-T representative, the group finds far more than they anticipated, and only with Ellen’s experience and initiative will some of them survive.

This movie has far more action than the first movie, and I can see that in some ways it’s a welcome change. Yes Cameron could have tried to keep the same atmosphere and tension that Scott did, but would he have done as well? And even so, would audiences have cared as much, or would they be fatigued by the sheer terror and/or bemoan that Cameron had merely copied Scott? Of course we do still get plenty of tension and terror, but it is in a different light. We get more guns, more aliens, and more bravado. This was the mid-80s, and action films were close to ludicrous levels of machismo, violence, and patriotism. Aliens no doubt brought some of that in, but again in the context of what this film is focusing on it really does work.

Post-Aliens

I haven’t watched any films in the series since Aliens: Alien3, Alien: Resurrection, and Prometheus. From what I’ve heard they’re not anywhere near as good, and don’t really follow the story set by the first two movies. Ridley Scott has a new Alien movie coming out within in a year, Alien: Covenant, and will take place between Prometheus and Alien. Neill Blomkamp has also supposedly been working on a new Alien movie, as a sequel to Aliens. I’ve seen some concept art for Dwayne Hicks, and I like what I see. We’ll just have to wait if this movie does indeed finally come about, and if so how it stacks up both to the existing movies as well as Ridley’s forthcoming one…

Sara Is Missing

Played by both Markiplier and HarshlyCritical, I decided to give Sara Is Missing a try (I actually played the game before watching their playthroughs, and I recommend doing so). This is a short but free game for Mac or Windows, and is also available on the Apple Store and Google Play.

In the game you find Sara’s phone and must search through emails, texts, photos and more to try to determine what happened to her. Along the way you’ll have a helpful Siri-like AI assistant to give you helpful nudges. The story is fairly intriguing and as time goes by things get weirder and creepier. There’s no background music or sounds, and I’m not sure if they’re really needed or not.

Thankfully the game is free because it is a very short one. If they simply made it to gauge interest in a longer version then I think they’ve succeeded. I really wanted more, and I can see this style of game working quite well whether played on a PC or a phone.