Downtime from my MegaDungeon game

Spwack said I should post it. Little did they know, I actually would.

Much of this was taken from a Google Doc that I wrote for my players. In a coincidence of fortunate timing, this has given me a chance to re-write parts of it to reflect changes in my approach. For example, Filth didn't exist until recently (and was going to get its own post once I had seen how it actually worked, so consider it a sneak peak I guess).

You can sort of tell what was written when based on the font, because Blogger is strange. (or you could use context you animals)

Also, for notes, Notes: are my general musings, Side Notes: are for the benefit of you who aren't playing in this game and so have missed the rest of the context for the house rules and sub-systems. For my hindsightful thoughts, they are right at the bottom.

[Also also, sorry for the terrible formatting. Much of this was taken from a google doc, as I said before. It would not play nice when I tried to cut and paste it. I have just pasted it as plain text for now. I will do nicer formatting later. Its late. I am tired. I am annoyed. Good night.]


When you recover, you have 7 days of downtime. For ease, we will codify it into a bit of a procedure.

When you recover, apart from all the health benefits its provides, you also follow the following procedure:

You expend Gold based on your Lifestyle
You test against your Filth
You roll a Lifestyle Event
You choose a Daytime Action
You choose an Evening Action

There are five ranks, in order of expense spared:

You are basically living rough, its free basically.

When you recover, you regain only half your hit die, and at the end of the recovery, you roll all your hit die and add your con mod to each rolled dice. If the result is less than your usual HP max, it becomes your HP max until you next recover.

What the serfs have to deal with, costs 5gp per week.

When you recover, you only regain half your hit die, otherwise it works as normal

The middle of the road. Recovery is as normal, but this is where it starts to cost a little bit. 25gp per week.

You splash out, have a few servants, its a nice place. 100gp per week.

When you recover, you may roll your hit die, and add your con mod as per the usual for hp, if the total is higher than your usual max, you make that your new max until you next recover.

You spare no expense. Crippling to most nobles even. 300gp per week.

Recovery as per Lavish, and you gain half your prof mod (rounding down) in bonus Hit Die to take down with you.

[Side Note: There are also three classes of district you can live in, Lower, Middle, and Upper. Lower class limits you to the bottom three lifestyles, Upper limits you to the top three, and Middle restricts you to the middle three.]

Lifestyle Events

When you recover, depending on where you live, and the level of lifestyle you have, you will receive a Lifestyle Event; such as being robbed, meeting a peculiar NPC, or finding a particularly useful specialist Vendor.

To do this, roll a d12 and a d20. The d12 indicates your event, and the d20 develops it.
If you live in a Low Class District, roll the d12 with disadvantage.
If you live in a High Class District, roll the d12 with advantage.

The d12 result is taken from the table below. The d20 result comes from the DM.

1 - Robbed!
2 - Made a Rival
3 - A Find on the Black Market
4 - Met an Odd NPC
5 - Receive a Quest!
6 - Receive a Rumour
7 - District Class Bonus
8 - Receive an Omen
9 - Met a Superior Specialist
10 - A Find at the Auction
11 - Make an Ally
12 - Economic Opportunity

For Lower class districts, the bonus result is Robbery.
For Middle class districts, the bonus result is Superior Specialist.
For Upper class districts, the bonus result is Economic Opportunity.

[Note: I will add a bit more of a detailed description for the d12s, but at this point these options are all known factors. It used to be more complex, but I've stripped it down to make this bit run smoother, as I felt this was the real speed-bump previously.]

[Side Note: This is where I learned the truth of the axiom "If you have two rolls, try and make it one." or something to that effect at least. The constant back-and-forth of "what did you roll?, that means this, roll again, what did you get? that means this..." took ages, and wasn't particularly interesting until right at the end. This at least means that more of it is player-facing so that it can move quicker. Sometimes, crunch is fun. Too much crunch is never fun.]


You accumulate Filth down in the Undercity, slowly simply by being there, quickly by messing around with poop and such. Monsters might inflict you with it. By itself, it doesn't do much, but when you next recover, you must make a Constitution Saving Throw with a DC = Your Filth. If you succeed, you suffer no consequences. If you fail, you catch a disease. If you fail a Filth save whilst afflicted with a disease, it gets worse.

 Resting only gets rid of half your Filth, rounding down.

[Note: The Cure Disease spell now works slightly differently. There are two spells;

Suppress Disease: A 2nd level spell that removes all Filth from its target. Gains another target for every 2 spell levels higher you cast it at.

Cure Disease: A 5th level spell that cures a disease. Cures an additional disease for each spell level higher you cast it at.]

 [Side Note: My game is in 5th Edition DnD, and has a level cap of 7. This means that the highest spell level you can (naturally) get is 4. To get higher than that, you must transcend your mortal limits, or huff hecking tonnes of Wizard Drugs. Its a cruel world.]

Downtime Actions

When you Recover, you get two special actions; the Daytime Action, and the Evening Action; which represent what you spend the majority of your time during the week.

In general, Daytime and Evening actions can do mostly the same thing, but the Daytime Action represents a more substantial contribution of time.

For certain actions, only one type of action can be used.

For others, you gain an additional bonus for using both your Daytime and your Evening Action for the same Recovery period, called the Combo.

Downtime Actions

These are the more general list, it is not necessarily exhaustive or limiting.

(Evenings only)

In essence, blow your money on wild parties, get hilariously drunk, get XP for it.

When you use your Evening Action to Carouse, you spend an amount of Gold of your choosing (at least, initially) and make a Wisdom Saving Throw.

If you succeed, you spend only that much, and get a random Carousing Event.

If you fail, you spend an additional d% of your initial spend, and get an even more random Carousing Event.

In general, it is much more flukey than Philanthropy.

In the end, you gain XP equal to d6 x 10% of the total gold spent.

Don’t spend more than you have. You’ll regret it.

[Note: In classic fashion, 1gp recovered from the sewers = 1xp when taken back to town. Carousing (and Philanthropy, see below) is essentially a way to get bonus bang for your buck. And extra XP.


Pray to various gods, give some dosh to the poor maybe, sing a few psalms, whatever.

Gain blessing from the Gods, depending on your favour with them.

If you used a Daytime Action: The Blessing lasts until you next Commune.

If you used an Evening Action: The Blessing lasts until your next Recovery.

Communing has no special Combo effect.

[Note: I have yet to actually figure this one out. Thankfully, no one has really wanted to do it so I've just let it lie fallow in the mud. Poor Commune, I should treat it better.]


Train your feeble body to the VERY PEAK OF PHYSICAL CONDITION.

When you Condition, you may roll your Hit Dice and add your Constitution Modifier to each result, as if rolling for Hit Points. If your total is more than your usual Hit Point Maximum, then the new total becomes your Hit Point Maximum.

If you used a Daytime Action: You roll an additional number of Hit Die equal to your Proficiency Modifier, and discard that many die of your choice after rolling.

If you used an Evening Action: You roll your Hit Die as above.

If you Combo them: You roll an additional number of Hit Die equal to your Proficiency Modifier, and discard that many die of your choice after rolling. You also treat your Constitution Modifier as 0 if it is negative, or 1 higher if it is 0 or positive.


You get to make a thing! Hooray!

You may only craft with a Tool Set with which you have at least one “rank” of proficiency with.

Crafting adds a certain amount of progress to a project; 2 for initiate items, 4 for journeyman items, and 8 for masterwork items.

You must also have a minimum number of ranks of proficiency with your tools to make items; one rank for initiate, two ranks for journeyman, and three for masterwork.

For each point of progress you make, you must spend gold equal to 5% of the item’s market cost.

If you used a Daytime Action: You make 2 progress.

If you used an Evening Action: You make 1 progress progress.

If you Combo them: You make 3 progress for the price of 2 progress.

[Tiers of quality (initiate -> journeyman -> masterwork exist mainly as a money sink to get incrementally better die sizes for your weapons, or increase the maximum proficiency bonus you can get with tool kits.]

Investigate Item

You will presumably find some strange stuff down there in the sewers; here’s how you find out what the heck it does.

Items have a number of Facts about them:

Their Market Cost
Items they are a key component of
Major Properties (which can be leveraged for making new items)
Who is interested in them (potentially)
Any other Obscure Uses

If you used a Daytime Action: You learn a Fact of your choice.

If you used an Evening Action: You learn a random Fact of the DM's choice (or whatever he can think of first).

If you Combo them: You learn two Facts of your choice.


Spread your time among the Taverns, the Salons, the Market Places, and hear what there is to hear.

This is a chance to gain extra Rumours about the Undercity. The more time you spend on Mingling, the more specific or numerous rumours you learn.

Topics of Rumours are:

Challenges you can face
Treasures you can find
Mysteries you can solve

If you learn about a rumour you have already heard, you will receive more specific information about it, so don’t worry about rolling rumours you’ve already heard.

If you used a Daytime Action: You may either choose the Topic of Rumour you learn about, you may learn a rumour of a specific area of the sewers, or you may learn two random rumours.

If you used an Evening Action: You learn a random Rumour.

If you Combo them: You learn a rumour of a specific area of the sewers, and you may choose its topic.

[Side Note: Woe is me and my Rumours.]


Spend your money on worthwhile and virtuous things, and get XP for it. Essentially a safer version of Carousing.

Choose an amount of Gold, and gain an amount of XP equal to (d3+1) x 10% of what you spent. There are no other rolls, or saves, or anything.

If you used a Daytime Action: You perform the action as above, but you may roll the d3 twice, and choose the better result.

If you used an Evening Action: You perform the action as above.

Philanthropy has no special Combo effect.


If you have received a particularly dire wound or vicious disease, you may rest exclusively to help you resist their effects.

When you would take a saving throw for a Lingering Wound (such as from being Crippled) or to resist the effects of a Disease, you immediately make a saving throw, with no negative effects for failing it.

You also cure any Filth you may have.

If you used a Daytime Action: You make a Saving Throw with Advantage.

If you used an Evening Action: You make a normal Saving Throw.

If you Combo them: You make both this Saving Throw, and the subsequent Saving Throw against this malady with Advantage.

[Note: This one needs a bit of re-working with Filth, and also the fact that no-one ever gets wounded. But maybe that's just 5e.]

[Side Note: Crippled comes from my experimental replacement for death saves. When you hit 0, you pick one of being Unconscious, Crippled, or Dying. Unconscious means your out of the fight, even when healed. Crippled means you do everything at disadvantage basically. Dying means you must Con save each turn or die. If you are hit while at 0, pick another thing. All three is instant death (if you even make it that far). It might be a bit kinder than normal really, but its also more interesting most of the time. The only problem is that in 5e, its actually literally impossible to hurt characters.]


Did you hastily pick a class feature? Do you regret it slightly? Do you think a different one would be more useful for where you plan on going next? Why not Retrain!?

If you used a Daytime Action: You may choose a different option for two different Class Feature which tells you to choose from a list of options; or the same such Class Feature twice; such as Fighting Styles, Expertise, Favoured Enemy, etc.

If you used an Evening Action: You may choose a different option for a Class Feature which tells you to choose from a list of options, such as Fighting Styles, Expertise, Favoured Enemy, etc.

Retraining has no special Combo effect.


Use this to learn, or copy spells.

If you used a Daytime Action: You may copy a number of spell levels into a book equal to double your level, or you may learn up to three new spells and add them to your spellbook.

If you used an Evening Action: You may copy a number of spell levels into a book equal to your level, or you may learn a new spell and add it to your spellbook.

Studying has no special Combo effect.

[Side Note: Learning new spells from scratch is much harder than copying spells from a spell-book, unlike in 5e (irc, at least).]


Use this to learn, or improve, skill proficiencies.

There are three effective “ranks” of a skill; Half Proficiency; Full Proficiency; Double Proficiency.

To improve a skill, you must roll a d20, with a result equal to or less than:

your intelligence score - the number of skills/tools/weapons you are proficient (or better) with.

Use the type of proficiency that is most applicable.

If the roll is successful, you improve your proficiency by one rank (or become proficient with the weapon group).

If the roll is unsuccessful, you may put a checkmark next to the skill. If you Train a skill which has more check marks than ranks, you automatically succeed on the roll to Train it.

If you used a Daytime Action: You may attempt to improve a skill that you have at most one rank in.

If you used an Evening Action: You may attempt to improve a skill that you have no ranks in.

If you Combo them: You may attempt to improve a skill that you have at most two ranks in.

[Side Note: I think its pretty good. It works for the megadungeon/west-marchy thing where the adventure isn't in town. It would be easy enough to change for a game where the average downtime period is a day too if you wanted. Its still a bit crunchy for me, but I think that's just slightly representative of playing 5e. It works enough at making the Downtime thing fun to do, without giving it the scope to spread too out of control. It wouldn't suit every game for sure, and I think you could parse it down to something suitable for every game. Eventually I may even do just that.]

Rumours - Delivery Methods & A Request for Help

[Hey, finally a post where I actually can sort of talk about something from a position of knowledge (well, sort of; see below) since this has actually been coming up in my games.]

[Alternative title for this post: Why is blogger so horribly American about spelling ey? or What's wrong with a few semi-superfluous 'U's ey?]

You know, I don't see a lot of people talking about Rumours, and how to give them out.
I think this is a shame. If people do talk about this; please let me know.

So I'm going to talk about Rumours, from the perspective of my group, in my game.

My group are all 5e dorks. Its what I got so its what I do. They like having a goal it seems; the whole exploring for the sake of exploration and discovery isn't quite enough to motivate them. At least, so it seems to me.

The game itself is set in the Sewer-built Undercity Labyrinth of a great semi-Utopian City; all is as good as it could ever realistically be up on the surface, all the adventure is below. The game itself is somewhere between a megadungeon and a pointcrawl, and it is very much a work-in-progress in terms of how it is even basically structured, even now.

It started off as merely a cool map I did that spread over like, 12 pages of A4 gridded paper.
Now it is a sprawling monstrosity of 100 locations (on the main layer at least, there's a smaller layer underneath, and then something else yet below that), but that's getting ahead of myself.
[Side note; this is what all artists mean when they say that you should start small, and not move on to something else until the first step is completely finished. It helps with scope, and with not being caught with your pants around your ankles when your party decide that they are going to go in a new direction today because although you've prepped like, 20 locations, they went a way you didn't expect.]

But yeah, there's a lot to do and discover; I wanted to stick more towards a sand-box-adjacent philosophy where there's no "set story". There is the undercity, there are the things going on within it, and there is a small inertia to events, but that is it.

In a game like this, Rumours are very important to provide information to your players. Informed choice is key in OSRish games, and if your players have no information, their choices mean less than nothing. This is something that only now (several months into the game) that I am really beginning to properly appreciate.

How does all this lead into rumours? Lets follow the story of my rumour system.

So what did I want rumours to achieve? In short - I want them to inspire my players to action.
I want someone to go; I've heard X is in the neighbourhood of Y, lets pop down to Z, travel to Y and search for X before popping back home for tea and level ups.

So, in a few quick bullet points:
- They should offer semi-reliable information (such that there is room for exploration)
- There should be loads of them (such that there is room for longevity in the system)
- They should apply to everything within the megadungeon (such that the party are encouraged to actually explore it all)
- They should be relatively easy to get, but not effortless (to reinforce the second point)
And ideally:
- They should be somehow rooted in the game world in a meaningful way

Character backgrounds are one of the nicer features of 5e, and my original system was that there would be a list of rumours, divided up by a list of tags, that would be applied to each background.
Tags would be stuff like, Occult, Artisan, History, etc; and each background would have like, three or four tags, and each tag would have six or so rumours tied thematically to it.

E.g. the sage would hear occult rumours about the Wizardly population of the undercity, whilst the criminal might hear Criminal rumours about its less savoury inhabitants.

It was a nice idea, but fiddly in execution.

I wanted the distribution to be nice and neat, where no tag would be used more or less than other tags, and each tag would have its own unique list of rumours, and it would never work neatly enough. I suspect that this could work quite well if you set out your own list of backgrounds, built from the ground up to support this system; but another problem was that the content of the game itself interfered too. It didn't want to divide neatly either. I couldn't make enough criminal content compared to wizardly content for example, because it didn't quite fit the balance of flavour I wanted for the game.

If you could be a little less anal about it than me it could probably work out just fine tbh. I rate it Potentially Salvageable/10.

In the story of the campaign itself though, this is the system we began play with, and while I think it still sort of might hold up for new characters (not that anyone dies in 5e anyway), it quickly ran into a new problem; getting new rumours through play. Enter...


I came up with kind of archetypes of things my players might like to know about, which I then boiled down to three categories of rumour; Challenges (things to be overcome like monsters and trials), Treasures (things to pillage and steal) and Mysteries (things to be solved or discovered). I divided up the whole megadungeon into these categories (sort of) and made a rough, d100 list of rumours. In the end, I made it up so that there were as many Challenge rumours as there were Mysteries and Treasure rumours, and they were semi-sub-divided again by area of the megadungeon, with larger subareas getting more rumours overall. There were a few spots I had vacant so I filled those up with broadly applicable rumours.

This worked somewhat okay for a while; I still had the issue where the environment somewhat resisted being carved up nicely like the system would have preferred, but I finally could cover just about everything I wanted, and I even had a neat little bit where each class had its own preferences of rumours; e.g. fighters were more likely to hear about challenges, wizards about mysteries, rogues about treasures, bards had no preferences and heard about everything equally, etc.

This bit I actually think works quite well overall, and tentatively recommend as a framework for rumours if it sounds cool. It would be quite easy to add categories and tweak the proportions between each category.
It also made it pretty easy to have lists by type of rumour, and by area of the dungeon. I rate it Just A Little Longer In The Oven, But Just A Little/10.


Now came my first Big Issue


I'm still kind of noodling through this one, but I think my big lesson is that

Well, there's a balance to it of course, but here's the evolution of my rumours actually as written;

- Thing literally exists.
- Thing exists, with a little bit of context, but not quite enough to really be useful.
- Thing exists, with a bit more information, and a name of the place it is, without any context

Obviously, the above don't meet the paradigm of informed choice. Knowing something exists will only prepare you to not be surprised when you meet it. You need more context that that.

Because here's the thing, it is very easy to try and hide information for cool reveals. Its an easy pit to fall into, but I still think its a pitfall. As I said earlier, if the players can't make an informed decision, they aren't actually deciding anything.

Its all well and good that they know that there are 6 patron gods of the sewers, but what use is that information if they don't have the context to apply it in?

What good is it to know that a group of paladins went down into the sewers and were never seen again, if that's literally all you know?

The best reaction you could hope to get out of the above situation is that you bump into the paladins and are like, oh, cool, those are those paladins. That's not cool. That's just, DM masturbation at best and literally nothing at worst.

So yeah, you need to give more information, but you can't give up the whole thing either of course , because uncovering mysteries is an exciting thing to do.

Now, in my next iteration of rumours, I want to really lean into this, and really push how much information I provide. Roughly speaking, in each rumour I want to; explain what the thing is, what the lure about it is, and roughly where it is, in relation to places that are already known, or have partially abstracted directions included.

It is at this point that I realise I have no framework to work off of. I actually have very few books that offer good rumours to reference - if you know any, please let me know!

I feel like of the few books I have, many of the rumours are limited to just 'factoids' about the setting, rather than useful information. Sure, having only interesting information might be a bit much, but I feel like when most of your rumours are pieces of setting information that the players ought to know merely by existing, something isn't quite right.


It should be pretty self-explanatory, but here's roughly what they mean;

Factoids - setting information that has no real effect on play.
Secrets - gameable information about world elements, such as monster weaknesses, or the location of a secret passage
Hooks - rumours that inspire action, through the lure of something the party want, or an event they might want to be a part of

Note, the main difference between a Secret and a Hook is that only the Hook causes party action. At best, a Secret could enable it, but would only ever be applied to something that the party already want to do/solve.

Personally, I think the emphasis should be on the latter two types of rumour.

So, my next big problem, for which I don't have a smooth segue;


Now, this is a bit more specific to my campaign, but it is still a reasonably applicable lesson I think.

My Downtime system goes roughly as such; a "full rest" is a week long, and alongside resting you get a daytime action, and an evening action to spend on activities (somewhat analgous to 5e's main and bonus actions in combat). One activity you could spend your time on is "Gathering Rumours". Guess how many times people did that? 

Out of four or five players doing this six or seven times? 

Maybe once. There was just always something better or more exciting. Now, in a regular game, perhaps your system is a bit less chunky, so that players could afford to spend a little time doing this then you'll probably be fine. Here though, I really want my players to have a variety of rumours to chase and follow, but when it comes down to researching new spells, and new rumours; even I'd pick new spells every time. At the very least you could just pick a tunnel and go. You don't need rumours. 
But you sort of do for the best experience.

Here is the lesson I guess; If you want players to have access to something, don't make it cost something that could be used on something more exciting.
Revelationary, I know. I'll accept my Nobel Prize next Friday.

So here's how I solve this; (hopefully, this has yet to be deployed but I think it will at least achieve my goals. Betterment can happen later.) 

Every time the party go back to town to rest, they get a rumour or maybe 2. They can still spend their downtime on extra rumours as before, but they don't have to now.
Here's the catch; rumours also come with a source, that determines how truthful/useful the rumour given might be. Most of the time rumours will be at least mostly useful and truthful. But you never know for sure, unless you spend some of your time verifying the rumour.

That's it.

Now, I do think there might be room for "factoid" type rumours, but they should be a minority, or find-out-able without cost. potentially there could even be Secrets and Hooks disguised as factoids. Not the other way round though I think, what's the point in providing a sign-post to nothing?

Secrets and Hooks should be the most common type of rumour by far, and the ones that you put the majority of effort into, and should probably cost something for more than a basic stipend of Hooks, but hey oh. This post is getting long enough as it is. 

Next time; How do I even make a good rumour 'ey?
[Spoiler: I still don't actually know]

Sekiro: The Fantastical Mundane

I've been playing Sekiro, its pretty neat.

Its amazing, it might be my GOAT, maybe, but what it also is, is very niche. I can't tell you to go buy it even though you should. It really isn't for everyone, as many Dark Souls fans are discovering, which is a shame.

This little quirk of gaming reminds me somewhat of the kind of, OSR/Pathfinder split in RPGs, but I'll get to that later.

Here are some bits I like about it:

1. How Mundane it is.
My favourite part of Sekiro is how boring a lot of it is.

Hang on
Listen. I mean boring, relative to other media.

There is no Thanos who can obliterate half the universe with a snap of his finger. There is no weapon that has crazy weird magic powers (that you can use at least). There are no weird alien people running around everywhere. Its strangely grounded and normal for a Fantasy game.

And oh boy, is the fantasy of Sekiro fucking cool.

*Disclaimer; I'll try and keep spoilers to a minimum, but I find that sometimes, a minimum of spoilage can be beneficial. YMMV*

The game is set in the real world at the end of the Sengoku era in Japan. Specifically, the game takes place in the mountainous lands of the Ashina clan, a fictional place, yet set in the real world.
You can fight such thrilling enemies as:

- Humans with swords
- Humans with spears
- Humans with BIG swords
- BIG Humans with swords
- little Humans with knives
- Dogs
- Chickens
- Lizards
- A Snake

Now, if you have played the game, or any of Fromsoft's games, you know its better than that. And I sell it really short of course.

The vast majority of enemies in Sekiro are humans, who can fall into a few categories:

- Normal people (though some of them can be like, 7 feet tall and thats cool)
- Really small people who are kind of weirdly shaped and deformed, but they seem to just kind of be treated like normal people really? Much like
- Really big people, imagine sumo wrestlers turned up to 11
- People who crawl on their hands and feet, with weird fuckin' hooks coming out of all kinds of places hooks shouldn't be
- Mummified monks who are somehow still alive (and oh god is it horrible fuck me dude)
- Weird bandage people who have inhuman heritage

And like, compare this to your more mainstream fantasy millieu, where you have like, explicitly non-humans of all shapes, sizes, outsider-derived sub-species, and all that running around like its normal.
You can have a party of a Cat-Lady, a big turtle-man, a demon-child and a elf run around Barovia in a pretence of Gothic-Horror. (this shit drives me bonkers)

This is fine of course. Sekiro's much more "contained" (for lack of a better word) speciation of humans is also cool. It feels to me somehow grounded, and yet also fantastical compared to regular DnD diversity. This is nothing new, but I think it is executed really well here. By having a relatively un-fantastical world, it makes the pockets of the truly weird stand out. After having fought humans, big humans, and little humans and having got used to them, when the crawling hook-people show up, its a surprise.

(Which I think is also one of Fromsoft's biggest strengths; not quite uniquely so, but the sense of wonder at each new discovery leaves me feeling constantly delighted and always in anticipation of what comes next)

This is pulled off consistently; a few more of the relatively-mundane things in this game;

- A valley guarded by a gargantuan albino snake
- A lake haunted by a huge carp with a man's face
- The most powerful weapon in the game's only real power is that it can kill immortal beings
- Magic is mostly restricted to things and places
- The first (sort of) boss in the game is a giant man (moreso that the other big men people)

And yet somehow it is amazing and fantastical. It nails the sense of cohesion that bog-standard (and I mean toilet standard haha yeah) DnD completely lacks.
The world design mirrors this again; be entranced by this list of areas:

- A mountain place
- A boggy valley
- A foggy forest
- A castle
- A dungeon

And yet it works, for me at least. There is the fantastic here, it is just buried, hidden behind the veneer. You need to seek it out, struggle for it, and this enhances it for me.

This is my main point I guess. Its a bit of a ramble, but for me it just further justifies my decisions to have human-only ren-fair (which I find is used needlessly derogatively, but that's a discussion for another time) fantasy. By surrounding you with the ordinary, the fantastic rubs off on it, if you do it right.

2. The Prosthetic Tools
Well, I am super in love with the idea of them, and their execution in Sekiro is really super good, but it has a few niggles for me.
Their upgrades are pretty neat, they all have a primary use which has other secondary effects which are really effective if used in specific situations, and they are all very unique and grounded in the way I say above. They aren't realistic at all (they are powered by the souls of the dissatisfied dead for one) but they have at least a veneer of plausibility.
I suppose I can include the grapple hook here, what it does for the handling of the game is absolutely incredible, even if locking on to the grapple points can be a hassle sometimes.

Some semi-counter points that are worth considering when designing similar systems:
- Its weird that you get three slots for tools, but can switch them out at any time by pausing. I feel like you should really only have been able to swap them out at Buddhas so that you are sort of rewarded for having the right tools equipped, or rewarded for good planning rather.
- Some of them do over-lap a little in their uses (though to the game's credit, their secondary effects and aesthetics do keep them all feeling distinctive) and the Shuriken are a bit too universally useful. I'm not sure how you could fix it specifically in Sekiro's case, but its worth thinking about in your game if you want to encourage switching tools out every now and again. (Similar thought could/should be turned to spell lists I expect)

3. The Sword Clashing
No other game that I have seen/played nails the feel of sword-duels as well, ever, period. For my tastes at least. If you really break it down, it gets a bit passive in that enemies can be so aggressive and can counter-attack so quickly that your aggression is much, much more tempered than theirs, so you are forced on the defensive a bit more, but its great that the system encourages you to stay on top of your foes so much more than Dark Souls/Bloodborne ever really did (as close as Bloodborne came to that).

4. The Boss Fights
Oh all right, this is basically point 1 again. But still, I find its the perfect balance for me between inventively designed mundane foes to make them feel fantastical, while tempering the truly fantastical foes with a bit of believability. Nails it in every case for me. 

5. The Sugar Items
You do a rad little pose before buffing yourself. Mega-Cool.

6. The Beautiful, fucking capital-B Beautiful design of the World.
Fromsoft are fucking masters of the Landscape-Reveal, as evidenced by your Arrival in Anor Londo in Dark Souls and walking through the clockface in The Old Hunters DLC for Bloodborne.
Sekiro is no slacker on this front.
I will fight to the death anyone who disagrees.

7. Sets of Mini Bosses
My boy Epicnamebro says that reuse of enemies is the games main weakness. I see what he means, but I don't feel quite the same way. I like seeing a mini boss of a set, in that pokemon collect-em-all type of way. Its a little thing, but when I see a boss called Six Bongo-Players United I say, damn, where are the other 5? It also sets that kinda collectable thing into the world-logic itself, its diagetic meta-gaming!

The Medium Bits
1. The Stealth
Its pretty good actually for a game that is so action-focused. You can definitely play the game completely steathily (except for boss fights) but it does push back a bit by how action-oriented it really wants to be.
The best way to play the game is to sneak in, set yourself up (maybe by picking off a few choice targets) and then battling and scrapping with the remaining foes. You can go full stealth, or full violence, but its harder. Its neat overall, but the limitations of the stealth system can be a little frustrating now and again.

2. The English Voices
Its not that I am a weeb (I am a little though), but the english voices are just so... american. And a bit crap. Wolf himself is so bland and slightly gruff like every other fucking man-character (which is also the reason I can't bring myself to play as Corvo in dishonored 2 now that he has a voice). Its a big pet-peeve I'll admit for myself, but I find it just so disconcerting hearing Emma talk so american-like in feudal japan-land.
Plus other people on reddit say that they think on the whole that the english voice acting is weaker in this game too, so I feel a bit vindicated in my views.
Like I say though, this one is pretty idiosyncratic.

3. The Mini Boss Sets
Look, they don't quite push it as much as I would like. Small beans really, but its there.

Now, some another point:


One of the most fascinating things I've noticed in response to this game, (and is again further shown by the differences in Fromsoft games and Nioh) is the strangely partisan reception of it. Let me explain:
There are a whole series of games made by, and in response to, Fromsoft. Here are the key ones I'll talk about:

- The Dark Souls Series (decent "customisation options", open-world-ish, moderately fantastical)
- Bloodborne (less good "customisation options, open-world-ish, quite fantastical)
- Nioh (maximal "customisation options", level-based, more fantastical)
- Sekiro (minimal "customisation options", open-world-ish, somewhat fantastical)

[And a brief aside, here I define "customisation options"  as meaning; ways to affect how your character looks, ways to affect how your character fights, ways to affect how your character plays]

The main "conflicts" so to speaks have been about replayability, and the "goodness" of the games. Its a bizarre world we live in.

The main "criticisms" I've seen that intrigue me are in thread where people say (in game specific subreddits) "I wanna play a Japan game, should I get Sekiro or Nioh?" and then people say Nioh because its replayable, and has better customisation. This baffles me to no end. Like, it doesn't really, I get that it's a preference thing, but when people present the argument as" Nioh has better customisation and more builds so you can repay it more, ergo it is better", it annoys me, because what they really mean is "I like that I can play this game with lots of different builds, therefore you might like it for that reason too". A small fee, but quite important I feel. A similar comparison is given for souls v sekiro, souls has more builds, therefore you can repay it more.

This I feel, has its roots in the same difference between OSR rpgs, and Pathfinder-esque rpgs (i.e. Buildless vs buildful rpgs). In Sekiro, you have one weapon, one armour set, a modicum of special skill trees, and a small variety of ninja tools. In Nioh you have several weapon types with a variety of weapons in each category, a dazzling array of skills.

And its a big but,

This has no bearing on relative replayabilty or enjoyment. This is not a new idea I guess, but it is very clearly expressed here. (and as an aside, this is not a big deal, and Sekiro is ultimately a very niche game I think, I'm just indulging myself)

Nioh is replayable because you can go for a new build each time, and experiment with different weapons to achieve the ultimate version of your avatar.

Sekiro is replayable because you can go for a new approach with each encounter, and experiment with different tools and fights to achieve the ultimate version of yourself.

A subtle distinction, but a big one.

I've seen it said that Nioh is a game for everyone, and Sekiro is a game for speed runners, as if mastering something is less fun than trying lots of new things. They are no more or less fun than each other, one of them says to you "what kind of fun do you want" the other says "here is some fun, give it a go".

This I feel is very similar to OSR v pathfinder, like I said ages ago. In Sekiro and OSR you have a limited number of tools and you need to figure out how to use them to solve your issues. In Dark Souls and Pathfinder, you have every tool you could ever want, and you get to choose which one sounds the coolest at the time. These are neither one better or worse than the other. You can even mix and match if you like. Perhaps one is more accessible, and the other more niche, but both have their time and their place. If you're reading this, I'm sure you don't need me to say this, but I did.

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