Surveying the Vaults of Vaarn

In case you aren’t keyed into the broader tabletop RPG universe, there’s something of an Old-School Revival or Renaissance (henceforth OSR) going on. Many RPG gamers are looking towards the past, to the RPG heydays of the 70s and 80s, to draw inspiration for the future of tabletop games. And what, exactly, does this imply? Well, the members of the OSR aren’t always sure themselves, but it’s typically a broader focus on player agency and dungeon crawling, increased risk of character death, and reduced focus on pre-written plots. The gamemaster of an OSR game is once again an impartial referee, whose role is to simply mediate the world that the players explore in a sandbox style. “Rulings, not rules” is a common refrain – instead of having granular rulesets that explore every possible corner-case, OSR games prefer lighter and simpler rules, giving the gamemaster the final say on what is and isn’t permissible. 

But what I like about the OSR scene is the incredible bulk of content for it. There’s a lot, and I mean a lot, of really fantastic OSR blogs, zines, and books out in the world filled to the brim with imaginative and wild settings. One of these settings is Vaults of Vaarn, a pay-what-you-want zine by author Leo Hunt A.K.A. graculusdroog on itch.io.

I downloaded Vaults of Vaarn on a lark, looking for more interesting RPG content to consume, and found myself blown away. Hunt emphasizes strongly his influences, naming Dune, Hyperion, and The Book of the New Sun, as well as the art of Moebius. He says it’s fine if you’re not familiar with these works, because it’ll “make his theft seem original.” Well, I’m not familiar with any of these works (aside from the art of Moebius), and Vaarn seems pretty damn original to me. So original, in fact, I thought I’d do a little review of it, just because it’s got me so jazzed.

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MINECRAFT: Wizard Tower

Ello Yewchewb and welcome back to my Minecraft build series!

Quite recently (as of the time of me writing this) Mojang has released their ‘snapshot’ preview builds for the upcoming 1.16 Nether Update, which is quite exciting, as they’re finally adding new biomes to the Nether! And boy, does it come with a lot of new blocks!

To keep things simple for you but challenging for me, I’m sticking to ‘one-chunk’ builds, which means they have to fit in a 16×16 square.

Today I’m making a wizard tower!

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MINECRAFT: Nether Aquarium

Hello! I’m Warden – you might know me from this very website – and this is my new ongoing project where I try to build stuff in Minecraft featuring the latest blocks.

Quite recently (as of the time of me writing this) Mojang has released their ‘snapshot’ preview builds for the upcoming 1.16 Nether Update, which is quite exciting, as they’re finally adding new biomes to the Nether! And boy, does it come with a lot of new blocks!

To keep things simple for you but challenging for me, I’m sticking to ‘one-chunk’ builds, which means they have to fit in a 16×16 square.

And today, I’m making an aquarium!

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Top 10 Spaceworld Beta Pokemon

Possibly the biggest news in video game archiving history so far has been broken: A complete copy of the Pokemon Gold and Silver demo from Spaceworld 1997 has been leaked! This development version is almost totally different from the release, with dozens of previously unseen concept Pokemon that have been either radically changed or completely cut.

The full contents of the leak are being compiled by @TeamSpaceWorld into a table that you can view on Google Docs. To see the new Pokemon, just click on the ‘Pokemon’ tab at the top of the page. If you’re a Pokemon fan, this is a treasure trove of new Pokemon designs that have never before seen the light of day!

We’ve compiled a list of what we think the ten best “lost” designs are!

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GAMING: Top 10 Spyro Reignited Trilogy Levels We Want To See

Hey, Spyro Heads! We’ve seen the trailers for the Spyro™ Reignited Trilogy and we couldn’t be more excited about it! Spyro the Dragon was one of the definitive games for the original PlayStation, and from what we’ve seen so far, the remaster is looking gorgeous! But the only things we’ve seen are a couple of levels from the very first Spyro game – and we want more!

We’ve picked the top ten levels that we’re most excited to see in the Spyro™ Reignited Trilogy, for better or for worse! Click the jump to dive right in and check out some of our most beloved Spyro levels ever!

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CHATTER: Top 8 Games That Needed a Verbosity Slider

Have you heard about the new Bubsy game? The quick-talking bobcat has finally returned in 2017 for another venture into old-fashioned platform-style gaming, a mere 21 years after the failed 3D title that killed his franchise seemingly permanently. But perhaps the most interesting thing about Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is that they finally added a slider labeled “verbosity”, which allows you to control how much that cat chats. For those curious, yes – you can finally shut him up. But who would want to?

Having the choice to adjust the verbosity of a character is a great idea – so why not apply it to other games? We’ve compiled a list of the top 8 games we think could have been made better if they had a verbosity slider!

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GAMING: Hylics

Hylics is a JRPG-style game made by Mason Lindroth and released on August 29, 2015.

The concept of “hylics” is taken from Greek gnosticism, where it was the basest portion of what made up a living person: their physical body. This was the evil portion of a person, the part of them that demanded to eat, to have sex, to do anything that would keep a person away from perfect spiritual enlightenment. Hylics doesn’t portray itself as an evil game, but it is an intimately physical one where the entire world is molded out of malleable, changeable clay.

After the jump, we’ll sculpt our opinion out.

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RETRO: Banjo-Kazooie [Spooky Edition]

Banjo Kazooie 01

Banjo-Kazooie is a 1998 3D platformer game for the Nintendo 64 by Rareware, and is considered by many to be one of the best games for the N64 altogether. It involves a bear (Banjo) and his best friend (Kazooie) on a quest to save Banjo’s sister Tooty from the evil witch Grunty, who is planning on stealing Tooty’s vestal beauty for herself.

Although Banjo-Kazooie is widely considered to be one of the greatest hits of the 90s, that just means it’s filled with what a lot of those great 90s had in common: pure, pure fear. Although Banjo-Kazooie is a light romp at heart, certain areas of the game are filled with unabashed fright. And no, we’re not just talking about Mad Monster Mansion here – Mad Monster Mansion is child’s play compared to how terrifying some of these levels can get.

After the jump, we’ll journey with the bear and bird to the deepest, spookiest recesses of Grunty’s castle.

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RETRO: Donkey Kong Country [Spooky Edition]

Donkey Kong Country 01

Donkey Kong Country was released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo. It was developed by Rare, and was the first entry to make Donkey Kong his own standalone hero instead of a Mario villain. It was hailed as a gameplay and graphical masterpiece, utilizing pre-rendered CGI models to give a faux-3D look to the 2D game. However, for as impressive these CGI models were, they pushed the limits of realness closer to the border of uncanny.

Many of the things that made Donkey Kong Country so great were also things that made it down right spooky. Join us on a trip through the jungle as we reminisce on the things that made us wonder if 3D gaming was all it was hyped to be.

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