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I have high hopes for Fatal Frame 5: Fourth Drop Gameplay. Last drop we were with Ren and Rui, who went back to the inn to find a memorial photo album. But this drop, I suspect, will be a lot more intense.

Character Cheat Sheet

  • Yuri Kozukata – An orphan rescued from suicide by Hisoka, who can see “spirit traces”, like Hisoka. She’s in possession of the Camera Obscura, the camera that can combat ghosts. She can see shadow traces of people and items, and is using that to try and find the missing Haruka.
  • Hisoka Kurosawa – Yuri’s mentor who runs an antique shop. She also reads fortunes and finds missing items and people by following their traces… but went missing on Mt. Hikami while looking for Haruka.
  • Fuyuhi Himino – Employed Hisoka and Yuri to help her find her friend, Haruka. But while on Mt. Hikami was put into a trance and forced to commit suicide. Her spirit is now bound to Mt. Hikami.
  • Haruka Momose – Fuyuhi’s missing friend. We suspect that she might be in the Shrine of Dolls but it’s unknown if she’s alive or dead.
  • Ren Hojo – Ren is an author who lives with his assistant, Rui, at the base of Mt. Hikami. He often calls Hisoka Kurosawa to find things with her Shadow Reading.
  • Rui Kagamiya – is the assistant to Ren Hojo.

Just to catch you up

We shift back to Yuri. Previously, Yuri went up Mt. Hikami to help Fuyuhi, who came in search of her missing friend Haruka. Unfortunately, before we could find Haruka Mt. Hikami and the Blackwater Maidens who haunt it claimed Fuyuhi. But we found clues that indicated Hisoka, Yuri’s teacher and guardian, is also on the mountain. And that Haruka might still be alive, somewhere in the Shrine of Dolls nestled in the mountain.

Determined to bring Haruka home alive, Yuri returns to the Shrine of Dolls…

Heading back up the mountain trail, Yuri catches a Shadow Trace of Haruka and snaps a picture. Doing so makes the afterimage of Haruka vanish, but a note appears where Haruka was standing.

In it, Haruka writes:


“I awoke to the sound of water.”

“I awoke to the sound of water. Should I press on, or go back? This is the point of no return. If I want to see Fuyuhi again…”

Does this trace know… that Fuyuhi is dead? Or did Haruka believe that Fuyuhi was on Mount Hikami, and that’s why she came?

Returning to Mount Hikami

Yuri continues her climb upward, reaching the Purification Pool. There, in its waters, a Maiden in white appears deep in contemplation. Yuri catches a photo of her, and learns that she’s a Wistful Shrine Maiden. Yuri’s quick hands are rewarded with Haruka’s second note.

“I came here because of the sunset.”

“I came here because of the sunset. It was so beautiful, it made me want to cry. It was the same sunset I saw when I survived. The sun seemed to sink into the mountain. I had to come and see it. Melting away into the waters of the mountain seems natural… It seems right. I feel like the others are telling me to. The ones who didn’t survive. The sunset is drawing closer. Or maybe I’m drawn to it.”

It seems that those who are close to death, who are suicidal or who have survived a near death experience in the past, are drawn to Mt. Hikami as if it exudes a siren song.


But once Yuri puts down the note, she’s immediately assaulted by several bloody-eyed Maidens. With Yuri’s newly updated camera, it’s an easy fight. And with them defeated, she touches them for a Fatal Glance and sees the Maidens last moment. Their brutal murder at the hands of a man who hated their all-seeing eyes.

We head up the path towards the Unfathomable Forest. Just down the path is the bridge to the Doll Shrine. And across it we see an image of Haruka.

Fatal Frame 5: Fourth Drop Gameplay, haruka waits for us across the bridge
It’d be great if you could just stand there and wait for us.

Snapping it, Yuri see her standing, waiting. Unfortunately, the bridge is still out. But going to its edge, she see the corpse of a slaughtered maiden floating down stream. Taking a picture causes her to shimmer and fade into the water.

Unfortunately, there’s no choice but to delve back into the wild labyrinth of the Unfathomable Forest. And at the first junction, Yuri finds a strange leather mask. Touching it, Yuri sees the memory of a man with a camera, maybe ghost hunting.

He sees a noose. But before he can be lured into suicide like Fuyuhi, he sees the man who massacred the Blackwater Maidens plunging through the woods towards him. Moments later, the mask owner is slaughtered too.

I can’t help but to shiver at this. I once got lost in Aokigahara forest in the winter, which inspired this forest. And while I never saw a noose, the forest absolutely gave me the creeps.


Yuri drops the mask but it’s too late. A howl pierces through the woods and the man who slaughtered the maidens is headed right towards her, wielding his bloodied blade.

Fatal Frame 5: Fourth Drop Gameplay, tattooed man wants us dead

This is the first time we’ve gotten such a good look at him. And god, does he look insane. Tattoos cover his face, and his hair is a wild shock of white. But what’s important here is that he wants to kill Yuri, and he comes in swinging.

He’s far tankier and deadlier than anything we’ve fought so far. When he extinguishes his torch he turns invisible, and as he reaches the end of his health he bursts into a pyre of flames, still hellbent on killing the camera wielding girl.

But he goes down, and Yuri’s finally able to touch his ghostly essence.

In his last moments, he, like many others, came to Mt. Hikami to commit suicide and was tended to by one of the Blackwater Maidens. But once she glanced at his face and saw everything—his mind and the secrets within—he went mad. He slaughtered her and the rest of the maidens to ensure that no one would know his secrets.


With ever maiden dead, he returned to the body-filled pool of purification where he set himself on fire and cut his own throat.

I can’t really say I sympathize. What sort of terrible secrets wash he hiding that warranted such a slaughter?

Yuri continues onward, scrounging through the undergrowth for items. There’s film and herbal medicine galore. Drawing closer back to the main path, three wandering shrine maidens walk in single file, incandescent and lovely.

Fatal Frame 5: Fourth Drop Gameplay, the maidens take their last stroll
How many times have we seen them take this walk?

They vanish, and following them down the path Yuri sees that they’re now lying across the ground. The tattooed man gouging out their eyes.

Creeping closer, the images of the maidens and their murderer dissipates. But just a few feet away is another of Haruka’s notes.

It reads:


“Fuyuhi didn’t see the sunset.”

“Fuyuhi didn’t see the sunset. Only I could see it. That’s why I had to go alone. The light of the setting sun lives on in the mountain. I wish Fuyuhi could’ve seen it.”

How sad. Even though it led to their deaths, I think Fuyuhi would have liked to have seen the sunset with Haruka, too.

Reaching the entrance of the Shrine of Dolls, a trace of Haruka wanders towards its side, away from the main doors. She sings the Song of Memories, which Fuyuhi held so dear.

She might still be alive. But no part of me wants to go into this shrine.

Entering the Shrine of Dolls

Yuri slides open the side door and a child-sized doll greets her from the corner, staring down at a doll on the floor. They seem too lifelike.


I hate this shrine already.

Edging forward, more dolls stand in the hallway. Yuri presses on and one collapses to its knees. In the next room, there’s a doll discarded on the stairs. Ignoring the basement for now, Yuri heads into the next room, which is full of dolls and items.

nope nope nope nope

Amongst the items is a lens and another note from Haruka.

The note reads:  

“Ever since we survived, I’ve felt like every day could be my last.”

“Ever since we survived I’ve felt like every day could be my last. I feel closer to Fuyuhi than ever. It’s nice sharing secrets with her… Sharing my guilt. We often talk about the past. I remember a lot of things from back then…

Like how her face was the first picture I drew in kindergarten. We split the sheet of paper and drew each other. I remember growing taller than her, and how she stayed at my house while hers was being renovated. We often talk about that kind of stuff.

Most of all, I remember singing the Song of Memories at kindergarten graduation. I looked over at Fuyuhi and she was already looking at me, waving.


Whenever I hear that song, it makes me want to go back there… to that time.

My whole life has been flashing before my eyes. Of all the moments, that’s the one I want to keep on living over and over, forever.”

The notes continue to be some of my favorite moments in the Fatal Frame series. It makes the shadow of Haruka worth chasing. Yuri turns and sees a trace of Haruka, crouching down behind the dolls, near an altar.

Yuri crouches down to investigate and finds a wooden grate beneath it. It’s locked, but there’s no doubt that that’s where Haruka went. Yuri just needs to find a way to open it.

But as she stands up to leave, she realizes there’s someone else in the room with her.


A little girl with white hair.

We’ve seen here before, haven’t we? She was the girl sacrificed in Ren’s dream. But she’s here now and she’s giving off nothing but bad vibes.

Little white-haired girl challenges us to a game.
She’s going to try to kill us. Guaranteed.

“I know you want to die. Before you do, how about a game?”

This white hair girl challenges her to a game of hide and seek. Yuri must find a hidden effigy of herself. If she doesn’t, well… we’re not told what happens, but I suspect it’s nothing good.

The ghostly children we saw when we first came to Mt. Hikami briefly surround her before running off, and the white haired girl disappears. Where could it be hidden?

Heading downstairs into the waterlogged basement, Yuri finds shelf after shelf filled with dolls. Amongst them is a maiden like the one we encountered in the tutorial. She’s unmistakable because her top is open and her breasts are bigger than her head.


We make it to the other side unscathed, and find a book called The Doll Memorial. The book states that the shrine was built on top of the river. Dolls depicting those who passed would be placed in the river to be washed away, serving as a memorial.

No wonder the lower level is flooded. Heading into the main shrine room, there’s a man hunched over, his face masked, a black box on his back. The watchful eyes of three large dolls, obscured by thin bamboo blinds, stare down at him like little gods.

Fatal Frame 5: Fourth Drop Gameplay, three enshrined dolls
I hate this place.

Moving into the side room, Yuri’s attacked by a doll for the first time, and I hate it. But this attack is just the first of many. Fortunately, these dolls go down with a single shot.  

Through this room Yuri’s finally able to go outside, and if you asked me to draw a map of the shrine under the threat of death, you’d have to kill me. That place is a maze.

But outside, things have changed. The trees are filled with dolls, hanging from nooses.

Fatal Frame 5: Fourth Drop Gameplay dolls hanging from nooses
these kids are twisted.

It’s a disorienting, terrifying sight. One of the creepiest of the game. But once we take a picture of the right hanging doll our effigy is revealed.

The ghost children who accompanied the white-haired girl attack Yuri in a repeat of Drop Two. But they mostly circle around her, and the most efficient way to time it is to wait so they’re all in the same shot together. Sometimes they’ll even stand in a group for you.


Returning to the Shrine of Dolls

With effigy in hand, Yuri returns to the shrine, entering through a door that used to be locked. Inside is a doll crafting room, filled with pieces of dolls that looks too much like a serial killer’s slaughter house. Here we find another book titled Shrine of Dolls.

In it, the book states that the old dolls that fille the shrine contain tiny teeth, bones, and small bundles of hair tucked away inside.

Oh. Okay. So it kind of is a slaughterhouse. But you’re ramming the body parts inside of dolls. Okay.


These dolls are believed to contain the souls of deceased children who were offered to the shrine in a ritual. The cave below the shrine, known as Womb Cavern, also houses several human remains. This cavern, the writer believes, is where the bodies were disposed of.


But now that cavern has been renovated into a storage place for the old dolls.

So… that’s the water-logged area Yuri has been slogging through. The storage room for all these ritually killed children. Things are just getting worse and worse.

Another book nearby details the writer’s dreams with a group of children. In that dream, they’ll play Spirited Away, where they must seek out hidden effigies of themselves. If you’re the last to find your effigy, you’ll be spirited away.

The second game is called “Ghost Marriage”. In this case, everyone hides their dolls, except one person called the “Outsider”. That person then chooses a partner of the opposite sex and searches for their doll.

The owner of a doll that is found is “bound”, or married, to the Outsider. But if the Outsider finds the wrong doll, then the owner of that doll becomes the Outsider instead.


Well, we now know what sort of game the white-haired girl was playing with us. Hopefully Yuri found hers in time.

Returning downstairs into the doll storage area, Yuri finds a man standing in the water. I don’t know who he is or why he’s down here. It’s a difficult fight but we’re able to press on… until we meet the tutorial maiden again. And this time she isn’t passively waiting to dissolve into the water.

Blackwater Shrine Maiden wants to fight.
I remember those!

She attacks, but she’s easier than the man we dealt with a few moments before. And as we touch her ghostly essence, we see an image of her and four other maidens, standing hand in hand, facing a great tidal wave of black. She and the others succumb to it, sinking into the black waters.

Finally through the storage room, Yuri heads back into the doll room where she was first challenged to the game. Yuri sets her doll on the shrine, and the white girl appears again.

But it doesn’t seem like she wants to play fair, because she immediately attacks us. And she’s so much more annoying than the children we fought outside. But she goes down, and something clicks beneath the doll display. The wooden grate that prevented Yuri from following Haruka is finally open.

Descending into Womb Cavern

She slides down it, into the dark, and lands in a cave.


It seems not all of Womb Cavern has been converted into a storage room. This place is still its original stone, with water reaching up to Yuri’s thighs.

The tunnel splits into two and we see a man carrying a reliquary on his back. He warns someone, Yuri? Himself?, not to succumb to the black waters.

He vanishes but his voice echoes on. “It springs forth from the Netherworld. It is the Netherworld itself.”

“It springs forth from the Netherworld. It is the Netherworld itself.”

Or was it the black hair of the women who drowned in these waters that turned the water obsidian?

Looking down the path he took, the tunnel is well-lit with electric lights. Some semblances of modern civilization. We go down the left instead and see a trace of Haruka.


We can hear her saying:

“I need to take my heart… into the water… to the depths… Deeper, and deeper, and deeper…”

We step further into the room to see a pool filled with black boxes. They’re ornately decorated, their lids shut. Except for one, which has an arm protruding through its cracked door. Yuri opens it, to see who’s arm it might belong to.

It’s Haruka.

Haruka, unconscious in the black box.
I can’t believe she’s alive!

Yuri touches her, and sees Haruka, overcome with visions of a sunset. She’d been following the sunset this entire time, blind to her path through the woods, the Shrine of Dolls, and eventually here, into the Womb Cavern.

Lured as if by a trance to the black box, where a Blackwater Maiden forced her inside, filling the box with water. But she’s alive.


“Fuyuhi?” Haruka asks, as she stares disoriented up at Yuri. “I’m melting.” She collapses into Yuri, who falls back into the water, unable to hold her weight.

But Haruka’s escape from her almost coffin triggered something terrible. The nearby black box springs open and a woman slides out in a gush of water, screaming, like a terrible birth.

a woman coming out of the black box
i screamed when she popped out

The battle is fast and violent. Once she’s down, Yuri touches the woman’s essence and sees an image of the masked men carrying holy relics on their back. They’re forcing a woman inside the box, who screams and begs for them to let her go. The box is thrown into the dark water and opens, her crushed body floating upward. The box was too small to contain her body, and so her bones were broken to fit.

Did she escape now and attack Yuri and Haruka because she was angry that she was never rescued? We’ll likely never know. But now her box is filled with dark water, with something like hair floating on its surface.

Yuri introduces herself and promises to get Haruka out of this cave and back to safety.

Back in the doll shrine, Haruka follows us through its labyrinth of doors and halls. She murmurs to herself about how she needs to apologize to Fuyuhi, repeating over and over that she’s sorry. If you played other Fatal Frame games, you know this isn’t a good sign. It’s possible she’s still possessed.


Outside the Shrine of Dolls

Outside the shrine, we can hear the Song of Memories. Is it Fuyuhi singing? Haruka runs off, following it. Yuri must follow Haruka’s trace again before it’s too late.

In the distance, Haruka calls for Fuyuhi and then speaks to her.

But if she’s found Fuyuhi, does that mean she’ll see Fuyuhi kill herself? If she does, will she be compelled to commit suicide too?

But as Yuri gets close, she finds that it’s not Fuyuhi. It’s the ghost that tricked Fuyuhi into committing suicide. Yuri takes them down, and finally, we’re able to leave for the mountain with Haruka in tow.

Back at the antique shop

And with Hisoka gone, Yuri calls for Ren and Rui instead, while Haruka rests in one of the spare bedrooms.


They ask Haruka why she was there, on the mountain, in the womb cavern. All Haruka can say was that she saw the setting sun, and it drew her in. She became a part of it, as if she was melting.

She demands to see Fuyuhi, saying she can hear their song. The Song of Memories. No one responds. No one has the heart to tell her what happened to Fuyuhi.

Rui promises that she and Ren will be over at the antique shop as often as possible to support Yuri until Hisoka comes back.

Yuri finds Ren in Hisoka’s office, asleep. But he’s caught in a nightmare.

Yuri touches him and sees his dream. In it, Ren is a child, holding a knife against the back of the white-haired girl. Did he kill her?


He wakes up and he and Rui leave.

Now it’s just Yuri and Haruka alone in the antique shop. But as Yuri has her bath, she leans back into the water and is surrounded by black hair. It pulls her under, submerging her, and when she rises again she’s on the inside of one of the black boxes in the Womb Cavern.

She bangs her fists desperately against the lid, only for a face to rise out of the waters in front of her.

Fatal Frame 5: Fourth Drop Gameplay, terrifying face staring at Haruka from within the box

But it was just a dream. She wakes with a start on her bed in the antique shop, fully clothed but soaking wet. She’s certain that her dream was similar to what Haruka experienced.

Wanting to know more she goes to Haruka’s bedroom. But Haruka isn’t there. Yuri checks the security cameras and sees Haruka leaving, followed by Fuyuhi’s ghost, that is luring her back to the mountain.


Whoo! Okay, now we’re finally playing a Fatal Frame game. Fatal Frame 5: Fourth Drop Gameplay is my favorite, by far. I was so tired of the dumb inn, of the tutorial, of all that. But the Shrine of Dolls was exactly what this game needed to bring the claustrophobic atmosphere that Fatal Frame games are known for.


I will say, some of the fear was reduced by having the children-sized dolls have their kimonos open so you could see their chest. Like, why? If you want to mingle horny and horror, do it in a cool way. Like, Silent Hill-ish. Look at Asphyixia!

Anyway, that’s my pet peeve.  

Otherwise, the battles are more challenging. The aesthetic is on point. The lore, as always, is immaculate. Like, gorgeous, love it. Love the obscene child-killing rituals, the forcing people into boxes. Don’t know what’s happening, don’t care. It’s really cool. It was also a huge mistake to play this game past midnight, I don’t know what I was thinking.

5 out of 5 Cthulhu heads.

5 out of 5 Cthulhu heads. First one in the series!

Time: Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.  



Into the Odd Remastered: an Ethereal Steampunk TTRPG



“Fallen cities are adorned with statues of star-beings, cultists manifest their fervour into reality, and belligerent unions prepare for a cosmic invasion. Familiar landscapes are overrun by strange weeds, corrosive mists creep in from the sea, and jet black mountains watch from the horizon. This odd world has been affected by beings stranger than we can imagine.” -pg 4, INto the odd remastered: introduction

Into the Odd Remastered is an update of the 2014 role-playing game of the same name. Written by Chris McDowall and sold by Free League Publishing, the rules-lite tabletop roleplaying game asks you to place yourself in a world long ago ravaged by cosmic horrors. The general atmosphere comes across as dark steampunk though there is room for plenty of genres to intermingle.

The rules are relatively simple. Characters have four stats; Strength, Will, Dexterity, and HP. Strength, Will, and Dexterity start as a value between 3 and 18, as determined by rolling 3d6. During the game, players roll a D20 versus their stats, attempting to roll lower than the value in order to succeed. Many effects damage the stats as well as the HP value. Additionally, all attacks always hit, with rolls being used just to determine damage.

The rules can fit on a single page as evidenced by the handy Into the Odd cheat sheet made by garkia19. As a note, this cheat sheet has some minor typos. For example, characters don’t have a Charisma score. However, I found it incredibly helpful to use as a reference while I played Into the Odd. Another great resource was Søren Nøhr Ryborg’s The Odd Generator, which auto generates characters for Into the Odd. Since we were just trying out the system, both these resources made it really easy to jump in without my players needing to read the whole rule book.

A screenshot from the Into the Odd character generator by Søren Nøhr Ryborg (LINK).

A general shoutout to Owlbear Rodeo, a free virtual tabletop software, David Wilson’s 2-minute tabletop token library, and Kenku FM for their role in creating an immersive gaming environment.

The Player Experience

The Into the Odd rulebook, in addition to rules, also contains a sample dungeon. It was this dungeon that I ran for a party of three adventurers. They found the system to be easy to understand, however, coming from more rules heavy systems they often felt like they weren’t doing enough. For example, they wanted to roll dice more often. However, they still had fun crafting a narrative and working with each other.


The Gamemaster Experience

I was in love with the idea of Into the Odd. An accessible, low barrier RPG with a splash of steampunk and cosmic horror. What’s not to love? But I found the Into the Odd system left a little to be desired. In particular, combat doesn’t feel particularly difficult or interesting. Since players always go first and everyone always does damage, it meant my party of three people were able to dispatch any enemy before it could hurt them. Skill checks felt like they had the opposite problem. None of my players could succeed in a skill check because their stats were so low. This meant that the tension was removed from both combat and skill checks. Playing the dungeon and rules as written, I didn’t feel as if I had the mechanical or narrative tools to rectify either issue.

The dungeon itself was a bit drab. I loved the art and ideas behind it, but there wasn’t much content. A smaller, more detailed dungeon would have been easier to run and better received by my players than a large, sparse dungeon. I also wished for far more traps. While I recognize I could have populated the dungeon myself, I often don’t expect to finish a dungeon myself when given one to run.

Into the Odd Rulebook Sample Dungeon (page 75)

Outside of the sample dungeon, there is not much content for the gamemaster to work with. If I wanted to start running my own Into the Odd games there are very few monster, trap, and loot examples so I would have to come up with everything myself. This is not the end of the world, however, I personally like to have more content than what was provided to start doing my own adaptations. If I were to try this system again, I would want to use it for a heist narrative over a dungeon crawl. 


The Into the Odd rulebook provides the skeleton for a rules-lite RPG adventure, however it fails to add any meat to the bones. The result is an RPG that requires far more work for a gamemaster than the rules-lite exterior would indicate. This is not inherently negative, however could be surprising given the game’s pitch. If you are looking for a new system to tinker around with, this could be a great next purchase! 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Disco Elysium – A Reflection




Disco Elysium is a role-playing video game released in 2019. It was developed and published by ZA/UM under the lead of Robert Kurvitz. The Final Cut was released in 2020 featuring full voice acting and new content. It is available to play on PC and console.

The game cover for Disco Elysium The Final Cut. It shows two men standing next to each other. One holds a flashlight and the other holds a gun.
Cover art for Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

Disco Elysium is a weird game. I have been playing video games, especially RPGs, for most of my life and I can confidently say this game is an outlier. Instead of a focus on combat, the game is written almost entirely around skill checks and dialogue trees. While that alone isn’t enough to make the game a stand-out, it is the fact that a vast majority of the dialogue trees occur as your own internal monologue which sets it apart.

Who Are You?

A screengrab from Disco Elysium. It is a blurry watercolor image showing the faint hint of a man's face with a red nose.
No really, *who* are you?

There are 24 different skills split across the four categories of intellect, psyche, physique and motorics. You of course have the more traditional skills such as Logic, Empathy, Endurance and Perception. But there’s also more elusive skills, like Esprit de Corps which determines how connected to your home police precinct you are.

After all, you are a police officer in town to solve a murder. It’d certainly help things if you hadn’t drank so much that you absolutely ruined your memory (among several relationships in town). “What kind of cop are you?” the tagline reads. You get to decide because you cannot remember who you once were.

This isn’t a review about Disco Elysium in the traditional sense. Because Disco Elysium ended up being far more than just a game to me. I found myself relating to the main character (whose name in and of itself is a spoiler) far more than I ever should have. He doesn’t know how to be human – and for the most part neither do I.

What Makes You?

A screengrab from Disco Elysium showing internal dialogue and skill checks.
An example of internal dialogue and skill checks in Disco Elysium

As you play through the surrealist dream that is the setting of Revachol, interactions with the townspeople can be tedious processes. The entire time, you are in constant dialogue with yourself trying to figure out the right thing to say. Logic makes some good points, but Electro-Chemistry says I should forget about all of this and go get wasted because Empathy just chimed in and told me I hurt this woman’s feelings with my failed attempt at Rhetoric.

The first time I played Disco Elysium felt like an awakening. No game has ever so accurately managed to tap into the types of conversations I have with myself daily. No game has ever so accurately managed to tap into the sheer shame and self-degradation I endure when I mess up a social situation.


Luckily, in video games there is this neat trick called save scumming. It is when you save the game before important decision making, and if things don’t go the way you’d like you simply re-load the save and try again. There is seemingly nothing better than doing something over differently and a new part of your brain chiming in to say, “Damn, that felt *good*. Your heart is pounding nicely. You should tell people to fuck off more often.”

What Breaks You?

A screengrab from Disco Elysium showing a bombed-out city statue.
The environment is almost as much of a mess as you.

In real life, there is no save scumming. There is no going back in time to give yourself a do-over. I think that is why RPGs speak to me so strongly in general. I can slip into the skin of a new character and failure never has to be an option. The sinking pit of shame only has to last as long as the game takes to reload.

Disco Elysium feels like a game built on shame, guilt and redemption. Probably because it is a game built on shame, guilt and redemption. My entire life has felt like a game built on shame, guilt and redemption. I’ve gone through like the protagonist – bumbling and trying so hard to pick the correct option in the dialogue tree and only realizing moments too late that I chose the wrong one. My only reward, like his, is a stream of insults hurled at me by my own brain.

Of course, I learned nearly two years after my first play-through that I am autistic. It turns out, most people do not constantly have dialogue trees of pre-scripted responses popping up in their head when they speak to others. They can just… have conversation? With my diagnosis came a lot of soul searching and an equivalent amount of therapy.

What Heals You?

A screengrab from Disco Elysium depicting two men sitting on a swing set in a snowy environment.
The protagonist takes a respite with his partner.

However, it turns out, my diagnosis and the resulting psychology bills shifted the way I play RPGs in a way I didn’t realize until I picked Disco Elysium back up for another playthrough. As I load into the opening scene hotel, I walk away from the first skill check knowing I won’t pass it. The first time I played, I probably re-did that skill check ten times alone before I got the result I wanted.

As I exit the hotel room to encounter the next character, I’m open and honest with them about the fact I cannot remember anything. I previously ran through that conversation five times trying to convince them that I was normal and that everything was fine with me (despite the obvious indications otherwise).

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize I wasn’t save scumming. Something inside of me had clicked into place. It was a new feeling replacing the insane urge to “get it right.” I stopped focusing on how to play correctly and realized that there is no way to play correctly.


I have my skills and I can use what skills I have to solve the problem, even if it isn’t the conventional or correct way. There is no sense in trying to shove a square solution into a circular problem.

What is Next?

A screengrab from Disco Elysium showing the protagonist's revealed face.
Don’t be too afraid to look in the mirror.

I realized that it’s ok to get things wrong, it’s ok to admit you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s ok to ask your partner for help when you’re terrified they’re just going to laugh at you. More importantly, I learned that in Disco Elysium and life that it’s ok to walk away from things until you have the needed skills to go back. And you don’t need to feel guilty about it.

The first time I played – I immediately reloaded when Drama chimed in to tell me “This may have been a *grave* mistake, sire.” This current playthrough I sat firm in my decision and finally got to hear Volition’s response: “Maybe. Maybe not. Mercy is rarely a *complete* mistake.”

My rating for Disco Elysium: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Dune – Adventures in the Imperium: Gen Con Review



“A debt owed. A missing heir. A new cult rising in the desert. Trapped between an ageless prophecy and sensitive politics, a delicate path must be walked. What is the truth? With whom will you stand?” Introduction, Time Becomes A Narrow Door by Modiphius Entertainment

August 3rd through 6th I had the absolute delight of attending Gen Con, as they like to say,The Best Four Days in Gaming™. It is an enormous gaming convention, primarily focused on tabletop gaming and filled with vendors, events, workshops, and anything else you can think of. 

While at Gen Con, I was able to sit down and play Dune: Adventures in the Imperium by Modiphius Entertainment. Modiphius is known for their 2D20 RPGS such as Achtung! Cthulhu, Star Trek Adventures, and the Fallout RPG. They also carry some familiar items such as the Bladerunner RPG and the Tales From the Loop Board Game. As a well-regarded publisher with great titles, I was excited to check out how they made the Dune universe immersive.

Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, like many of Modiphius’s RPGs, utilizes the 2D20 system. Each character has Skills and Drives that are added together in a given situation to produce a target skill value. In order to succeed on a test, a player must roll below that skill value. Players roll 2d20 by default, but can spend a luck currency, called momentum, to add additional dice and/or activate their special abilities. More information about how to play can be found in the Modiphius-recommended video below.

‘World of Game Design’ Teaches how to play Dune: Adventures in the IMperium

Playing the Game

I played the scenario Time Becomes a Narrow Door, with a table full of players new to Modiphius’s system. We used the pre-generated characters available in the Dune Quickstart Guide, which is available for free on Modiphius’s website. I’ve included two sample pre-generated characters from the free Quickstart Guide for reference. All six re available through the official Quickstart Guide. Worth noting, the Quickstart Guide also includes the scenario Wormsign to help get you started, which we did not play. 


In Time Becomes a Narrow Door, we were members of a small house trying our best to garner favor, help our rivals, maintain our morals, and make sure we still came out on top. Our main task was to convince the son of another house to return from his spiritual journey. Our table had a lot of silly energy, so we named ourselves House Montana, with our patriarch being Lord Billy Ray Cyrus. Of course, bad southern accents abounded. We had a blast bouncing off each other and making the world our own. Big props to the person running the game for making it such an enjoyable and accessible experience. 

The system was a lot of fun! It was easy to build an environment where collaborative wins were rewarding. The system prioritizes collaborative storytelling as well as mutual success or destruction. Therefore, it was easy to treat everyone at the table’s rolls as meaningful and contributing to the betterment of the house. I also loved the mechanic of building our own house. We only did a small amount of this in our session, but by reskinning House Atreides to be our own small house, we felt a lot more ownership over the assets, favors, and enemies we were gaining.

An image from page 9 of the Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Quickstart Guide

My one caution is that we didn’t do a lot of combat. There was only one fight, and we let it be a duel. As this is a part of the game we didn’t experience much of, I can’t really speak on how robustly the system handles that kind of conflict. My initial impressions point towards combat lacking some mechanics. However, I only got a small introduction. 

If you are a fan of Dune, check out the Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Quickstart Guide! While I cannot rate the system as a whole, the experience was definitely worth its time! Try Time Becomes a Narrow Door yourself, or just check out the Quickstart Guide.

4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Find more of my Gen Con 2023 shenanigans here.

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