Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Brutish, Nasty, And Short

This week, our resident Dungeons & Dragons expert, Samantha Nelson, reviewed Sword Coast Legends, the latest official D&D game. It features a campaign creation mode, where digital dungeon masters can craft their own stories and challenges. Now, I’ve still never played Dungeons & Dragons, but I love hearing people tell their tales of tabletop glory and, more so, utter failure. If you’re like me, then the comments under the review were a riot. Facetaco set the stage:

Based on my sole experience playing Dungeons & Dragons, this game should consist of spending 45 minutes creating a character, dying within the first five minutes of the game, and then switching to a much simpler game that involves 20-sided dice and punching people.

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Pairesta had a similar story but gave us a little more detail:

My first ever D&D campaign, like a week before our first session, I carefully created a fighter character, came up with his elaborate backstory and history, his goals—everything. I spent so much time on him. First encounter, he got his hand bit off by a rabid baboon. And in the second encounter, a green slime melted him. Ah, D&D.

Jesus. That dude had it rough. At least the quick death of TreeRol’s latest character was a little goofier:

Strangely, I’ve only had one new character die immediately, and it was the most recent time I played. Some leprechauns stole my equipment. We found it, but I died after drinking from my waterskin. Those little bastards replaced my water with hemlock.

Dick move by the dungeon master, but it was funny as hell, so it’s ok.

So the question was raised: Why waste so much time coming up with an elaborate backstory and motivation for your character when there’s the chance they’ll immediately be poisoned by leprechauns? NicklebackCreed69 gave a seasoned dungeon master’s perspective:

When I DM, I encourage people to write more of a backstory for their characters, not for my use, but for their own. I’ve found that it helps players decide how to handle a potentially tricky situation if they have some idea of what their character would do. Otherwise they just end up doing what the player would do.

You can have the character emerge during game from what you wrote, just because they have a 5-page life story doesn’t mean their motivations are exactly set or immune to change. But it does add that little bit of flair in minor interactions and conversations when big “choices” aren’t necessarily at stake but personality shines through. Not to mention, as a DM I sorta have a habit of writing really in-depth world-building backstory that no one reads, so it’s nice when the players reciprocate a little.

Plus the more backstory they write, the more options I have for fucking with them.

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Demise Of The Tomb Raider

This week also saw the release and Alex McCown’s review of Rise Of The Tomb Raider, the follow-up to Lara’s big, gritty 2013 reboot. Alex was happy to report that Rise proudly aspires to be a well made, brisk adventure that plays to Lara’s strengths instead of reaching for something outside its grasp. Down in the comments, readers remembered all the nastiness and lofty goals of her last outing, and how the failure to make them land weighed it down. Here’s Wolfman Jew:

I’m not a fan of the series, but the story in the reboot was almost silly in how unrelentingly grim it was, with its forced march of violence and suffering heaped upon Lara. It seemed really weird that what’s essentially gaming’s own Indiana Jones would go for extreme, hardcore violence and trauma but still not really engage that much with it. I didn’t find it fun to play, but I’m really happy if the story is going in a different direction.

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And Citric agreed:

I Spit On Your Tomb was weird because it was a fun game when it wasn’t trying too hard to be edgy and dark. If there were no inexplicable pools of viscera to dive into or “Press X to not get raped” moments, it might have been one of my favorites from the last generation of games, rather than something that I felt really uncomfortable with a lot of the time.

And MrTusks remembered a particularly grisly scene that was enough to kill any and all interest in the game:

One part that particularly unnerved me was the death animation in the raging river. She gets impaled through the neck and spends her final second trying hopelessly to free herself before the life fades from her eyes. Someone made that design choice, purportedly in the interest of entertainment. I saw it in a review and decided I would never play it.

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And on that grim note, Gameological is signing off for the week. Thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week!