... now with 35% more arrogance!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Reload Last Save?

I’ve been playing modded Skyrim again recently, so it’s reminded me about something that irks me in video games. It’s easy in Skyrim to get suddenly overwhelmed by enemies and swiftly killed… and then the game loads the last save and you start over. The worst things that can happen are:

  • forgetting to save for a long while and losing a lot of progress,
  • getting killed so close to your last save point that you get stuck in a “death loop” and have to abandon that save, rolling back to a previous save.

Sometimes, it’s even better to die in a couple situations to gather information about coming dangers. All of this can break immersion, if that’s what you’re looking for in your game experience. Dying really doesn’t matter.

Which brings us to a point many OSR bloggers have made before: dying has to matter in old-school games. This is why there’s so much pushback against “fixes” like negative hit points, healing surges, or eliminating save or die situations. There’s certainly room for discussing proper GM practice, or giving players a few more options to avoid instant murder. And honestly, old school play isn’t really more deadly than other RPGs, as long as you play smart. But the general feeling among the members of the OSR community is that play should be thoughtful and cautious, and death should be a constant threat. Remove too much of the threat and you turn the game into a meaningless adventure simulator.


  1. I've quit groups when I've realized the GM was pulling punches and keeping PCs alive.
    I don't think it's a new thing, but it's a style of play I've never enjoyed. Nothing my PC does will feel 'heroic' if there's really no risk.
    And capture/ransom/escape doesn't carry the same sort of threat.

  2. I played in a re-load last save style table top adventure a long time ago. Each time we were revived every stat was one lower so we got worse and worse as we failed. It was modified RuneQuest so stat drop hurt. It was a lot of fun and the challenge balanced out as we had more knowledge each subsequent battle but were a bit worse all around.

    I wouldn't want every game like that, but it made a real nice change of pace that I remember decades later.

  3. The finality of a slain adventurer lends import to the entire party. This is true whether an adventurer is slain or not. Apart from actual risk of harm, there is no other way to earn this baseline credibility at the game table.