Comparing Tavern Crawler and Crown of Sorcery and Steel

I really enjoyed playing Josh Labelle’s 2020 game Tavern Crawler, a shortish Twine game with RPG mechanics set in a well-developed fantasy world. A Crown of Sorcery and Steel is follow-up to that game, set in the same universe and exploring in far greater depth some of the storylines suggested in Tavern Crawler, but also very different in many senses.

The first major difference is that of playing mechanics, with Sorcery and Steel being a ChoiceScript game rather than a Twine game. Tavern Crawler also revolved around making choices but Twine and ChoiceScript implement this mechanic in pretty different ways.

The second major difference is the size and scope of the two games. Tavern Crawler is a relatively short game that follows a troupe of adventures on a single quest, one that is rather small in scope at that, though with other brief side quests mixed in. Sorcery and Steel tells an expansive story that spans the entire realm and builds up to an epic battle. In some ways, Tavern Crawler could be seen as a prologue or short story leading into the full-length tale of Sorcery and Steel.

The two differences seem related to the development process, that is the differences between working with Twine and ChoiceScript and the differences of making a game for a competition on an expedited schedule versus developing a fully-realized game. The differences in tone between the two games, though, was kind of puzzling. I really loved Tavern Crawler’s overall light-hearted, jocular vibe; the game was self-aware and openly played on RPG/fantasy tropes to good effect. Sorcery and Steel is far more self-serious and really doesn’t display any of the humor of the first game. The writing in Sorcery and Steel is fantastic and the world and characters are lushly realized, so it seems more like a conscious choice to tone down the humor and playful tone that drove much of Tavern Crawler.

To be clear, I thoroughly enjoyed both games (I gave a 4-star review to Tavern Crawler on IFDB and I’m working on my review of Sorcery and Steel now which will be at least 4 stars), but I found it interesting how Sorcery and Steel is a sequel to Tavern Crawler while also being very different. Has anyone else played both of these games and have any thoughts?