Saturday, January 30, 2016

Disciples of Steel: Conquering the Kingdom

The party slowly transitions to managing an empire.

As I've reported before, the 2014-2015 Winter from Hell in the Northeast caused so much water damage to my house that Irene and I had to move out while the entire place was gutted and reconstructed. We had to move all our stuff into temporary storage--and "temporary" turned into "permanent" last month when we decided it would be less effort to just sell the damned house than to keep trying to fix it. We are now living a semi-nomadic existence, having rented an oceanfront place for the winter. Who knows what will happen in the spring.

As much as I hated hauling all my stuff from my house to storage, then some of it to our first rental place, and then again to our second rental place, I think I'd actually rather do it again than have to set up another computer. I bought a Dell Precision 17 laptop on December 15 and figured it would take a couple of days to port over my programs and files from my old computer. It turns out I wasn't even finished with the process when I had to head back on the road a month later. Even now, I keep finding things that I've forgotten: DOSBox requires a special video codec, I forgot to deauthorize my copy of ArcGIS Spatial Analyst on my old computer, I need to re-map the default image capture location in about 16 emulators, and so on.

In case you find my story boring, here's a shot of the party taking on a dragon.
   
A few days ago, I was worried I'd have to repeat a lot of these efforts when, while unwisely trying to get some work done on a tiny table in a hotel bar, I spilled a Moscow Mule across my new laptop's keyboard. How it happened is complicated. It basically goes that I accidentally knocked my iPhone off the table, and in my panic to interrupt its fall with my left hand, I forgot I was holding a full copper mug in my right. Two-thirds of the cocktail poured smack in the middle of the keyboard and began seeping into the interior. Two seconds later, the screen froze, displayed something that I missed because I was desperately searching for a napkin, and went black.

Let's fast forward to the good news: despite all the liquid that entered (or could have entered) the computer's innards, it turns out I just fried a single RAM chip located beneath the keyboard. (I could have been using the laptop for the last week if I'd known that and just taken it out.) Thus, I am saved from having to reinstall 78 programs and transfer 700 GB worth of files for the second time in a month. However, the whole episode screwed up my momentum on Disciples of Steel and ensured that when I was finally able to blog about the game, it would no longer be fresh in my memory.

In this session, I started taking over kingdoms. Now I give the quests!
   
I am currently hoping--desperately hoping--that the final act of the game doesn't turn out to be really stupid, because right now, I love it. I've already gone into detail about the tactical combat, the character development, the equipment system, and spells, all of which feature the types of statistical logistics that make up my kind of RPG. I equally enjoy the game's approach to plot and storytelling: open-world, competing factions, many quests of varying length and difficulty. It's lasted too long for this blog--two months since I played another 1991 game--but not too long for its content.

In some ways, it reminds me a lot of Might & Magic VI and VII. The mechanics are entirely different, but both games take place on a continent of reasonably complex politics, both involve uniting multiple regional lords to a common cause, and both are perfectly happy to let you explore dungeons and find quest items before you technically get the quests. You have to be careful about this. I lost a few hours of progress because I accidentally sold a corpse that I needed to solve a quest, before I discovered that it was even a quest item. I've learned to keep anything that sounds unique; fortunately, the game gives you a vault just for that purpose.

I could recount all the different quests done for the different lords since the last post, but such a litany would be pretty boring to read even if it was fun to play. Suffice to say that I was beginning to wonder if I would ever reach the end of a questline when suddenly I did. Queen Valencia of Demata had asked me to explore the Lost City of Terine to retrieve the Cross of Thydra. (A quest I had also received from the king of Farnus. Farnus took the cross permanently but the queen didn't, meaning I had to turn in the quest to Demata first and Farnus second. I had to learn this lesson the hard way and reload.) The temple was huge, and I never actually completed it because there was some business with a hermit who wanted a "magic word" that I couldn't identify. Without it, he wouldn't let me pass, and for role-playing reasons I didn't want to just kill him.

This wasn't it.
  
But whatever I missed in that section, at least I found the cross. When I returned it, she then wanted the corrupted corpse of her late father, who I had slain as a lich. Thankfully, I had kept it. Her next quest had me raid a bandit camp for a stolen shield, and the one after that was to retrieve a "Gru Root" from nearby swamps to cure a case of poison.

I don't mind fetch-and-carry quests when they're interspersed with more complex ones.
 
At this point, I expected yet another quest, but suddenly Valencia said it was time for her to marry, pointed at Octavianus, my blacksmith, and announced that she'd chosen him. In seconds, the ceremony was completed, and the game informed me that "now the Disciples of Steel rule this land."
   
Good luck, Octavianus. She looks like she's into some weird stuff.
  
Rulership opened a whole new set of game dynamics that I have not yet begun to master: setting taxation rates, recruiting and equipping armies, and garrisoning and defending cities. It turns out that raising armies is expensive, and I had long ago stopped worrying about the game's economy except to make enough money to buy mushrooms. I'm now back to loading up on looted equipment after combat and selling it.

Recruiting an army is expensive.
  
Later, I ended three more questlines: Teal's, Farnus's, and Tobruk's. Teal's took me the longest. Wiping out the thieves' guild took almost 8 hours by itself. The dungeon was huge, had multiple secret doors, and featured dozens of hard combats, each capable of wiping out stocks of hundreds of mushrooms. But the rest of the Pirate King's quests were simple: slay the Death Knight wandering around the island ("Power Word: Stun" took care of him, like it does all single enemies) and grab some Mangi Root from a swamp to cure a plague.

The party surrounds and pummels the frozen Death Knight.

When I brought back the plague cure, Rathbone said it was too late for him and prompty died after designating my party as his heirs. I got the same kingdom-ruling options that I had received in Demata, but I didn't do anything but set a small tax rate of 5%. Hopefully, that won't be enough to make the populace revolt.

Rathbone wills me his kingdom before his death.

After I returned the cross, King Krassus of Farnus had me clear out an outpost of Rathadon spies, then destroy a Rathadon fortress north of Tobruk. When I returned from the ninth quest, he told me that his son and heir had been killed to an evil warrior named Jax, and he asked me to kill him. I had to wander around a forest for a while before Jax attacked, but once he did, the battle wasn't very difficult. After I returned Jax's body, Farnus turned over his kingdom.


I don't remember why I focused on the dwarves of Tobruk next, but the dwarf king had me explore some mines where a bunch of dwarves had been turned to stone by a demon (a quest that also has an echo in Might & Magic VII--did the New World developers play this game?), kill the demon, find some magic mushrooms to heal the dwarves, and explore a dungeon accessible from within the city to kill a cross between a beholder and the Thing. I also had to return a broken blade and...I don't know...something else. There were like three quests in a row that I solved just by completing a single dungeon.

"But he stops when he realizes you're not laughing, too. You stare at each other in silence for a few seconds. It's awkward, really."

I expected Firbin Redforge's questline to end with some excuse for my taking over his city, just as with the others, but it didn't. He simply said that he'd be "at my side" when the final battles started with Rathadon. This is the first time that it's been clear that Rathadon will be the ultimate enemy, making me wonder what happens if I a) finish Rathadon's questline; or b) assassinate the leader of Rathadon before the endgame starts.

  
Equipment advancement has been pretty steady, with +5 and +10 items giving way to +25 and +30. A small number of items have improved my skills by 10 or 20 points. Towards the end of this session, I started finding potions that raised my attributes. It took some thinking to determine how best to allocate them. In some games, I might try to raise the attributes of my lowest characters, but in this game I think it makes more sense to augment existing strengths than to take the edge off weaknesses.

My party leader's backpack has some decent stuff.
   
Lots of miscellaneous notes:

  • I talked last time about magic, but it didn't occur to me to mention one of the major differences from the Gold Box titles: the lack of buffing spells, and in particular the lack of buffing spells that you can cast before combat. There are a couple of them related to protection and speed, but you already have to be in combat to cast them.
  • "Power Word: Stun" is so useful that I ended up giving every character 100 points in "Power" so they can cast illusion magic. That's enough to freeze two foes for two or three rounds each. If I'm luck with initiative, I can freeze up to a dozen enemies in the first round of combat--which is good because I'm routinely fighting groups of 30 or more foes these days.

The party is swarmed by thieves in the thieves' guild.
 
  • The option to parley and then "be amicable" has never once worked.
  • I've invested over 200 points in my ranger's "track" skill, and I have no idea what it does.
  • In one dungeon, I found a "divining rod," but I'm not sure what its use is, or even what the message is telling me when I try to use it.


  • Similarly, the "search" command has never once turned up anything that I haven't found just walking around.
  • Potions of healing heal 100% of damage, but they're very rare.
  • The priest's "Teleport" spell turns out to be pretty useful, instantly whisking you up to 62 squares in any direction on the overland map. That's enough to get to the islands without having to sail a ship.

After completing a quest, Fanatica teleports the party back to town.
  
  • I don't think I've covered it before, but the game has amusing descriptions when you walk past random buildings in the cities.
      
  
  • I still think menu towns would have been a better approach, but I only recently discovered that you can instantly (L)eave any city that you're in.
  • Here are a couple of interesting monster portraits from various dungeons:

 
 
The programmer failed to communicate with the graphic artist on this one.

  • And I want to again express my appreciation for the textual dungeon descriptions which are both more frequent than those in the Gold Box games:


The game remains hard. Even with many of my skills approaching 300, I occasionally encounter foes so difficult that I die in the first round (especially if they surprise me). But I enjoy the challenge, and even having passed 60 hours, I haven't gotten sick of the combat. I keep catching myself having the kind of fun I had when I was a kid, imagining the characters working as a team and shouting orders and encouragement to each other: "Didymus, see if you can stun the one in the back!"; "I'll take the ogre!"; "Nialphe, fireball that corner of the room!"
The ending must be coming up soon, and I'm actually quite apprehensive about it. I assume it will involve wealth and kingdoms and armies, but I don't know how many resources I'll need. I don't know if I need to finish every questline to win the game, and I don't know exactly when I'll run out of time. Yet, somehow this uncertainty doesn't bother me, and even the prospect of having to play it again (later in my 1991 list, of course), now that I know what I'm doing in the early acts, fills me with more excitement than dread.

I don't want to give the impression that the game is perfect. Above, I covered several things that just don't work. There is also a notable lack of role-playing choices, including dialogue options and encounter options. But unless it completely tanks in its final moments, I can't imagine that Disciples of Steel won't GIMLET in the top five.

58 comments:

  1. The pain of reinstalling is one of the things I love about linux - last Summer, my laptop died beautifully, with flashing lights all over the screen... luckily, I still had my old one, so I just popped the hard disk out, put it in the functional machine, and kept on trucking! When I got another new machine, the same process was involved. A shame Microsoft hasn't figured out how to make the process so simple!

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    1. Definitely agreed, having to do a clean install of Win10 was a PITA. A separate partition for /home is extremely valuable too since it makes backups and reinstall a breeze. Sadly, ArcGIS doesn't run natively in Linux (though I guess a VirtualBox might work?).

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    2. If you keep most of your software on a seperate partition, >99% of software will work just fine when moved to another install, and most of the rest will be minor issues like 2-second reinstalls (installing over the existing data, which will not need to be overwritten and thus completes instantly, with the install only being necessary to set the path) or reassigning defaults from the "documents" folder to where you want your stuff to go.

      No operating system will avoid the specific problems mentioned in the article.

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    3. But as the OP mentioned, as long as the hard drive is fine, Linux is usually fine with moving to another machine. Simple case of transferring the drive itself. Windows, on the other hand, has never been good at such a thing. No matter, though, since it sounds like Windows-only software is required for his job.

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    4. Windows isn't good at this because of licensing issue - it identifies machine that it runs on using various data read from hardware - machine serial number, memory serial number, this SN and that SN. This is why moving drives between machines isn't feasible. I believe that there *are* licenses that allow for such swaps, but they are rarely sold with laptops (if ever) and they cost *a lot*.

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    5. It also makes more-or-less permanent changes to core system files based on various parts of its hardware detection process, so even if you have a way around the licensing checks it won't necessarily run.

      If you have one of the various Enterprise-level licenses, they have utility programs available that will wad it all back up and stuff it back into its original form so it redoes its hardware detection the next time you boot it, but even then the hardware has to be pretty similar or you'll wind up with lots of stuff (like your screen) just not working.

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    6. Microsoft has been making me really angry in the last couple of years:

      It has a system in Windows in which any time something happens in one window, it automatically switches to that window, even if you are using a programs that causes serious problems when switching windows. I spent an hour with technical support only to find out that there is no way to turn off this feature.

      A previous computer I had, had a legal copy of Windows, but for whatever reason, the system thought it was pirated. I then received random messages telling me it was pirated, and switching to those messages every time, which was really fun.

      Microsoft made a press conference in 2013 stating that in order to buy an Xbox One, I had to pay a 20% markup for a nonfunctional add-on with terrible games; send a signal to it every 24 hours; let the worthless, overpriced add-on scan my body; never share games with anyone; and lots of other Orwellian insanity. I will never buy an Xbox, and I would stop using Windows if Apple were not so evil. WiiU has far better games, far more exclusive, and far fewer boring, generic games like Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty.

      Microsoft convinced Platinum, one of the greatest and most imaginative game companies to make one of its games exclusive to Xbox One. I refuse to buy an Xbox One, because of the horrendous press conference in 2013.

      Microsoft expects a $50 yearly fee in order to use the Xbox online, unlike the other consoles. I do not really care about multiplayer since I like to be the one guy who saves or destroys the world, but it is the principle of the thing: Sony allows you to go online without a fee, although it does have an advanced version of the online service for a fee; Nintendo lets you do anything online for free. Microsoft is once again the worst.

      Microsoft's press conference about its game systems tend to ignore interesting games like Scalebound, Drawn to Death, Shantae, Might Number Nine and Maafia 3; and focus on inane non-gaming services like sports and movies and generic games like Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty.

      Microsoft made a licensed Doritos game backwards compatible on Xbox One, but many classics are still incompatible, like Ninja Gaiden, Breakdown, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, Bayonetta, Mega Man 9 and 10, Phantom Dust, Resident Evil 4, Red Dead Redemption, the entire Grand Theft Auto series, Bully, Street Fighter, Metal Gear, Devil may Cry 3. Doritos is a food, not a game.

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    7. YOur information is quite out of date. Starting with the PS4, Sony now requires a subscription fee for online multiplayer, because the cost of maintaining the servers used for the purpose is astronomical.

      Adding backwards compatibility to Xbox 360 games requires a great deal of work, and needs the cooperation of the original publisher - it is probably Capcom and Rockstar that are to blame for most of the titles you're whining about not getting ported yet, not MIcrosoft.

      Meanwhile, the "Orwellian insanity" you're complaining about was NEVER anywhere near as bad as you're implying (as most of it wasn't IN the press confrence, but was speculative "conclusions" reached by the "I told you Microsoft was Evil" crowd on shaky evidence), and most of the objectionable features that were actually genuine were revoked long before the console came out.

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  2. Amazing. Never heard of this RPG before, yet it sounds like it can compete with the classics of the era. I'll have to give it a go at some point.

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    1. Played this back in the day, loved it until I ran into the time limit and I lost. This blog is making want to replay it, still have the old floppies. I just bought a portable floppy drive so i could use those disks, which are still good. I played unpatched last time, will patch this time.

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    2. If your floppies are still readable, you should definitely take sector-by-sector images of them and archive them somewhere safe. Both the magnetism and the plastic on which the magnetic particles are carried degrade over time. Especially if you store them flat instead of on-edge. (for the later 3.5" ones anyway. The 5.25" ones don't have the metal piece in the middle that causes all the trouble, so they're better off flat, but only if they're on a hard, perfectly-flat surface. Wrinkles are killers.)

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  3. In one dungeon, I found a "divining rod," but I'm not sure what its use is, or even what the message is telling me when I try to use it.

    A divining rod is another name for a dowsing rod, but I can't imagine you have yet to receive any quests demanding you to dig a well over a good source of drinking water.

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    1. What's a Hungarian manticore doing in Serbia?

      Between the bad manual, troublesome interface, somewhat amateurish graphics and the ridiculous difficulty of the early game, I didn't have high hopes for this one. I thought it would have the groundwork for a decent combat system, but ruin it with... well everything else. Looks like it does have a few problems and there might be some pitfalls still ahead, but the combat and overall mechanics seem quite strong. I might actually have to check this one out. Shame that most of the reviewers of the time apparently didn't bother to play it long enough.

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    2. Is there a bug-free version of this game somewhere? It looks like an interesting game anyway.
      This blog entry is great (as always :))

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    3. While in the overland map you can hunt for food or water (at least in later versions [right click shows a menu; version 1.05 brought a shortcut key])
      My guess would be that the rod increases the chance of finding water.

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    4. That's a good point. I keep forgetting that food and water are a "thing" because of the bugged version I have. I'm sure that's what the rod does.

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  4. Most reviewers didn't had (or don't have) time to put solid weeks for a single game to rate it though.
    From the looks of it this game would benefit tremendously from an easier start and a clear direction of where you're actually going with all this.

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  5. Glad you're having a good time with this one. It sounds like a fun bash.

    Not knowing what tracking does would bug me!

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    1. I suspect the skill increases the chances of finding food in the wilderness. Much as with the divining rod issue above, I keep forgetting that the game has a food/water dynamic.

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  6. And seriously? Moscow Mule? *cough* ladies' drink. If the fancy metal cup wasn't damning enough, it's a weak alcohol drink and yet costs the same as a strong cocktail.

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    1. I think that attitude is about 10 years past its era. It's from the dark ages of cocktails, where boozier was better, and the Long Island Iced Tea ruled supreme.

      One should feel free to drink what one likes without bias or ridicule. Plus, the Moscow Mule is a fine drink, and I'm glad the Addict is exploring, ever so cautiously, out of his Vodka Gimlet comfort zone...

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    2. Reminds me of the old Kids in the Hall sketch about a "girl drink drunk."

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    3. I don't really like being able to taste the alcohol, so the mule might be a good one for me.

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    4. Long Island Ice Tea FTW!
      But hey, to each their own.

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    5. A Moscow Mule is basically a gimlet with ginger beer. The lower alcohol content means that I can have four or five in the hotel bar while getting some work done, and I go to bed only slightly buzzed instead of black-out drunk.

      It still has a higher ABV content than beer, which no one regards as a "women's drink," so I don't know that that's the best metric. I figure as long as it's in a stemless glass without an umbrella, that's man enough for me.

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  7. 30 foes per combat? I don't know about the rest of you, but I would quail before the sheer number of keyboard commands that need to be entered to pass the challenge. It's not a question of how hard the combat is, what your spells are, are you low on hit points, etc. No, it's all about the terror of having to move my men around so much. 30 vs. 6 sounds like a full scenario that would be included in a published wargame. Goldbox had a decently smooth keyboard interface that made 6 vs. 30 battles manageable if long, but moving my men around in Wizard's Crown was so painful I quit the game.

    And seriously? Moscow Mule? *cough* ladies' drink. If the fancy metal cup wasn't damning enough, it's a weak alcohol drink and yet costs the same as a strong cocktail.

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    1. Maybe he doesn't feel the need to assert his manliness through what kind of drink he orders?

      And seriously, a Moscow Mule is awesome. Though I'm mostly a scotch fan, the Mule is a perpetual favorite.

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    2. I miss when we got games that would have giant combats like this, even if they could be aggravating, there was something about slowly whittling down a giant army of opponents, whether it was the room of hundreds of berserkers in Bard's Tale or starting a bar fight in a Gold Box game and having every single square of the combat area filled with enemies.

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    3. You really had to knock me twice on the Moscow Mule?

      I'm with Brian. I love the process of making incremental progress in a huge battlescape. I just took over a castle in this game, and it involved a very long combat against multiple tough warriors and giants. I had no expectation of winning when I started. But I used every resource to my advantage including the terrain, spells, and locked doors. I gave my priest some boots of speed and had her race around the battlefield, healing people as quick as they took damage. It was a rewarding victory, and most important, it truly felt like a TEAM victory.

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    4. Did you ever grind those 396 berserkers down slowly? I always had a fire horn and a summoned dragon ready. ;) That's really feeling the power of your party.

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    5. @Brian, have you tried Tom Proudfoot's games - Nahlakh and Natuk? If not, you're in for a treat (and they're both freeware at the moment).

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  8. I may be misinterpreting, but it seems almost like Disciples resembles some of the shareware or magazine disk efforts we've seen (e.g., Dragon Sword or Dungeons of Avalon) in terms of throwing massive amounts of content at the player and being rather sloppy about many of the details. The difference in this case being that whatever problems the game may have, Disciples has nailed several key categories on the GIMLET (and the ones where it's less successful don't impact the overall playability too much).

    Perhaps it's not only the sort of RPG 12-year-old Chet would have loved to play, but also the sort he would have designed? Not in terms of quality, but in terms of feature prioritization.

    Or am I being totally unfair? I'm partly just fascinated by the difference between our dear Addict's reaction and the contemporary critical response and trying to theorize.

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    1. As he pointed out, the difference in reactions seem to be that Addict actually plays the whole game(barring some unforseen incident).
      Disciples is one of those games that make a very bad first impression, and the lack of documentation doesn't help either.
      Few reviewers bothered to play the whole game, and the most trustworthy magazine back then - Computer Gaming World - never reviewed it, or even mentioned it in Scorpia's column.

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    2. I was 18 by 1991, but in any event, I would have liked this game no matter what age I was.

      I think Petrus is right. You have to be willing to put up with a very challenging beginning before the rewards start to flow. Read my first two posts, and they don't sound so positive.

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  9. The Addict's played a LOT of CRPGs by now. Maybe the difficulty of the game is very high, and the Addict's unusual skill level renders it challenging rather than impossible?

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    1. I personally think so. The patched version is already tough as nails.

      Chet played the vanilla unpatched version that takes way too much dedication, time & effort to continue. I personally didn't play the game and out of the 3 classmates of mine who did, 2 gave up on it totally and the remaining one only continued playing it after successfully hex-editing some statistics.

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    2. I'm not sure that CRPG "skill" really translates across games. Where every game features slightly different rules, it's not like my knowledge of Gold Box games ports directly to DoS.

      I had a really hard beginning with this game and it's remained somewhat difficult throughout. I don't think it was ever "impossible," but you do have to be prepared for a lot of reloading in the early stages.

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    3. It does, mate. It does. All CRPG players have this niche and specific skillset that not only translates across games but actually transcends into real life.

      1. Situation assessment
      RPG- You are armed with a short sword and 1 healing potion at Level 1. You found an Orcish stronghold in a clearing. You know you'd have your ass handed to you as a seasoned player.
      IRL- Most people don't know how serious something is until shit hits the fan. To a certain extent, seasoned CRPG players do... unless we're engaged in an open-world RPG and about to hit the next level while solving an extremely interesting quest.
      2. Inventory management
      RPG- In games with encumbrance limits, you (as a seasoned player) can make on-the-spot decisions on whether something is worth lugging around (like a dead body) and throw away something of less importance/value.
      IRL- People who are going abroad usually bring either too much or too little luggage. CRPG players know what they need and usually do some homework with tourist guidebooks or online reviews on what is easily & cheaply available in our destination. Also, we are able to pack more stuff into small spaces because of years of training with Tetris-like encumbrance systems.
      3. Resource allocation - Depending on (1) & (2), CRPG players can usually know how deep we should dig out from our pockets to solve certain problems.
      RPG- You have saved that Ring Of Wishes just for this. Time to whip out that genie to obliterate the Big Bad.
      IRL- You have been saving up to get yourself that awesome Tissot watch. Sadly, you forgot your wife's birthday and she's pissed. You dig out from your vast wealth of RPG knowledge and whatever little wealth you have accumulated to buy that horrible looking Prada bag she had been going on about.

      4. Time management
      RPG- You have 100 days before the candle melts and release a Demon God! You have 50 days to get the water chip before the entire colony dies of thirst!
      IRL- The CRPG Addict.

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    4. I think CRPG playing skill translates across games, although a good chunk of it would be sub-genre specific eg Experience with M&M wouldn't help much with learning Diablo, but would help significantly with Bard's Tale.

      When playing turn-based, party-centric RPGs, Chet will grasp the fundamentals of party composition, character creation/development, combat and spell-use faster than your average gamer. He'd twig to quest requirements and have to backtrack less. He'd keep tabs on when and where to grind, and would navigate dungeons faster and more thoroughly.

      Chet and I have probably put comparable hours into strategic games in our lives, but he'd have spent more of that time on traditional RPGs (and crosswords).

      If you gave us both a traditional RPG that neither of us had played before (or a crossword), he'd probably finish it before I did, and need less reloads.

      I reckon there is easily a college unit or two worth of content there.

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    5. Definitely a fascinating topic- although it's hard to prove (maybe worth a scientific study sometime in the future,) and conveniently self-congratulatory for those of us who play too many video games I think it's probably accurate to a certain extent. It's hard to quantify how much playing these games affect our thinking (and is it simply that we play them because we already think this way?) but 60+ hour games that focus on creative problem solving must be doing something to us.

      Ultimately the skill I think is the development of recognizing patterns, turning those patterns into tools, and using those tools to solve unexpected problems in the moment. Although action games, like Assassin's Creed for instance, work similarly (and some better than others, like The Last of Us,) I think more often than not that genre boils down to hand-eye coordination, using patterns in a fight or flight way (as well as taking advantage of AI patterns,) which is less applicable to real life- the patterns only work within that particular game world (using cover to protect yourself from gunfire in Half-life 2 won't help you in a real-life situation, obviously.) RPGs depend on using patterns in a strategic/long-term planning way, which is something that works on a more conceptual, broadly applicable level. In an action game, you have to learn the rules of each game individually (cover in Half-life 2 and cover in Deus Ex: HR don't really cross over as skills because they work so differently mechanically- every game has different mechanics, that's kind of the basis for making new action games) but in an RPG, certain skills are universally beneficial, as Kenny pointed out- resource and time management, mostly. Of course, each game has their own approach, but your main goal when you start a difficult RPG is to determine what your tools will be so that you can start planning your path to the end game, and so that you can prepare yourself for any unforeseen difficulties along the way.

      And, of course, persistence in the face of what seems like an impossible task, perhaps Chet's greatest strength!

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  10. I've probably commented before about this; it bears much resemblance to how high-level adventures are played out in AD&D's table-top gaming experiences.

    It turns into a game about empire building and, uh... to a certain extent, forced political marriages as well.

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    1. That's because a high lvl *D&D becomes such that the world starts to crack from it's seams when a wizard could slay a 10000 orcs with a single spell and players began to wonder why are there even threats to civilization in existence at all ?

      So you have find an alternative to monster grinding to keep players interested though monster grinding problem is rather unique to lvl based systems where power creep is often fast and furious, systems that don't have a lvl based progression are more difficult for GM to run and have other sorts of problems to keep sessions interesting and they often have a noticeable power creep.

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    2. That's why I don't really like systems with levels. I like Warhammer the most when it comes to mechanics. You won't be ever so powerful that you could single handedly defeat an army of orcs.

      I remember playing AD&D campaign with very high level characters - GM was doing what he could to keep us interested, but in fact all we could do as thieves and fighters was to drink beer (both in-game and IRL) and wait for our mages to finish their battles. Boring as hell. Even having few combat units under your command wasn't very interesting, since they were at enemy's wizards' mercy. Not funny, not funny at all!

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    3. I thought the "critical hit" system was supposed to temper this a bit--as in, no matter how inept your foe or however strong you are, 1 in 20 times the enemy scores a critical hit, making it unwise to engage hundreds of foes. I never played tabletop D&D much, though, so perhaps I'm interpreting it wrong.

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    4. @Chet - There's actually a separate THAC0 table reserved for mobs. So, a lone adventurer with a steel sword is gonna get chewed up by a werewolf but a hundred peasants with pig-iron pitchforks could bring down a vampire lord.

      Same works for the AD&D battlefield. A platoon of pikemen can take down a battle-hardened thrice-blessed Paladin armed with a Holy Avenger +5/+10. Wizards will also have a different set of war-spells. Birthright does it best, actually.

      @Mag Wielki i Szelki - Your DM sucks and doing it wrong.

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    5. @Kenny McCormick - you are probably right, we were playing in 2000 or around it, quite possibly AD&D rules weren't as polished then as they are now (?). Also, our DM wasn't bad per se, lower level adventures were very interesting and exciting. After reading what you wrote my guess is that he simply wasn't really planning that far and was unable to provide proper gameplay experience due to his, well, lack of experience :)

      Plus we had only one or two rule books, they were pretty hard to come by in Poland. And then there were problems with languages - me and all my friends were taught Russian and German in schools, so...

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    6. High level AD&D characters were somewhat beyond the notion of 'attack rolls', certainly against regular soldiers.

      Such characters are forewarned of most danger in advance, can locate anything, travel anywhere, receive the answer to any question, fly and turn invisible at will, possess ranged AoE weapons and can charm/summon beasts immune to swords and arrows.

      It's essentially using drone strikes against phalanxes.

      Given all the above, it becomes pretty clear why high-level campaigns break down. Your characters can bend every aspect of society in godlike fashion.

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    7. @Mag Wielki i Szelki- I guess that's that. Then again, Poland makes one of the best CRPGs in the world now. So, no excuse for your DM! XD

      @Tristan Gall- Unless your nemesis is able to do that too. Good DMs are able to create smart recurring antagonists who are either always just 1 step ahead of the players or have a brilliant Xanatos Gambit hidden up his/her sleeve that makes it much worse for the players if they choose to wipe out this villain entirely.

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  11. A hit has to be confirmed for it to be a critical, a natural 20 is only a "threat" and with high enough AC an orc would need to have another natural 20 in a row to confirm a crit.

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    1. And even then he usually scores at most x2 damage multiplier, which isn't that much of a threat with all those potions, regeneration providing rings, cleric at your back, tens of blessings and modifiers, stone skins, bark skins, so on and so forth.

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  12. I choose to believe the vampire is expressing a queer androgyny.

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    1. Yeah, Chet's hard to please. First, he had issues with the bare-breasted Amazons in Wiz 6. Now, he feels that the vampire lady with unisex fashion dress was a wrong artistic direction.

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  13. The correct answer for the hermit is poof.

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    1. Good lord. Where was I supposed to get that from?

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  14. Sounds like a great game, especially because it rewards the initial effort. Strong quests, useful economy, adequate design, fleshed out combat, it should do really well...

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  15. You have far more skills and better gear than when I finished the game. I wonder if this game has multiple endings and I received a lesser one. Pretty sure I defeated the horde invasion though.... So long ago.

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    1. I'd be happy to get to even one ending--see my updated post. If you can remember anything from your previous experience. I'll be grateful.

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