25 June 2012

Getting into Roguelikes: Spelunky

In the last post, I gave instructions on how to get started with Transcendence, a shooty roguelike set in space. This time around, we're actually going down into a dungeon, although not in a classical roguelike-fashion, but via old-school jump 'n run gameplay. Let me introduce to you: 


Spelunky is a rather interesting game, the PC version is free here. Grafically, it looks like something that might have come out in the era of the Super NES or its more powerful competitor, the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, as does the gameplay. The mechanics behind all of it though are those of a hardcore roguelike: The levels are procedurally generated, the difficulty is steep and unforgiving (you die, you restart. No save-points or such things), you can loot gold and some items that you may trade in at stores that are inexplicably set in the dungeons depths and you can even worship a goddess via unholy sacrifices in order to gain advantageous items in-game. The mixture of Super Mario and Indiana Jones is, once you get some practise under your belt/fedora hat, highly addictive and can be quite fun.

24 June 2012

Getting into Roguelikes: Transcendence

In the last post I wrote about my descent into the deeper pits of roguelike gaming. This time around, I shall help you follow me if you dare, introducing some more mainstreamish roguelikes and how to get started in them, hopefully providing an entry-drug for you future RL-addicts. I'll get into the more serious ones on the next post, so stay tuned for that.

For the average gamer, starting a roguelike can be a harrowing experience. There may be more game mechanics than in your entire other gaming-library combined. There may be a total lack of graphical interface beyond Ascii-coded pseudo-graphics. And there is the incredible, sometimes impossible difficulty. You do not play a roguelike to win, you play it to experience it. In recent years, games, having become more and more mainstream and more and more casual, have become easier and easier, holding your hand all the way through and selling more power-fantasies as they go along. You won't find that in a roguelike. Be aware of these facts when you get started. So where do you start, as the average gamer with not too much patience when it comes to learning long lists of keyboard-commands and interpreting cryptic signs in lieu of nice animations? I'd recommend three radically different (and free) games to get a taste of things you may be getting into, when it comes to roguelikes, introducing one with each post in this series and explaining what to do on your first playthrough. Next up after that we'll delve a bit deeper into the roguelike-dungeons but for now let's start with the more main-streamish. Here's the first one:

20 June 2012

Thoughts on Pixels: Getting into Roguelikes, part 1

The other day I realized that I have become quite the avid player of games that could be largely classified as roguelikes. Join me in this two-post essay on how my descent into the depths of low-graphic/high-complexity/high-lethality gaming happened and how you can do it too. It's not as hard as one might think...

It's hard to say at what point I became interested in roguelike games. Some consider Diablo to be a roguelike and I played the first one back in '97 or whenever it came out. Anyhow, the first more recent roguelike I played with intensity was, after a short and rather unsuccessful stint with Elite 2 the roguelike shooter Transcendence, about which I have already written some words here. Some might argue that a top-down shooter isn't really a roguelike but I beg to differ: The procedurally generated world, the random loot, the high difficulty and the customization of your character (or ship) via equipment and enchantments (barrels filled with X) are all there. It's also a good starter but that's going to be topic of the next post. As will be Spelunky and Desktop Dungeons.

Anyways, exploring the world of Transcendence soon wasn't enough. I had heard about the roguelikes, even tried Nethack on my cellphone, being rather put off by the steep difficulty (or random cruelness) and the horrid control scheme. Roguelikes seemed rather scary in their lack of visuals and their steep learning curve when it came to gameplay features. That lessened when I watched the let's plays of Rogue Survivor by Plumphelmetpunk on Youtube. I wanted to live through stories like these too.

15 June 2012

Pen & Paper: Full Injury Chart

So, like I said in the last post: Every injury in a gritty RPG should have some sort of flavor. If you, as the GM, don't want the players to accuse you of being too mean or too easy-going on specific players, push the responsibility over to the dice. That's what I'm doing from now on so I made this set of charts. To adapt them to the game-system you're using, consider what in the context of that game would consider a light injury that needs no real treating, a major injury that needs medical attention and a horrible injury that is likely fatal if not immedeatly treated and will leave some permanent damage if you survive.

In my system, where human beings have in between 2 and 10 LP, 1-2 points of damage constitute a light injury, 3-4 is heavy and 5+ is horrible. If your flavor doesn't include where the person was hit, roll a D6 and go 1: left leg, 2: right leg, 3: left arm, 4: right arm, 5: torso, 6: head. Then check what kind of wound is sustained by seeing how much damage was done. Then roll another D6 on the appropriate one of the following charts and interpret the damage according to the type of attack that was sustained:

11 June 2012

Playing Oblivion: Day 3 part 9 – Finishing Up some unfinished Business

This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land. 

Should my path carry me to Skingrad again, I'll probably try again to talk to the count but for now I go back on the road towards the capital. I meet a dark-elf woman on the road, confused what she may be doing out here on her own, apparently unarmed. There is a conversation-topic related to some quest from back in Skingrad that she says she doesn't trust me enough to talk about. I decide that this is a point in game where I might try to practice/understand the conversation-minigame that indicates Martor intimidate/suck up on people to get on their better side. I fail the first few tries but gain an understanding on how it works, then I bribe the woman to like me anyways. Not that the information she has is of any value for me. Passing the hellgate I jog towards the capital.

07 June 2012

Pen & Paper: Injuries and Consequences

There is no injury to the human body that is remotely important enough to be represented in gaming whilst not being of consequence to the injured persons overall ability to function on a physical and/or psychological level. In this post, I'll get into the topic of health points, injuries and the consequences they may or may not have on gaming in pen & paper. Let me state this beforehand: This is about pen & paper. In video-games, where gameplay is (ideally) what draws you to the game and the options of how to deal with any given situation are dramatically more limited than what a storytelling-based game around a table allows for, the following arguments do not usually apply (except in roguelikes. They get away with anything hurting the player-character in my book...)

So, the age-old question on hit-points in games. What do they represent. Different things in different games, I guess. In early DnD, miniatures used to start out all war-game-like with a hit-point each. Having more than one HP seperated the heroic characters from the rabble - they'd keep fighting after recieving wounds that would take an ordinary person out of the battle. Over time and editions and different role-playing systems following in the wake of DnD, there was something like an inflation of HP. While HP are a nice way to tell how healthy/injured your character is, there are a lot of problems with them and they have been adressed by different systems over the years. The FATE-system has its consequences whenever you get hurt a lot, for example. While it can be a pain to keep track of a lot of rules, I find it hard to keep up my suspension of disbelief when I'm near-dead but can still swing a sword well. Most systems thus punish injuries by giving you a malus on die-rolls depending on how injured you are.

06 June 2012

Playing Oblivion: Day 3 part 8 – Human again

This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land. 

Martor is finally healed but the quest isn't over. I fast-travel to Skingrad to deliver the cure to the count so he can use it on his wife. His secretary/steward/house lizard lady tells me to follow her and leads me down into a rather ominous crypt below the castle, where the count is standing by a bed with a woman on it. He tells me that Melisande is going to wake up his wife so she can take the medicine and pass on peacefully and I can watch if I want. Melisande? She's standing right there in the corner. As I came by horse and she doesn't have one at her house, I really wonder who she got here before me but it's okay. If murderers in movies can off-screen-teleport, I guess it's fair if an ally does it for once.

05 June 2012

Telling about the NordCon, day 2

This weekend I was at the NordCon [linked content is in German], which is the largest gaming-convention around here. In this post I'll just tell you what I did on Sunday and how much fun it was. Check out the post about Saturday first, if you like. Again: This post might bore you, just as a forewarning.

My second convention-day was off to a slow start, as these are bound to be. I arrived at 9:30 in the morning, having set a date with a buddy at the Jugger-field for 10:00. He didn't show up, as it had gotten rather late in the mead-tent for him and he was still asleep in his place on the other side of the city. I didn't mind much, met up with another buddy who had brought his kid along and, after having stashed the stroller in the wardrobe, we decided to take a turn through the tabletop-gymn and see what the Warhammer-crowd had crafted to be looked at and ridiculed for the immense expenses they were pumping into their hobby. I used to play darkelves around 9th grade. Then I got a life. Burn! (in all seriousness: I envy and pity the fools who are in the miniatures-hobby. Envy as I have tasted the sweetness of fielding an army that you painted and constructed yourself, having built up a personal relationship with every one of these miniatures over the course of them becoming what they are. I myself am at constant risk to go down that path again, whenever I see a fantastically made custom miniature someone spent so much time, creativity and skill on. Pity because I know how much GW is draining their finances [other companies make it hard to find someone to play against] and how much of a fringe hobby they are following even at a nerdy convention. Their gymn is usually the place with the worst air and the fewest females.)

04 June 2012

Telling about the NordCon, day 1

This weekend I was at the NordCon [linked content is in German], which is the largest gaming-convention around here. In this post I'll just tell you what I did and how much fun it was. No pictures though, as I was too busy having fun to get out my cell to document things. Except when I was a little drunk on mead and watching that ultra-hot fire-spitting/belly-dancing thing at night but that was because I was in third row and could only see things through holding up my phone... Anyway, let's get to the con-recap. This post might bore you, just as a forewarning.

So, first time at the NordCon as a paying customer. In recent years I have had my own stand, offering games of BrikWars with armies of Lego that I had built and provided for the convention-goers amusement. That went over quite well after I had made some posters denouncing the Warhammer-crowd in their own smelly gymn, going something like "tabletop-gaming too expensive and uncreative for you? Come play BrikWars with us!", games filled up nicely. The other times I have been at the NordCon I helped with preparations and clean-up, thus earning me the rank of a  helper and not paying entrance fees. Never got a T-shirt though, thus I was kind of disgruntled and decided that I'd not help this year (the fact that I was at that wedding in Swizerland the weekend before and got the dates somewhat mixed-up is the stronger reason but I like to play the grouchy ex-helper) and instead fully enjoy the convention as a regular goer.

01 June 2012

Playing Oblivion: Day 3 part 7 – Unexpected Interlude

This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land. 

Fast-travel surprisingly only takes two in-game hours from Redwater Slough to the house of Melisande the witch. I go inside and give her the ingredients for the cure vampirism-potion. She is delighted that I made it and especially impressed with me killing Hindaril, which is weird as I have fought more formidable foes before and I am, after all, only level 7. There must be much tougher guys out there. But then again the game apparently scales enemies to my abilities, which is nice as I can pretty much go anywhere and not instantly die, but it does strain my suspension of disbelief to hear that something Martor has killed at this stage was so impossible to kill. The other problem with the scaling is that it doesn't really matter if I level up, as things seemingly level up with me. Yes, I get more points in, say, strength but it still takes as many hits to kill enemies.

Be that however it may be, the witch says she'll need 24 hours to brew the cure. That means I have to wait out this night and hide another day. I decide to go to one of the towns and try to get lodging. I figure I'll need a rather run-down tavern to actually do business with me so I decide to go to the most run-down part of the Capital, which is the port-area. I'll see if I can get a room in that former ship that is now a tavern. So I fast-travel there.