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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2008 » May

May 2008

Games May 30th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

Nicodemus, the cursed pilgrim

Several years ago, when my local gaming group was heavy into the Mordheim game, Games Workshop released a special character miniature: Nicodemus, the cursed pilgrim.

What made Nicodemus so cool was not just that he was a slightly larger character (he has a growth problem) but that he knows every spell in the Lesser Magic list. There is a Warlock you can hire but he only knows a couple of spells.

Nicodemus also causes fear in those that he confronts. When not casting spells he packs a serious punch with his Wizard Staff.

After the battle you have to pay him a piece of Wyrdstone or he will leave your band and never return. Never as in, "you cheat me I never work for you again." A single piece of Wrydstone is a small price to pay for the power this guy brings to your warband.

Though I never used this guy in my warband I did get the miniature and paint him up real nice. You can see the pics below and you can download a PDF of the Nicodemus Rules as well


Uncategorized May 29th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

Several years back, after getting out of the service, I tried to reunite with my old gaming buddies via PBEM. It started out OK and quickly fell apart. What follows are the three narratives that evolved from that experiment. Each one is written from the point of view of that character.

Dren is a Pure Strain human, Fenris Black is a mutant wolf and Yosugi is a mutant feline.

Dren's Story

     Hungry, tired, thirsty, what a way to end your day. You and your friends have been travelling north of your home city of Tempesa, searching for the fabled city of the ancients known as Aksarben. You left Tempesa about two weeks ago, and now, your supplies have run out, worse still, it's getting dark.

     Your little group has done very well up until now. Nights have been somewhat difficult, but you've usually been able to spot a rocky area to camp in, once you even found an underground complex. You were even able to find a few useful artifacts there, especially that nice shotgun of yours, of course if Fenris hadn't shorted out the still working computer box you found you might have learned a whole lot more. Sometimes you wonder if Yosugi and Fenris share the same brain, cause neither one of them is very smart.


Games May 29th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

The release date for Alone in the Dark is slowly creeping up.

On June 24, 2008 you will be Alone in the Dark. It will be up to you to stand alone against the creatures that inhabit this new world. Can you do it? Can you survive?

The episodic nature of the game lends itself to the gamer with limited time. You can play through an episode a day and when you go back for more you will see a short video synopsis of what has come before.

Be ready. There is a fire in the distance. New York is burning and the dead are hungry.

Alone in the Dark

Games May 29th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set Rulebook

Way back in 1980 TSR released two boxed sets. Each of these boxes had a number in the corner and the cover art on box one was used in the creation of the art for box two. Confused? You should not be. I'm talking about the 1980 editions of the Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons games.

The red (some might say orange) basic set was not the first, there was a blue covered version that came out previously, but it was my first.

I still remember the day my dad took me to the mall. I dragged him into a book store and showed him the two boxed sets. I had my own money with me so I purchased them.

I had seen them before at a friend's house, along with the hardcover Advanced version of the game. I could not afford the hardcovers back then. I made money working small jobs and my $5 a week allowance. To buy the hardcovers would have set me back over $36 rather than the $24 I spent on those two box sets.

The box sets came with a rulebook, module and some dice. The rulebooks were three-hole punched so I put them in a binder. Some time in the future I bought the books again because I had cut the binding off to let them hang loose in a binder. That did not work out so well as the pages invariably tore out and required repairing.

I don't have the original books I got on that shopping trip with my dad but I do have the copies I got later to replace them. I do have the original dice from my Basic set but not the ones from my Expert set.

Dungeons and Dragons Expert Set Rulebook

The dice that came with my basic set were very nice. The came in multiple colors and were typically of the "waxy" dice from that era. Their corners have chipped off here and there but they still function with there own little biases. My Expert Set dice were just plain ugly. They must have gone through the molding process on a Friday after lunch because they were just wrong. They felt wrong in your hand and they looked wrong on the table. Those dice were often lent to players who had forgotten to bring theirs to the game session.

I bring this up because a few days ago I was cleaning up my game room and I came across my old green Accoring binder with the books inside. I sold off a lot of my dungeons and Dragons collection a few years back but there were something’s I just could not part with, this binder was one of them.

With the advent of so much print-on-demand and PDF copies of game books I had decided to cash out on my physical copies while the demand was still there. I made a few bucks on some of the more rare items and kept the ones that I still felt an attachment to.

I don't know if my daughter will ever take an interest in role-playing games but the hope is there. In another two and a half years she will be at the age I was when I got into the game. Will she also feel the urge to explore the world of RPGs? I don't know but I'll still hold onto these two books in the hopes that she does. If not I can always put them away until grandkids appear!

Feeling the urge for some old school gaming? Be sure to check out Noble Knight Games. If you make a purchase a portion of the sale price will go towards keeping HMTK on the web.

Images courtesy of The Acaeum

Games May 28th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Five To One, Baby

In the gaming world a "Dungeon Crawl" is used to refer to any game that has a core focus of going into a dungeon setting, fighting monsters and taking loot back the city to buy stuff with. After buying the new (and hopefully better) stuff you go back and crawl around in the dungeon some more.

Some of the new blood in the gaming world might be wondering why the word "Crawl" is in there. Shouldn't it be "Dungeon Delving" or "Dungeon Exploring"?

Way back in the day, when the Dungeons and Dragons game was the only game in town, most games took place in the dungeon. Yeah, I know that is no big surprise to you since the first word in the title is "Dungeons".

One particular rule always annoyed people; Movement. Most man-sized creatures could move 120' (feet) per turn while in the dungeon. You could run faster and movement changed during combat but the basic movement was 120' per turn.

One turn equals ten minutes in game time. Ten rounds equal one turn. This means movement, in the dungeon, was 12' per minute. Break it down even further and it takes you five seconds to move one foot! Sound like a "Crawl" yet?

After "crawling" for 50 minutes you had to spend ten minutes resting or suffer to hit penalties.

If you wanted your character to run than they could cover that 120' distance in one round (minute). Movement in an encounter is equal to 1/3 your movement (or 40' in our case) per round.

You might be looking at running speed and thinking 120' in one minute? Is every adventurer out of shape? Even in the army we were expected to run two miles in under 12 minutes. The average adventurer would be lucky to cover a quarter mile in 12 minutes while running!

So, what do the rules say about this horrendously slow movement rate?

A base movement rate of 120' in ten minutes may seem slow, but it assumes that the players are mapping carefully, searching, and trying to be quiet. It also takes into account the generally "dark and dingy" conditions of the dungeon in which characters are adventuring.

source: Basic Dungeons and Dragons Rulebook page B19

Part of the problem is the fact that parts of the game were based on miniatures rules. When playing a game with miniatures certain items of scale just go out the window. A 25mm archer figure can fire his longbow far beyond the edge of the table (if you adjust for scale) but that does not make for good gaming. Same thing with artillery in a miniatures game. Have you ever wondered why the Imperial Guard tanks and howitzers (Warhammer 40K) can't shoot through buildings and rain death on all corners of the game table? It's not because the vehicles they are based on can't it's because it makes for boring game play.

As time moved on some of the movement and time rules evolved. In most modern RPGs no one crawls through the dungeon anymore. Well, some still do but they tend to be the undead that have lost their legs.

Feeling the urge for some old school gaming? Be sure to check out Noble Knight Games. If you make a purchase a portion of the sale price will go towards keeping HMTK on the web.

Image Five to One, Baby used under Creative Commons License via flickr

Technology May 28th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
TRENDnet - TEG-PCITXR - 10/100/1000Mbps Copper Gigabit PCI Adapter

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Know what the best part is? It's FREE after rebate!

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Uncategorized May 27th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

Wii Fit

I received my copy of Wii Fit last Tuesday. It has been in my possession for one week now. So, what do I think about it and what has been my experience? Read on to find out.

The Pre-Possession Mindset

When I first read about Wii Fit last year I was not exactly excited. I was more ho-hum about it than anything. As more information was revealed I became more and more interested.

As the release date began to come closer and closer insider reviews began to appear in the video gaming press. I read them, thought about them and then pre-ordered my copy. The fact that several retailers sold out of their pre-order stocks was enough to force my hand into pre-ordering this beast. My original intent was to pick one up after they were released but I began to realize that there might not be any in the supply chain until a few weeks after the release.

Unlike most video games that restock right away Wii Fit comes with a balance board. This means it is not as simple as pressing more disks for release.

Wii Fit Arrives

Getting my Wii Fit a day before most people was enjoyable but not something I was able to truly exploit. The big reviewers had already received their copies weeks ago so there was no one to "scoop" with the story.

I unboxed my Wii Fit in detail and then tried it out.

The software starts up by collecting some data on you and then running you though a very quick fitness test. After this you are told your weight, BMI and Wii Fit age. On my first test I was rated ten years older than I am. I attribute that not to reality but to my "getting used to" the balance board. In laster days this age dropped as low as 21 for me.

Wii Fit

Once you enter the training area you find the Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobic and Balance Games. Only the most basic ones are playable at first. Others become unlocked after you earn some credits.

At first I was a bit upset over the "locked" content but it made sense. You need to learn to play the simpler games and exercises before moving onto the more complex ones. Even the games and exercises you can play from the start have harder settings that can be unlocked through game play.

One Week Later

With the exception of yesterday and today I have been clocking in a good 30 minutes every day. I have not lost any weight (though I did balloon up one day and lost it the next) but I do feel better.

The strength training exercises do leave me "feeling the burn" on the higher settings and the balance games are fun. I have yet to unlock everything but I'm still interested in keeping fit. I even took a long walk with my wife one morning last week.

So, why not yesterday and today? Yesterday I was very busy with Memorial Day activities and this morning I woke up with some stomach pains. I'll get back into it tomorrow!

Wii Fit

video games May 24th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Pool of Radiance

Back in 1988 SSI released the first in a series of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons computer games. Pool of Radiance was the first of these games and it is the one I'm going to talk about today.

It all started in 1985 when TSR saw the success of the Ultima series of computer games and decided they wanted in on the action. Several popular gaming companies were in talks with TSR for the license but SSI pulled it off in part due to their experience with making computerized wargaming software.

SSI signed the license agreement in 1987 and Pool of Radiance was on the market in 1988 for several different systems:

  • Commodore 64 - Music and excellent graphics.
  • Amiga - Best graphics and sound.
  • DOS - No sound.
  • Nintendo Entertainment System - The worst of the lot. Many things were missing because the developers could not squeeze enough into the game and still make it work on the NES.

I had the C64 version back in 1988 and I played the hell out of it. I later acquired the DOS version and I still have it today.

One of the biggest problems with the C64 version was that it came on four double-sided 5 1/4 disks. Because of this you were often told to swap disks once you left a given area of the game. It would then typically take a minute for the new area to load. You also needed one extra disk for saving data.

When it comes to RPG gaming on a computer Pool of Radiance set the standard. The game world was huge and contained countless hours of enjoyment. between the quests in the game, and the unlimited nature of the wandering monster encounters in the wilderness, it was very easy to max out your characters before you completed the game. Luckily, once you completed the game you could export your characters to the next game. Except for their items. Yeah, it sucked to collect all that cool stuff and not have it carry over into the next game.

One trick you could use was to equip a character with the Gauntlets of Ogre Power before transferring them to the next game. The item would vanish but their 18/00 strength would remain!

It was also fairly easy to hack the save files with a hex editor or even a program known as Pooledit (a DOS-based saved-game editor written by Stephen Oulton). Since we did not have the Internet in 1988 most folks just tried blindly editing the save file to see what would happen.

Even though the game was based on the AD&D system not all of the classes or magic items were available in the game. They were all in the program as I decompiled it in later years and found the references.

Because this came out in the early days of computer gaming they inserted a form of copyright protection using a code wheel. The game would start and ask you to line up two runes and read the word on one of three paths. There were only about six or seven answers that the game ever took so losing the wheel was not a big deal as you could just keep loading the game until you guessed it correctly. There was also a journal with stories and maps. when there was a lot of information to convey the game would point you to read a journal entry. To keep players from just reading the journal the designers placed a good number of false entries in the book. Those who read the journal cover to cover would find themselves reading a bunch of false entries with no way of knowing which were true.

Game Play

The game begins with you making a party of up to six first level characters. There is a small sprite editor which you use to differentiate your characters. If you don't you may not recognize who is who on the battlefield.

After creating your characters you head to the Phlan town council building to read the proclamations and receive missions to complete. The first you will likely undertake is that of clearing out the slums.

Pool of Radiance Battle

Most of the battles in the slums are easy but before you complete the mission you have to defeat several trolls. Trolls regenerate even after you destroy them. you have to either be quick or make sure a party member stands on the spot where the troll died. If you don't you will find yourself staring at fully restored troll a few rounds after you defeat it!

That is right, fully restored! the trolls do not pop-up when they get a couple of hit points back, instead they wait until they are fully restored to arise for battle. Don't be surprised if this battle takes a few tries.

After you gain a few levels you will begin to get more important missions and even leave the city for some adventures in the wild. This is where the difficulty begins to ramp up. Some of the "random" encounters you face in the wild are tougher than the planned encounters. Also, the game engine is designed to modify the encounter based on the strength of your party. What this means in simple terms is that if you cheat and max out the ability scores on your characters you will face tougher battles.

Your ultimate goal is to free Phlan from all the monsters and defeat their boss; Tyranthraxus. There are many missions you can undertake from the town council but the only required ones are the ones that clear the way for you to get to Valjevo Castle to defeat the boss.


Pool of Radiance is a long game. The graphics are no where near what you expect to see today (it's a 20 year old game) but the game play is solid. The wilderness areas of the game incorporate a sandbox style of environment that was many years ahead of its time and (sadly) not duplicated in later Gold Box games.

If you need GPU intensive graphics to help immerse yourself into a game than this game is not for you. If, however, game play is more important to you than gaming chrome this is a game for you.

Pool of Radiance was followed by Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades and Pools of Darkness. There was also a game called Hilsfar That falls in either before or during Azure Bonds. Unlike the other games Hilsfar is character specific and you only use one character at a time. The game play is also different based on which class of character you play as.

If you want to try it out why not download it and try it out?

Download Pool of Radiance

images courtesy of Moby Games

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