In no particular order, here are some of the items that go into making up MY personality matrix:
- Star Wars
- The Hobbit
- The Last Unicorn
- At the Earth’s Core (with Peter Cushing)
- The Secret of NIMH
- Dragon Slayer
- Xanadu (which, strangely enough, did more to encourage an interest in Greek mythology than Clash of the Titans!)
- Sid & Marty Croft stuff, but especially H.R. Puff & Stuff, Land of the Lost, and Dr. Shrinker
- Tales of the Gold Monkey
- The Day After
- Shogun (to a small degree)
- Logan’s Run (ditto)
- The Masked Marvel
[I should note that I’ve watched a lot of TV over the years, including a lot of the “boy fantasy” crap of the 80’s: The Dukes of Hazard, Knight Rider, Buck Rogers, The A-Team, The Hulk, etc…none of this seems to have had a recognizable impact/influence on me]
Books & Comics
- Mainly Marvel comics of the early ‘80s
- Old DC horror comics, westerns (Jonah Hex), and WW2 (the Unknown Soldier, etc.) that I’d find around my grandma’s house.
- Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series
- Many random Halloween and/or Witch-themed books
- Dungeons & Dragons (of course!)
- Dark Tower
- The Bard’s Tale
When I say these things have an influence on me, I mean that they exert influence even when I’m not directly referencing them. While the list is by no means exhaustive, I think I’ve really captured most of it…other influences on my imagination and gaming are more directly referenced in my mind…for example, I’ve seen The Road Warrior many times…when developing a post-apocalyptic game I often consider how (or if) that film does or should influence the material.
MOST influences on my writing/gaming/preferences ARE conscious. I say, “right, I want something that feels like Indiana Jones.” But sometimes I do weird things and it’s only later that I say, “huh…I think that came from waaaay in the back of my subconscious.” Like maybe my “borg love” has to do with watching the Six Million Dollar Man duke it out with replicants or something. Or maybe that was J.J. Hands.
ANYway, it’s the last thing on the list that I wanted to talk about: the old Electronic Arts computer game The Bard’s Tale.
Back in 1985, this was the game EA was known for, not console sports games, and whenever I see the name Electronic Arts, this is the first thing that pops into my head. No, EA didn’t design Bard’s Tale, but they distributed it and their logo was featured prominently on the box…a box that was necessary to keep around as it featured a map to the town of Skara Brae.
Skara Brae…oh, the frustration you caused me.
I was reminded of Skara Brae recently when contemplating my recent D&D sessions (yet another trip to the Baranof is scheduled for tonight…looks like there will be four of us for a change!). Skara Brae was a dark and dangerous town. Worse than film portrayals of Detroit...I mean BAD. Even a heavily armed party of half-a-dozen couldn’t walk more than a block or two without getting jumped by a bunch of monsters…and that was in broad daylight! At night, it was even worse, and the vermin would be all over you like stink on shit. Really…two steps and whoa! ANOTHER encounter.
At higher levels of experience it was easy enough to avoid these monsters simply by ducking down an alley (i.e. typing “Run”). And one would have to do this in order to get anywhere in a timely fashion (just running down to the corner store? Careful…there’s a half-dozen orcs down on the corner spoiling for a rumble). At the lower levels however, monsters were much more likely to catch you and force combat.
And this led to a lot of death.
See, players used to playing oh, say, D&D were going to want to make their own party of adventurers for a computer game like Bard’s Tale. Not that “Omar” or “El Cid” aren’t fine names and all, but I always enjoyed making characters after the players in my OWN game. Plus, didn’t you want to have a Halfling Monk? I ALWAYS wanted to make a Halfling monk! And let me tell you THAT little guys was NO ONE to F with once he hit level 12 or so.
But getting to level 12 was a bit of a problem. All your characters started with only the most basic of basic equipment…I think a robe and a staff was all any character received at 1st level. And since the shop was down the street from the guild hall (yes, you belonged to an Adventurer’s Guild…just like Dragon Quest!), and you had to walk down the street to get there, and the intervening streets were teeming with threatening monsters…well, your party suffered an awful lot of TPKs.
Not that you had the money to afford a whole lot of fancy equipment anyway…your 1st level characters just weren’t going to survive very long on the streets. And the handful of times YOU got the drop on a single orc or two? You’d probably end up with three gold coins (and at least one or two dead halflings) for your trouble.
Getting to that 2nd or 3rd level was pretty f’ing tough in other words…unless you wanted to A) use the pre-generated party (“the A-Team”) or B) take all of the pre-gen party’s stuff and equip it to your own characters. The pre-gens were pretty weak, too, but they had a single HUGE advantage…the bard owned a magic item called a “Fire Horn” that could breathe fire on an entire group of critters. Without El Cid and his magic dragon breath, you would die many, many times until you put together a big enough string of lucky victories to level up. I don’t remember ever doing this myself…I ALWAYS took the Cid’s fire horn.
Even with the fire horn, you were likely to get smoked a helluva’ lot…and since you were broke and lowly, your options for raising party members was, well, non-existent. You ended up heading back to the Adventuring Guild…often…to drop off corpses and roll up new characters. Praying that you could level up a few party members before your fire horn ran out of charges (it wasn’t an “endless fire horn” after all).
Does this remind you of anything? It reminds me of my recent gaming sessions with my brother and Steve. All this party death and not a single character going up in level…just more “go back to town and roll up new guys” going on. In four sessions, my brother has created four characters. That’s Skara Brae statistics, folks.
Now granted, he’s had some bad luck as well as some bad planning…but is it possible that he’s in need of his own fire horn?
Maybe not…after all, Shmutzy DID have a wand of fireballs...which he used to injure his own party members nearly as often as his opponents. As I said, poor planning has been part of his woes. We’ll have to see how tonight’s game goes.
Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about this morning…that and the old encounter tag line from Bard’s Tale:
“Once again you face DEATH ITSELF in the form of [insert monsters here]!”