Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Dragon's Lair - alive and kicking the bucket

I see a lot of inspiration in old video games, likely for the excitement there was in playing them and the influence they had, even unconsciously in the brief images. Dragon's Lair also has the Don Bluth story attached, a big near-run thing. This is the full laserdisc.

It feels fresher than I'd expect nearly 30 years on, and it's good to see scenes I'd likely never have reached, but the video may need a steel like that for the gameplay given all the repetition. The way Daphne is drawn could also be a surprise. More lower down.

Again, there's a lot of potential inspiration in there. The structure makes me think of the in-game blooper reel concept, the arcade machine vibe itself is a thing Super Dungeon Explore uses, and the nine lives approach could be showing up even in rules protecting big names in wargaming, as well as the zero level and minus level character ideas.

But it's those repeated deaths that really stand out for me, or rather the variety in the deaths. It has me thinking about the death scene as a concept for tabletop gaming.

A mechanical representation is nothing new of course, especially for horrific effects; see here for a 40K rule at Tales from the Maelstrom and here for some counters. Building on that then, below are some starting points for possible adaptation, aimed at wargames. 

  1. Horror. Individuals and units within a given distance must take a morale check, possibly modified by the degree of injury caused, and thereafter suffer a penalty to one or more characteristics, most likely a characteristic related to morale; the nearest opposing individual or unit is affected by Resolve below.
  2. Trauma. Individuals and units within a given distance suffer a penalty to one or more characteristics, most likely a characteristic related to morale.
  3. Last words. The deceased is assumed to live on in the form of the nearest individual or unit for the purposes of all actions but personal physical actions. 
  4. Burden. One individual or unit within a given distance takes on any mission entrusted to the deceased, or gains one if the option exists, but mission or not, if this individual or unit survives, the deceased is assumed to have survived too.
  5. Honour. Individuals and units within a given distance of the point of death perform one less action this turn, the same type in each case, as they observe a ritual.
  6. Resolve. Individuals and units within a given distance gain a bonus to one or more characteristics, most likely a characteristic related to morale.
  7. Vengeance. Individuals and units within a given distance may perform a single action twice this turn, but suffer a penalty based on degree of injury caused, and thereafter gain a bonus to one or more characteristics, most likely related to morale; the nearest opposing individual or unit is affected by Trauma above.

If it's going to be a table, one or more could be dropped or new added. Any thoughts?


Dave Garbe said...

I had a blast when they remade that game for Windows, all in 3D and such. And Syndicate's rerelease is about to come out.

Warhammer Quest had some neat functions like this though... in a game where you max out at level 10, it's obvious you're meant to replay it.. this allows instant-death to be incorporated and could be fun. Never played it myself, but I believe the tabletop game Paranoia acted similarly.

We had fun in Vampire LARP / tabletop with the flaw "Dark Fate". Some STs would just kill the character - but I mean, if you're going to plan to off a PC, you can involve it into the plot and really make the death memorable.

Justin S. Davis said...

I spent SO. MANY. QUARTERS. on Dragon's Lair.

And there's a local arcade-slash-bar that has tons of classic games, and playing there recently confirms what I knew to be INVIOLABLE TRUTH at age 10:

Space Ace is total bullshit.

The Angry Lurker said...

That game in the day brought on waves of frustration and anger but still dragged me back every time.....

Porky said...

@ Dave G _ Nplusplus - Syndicate is a game I have even fonder memories of - we might not be able to step in the same river twice, but that river could be just as invigorating, and I hope they do this one justice. I see what you mean about Warhammer Quest - the readier characters and the completeness of the expansions also gave it more an 'arcade D&D' feel. I think that's why I was so taken with the WD sea-travel and Lustria material, for the sense of a wider, less-designed space to explore, and why it hurt more that the support tailed off. I guess that's also partly why there are so many fond memories of it in general, for how inclusive it was of different understandings of what a game could be.

@ Justin S. Davis - Yep, I deliberately avoided mention of Space Ace. That was a letdown for me too, and clearly nowhere near what it could have been. I'm thinking there could be a case study in there, on the relative ease of design for mainstream fantasy and sci-fi.

@ The Angry Lurker - This is right up there for frustration with all those platformers needing pixel-perfect jumps and the like. I miss them too, but not as much as I might have.

SinSynn said...

Ah, the memories....
This is one of those rare things that still holds up, all these years later.

Never have I seen so many unique, somewhat hysterical 'death scenes.'
Poor, poor Dirk.
His grunts and whimpers as he's maimed, burned and otherwise repeatedly killed make me laugh....
I know it's not right...but it's so darned funny.

The only game I can think of that did it like this was (and did it well) Resident Evil 4, but it's more 'horror' than 'funny.'

Dirk was more the master of 'running away' than he was a fighting man, but he still gets the girl.

Forgot how silly (and hot) Daphne was.

Guess I'll hafta watch the Secret of NIMH again.

Porky said...

Dirk was well done for sure, a great not-so-great character. I've never seen NIMH, but it has got me wanting to look at those movies in general. Man, it was close. So close. Incentive always to go the extra mile.

Unknown said...

I still have some old (ancient?) issues of the Don Bluth Studios fan club magazine. For the price of the subscription, you got several really nice prints of artwork from Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. I was hooked from the very start. And to echo SinSynn, the Secret of NIMH remains an all-time favorite.

Don Bluth and Gary Goldman resurfaced briefly to do Titan A.E., although I’m not sure that was a success for them, and I’ve since lost track of where they might have ended up.

Somewhere around here I have an entire sketchbook of bizarre fantasy characters that “owe a great deal” to Dirk the Daring, and the dark world he once inhabited, where death awaited him around every corner. More recently, whenever I look at the latest terrain buildings for Warhammer Fantasy, I immediately recall the twisted, multi-turreted castle from the opening of Dragon’s Lair.

Porky said...

I feel that. Sometimes 'ancient' does seem the right word - it's a long time and no time at all.

I like that approach to worldbuilding that sets a silhouette against the sky and then explores the space around later. The image might be playing to something primal, but in practical terms it's quick to get set up, evocative for the creators and participants - or audience - and in the case of collaborations allows the fuller shape to emerge over time in a more natural way. Two cases that come to mind immediately are The Trap Door and Count Duckula, also animated and from the same era. I was a fan of both, but The Trap Door seems to have aged much better.

The recent Warhammer buildings definitely have that vibe, and can go a bit over the top for my taste, with the skull detailing especially. As I think Frontline Gamer pointed out, maybe re GW design in general, they have an '80s cartoon feel, as if referencing things like Castle Grayskull. That said, I do like the aged, central European mood of the buildings in general, and how flexible they are.

On the subject of Titan AE, if you're interested in the setting and a gamer - and an old-school roleplayer especially - you might like Needles' recent post on Titan AE. Swords & Stitchery is a great blog for classic sci-fi and weird science fantasy, and Needles is very active. It might not always be comfortable reading, but it's a superb source of inspiration.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing that link, Porky. I checked out Needle's blog and in a very short time discovered many enjoyable reasons to check back – likewise with your Expanse. I’m in the opening stages of constructing my online “platform,” as they say, still struggling with it a bit. Especially the split between traversing the Blogosphere, the Twitterverse, and actually adding new words to the WiP. In the time it’s taken me to get back here, you’ve posted quite a bit of fresh stuff! Any time-organizing tips? :-) As an aside, I love your description of worldbuilding in the passage above.

I’m an old school roleplayer, for sure, though I’ve spent more than my fair share of years painting and pushing around GW miniatures. Most of that has been set aside recently, between family and the amazing new frontier of indie publishing. Still, one does want to seek out like-minded fellows with a shared love for fantasy & Sci-Fi. I hope you don’t mind me stopping by to poke through your links and dig for inspiration for posts on my own fledgling blog…

Porky said...

That balancing act is really tough. I do a lot of notemaking, jotting things down as I think of them, and given that I often can't jot them down, I've now got pretty good at remembering large numbers of small apparently disconnected facts..! Another tip is filling small moments of in-between time with writing, which is also something that gets easier with time, especially with ever better techniques for holding material in notes and memory.

One fairly radical option is to post the work in progress online as you go, making this the majority of actual posts, with a little commentary to go with it. I do a certain amount of that here, but broken up and spread over long periods of time, but it is an approach better suited to a more modular activity like game design, and may not work so well in writing large works of fiction. If you do do it, I'd recommend keeping the fragments short, to keep the attention of the flighty reader, and if necessary post small amounts often.

Stop by as often as you like! I'll be following what you do with interest. There seem to be very few of us combining what are often thought of as distinct spheres, different genres say, the various classifications of gaming, and writing fiction. Many of the writing blogs out there feel very focused on the business of writing, and much less on the nature of writing, or the concepts behind a given work, or the content. Gaming blogs can have a very narrow focus too, looking at a single system maybe, or sticking close to a branded core. That's valuable too, and each to his or her own. More does seems possible though, and even desirable. These subjects are all closely related, and overlap with more academic material as well, in all kinds of fields. To my mind we need to grow beyond existing forms, controlled spaces for the mind, and deepen understanding by experimenting and exploring.