Rise to Wizard

introFor all you young Shadists out there who know no better than how to boot a PC and log on the the Internet via Windoze and launch a zMUD link to Shades, here is a tale from the dim and distant past. It has its origins in late 1990, soon after I had made Wizard and was chatting with Heloise, the first Arch-Witch, who suggested I submit an article to InShades, the online magazine of the day, relating my path from Novice to Wiz. I duly wrote it, but due to various machine incompatibilities (I used a BBC, Helly used an Amiga, I think) it never got published. I offered it to Zeon to use in his historical section of the new InShades as is. I resisted the very strong temptation to edit and update the text, it is presented in exactly the form it was left nearly 8 years ago.

However, as there are a lot of new players who may not know the history of Shades, I thought I'd throw together this intro to the article to set the scene and explain a few of the references.....
Many moons ago, when Shadists played the game on real computers (eg BBC, Spectrum, Amiga, Atari, C64, Archimedes etc) rather than the Pretty Crap architecture of DOS/Intel (I don't think the 286 was even on Intels drawing board then) Shades was hosted on Prestel, the British Telecom viewdata service, in a Closed User Group called Micronet 800. Viewdata may be more familiar to you today as the 40 column by 25 line format used by Teletext. Anyway, in those days, modems were fancy pieces of kit and a lot of us used acoustic couplers connected to the telephone handset to get online. Even if you did have a modem, it was likely to be a 300/300 and 1200/75 baud model. Yes, thats right, I haven't dropped any zeroes. Viewdata protocol transmitted at 1200 baud and received at 75 baud! So when 2400/2400 modems came along, it gave a massive advantage to fighters.

You have to remember that HTML wasn't even a twinkle in the CERN developers eyes at this time and lots of different comms packages had varying levels of sophistication, so a "fast" modem and a good set of function keys could make a killer almost as good as Arnie in Terminator!

I'm sure that Ray won't mind me mentioning the infamous incident when, as a high level warlock he was on low stam and got killed by the Bat. That was in the days when getting killed cost you 50% of your score! I know he won't mind 'cos a similar thing happened to me and I'm sure he had a good laugh over it. Cheers, Ray.

Having made Wizard in August 1990, Fluffs, one of the more controversial immortals, wrote me up in her weekly column PAWS. Never one to pass up on good press, I kept a copy and have attached it to the article. She also showed that a determined Pacifist could make immortal in 2 weeks just to stir up the debate on Fighter vs Pacifist classes.

In 1991/2 BT closed down Micronet and two alternative viewdata systems set themselves up from the fallout, Silicon Village (which had just about everything from Micronet bar Shades) still going strong and with a presence on the Internet and Tessier Ashpool Online (which just had Shades). TAO gradually faded away, but Shades found a home with New Prestel before moving to its present location within the 'Net domains.

I made references to various players within the article, some of who still play, some of don't and two (Diana and Heloise) who tragically died in the real world, may they both have found peace.

I'd like to dedicate this article to the memory of Heloise, a much loved and missed friend to many of us.

The story She must have been totally stuck for editorial material at the time. I mean, who really wants yet another story of how one player became immortal? I tried to get out of it, honest, I did. I told her it would be 99 chapters long. "Fine" she said. I told her it would take a year to write. "No problems" she replied. In desperation I demanded an advance. "How much?" she asked.
How did she do it? That smooth talker Heloise conned me into it knowing I always honoured my commitments. And so I started writing myself out of the corner...
It all started on that fateful afternoon in Mrs Hudsons upstairs rooms when Holmes and I were.... (Oops! Wrong persona)

Where did it start? Well, I suppose it was with that first mention of Shades in the A5 glossy magazine that Micronet pushed out in September 1986, the forerunner of Log On I think. Multi-user game, eh? Sounded interesting. And so, armed only with my ignorance, I logged on to my destiny...

Having deciphered the riddle that led to the bejewelled dagger, I soon made it to Explorer after the usual slashed wrists episode of a new player. Trouble was this was the time of the Mafia. Wallop! The axe swung and before I knew what had hit me I was dead. And with half of my hard earned points gone. What!? I hear you cry. Yes, in those days dying sent 50% of your score west regardless of your level (100% if you started the fight!! Led to one or two adrenalin addicts.) "Right", I thought, "Set some priorities." 1. Run away from fights until I know what's going on. 2. Make a map.

Equiped with reams of printer paper and a box of pencils Scytale the Cartographer Adventurer set forth. I soon had north of the river, the swamp and the Castle mapped, but how on earth could I get across the river? Easy. Ask someone. "Excuse me, but how...?" Wallop! The axe sent my head bouncing down the Trail. I caught up with it and slunk off to cry. You think Bloodbaths are gory? They're like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park compared to those early days.

The Mafia still roamed the land along with the independent killers like Rage and Devil. Death was my constant companion. I had a lot of trouble with bad lines in those days which is why I never really got to grips with fighting. As soon as I started to hammer the keyboard I'd get bombed offline. I tried three different machines on four different lines to no avail [sob]. Each lost line counted as a quit. Grrrr.

Then along came an announcement from the Coder (Remember him? The Lord Lucan of Shades?) A new Fighting System was to be introduced! It didn't do me any good though. The lines were as bad as ever. Still, the FBI seemed to have got all the Mafia for Shades charges evasion.

Then a house move and the increasing demands of the now toddling twins led to a layoff of a few months. I came back on regularly just before Ray's unfortunate incident with the Bat (that taught me a salutary lesson [grin]) and started to work my way up from Seer.

Time passed.... Some players helped, others hindered. The Arches couldn't answer some poor Explorer who asked why he couldn't pick up the LS. (Showed when they last had a low level mortal!). Updates came, mobiles came and went, their routes altered. The West Tower riddles were no sooner solved than re-written. Those were the days when it was quite common not to be able to get on to the first 4 or 5 games 'cos they were full!

I got the City and Mansion mapped and some kind Immort showed me around the Arena. After stumbling around in the Sands for a long time, I put a letter on the Shades feedback asking if the Shifting Sands was consistent and I got a long mbx from someone who'd been to a seminar given by Hazeii which explained in detail the algorithm he'd used. Another helpful mbx on how to enter the Black Tower expanded my map to ten 11"x16" sheets. People were a lot more co-operative in pooling knowledge then.

I then altered a phase of swinging between Enchanter and Soothsayer with the occasional foray into Seer as I tried to stand my ground and novice a few attackers. Yes, this was the advent of the V22bis f-key killer! I was (and still am) a pretty fast typist but I still got slaughtered [sigh]. After some debate on modem speeds and other matters, non of it very heated, the current Fighter and Pacifist classes superceded the old Fighting System. And boy oh boy did the debate hot up later! [grin]

I considered Pacifism for a while but discarded the idea thinking I could make Immortality more quickly not so much as a fighter than as someone who could get enhanced value for t. I'm sorry to disappoint all those who thought I was noble to try a run for Wiz as a fighter, but the truth of the matter is I suffered from that prime Thatcherite prerequisite NAKED GREED! The games were a lot more full then and t was often worth at least 150% of its base value.

With 20/20 hindsight I chose the wrong route for speed (as Fluffs has shown, it can be done from scratch within two weeks) but it was certainly the more satisfying. With half my score permanently at risk I felt that I had really achieved something despite not being a competent fighter.

Two more quick house moves and another baby lead to a further long absence and I didn't get back online until early this year. "Right!", I thought, "Enough pussyfooting around. Time to make a serious assault on Immortality."

With my wife working two nights a week I was able to devote a fair bit of time to the game and I soon clawed my way up to Sorcerer. Having got there, Jetwash seemed to take a personal interest in my welfare, offering free surgery with any handy sharp instrument and one or two blunt ones. I lost count of the number of times I fled from him on next to no stam, but I eventualy was able to defeat him and the 6.5k I got took me through the psychological barrier of 100k. I'd got up to 110k when my own "Ray's Bat" incident happened.

I'd fled down to 96k due to Narcotic replacing Jetwash as my personal mayhem consultant and I wasn't in the mood to run away from mobiles. So there I was chucking t into the fountain after carefully putting down the rod and trading blows with the bony guy when in popped Persis the Seeker who promptly ran off with the rod. No worries. I was on 60 stam and just wanted one more blow. One then three quick blows from the Death and I scurried off to bed to await a 72pt headline in the following mornings Sun. "Necro Fighter killed by Pac Seekers Stealth!"

And then Prattle low stammed me back to Sooth. [Sob]. "Right! Thats it!!", I thought. On went the size nine boots and the bergen and the long yomp started again. This time I was determined to keep to my philosophy of when stam looked iffy 3% was better than 50% lost. The trek back to Necro passed uneventfully, probably due to Narcotic having account troubles [grin].

With the start of the school holidays, I started playing in the morning while the kids were still asleep. I can't say that it boosted my score much, but every little helped.

Then, one Sunday lunchtime, I crept up to 194k. "Aha.", I said to myself, "That'll do for now. Tonights the night!". I was just popping back into the Info Centre when that pesky Thief bounced me and along came Amandil to steal my LS and have a go at low stamming me. [Sigh] Another 6k away with a quick flee. Still, I only needed another 12k. Not beyond the realms of possibility in one night. And so on I came that night at about 2200 and started to run around.

Soon Ehlana and Ennui were throwing t at the fountain, but I kept making like Peter Shilton, catching it all [grin]. A couple of other mortals whose names I can't remember (humble apologies) hung around quiet areas out of Safe to help push up my t value. The action was fast and furious and before I knew where I was there was another message on the screen. "You are now Scytale the Melange Using Wizard." I shouted "Yes!!" and then thought "Omigod! What about the Death?". Visions of the last time he got me floated before my eyes.

"Save!" everyone shouted. I saved. Still the Death grinned at me. Gulp! With a final despairing effort I parried his scythe and with true sabreur's panache played Nik Nak Paddywak on his ribs to see him off. A quick /581 later and I was getting black and blue from people pounding my back and mangling my hand and my face was sore from a wide, inane grin.

I had originally wanted to stop at about 199990 and choose my time to make it with style, but it did seem a teeny weeny bit churlish to accept all that help and say "Ok people, thanks for all the help, but I'm stopping now." If truth be told, I had no idea of my score in the last few minutes. I just kept heaving t into the fountain and using the Death as a xylophone.

So there you have it. The story of one mortals struggle to achieve Immortality. Was it all worth it? I thought so, but its up to each individual to answer that for themselves. Ladybyrd and I discussed that question recently. I told her that I did and still do enjoy the game (despite my fits of temper at inopportune line drops and my own stupid mistakes.[grin]). I never saw getting to Wiz as an end in itself; I always knew it would lead to a different style of play, which I'm still getting to grips with.

Despite all the setbacks, it was an extremely satisfying experience to finally see that message on the screen which could never have been achieved without the help of some of the many friends I've made along the way (amongst whom I feel priviliged to have counted Diana)

It only remains for me to thank all those who've helped me on my way and say thats it Helly.

Now where's the balance of my fee?!

PAWS OK once Im up' and 'you will have to wait 2 hours for it' ??? Funny feller .. nice tho...grin.

Who says theres no camaraderie on Shades? Anyone present on game 1 on Sunday will disagree with that remark! There was Scytale, slowly climbing up and needing another 9k for wiz, when out of the woodwork came a motley assortment of players, from sorcs to novices, pacs and fighters and the game was swept bare of t in minutes. Everyone was trotting back and fore to the fountain with their plunder, but there must have been a bug on the game cos they kept missing the fountain and the t just lay there in a heap for any lucky warlock present to stumble over...wink...and Scytale made wiz amidst thunderous applause from all. This was one very popular player who deserved his wiz. No, not because he was fighter class, nor because he'd been trying for 3 years, and not even because he is a 12/75 player, but because he has never once whinged or moaned, not even when his warlocks were killed, not to mention his necroes and sorcs. He simply took everything thrown at him as being part of the game and quietly carried on playing. So well done Scytale, and welcome to immortality. You've earned it.. the hard way.