A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

01 April 2011

A is for Adventure

Atari Adventure, that is.

Adventure may have been the first video game I ever played on the Atari 2600. It was not the FIRST video game I ever played--that honor went to the Magnavox Odyssey game system. I believe we got that game system around Christmas 1974 or so. It was a fantastic system that used TV static to hold plastic overlays on the screen. My favorite, next to the Pong-like game, was "Haunted House" where the little white cursor would light up various things in the house. I wonder what my parents did with that old stuff anyway....?

There were also several games I played on one of the first Apple PCs--you remember, the ones that saved programs on audio cassette tapes? Yes, kids, Audio cassettes. Not disks, not flash drives, not CDs. AUDIO CASSETTE TAPES. Those old Apples were where I first learned to program.

But back to Atari Adventure, that was my first Atari 2600 game.

The year was 1980, I believe. Late 1980 or early 1981. Some family friends bought my parents the Atari 2600 as a thank-you gift. They were mortified, partially because we were not well-off, partially because they felt it was charity, and partially because they did not want my every waking hour consumed with playing video games. I was promptly limited to 1 hour per day after school, depending on my homework assignments.

That restriction did not last long, relatively speaking. My brother found Space Invaders and my father found Activision's Kaboom!

But my game was Adventure.

If you remember, I had a little experience with RPGs at the time, although I had not yet obtained my first set of D&D rules. But here was a game that I could play by myself; the computer was the DM! I could see my character move around, attack (and flee from) dragons, find treasure, and be attacked by random roving unkillable bats that would steal whatever you were carrying and deposit it elsewhere in the dungeon!

Now, granted, my character was a little colored square that changed color to match the surrounding wall colors, my sword was an arrow, the keys I found (and the ultimate prize--the chalice) were all as large as (or larger) than my character thanks to then-revolutionary 8-bit graphics.

Oh, and the dragons looked just a little bit like Sesame Street's Big Bird. This fellow's name is Yorgle. I learned that from the internet; I never knew they had names, back in the day.

And this? This green fellow is named Grundle.

And this, of course, is Rhindle. (You see what they did there? With the initial letters of each dragon's name the same as the color of the dragon? Isn't that clever?) You can also see here the character wielding the mighty sword in pursuit of the magnificent chalice.


I can't tell you how many hours I whittled away at this game. Back then, I knew all the twists and turns of the ridiculous mirror-image mazes, flashing from screen to screen and back again in nonsensical twists and turns. (You don't believe me? Try for yourself.)

It was the first time I'd ever see what D&D called a "passwall." It was a little bridge-like structure that allowed you to walk through otherwise solid maze walls. If I recall correctly, you could even move the bridge from room to room. Of course, you had to drop your sword to do so. Which put you at risk from a roving Yorgle--if you had somehow run past him the first time, he started roaming through the dungeon, passing through solid maze walls with impunity and attacking you from out of nowhere.

I remember the cold panic that would set in as the yellow dragon raced from the corner of the screen towards your hapless (and sometimes helpless) character. What was nice, though, is you could start over. All of your treasure would be where you left it, and granted, the dragons would all be resurrected, but other than that, at least you didn't have to start from scratch.

It was magical.

Especially after the parental-unit-imposed D&D ban. Once my rulebooks were locked away by mom and dad, and my lead figures put in the top of the closet, this was my only RPG outlet for quite some time.

And I played the heck out of it.

It sustained my love for swords and dragons, mazes and treasure. It kept the love alive--the adventure alive--until I could once again pick up my dice (and more importantly, throw them down again).

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