Baron Dave Romm (barondave) wrote,
Baron Dave Romm

Three years on Kingdom of Loathing

Blame ericcoleman In an offhand post, he mentioned a pun-filled turn-based RPG called Kingdom of Loathing. I really dislike shoot-em ups or any game that requires a joystick (or even where one is recommended). Even World of Warcraft and the like is just not my style. But KoL can be played on many levels, so I did. Starting June 15, 2006, I embarked on Adventure. The game had been online for a couple of years and there were already very powerful players and a whole subculture. I dipped my toes in, then the foot, and am now soaking wet.

When I first started, I was a rank neo. I didn't really care about the game, it was just fun to visit places and beat up on monsters and collect stuff. Most of the Quests and puzzles are way beyond my interest level: I have no desire to outguess a programmer. Fortunately, there were many spoiler web sites. The artwork is minimal, and the characters are stick figures. Hence my character name, Stickyhands. (Actually reminiscent of a previous nickname, but that's a much longer story.)

I just wandered around, visiting everywhere, doing all the Quests (even the ones that weren't necessary to finish) and collecting tattoos and trophies and familiars. At the time, you could do "speed runs" of just a few days and could win the game at Level 11. My first run was 130 days, and I got to Level 18. Whee!

Finally, I bit the bullet. Every time you "win" and finish the final Naughty Sorcerer's Quest, you can Ascend and start a new character, setting your stats to the beginning but keeping your familiars and other stuff. Mainly, you get to keep one Skill. I vowed to play each of the six character classes.

The more powerful your character is, the more turns you acquire. The problem was that playing for too long is boring. It was fun at first, and each game is different enough to keep my interest, but the game mechanics are similar enough that playing more than an hour or so per day gets to be tedious. After playing five of the character classes, I switched to Hardcore. HC is tougher: you have access to your familiars but not your stuff. And you can only use skills acquired in HC.

Indeed, my goal then became to do Oxygenarian runs. That's the toughest level of Hardcore: No eating and drinking to gain turns. I knew it would take me a while to work up to that, so I went on a series of HC runs to build up skills, but didn't acquire (or reacquire as HC if I had the skill as a Normal character) the food and drink skills. I was aiming for Oxy runs, why bother?

Then the game got tougher. The final, epic battle with the Naughty Sorceress went from Level 11 to Level 13, and two more Quests were added. I didn't want to play an NS13 game as HC, so came out and played a normal game or two, just to test it out. Then went back to HC.

I was beginning to be a pretty strong character. Many people are far better at it than I, and play multiple characters and do "speed runs". I was content to spend two or three weeks on a run; high for many but prevented the game from getting too dull and keeping me from sleep.

Last year, I decided I was ready and did an Oxy run. It went better than I thought, but then their Crimbo time was upon us; they do a special deal in December, with special treats and prizes. So I went back to HC. When those runs were over, I did another few runs to build up some skills, then in on Feb. 10, started three Oxy runs in a row. Because of how the reward structure works, it's best to do one Oxy run after another.

So from February until early June, I was doing the minimum number of runs a day, often just a few minutes. That barely scratched my KoL itch, but I knew it would be over. I eventually decided that only four of the Oxy rewards were worth it, and so I was done.

It took three years, but I finished what I started. Yippee.

I'm now done... except that in the ensuing three years a lot more content has been added. So far, I've ignored Hobopolis or any of the Undersea stuff. I might try that.

In the meantime, I'm a pretty strong character, by my standards. But I'm down all the food and drink skills I avoided getting. Now, I need them. So I'm zipping through some HC runs to pick up a few more skills before deciding where to jump next.

I spent nearly four months in Oxy. Going from around 40 turns a day to over 200 turns a day is jarring. I don't really have the time, so I'm rushing and not playing very efficiently. Oh well. I'm still going to finish this first post-Oxy HC run in fewer days than any other HC run, though I'll have burned through a lot of turns to do it.

I have my next few HC runs plotted out, but really I'm done. I'll probably do some of the newer material, but I really feel like I'm at the end. Maybe the new areas will be challenging enough, or maybe they'll just be boring. We shall see.

Well, that was less interesting than planned. Such is gaming.

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