Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Wired 8-Bit 3d6 Beeb D&D

DEADMEDIA XIII Teletext art has been featured in Wired UK magazine. web version here and there will be a forthcoming broadcast on German TV channel ARD, with a small launch event in Berlin.

DEADMEDIA XIII in Wired [UK] Magazine,
in your newsagents, near the out-of-date-milk and the Mars bars

Much respect to Juha at the ITAF for his continuing efforts on the international Teletext scene. Awesome stuff. The signal has now been turned off on the London area, so that's it, no more Teletext for me, and there goes a piece of Britains post-industrial heritage.

Teletext is roughly equivalent to Mode 7 on the BBC Micro. It's not the same format as braodcast, but it is   very similar. If you've never heard of the BBC Micro, it was a British 8-bit home computer of the 1980s, and was introduced into many schools for educational purposes. The guy who invented it was played by that bloke from The Office (and who is the new Bilbo Baggins) in a documentary. here. It was also the platform of origin for David Braben and Ian Bells Elite, the epic space combat trading game loosely based on Mark Millars Traveller RPG.

As far as I know, no D&D character generator was ever published for the BBC Micro. Judging by the classified ads in old White Dwarf mags, there were a good few homebrew versions for the ZX Spectrum. Notably the D&D Character Generator by Triffid Software Research which includes the White Dwarf Houri class (oo-er missus!), but I haven't managed to get it running past the first 2 levels of character selection before the emulator crashes or something, possibly about tapes. Here's a screenshot of a Dwarven Fighter :

Triffid Software Research AD&D Character generator
ZX Spectrum

And the SSI Dungeon Masters Assistant  (C64 and DOS) is also very cool, and official AD&D software, which is what I currently use to create insta-matic dungeon fodder.

DOS version of DMA

Both Triffid and SSI kind of miss the point of a character generator - the user is still 'designing' the character - deciding whether a Dwarven Fighter or a Half-Elf Fighter/Magic-User/Cleric would be a better option, and the SSI lets you fudge stats and ignore the dice. As most people who advocate low-level deadly type D&D know, players who get overly invested in their characters begin with making character design choices, and dreaming up the wonderful heroic adventures they might have playing this idealised, self-designed character, instead of developing a character concept by actually playing the game.

What I want (aka "primary design goal") is to facilitate strict 3D6 in order, random character generation. Reducing chargen time, sticking to the constraints of the rules, and getting into the game as quickly as possible, using old-school technology... type RUN, get a character, that's it. No player input or decisions, zero time spent in character generation. "But I don't want to play a half-orc thief chick..." then give her an honorable (or amusing) death, and type RUN again. Think Nethack, not World of Warcraft, and definitely not 'my Drizzt fanfic'.

So I wrote 17 lines of code in BBC BASIC to roll 3D6, in order, and output as stats. BBC BASIC (the programming language) was designed to be the Fighting Fantasy Introductory Role-Playing Game of programming, It took me 10 minutes with a bit of help from the user guide. Here is a video of it running on an emulator.

Anyone who knows anything about programming will tell you this isn't very efficient code, and what it is doing is mind-bogglingly simple - but the idea is there, and it's starting to produce something...

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