Gauntlet (Slayer Edition) Wizard Guide

I’ve had this game since it came out (or thereabouts), but only recently started playing it. Hoo boy is this game fun; they really tapped in to what made the original arcade game exciting and addictive, while incorporating modern actin rpg elements. My favorite character is probably the Elf, but the character I *want* to love the most is the Wizard.

After several frustrating attempts to play the Wizard (solo), I Googled around for a guide to playing Merlin. I can’t say there’s nothing out there, but I can say what’s out there isn’t terribly impressive on the graphical front. And while I certainly appreciate people compiling his button combinations and talking about how to use his spells, I needed something more comprehensive when it comes to actually learning the combos.

Merlin’s Spellbook

The nine spells can be separated into three categories: Offense, Protection, and Utility. Mastering the basic spells allows you to unlock the potential of Merlin’s other weapons.

Offense: Fire Ball or Lightning Chain will be your bread and butter damage spells. Flame Bomb is your best area damage spell, but learning its range can be challenging. Polar Ray does significant damage after a few seconds, but you’re immobile the whole time; this spell is best used in conjunction with Static Sphere.

Protection: Glacial Cascade can give you time to escape, and Static Spheres will protect a small area from most attacks, but your big escape spell is Ember Wave, which teleports you a long distance and ignites any enemies in your path.

Utility: Static Sphere creates a bubble that pushes enemies back; use this to block tight spaces and give yourself some breathing room. Glacial Cascade freezes the  enemies directly in front of you and creates impassable terrain (out of frozen enemies). Thunder Fist has a short recharge and knocks some enemies back, but is mostly useful for breaking props.  Frozen Orb is perhaps the most useful crowd control spell, but it’s difficult to target and has a long casting time.

Sinister Sentience

This book replaces the ice spells with more damage-oriented fire spells. Using Sinister Sentience removes most crowd control options, but adds significant damage output. In addition to damage, every Sinister Sentience spell ignites enemies.

Endritch’s Mystic Sphere

This orb replaces the fire spells with more mobile-friendly spells. Flarebolts is a rapid-fire spell that Merlin can cast while moving and is useful for dealing damage on the run, and Energorbs creates a barrier that protects Merlin and damages enemies that come into contact with an orb.

The Hollow Chapters

This book replaces the lightning spells with spells that offer more utility. Gravity Well pulls enemies in, bunching them up and slowing them, making them vulnerable to area damage. Void Torrent deals little damage, but significantly slows close enemies. Nether Cloak turns Merlin and nearby allies invisible for a short time.

The Questions Three. Or Four.

I was just able to complete my collection of “The Question” monthly comics. I started collecting “The Question” in 2013 when a friend questioned my veracity with comics in general, and I realized he had a point. I liked comics, but you need to wear that shit like a merit badge.  The series ran from ’87-’90 and from what I can tell was most famous for pissing off Ditko fans. Shout out to for the wonderful list of appearances (that I’m still working to complete) and to Monroes Collectibles for supplying the bulk of my collection. In all I spent about $1 an issue collecting these 37 mint or near mint comics.

I’ve got a lot to say about The Question, so I’m breaking it down into three (or four) posts. First, *my* history with The Question.

I first discovered The Question through “The Watchmen” (DC, 1986). Doing the math on this one won’t be hard if you know anything about “The Watchmen,” but for my road of discovery, read on. Read the rest of this entry >>

post by sultan | | 0

The Death of Superman

I found this at my local flea market in La Porte, In for $6. This is the ’93 edition, in fantastic condition. (I’d rate it at an 8.4.)

This is one of the few comic events that I read in real time, as it was being released. I hated Superman. Like everyone I knew who was even moderately interested in comics, X-Men was where it was at. Oddly enough, I read scant little of the X-Men at the time, preferring instead Silver Surfer and a laundry list of lesser known titles, but I vehemently espoused that Marvel was doing it right DC could suck an egg. Yep, I talked liked that.

But anyway, Superman. I was 14 in 1992. Batman the Animated Series had just started airing and Batman was the one good thing DC had going for it. I didn’t have a local comic shop, but frequently enough I’d make it to a neighboring town that did, and it was through discovering Batman that I learned about the upcoming “death” event. I distinctly remember eavesdropping on the shop owner and an older customer talking about what was in store for Superman, and the customer predicted that DC would, “finally kill him off.”

After hearing that I started paying attention to the marketing for the event. Turns out that guy wasn’t predicting so much as parroting, but the idea none-the-less stuck with me. You see, to me, Superman was *too* powerful. Even at that age I recognized that there was nothing for me to identify with in the Superman story. He never compromised, he never failed, he could do anything.

Their marketing seemed targeted to me. I never saw tension in Superman’s story, and here DC was saying, “What could kill Superman!? Find out!” I never did buy anything with the “The Death of Superman” label, but I did work extra hard to make sure I read each release until he died. That’s the timeframe this trade covers, up until Superman’s death in Superman #75.

And *that’s* when I *did* end up buying most titles in the Superman line. Anything labeled “A Funeral For a Friend.” I even stopped buying Silver Surfer to accommodate. (Turns out, I wasn’t missing much.) The rest of the comics world cried foul when Superman returned less than a year later, but I somehow avoided that opinion. In the world without Superman I was suddenly interested in how all these second tier heroes managed, and while it still took years, it was that spotlight that set the stage for me to really appreciate why Superman is an interesting character.


post by sultan | | 0

African Witchdoctor’s Divining Bones

I found these at my local flea market in La Porte, IN for $5. Overall condition is fair, but the components (the bones and the sack) are like new.

My wife and I share a curiosity about all things occult, but especially divination. These were particularly intriguing because they’re the first “bones” I’ve encountered outside a museum. There’s a small ~10 page booklet (that looks like it’s printed on rolling paper) that details a history of divination, instructions on how to read and interpret the bones, and most delightfully a short treatise on Mr. Adrian Boshier, presumably the man responsible for introducting the western world to the occult heart of Africa. From the back of the box:

Mr Boshier is an authority on the customs and beliefs of African tribes and has lectured widely on the subject in the United States and Europe. He  has undergone the lengthy training and rituals necessary to become a qualified Witchdoctor.

I’ve neither read the book about him, nor watched the documentary based on the book. My comments are based solely on the 150 words devoted to him in the booklet. The text *tries* to be informative and objective, but it was written in 1977. Are we surprised it comes off as racist?

Exploitive language aside, these are neat little tourist toys. Each bone has a unique persona and name: Lekhwami (The Old Man), Kgadi (The Old Woman), Silume (The Young Man), and Kgatsane (The Young Woman). Toss the bones on the ground after breathing on them whilst in the sack, interpret. You can then make subsequent castings from your hand to the sack. While there are a limited number of mathematical outcomes, it’s fine to interpret the same results differently, because the bones are a conduit for “listening to the spirits,” rather than a medium for the spirits themselves.

The bones themselves are modeled after ivory ones used by Boshier himself. They appear to be plaster cast from a mold.

The final page of the booklet is a touchstone of a previous age that survives today as Wikipedia notations: Suggested Further Reading. Therein are listed seven books ranging in dates from 1918 to 1971 and covering topics as broad as “Magic, Myth, & Medicine” and as narrow as, “The Teachings of Don Juan,” with authors like Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. I probably won’t ever obtain physical copies of all these books, but man do I want to.

post by sultan | | 0

Star Fleet Manual & Blueprints


I got these to give as a gift. That probably won’t happen.

Star-Trek-Manual Star-Trek-BlueprintWhat a find! I got both of these books for $10 at a flea market near Waukegan, IL: Star Trek Blueprints and Star Fleet Manual. Their overall condition is fair to good.

The Star Fleet Manual is from ’75. The depth of content is really impressive, and according to Memory Alpha, this manual exclusively informed the setting of the Star Fleet Universe series of games.  The two forwards for the book are written in the Trek-verse, under the conceit that this information, a transmission sent from the Enterprise to Earth, somehow traveled back in time to 1970, and was subsequently regarded as a hoax. That’s such a quaint premise it could only come from  classic science fiction.

But the map maker and graphic artist in me just oozes over the blueprints. From the cover:

From the Bridge to Dr. McCoy’s Sick Bay, from the Crew’s Quarters to the Shuttlecraft Hangar, from the Photon Torpedo Bank to the Science Labs of Mr. Spock—every foot of every level of the Enterprise laid out in exact detail!

Without being cluttered, these blue prints are detailed and evocative and inspire the imagination and are just begging to get used at the game table. (As a way to track the tribble infestation!?)

I’d never heard of Franz Joseph before seeing these prints. He’s responsible for both these books, and I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for his name on the shelf from now on.

The Return

Oh, hey, website. I forgot you were there.

It’s been over two years since my last update. Here’s why.

I had already (more-or-less) stopped freelance writing in ’13. This was because I hadn’t been in any games for quite some time, and without that inspiration driving me, writing became a chore rather than a diversion.

Since, by that time, Dorkistan had become primarily a repository for Pathfinder material that I couldn’t sell for one reason or another, that left me generating zero new content. Also, in early 2015 my computer was taken hostage by some aggressive malware, and nearly 20 years of notes, article seeds, campaign ideas, and other design-related files were lost. :sadface:

This, combined with a bevy of new(-ish) hobbies that started taking more of my time, caused Dorkistan to fall by the wayside.

Well starting in May that changes. While I haven’t picked up a regular gaming group, regretably, some of those new hobbies are worth sharing and I am deep into designing a board game with some friends. I’ve also got an inkling to take up fiction writing again.

So any past projects that are unfinished on this site will sadly remain that way forever. I do have a plan for at least one big RPG-related project, but most of my posts from here on out will be small vignettes of something new(-ish).

Ivalice Campaign Setting: Races

This is sure, by far, to be the most polarizing chapter of the book. Liberties were taken. Regrets were ignored.

Suffice to say that the source games weren’t written with consistency and world building in mind. That’s how you end up with several races without gender differentiation and overwhelming prejudices and stereotypes. In reconciling these “problems,” I made some stuff up. Beyond that, there are some hints at how I’ve imported other aspects from the video games that will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows.

Download Chapter 2: Races

Best DM: D&D 30-Day Challenge, Day 30

I grew up near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, ancestral home of D&D and TSR until 1997. The Game Guild, perhaps the first modern game store in the U.S., was my old stomping ground, where I cut my teeth on RPGs. I played with some fantastic GMs before I even know what made a good GM.

Trouble is, I don’t remember most of their names.

I *do* remember Dave Hankle. He ran an epic game. And I mean that literally, not in the “high-level character” sense. His game was expansive, beyond what we know of today as a megadungeon. With an inordinate number of players. I tried a game with nine players once, and it was too many to keep track of, yet Dave would run games with a dozen or more and every player was engaged and interested, somehow. Amazing.

Was he the best? Probably not, but he was definitely up there.

Thing is, I can find something to enjoy about almost any game, even if the GM stinks. For me, the best GM is one who wants his players to have fun, and has fun doing it.

Probable Sin: D&D 30-Day Challenge, Day 29

“Which number on a d20 do you roll the most?” I realize that we as humans try to recognize patterns in an otherwise random sample. Considering that it’s arbitrary which number you roll each time (more or less), I’m going to instead talk about the sin of using counters as dice. Read the rest of this entry >>

Least Favorite Character: D&D 30-Day Challenge, Day 28

One of my first GM experiences I used an NPC who was a former PC of mine: Sir Tamen, a haughty noble, stern, severe even, but whose heart was in the right place. I meant for Tamen to be a patron of the party, directing them toward their next mission, aiding them when necessary, nudging them if needed. Read the rest of this entry >>