MY SON, THE BERSERKER
An inside tour of the MAGIC REALM
by Jim Stahler
You know. Before I read this article I actually thought I didn't like fantasy games. Now I know I don't like fantasy games, but if I somehow ever get forced into one you can betcha I'm going to make friends with the Berserker guy.
Oy, such tsuris! What is a mother to do? One day, out
of the Blue, my son says to me, "Farewell, Mother. I am going on a long
"So where are you going, and when will you be back? Will you be home for supper?" I asked.
"I will be gone for a long time," he replied. "I am going on an adventure to the Magic Realm."
"Are you out of your mind? You are going on a journey up a tree?"
"No Mother, Magic Realm, not Elm. It is a far distant land."
"Now I know that you are mishuganah! Why don't you stay here, settle down, find a nice Jute-ish girl, get married." Don't you think that he is crazy? "What do you expect to find in this land?"
"I go in search of fame," he said. "I want that all the world."
"Fame, shmame. All the world should know that you are a knucklehead?"
"And I can gain notoriety," he said, hopefully. "Your father and I didn't raise you to be notorious," I said.
"There is also talk of much gold in the Magic Realm, to be gained by the most daring adventurer."
"Much gold! Just what I want, a purse full of gold, and a dead son. Are you looking for a fine funeral?" What to do with this boy?
"And there is great treasure to be found," he continued, with a gleam in his eye. "Wouldn't you want me to bring you something nice?"
"Treasure?" So I am getting just a little curious. "What sorts of treasure?"
"There is all sorts of treasure to be had, Mother." he said excitedly, "Power Gauntlets, Shoes of Strength, Garb of Speed, Cloak of Mist, Girtle of Energy."
"It sounds like you are going to a clothing store. Get this foolishness out of your head," I scolded.
He continued; "But there is much more, Momma, a Golden Crown, Sacred Grail, Royal Sceptre, Crystal Ball. And besides, I am tired of spending my life here on the farm. I want action, I want adventure. This is my chance to see the world, to break away."
He sounded determined. I asked him, "Isn't it dangerous? Aren't there all sorts of weird people who go adventuring? I'll fear for your life."
"Please don't fear, Mother, I can take care of myself. With my horned helmet and my great axe, I can handle anything."
"You think that you can handle anything? I thought that you were mad, but you are Berserker than figured. What kinds of people do you expect to meet, and how do you expect to handle them?"
"I thought that you would never ask," he said. "I can defeat most people, and those that I can't kill I can avoid. For example, suppose that I meet a Dwarf. We both have helmets and great axes, and can trade tremendous blows. We are a pretty even match, because his fastest fight counter is H4**, and my fastest move counter is H4**, so I can usually avoid his attack (2/3 of the time). However, my fastest fight counter is H4*, and his fastest move counter is H5*, so I can guarantee hitting him, if I smash him. To counter his Duck."
"Why don't you roast his duck, and both of you sit down to eat. It's much healthier."
He reddened, and said, "Not a 'quack, quack' duck, Mother, but a sophisticated fighting maneuver consisting of squatting down to avoid your enemy's weapon. As I was saying, if I smash him with a Fight H4* counter, I will hit him, even if he ducks. But if I do, I can't play my Move H4** counter, because I am limited to two asterisks. Then he could guarantee killing me, if he plays a Fight H4**. But don't worry, Mom, because I can always run away from him; my fastest move counter, H4**, beats his fastest move counter, H5*. So I am safe from Dwarves, you see?"
"Very interesting, but I haven't the foggiest notion
of what you are talking about," I said, very confused.
"You haven't read the rules, Mother?"
"I'm sorry, but I haven't," I admitted. With all the cleaning and cooking and taking care of the house, I am supposed to have time to read rules?
"Let me explain," he explained. "Every character is given certain counters upon entering the Magic Realm. Don't look at me like that, Mother, it's true. They are mostly Fight and Move counters. They each have a weight; Light, Medium, Heavy, or Tremendous; and a time, which determines how long it takes to strike the blow or get out of the way to avoid a blow. The lower the number, the better. They also have asterisks which determine how much effort someone expends in playing the counter, the more asterisks, the more effort."
"Combat works like this. Each person involved in the battle has a chance to avoid the battle, well, sort of run away. I don't like to think of it as actually running away. It is more like exercising discretion, the better part of valor. You don't want me to be killed do you?"
"As I was saying, each of us can play a move counter, to try to leave, and the other one can play a move counter to stop him, like running after him. If the move counter of the person leaving is faster than the move counter of the person chasing him, then he gets away, and there is no fight. Otherwise, they must square off and fight it out."
"It makes great sense to me," I said doubtfully. "It's very simple really," he continued. "To fight, we each play a fight counter with our weapon to determine the type of attack; we can either thrust ahead, swing to the side, or smash down. Also, we play a move counter to make a maneuver to avoid the enemy's attack. We can charge ahead, dodge to the side, or duck down. If the speed of the attack beats the speed of the maneuver, the poor fellow is struck, no matter what his maneuver. Otherwise, the attack must correspond to the maneuver, and thus has only one chance in three of meeting its mark."
"It sounds dangerous," I said.
"Well, yes, it can be. But when I go Berserk, I can take a lot of punishment. The weight of the attack, as determined by the weight of the weapon, must equal or exceed the target's weight to kill him. Anything else is only a scratch. When I am Berserk, it takes a tremendous blow to kill me; I ignore anything else. With my robust health, I can heal pretty quickly."
"Back to the Dwarf. Assuming that we both have helmets, and alerted weapons, and we are using Weapon Times, Armor Bonus, Weapon Length, Armored Monsters, and Heads and Clubs optional rules, I can play Move H4**/Fight H5, and duck so that my helmet protects me. Unless he plays his Duck, my axe will kill him, since it strikes with speed of 4. If I smash and he ducks, I will destroy his helmet. But he can play Duck T3*/Fight T6*, which has a 1/3 chance of getting me. If I am ducking, my helmet is gone if he gets me, but I am safe. "
"On his next round, assuming that I have lost my helmet and he has lost his, he is in trouble. I can play Move H6/Fight T4**. If I smash, I am guaranteed to kill him, but he can kill me at the same time, by playing his Duck T3*/Fight H5* combination. Or I can play Move H4**/Fight H5, to avoid him, but he can avoid me by playing a Move H5*. If we both miss, both our weapons are alerted for the third round. I play Move H4**/Fight H5 again, but this time my weapon comes in at a speed of 4, and I automatically kill him if I smash. He now has a 1/3 chance of knocking me off simultaneously, only if he attacks where I maneuver."
"It sounds like you can get yourself killed by even a little fellow like the Dwarf. Are you sure you want to..."
"But you forget, I can always outrun the Dwarf and be safe. So you needn't worry about him. And the Dwarf is about the most dangerous character that I have to face. "
"Besides the Dwarf, I can run into a Black Knight. Many people consider the Black Knight to be deadly, and to many people I suppose he is, but I laugh at him. He only carries a mace, which is a blunt, medium weapon. He has heavy armor, but that slows him down as much as it protects him. I could run away from him, if he is wearing armor, but I don't have to. If I am Berserk, he cannot kill me with his mace, and since he is so slow, my great axe will find its mark every time, unless he plays a Move H4**. This leaves him with only a Fight H6. He will probably miss me, even if I play my Move H6, and my Fight T5* will find him 1/3 of the time. The first time I strike him, his shield is gone, then his armor, then him."
"There is also the chance of meeting up with the White Knight. He can be a fearsome foe, but he is as easy to avoid as the Black Knight. If he demands a fight, he must play his Move H4** to prevent my exit. This leaves him with only a Move H6 and a Fight H6 to play that round. I simply play Move H6 to avoid his sword, and a Fight T5*, and he shall not avoid my axe. His armor is gone, and without his armor, it will be his turn to run away."
"The Captain can force me to battle by playing a Move M4* counter, leaving him with some effort for the melee. But if I am Berserk, he cannot kill me in a single blow, since he merely carries a lightweight sword. My Move H4** can avoid his Fight M4*, or my Fight H4* can beat his Move M5. He will have to be quick to avoid quickly losing his head, and it is only a matter of time before my axe finds its target. "
"There is also a Pilgrim wandering around the Magic Realm, but he is little threat to me. He has only a wooden staff, and no armor. He can play Move M4*/Fight M3*, and wound me every round, but I have just to strike him once with a move H6/Fight H4*; and he is returned to the dust."
"The Amazon and the Swordsman have only lightweight weapons. When I am Berserk, they can barely scratch me. My swing will eventually connect, and down they go. The Amazon will take a little longer, because of her armor, but her turn will come. Those two best be running from me."
"Two archers wander in the Magic Realm, the Woods Girl and the Elf. They are both quick and difficult to avoid, but if I am Berserk I am in good shape. When their bows are alerted, they will always hit me, but they must roll 1 or 2 on the Missile Table to kill me. Since they can shoot well only when their bows are alerted, it will take them an average of three shots to kill me, but this requires five rounds of combat, assuming that they start combat already alerted. I expect my great axe to strike home once in three swings, and I can swing every round. The odds greatly favor me in a battle with either of these two characters, who will use their speed to run if they know what is good for them."
"The rest of the adventurers in the Magic Realm are all primarily Magic Users. The only one with a weapon is the Wizard, who only has a staff. He is so old and weak that he barely has the strength to hold it; I can easily handle him even if I am not Berserk. As to magic, I don't believe in it. Besides, it doesn't come into the game until the Sixth Encounter."
"Knights and Dwarves, Magic and Monsters, I fear no one and nothing. I will return alive, I promise, with lots of gold and treasures."
"Monsters!" I shrieked, "Did you say monsters? It sounds like you have a good chance against those strange people, but monsters are really deadly. What chance can a mortal have against those beasts?"
"Now hold on, Mother," he calmly replied, "monsters aren't as dangerous as you seem to think. First of all, they are easy to hide from, and they aren't everywhere. I can fight off a lot of the monsters, and flee from others. For example, I can outrun Ogres, Giants, and Tremendous Dragons. By playing a Move H4**/Fight H5 combination I can defeat many others, especially those that strike at a speed of 4. For example, if I am up against a Tremendous Troll or Octopus or Spider, I automatically win with nothing more than a scratch if I place my Move and Fight counters together, assuming that I am Berserk. If the monster wounds me, I deal it a tremendous blow with my great axe, and it is gone."
"For a few of the tremendous monsters, I must let them strike me first, and then l have them. For example, the Tremendous Serpent strikes with a speed of 4, but only has a light blow. Its speed is also 4, so I cannot be sure of hitting it. If I play a tremendous fight counter, which is what I need to kill it, I cannot play the Move H4**, which is what I need to avoid it. Consequently, it has a 2/3 chance of wounding me and closing without me killing it. But now its speed is only 5. I play a T4** to kill it before it kills me, since I have the longer weapon."
"Similarly. I will be wounded by the Tremendous Flying Dragon in the first round, because it attacks with an M3 attack; it cannot kill me immediately. But then it has its attack speed reduced to 6. A Move H6/Fight T5* combination will kill it if it succeeds in striking me, before it can get its claws into me. I only have to worry about its head. While the head of the Tremendous Flying Dragon is normal, it will only wound me. If it flips, it launches a T3 attack, which automatically kills me. So I have to take my chances. I hope never to need the TFD."
"The last two tremendous monsters are the Demons. If I can survive the Power of the Pit, I can defeat the Winged Demon, since a Move H5*/Fight H4* combination will kill him before he can kill me. His unwinged friend is more dangerous. He always has a speed of 4. I will have a swing at him on the first round, and if I miss, I am in trouble. My only chance then is to play Move H4**/Fight H6 in different directions, and hope that I am lucky enough to get him before he gets me. The Tremendous Demon is found only at the Altar, and I shall be very careful to hide if I am near there."
"As I understand it then," I commented, "of all the huge, terrible, tremendous monsters waiting to tear you apart, you can be killed only by the Tremendous Flying Dragon, the Demon, and the Winged Demon. It is such a comfort to know. The Lesser monsters much then be no problem at all."
"I wish that it were true, but there are other more dangerous monsters. Perhaps the most dangerous is the Wolf Pack."
"A wolf pack! I don't want my boy lying on the bottom of the ocean with a torpedo through his belly."
"No, you are thinking about a different game, SUBMARINE. This is MAGIC REALM, and I am referring to a pack of six Wolves. Individually they are no danger at all, but with six of them, I can be nibbled away to nothing in no time. Luckily, the Wolves only appear in the woods where there are ruins, and I can be very careful there, hiding behind each tree as I slip through the forest."
"You? Tiptoeing like a Mack Truck."
"You should see me in a cave. And caves are dangerous places, because there are Goblins there. Goblins are dangerous because they attack six at a time, like Wolves, I may be able to handle the Axe Goblins by playing my Move 4** and ducking, using my helmet to stop their light blows. If I spread them out, two to each red box, I will only have to deal with them two at a time. If my helmet can stop their light blows, I may get lucky and kill them off before they flip, become Medium, destroy my helmet, and destroy me."
"The Spear Goblins are not dangerous until they flip, but then they can kill me. My hope is to keep them all together, so that when one flips, they all flip. Then I can run away, unless they attack me when they flip, in which case I am dead. This only has a 10% chance of happening, so these Goblins are not too dangerous."
"The Goblins with the great swords are the most dangerous. They can kill me if they strike me, and they have a 1/3 chance each turn. If they flip before they strike me, however, I can run from them. My chances are slim, but I can survive. Their fastest attack speed is 5, so I only need to play a Move H5* to avoid their blows."
"The Wolves and Goblins are all 'little monsters'. The deadly Vipers are also 'little'. They strike with an M4** attack. My hope is to avoid them until they flip, and become only light in their attack. Then I can deal with them easily, and avoid wounds by using my helmet. I can also separate my attack and my maneuver, and hope to kill one of them before they kill me. With just one facing me, my helmet will protect me long enough to kill the lone Viper."
"The last monster in this category is the Imp. He can be a real bother, but I should eventually kill him, just by swinging enough. If he flips, he stops
cursing and has an M4 attack, which cannot kill me, only wound. If I play Move H4**/Fight H5, I will kill him when he wounds me. The curses can be very irritating, but usually aren't fatal."
"The rest of the monsters are all heavy monsters. Of these, the weakest are the Spiders. They either have an L4 attack, which can't hurt me if I use my helmet; or a T6 attack, which I can beat. A Move H6/Fight H5 in the Duck/Smash maneuvers will guarantee a squished Spider, with not even a wound."
"The Spiders appear one at a time, as does the Dragon. This fellow has an H4 or M4 attack. The Move H4**/Fight H5 combination will kill him while I suffer merely a wound. If I am not Berserk, I will duck and use my helmet to protect me against the potential heavy attack."
"The Giant Bats appear one at a time, then two at a time, and then three at a time. Every time one attacks, he wounds me, since I am too slow to get out of the way. I can usually dispatch one Bat, or maybe two, but three can get downright dangerous. I will have to be careful around these monsters."
"All the other monsters travel in pairs, which makes them dangerous. If I am Berserk, I can handle any of them since none of them can attack with more than a heavy blow, and only the Flying Dragons attack with speed less than 4 when they are using a light attack. With all these pairs, Flying Dragons, Serpents, and Trolls, I will use the trusty Move H4** /Fight H5 combination. If they get me, they will only wound, and I will kill one of them. I will eventually get the other one, too, and come out of it with only some scratches. Against the Flying Dragon, I will use my helmet to ward off light blows if they flip."
"If I am not Berserk, then I am in trouble. They all have the potential of killing me. I would have to separate my move and attack, and just pray that I can get one or both of them before they get me. If I do, then I can use my helmet to ward off the blow, and use the Move H4**/Fight H5 combination to assure a victory. It would be a tough fight, but I have a very good chance of winning."
He sounds determined. What is a mother to do? I said, "Well, it sounds like you have lnvestigated the dangers, and now no one can persuade you to give up this foolish idea.. I wish you luck, and you have my blessing. Wait, before you go, take these ten gold pieces with you. Perhaps you will be able to use them to save your life. And please try to make it back before supper."