I was on the brink of death. I forged on despite being woefully under-equipped. Every step I took meant a chance for the enemy to finish me off.
Taking a breather, I glanced at my supplies. “Not good.” I hissed. Safety was still some distance away. Adrenaline coursed through my body. My hands were shaking. I was starting to panic. I don’t even have the energy to retrace my steps. I can’t go forward, and I can’t go back. I’m stuck in the danger zone.
No, I’m not a secret agent. Nor a spy. Nor an explorer. I was playing a role playing game.
In a role playing game (RPG), when you can’t proceed any further, there are a few common reasons
- enemies too tough to defeat
- didn’t do key story plot event
- failure to solve puzzle
The first one is the most common, and also the easiest to solve. Just stay around the area and kill every enemy you can reasonably defeat. If you still get beaten, backtrack to a previous area where the enemies are weaker and start the bloodshed.
The idea is that either your character is still too weak, or your equipment is still of low quality. So you stay at an area to both strengthen your character (levelling up) and earn enough gold (or whatever game currency used) to buy better weapons and armour.
The thing is, some people carry this to the extreme. They refuse to proceed until they’ve bought all the best equipment they could buy. They refuse to proceed until they could bring down a monster with a touch of their finger.
In my earlier gaming years, I shunned such tactics. I wanted to get on with the story, and no measly monster was going to stop me, no matter how many horns or fangs or massive-damage-inflicting skill they had.
So my money management skills in RPGs was this: buy what I needed, then buy what I could. If something cost too much and thus too much time needed to earn the gold, I’d skip it.
What this meant was that every time I reached a new town and a new area, I’d be broke. I tested the waters around the area, and if I could get through a few battles without getting flattened, I was good to go.
What this also meant was that I’m constantly running around with the minimum. So when a boss (an immensely powered up enemy) fight occurred, I struggled. I would throw all my best skills at the boss, cast every magic spell I could, used every damage-inflicting item I had. I also had a tough time staying alive, with the boss wiping out one of my characters every few melee turns.
After maybe 20 minutes to half an hour, I was exhausted. I couldn’t use any more power attacks. I didn’t have any more magic left to cast spells. I’ve only got a few bottles of healing potions left. I’ve got nothing else up my sleeve, and the boss didn’t seem to be dying soon. I could only do simple normal attacks, a sword thrust, a staff prod, a punch.
And you know what? After issuing a normal attack command, I’d shout “Die!”. And the boss didn’t die. And hurt me. I healed as best as I could and issued another attack.
“Die!” I mentally screamed. The boss launched another lethal attack, finishing off one of my characters. I didn’t have the means to even revive that character. I attacked again.
“Die!” I implored. “Please die!”. The boss struck with a counter attack. I was left with just one character on the screen, barely holding up. Healing didn’t mean anything, since the boss’s counter attack would negate the effect anyway. I gave it one last shot.
“Die! Die! Die!”
With a flash on the screen, the boss wavered and gave a groan. Then a growl. And collapsed. And the game produced the victory song I waited for so long. It was the happiest moment in my life. For a while at least.
Now to get the rest of my characters up again and reach a safe point before an ant sneezed on me and snuffed me out…
It’s a game. There are relatively finite limits and fixed obstacles. You can prepare until you reach a point where you’re comfortable enough to move on. You can even test your preparation. If you can get through a few battles without getting hurt, you’re probably prepared enough.
Life doesn’t happen that way. Programming requirements don’t happen that way. Sometimes, you can never be sure if you’re prepared enough. I don’t want you to go “analysis paralysis” on me, and I don’t want you to go “practically dying” mode too. Prepare to the best of your knowledge and venture forth to explore new grounds.
But please move on. And if that entails courting danger, well, life would be boring otherwise.