Here's How the Big Kids Play Hat

by Cathryn Conroy

Hereís How the Big Kids Play

Storm Dunkirk. Slay a dragon. Field a dream team. Nothing is impossible in an online game.

Wanted: Imaginative people desiring travel to faraway lands to meet dwarf-sized royalty in British Legends and bottle dragons on the Island of Kesmai. Fascinating excursions also will be taken to World War II battlegrounds via SNIPER!, where history comes alive as it never did in textbooks.

Experienced area residents give tours and rarely kill visitors, as long as they are polite and respect the local customs. Pack light - a CompuServe User ID number and a desire for fun and excitement will do. If interested, read on.

British Legends, Island of Kesmai and SNIPER! are unlike most electronic games you've played. Instead of using wrist dexterity with a joystick to blast interstellar spaceships, you'll find yourself using something else: your brain and your imagination. These three multiplayer games are complex and cannot be mastered in one outing, but it is this complexity that makes them intriguing. It may take some effort to learn the intricate rules of play, but these interactive games are peopled with experts willing to help newcomers learn their way. Besides, when was the last time you befriended a wizard?

So shove those budget analysis reports aside and put off that database search on industry marketing trends. It's time to lighten up and have fun.


British Legends (GO LEGENDS)
Suggested Age: 12 & up
Classification: Adventure
Players (min/max): 1/36
Special Requirements: None
Minimum Screen Width: 32
Direct Access Page: GAM-153

The Land of British Legends

Long before Robin Hood and Romeo and Juliet, England was inhabited by dragons, dwarfs and ghosts dwelling in dense swamps, misty graveyards and turbulent rushing waters. Cut off from the rest of the kingdom by treacherous mountains, adventurers traveled the land, exploring its coves and forests with weapons in hand. While this description will give you an idea of where you're going, keep in mind that British Legends actually does not transpire in England. The world of this game is separated from the rest of known civilization.

As you explore this territory, you must always be conscious that things are not as they seem in the land of British Legends. And travel is not aimless. Adventures often yield points (or death, if you're not careful) and points bring status in this mysterious environ, allowing novices to climb the Legends ladder from warrior (400 points) to wizard or witch (a whopping 102,400 points). There's no guarantee you'll ever make it to the wizard level, but dedicated players have reached this goal in as little as 19 days and as long as a year and a half.

The goal of British Legends is simple, although accomplishing it is not. You scurry around the kingdom trying to solve puzzles and collect treasure -which can range from rings to keys to umbrellas - dump the treasure in the swamp (only when it is "swamped" do you get points) and all the while avoid being killed. Complicating matters is the fact that some of your opponents are computer-generated beasts, while others are real people. And you may not know the difference the first few times you venture forth in British Legends!

"The first time I played, I found myself in the swamp," recalls John Starr, better known in British Legends as Random the Wizard. "A character named Monkey came up to talk and scared me so much that I immediately quit the game. I didn't know it was another person. I thought it was a monster about to destroy me!"

The system welcomes newcomers and asks by what name they want to be called. This is no small decision. You are creating a new persona, giving birth to your alter-ego.

Maglor the Necromancer, a mortal created by player Maurice Nelson, strives for truth and honesty. "He has a spirit much like mine," says Nelson. "He has given his life many times to uphold his beliefs."


Image size: approx. 76K

But don't mourn for the dead Maglor, at least not in British Legends. Most deaths are not permanent. Hence the saying, "You haven't lived until you've died in British Legends." If you run off a cliff unprepared for the spiraling fall, you'll be resurrected almost immediately with nary a scratch. However, if you are killed in a fight or infected with radiation sickness, death is permanent, and you must start the game again as a novice.

After you name your character, you'll enter a strange new world. The first place you'll find yourself in is an elegant yet cozy Elizabethan tearoom. This is a good place to chat with the natives, ask for help, find a friend. (Type CONVERSE and anything you enter is treated as a message; cancel CONVERSE by typing an asterisk, *).

But don't get too comfortable; adventures await in a timeless realm. If you're timid, close your eyes and wish for a wizard or witch to take you by the hand on a guided tour. (Type WISH,TOUR to make it happen.) Wizards and witches are strange and mysterious creatures who have awesome powers and know terrible secrets that mere mortals (that's what you are until you become a wizard) are not privy to. It pays to stay on the right side of a wizard or witch.


British Legends

Tips and Techniques

Join the Multi-player Games Forum (GO MPGAMES). So you won't feel alone and lost,leave a message to other British Legends players in Section 9 asking for help. While you're there, browse through Library 9 for all sorts of files offering valuable tips.

Download and study the detailed game instructions. Online help within the game is also available by typing HELP

Wish for a personal tour of British Legends from a wizard or witch by typing WISH,TOUR in the tearoom. This will give you a chance to check out the lay of the land while under the protection of an immortal.

The first few times you play British Legends, don't try to earn lots of points. Instead, spend time mapping the land by creating a set of diagrams for yourself. In this game, you have to make your own maps (there are none available for downloading). Mapping is part of the grand puzzle scheme in British Legends.

Not only are the wizards and witches helpful to novices, but many mortals also can show a kind word or gesture. Make friends!

Pay close attention to the screen. If you find treasure and request its value, you may encounter a puzzle. For instance, the base value of groats (a former British coin) might be 25, although the current value is 0. This tells you that you need to do something to the groats to increase the value. (Try rubbing them.)

Do whatever a wizard or witch orders you to do. It may sound mean, but do it anyway. They don't order around mortals frivolously, and they have the power to kill you instantly with the Finger of Death.

Favorite Files:

The best British Legends library files (located in Library 9 of the Multi-Player Games Forum):

NOV035.CON - The object of British Legends is discussed along with tips on mapping and why players kill.

NOV034.CON - Strategies for exploring and mapping as well as determining the uses and values of objects.

BL039.CON - Information on dealing with killers, spells, fighting tactics and coping with the death of your persona.

WATRFA.GIF/GRAPH:GIF - A file that lets you "see" the British Legends landscape.

Still, disaster can strike at any time - even with a wizard holding your hand. Michael R. Potaski, a.k.a. Thufir the Wizard, recalls that he was once giving a novice player a tour when they were attacked by the dragon that inhabits Druid Island. Wizards are immortal, so Thufir was safe, but the poor novice was doomed to die. "He came right back into the game like a real trouper," Thufir says, admitting that he was embarrassed to lose a mortal during a tour.

Sooner or later, you'll be on your own, and you'll have to survive by your wits and your weapons. From the tearoom, type EX and you'll be zapped in the direction of your choice. A menu of items will serve as your signpost, telling you that north leads to a dense forest, east to the narrow road between the lands, southwest to a cliff and west to a beaten path near the cliff.

For this first visit, head east to the narrow road between the lands and from there move south until you find yourself at the entrance of a cave. Left from there you find an east pasture. If you look closely, you'll notice the caretaker's house. Walk south, but be careful, as you'll encounter a set of rushing rapids.


Mingle with Experts

The Multi-Player Games Forum MPGAMES) offers real-time help:

Island of Kesmai players meet on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. ET in Room 7 to help novices learn the ropes. In addition, a Kesmai question and answer session is offered on Saturdays at 11 p.m. ET in Room 7, and a conference for everyone is held Sundays at 9:30 p.m. ET in Room 6.

British Legends Help Conferences are held on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET in Room 9.

If you donít lose your footing, go south and you'll be mired in the stinking swamp. But this is exactly where you want to be! As you ventured in all directions, you should have been gathering the treasure you spotted on the ground (type GET T to pick it up), and now you can "swamp" it to gain points (type SWAMP T). You're on your way to warrior status.

If you have trouble locating treasure, type WHERE T. By doing this you're casting a spell, but because you're just a novice the spell may not work.

Another way to tally up points is to solve the more than 200 British Legends puzzles. Most puzzles have more than one solution, and all solutions are closely guarded secrets. It's unlikely anyone will tell you outright how to solve one unless you have information to trade in return. "Solving a puzzle for the first time is the most exciting part of the game," says Ron Fitzherbert, a.k.a. Eldron the Wizard.

Points also can be earned by killing someone, although long-time players frown on this activity, especially when performed by novices. The smart newcomer makes friends who will help, rather than enemies who will hurt.

Unlike most computer games, there is no beginning or end to British Legends, but expect to spend at least 45 minutes when you play your first solo game. A guided tour can last from 20 to 45 minutes.


Island of Kesmai (GO ISLAND)
Suggested Age: 12 & up
Classification: Role play
Players (min/max): 1/100
Special Requirements: Cursor control
Minimum Screen Size: 40 by 24
Direct Access Page: GAM-26

Life on the Island of Kesmai

No doubt you, like all the others who venture to the Island of Kesmai, are looking for the fabled fortune that lurks in the ancient catacombs below the sandy surface of this tiny island. But such wealth does not come easily, and Kesmai fortune-hunters soon realize they are not alone. Unfriendly warriors, demons and death stalk your every move. But that's half the fun!

Unlike British Legends, where players attempt to reach the goal of wizard and witch status, the characters in Island of Kesmai just try to stay alive - all the while gathering gold and buying better weapons to kill nasty beasties they encounter on the way to slay the infamous dragon. Players still earn points, which increases their skill levels, but above all, the goal is to avoid death.

You can go it alone or team up with others for a better chance of survival. If you want to be on a team, form one with new friends or ask an existing team if you can join. Several teams are willing to take on newcomers, but you may first have to prove yourself in battle.

"When you become involved in Island of Kesmai, you find yourself thinking of it not so much as a game but as a place," says player Randy Eichman, who is known as Aladar, an 18th-level knight who has stayed young by drinking numerous youth potions. "It becomes a miniature fantasy world, populated by living characters who talk, think and feel, plot with or against you, befriend or attack you."

When you first step on the island, you'll be asked to create a character, giving it a gender, country of origin, name and character class - fighter, martial artist, thief, wizard or thaumaturge (a magically enhanced fighter empowered with a few dastardly spells). You'll then be told important facts about your character, including its strength, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, constitution and charisma.

Have fun with your character. Ken Warren created Beosha, a knight who believes in honor, courage and humility and is willing to help those less fortunate. "Beosha is not at all like me," Warren says. "He is what I sometimes wish I were: physically imposing and charming. He is a chance for me - small, not terribly charming, a bit shy and not too brave - to be someone I'm not."

As you begin the game, you'll find yourself on a wooden dock with a computer-generated salesperson trying to sell you a book. Your equipment depends on your country of origin and your character type.

First explore the town and get a feel for the lay of the land. Venture forth by typing directions (N for north, S for south and so on), carefully mapping as you go. A marker, such as ^, points the direction in which you're traveling. A map of the Island of Kesmai is available in Library 7 of the Multi-Player Games Forum (file TOWN.MAP).

Now it's time to let that dragon know who's boss. But be careful. "Dragon killing - especially mean, rotten, nasty, whomping, huge, hungry dragons - seems to be the staple diet of most Islanders," says expert player Mark S. Engbretson, a.k.a. Pippin. Remember, it's more likely that the dragon will win the battle.

To kill the dragon, you first have to find it. If you spend time exploring the town and mapping its sites, you'll know to head north from the dock to a pool of water, signified by ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~. Walk past the water and head north to the temple. On your left will be the temple door with a priest standing outside. Once inside, try to find your way to the dungeon and the dragon's lair.

You might have to wait for the dragon to appear, but this can be fun as it provides an opportunity to chat with other players waiting to slay that beast.

Bruce Linton, an expert player better known on the Island as Bonsai, says he was once in the mood for adventure. He decided to see what would happen if he let the Kesmai dragon eat him. Once in the dungeon, he ran past several nasty beasties and entered the dragonís lair armed with an axe and longbow.

As soon as the dragon spotted Bonsai, the beast charged. "I retreated to the water and drew my bow. I knocked an arrow and let fly. Blocked! With one mighty swipe of his tail he battered me to a pulp, and I was dead." Almost.

It seems Bonsai's corpse was floating in the water ignored by the dragon. "He didnít eat me. The Ghods took pity on me and resurrected me in the temple." A disappointed Bonsai ran back for more. This time, he was successful in being the dragonís main dinner course. "He leapt upon me, clawed my poor body and devoured me. Well, it was what I wanted to see, after all." Bonsai has avoided the dragon ever since.

Island of Kesmai has both a basic and advanced game; once you enter the advanced game, however, you can never play the basic one again.

Expect your first dragon-slaying outing to take a few hours. Your adventure could end in glory or in a dragonís stomach, but chances are yoíll have a great time either way.


Island of Kesmai Close-up Map
Image size: approx. 101K

The left side of the screen shows complex maps, which make no sense unless you first study the instructions. A series of capital letters, brackets and assorted symbols (such as ^|$*[]) are gibberish to the uninitiated. In fact, this is the key to understanding where you are.

For instance, the inset map above means you are standing in a room are walls) with an open door and a closed door with a fire (**) and something on the ground ($). The dn tells you there is a down staircase. Other creatures are with you, signified by the capital letters. The A indicates another adventurer like yourself (donít kill him!), and the * in front of the B means *B is a computer-generated character (go ahead and maul the critter!). If a capital letter has a ! in front of it, the character is neutral, and a + in front of a capital letter means it is evil (Run, do not walk, away!).


Island of Kesmai

Tips and Techniques

Join the Multi-Player Games Forum (GO MPGAMES). Leave an introductory message in Section 7 so you will receive a warm welcome from the other players and lots of hints to get you started. This way you wonít walk into the game blind. While youíre there, browse through Library 7 and download the maps and beginnersí manuals.

The first time you meet another adventurer wandering around in the dungeon, exchange greetings and team up to overcome a beastie that would have been too much for you to handle alone.

Improve your odds of survival by reading the game instructions, which can be downloaded in about a minute. Even so, donít be surprised if you are killed on your first outing.

As a beginner, you have only a single gold coin in your sack. Scout for junk lying in the road and sell it at the pawn shop. When you have 150 gold coins, buy a "recall ring," which will instantly teleport you from danger to a safe haven. Once you have it, always keep it near. There is nothing worse than being eaten by a beastie without a recall ring in your sack.

Avoid death. If you think youíre about to get killed, run! If you do, youíll live to fight another day.

You can "page" other players on the Island to come talk to you, help you if you just got killed or seek a traveling companion.

When you decide to quit the game, just type QUIT, but make sure you place your character in a safe place because when you log on again, youíll be right where you left off.

Favorite Files:

The best Island of Kesmai library files (located in Library 7 of the Multi-Player Games Forum):

TOWN.MAP - The Kesmai town map in printable, ASCII text. This is useful for finding your way from the dock to the dungeon.

KESMAI.MAP - Map of the entire Island of Kesmai in printable, ASCII text.

DOCK.REF - Tables containing information about new characters, including weapons in hand and on the belt along with skills for each.

THIEVE.HLP - Hints for beginners from a Level 13 Thief.

SLANG.IOK - Short list of terms and slang names for various items and critters found on the Island of Kesmai.



Tips and Techniques

Join the Multi-player Games Forum (GO MPGAMES). Leave an introductory message in Section 13 so you can meet some of the other players. Be sure to ask any specific questions you have. While you're there, browse through Library 13 and download the maps and documentation.

Download and read the instructions on the SNIPER! main menu.

Like all raw recruits, your first stop should be bootcamp. (This one won't give you a crew cut.) Type /BOOTCAMP for an interactive tutorial on how to play.

Type /RECON to watch a game played by others. This can be useful to the novice who is still learning commands and strategy.

Think of your squad as individual peo- ple and not just symbols on the screen like a video game.

Take the initiative and move your men rather than sitting still and randomly firing.

Tell your opponent this is your first game. Don't expect to win; rather, use it as an opportunity to try different maneuvers to see how things work. When the game is over, meet your opponent in the saloon and ask him what you did wrong. During a game, type QHELP to receive a list of all the commands you can use. It will appear in the upper-right corner of your screen.

To play SNIPER! you must have communications software that allows cursor control. You must also set your terminal settings accordingly; for instance, VT52, VT100 and others will work. Without this, your screen will fill up with random, meaningless characters, and you won't be able to play. If you need help, leave a message in the Multi-Player Games Forum (GO MPGAMES) or in the forum supporting your computer. The file CURSOR.HLP in Multi-Player Games Forum Library 1 may also help MS-DOS and Macintosh users.

Favorite Files:

The best SNIPER! library files (located in Library 13 of the Multi-Player Games Forum):

SNIPER.DOC - Most of the rules you need to play SNIPER! (For the most current information, check the online help facility).

SNIPER.MAP - All the maps you need to play SNIPER!


Suggested Age: 13 & up
Classification: Multi-player war game
Players (min/max): 1/2
Special Requirements: Cursor control
Minimum Screen Width: 40, but 80 recommended
Direct Access Page: GAM-98

Heads up! World War II SNIPER!

It's been 50 years since World War II battles were fought in the fields and cities of Europe, but through the wonders of electronic animation those battles can come alive again in SNIPER! - with one major difference. Patton and Rommel may have ruled the troops then, but today you are in command.

Developed by Steve Estvanik (known online as Yngvi), this computerized, interactive version based on the popular board game from TSR is a simulation of World War II man-to-man combat. The playing fields are computer-generated maps filled with squads of soldiers that accomplish specific missions. Each soldier in your six- to eight-man squad is an individual with strengths and weaknesses. For example, during a fire-fight some might panic easily, while others might be slow in following orders. A successful commanding officer takes this into account when planning the battle strategy.

When you first play SNIPER!, you'll be asked to name your character. You'll find yourself in the saloon, a gathering place for soldiers and officers where friendly chats can take place before and after games. Topics include everything from game strategies and pointers to discussions of international politics. You also can get a lot of online help in the saloon.


Where to Get Help

Asking for help is the first step to having fun in the mulft-player games. To do this, leave a messages in the Multi-Player Games Forum (GO MPGAMES) in the appropriate game section of the message board. Introduce yourself and ask any specific questions you might have. (Island of Kesmai is Section 7; British Legends is Section 9; SNIPER! is Section 13.)

The game action takes place on a map displayed at the upper-left corner of your screen, marked at the top by numbers. The map you see is only a small part of the total land area in which this war is being fought. You'll want to download and have at your side a map of the area, so you can make sense of the one on your screen during the game. To get a full map, type /MAP NOCOLOR in the saloon (capture them to a display buffer) or download them from Library 13 of the Multi-Player Games Forum.

As a novice, you are a raw recruit, but as you battle other players, demonstrating daring and stealth by outmaneuvering the en emy, you'll receive rank points toward a military promotion. You'll need 25 points to become a lieutenant, and 2,000 points for brigadier general.

The first time you play, take the advice of Peter L. Soehnlen, a.k.a. Colonel D.J. II, and play against the computer to get a feel for how the game works without sustaining injuries (type /SOLO). In addition, you can play a practice game against yourself and command the forces of both sides (type /PRAC).

Once you've read the instructions, downloaded the maps and practised, you're ready for your first game. To initiate a game, type /OP* in the saloon and you'll be whisked off on a mission.

Every SNIPER! game is a mission; each mission defines the military objectives for the player, and the game ends when the assigned mission is completed. A patrol mission, the one of choice for beginners, places two opposing forces in a no man's land. If you bump into each other, a fire-fight ensues, and usually only one squad gets out alive. Skillful players know when to run for cover and when to stay and fight.

Patrol missions take place in one of three scenarios: Sicily, August 1943, on open terrain in a main square with a village church; Normandy, June 1944, in dense terrain at a crossroads in bocage (dense brush); Ardennes, December 1944, on open terrain at a crossroads settlement amid fields and forest.

In an infiltrate mission, one side defends a specific map area, while the other side tries to penetrate with its patrol. This is the more difficult of the two missions and is best left to players with battle experience.

There are three advanced scenarios, but the surroundings are more complex. The system defaults to the patrol mission in Sicily, but you can instruct it to select one of the other scenarios. Each scenario for each mission has its own map, all of which are available in Library 13 of the Multi-Player Games Forum. You'll find it easier to play the game, especially as a beginner, if you have the maps by your side.

Once you type /OP*, you'll be told where the battle is taking place, and your map will be displayed in the upper-left corner. Beneath it will be valuable information about your squad. The upper-right corner of the screen tells the results of sightings you make in trying to locate the enemy and offers help information. The lower-right screen is used for radio messages you can send to and receive from your opponent during play. Game designer Estvanik says, "Some people enjoy role-playing and use the radio to send insults or jibes when they hit or complain when they miss." Even if you donít want to chat during the game, at least send a friendly hello message to your opponent before play begins.

Soehnlen, who has been playing since the game's inception last spring, says it is SNIPER!'s intricacy and complexity that make it so challenging. "You have to think on your feet. While you're in the game, it's a real battle. Things happen, and you have to react. It's like a game of high-speed chess."

When players are evenly matched in skill, a SNIPER! game lasts about 20 to 45 minutes; an uneven match can end in 10 minutes or less. The rank system helps players determine skill levels of the opponents.


SNIPER! Close-upMap.
Image size: approx. 96K

As in Island of Kesmai, the maps in SNIPER! may be confusing to some beginners. Your "battlefield" will look something like the inset map above.

Download and study offline the game instructions (available on the SNIPER! main menu) and you'll learn what all these strange markings mean. (Or you can get the SNIPER! manual. GO ORDER) For instance, n is a hedge, o is a stone wall, # is an exterior wall, & is heavy brush, @ is broken ground or light forest. On the game maps, your enemy is identified by capital letters and your men are numbers. An easy way to figure it out is to type /TERRAIN. For SNIPER! commands, you may either type the full command or abbreviate it to the capitalized letters.

When you take those first tentative steps at playing one of these games, chances are you think you'll have fun. You wonít be disappointed. But if you get hooked on the game, you'll soon find another reason to keep coming back: the people. It is the interactive nature of these games that sets them apart.

Gaming novices should try all of these games once or twice. One of them is sure to pique your curiosity and intrigue you enough that you'll want to learn more. Then concentrate on playing that game, master the rules, meet the people and soon you'll find yourself no longer the new kid on the block.

For more information: Summaries of basic commands for British Legends, Island of Kesmai and SNIPER! are available. Type GO OLT-4 and select "Jan. Games Supplement" from the menu.

Cathryn Conroy is a contributing editor of CompuServe Magazine. Her CompuServe User ID number is 70007,417.


Face-to-Face in SNIPER!

In my first SNIPER! game, I was matched with game designer Stave Estvanik, better known on the battlefield as Colonel Yngvi, who agreed to serve as my instructor, answering the questions I sent by radio. (Yngvi and other experienced players are willing to help new players learn the ropes. Just ask in the saloon.)

The battle was a bloody match taking place on a patrol mission in Sicily, August 1943. Just as I succeeded in turning my squad to face the enemy, we were discovered. In this sort of fight, the first shots generally take place at 20 to 50 sectors apart, but we were face-to-face, seeing the whites of each other's eyes. I fired first using machine guns, projectile weapons and rifles, and even at point-blank range succeeding only in panicking his men.

He fired back, killing one of my men, wounding another and panicking the rest of them. It was not a pretty sight. We took refuge behind the hedges and trees. I lost the battle, but still managed to gain one rank point. Only 24 more to go before I make lieutenant!


Richard A. Bartle (
16th May 1999: cmjan90.htm