TownCrier Special Report: HARDCORE - Relive the Thrill!

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- Special Report -

TownCrier Corrrespondent Macillus, coming to you from the front lines of GemStoneIV: Hardcore, where he is embedded with a dedicated group of heroes...

It was the fight of his life. War hammer in one hand, reinforced shield in the other, Turnipero, the Giantman Bard, had just taken his first combat swing at what he thought would be an easy opponent - a giant ant. He missed. And then, the ant got its revenge. Right leg mangled horribly!

My character was shaking in his boots. And I was smashing my STAND macro harder and faster than ever before. For the first time in a decade, I was scared for my character's life - and enjoying the hell out of it.

THIS is HARDCORE - a new player-run contest that started in Platinum on July 19th, and in Prime on November 1st.

The basic premise is simple: you make a new character in GemStone IV Prime, and if the character dies, he or she gets deleted on the spot. Absolutely no assistance of any sort from any other character - no spells, no healing, not even an unstun or a PULL if you're flat on your back. No silvers or gear from your high level main, or sharing items with friends. You use what you earn or find yourself, and nothing else.

My initial thought upon hearing about the upcoming HARDCORE contest was, "That sounds interesting, but I don't have the time and energy to devote to another character." I was already feeling like my current character wasn't getting enough of my attention. "Nope," I decided, "I'll just stick to my main." But I kept hearing about it. A friend asked me if I was going to give it a shot. Then I overheard a few others contemplating joining up. And then I heard Newsby make an announcement. I mean, if Newsby is talking about it, it's got to be something important, right? And really... what did I have to lose?

So, being the nerd I am, I decided to do some research first. I tuned into the LNet HARDCORE channel, and asked around:

  [server]: "You have tuned to channel HARDCORE."  (Note: I felt like a badass already.)
  [HARDCORE]-You: "Heeeyyyy HARDCORE!  How are you faring so far?  Has anyone *bit the dust* yet?"

Sadly, the answer was yes - and the news was dire: Harminius, the Halfling Rogue - and the only rogue in HARDCORE at the time - had just suffered a gruesome death via the burrowing mandibles of a blood red scarab. He was the fourth to be slain in as many days. The danger was real. People actually seemed to be feeling loss. RIP Harminius - may you rest in the great beyond upon a bed of unbreakable vaalin lockpicks.

Despite the tragic death of their comrade, all was not lost! In fact, something grand had been found. Rambals, the Human Cleric, was returning safe from battle, now in possession of a powerful magical item: a small statue. "The JACKPOT finds right now for us are small statues and gold rings," he elatedly told me over LNet.

I was impressed. Not an hour earlier, I'd overheard my friends lamenting their lackluster EG finds for the 17th time that week: "+27?! You gotta be kidding me!" and "Cuirbouilli Leather? What am I going to do with THIS?!" The lingering feeling of "meh" was still resonating within me. Yet, here's Rambals. Doing the happy dance. Over a small statue.

It reminded me of the way I felt when I first played. I remember that feeling. I loved that feeling. I've felt it a few times since I returned to the game. I wanted more. You had me at "small statue," Rambals. I headed off to create my own HARDCORE character.

While creating my character (and joining the contest), I also got curious about how HARDCORE came about, so I went to talk to the guy who started it all: Kithus. Originally a Prime player since the 'free AOL days', Kithus moved to Platinum in 2005 and hasn't looked back. There, he's known as Brinret, the Half-Krolvin Ranger. He's just shy of 17 million exp, 3rd on the fame list, and probably better equipped than almost anyone in Prime. "It started out as me goofing off," he told me. "I'd always loved the old Diablo ironman runs."

In the beginning, it was just Kithus dabbling with characters that "only used what they found." Until one night, as the story goes, he started chatting with a few other Platinum players on Discord - and things took off from there! "We essentially built the base HARDCORE rules in an evening. While we were talking, people started wanting to get involved. Eventually, I decided to formalize the whole thing and made the Platinum HARDCORE wiki page - and offer[ed] prizes for certain milestones." They started on July 19th - and nearly four months later there are still people running HARDCORE characters. A couple have even made it to Lord/Ladyship!

So how did HARDCORE make it to Prime? One day, Evarin thought it would be fun to give it a try, so he reached out to Kithus. Kithus thought it was a great idea. Evarin put everything together, and Prime HARDCORE was born. The Prime rules are nearly identical to those in Platinum, with a few small changes. You can view the full set of rules, and the list of current and deceased participants here.

In addition to my interview with Kithus, I spoke with several other HARDCORE players. In fact, the second I mentioned I was interested in HARDCORE people were reaching out to tell me how much they loved it. I decided to ask each of them a few questions:

What's been your favorite thing about hardcore so far?

  Rogert: "It brings you back to the basics - like when you FIRST started playing GemStone... especially back in the day when there were no Dreavenings."
  Kithus: "The rush.  When Starc got stunned a few times in Reim, without dying, it was amazing.  I can't remember the last time I'd mashed my macro for stance defensive while basically praying.  Between that and having to build up the character from complete scratch it's been fun."
  Mazikene: "Finding treasure is now exciting again!"
  Halier: "Everything about it.  There are so many things that I have come to take for granted in this game over the last couple decades: availability of support, easy access to gear, etc.  The excitement and feeling of accomplishment by going it 100% alone is invigorating, because EVERYTHING is dangerous.  There are so many ways to die that I haven't had to worry about in decades."
  Rambals: "I really have gained respect for almost everyone competing because they seem to really understand and want to keep the integrity of the contest together."
  Doug: "There's nothing to rekindle the excitement like knowing what could be done, and striving to get there alone."

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

  Kithus: "As far as advice for being successful, always be careful. The second you get complacent you're dead."
  Halier: "Use your resources wisely.  That includes the Wiki, other players, and the web to plan your levelling strategy. Spend every silver wisely, and by the gods, learn how to skin.  The income boost is significant!"
  Doug: "There are an incredible number of clues around that most of us miss - because they don't affect us.  For the HARDCORE character, those clues will be the difference between advancing, and calling it.  Are you prepared to go to areas that before you've never seen - because you were past them with your capped character?"

What would you tell someone who's on the fence about giving HARDCORE a try?

  Halier: "What have you to lose?  Experience the game in a way that perhaps you hadn't thought of.  It really changes the complexion of the game, and gives rise to some really insightful character decisions.  If you die - so what?  Try again!  I truly believe players can learn alot by trying, and remember - many of us will be happy to help with advice!"
  Doug: "Ask yourself if you sincerely appreciate challenging yourself.  In the beginning, HARDCORE might appear to be a competition to get to 20, but really, it's a competition with yourself."
  Rambals: "Doing this has brought a whole lot of excitement back into the game for me.. and i feel like everyone is treating it with respect and playing fairly and i love that"
  Kithus: "It's not for everyone but if you're looking for a new Gemstone experience it's worth trying.  I've seen a lot of people who were on the fence or weren't sure they'd delete go on to make multiple HARDCORE characters as theirs died."
  Rogert: "Don't be a wuss... get up on it!  Re-live the glory days of old school, and truly being 'new' to the world!"

I don't think I can say it better than the players quoted above. HARDCORE is a unique experience - and I hope this article has helped to capture a taste of that. However, I've got to be honest here. I feel like a terrible writer for saying this: I don't feel like I can truly capture the HARDCORE experience in words. You have to FEEL it. It wasn't until Turnipero the Giantman Bard wandered off his turnip farm, and down into the catacombs, and got savaged by a giant ant that I felt it - and I understood what it truly meant to be HARDCORE.

Macillus, TownCrier Corrrespondent
12 Eoantos 5117 // November 12, 2017 - in Wehnimer’s Landing