Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Real World Dungeons

It's Christmas, which means I should be making some sort of Christmas-themed post. Instead, I decided to relate a recent experience which made me think of gaming for some odd reason. I do say odd because only a serious nerd would focus on gaming while in the heart of what is commonly referred to as Sin City.

So I was in Vegas the past few days. The reason is unimportant, but in case you're curious, flights are more expensive than necessary around this time of year and hotels are cheap. It averages out in the end, I suppose. We stayed at the Luxor, a pyramid shaped casino with an Egyptian theme. Names shall not be given to protect the guilty. The Luxor is what I'd call middle-of-the-road as far as amenities go, which outside of Vegas would be pretty badass. In Vegas, it's middle-of-the-road. For $45 a night I wasn't complaining, especially considering my time spent in the room was nigh negligible. The beam of light emanating from the top of the pyramid, shooting off into space, a beacon of unadulterated ostentatiousness, provided a reference point which made getting back to the hotel a bit easier. Even a surly drunk can follow a billion candle power spotlight if necessary, and drunkenness did in fact transpire.

Let me say this first, then move on to the point of this post: I am not cheap. I am mostly Irish, but when you think cheap, that's Scottish. Don't lump us in with those guys. You CAN say I am thrifty, however, and I proudly admit it. The difference is easy to explain with an example. A cheap Scotsman would buy a bottle of Kentucky Deluxe, pour its contents into a flask, and proceed to take it wherever he went, ensuring his booze purchases were kept to a minimum. If he rant out swill bourbon, the Scotsman would simply stop drinking because he was cheap as hell. A thrifty gent, however, would instead purchase a better whisky (VO is my favorite), keep it in a flask to drink, and after depleting his flask acquire tall boys of PBR at convenience stores for $1.59 to keep the inebriation going. In either case, money spent is limited compared to the general populace, but the thrifty man will be drunk the entire time, thus in a much better mood. I am thrifty. Yes, I did buy many, many cans of beer for minimal amounts, carrying them from casino to casino as I travelled the strip. I aged a whole year in merely three days but it was glorious. The liver is a muscle and needs exercise; mine participated in the Olympics.

Given my general state during my stay (literally drunk from the time I got on the plane until I arrived back home...no exaggeration), you might think my perceptions are based purely on alcohol-infused delusions. That's possible, so if you come to different conclusions it simply proves empirical data is indeed as Locke described, thus interdependent upon numerous factors. In the context of rpg adventuring, however, I think my experiences bear out, especially given the predilection of adventuring-types to embrace alcoholism. Ale and whores, right? Vegas offers those things in spades (hah!).

Standing in front of casino on the new strip is a strange experience. The façade is inviting, a funnel of sorts, meant to draw you in. There is no normal sidewalk, parallel to the road. Instead, you traverse hundreds upon hundreds of feet of concrete, lavishly decorated, steering you toward the entrance (the old strip is quite different; after you get inside, however, it's pretty much the same). The doors are enormous and literally impossible to miss...there is no mistaking the way inside. After passing through lit archways, massive glass doors, polite doormen greeting you with smiles, the world becomes dim. Not quite night, definitely not day. On the verge of darkness, you're given the impression that it's almost time for bed, but not quite...not quite. Time passes by at a rate impossible to gauge. The dimness never decreases, nor increases, even in places that it should. Off to seek your fortune! Of course you entered the casino to find treasure, try your luck at a table or slot machine, but the the risk is extremely high compared to the reward. After wandering around, you find yourself lost, and it's nearly a hopeless task to determine the way you came in. Every single way out is guarded by monsters of various sorts, be they dealers or bartenders. After many losses and close calls the allure of treasure in greatly diminished and escape is required. You turn one way and go straight, but are intercepted with encounters impossible to avoid. Eventually, however, you make your way to the exit, using either wits or relying on luck. Unfortunately, somehow you end up in an adjacent casino, and the pattern repeats itself. After many tries, you end up outside and hour upon hour has passed. You have walked countless steps and your legs are about to give out. The bar at this casino looks a bit more inviting than the last so you sit down and order a drink. Putting your last few dollars into a video poker machine seems like a good idea to pass the time. A succubus engages in conversation, attempting to convince you that her services are required to pass the night. Somehow you wind up in your own bed, destitute and hungover when you finally awake.

Las Vegas casinos are real world dungeons, fraught with genuine dangers. During my recent adventures, I leveled up and engaged in some Conan-like debauchery. The spoils of war are best wasted after victory, barbarian style. In my opinion, anyone who thinks gold pieces are a terrible way to determine experience points needs to plan a trip soon.

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