Saturday, July 15, 2017

Conan: The Samaritan


Conan rescues a pirate queen from a demon, in a scene that feels appropriately Howard-esque.
       
I'm having authentic fun with Conan, and I'm having a hard time putting my finger on exactly why, other than it being a relatively undemanding game at a time when I'm feeling mentally lazy. It's a sharp contrast to Deathlord, which always makes me feel like I must be missing something. Conan has plenty to criticize, and yet I don't really feel like criticizing it.

Using my paper map of Shadizar, I kept exploring the remainder of the city, annotating various buildings and collecting their treasures. I didn't really cover this well in prior postings, but when you enter a house, you have to click on all of the objects on the screen. Treasures might lie behind books, in chests or baskets, or under beds (among others). Some of the locations, I discovered belatedly, might offer multiple treasures, and you have to keep clicking on them.
      
This message has become my worst enemy.
    
Random thugs, thieves, and guards continued to attack me as I explored. Since there's no point to combat except to get past the enemy, I found myself fleeing whenever possible and trying to lose the pursuing enemies in the maze of buildings. When my health got low, I chugged white lotus potions or stayed at an inn.

By the end of my explorations, I had nearly 3,000 gold pieces. Once I was reasonably satisfied that I didn't need gold for any plot purposes--just potions, inns, equipment, and training--I spent 1,200 at the master swordsman's house, improving my skills with each style of combat. I was tempted to spend 1,600 on an "enchanted sword" at one of the shops, but I seemed to get relatively swift upgrades in swords anyway, so I think it would have been a bad purchase.
     
Tempting.
      
The southwest section of the city is called the "Inner City" and it contains the governor's palace and several homes belonging to high officials. Guards patrol the obvious entrances, but I found a back way from Snake Alley by climbing up to the outer wall, following it down to the Inner City, and climbing down a ladder. Still, I couldn't find anything productive to do here. Guards chased me all around the area, and attacked me in every building that I entered. The governor's place had two locked marble doors, so I clearly need to return when I have the appropriate key.
 
A common message in this area.
    
When I had finished exploring the surface, I decided it was time to hit the underground. I returned to the master thief's house and followed his directions down. I had found a Gem of Light in one of the city's houses, and using it provided light for almost my entire exploration of the underground; only at the very end did it go out, and I had to light a torch.
      
     
The underground was full of those lion-rats, and like the enemies on the surface, I tried to run away from them when possible. Sometimes, battle couldn't be avoided.
      
Nice random visual here from the Temple of Set.
    
I expected the underground to be long and mazelike, but it was actually fairly small. It took virtually no effort to find the secret entrance to the Temple of Set. I guess what I was supposed to do was enter the Temple of Set, kill the priest holding the jade key, return to the underground and open the jade door, find the Snake Sword behind the jade door, return again to the Temple of Set, find the snake guarding the Eye of Set, and kill him with the Snake Sword. However, I ran into the snake first and was able to kill him just fine with my regular sword.
    
Exhibit A.
     
I guess maybe the Snake Sword would have made it easier. I did ultimately find it and discovered that it did +35 damage compared to my starting sword, so it was still a good upgrade. At some other point, however, I found a Steel Sword that offered +50 damage.
      
      
When I picked up the Eye of Set, the plot took over and related that I returned the Eye to Taurus (the master thief), who gave me 200 gold and promised his assistance against Thoth Amon. My "defense" rating moved from 50 to 55.
     
That's not much of a "life's savings" for a master thief. I earned a lot more than that in about 3 days.
      
The game automatically moved me back to the Red Dog Tavern, where I got my second major quest. Vicarus the Sage told me that north of Shadizar, I would find an ancient crypt in which a great king was buried. The king's crown would allow me to walk past undead creatures "as if I were invisible." But to get it, I'd have to defeat the mummified king.
    
   
Before I embarked on this adventure, I wanted to clean up a couple of side-quests in Shadizar. The first involved the recovery of a ruby amulet, also said to offer some power against undead. It was supposed to be in the underground, but I hadn't found it on my first visit. Looking at the map, I realized I had annotated more entrances to the underground than exits I had found while exploring there. I realized there were multiple section of the underground that didn't link with each other.

Anyway, I ultimately found the ruby amulet in a chamber guarded by yet another giant snake. This time, I had the Snake Sword, and he died in just a few hits.

       
Second, the priests of Ishtar had asked me to find an emerald amulet in the Temple of Set. I hadn't found it in the "secret" area, so I tried the normal entrance. This just led to two rooms and one fight with a priest of Set--no treasure. It turned out that I needed to use a Teleport Scroll to get to the top of the temple (from the outside), where there was a doorway leading to an otherwise-inaccessible room and the amulet. The priests of Ishtar gave me a nice gold reward.
     
I couldn't even see this one from the ground.
     
I was getting lots of "inventory full" messages at this point. In addition to the items I've already mentioned, I've been toting around several keys, a coil of rope, flint and steel, several torches, a regular staff, a Staff of Power, various gems, various keys, a Gem of Sight (shows an area map) and several types of lotus potions. White lotus heals; purple lotus offers a boost to defense; red lotus offers a boost to attack ability; and black lotus poisons. (I clearly don't want to use the latter on Conan, but I don't know if there's a plot reason to keep it for later.) To make room, I sold all of the items I assumed I was done with (and could be repurchased), including my inferior swords, common keys, and gems.
    
For the first time since the game's beginning, I returned to the world map.
     
I expected the king's crypt to be large and sprawling, equal in size and intensity to the game's first scenario, so I was surprised when it turned out to be just two rooms. The door locked behind me as I entered the first room. The second room held the king, sitting on a stone throne, the crown on his head and a sword at his feet. Behind a gargoyle statue, I found a rope and some flint and steel.
      
Approaching the undead king.
     
Picking up anything in the room caused the king to awaken and attack, and I soon found that he wouldn't die by my sword. But since I'd found the flint and steel in the crypt, it wasn't hard to figure out the solution. I had to lead him back tot he first room, where the floor was covered in flammable debris, and light it. The fire destroyed him, and I was able to recover his sword (+70 damage), his crown, and the steel key to let myself out. When I did, the game automatically transitioned to the next scenario.
      
Fire solves everything.
      
Conan was back in the Red Dog Tavern, where a corsair named Jalek related that his company, led by Queen Belit of the Black Coast, had been traveling up the River Styx to "aid the Kushite forces fighting Thoth Amon." (Belit appears in Robert Howard's Conan stories as a major love interest for the barbarian.) On the way, they investigated a ruined pyramid, where an ape-demon took Belit captive, holding her near a black monolith, "which seems to trap all those who approach, holding them for the beast to slay at will."

Back on the world map, Conan traveled to the jungle ruins surrounding the pyramid. Again, I was hoping for a large map with side-quests and multiple encounters, but it pretty much just held the pyramid, the monolith, and a lot of random guards.
  
Wandering the jungle ruins.
      
Belit was tied to the ground by the monolith, guarded by a "priestess" who shed her clothes and turned into a demon. Approaching the monolith led to my being trapped and slain if I had any metal in my possession, including my gold and sword.
            
Showing images like this just cost me $200 per year.
                 
The pyramid had multiple entrances, including one that led to a door locked by a copper key that I had to leave for later. The top room, accessible by climbing vines along the sides, held an Obsidian Sword.
    
That sounds like it would be awfully heavy.
      
I dumped my metal objects here, picked up the sword, and returned to the monolith. With it, I was able to kill the demon, recover a copper key from its body, and free Belit.
       
       
I expected to be able to loot the pyramid and retrieve my equipment, but I was immediately taken to a long series of text screens that related how Conan joined Belit in her voyage to aid the Kushites. Conan took command of the corsairs, distinguished himself in battle, and returned to Shadizar two months later with Belit's promise to aid him against Thoth Amon.
   
It would have been nice to actually play this.
       
Again, my defensive abilities improved.
     
There's very little character development in the game, so you're grateful for what you get.
      
Back at the Red Dog Tavern, where Juma, a Kushite warrior, related how he had been escorting Princess Zasara of Turan to her wedding to Kujala, Great Khan of the Kuigar nomads. They were beset by Thoth Amon's forces and the princess was captured ad taken to the "cursed city of Zamboula."

I was surprised to find that my inventory included all of the items that I'd dropped back in the pyramid, so I didn't have to go back to retrieve them. At several points during the transition between the scenarios, however, the game teased me with the memory of all the treasure that must lie behind the copper door. It seems to be offering a role-playing choice about whether to waste time returning to the pyramid to retrieve the treasure, or to head directly to rescue Princess Zasara. Conan is torn, but I think I'll probably err towards rescuing the princess.
       
Conan gets his next quest.
    
Part of me wants to be disappointed in the game for turning so linear, with such small episodes, after the relatively open first chapter. That same part wants to comment on the relative ease of the puzzles. But I like it anyway. So many of the games on my list, including Synergistic's previous offerings with this engine, have felt like work, and this one definitely doesn't.

To get into the proper mood for the next (last?) entry, I'm going to read a couple of Howard's stories and re-watch the Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

Time so far: 13 hours

*****

Good news for those of you who don't like ads. I got an e-mail the other day that my site was in violation of AdSense policies because some of the posts contain nudity. (Ironically, those posts usually involve me complaining about said nudity.) It warned me to remove ads from those specific pages. But Blogger doesn't seem to offer the ability to turn off ads for individual pages--just for the site as a whole--so I threw in the towel and disabled them permanently. The $200 a year I was making from the service isn't really worth going back to all those images and drawing black bars on them.

64 comments:

  1. I read all of Howard's Conan stories. Red Nails is probably the best and most creepy. Valeria is a wonderful partner to Conan and a character I really liked; more so than Belit. The People of the Black Circle is also really well done. I like to think of The Hour of the Dragon as a great send off to Howard's stories. Though it isn't Howard's last Conan story that he had written, it is the latest chronologically as it takes place as Conan the King. This is the only full Conan novel written by Hoawrd, and also has moments that hearken back to past stories and its a great reminder of how far the barbarian had traveled before he became king.

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  2. I rewatched Conan the Barbarian a few weeks ago. Such a strange film in many ways, but I enjoyed it anyway. It's no wonder that people have struggled to remake or reboot the series. I'm sure there will be another attempt though.

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    1. The Non-Conan movie which felt most "Conan the barbarian" to me was "Valhalla Rising".

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    2. For me, it would be The Scorpion King.

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    3. Ithinkt hat was their intention form the start.

      the genral style, the main charcter, the way they use words forplace and peopel just similar enoguht to real world.

      They even used one line straight from "the phoenix in the sword"

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    4. the best thing about the movie is the awesome soundtrack by Poledouris. It might be the best movie soundtrack ever created. It is a shame that John Williams (deservedly) reapt all the awards, and Basil Poledouris or Jerry Goldsmith got nothing. Hans Zimmer is very overrated.

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  3. What can we say?

    Go addict, go.

    Needed a short vacation from reality today, this was the perfect diversion.

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  4. The Adsense thing bothers me a lot. I know that having people policing every blog on blogspot would be as ridiculous as expensive but i can't belive that this kind of totally acritical approach is still the best we can do. It bothers me so much that i think that i'll check the archive and censor them for you.

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    1. What baffles me is how they know. Did someone complain about your images, or is there an AI image analyser that works with old CRPGs, or were there linked offsite images that might already be flagged... or do AdSense actually employ people to click on sites showing their ads and root out those with nudity, even pixellated nudity such as this?

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    2. Big Brother is watching you.

      It's pretty funny and sad at the same time, how people willingly accepted mass surveillance as a part of their lives.

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    3. Gerry, they use people. There was an article on the GQ website about this, google "GQ Internet Janitor."

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    4. I used to work for Google, and you'll be happy/even more pissed to know that stuff like this made most of us mad as hell. The problem is that major advertisers are completely terrified of having the Internet torch-and-pitchfork crowd descend on their brand for appearing next to the wrong content; e.g. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/business/media/youtube-advertisers-offensive-content.html
      Then on top of that, every country on Earth seems to think they have the right to censor the whole Internet; there's only so many countries you can tell to shove it before you no longer have a business.

      The whole situation is bad and getting worse. I think legislative action is needed to shore up the foundations of free speech as a globally respected right. Meanwhile, people like you will keep getting hurt.

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    5. I swear, my readers are far more worked up about this than I am. No one is muffling my free speech. They're just asking me to comply with the terms of a business arrangement that I freely entered into. I decided it was more work to comply than to end the arrangement, and I'm fine with that.

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    6. News flash: Small Blog Hurt By Giant Multinational Ad Agency Google!

      Because of his display of historical game images, a popular blog has had to turn off Google Ads and lose that revenue. "My readers are worked up about this" the blogger said. Indeed, comments ranged from "It bothers me so much" to "you'll be happy/even more pissed to know that stuff like this made most of us mad as hell."

      It's "a business arrangement that I freely entered into." the blogger noted. But later followed up with "I decided it was more work to comply than to end the arrangement. I threw in the towel and disabled them permanently."

      As some have noted, this may be part of a larger trend where Advertisers may be finding it harder to recoup their investment online. "I honestly don't know who clicks on ads anymore except by accident." stated one source.

      Google did not reply to our nonexistent request for comment.

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  5. All right! Let's hope for more pixelated nudity now that the censors have been sent away!

    Glad to see you back in the saddle as well.

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    1. Time to play Knights of Xendar now that the Adsense problem is gone

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    2. At some point, Google will make me turn on "18+" mode. I've been figuring that the nude screenshots so far have been so pixelated and old that no one is going to care, but at some point, we'll cross that line.

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    3. Fortunately, you won't be covering Leisure Suite Larry.

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    4. I completed Leisure Suite Larry games 1 (VGA), 6 and 7. There is next to none nudity in the 1st and the 6th, some hidden easter-egg nudity in the 7th with one case in the 6th. They mostly make fun of erotics, not show anything.

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    5. time to start a new blog... CRPGAddict After Dark

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  6. Maybe a Patreon will be in order at some point, I could certainly find it in my heart to throw a couple bucks your way.

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  7. What a coincidence. Yours is one of the very, very few sites I actually turned off my adblocker for. I like your work so much I almost feel bad reading it without contributing something.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe the CRPG Addict could make a Patreon page for this. I would gladly contribute to such one,too

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    2. Ads are egalitarian. Patreon meaans that some conscientious supports are bearing the responsibility for a legion of deadbeats who never contribute. I'd rather just not try to monetize it at all.

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    3. I don't think someone earns the "deadbeat" title unless they're not living up to an obligation, and I don't see Patreon that way: it's a chance to give freely to something you appreciate, not an obligation to be shirked by the many and met by the few. I'd contribute (admittedly a small amount since that's all I can afford), but I wouldn't resent those who didn't.

      That said, I can think of a better reason not to go with Patreon, which is bubbling under the surface here, maybe: it might make you feel obligated (if only vaguely), and thereby take the fun out of things to some degree. And that's something to be avoided.

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    4. I think what you (the addict) is missing is that people want to contribute to feel like they are a part of it, more than anything else.

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    5. Ads aren't that egalitarian since the elite have adblockers and don't even know they exist. At least with a Patreon the choice to support is more clear. However, if it would make you feel bad, then don't.

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    6. As I say in the FAQ, "it seems crass. That doesn't mean that I think other sites that use [Patreon] are crass, but it seems crass for me."

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    7. Doesn't to me, but then I'm openly very left wing, so see nothing wrong with contributing to things you like. I suspect more and more places are going to move to pay as you go models in future, as ad blocking software becomes better are more prevalent.

      That said, if you ever do change your mind, keep in mind Patreon takes about 10%, so you might be better off just throwing up a Paypal or Google tip jar.

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    8. I just want to encourage the person who is undertaking this wild journey.

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    9. Commenting encourages me. My comments have dipped a lot this year.

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    10. Dare I say that your comments have dipped because you haven't hit a "classic" game in quite a while? I'd imagine that you'll get a barrage of comments for M&M3 (I just replayed it in anticipation), but although I thoroughly enjoy your posts on, say, Tera, or Magic Candle 2, I can't offer any useful comments other than "great post". So if it helps, keep up the great posts!!!

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    11. Same for me. I very rarely comment, because I only played a handful of the classics, and very very few of the known-about-but-really-not-a-staple ones (Dragon Wars, for instance). So most of the time I have nothing useful to say. But I check on this blog at least once a week and read every single post. I like your style as much as your content, and even though I know next to nothing about the majority of games you cover, I still enjoy reading your take on them, on CRPGs in general, and any passing comment on living life on this planet we got ourselves stranded on. Just keep it up, alright? If you want money for that, I'll give you some, and if you don't because you feel happy about this work as its own reward, I cannot thank you enough.

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    12. Also, come to think of it, you got me to try at least one or two games that I'd never have touched otherwise. I've got a Nethack Barbarian with a full 'ascension kit' hanging out somewhere in Gehenna and kicking ass. Would never have tried a Nethack run in my life if it weren't for this blog. Silly me. :-/

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    13. "I like your style as much as your content, and even though I know next to nothing about the majority of games you cover, I still enjoy reading your take on them, on CRPGs in general, and any passing comment on living life on this planet we got ourselves stranded on. Just keep it up, alright?"

      +1

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  8. Oh there were ads ? Never noticed with these ad & script -blockers that I have ...

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    1. Likely why he only made $200 a year. I had always assumed it was more than that. I have a feeling his audience is more likely than some to have ad-blockers.

      It would be interesting to see the difference in numbers of ad-impressions compared to page views.

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    2. I used to whitelist pages like CRPG Addicts, but then one of the big ad networks got hacked and for several days every time I visited a bunch of webcomics a popup would appear trying to get me to download an exe to fix a security problem with java. Decided it wasn't safe anymore, and stopped custom writing scripts and just mass-blocked everything.

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    3. I only made $200 per year because you get virtually nothing from pageviews. Someone has to actually click on the ad for the revenue to start going up. And I honestly don't know who clicks on ads anymore except by accident.

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  9. "I was tempted to spend 1,600 on an "enchanted sword" at one of the shops, but I seemed to get relatively swift upgrades in swords anyway, so I think it would have been a bad purchase."

    Yes, but for an entirely different reason. That sword is actually the strongest in the game with +100% damage. Not that it matters much in this game, where fighting normal enemies is pointless, and bosses need special items to defeat. I think you'll be fine with the King's Sword.

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  10. Hey Addict, I get you about Google. Their ad system is flawed which is bizarre considering how good their algorithms are supposed to be. They use more human resources to administer than perhaps they´d want the public to really know. In my experience google´s youtube generates utterly inappropriate ads for toddlers cartoon videos. I mean, go figure. Come on google, I´m sure you can do better. Advertisers must wonder why their good money is just being scattered to the wind in the hope it strikes something like the right audience. Despite my sentiments here though, I´m still a google user and of course they do a lot of good providing what they provide.

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    1. Yeah, I cannot believe how inappropriate some of the ads I've seen on videos for kids have been. Like, ads for horror movies, police procedurals where characters talk about rape, other violent stuff like that. They seem worse earlier in the morning for some reason.

      But I get the sense that advertisers don't really want to think about it too much. They're afraid that if they look too closely, they won't like what they find, and the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

      (PS: No one's mentioned the irony of Google (owner of AdSense) telling you to disable ads on specific pages, which Google (owner of Blogger) doesn't actually allow you to do?)

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    2. Well, it was a form letter. Most sites don't use widgets like Blogger, but use AdSense by putting code directly into the page. I could actually do that here, except that ads would appear in the middle of the post text, which I don't want.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. Dammned Puritans, don't they know sex sells?

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  13. I'm sure your readers would be willing to help with a censoring project and/or help recoup the $200 via Patreon.

    Sucks that there isn't a way to ask for an exemption based on the fact that this is basically historical research.

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    1. That's also kind-of why I don't want to go back and censor the images. I might have complained about them, but they are what they are, and I'd rather my entries accurately depicted what the games showed.

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  14. You might want to look at Project Wonderful, it was created for webcomics which often have trouble with traditional ad networks. You wouldn't get as much money, but they are also apparently easy to work with. I don't know if they post to non-comics sites, but might be worth it.

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  15. Listen, I appreciate the suggestions, but clearly I didn't get the tone right. The loss of $200 a year isn't really a problem. I can recoup that by spending a couple less nights in hotel bars. I only ever used AdSense because it was so easy and passive I figured why not. I'm not interested in a revenue stream that takes actual effort.

    If I ever try to monetize my blog again, it will be because I actually have something to sell, like a book or t-shirts or something.

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    1. Yeah, you are in a very different position than most grad students. For me $200 a year isn't life changing, but it sure would be worse the time to go draw some black bars or whatever. (I mean, I just spent a ton of time trying to figure out how to use almost-free audio gear off eBay instead of just getting a $100 Blue Yeti mic)

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    2. I thought you were working on a book...?

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    3. Nah, that was an idea from years ago. I have about 8 other books half-written (for my profession) that take precedence.

      I keep offering: if someone wants to take my entries and edit them into a book, handling the layout and cover and all that, I'll be glad to split the profits with you.

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  16. For what it's worth the magnetic monolith thing comes from "The Curse of the Monolith", one of the Conan stories written way later by Carter & De Camp.

    Also, I think Juma the Kushite is a Conan sidekick in the comic adaptation, those drawn by Buscema

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    1. Thanks. I've been poking around some of the original Conan stories for my final entry, but there are so many of them.

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    2. Nah Juma is a De Camp/Carter creation. However he was probably used the most in the old Marvel black & white thats for sure. I think the only two characters to come out of the Marvel mags/comics that were more than just Conan comic characters were Red Sonja and Kulan Gath the sorcerer. Red Sonja of course everyone knows. Kulan Gath crops up every now and then in the regular Marvel universe as a "sorcerous villian" tried to take over New York once he did, New Mutants comic I believe.

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  17. "The Thing in the Crypt" seems to be the background short story for the king's crypt

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    1. The movie has a similar scene, too, although the mummy doesn't really "come alive."

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  18. Listen folks, the real take-home from this is that we need a core of readers to personally underwrite $200 in annual donations to the Addict to guarantee monthly appearance of pixelated nudity.

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    Replies
    1. Enlist, say, 600 such readers and I can promise a post every day.

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  19. I know I'm a weirdo, but I like Conan the Destroyer almost as much as Conan the Barbarian.

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  20. I know it's a (slight) monetary hit but thanks for turning off AdSense. Hopefully that will stop the occasional pop-up I get when browsing on my phone.

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Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for all posts. Once it subsides, I'll turn it off for the newer ones.