For this reason I would also advise against speed lights. There is so little power and control that it's just not worth it. Modifiers are expensive and clunky to use. Add to that you can pick up a used monolight for about the price of a new speed light. I know some people love the whole speed light thing but it would just drive me nuts. Invest your money wisely and you will be happy for a long time.
My suggestion is to start with two monolights, a couple of cheap umbrellas, some grid spots and maybe one soft box. Add a silver/white reflector and you are in business. I'm a White Lighting guy, and I just freaking wear those things out. They are amazingly reliable; worth every penny. I have made a lot of money with my five lights.
As far as learning lighting goes, nothing beats a digital camera. That's your Polaroid. If you want to shoot a final version on film, you'll be very happy that you didn't spend four rolls to get the light just right.
Lighting is the soul of photography. You'll be a much better photographer for all the time you invest in it.
Wait, so when you say that the only cord that runs to the pack is a power cord, does that mean that it can't run off some sort of battery unit?
A lot of advice on the equipement side, I'll be sure to look into the brands. Any advice on the reflectors?
Also, which photographers were known for simple lighting. Off the top of my head I'm thinking Avedon and Penn. Any others?
I have a digital Nikon D70 + zoom which I plan on using as my digital polaroid before shooting with my Rollei.
When using strobes, you must have a way to proof your shot. Modeling lights most of the time doesn't match the strobe.
With a central pack arrangement, each head has a cable that brings the power from the central pack (rather than being self-contained, as a monolight). You may have two or three heads running out of one power pack, which means that if the heads are at some distance, you will need extender cables for each head, which are proprietary to each brand of light. This gets expensive, and it makes location shooting problematic unless you have multiple power packs.
In my studio, the monolights are mounted on rails, so I had my electrician pull a u-shaped circuit over the rails. That way, there is always a power outlet within three or four feet of the light. It would be nearly impossible to rig this up with a central pack and heads.
Penn is a great choice for simple lighting. He used an intensely bright tungsten setup in a large box. It's simple, but dramatic.
Avedon's setup depended on his projects. For his fashion, he used a strobe head on a stick, which his assistant would hold like a boom and move as the model moved. For his studio portraits on white, he used four lights on the background and then one or two for the main light. All of his "American West" portraits were done in open shade and then overdeveloped for contrast.
attached is all i know about the subject.three-point lighting and bob is your uncle.