Damn the Serpent, Full Steam Ahead!

Following up on Caverns of the Snow Witch, in which I have long since lost my patience with a Test Your Luck on every page, as well as the tedious and overly-lengthy walk home.

In our last episode, I cheated to have a 12/24/12 character, who was whittled down 1 TYL at a time and 2 stamina at a time, until death. Death in this case was an unlucky rattlesnake bite.

Because of the curse and other injuries, I had a 10 skill (out of 12). I’m cheating here and allowing the +1 sword, the +2 amulet, and +1 shield to count for a magnificent 14 attack strength. Still, there’s a lot of combat and the curse too, and I was whittled down 1 and 2 stamina at a time… from 20 when I left the cavern, to 9.

Now, let’s pretend that I drank my Potion of Luck. Not only am I not dead, but now I have 12 luck (12 increased to 13, then -1 for passing the snakebite’s TYL). That’s more like it! Still, 9 stamina isn’t a lot, and this book hasn’t had a single healing since we left the Caverns.

Further down the canyon where I’m wandering, I find a treehouse. Hoping to find an eccentric shaman or doctor, I find a half-orc and I take 2 points of damage (stamina 7). Next page is a barbarian; I kill him without taking a hit, and get a +1 armband of strength (attack strength now 15).

Finally, I find the cave of the The Healer. First order of business in healing me: lose 1d6 stamina. You jerk! Fortunately I only rolled a 2, leaving me 5.

The healing process consists of two Test Your Skill checks, with a penalty if I lack some trinkets, and instant death if I fail. Eventually, I am told to go to Firetop Mountain where the curse will be lifted. How I get there, depends on whether I have a silver trinket to offer for a ride. (Though if the healer could have healed me too, that would be great; I’m still at 5 stamina)

I don’t have any silver, so I get to walk to Firetop Mountain. Along the way I only have one brief encounter, with a hobgoblin. I kill him without breaking stride, and arrive at the mountain… where we TYL again (seriously?).

I get to the top of the mountain, and fall asleep. I have vivid dreams of a flaming bird who gives new life, but can’t quite remember what it’s called… oh right, yeah I do. I wake up on page 400.

 

You spell that kind of luck B-A-D

Caverns of the Snow Witch is starting to get old. I’ve already taken a few breaks on to other books, hoping that a second wind would give some insight. So far, it’s only confirmed that there are a minimum of 7 Test Your Luck rolls, with the best path. This means that a initial Luck of 12 would be a meager 5, meaning snakebites and avalanche injuries and your adventure ending here.

On my last playthrough I cheated and still couldn’t get through. I’ll skip a lot of the details, as the adventurous part is covered in the previous postings.

I started with 12/24/12 stats (yeah, I cheated), and I play with two house rules: a) Only lose a Luck point if you pass the TYL roll, and b) shields and the amulet of courage etc. don’t add 1 Skill, but add to attack strength so they’re not subject to the initial Skill score.

After defeating the yeti, I cheated again by collecting my 50 gold and refilling my provisions back to 4. So I enter the Cavern with 4 food, 20 stamina, and 11 luck.

I fight my way through the critters, the temple, and the wizard. I evade a giant, and raid a alchemical stockroom, outsmart a rat, and garlic-stake the snow witch’s vampire form. So far so good; 10 luck left, and still 16 stamina and 4 food. Then the tiresome bit of curses and traps and loot, and the snow witch in a snow globe — with two more TYLs for the battles and our escape. Luck is now 8, stamina 18 after eating 2 food leaving me 2 more.

During the journey home are 3 mandatory TYLs: bird men, a werewolf while camping, and the trolls at Stonebridge.

In combat, I’m feeling pretty great or even overpowered. My 12 skill, a +1 sword from the trolls, my +1 shield, and the +2 amulet of courage, gives me a kickass 16 attack strength. But with a luck of 6, I’m not feeling very confident.

But then that curse kicks in. I lose 2 skill, and am losing stamina on every page. I run into a critter in a cave with a skill 11, and it rips me down to 9 stamina, and cost me a TYL (failure would have been instant death, somehow I rolled a 5 and passed), then I run into a rattlesnake and a failed TYL kills me outright.

Yeah, I really don’t know what to think of this. Even cheating and house-ruling, the sheer number of lethal TYLs here, combined with a nearly-complete absence of healing and luck regen, makes it phenomenally unlikely to win with the best of stats.

 

Glass, Shadows, and Pulp

Spectral Stalkers… still.  In my last update, I had found my way to the Ziggurat World and watched a silica serpent eat somebody alive, and befriended some sea creatures who think I can save their queen.

I have climbed the cliff to the second level of this world. I see some towers in the distance and head for them. According to the sea monsters they are inhabited by shadow creatures, and have a direct oath to the castle. That’s almost true: I try to awe the shadows with my Aleph, so they attack me and poison me, then tie me up and drink my blood down to 2 stamina. Not what I had in mind!

I wake up inside a force field, too weak to do anything about it, and am crushed to death as the shadows juice me for the last drops of my blood. My adventure ends here, in a pulp.

 

 

 

Elf Sacrifices, Sea Monsters, and Glass Castles

Is this my fifth day of Spectral Stalkers? My sixth? I was excited to see Peter Darvill-Evans’ name on this, but the clip-show channel-flipping thing is really becoming tedious. So when the Aleph offered me the opportunity to just hurry up and move on with the quest, I took it.

This is likely a mistake, because so many of these FF books require that you’ve collected some obscure piece of kipple, and I have only a few such souvenirs.

I land right in front of Spectral Stalker. Fortunately my trail score is only 4 so it doesn’t see me. Far away, I see a giant castle on an impossibly tall cliff – I assume this is my destination.

For my next trick, I hide in the bushes and watch as some elves tie someone to a stake, and invite a dragon-centipede creature to devour them alive! Good grief, did our brave hero just cower and watch a human sacrifice to a dragon? I feel sick…

I slink off in shame, and find my way to a seashore. I can finally see the cliff side clearly, and a trail up it. I also see giant bubbles floating on the surface of the water. That’s weird, and also interesting because I’m collecting spheres here, so I go take a look. Turns out that they’re vehicles for some truly horrifying sea monsters, but I have a good feeling about them so I surrender. Turns out they’re quite nice, on account of a prophecy that a warrior from beyond will save their queen and themselves from Globus. Cool!

And now, up the trail of the cliff, toward the castle!

 

 

Drow and Davros

We continue being Spectrally Stalked as we travel the cosmos in a series of vignettes, courtesy of the Aleph. I have so far seen a giant library outside of the universe, a crappy version of my home world where I was almost robbed, a chess game in which I was a pawn, a clay golem, and a vampire. And now… I am in a drow elf temple.

Apparently there was a vigorous debate going on as to the existence of other worlds, and I have appeared here as proof of such worlds. The elves kick my ass pretty thoroughly (I’m down to 9 stamina) and chain me up with the fella who summoned me. They’re about to execute him by pouring a flesh-eating poison all over him, and now I get to join him in that fate.

No thanks! Aleph away!

In Doctor Who, the guy who created the Daleks… is right in front of me. He certainly seems friendly, glad to have a visitor. Turns out he makes maps on wooden balls – what a nerd. 🙂 He asks if he can ransack my collection of spherical things, but since the only one I have that he would find interesting is rumored to stop death magic, I’m reluctant to let him do so. He gives me a lecture about magical charms and superstition, then sells me a globe of my own world Titan, before he becomes bored with me and I wander off.

This time, the sphere gives me a choice: hurry up and finish the quest, consult a sage, or collect more loot. I’m fairly bored of this book already, so let’s just push on with the adventure.

 

 

A Deadly Game and Pottery Gone Awry

We are still playing Spectral Stalkers, in which I was given the entire universe inside a sphere, by Lucifer. Long story, don’t ask. By looking into it, I was transported randomly and now find myself standing on a chessboard… a living pawn!

The description here is quite vivid: the other pawns are either worn out and demoralized (my team), jubilant and battle-ready (their team), or dead and lying where they were killed (a bit of both, but mostly my team). The voices of gods boom out overhead, taunting each other over how the game is going… with real lives on the line!

They asked me to make the finishing move of the game, and fortunately it’s not really chess but a very simple puzzle. We win, I’m given a healing vitamin pill, and I’m sent on my way to another random adventure.

I find myself in a crummy run-down tourist town, where only one person remains, making a living by selling candles to Aleph-adventurers like myself.  It seems that one by one, the entire town except for her has gone up the mountain looking for the potter who lives there, and not returned. Sounds like a job for, me!

It’s the usual story: the potter created a clay golem, it went out of control and held the potter prisoner in a cave, and basically the entire population of the town has gotten killed throwing themselves at it one by one. If I had a gold piece for every time this happened…  He rewards me with a ball of clay full of life force, which will protect me from life-draining death magic should I run afoul of a wizard. Gee, foreshadowing much?

Gaze into the Aleph again, and… I appear on stage at a magic show, Ta Da! The magician looks like a vampire, and his assistant is a were-cat, so I just take off running. The mob pursues me, and eventually I lose them long enough to Aleph away again.

 

 

 

Stalked by Spectres

I am taking a brief break from the Caverns of the Snow Witch, because frankly it’s ticking me off. I grab a book at random off the shelf, and… Spectral Stalkers.

I have played this one before, and already have it on the website. It’s written by Peter Darvill-Evans, and illustrated by Tony Hough – the same team that did Beneath Nightmare Castle. And I recall that this one was good, though a bit heavy on the clip-show thing of flitting from world to world randomly.

So I’m at the county fair, wasting money on a fortuneteller. Suddenly from the sky falls Lucifer, holding the entire universe inside a sphere which he gives to me. I have a sudden flash of two Futurama moments at the same time: when Farnsworth built a box that contains the entire universe, and when he places a device into someone’s hands while telling them not to let it fall into the wrong hands. Yeah.

I take a good look at the sphere, swoon a bit, and find myself in a library. There’s a dragon sitting at the inquiries desk, and the book asks if I want to attack the dragon. I don’t freaking think so! Instead, I sensibly ask for directions. I muddle about for a few hours, and run into the practical joker who is also the artifacts expert. He tells me that the sphere contains the entire universe, so I better be careful with it, and to look for circular things and let the sphere take me where it needs to go. Yeah, that worked great for the last guy!

I find my own way out, and find myself in… my own homeland, but a worn-out version of it. There’s a roguish looking man with a sword who insists that I stay at his hotel, and I’m not in the mood to argue. But I’m also not in the trusting mood to eat his dinner. That turns out for the best though, when some goblins sneak in in the middle of the night and expect me to have been drugged so they could just rob me in peace. This does not end well for them. On my way out, I notice that the hotel sign happens to be circular, so I steal it. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

What comes next? Let’s look into the Aleph.

It’s a Long Way to Stonebridge

In our last adventure, The Snow Witch went down without a fight, and I killed some critter guarding her loot, and the locals engaged in some lovely interpretive dance to express their joy of being freed from the witch. But now we need to keep moving forward, to find our way out of the Caverns of the Snow Witch.

Not a mind flayer. Nope, totally not at all related.

We come across a casket, and my companion gets bitten by a snake. We run into a cave man in the hallway and have to kill him. Then we run into a Mind Flayer, one of the most dreadful and terrifying creatures of the Dungeons and Dragons universe! No wait… sorry, this is its cut-rate failure of a brother, the Brain Slayer. I pass a skill roll and kick its ass, then steal its loot (some sort of token, and a spell of protection from air elementals).

Long story short, I then encounter The Stabby Door, an air elemental, a shield worth +1 combat strength, an air elemental, a cave that drips acid, … and the Snow Witch this time trapped inside an adorable snow globe where she just yells at me and throws lightning. I huck a rock at it though, and it’s curtains for the Snow Witch again.

Another damn Test Your Luck roll later as the roof caves in, and we’re free of the caverns! (remember, there are a minimum of 5 TYLs so far, so I’ve already burned down my luck then the potion) And so begins the long trek to Stonebridge…

Like really long. And it’s not even an adventure, just a straight line of 8 more encounters: river ferry, bird men, trolls, etc. and we get to Stonebridge. High fives all around, and the dwarf takes off to join us in another adventure book earlier in the series. And, our adventure ends here… erm, no, I guess not…?

The elf I met in the caves, says that we need to go for a walk and he wants to tell me something. Our leisurely walk is interrupted by a fight with trolls (again), and the he breaks the news: we had a Death Spell cast on us back in the caverns, and it takes effect… NOW!

My adventure ends here.

What the heck?

 

Out of the Icebox…

I’ve played three more times since my last posting. With a skill under 10, I get torn up faster than I could even write about it. I’m starting to consider this a serious problem of game balance.

But this time, another lucky 12 and a luck of 11 to go with it. And I know which mirror-image wizard is the correct one, and I did discover a stash of loot in that kitchen before I died. I have a good feeling about this.

Fast forward: Wolves, cabin burglary, yeti, hello elf, kitchen and loot, template, mirror wizard. Yeah, it’s the short version – read my last five playthroughs if you want to see it again.

After the mirror wizard, I take the other side door and am attacked by a crystal golem, which can only be damaged by that hammer I stole earlier. It’s a good thing that this hero has no qualms about looting!

I then come across an alchemical supply shop with a zombie security guard. I dispatch him easily, then steal all of the ingredients because you never know when a lizard tail or powdered minotaur horn will be absolutely vital. The answer is: the next page. There’s a rat in the next room, but our brave hero knows that minotaur horn keeps rats from turning into dragons… I had pet rats for several years, and only now do I know why the good pet feed has minotaur horn mixed in with the sunflower seeds.

The rat/dragon was guarding… the Snow Witch! Turns out, she’s really a vampire. Fortunately I have garlic and a stabby stick, so she’s toast without even combat. An elf and a dwarf greet me and thanjk me, and the three of us do a brief musical rendition of Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead. I wish you could have seen it, we were very charming. You should have been there.

But alas, it is far from Miller Time. For some reason we can’t go back the way I came, and besides my trade caravan has left me behind. So I decide to join these strangers for a trip to Stonebridge. And from here the book just turns into a bit more of a slog…

 

 

Into the Cavern!

So, having broken tradition by exhibiting good sense, I stand at page 363 with a backpack full of food and 50 gold pieces, and my choice of a T-junction.

Wandering down the hall, I run into an elf. I strike up a conversation with him and find out that he’s no fan of the Snow Witch, and is glad to hear that I’ve come to kill her. He gives me his cloak and some directions.

The directions take me past a kitchen where some goblin is chewing out a neanderthal, then into that temple dedicated to an ice demon. The cloak doesn’t really do me a lot of good – it just gives me a luck roll which I fail anyway (and this book is already very big on Test Your Luck rolls every few pages). The worshipers offer me up to the ice demon, which I eventually kill.

I review my map, enhanced  with knowledge from my previous incarnations, and see that these helpful directions to the temple cheated me out of a +1 sword and healing. Thanks a lot, guy.

Moving on, I find my way to that wizard with the mirror image spell. I’m a bit more fortunate this time, and get him on the second try. Strangely enough, I am offered an option to smash a prism — and we all know that when a book offers you the option to smash some artifact of the wizard who’s trying to kill you, you should definitely do that.

This earns me the gratitude of a genie trapped in the prism. Not enough gratitude for directions, healing, or loot, but you know, he’ll make me invisible if I ask.

For my next trick, I walk out of this room into the next room where a gate crashes shut behind me. I don’t have an iron key to let myself out, so I’m just trapped and my adventure ends here.

And I thought I was doing so well…

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