Black Vein Prophecy

FF42-CoverYOU become an amnesic basket case, waking up in a sarcophagus, catapulting yourself into the ocean, then  wandering cluelessly through an unknown  land, collecting magic words and trying to figure out who you are.

Along the way you pick up memories and clues about who you once were, and perhaps win some allies in a coming war between the king and a would-be usurper.

Review and Opinion

From the beginning, the disconnected pieces and complete lack of background, felt like the authors had written the book while high on cough syrup. I suppose this over-the-top surrealism was intentional, to create an atmosphere of bewilderment and amnesia, and if so then good job on making it feel that way. But it just turned me off for the first dozen playthroughs.

  • Good: There was an interesting gimmick, that you don’t roll your stats before starting. As you progress through the first 20 or so pages, you’ll roll your stats one by one and usually test them at the same time. Kinda neat, and definitely different. This part kept me very engaged and curious through the tomb.
  • Neat: After meeting Velkos, you can pick any of three paths and it really does affect the game with a high degree of complexity. Sure there’s only one right path, but you could spend a week replaying to figure out this one know in the story.
  • Surreal: A centaur thing in the city that can turn you into a centaur thing, living happily ever. And that’s only 5 pages after exiting the tomb. Cool.
  • WTF: You see the king’s men over the hill and offer your services as a commander? What, was I a commander back when I was alive? (after a dozen playthroughs this made sense that I may have raised an army on my way here, though on many occasions I did not)
  • Tedious: The final battle requires that you know four specific spells, and to do them in a specific sequence. No hint exists as to the sequence, and it’s not a logical one either. So that’s 48 times playing through to almost the end.
  • WTF: If you kill Feior you become evil (like in Return of the Jedi). If you spare him then you go into a childhood flashback where most of the time you’ll restart the book from page 1.

What I did enjoy about the book was the complexity of the interactions and of the interconnection, like these:

  • There’s a point where you can join bandits raiding a sorcerer’s cave on a cliff… or where you can walk in on some bandits raiding a cave on a cliff. That sort of “closing in on your previous playthrough” effect was pretty cool.
  • There are two entirely different ways and places to meet Merzei and wind up on his good side, and both work.
  • In the case of the bandits, a small amount of map space hides a large amount of complexity depending on how you meet the bandits, whether someone vouches for you, how you behave around them, and so on.
  • The various sectors of the book (bandits, village, etc.) can be visited in varying sequences, giving extra replay value as you find out the proper sequence.

So this book was an interesting experiment, and I haven’t played any others where you don’t even know your stats ahead of time. The interconnectedness eventually overpowered the disconnectedness, and it was a decent book… but not a great book.

But, all that said, this book has three things that we really need to exist in the real world:

  • Dragonfly airlift!
  • Shrieking eels.
  • A hot tub tavern.

Errors

The most famous error: In order to win you must have have scales growing out of you in order to get this one spell, and that happens if you fail a Luck roll back in the beginning. Your very first Test Your Luck, and it ends the game if you succeed. Of course, if you roll a Luck score low enough to fail your very first try then you’ll never survive the rest of the game, but that’s what you get for cheating.

There were wording issues that caught me a few times, mostly the names of items. I grabbed “the map” but was asked for Battleplans, was given “orange syrup” but was asked for a Small Jar, was given a “tract” but was asked for a Scroll, and so on. So even when I had the requested items, I found myself messing up and thinking I did not.

And there are a few page-reference errors, mostly pertaining to Izkhao and not problematic if you keep your finger on the page.

Maps

FF42-Map1 FF42-Map2

Publication

Paul Mason & Steven Williams

1990

Book 42 in the series

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