Plot Twists! Red Herrings! Davros and Robby!

I’ve played through a few more times now, and it gets crazy!

To reprise the story line: Lucifer fell from the sky, handed me a sphere containing the whole multiverse, says the Stalkers will come looking for it, so run! I then start doing a Quantum Leap sort of deal, flitting from world to world collecting basically anything spherical and trying to avoid fights. (the noise attracts the Stalkers; I’ve never been caught by them yet, but I know that no good can come of it)

The worlds offered are very diverse. I’ve been aboard two spaceships and seen Robby the Robot (Lost in Space) and Davros (Doctor Who, guy who invented the Daleks). I’ve encountered more typical fare such as golems and vampires and giant bats and wizards. But seriously, the vignette-style plot line isn’t appealing.

That settles down after a while, though, and it’s on to Semeion’s maze and then meeting Globus. Those two are more solid adventures, usually ending in death by bat or by starvation.

I got to the end and had the showdown with the boss wizard. That took me a few tries because he has a beam of light that squeezes things, turning me into a pulp unless I have a friend or an amulet. Gotta figure that out…

So far I’m not having a lot of fun with the Trail mechanic. When you fight or a few other activities, your psychic emanations attract the Stalkers and eventually they’ll find you. But so far I’ve never had my Trail exceed 4, and in later playthroughs it rarely reaches 2. So far, I have no idea what happens if they catch you.

 

Dying, Hunted In a Maze

My first playthrough of Spectral Stalkers, I think I got pretty far.

Walking home, an angel falls from the sky like the ol’ morning-star hisself, handing me a sphere containing the whole universe inside it, kind of like that one Futurama episode. He tells me to find a wizard named Globus who can help me figure out what to do next. I then run and hide, because the angel also tells me that the Spectral Stalkers will come hunting for this thing. Uh oh!

I stare into the orb (called the Aleph), and am taken away to a library in Limbo. How fortunate, surely I can find information in a dimensionally transcendent library! I ask a friendly library clerk (who happens to be Draconian American, as they prefer to be called nowadays) if they have any books about Alephs and wizards. She’s a bit snotty but does direct me to Who’s Who Among Wizards where I read about Globus, and he does seem like a learned fellow.

I then get pranked by the artifacts specialist and decide to leave.

The orb takes me back to Khul, where there’s nothing within miles but a ne’er-do-well ruffian and an inn. Sketchy AF, but I know that fighting irritates the Stalkers so I decide to take my chances. I steer clear of his provided food and wine, though, and head straight to my room. In the middle of the night, some goblins try to sneak in to burglarize me. I stomp on the trapdoor, they fall back down into the cellar, I move my bed over it and go back to sleep. Next morning, I steal the innkeeper’s sign because it’s circular.

Stare into the Aleph again, find myself in a village in a desert, where their entire economy is based on selling glowsticks. Find out that their sculptor has been hiding in a cave for a month, trapped by a golem that he brought to life. I rescue him and get beaten up a little, and in return he gives me another sphere!

Onward and onward through more weird worlds, and eventually I end up at that maze on the inside cover of the book. The directions inside the book though, seem to have nothing at all to do with the illustration, and I immediately get lost. I get bitten by spiders and swarmed by bats, and starve a few pages at a time, wandering in circles… until I reach 0 Stamina.

What a drag.

This one so far, isn’t appealing too strongly. Not because of the ignominious death by starvation, but that the vignette-based storyline of mini-adventures only 5 pages apiece, feels a lot like channel-flipping on TV, like a series of sketch acts, and not much of a story.

But we’ll see. I have a feeling that I’ve not seen much of the book yet.

 

What is a spectral stalker?

I grabbed my next gamebook at random; Spectral Stalkers, number 45. The cover artwork is the same weird jagged-edge style from Phantoms of Fear, featuring grotesque bug-skeletons and insect-cattle monsters. The premise is that I will be chased from world to world by Spectral Stalkers, like some sort of Hounds of Tindalos scenario? So before even reading the prologue, I’m getting a H. P. Lovecraft vibe.

Sure enough, three pages in I get my first glimpse of a Spectral Stalker. The monstrous shape has solidified and a second one is beginning to condense out of the air beside it. … more hideous than the worst creations of your most sinister dreams … four long spindly legs like those of a spider, a multitude of claw-tipped arms, a mass of writhing tentacles surmounted by two faceted bulbous eyes like those of an insect.

This could only be the H. P. Lovecraft of the FF world… Peter Darvill-Evans!

Now I’m excited.

 

Revisiting Nightmare Castle

One of my favorite FFs to date has been Beneath Nightmare Castle, by Peter Darvill-Evans. So I thought I’d play it again, without referring to my own site here for notes, and see how far I get..

The story starts in the usual way: our brave hero is hiking while tired, and stumbles into a game trap, then wakes up in a dungeon. Yeah, I did that a lot in college, too.

A voice from the next cell offers to untie me, then I make a break for it since the cell door wasn’t even locked. The front door however, is locked so I fight 6 soldiers. They must be the least competent dregs they could find on Craigslist, with skills of 4 and 5, and I slice, dice, and julienne my way through the mob with only one scratch. Our brave hero, ladies and gentlemen!

I find my way to the inn, hungry and tired after hiking, jail, and wholesale slaughter. I flash my fancy jewelry and make some friends, and tuck into dinner while hearing a horrifying tale. The townfolks are terrorized by monsters in the night, and by the margrave’s new troops during the day. Speaking of which, nobody has seen the margrave in several weeks. The margrave is a friend of mine, so this comes as quite the shock!

The innkeeper advises me to lock my windows when I sleep, and to talk to a priest in the morning. I do exactly that.

The priest gives me some advice on sneaking into the castle, and invites me to climb a tree inside the temple, to gain the favor of the gods. By good fortune I do climb the tree, so I get +1 to my maximum Luck and Stamina. Thanks for the blessing — now I’ll have fun storming the castle!

I sneak around into the castle’s garden, and find a caved-in section of wall which is used to house compost. What a wonderful smell you’ve discovered! I also find a green glass orb, which starts to become frighteningly hot when exposed to air. Rather than ponder the interesting exothermic reactions which must be occurring in the surface material, I go back into the garden and find a second entry, this time into the cellars.

I am attacked by the weakest ogre of all time, and he goes down in 3 hits without inflicting a scratch. He’s wearing a turban filled with white slime, a slime which tells me to put on the hat, to merge with the hat… No!

Instead, I pound on the door and ask to be let in. Not usually a good idea, but today it was just the ticket. There’s a dwarf inside who shows me the rest of the way into the cellar. The wine cellar, as it turns out, and my hero being a reckless clod, he just digs right in to two of the casks. One is poisonous for -2 Stamina, the other is healing for +2 Stamina. Yeah, progress…

Then the door is kicked in by soldiers! I surrender, and am taken to see the margrave. Perfect! Unfortunately, he and his partner have this 24×7 Theoden and Wormtongue cosplay thing going on and he won’t break character to talk to home invaders nor old friends.

I break and run from the guards, and put up a good fight, until I step off the edge of a chasm and into a pool of living digestive slime. THE END.

Yep, this book was much as I remember, particularly the spooky and disgusting ways to die.

 

Masks of Mayhem, Boss Fight

Resting up after my fight with an ice dragon, I see that the back of the cave is the door into Morgana’s lair. Or rather, the three doors. Klaatu barada nickel, necktie, nectar — nobody said anything about three doors!

I pick one at random, and it leads into a tunnel. Two random T -junctions later, and I find the 11 golems. I’m invited to call up that undead spirit army from the lake way back at the start, and they immediately dispatch all 11 golems. Well sheesh, that was easy! Maybe my court wizard should have thought of that back when Morgana only had 4 golems!

Morgana steps in, and makes some quip about how the golems are replaceable but now everything is going to plan, mwuhaha! She has a Skill of 11 and only takes 1 point of damage on a hit, but has only 6 Stamina. As such, she’s not that tough, but would have been if not for some very fortunate rolls on this character.

But now it occurs to me… It was a trap! Someone set me up and it wasn’t her! But who was the traitor? Uhm, what? There has been no indication in the story that anyone except Morgana was in on this, including previous playthroughs where we find out that I am the 12th mask. But now I have to guess their identity…

I guess it’s the guy who sent me on this mission in the first place, and have to decipher his name into a number. It takes a few tries, but there he is… He’s no match in a fight, and bam, there it is.

Turn to 400 and I’m actually disappointed. “Victory! The masks won’t be a problem anymore.” Wow. Not even a description of the world’s adoration, of the mountain collapsing around me, of the masks’ power doing something awesome.

As the devil said in Doctor Parnassus “Damn. I won.”

 

Masks of Mayhem, Finished

Taking off from Hever’s castle with a backpack full of Lunchables but no evil-banishing horn, I decide to wander northeast. I get a little torn up by a bobcat and take its pelt, then encounter the worst challenge of the whole book: a giant prairie fire!

I dodge this way and that, and pull off a Skill check (13 with this sword, which apparently makes me better at firefighting and not just combat!), and pull off the random roll. Whew! Only slightly cooked.

I get back to the river-canyon, which is now littered with barbecued wildlife and is therefore full of scavengers. A giant blood hawk, though, prefers its prey still living. With my 13 Skill, though, it’s a short fight.

I finally pick my way across the river and tangle with an alligator. I pick him off easily, but I don’t make the random roll to notice the underwater throne where a long-dead king holds the royal Orb. Darn.

I now have a choice to pick my way north into the swamp, where I know The Juja lives, or northeast to stay on mission. I head northeast and also bypass the mysterious ritual trees, which are clearly a gateway to a fae world. (duh! a shimmering zone between two trees, what else would it be?)

Northward into the snow, I try to be friendly with some barbarians who I suspect hate Morgana. They fear her more than they hate her though, and end up having a fight over me. In the confusion, I decide that cowardice is the better part of discretion, and skedaddle.

I plod along and fight a yeti thing, then fight the toughest creature yet: a dragon! Without the natural 12 Skill and the +1 sword, this would have been very tough indeed. But a few expert slices later, and I’m barbecuing a dragon steak in the dragon’s own cave, cuz I’m such the hearty adventurer.

The back of the dragon’s cave, by the way… is the entrance to Morgana’s secret lair.

Masks of Mayhem, Finished

Today I finished Masks of Mayhem. I lost count of the number of playthroughs, even with moderate “bookmarking”, due to the number of instant-death rolls.

But this time I rolled 12 Skill and 12 Luck, and 22 Stamina. Awww yeah!

At the shore of Lake Nekros, the ghost of my first playthrough reminded me to not try sailing these waters. I went east, camped by the lakeside, and fought and killed the kraken. (this is what happened last time I camped at Crater Lake, too)

I killed the two dark elves and stole their rope, got lost in the fog but perservered, and found my way to a cemetery where I fought a wight over a +1 sword. Now I have a 13 Skill, since the book very clearly says that this doesn’t only apply to attack strength.

Wait out the fog, and it clears to show a mine site, where a crazed man gives me a royal sceptre. I know that a watery tart distributing swords is no basis for a government, but lunatics in mines handing out sceptres is completely different!

Having died in the mine several times, I am skittish about going in. But this time I have 13 Skill and 12 Luck, which equals a 25 Bravado! I boldly go in and head west, Test My Luck on that chasm, kill the doragars for their loot, kill the water snake when it annoys me, and expertly kill the nandi bear. A nap and breakfast, and I’ve survived the mine right as rain with full Stamina and Luck. Without a 25 Bravado, I know this would have been flatly impossible…

On the final approach to Hever’s castle I catch tangle with some ruffians on the road, then meet up with this neighbor-king. I stay up all night with him feasting and listening to the bard, then volunteer for the tiger hunt. The dice don’t work out because the tiger and hounds are purely random (WTF?), so I instead kill my possessed blacksmith friend in true Evil Dead style. Hever still won’t give me the horn when he sees this evil, but he does load up my pack with food and kthxbai!

Onward across the plains!

Masks of Mayhem, the mayhem continues

After my very brief stint as an adventurer, cut short at the hands (tentacles?) of a lake kraken, I played through a few more times, and met some exotic and interesting deaths.

  • Sucked into a magic mirror
  • Wandered into the mist never to be seen again
  • Killed by a wight while trying to get a +1 sword
  • Fell into the lake
  • Fell down a mine shaft
  • Fell into a chasm while exploring the pitch-dark mine
  • Killed by a nandibear (what the heck is a nandibear?) in the mine
  • Sucked into a magic mirror again

And at one point I pulled a real Inspector Clouseau. I saw some campers and decided to let discretioon be the better part of valor, by bypassing them. Wrong! I twisted my ankle, tripped on a rock, slid down the side of the hill, and landed in the campsite.

This is really not going well!

 

Masks of Mayhem, Hit the Road

So yeah, time to hit the road and take care of Morgana and her golem collection. I start at page 1 where the local blacksmith informs me that king Hever to the north of us has a magical horn, the sound of which strikes terror into evil beings. Sounds handy! Thanks for the tip, blacksmith, I do appreciate it. Though I do wonder why, as the king of this city, I didn’t know this about the neighboring king…

The next day I find myself at the southern shore of Lake Nekros. Seriously? Lake Nekros? I can skirt it to the east or to the west, or build a raft and cross it. Being the brave hero that I am, I build a raft, get 10 meters into the water, and am dragged under by tentacles.

Shortest offensive of all time.

One page. Insta-death by sea monster.

 

 

Masks of Mayhem, Foreword

Let’s start playing Masks of Mayhem. This is book 23, and by Robin Waterfield. This is the same fella who brought us Rebel Planet which was not bad, but not great.

I’m a ruler of some insignificant region of the world. Not a very well-traveled ruler either, it would seem, having never gone past the lake immediately to the north of my city, and needing the local blacksmith to tell me that the king to the north has a magic horn that frightens evil.

My court wizard calls me up one day, to inform me that the sorcerer Morgana, residing in the mountains to the northeast, has acquired 11 of the 12 masks of elemental power. She is using them to supercharge some golems, and if she collects ’em all then her golems become unstoppable and she’ll terrorize the world.

Why can’t I send an army and the rest of the wizard council to deal with this? Because the resulting mage battle would devastate the land. Why didn’t they raise a fuss back when Morgana had 3 or 4 masks? Uhm yeah…

Anyway, time to do what I always do… Load my backpack, sharpen my sword, and go in solo to hunt a wizard.

 

 

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